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Learning Process & Teachers

In 2012, a friend of mine, a performer from Sofia, told me about a place where an Asian practice called shiatsu was taught, and he asked me to go with him to try it out, as it had ‘many things in common with what we do in our training’, he told me. That was how I discovered a dojo in Prenzlauer Berg – The Zentrum für Harmonische Bewegung – where I started to practice first shiatsu then aikido as well in 2014. The main teacher there, who encouraged me to try aikido, was Jochen Knau (6th dan). Soon afterwards I also began attending the training given by Heiko Schwarzburger (5th dan), who taught morning classes with the jo (wooden aikido stick). I loved the work with weapons, which enabled me to perceive the natural flow of movement in an amplified way. Coming from a dance background, I was rapidly convinced that this way of learning more about movement, its essence and the natural flow of ki (which can be translated best as life energy or vitality) would take me much further in understanding, flow and joy of life, both as a person and in my work. The two disciplines soon became my daily practice, though Aikido increasingly engaged my full attention; it rapidly began to influence my work, my way of walking, being and moving in the world, and continues to do so.

In aikido body, spirit and soul become one indivisible entity. The notion of zen, of inner quietness and peace, is an essential aspect of the practice. Aikido therefore relates directly to other Zen practices, such as meditation or shiatsu. Zen approaches the self as a place of consciousness, inner peace and kindness; it is about overcoming duality and the separations between body and mind, reason and emotion, attacking and defending, self and other in order to get to a space of awareness, attention, inner clarity and presence.
In 2017 I first attended training with Gerhard Walter (8th dan) at his dojo for Aikido-Zen. His way of teaching aikido through the study of ‘natural movement’, with a focus on weight shift, gravitation and the forces that make us move, has been enriching my life and own work ever since and he became my main teacher. I have held the 3rd dan since 2022. (Isabelle Schad)