This a recording of a temple located in Ohara, just outside Kyoto, named Sanzenin. An important site for the Tendai school of Buddhism, this large complex houses many artistic and religious treasures. One of the compound buildings featured a uguisubari (translated as ‘nightingale floor’). This kind of flooring was...>>
In this recording at Hombu dojo, the world headquarters of the Aikikai Foundation, during a late afternoon class, approximately 30 students are practicing in pairs and you hear the sound of their bodies moving and the slapping of the mats to break their falls. Then they stop, dash to the edges to kneel in seiza facing the centre, and the Sensei (teacher) demonstrates a technique with one uke (receiving partner) while all the students observe. There is no talking by either the teacher nor the students during the training or during the demonstration, and students learn by seeing, by "stealing with the eyes". You can sense the power of each of the Sensei's throws by the the sonic intensity of the receiving partner's contact with the mat. Then, the demonstration over, you can hear the sound of the practitioners greeting their partners (o-negai shimasu- "please treat me well") with a kneeling bow and then practicing what they had been shown.
I was training during this session, and I was interested in how subtle qualities in the sounds of training are sensed and "read" very differently in practice than they are later in a disembodied recording. Sounds that are made through motion and contact (with the floor, with other bodies) are felt as much as they are heard - they are experienced through the skin and through the labouring veil of one's own bodily breathing or panting. (Please note that no pictures are allowed during the training in this formal class environment, so pictures of the space are only possible before and after the class when the dojo is empty or only has a few students present who are informally stretching and practicing, as in the picture below).
Text, photo, recording by Tamara Kohn.