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I have just returned from George Ledyard Sensei's 4-Day Randori Intensive at Aikido Eastside in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle.
For my non-Aikido friends, randori is a multiple attacker scenario, usually one of you, three of them. It can be intimidating and exhausting training (and a lot of fun). Four days of it… Whoa.
I first heard of this seminar shortly after I started training in Aikido. At the time it had been offered for 20 years! It sounded amazing. Four full days of weapons and randori work. One of the intended audiences for the seminar is people preparing for dan (black belt) exams. The word "Intensive" isn't just in the title to sound cool on the flyer.
Wouldn't it be amazing to be able to go? A learning experience and rite of passage rolled into one. I always thought it would be fun to take the train up, too! 1,500 miles. See a whole lot of the country on the way.
For the first few years I didn't have the required rank (or skill, obviously) to go. When I first met Ledyard Sensei in person I mentioned that to him - that I was looking forward to the time I would be able to participate in this seminar.
Then last year, when I did qualify to go, budget and timing interfered. Also, knowing more about weapons I became concerned about that aspect. My training is based on Saito Sensei's weapons, and theirs comes from Saotome Sensei. I don't know their forms at all - not even some of the terminology. I thought I would be lost and in the way. Under
I'm just ridiculously excited about it! I've been wanting to do both this seminar, and a long train trip, for years. Now I get to do both. Plus I get to meet and hang out with another of my fellow writers on The Mirror team, Katherine Derbyshire, plus a bunch of other folks. Woohoo!
I will be posting to the other version of this blog a lot for the next week or so. Here it would just be spammy - lots of photos, random observations, etc.. So if you want to follow along, please stop by http://www.GrabMyWrist.com
I really enjoyed today's seminar with Richard Moon Sensei and Dave Goldberg Sensei at Aikido of San Diego. The subject was "Aikido is Medicine for a Sick World." We may not have solved all the world's woes, but generated some good insights, and maybe made a few connections and shifts within ourselves. Afterward, at lunch, we decided it was a good training for mind, body, and spirit.
In related news, I've been feeling really overwhelmed and under a lot of pressure with everything I need to get done before leaving for Seattle at oh-dark-hundred on Tuesday morning. I'm determined to have all my preparations done by Monday afternoon before class. Months ago I had a long, complicated nightmare about missing the train, in spite of last-minute scrambling to throw everything together. I'm determined not to live it out in real life. LOL I've been feeling pretty stressed about it, actually - sure I'll forget something critical, or run into some problem that will screw up my trip. Now, after an intense 4 hours of working on dealing with pressure, blending with multiple attackers, and moving into the open spaces, I'm feeling a lot calmer and more capable of seeing and managing the big picture instead of staring in panic at ever little detail (attack). I can see the whole system, and it's something I can handle just fine. It's not world peace (yet), but it's my peace, and it's a start.
We have a seminar coming up at our dojo a week from Sunday, with the teaching inspired by the O Sensei quote "Aikido is medicine for a sick world." A couple of weeks ago when it was announced it seemed very appropriate in light of the fighting between Israel and Palestine. Right now Ferguson, MO (and many other places in the US) seems to need the same healing and reconnecting.
We cannot have police forces that see people as the enemy, who aim weapons at peaceful protesters. We have to get back in touch with our shared humanity. There is no "us" versus "them."
"We've done everything we can to demonstrate a remarkable amount of restraint," St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said in an interview outside the command post.
Restraint? Restraint from doing what? It implies they would like to be more violent, more forceful, but are trying to hold themselves back. It comes across to me as if a large, angry, powerful man had just backhanded a child, and then expects to be congratulated for showing restraint for not beating the kid further.
Police must not act out of anger. They are supposed to care for and protect their community. They should act appropriately, and with the least amount of force possible under the circumstances. If they need to "restrain themselves" something has gone very wrong in the underlying thinking.
It sounds like "Don't make me have to hit you again!"
"We need to be reminded to wake up and pay attention, to feel into our experience so we can respond fluidly and appropriately, to look and see if action is called for, and to summon the courage to take it."
Just published! Please check out this month's column by "The Mirror" on AikiWeb. It was my turn to write, and I'd been struck by the similarity between a recent meeting with my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, and the half halts we use to bring horses back to a centered, responsive place.
If you ever want to make a year fly by, here's how to do it.
First, anticipate that you will likely be testing for shodan at some point this year.
Next, sign up for a study course to be certified as a Group Fitness Instructor (GFI). Plan to be done with it by summer. Ready to rock in your new career. Along with your writing you can help people be healthier and happier. Buy a notebook, highlighters, and pens. Put everything in a big tote bag so you can study anywhere, even at the park. Dive into the material. For a week.
Now, decide that this is the right time to remodel the house. Drop writing studying like hot potatoes for 6 months and instead focus on choosing flooring, rearranging furniture, and picking paint colors.
Meet with Sensei, along with a friend who will also be testing, and schedule your shodan exam for December 13th. Many months away. Plenty of time to train and prepare.
Refinish the kitchen cabinets. Landscape the driveway entrance. Collaborate with the contractor. Throw a big party when it's all done.
Check the calendar and note that if you don't schedule your pre-paid GFI certification exam in the next 2 days you will have to pay again to schedule it later. Schedule the certification exam for Friday, October 24th - as far out as you dare without being too close to your ranking exam. Dive into the material again.
Discover that you don't know anything that's going to be on your shodan exam. You've seen and done it all before, of c
Just the thought of checking the oil in the truck feels like I'm plotting the murder of a dear old friend.
And I am.
I rarely use the truck anymore, since I gave up horses. I need to make sure it's safe to start it. The truck and trailer are in the way. At least he won't have to go in the trailer. He hates trailers. I think most donkeys hate trailers.
Yesterday I called the neighbors, the ones with the grandkids and the pool, to be sure they would not be around. Bible camp this week? Convenient.
My chatty neighbor is full of kind advice. "You're doing the right thing. With our old horse… I wish we had… It's always hard. We'll pray for you at camp."
And then the vet's office. I had to schedule around other commitments. "Thursday? 9 a.m.? OK then. We'll arrange everything. We're so sorry." Simple.
I hang up and cry some more.
Convenient and simple, but terrible and hard.
For years he's had a hitch in his get-along. Arthritis. He'd stand up in the morning and cuss under his breath for minute, then shake it off and get on with his day. Just a bit of a limp in the right hind. Happy for ear rubs, excited about treats, glad for company.
We all have our aches and pains, right? I do, and I'm not ready to give up. He didn't look ready, either.
More and more often, though, he rests lying down in the shade. His favorite place recently is under a pecan tree up the hill, where he has a view of the yard and the house, and the ground is slo
I have a podcast to recommend to you. I've listened to it a few times before, and just listened to it again, twice, while doing some gardening at sunset out in the front yard.
The interview provides an excellent, clear, accessible, and thought-provoking introduction to Aikido. If you are not yet familiar with Aikido you'll learn a bit of its history, and how it's distinct from other martial arts. Even if you've trained for years, there's probably something new here to consider about your practice.
The podcast is just over an hour long. At about 16 minutes Walker Sensei makes a very interesting point about the practice of Aikido, in contrast to non-contact practices like (most) yoga and meditation. He also discusses his work in neurodiversity and autism rights activism.
The source is Shrink Rap Radio, with interviewer Dr. David Van Nuys, Ph.D. (AKA "Dr. Dave.") He is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Sonoma State University.
According to the brief bio on the site (from 2012), "Nick Walker received his M.A. in Somatic Psychology from California Institute of Integral Studies, where he now teaches in the undergraduate Interdisciplinary Studies program. He holds the rank of 6th Dan (6th degree black belt) in aikido, and has taught the art of aikido to adults, teens, and children for over 30 years. He is founder and senior instructor of the Aikido Shusekai dojo in Berkeley, Calif
My sister would have turned 50 today. Alcoholism and drug addiction killed her 8 years ago, after a decades-long struggle to reclaim her life.
As a little kid she desperately wanted to be liked, to fit in. She'd come home from her early grades of elementary school crying that she had no friends.
For a while she found belonging in softball. Our family all went to her games to support her. At some point she failed to make the team, which was devastating for her.
Around the same time, at about age 14, as far as I know her history, a friend shared a stolen bottle of wine with her behind the local movie theater. I don't think she ever stopped drinking after that, except for one time, when she was pregnant with her son. She stayed clean and sober during her whole pregnancy. Aside from then, from 14 to 42 were hard years, and everything was a struggle.
She could be nice, fun, and caring. As adults we got along well, and talked often. I didn't trust her; she wasn't trustworthy, but I did like her.
As a teenager she stole, both from me and from businesses. She lied about anything and everything. She ditched school regularly, and snuck off to surf with her cool friends. It was a huge crisis for her when she didn't have the "in" jeans (Salt Of The Earth, in red) one year. She was dragged home, drunk, by the police. Once she and a friend ground up and snorted aspirin (to look like coke) at the beach so they could look cool in front of boys they liked. She would do anythin
Having been to a good few seminars where weapons (wooden sticks, that is) were part of the training, I have some thoughts to share.
First, if you're organizing a seminar, for heaven's sake please be clear about whether participants should bring sticks or not. I have been left wondering many times, and either had to bring them just in case, or leave them home and hope they wouldn't be needed. I've been wrong both ways.
Please give abundant notice. I've been part of a large group flying to a seminar where we were all scrambling two days before the event to buy and/or build airline-appropriate carrying tubes. Given that we were trying to get other things handled before traveling it would have been a lot easier to have dealt with the stick-transportation problem weeks ahead of time instead of at the last minute.
And after all that, we didn't use them anyway. *headdesk*
Not everyone has their own weapons. Sometimes there are loaners available, sometimes not, and often not enough to go around. The first seminar I went to was actually a retreat, and was to be fairly weapons-centric. I rush-ordered an inexpensive set of weapons (and basically had to refinish them on arrival - the night before the event) to be sure I would be able to fully participate in the weekend's training.
It's great to have extras for participants to borrow. It's a pretty iffy prospect for the participants, though. Maybe they'll get one, maybe not. It seems there are always a few folks pantomimin