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Go Back   AikiWeb Aikido Forums > AikiWeb AikiBlogs > Seeking Zanshin: Blood, Sweat, Tears & Aikikai

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Seeking Zanshin: Blood, Sweat, Tears & Aikikai Blog Tools Rating: Rate This Blog
Creation Date: 02-24-2005 11:53 PM
One small gal + a dojo full of big guys = tons o' fun
Blog Info
Status: Public
Entries: 272 (Private: 12)
Comments: 195
Views: 554,022

In General A New Direction: The Anti-Blog Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #271 New 05-14-2012 10:46 AM
I started this blog not too long after I began training in Aikikai-style Aikido in January of 2003. A lot has changed since then. Two jobs, many friends and one husband later, I am still practicing Aikido.
But I am not really blogging about it so much anymore.

When I first started, just like many beginners, I was overwhelmed with information. Much of it, as rightly concerns all beginners, was purely mechanical. Naturally, just as I progressed in my training, so too, did my writing progress from discussion of the basic form to more complex subject matter.

What I am learning these days, however, isn't something that is easy to explain. As the copious amount of posts on this forum tries desperately to refute by their very existence, and as one popular column here suggests, it's something that "has to be felt".

But I am only a humble shodan. I do not have decades of experience to commend me. I have never had the opportunity of feeling, first-hand, the uncanny strength of O Sensei, or any of his students, or any of his students' first cousins twice-removed. Nor am I at all interested in pretending that I have discovered the divine power of profound Zen enlightenment that others have (or at least would like to think they have).

So what could I possibly have to share with this community that would be worth writing about? What would be the point in even bothering?

From here on, I'm going to take a backseat to all of the debating and pontificating and just let the s ...More Read More
Views: 1509

In General How to Eat a Fish Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #270 New 02-02-2012 08:17 AM
Some time ago, I sat down to dinner with my paternal grandparents (my "Lolo Camillo" and "Lola Oreng") while visiting them in California. They were having salted, pan-fried fish that night -- a fairly common Filipino meal with the usual steamed, white rice.

As I started to dig in, Lola Oreng shrieked in laughter just as the food was poised to enter my mouth.

"You mean you do not even know how to eat a fish?" she cried.

Bewildered, I looked down and stared in confusion at the chunk of meat on my fork.

"Susmarjosep," Lola cursed, sucking air sharply between her teeth. She snatched the fork from me and proceeded to deftly graze the tines of the fork under the filet, separating it easily from the bones.

"That," she declared proudly, "is the proper way to eat a fish,"

I've thought about her choice of words a great deal since then. While I'd rather chalk it up to her Grade 2 education and correspondingly poor command of the English language, it struck a chord.

You see, when I was a child, I was duly instructed by my father in the "proper" way to sweep the floor, the "proper" way to do the dishes, and so on and so forth. It irked me then, and it still irks me now. Perhaps if fried fish were a regular part of my diet, I thought, or if I had at that point in my life been more experienced in household chores, I would have naturally discovered the best way of performing these tasks on my own.

But the whole idea of a "proper" way is especially significant to me t ...More Read More
Views: 1994 | Comments: 6

In General Back to the (bigger, badder) Basics Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #265 New 02-09-2011 03:25 PM
I'm convinced that no matter how busy your life gets, or how far from ideal your situation may be, you should make the time to look around and take stock of just how fortunate you are. Now is definitely one of those times for me.

Sure, you could say that we don't have a "permanent" dojo space of our own right now. That the student numbers are low. Meh! The fact is, between the church hall and the university, we've got a pretty good thing going. For one, I have the opportunity to practice six days a week, if you count the Sunday afternoon I teach (which is in many ways, an even more intense learning experience, as I've blogged about before). Sure, having back-to-back classes on Friday night (going straight from regular practice at the main dojo class to being demo uke and participant in the beginners' one) can be brutal. Boy, do I look forward to a nice, hot soak in the tub at the end of my week.

But participating in the two "extra classes" with the beginners at the university is definitely paying off as far as Kihon waza is concerned; we can lecture about a good foundation in the basics until the Mudansha come home but you can never spend too much time building more of it for yourself. There are still more minute details I'm learning about the basic exercises that I hadn't been taught before. Which is why I'm glad we're spending more time these days not just on good ol' Tae Sabaki, but in particular on dynamic, moving Tae Sabaki, instead of the kind that starts static ...More Read More
Views: 1623 | Comments: 1

In General So what did it take to get to Shodan? Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #258 New 03-10-2010 12:19 AM
Yup, it's rank retrospective time again - this time, however, it's the one you've all been waiting for - well, at least the one I've been building up to all these years: The Ultimate Tally!

Things learned since Ikkyu...

- "The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle." - A Marine Corps motto, apparently based on an old Chinese proverb (Thanks to Greg Koukl for drawing my attention to this highly motivating quote!)
- The confidence that comes from being highly prepared
- That sometimes trying to describe technique with words (even to yourself) can not only be inadequate but highly misleading
- The power of visualization to influence the mind-body connection
- That mnemonic devices are invaluable for condensing a lot of information (such as a long set of test techniques) into smaller "chunks" for quick memory access
- That I look super small next to everyone else (at least in our videos) but when I'm doing Aikido I sure don't feel that way
- That according to Kawahara Sensei, I have "very good Tae Sabaki"
- That I've still got an awful lot to learn

Stats/Little Milestones as of 03/06/10 (* - denotes change since last tally at Ikkyu):

Training w/current dojo since - January 8, 2003


*Number of classes attended - 1533

Number of days extra training on the weekend - over a dozen? (lost count after we started outside practices in Summer 2006)

*Number of seminars attended - 9

Number of other dojos visited while traveling - ...More Read More
Views: 1823 | Comments: 4

In General Consecration Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #255 New 03-05-2010 08:28 AM
Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee;
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

- Frances R. Havergal (1874)
Views: 1045

In General A Change in Attitude Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #251 New 09-22-2009 03:21 PM
By early September, we had only been going at test-specific training for about a week when I thought I'd finally had it. I was already sick of it and ready to throw in the towel - Shodan test be damned. So tired of dogging the test stuff, I just wanted to either get back to regular practice or quit entirely.

Whether it was: that recovery from months of overtraining was so slow going; that my allergies seemed to be reaching an almost unbearable peak, triggering not only my asthma but cold-like symptoms; that frustrations about my own technique seemed only to pile up higher and higher until I was telling myself I was nowhere near where I needed to be by Shodan, with the deadline looming above me ever closer…whatever the heck it was, I thought for certain that I was through.

But frustration can only go so far in and of itself. It is, by its nature, a catalyst. That is - whether you like it or not - something's gotta give.

I debated (and still am torn on) whether or not to name this post "The Seven-Year Itch". That I've been practicing Aikido consistently for almost seven years now is more coincidence than anything else. Through the years, I'd given up a great many things in order to train regularly: voluntary and educational opportunities, familial and social events, even the possibility for deeper friendships, when you think about it. Yet I never did so with any form of regret. I'd always known there would have to be some sacrifice in order to attain the level of ...More Read More
Views: 1428 | Comments: 1

In General Summertime Blues Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #250 New 08-06-2009 08:58 PM
It's that time of year again. But I don't think it ever got quite this bad back when we had our own permanent dojo space. Summer really sucks the life out of training, or so it would seem...moreso these days.


It hasn't helped that for a large part of the late spring-early summer I found myself suffering from a number of symptoms of overtraining: headaches, insomnia, decreased immunity, even a decrease in enthusiasm for training (if that can be believed). It ended up being a vicious cycle, really, that I'm now certain was caused by lack of sleep and trying to maintain a demanding training regimen without enough recovery time. But I digress.

Since this post is primarily a rant I will at the very least take the time to say a couple of positive observations about training lately, which is that I've been transitioning more and more from learning technique primarily through seeing towards understanding the principles behind it by learning through feeling. I know it sounds really wishy-washy and esoteric, but it has to do with feeling the energy of an attack and understanding where it's going (thereby knowing what to do with it). It's meant that I've been doing a lot more to catch timing and blend - but making a point of moving with an attack earlier on that I originally would have...as a result the connections have been feeling much smoother. Being Sensei's primary demo uke over the summer while others have been away has meant that in a way I've had n ...More Read More
Views: 1095

In General Moving Beyond Kihon Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #238 New 11-15-2008 02:09 AM
Takumusu Aiki: 武産合気 - A "slogan" of the founder's meaning "infinitely generative martial art of aiki." Thus, a synonym for aikido. The scope of aikido is not limited only to the standard, named techniques one studies regularly in practice. Rather, these standard techniques serve as repositories of more fundamental principles (kihon). Once one has internalized the kihon, it is possible to generate a virtually infinite variety of new aikido techniques in accordance with novel conditions. (Definition is courtesy of AikiWeb's wonderfully comprehensive Wiki :-)


I like to think that --- thanks to muscle memory and a great deal of persistence --- much of the fundamental principles of any art become internalized over time via the dogged repetition of action and technique. As with many things, it certainly sounds simple enough. When asked by Sensei at the end of class if they had any questions, my past sempai years ago would often say, "More practice, Sensei!" It became a kind of mantra (along with "This ain't knitting class" and "Suck it up").

How true it is. Yet when asked by Sensei at the end of class, "Any questions?" my own oft-repeated response now as a senior student myself is usually, "Always, Sensei." No matter how much you practice, they're always there.

While we all know that most people learn by doing and there is more value to be gained on the mats from action rather than words (ie. "Less chatter, more splatter" a ...More Read More
Views: 1392

In General The Teacher's Mind and the Student's Mind Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #233 New 06-15-2008 11:14 PM
...or should I say: "Sensei-shin" and "Deshi-shin"?

Sensei will occasionally troubleshoot a fellow-student's technique by asking me to demonstrate it for them on his behalf. I find this at times a somewhat dubious honour --- dubious only in that I am not yet at the place where I can always explain what it is I am doing correctly in contrast with what the other student is doing differently.

Case in point: Yesterday afternoon, Jeremy, Lisa and I were practicing test techniques and during one of Lisa's turns as nage, Sensei told her, "No, that's not right," and asked me to show her how I do it. I did the technique as best as I knew it and at the end Sensei said, "That's correct, but can you explain to Lisa what was wrong?" At which point, I could not, so Sensei continued to clarify for us.

It was then that I realized clearly for the first time that I have been and continue to view techniques from a completely "student" perspective. Never have I, while watching either Lisa, nor any other student, been able to pick up on errors in movement or timing that weren't obvious ones. Subtle discrepancies in technique are still quite beyond me. I find myself viewing other students with what I can only describe as a passively observant mind --- one which sees without, for the most part, a critical judgment towards what they are seeing. When I view Sensei, Kawahara Shihan or any other Yudansha practitioner performing technique, my mind towards what I see changes int ...More Read More
Views: 2026 | Comments: 3

In General Rootedness on Unstable Ground...in Life Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #232 New 03-30-2008 02:58 PM
I like to think that a person's truly defining moments are found in how they handle adversity. You can either sink or swim. You can rise to the occasion, face the challenge head-on or concede defeat. Either way we choose, the process shapes us. And it's always nice to see in times like this that you're not alone.

For the past eight to nine months our dojo has gone through a huge transition. The space it has occupied for 15 years was to be demolished, leaving us without a place to practice. Last Summer was spent holding practices in the park and despite having many merits in and of itself (I found the challenge of fighting not only my own allergies but the inconsistency of environment inherent in simply being outside in various kinds of weather a valuable and eye-opening experience), it just doesn't replace traditional waza on the mats. As the saying goes, "It's a nice place to visit, I just wouldn't want to live there."

And boy, did I miss doing ukemi. Though this feeling changed somewhat --- at least for a short time --- as soon as we did find a temporary space and were able to get new mats. Forty-two, bea-uuuu-tiful brand-spanking new Zebra tatami-style mats. Hard. Tatami. Mats. Yowch. In short order, I realized just how spoiled we were with the cushy foam and fuschia vinyl deal we had at the old dojo. Really, really spoiled. But soon enough, we started getting used to them. They're what you'd call "fast" mats...though this was not necessarily a go ...More Read More
Views: 3044

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