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Class was poignant: during one exercise we had a tiny mat we had to keep our feet on and keep our hands just above. We had to work with what energy uke gave us. Anytime we reached out past the mat we got buzzed by observers. I got pushed over and shook up. I lost balance and came back. I self-corrected instead of trusting my helpers. I did my best and it was messy.
The next part of class we held a very large ball in both hands I suggested we use the ball as a symbol of a large orb of vitality. I wanted nage to really let their energy out and greet uke with fun and movement.
Then we did freestyle. We did 2 throws; small and constricted and 2 throws; large and free moving. I wanted nage to explore how both ways of throwing can change how we move. New habits provide fresh options. In freestyle we develop skills to take what comes and blend with it. The more relaxed and open we are the safer we become on the mat and in the world.
I got overwhelmed with an uke. I overreacted to a humorous comment from Ron. I blended and expressed my energy. The class was hard and large. It was small and constricted. But mostly it was shared. We did it together.
Again we faced who we are in the moment and accepted our ukes as they were. Feelings arose and we still moved. We still took good care of our ukes.
We stay again and again; getting a little stronger, a little braver, a little more trusting; a little more relaxed with each class.
Always traveling on the path, never
Should other people do what we want them to do? Why should they? Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.
Should past performance indicate how a person should act and feel in the future? Are we responsible for our own behavior?
Aikido gives us a chance to physically explore those ideas. Ukes are gonna uke. An uke is who they are on any given day. If I "expect" an uke to be a certain way I have stepped out of my center and into the mind. By paying close attention to my uke I can guide the technique and come to a resolution. There is no room for "should haves" or "could haves" in the now.
Uke will do their best at each particular moment as regular people in the world do their best with the circumstances of the day. Me expecting others to behave in a certain way is as futile as me expecting uke to be different.
By accepting what happens I can deal in each moment, gather information for future choices and move on
Ukes can be stiff and sore, cranky and unwilling. They can fall too early and resist illogically. Each uke gives us another chance to meet ourselves. People can be mean, unreasonable and demanding…providing us again with the chance to meet ourselves and develop into strong, versatile humans with compassion for others even as we learn to defend ourselves.
We can cast off what we know and become who we are meant to be.
Everyone should train in aikido. All this energy wasted on (fill in the blank here with fitness fad of the day) does not make one aware of their surroundings. It does not teach you how it feels to be grabbed and it does not offer you any solutions to conflict.
How does Zumba make you safer and how does golf add to your tool kit in a conflict situation? Okay, golf makes you familiar with a handy weapon…but have you ever thought about using it a self-defense option?
Now I am not saying that golf, yoga or dance training is bad…not at all. What I am saying is the world is not safe and we could all use aikido training.
One young woman trained with us for several months before she went off to travel in Europe for a semester. She was never going to be a lifelong aikidoka but her training helped her. She was on a train in Amsterdam alone at night with just one other person, a strange man. That man approached her; as he leaned into to grab her with a lecherous comment she put her foot in his stomach and pushed…he staggered back and she scooted out of that car into the next where there were other people. Safe.
Could she have done this without aikido training…maybe but would she have given herself permission to follow the little voice in her head?
I know we can't visit every kind of conflict that happens to humans…but we can train in an art that allows us the opportunity to feel what it feels like to grabbed, pushed and be really uncomfortable.
We can support each o
I started playing basketball and baseball really early. I had 5 older brothers….it was our culture….we ran, we hid, we threw balls and caught them or got hit in the face. One of the first things I remember my father telling me was "keep your eye on the ball" as he pitched a baseball. I would shoot at the hoop on my brother Dickie's 6 foot 4 shoulders when I was just a peanut. Movement is my spiritual practice. If I am walking or riding my bike or playing mitt's and sticks with Ron, you know I am happy.
So aikido was a natural for me. Not that I knew it when I started. I just thought Ron was a fine looking fella, to quote my mother.
For the 1st year I stumbled about not having a clue. Not one clue. I did not understand the whole concept of being uke. Why would anyone want to fall down? I could not roll…not at all. It was very scary and pitiful. I used to hide at the end of the line but the guys would push me up and encourage me even though every roll and every fall hurt like hell. I cried after class a lot.
Once after a particularly terrifying class I vowed never to come back. Ron saw me scurrying out and he called me over to explain it was only noise when the guys yelled as they attacked me. He said noise can't hurt you and the guys would never hurt me anyway. I didn't totally believe him but I really appreciated him taking the time to explain that to me. When I was a kid my father would yell at me and then hit me. I never knew there was a separation. I really
I am missing aikido today. I do have a dojo right at my house so I can walk downstairs and do ki exercises, weapons work, stretching and rolls anytime I want.
But…and this is the big reason I love aikido…I love the exchange of energy, the camaraderie with others and connections we share. I love how it feels when I am attacked and I turn and connect again and the throw happens. I love receiving the fall and the occasional cauliflower ear (not really). I love the shared understanding of deep learning. I love the way we get to learn how to get comfortable being uncomfortable together. I loved our shared jokes and chuckles at ourselves.
I love our dojo. I am more than ready for classes to resume on Thursday, September, 1st at 6:30 PM. Be there. Aloha.
With so much brown belt energy around it seemed as if the dojo might explode like a teenager does when confronted by a parent: Hurdling accusations, running in fear, hiding in the woods, peeking out to see if it is safe to come out.
The dojo is not just a physical space. It is a combination of energies that synergize to hold us all when we are weak or strong, emotional, vulnerable, serene or hurting.
We can be ourselves here in this place of mutual respect where we learn to give and get. We can hold space and energy for people here and we can receive both when we are in need.
Our dojo is not for everyone. One must be very brave and have fortitude to stay when the very naked aspect of our true selves arrive.
The dojo can hold space for most of us. But it cannot fix issues that must be addressed in other ways.
We are what we are, which is strong, true and even magnificent. Aikido training can complement our path and it can enhance self-knowledge and self-defense. And we are not the answer to all of life's ills.
Yes, sometimes so much so that I want to cut and run. But I stay because that is that I was taught to do and that is what I teach others to do. Our dojo is a safe place to meet your self. Sometimes I don't like what I find. I can stay anyway. The next uke attacks and I throw. When it is my turn to attack, I do and I receive the throw. My mind gets quieted through the practice. My attention to others relieves me of my self-centered fears and self-doubt. Regard for others always helps me come back to what is important. For me what is important is the safety of the space, the constancy of training and the peace that comes from mind-full attention.
Question: Why does it matter where I place my hands?
Answer: Because the body is like a wild pony. It has to be trained to your bidding. If we let our hands just land willy-nilly all the time we do not develop good habits. We ask our body to do something a certain why and then work to develop that way by training. Aikido affords us the opportunity to accept feedback without judgment and to work that feedback into our movement to create correct feeling and impeccable technique.
Another reason it matters where we place our hands is because we want to be mindful every moment in class and out of class. By paying attention to details we set the intention for our hands to go a certain way and then we follow with the movement to come as close to that intention as we can. This practice helps us develop mind body co-ordination and gives us a reference for how we can be at all times.
We can notice distractions like problems or compliments and then come back to our centers and be paying attention to all the details of our daily life. Nothing really feels as good as a technique done just right so we blend with our uke and they fall in complete coordination to nage's direction. Life feels better when we are in the flow. Aikido gives us an example of that flow. We let go and move with what is in a precise and practiced matter. Our effortlessness comes from
Answer: Just the act of stepping out on the mat with an open mind begins the process.
For example: Nage says: "When uke grabs me like that I can't move." Sensei then shows us how to move when we are grabbed like that. We move what we can. Ourselves. We don't move what we can't…someone else. Our moving changes the relationship between us. Harmony is re-established through the process. The process creates a feeling in both uke and nage of peacefulness that they can pass along to others.
Out in the real life dojo the same thing can happen. Me: "So and so makes me feel (insert a feeling word here such as angry, frustrated, happy…)". Then I get to look at the lie that I just thought. So and so can't make me feel anything. My feelings come from my own judgments and thoughts and desires: things I can change. So if conversations or experiences with so and so make me feel (again insert your feeling word of choice) I can choose how I want to respond.
Aikido gives us the tools to look at what we can change, ourselves. Aikido offers us the opportunity to take responsibility for every word we say and every action we make. Aikido is the truth. Our training takes away our ability to deceive ourselves and others. Aikido strips us down to the bare essentials of you and of me and what we can change. I can change me and you can change you. Once we experience that truth we will always be in question. Hang on for the ride.
I go to aikido class no matter how I feel unless I am sick. Sometimes I am injured and I still go because I can either take it easy or sit out. The class still helps. Aikido class provides an exchange of energy that is healing.
My mind comes up with creative excuses about not going to class because Aikido class is so good for me. Sometimes I hear in my mind, "You are too tired" or "You are too emotional…you might cry," I go anyway. If I cry on the mat it won't be the first time. Being tired is always fixed right away. I always feel better after class than before.
The human condition often shuns that which is really helpful to our development. I don't know why or really care. I just watch those negative pre class thoughts and go anyway. I have never been disappointed with how I feel after class or during. Something is always fun and interesting and good for me.
The dojo is clean and ready for tonight's class. Hope to see you there.