This is an article that I wrote in June 2013 for the memorial issue of the membership magazine of our association Kansai Soutai Balance Kyokai. This association was founded by Okajima Sensei. The magazine was made to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the foundation.
Sotaiho helps my body and my Aikido
My name is Martijn van Hemmen and I am from the Netherlands. I have been doing Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido since 1995 and in 2004 I switched to Aikido Yuishinkai. In this article I will talk about how I got in touch with Sotaiho and what my experiences are with Sotaiho.
In 2004 my Dutch Aikido teacher Will Stoelman invited Koretoshi Maruyama Sensei, the founder of Aikido Yuishinkai, to the Netherlands to teach an Aikido and Yuki seminar. Many people joined the seminar and we enjoyed it very much. I also loved to do Yuki, the healing part of Aikido Yuishinkai. It makes Aikido whole for me.
Sensei was very open and gentle to everybody and a true Aikido master. During his stay Maruyama Sensei and his wife stayed at my house. This was a great opportunity for me to get to know them better. I could see how Sensei was living Aikido Yuishinkai in daily life. Will and I felt that his way of teaching was very close to the way that we love to do Aikido. So we decided to join Aikido Yuishinkai. Since then every year I am participating in the Aikido and Yuki classes of Maruyama Sensei in the Netherlands and other European countries.
It was about 8 years ago that I did Sotaiho exercises for the first time during a Yuki class from Maruyama Sensei. I was very impressed by the great effects from doing Sotaiho. By using body movement combined with breathing I felt more relaxed, tension disappeared and my body movement became softer and more whole. Since then every year Maruyama Sensei taught more about Sotaiho in the Yuki classes. In 2011 he changed the name of these classes to Shindo and he explained that Shindo is the combination of Sotaiho, Seitaiho and Reiki.
During his stays in the Netherlands Maruyama Sensei asked me to visit him in Tokyo. And in 2007 I went with a group of Dutch Aikidokas to Tokyo for the first time to learn more about Aikido and Japan from Maruyama Sensei. We had a wonderful time and during this stay he introduced Okajima Sensei as his future successor in Aikido Yuishinkai. Okajima Sensei taught a Daito Ryu class in Tokyo and I was impressed by what he was teaching and the way that he moved. I enjoyed my stay in Japan so much, that since then I come back every year to study more from the great masters Maruyama Sensei and Okajima Sensei.
Our second visit to Tokyo was in 2008. This time Maruyama Sensei also brought us to Nara and Osaka. In Nara we attended a Sotaiho class by Kitamura Sensei. This was one of the experiences that made me want to learn more about Sotaiho. Maruyama Sensei told me to stay in Osaka longer with Okajima Sensei next time, and so I did in 2009. That year I joined a complete Sotaiho basic course taught by Okajima Sensei. At that time Sotaiho was still quite new to me, but it became more and more clear how Sotaiho works and how to do the Sotaiho movements well.
Since then I visited Maruyama Sensei and Okajima Sensei every year in Japan. During my stays in Osaka Okajima Sensei taught Aikido, Goshindo, Reiki and Sotaiho. When I joined the Sotaiho basic course for the second time in 2011 my understanding deepened a lot through the private classes of Okajima Sensei and Higashiguchi Sensei. The years after that we did a shorter version of the Sotaiho basic course. Again my understanding of Sotaiho deepened further.
I also started teaching Shindo in my Aikido dojo and in my private dojo at home in January 2012. This way I could practise Sotaiho regularly with others and develop my skills further. The students really enjoy the Sotaiho exercises because it helps them to become more relaxed and it gives them a tool to stay healthy. I also teach Shindo classes to people who don’t do Aikido. And I sometimes teach special Sotaiho classes for Aikido instructors to improve their skills and therefore can teach their students Sotaiho in a correct way. I noticed that everybody has positive results from Sotaiho, and that the longer they do Sotaiho the better effects they have.
Every day I discover more about the healing effects of Sotaiho, and every year I stay in Osaka my understanding of Sotaiho deepens more and more. I am becoming more aware of “Rendo”, how moving one part of the body will cause movement of other parts of the body, also how some parts in my body are deformed and how to correct them with balancing the four factors for living (breathing, eating, thinking and moving) and of the natural laws of the body structure and body movement. It helps me to get to know my body better and it keeps me healthy.
Sotaiho also improves my Aikido and Goshindo very much because my body gets softer and it helps me to use the whole body movement more natural. Also learning to move the easy way helped me a lot. Before I focused more on that what is hard for me, and try hard to make that part better. But now I move the easy way without forcing myself and that has much more effect and costs less energy.
In 2012 Okajima Sensei asked me to spread Goshindo and Sotaiho in the Netherlands too. I am very honoured and I do my best to achieve this mission. In 2012 and in 2013 I taught a Shindo seminar to a big group of Aikidokas from different Aikido dojo’s in the Netherlands. They were very open to the healing part of Aikido Yuishinkai and they enjoyed it a lot. I really hope that many people will learn Sotaiho so they can use it to become healthy and stay healthy.
We will go to Tokyo and Osaka again in spring next year and I am looking forward to practise more Sotaiho with Okajima Sensei and Higashiguchi Sensei. They are great teachers and I am very thankful for what they taught me. It will be great to see them again. I want to continue developing my knowledge and experience of Sotaiho and incorporate it more and more in my body and way of moving. Sotaiho became part of my Aikido and Goshindo arts and became a way of living.
Martijn van Hemmen from the Netherlands