Last year I had the privilege of hosting the entire dojo for a training session that culminated in testing for a number of students at my place. Prior to testing of course Ericksen Sensei conducted a couple of classes and because we were outside and doing weapons training he tried something I had not seen in many years.
Two students paired up, Uke Held his arms out with his index fingers pointing at each other with a 4 inch gap in between them. Nage then executed an overhead cut, shomen uchi, with his bokken between that gap. This exercise greatly improves one’s ability to cut straight. It does require a partner, a rather brave partner at that. Like most aikido exercises this one can be executed solo, without a partner and has a lot of positive benefits for solo training.
In the picture I have attached you will see what is commonly called a Noren - A very common form of Japanese privacy curtain usually utilized in the doorway. In fact we have two of them in our dojo, one in each changing room. I am a big fan of Noren in general as I simply love the artwork that usually adorns them. A few months ago I was lamenting that my swings with my bokken were a bit wobbly, and I remembered fondly the exercise I described above. I wished at that time that I had a partner I could train with. At the very same moment I moved the noren with my bokken exiting my home dojo. That’s when it clicked.
I swung and cut between the gap. I swung again this time from the waka position and cut the gap again, grazing the edge of the curtain. I then tried another cut, and another and another and after a few dozen saw some obvious improvement. Now every day I include some Noren cutting In my solo training. You could use a window curtain or even the gap between two doors or the gap between a door and the door jam. This is of course a type of Suburi or Practice cutting with the bokken And of course has all of the benefits that doing regular Suburi has except that you have a target and you can fine-tune your cutting accuracy.
OSensei made it very clear that mastery of Aikido could not be accomplished in the Dojo alone. We must train on our own, in our homes, in the woods and fields, in our spare time. We must walk through the techniques, imagining the actions of our training partners and creating new opportunities for us to train. The pandemic with all of it terrible Impacts on our day-to-day lives gives us further motivation to explore solo training. So I encourage you to go cut a curtain!