Patrick Cassidy, from form to flow

Sometimes it is easier to describe people you infrequently meet and situations that are limited in space and time.

Knowing and meeting the same person for many years shows his/her many facets. It is much easier to take a picture than to paint a portrait.

Patrick Cassidy is a multifaceted figure in the Aikido scenario. A very solid track record, as a result of years of continuous training in Japan, in Iwama, and ongoing research that has placed him among the leading teachers in the world of Aikido and a reference at an international level.

Since we started practicing years ago, Patrick Cassidy has been the technical reference of the Dojo where we train: from here was born the practice of the annual Evolutionary Aikido Seminar which is held in Turin and is one of the occasions in the year in which we come into contact with the Sensei. An occasion that coincides with the most intense moment of the year for our group and during which test sessions for Aikikai grades take place.

In the world derived from Iwama Ryu -the teaching style codified by Morihiro Saito and which also left an indelible mark on Cassidy Sensei- we have usually found two kinds of teachers. On the one hand, the custodians of tradition, who dispense techniques in an encyclopedic way, with the limit given by the fact that every encyclopedia always has a last page, then it’s over. On the other hand, in a smaller but not zero quantity, people who, after a lifetime spent reading and teaching people to read the encyclopedia, got bored, sometimes began to look at different styles and began to follow more or less clear paths in the non-material domain. An often difficult to understand mix of martial and spiritual traditions of different cultures.

Patrick Cassidy, in his versatility, has managed to define a very clear identity in a third, different, dimension.

The seminar that ended in Turin last Sunday was a demonstration of this.

The training proposal, in its variety, was developed on a study on three levels. From the formal/technical approach we progressed by increasing the attention on feeling to reach therefore the exploration of flowing.

In the technical setting, having had the opportunity to be called as uke to demonstrate the exercises, the legacy of the Iwama Ryu tradition can be seen in Patrick Cassidy. The angles are clear, as are the lines, the grabs are powerful, the pins relentless, the imbalances total. All empowered by flexibility and a very refined perceptive skill that are the result of personal research over decades.

We use the term “empowered” not by chance, because several times in recent days we have been invited to understand and physically experience the greater power that feeling and flow gives to the technique.

A world -even a martial one- often lost between the search for performance and convoluted sophisms, finds in people like Patrick Cassidy an interesting mark of a gentle discontinuity.

From direct experience, even last weekend, the form is incredibly clear, effective and without possibility of exit. However, it is a delicate, soft power, never aggressive nor painful. The fruit of what a teacher of the highest level should be: the coherent testimony between what you teach and what you are.

Here, Patrick Cassidy’s proposal is the identification, in practice, of what one is, thanks to work with one’s partner.

It is a very persuasive temptation to borrow the words of Morihei Ueshiba and, under the pretext of repeating with him “I am the universe”, to begin to progressively detach oneself from reality, which is made up of accepting one’s own and others’ limits, of a constant and demanding physical work. A path that is made up of mistakes and little conquests.

Recognizing that our body is made of the same elements that our Earth is made of; perceiving that it is composed of more than two thirds of water; focusing attention on how the air gives it life, feeling that it behaves like a heat generator that expresses the same qualities as a fire; finally reflecting on the infinite spaces that exist at an atomic and subatomic level within the matter we are made of…

This was the content of the “simplebreathing exercises that were part of the warm-up at the beginning of each session. A very simple and material way of showing the same concept as Ueshiba but in a tangible and above all useful way for everyone’s personal practice.

In some of the many seminars experienced in Italy and abroad, we had the feeling that some teachers somehow, in addition to their technical perspective, propose their own vision of the world in an imposing way, also from a spiritual point of view.

Just like his technique, Patrick Cassidy is neither directly nor indirectly coercive rather faithful to his mandate, which is to explain and make people touch the reasons hidden in the principles that animate the techniques. From then on, the destination of the path is the responsibility of each of the practitioners, who receive in seminars of this kind a well-equipped toolbox to give a clear and at the same time free direction to their work during the year.

Picture courtesy of Silvia Volpato

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