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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.
We have been Berkshire Hills Aikido for 15 years now.
We had 23 people on the mat on Saturday ranging from Zackery, age 9 almost 10 to Yon dan Lou, age 72. The range of athleticism and understanding of principles was just as wide spread and varied. We explored energy, movement and correct feeling as we trained and sweated together. The opportunity to step up and do freestyle was offered. Fears were faced and challenges met. All the tests were truly inspirational, as was the sincere energy from the ukes who vied for chances to be part of the testing.
I love our dojo and the people that train with us. Thank you for the opportunity to pass along what we have learned and how we see aikido. We are a group that appreciates and celebrates the differences we all bring to the mat.
I say, "Yes!" to another 15 years and more. Thank you to all that that attended and to all that were with us in spirit…you were missed.
I recently came across the idea of being able to accept "no" shows maturity. Being able to embrace "yes" does too.
Aikido helps with both. I can say "yes" as I accept each uke I am offered
Each uke brings a specific set of skills, commitment, athletic abilities and energy to each encounter. At each moment each uke can be different. Some days an uke might feel stiff and slow and then towards the end of class that same uke might feel more limber and energized.
My goal as nage is to be with uke as they are in each moment. By stepping into the situation with an open heart and an attentive center I can access what actually is and move with my uke; blending with the energy of the moment.
This information is perceived not from just from the mind in our head but from the soul mind, that includes the mind in our head and our body and spirit. Our openness takes in the circumstances of the moment as they are and moves into "yes" for uke and nage.
This is not a practice for the faint of heart. The ego wants to blame and the body wants to complain. Yet we can say "yes" to what is and move with the energy of the uke we get, to create the beauty that is aikido. Nothing needs to be changed; only accepted and reconciled into peacefulness. Yes!
Mine includes god, people in 12 step fellowships, Ron, members of my dojo and my daughters, my ancestors and angels, and people everywhere that are recovering from hurts.
On the show Longmire, the picture of the young woman on the couch describing her feelings as she was raped was me. I saw myself in her. She was in the exact position on her couch as I was on mine, with our blankets at the same place under our chins. She shook me to my center as she spoke for me. Ron suggested that we had had enough of that show for the night.
The next night we watched the woman call her self back. The old wise woman said that her self was taken from her. The wise old woman insisted that she call out "Morning Star, Come back." Morning Star dared to call herself back. "Morning Star," she called out, softly and bravely. "Come back."
Then she cried and her circle of women embraced her.
I thought to myself, "I could do that."
That night I prayed and hopped into bed and slept soundly. I awoke in the early morning hours. I noticed how comfy and safe I felt in my warm bed with Ron sleeping peacefully next to me. It occurred to me that it was time to call myself back. I called out softly and bravely, "Come back, Mary Catherine, come back." I fell back asleep. When I woke up in the morning I could feel her. Mary Catherine is back. I am so grateful.
I am sharing this with my circle. I know that my circle includes all who been hurt