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For 5 days, starting bright and early this Thursday morning (May 17th, 2012), I will be off on an Aikido road trip. I'll be driving to northern California and back for the "O Sensei Revisited" workshop, at a lovely little camp/retreat center. You're invited to come along. You don't even need to pack, just get in the car!
Here's the description from the flyer: "The inner work of O Sensei should not be lost. Nadeau Sensei believes that it is critical to preserve this face of Aikido and to experience the O Sensei process of development. Through direct practice as well as techniques, weapons work, and discussions, we will highlight this aspect of O Sensei."
I'm planning on posting all along the way, time and internet access permitting.
Please note that I will not be posting here. Instead, please go to www.grabmywrist.com to follow along. Why? Several reasons: There will be a lot more posts than usual, possibly several each day, a lot of it won't be about Aikido, and I'll be mostly posting from my phone. It will be a bit of a mess. When I get back I'll write up a proper post here.
If all goes as I hope, there will be a class with Saotome Sensei on the way up, visits with a few friends, and an annular solar eclipse on the way back. The scenery should be amazing. I'm expecting the workshop itself to be an intense one, with five brilliant instructors over three long days. A dozen people are going from our dojo
Today, May 5, 2012, it's three years since I first stepped onto the mat.
I had a post half written, about dates and seminars and exams, but wasn't feeling it. Those things aren't important. Instead, it's the tiny things that have made this year exquisite. Warm smiles, sharp corrections, chats over meals, and everyone growing and becoming more confident together - these are the things that continually open my mind and touch my heart. Little "aha!" moments, meditating on big questions, feeling and finding connection, and remembering how to let go and play. Laughter, joy, and vigorous jiyuwazas, jumping up to take ukemi as often as I can, and sinking into seiza to bow out at the end of class, breathless and elated.
How fortunate I am, to have this opportunity and ability to train, this insightful and inspiring teacher, and this loving and compassionate community, in our dojo and in the world! I am grateful beyond words.
It's pretty amazing how circumstances can get overwhelming sometimes. Take a 95% busy schedule, add 10%, and like a road at more than its capacity, things come to a grinding halt. Long hours working, weather that for months seemed hell-bent on raining during daylight hours every weekend, even a few fun events and projects... These things and others conspired to put me into to-do list overload, and off-the-chart stress for much of the beginning of the year.
I tried applying my limited skills in randori - dealing with multiple attackers - but it felt like doing randori in the middle of the freeway. I was at the end of all my ropes, and needed to make a change. I renegotiated some deadlines, completed a few projects, dropped some commitments, and thankfully the weather has been cooperating. All the long overdue chores I'd been putting on the back burner, waiting for "when I'd have some time" are finally getting done. I got my oil changed, got new tires, and registered my car. I gave the donkeys their Spring baths, and got their former farrier out to correct a botched trim that left Clementine lame for weeks. I finally followed up with my PT about a hip injury from months ago, and got the all-clear on that. And I've done just enough yardwork that you can now see the California natives I planted in the Fall; they've been thriving on all the rain we've gotten. There's still plenty left to do, but the critical things are under control now.
This is an image that came to me in my work during the Evolutionary Aikido seminar this weekend with Patrick Cassidy Sensei and Dave Goldberg Sensei. If I could draw or paint, and had the time, this post would be a hand-drawn, sketchy animation. Maybe just a sequence of still drawings, one dissolving into the next. Since that would take me months, and the results would be poor at best, I'll give you the storyboard in words instead.
Scene: We are inside a big, closed room. We see a person in the room. There are some things in the room - a table, a chair, a bookcase, a phone, a television, dishes, a bed... Simple things for living.
Action: Our person is sitting, studying, working, exercising, eating. Living life, in their room.
Scene: The things, or the person's orientation in the room, make it impossible for them to see that there are doors, but we can see the doors. Or maybe there a faint outlines - maybe a lot of them - but our person doesn't notice them. Doors to other rooms? Doors to outside? Doors to who-knows-where... Unseen, unnoticed, unopened doors.
Action: Our person continues living in the room. We see signs of aging.
Every so often someone outside the room opens a door a little, letting in a stream of of brilliant, warm light. We can see color and space through the open door. We hear something, maybe birds or voices.
Maybe our person notices, maybe they don't. Maybe they make a huge effort at sliding the bookcase to cover the open door, and go back
Every few months Sensei offers "Aikido In Focus" workshops. These are a series of "concise topical training clinics for accelerating both your Aikido and personal development." They are usually about 2 hours long, on a Sunday morning. I've participated in every one since I started training, and they've been a huge contribution to my growth.
I have enjoyed them all, and have gotten immediate, useful feedback that has helped me improve my technique, or made me more aware of some aspect of Aikido I can be working with in daily training. But that's not why I go, and that's the least of the benefit.
Each one creates another small crack that lets new light in. It always takes me a while to figure out what that new light is revealing, but I know right away that it's there. This time I've been sitting with it for almost a year, and I'm only just starting to make out the forms and patterns I'm seeing.
Back in May of last year (wow… has it really been that long?), in one of these workshops, we danced with the energy, exploring the elements in our Aikido, joining with the rhythm of the music. Getting out of our minds and letting emotion and body find expression through this different way of accessing what we already knew.
But the thing that mattered, the thing that stuck with me, and the thing that's been gnawing at me since that day, was one split second at the very beginning. Sensei was introducing us to what the workshop would involve, and what we were there to explore. ...More
When I signed up, I had no idea who Messisco Sensei was, or what his seminar might be like. I really enjoyed it, especially because the pace was very slow. By that I mean there was a lot of vigorous training, but plenty of time to absorb the information presented. Some seminars are very interesting, but there's so much thrown at you that it's hard to retain any of it. Here I felt I actually was able to experience, and experiment with, what we were working on, not just get a quick look and move on. I'll definitely be looking for more opportunities to train with Dan Messisco Sensei.
This was the first seminar held at Geoff Yudien and Adam Fong's new dojo. Three of us from Aikido of San Diego drove up, picking up a fourth friend along the way. We had a great time, start to finish. A classic road trip, with great truck stop food, long conversations, and amazing scenery. The whole Central Valley was in bloom (almonds, mostly). If you are planning to visit this dojo we would all highly recommend the Residence Inn, Cal Expo as a place to stay. They have big suites that are perfect for 3-5 people. Also, be sure to eat at Thai Chef's House, near the dojo, and the Mongolian BBQ across from the Inn.
Today we sit on Sensei's deck,
the ocean glinting twenty miles away.
Weathered bamboo clatters softly overhead
as we settle in to sit, scattered lightly
like leaves blown into cool shady corners,
or lizards, basking on the warm wood in the sun.
I choose the shade.
Forty minutes? I'm used to just fifteen.
I see the sea, feel the air,
hear the birds, and close my eyes
as Sensei sounds a small, clear chime.
A dozen little birds chatter down the hill,
a faraway crow gives three short caws,
and I wonder what might come up in forty minutes
that's managed to keep itself hidden from fifteen.
A small plane hums overhead, and I think of flying.
When I flew I got bit, hard. I loved flying.
I had a great teacher, and a community of friends.
I was never going to stop flying.
And then I stopped flying.
I worry, briefly, about that rhythm to things.
Flying, engineering, music...
Is it just that, the rhythm of things?
They come, stay for a time, and go?
They go with good reason, but they go.
A neighbor's horse gives a sharp snort.
Right. And horses too.
What about Aikido?
The thought of someday not training anymore,
not wanting to train, not missing it...
It's unimaginable, gut-wrenching.
But could it go, too, in time?
The flying, engineering, music, and horses,
those were things I was trying to become,
was trying to get good at, would be someday.
They were places I did not belong,
and was struggling to get to.
When I saw this about
Sensei asked, at the beginning of one of our meditation sittings, a question for us to consider: "What if you had an unlimited supply of something everyone on earth wanted?"
Deep breath in, and out. Letting the eyes close.
The obvious answer is our love. But does everyone really want love? My love? Do I want theirs? What if everyone wants everyone else's love? Why not give it to them? Why do we hold back? What would we lose? How would the world be if we all loved each other without reservation? Is there a downside to that?
What if it were our approval? Would it be better to give it to just anyone, freely? Does that really serve them? Or does that make it meaningless? If you are accepting and reassuring for no reason, that's kind of hollow.
But loving people doesn't make love meaningless.
What if were a thing, like gold? Then the scarcity is exactly what makes it valuable. If you have a lot of it, and just dump it one everyone, then its value is lost. So by your intent to be generous you've not given anyone anything of real value.
If you dole it out a little at a time, or to just a few people, it keeps it value. But are you doing that so the people who have it will appreciate it? Or so they will be beholden to you? Is it a selfish ego thing to hold back? Or is it wise stewardship of a resource? I suppose it's in how you think about it.
Deep breath in, and out, noticing the expansion in the ribs, and wooshing of air in the nostrils. In, and out
I have wondered about this, and tried to find any information on whether O Sensei may have kept horses, or worked with them. I thought maybe... I knew he was a farmer, but he could have farmed by hand, or with oxen. I had not found any mention of horses, until just now, in The Art of Peace, by Morihei Ueshiba & John Stevens. From Part One - Morihei Ueshiba, Prophet of the Art of Peace:
"Looking for new worlds to conquer, in 1912 Morihei led a group of settlers from Tanabe to the wilds of Hokkaikdo, Japan's northernmost, largely undeveloped island. The group settled in remote Shirataki, and started to build a village from scratch. Morihei worked tirelessly to make the project a success. He put up buildings; cleared the land for the cultivation of potatoes, peppermint, and sesame; engaged in prudent logging of the great forests; raised horses; and eventually served as a local councilman. (Despite Morihei's great efforts, the settlement never really succeeded. Crops failed the first few years, and there was a disastrous fire in 1916 that destroyed 80 percent of the village, including Morihei's first home. Morihei did learn how to tame wild animals, though, becoming pals with several big Hokkaido bears.)"
O Sensei raised horses!!!
If anyone has more information, details, stories, references, anything, I'd love to know about it. Did he ride? Did he train them? Use them as draft animals? Did he raise them for sale? For meat? I'd love to add notes here with any links, book
A couple of years ago, after my first few months in Aikido, I had a vivid dream, which I posted about then. When I woke up I could see and feel it in great detail, and I still can. It wasn't until later that day I realized it was about Aikido.
In the dream I suddenly found myself in a totally unfamiliar, incomprehensible new world. A simple, quiet, calm place, where the people seemed to share a sense of purpose and belonging. Sensei was an old, wise woman, a compassionate leader, trusted by the people. I knew there was no going back, that this was to be my new life. I was upset, but I knew I was safe. I knew the leader and the people could be trusted.
And that's exactly how it's been.
On a recent Thursday evening, just two days before a friend's exam for 4th kyu, I limped into the dojo hoping I could at least sit for the 15 minutes of meditation before class. I had gotten out of a chair the wrong way, and badly screwed up something in my right hip. I'd been kept up by the pain most of the previous night, and had only gotten around the house that day by using a jo as a walking stick. My dear husband, Michael, drove me to the dojo, because he knows how I am. He insisted that I go, if only to watch. Bless his heart.
I had been training with my friend for her exam. When I got to the dojo I told Sensei that I wouldn't be able to take ukemi for her - he'd need to find someone else. In the past, never half as bad as this time, it had taken weeks for my hip to get bette