Tag Archives: creativity

Your Own Game

I was talking to a Japanese friend about an article I’d read (also by a Japanese person) about the benefits of living and working in Taiwan, and the opportunities for learning Chinese and English there, and the benefits of gaining a unique set of experiences, especially with Japanese companies expanding overseas. And then my friend said:

“What if one doesn’t know Chinese?” she asked.
“That’s an interesting question. What do you mean? I didn’t really know Japanese well when I moved to Japan.”
“Well, you’d be disadvantaged competing with locals for jobs, because you don’t speak Chinese, and then you’d be disadvantaged going to Japan because you lacked experience in a company.”

On the one hand I was flattered because I realized that my friend was thinking of me as functioning fully as a local in both Japan and Taiwan. I’m pretty adaptable, but not a local. I explained.

“One wouldn’t have to compete with them. One might not speak Chinese as well as a local, but he’d speak Japanese better than them. You could work for a Taiwanese company that is trying to establish links with Japan. And then, if you went back, you’d have a deep linguistic and cultural understanding that you could use to help Japanese companies that are trying to expand in to Taiwan or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. Why play by someone else’s rules when you can make and play your own game?”


I am training with Tokuda-san, a young uchideshi, a live-in student at the Honbu Dojo. We are taking turns applying kotegaeshi, a hand reversal technique. When it’s my turn, I control his balance through his right  hand downward to his right front foot, and point his fingers toward his face as I wrap my right hand over the back of his. I step in and throw. He breakfalls, and stands to meet me again. He attacks again, this time with his left hand. I parry, controlling his left hand as I direct his balance downward and weight his left front foot. Instead of stepping in to throw, as is usual at Honbu Dojo, this time I pivot on the balls of both of my feet as I draw his balance forward, as I was taught in Shingu. I can read from the surprise on his face that this is new for him.

We switch roles: my turn to attack, his turn to parry and throw. I attack. He controls my balance downward, but instead of stepping in to throw, he wraps me in with a slight twist of his body. He doesn’t throw, but unwraps, and I respond by trying to retake my balance. He wraps me in again, and I realize his elbow is close to my nose. Then, he wraps me in and controls my balance into the ground. I breakfall and roll out. I attack again, and as he controls me downward, I can see this time that he is definitely experimenting with the distance between his forward elbow and my nose. I laugh.

We switch roles: my turn to parry and throw. I experiment, and find that it’s unnatural for me to actually be able to touch his nose with my elbow. But, it seems to me to be a good backup – if I were to lose control of his arm for some reason, my elbow is there near his face. I laugh. “This is a bit evil, isn’t it?” He laughs, too.

And there we are, trying things out, working within the form, experimenting with deviations from form, seeing what works, and creating Aikido for ourselves.