When did you start aikido and why? What is your rank?
I started Aikido in 1999 when I was a dancer in NYC. I had the chance to meet some other dancers/friends that practiced so watching them practice Aikido and see their movements made me curious to go after it. I was lucky enough to land at the United States Aikido Federation Headquarters in New York under the direction of Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan. It has been 12 years since I have been training and I am a 1st kyu.
Tell us a bit about the dojo where you are practicing.
At this moment I am training at Aikido de la Montagne which is under the USAF ran by Yoshimitsu Yamada, direct student and former uchi deshi ( live in student ) of O-Sensei. Claude Berthiaume Sensei is the owner of the dojo here in Montreal who also followed a fellow friend of Yamada Sensei, who was Kanai Sensei of New England Aikikai. Claude Berthiaume's style is very unique and was greatly influenced by Kanai Sensei who incorporated his Judo and Iaido influences creating a blended style of Aikido. They perform very high energy throws, focusing on aerial ukemi and big stances which is part of their style.
Which is your favorite technique (if you have one)?
My favorite technique would be iriminage in its different variations...its challenging and can take you more than a lifetime to perform correctly! I also enjoy the kokyu techniques which are the breathing techniques that are also very difficult to master. The study of Aikido requires a lot of body awareness and understanding of the concepts behind each technique; in this way they do not become mechanical and they remain fresh to study over and over each and every day.
Do you have role models. If yes who are they?
I would say more than role models there are many people I love and admire for their honest and beautiful understanding of Aikido: Gina Zarrilli, Donovan Waite, Steve Pimsler among many others, these are people who live and understand the principles of Aikido in such a enlighting way that practicing with them is just a treat and honour. I am also very lucky to be a direct student of Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan who in my short Aikido career has given me first class direction in my Aikido training.
Do you read books about aikido? If yes which ones would you recommend?
I havent read many so unfortunately I cannot help you with that! Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere is one of the few that I found interesting by Westbrook & Otti. It is one of the first Aikido books that is a great starter guide. Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere is a comprehensive technical introduction to 1960's-era Aikikai Aikido as taught in the United States.
Do you know any good aikido movies?
That is a hard one...not really; I have seen only a few Hollywood flicks in which Steven Segall appears and applies some of his Aikido techniques; but I do enjoy great classic samurai movies like Harakiri by Masaki Kobayashi or this years samurai movie 13 Assasins by Takashi Miike. The build up, battle sequences and tension of these movies keep you glued, and they portray the Japanese samurai's honour in an epic way.
Do you think there is a difference among how male and female aikidoka train and practice?
I think it all depends in each individual persons' frame of mind and what they are working towards in Aikido. I get a feeling that women must be technically skilled to move their male partners and men use their strength to achieve their goals. I do think men and women train differently. We for sure are different.
Do you feel like having an advantage or a disadvantage in aikido because of being a woman?
I think both. Our disadvantage is that there is a difference in physionomy compared to men which makes it challenging for us women to be good Aikidoka, and also because men generally like to train with men to test out or prove their strength. On the other hand our advantage is that it makes us work much harder and more consciensously at getting the technique down to a science rather than having to wrestle with the big guys. It takes good and efficient technique to move the boys!
As you are working for Aikitrend, your work is related to your favorite martial art, but I suppose it was not always like that. How would you motivate people who start aikido and then give up calming that they have so many other things to do? What can keep them motivated?
What keeps me motivated is the fact that the more I study the more I realize the dimension Aikido has and the bigger realm it encompasses. It shows me how much harder I have to train to reach it. Sometimes of course it demotivates me as well; but going to seminars, seeing and sharing Aikido with my good Aikido friends and the community always feeds me to want more and to continue in this path. I would say that experiencing a few different teachers can motivate one to train more, but having a real Aikido master that can lead and guide your training is always a means for motivation. It is hard to be motivated at all times as I said before, but remembering the the few "aha" moments I have in Aikido is still nourishment for my soul. Having Aikido as part of my lifestyle naturally keeps me going.
Tell us more about the Aikitrend shop. I think it is a really unique and interesting initiative as it offers special jewelry to martial artists. Whose idea was it and who did all the branding?
I find it is a unique initiative and there is a gap in the martial arts I can fill with our hand made products that are created in limited editions. What I have seen out there is very artisanal and the quality of our metals/stones speaks for itself. With time I would love to expand to other Japanese arts like Judo or Kendo, but we also currently have a few pieces created for the Iaido practitioners as well.
I would love Aiki Trend to have a personalized feel, a unique look, based on interchangeable pieces that can be combined in different ways creating a one of a kind look. At the moment we are working hard on giving Aiki Trend a new makeover and are working on the branding and our online store once again. We want to give it an upgraded feel and maybe add a few other type of products we can offer to our clients who have been faithful to us until now. I am excited with the great response we have had internationally. I do hope that in the next 2 years we can continue to grow and will be able to expand our store to other countries and languages.
Aiki Trend is getting ready for a South American tour to Chile, Argentina and Brazil this year; we will be there following our great Shihan, at the same time promoting our brand to other Aikido lovers out there. I have been lucky enough to be in touch with top Aikido people which have influenced my love for this art; I have been very fortunate to be able to express this passion on and off of the mat.
I would like to thank Beauty and Aikido for supporting Aiki Trend this year, your initiative is awesome too! I hope to keep in touch with you all.
Anne Marie Crisanto-Ruschel