Every Sunday, except during the summer months, I go to Aikido class in the morning. It may sound rather strange, but the instructors are from Canada. (I hear the largest non-Japanese population of Aikido in Japan are French. I do not know whether it is true or not, but maybe there is something about Aikido that appeals to French people.)
This term, we have fewer students than before, as many hard-core students left Japan over the summer. I am one of the students who has taken lessons for a long time. As the class is relatively small this term, we often have the luxury of having three instructors for five students, as was the case this morning!
After the instructors show us kata, we practice in pairs. We throw each other more than fifty times within one hour. Recently I have been practicing with a veteran who has reached second kyu (a quite high level). He is big and I struggle when I try to throw him.
Aikido does not require power, as we use the power of our opponents. The movement is very natural and smooth if you get it. But as I am not too flexible, it is often difficult to follow the smooth movement. Unlike kids who can learn with their bodies, we have to think and do it.
After an hour of intense practice, I am covered in sweat. You feel great after you taking a shower/sauna. But about 30 minutes later, you can feel that your body starts suffering. It becomes a challenge even to walk up the stairs at the metro station.
Lately, as I wear hakama during the class, I notice people who wear hakama. In particular, when I go to see Kabuki, Noh and other Japanese performing arts, I am impressed with the beautiful way those in hakama move. I trip over my hakama often and my hakama gets loose after many throws. There is always a lot to learn.
Yoko Ishikura is a Professor at Hitotsubashi University ICS in the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy in Japan. She has held positions as a professor at the School of International Politics, Economics and Business of Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, as a consultant at McKinsey and Company Inc. Japan and a visiting professor at Darden School.
Professor Ishikura is a consultant to a number of multinational companies and has been a frequent speaker at management conferences, seminars, and workshops throughout the world. She was a member of the Regulatory Reform Committee for the Japanese government and the International Competitiveness Commission for METI. She is currently a Forum Fellow of the World Economic Forum.
She is the author of Strategic Shift from OR choices to AND paradigm, Building Core Skills of Organization , and the co-author of the following publications: Managing Diversity in the 21st Century, Strategy for Cluster Initiatives in Japan , and Building a Career to the World Class Professionals – all in Japanese. Her books in English include: Asian Advantage, Hitotsubashi on Knowledge Management and Trust and Antitrust in Asian Business Alliances.
Professor Ishikura’s current research interests are focused on global competition, innovation, and knowledge management. She received her BA from Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan; MBA from Darden School, University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia; and DBA from Harvard Business School.