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The whimsy of the season tickled class this Saturday morning. During the last class before our holiday break I found it hard to be serious and laughed at every opportunity. Celebration for me is around fellowship and shared experiences. Our class was filled with fun and good cheer. Megan was missed and Jocelyn was wished a speedy recovery as we quietly celebrated Anne's birthday.
After class Dora sang a lovely Polish birthday song wishing Anne a hundred more years. May you all live a hundred more years in peace and joy. Our next class will be on December 29th. Come enjoy a little harmony and sweat to help keep sane during this holiday season.
Thursday night in class I felt out of sorts: awkward and self-conscious…half a bubble off. After class I felt anxious. While chatting about class with Ron I felt unworthy of being a teacher ever again. I tend to lean to extremes especially when I am tired.
Saturday morning I was supposed to be the first teacher. I told Ron he should just teach the whole class. He called me out saying that it was my turn to start and I needed to do it.
And I did. I started class with a drill I called "Halt". I demonstrated a complicated kokyu nage from a yokemen attack and challenged us all to say "halt" every time we had a thought. Then we were to voice the thought and start again.
As we trained together (there were ten of us on the mat) I heard many "halts" and much communication and some chuckles as ukes and nages worked together to let go of thought and just train.
I noticed again that when I let go and just be… Aikido happens. My ideas are creative, challenging and interesting. The group benefits from a teacher's lack of self-consciousness. Self-centered fear inhibits creativity and spontaneity.
An aikido class is a like a merrily wrapped holiday present. As we pay close attention the experience reveals itself to us bit by bit.
Before Aikido there was fear, constant fear, unrecognized fear, paralyzing fear,and unconscious fear. Fear manifested itself in buildings not entered, encounters avoided, and many drinks taken way past the point of where drinking was helpful. Fear prohibited conversation, stifled movement and restricted involvement.
After aikido fear got different. Fear was noticed, acknowledged, breathed through, talked about and released though training and sometimes through tears. On the aikido mat fear was met again and again in a safe, supported and controlled environment.
FEAR. Face everything and recover. Fear is slipping away.
Aikido is stillness, motion, up, down, straight in, circular, soft, hard, fluid, choppy, hands on and moving with the energy.
We turn, bend, roll, blend, slide, hop, lean, straighten, near, extend, exhale and inhale.
The mat is there, near, soft, firm, rough and smooth.
We find peace here, and strength, connection and health. We find something inside ourselves that makes life simply matter more. We find others here, and we see them in a way that can't be seen anywhere else. We see their souls, their bodies, their movement and their stillness. We see all of them and then we see all of ourselves.
Halloween is in the air What does nage do when uke comes out from behind another uke? Throw them, of course, using all the energy that circular movement provides.
Let's do a freestyle with our eyes closed and see what happens when we move first and then move again and keep moving.
Then I introduced my new kata tori kote geishe with short choppy steps instead of a sweeping tenkan...very ineffective because uke's balance never get's taken.
However, in freestyle it is often attempted and never works. No wonder people get so winded.
Halloween hi jinks continued into Ron's part of class when Dora and I experienced a mutual fall because we got confused who was nage and who was uke. We looked at each other and laughed. An instant replay was called for and we good naturally obliged.
The pace of class last night was peaceful, quiet and slow, perfect for me after a stressful day at work. The anxiety I brought in with me stayed behind. I felt refreshed, tired and relaxed after class.
We did some partnered movement, some ki walking, and did some awesome blue belt test prep.
Finally, Linda wowed us with an energetic freestyle tossing Ron and Scott around handily.
Ron is introducing ki testing in reps. We did some turning movements based on the basic shoulder ki test we all learn early in our training. Uke pushed on nage's shoulder as nage turned slowly to the side and then turned back. Uke works hard at keeping the testing constant so nage is really challenged. After 3 reps on each side we switched roles.
These reps are very calming to me. This training develops ki strength and body wisdom while moving; bridging the gap between static training and moving technique.
Ron tied the shoulder push ki testing while turning into kata tori ikkyo allowing us to explore moving ourselves from a place of centered strength so uke's balance was compromised and then easily led into a front fall. We worked in groups of three carefully watching Linda as she tried to sneak back into motion. We were supposed to be practicing ikkyo from standing. ;o)
Class always helps me step back into reality and last night was no exception. The shared exploration of a language we are all learning along with the good natured chuckles reassure us of the good in our world.
While everyone was getting a drink of water after Ron finished teaching I offered an idea about receiving correction. I said, "When your instructor corrects your technique please say thank you no matter how you feel inside. Do this as an exercise in mindfulness."
As I have thanked Ron or my uke each time I am corrected I have come to appreciate the time and attention given to me and my training. I have stopped listening as much to the defensiveness that pops up and am able to focus more on what has been suggested to me. As I work to incorporate the suggested idea into my technique my mind quiets because I am fascinated by the movement.
Since I have been relaxing into correction I have been calmer in my movement, training and my life outside the dojo. My interaction with my partner feels flowing. I don't try to be perfect anymore. I do the technique as I think Ron has demonstrated, trusting that if something needs to be changed he will tell me.
My mind still sometimes comes up with defensive comments but I always say "thank you" and work diligently to do what has been suggested. Then the negativity fades away and empty mind is reestablished.
My daughter Emily told me that Mercury has been in retrograde since last week. Maybe that explains why I have been dragging my heart around all week.
My mind comes up with some pretty creative negative thoughts, such as, "you should have stayed in nursing school" or "why did you divorce him?" Both laughable ideas.
My mind never comes up with spontaneous joyous judgments like: "Good job marrying, Ron" or "don't you have a beautiful family full of lovely grand children?"
So class last night was especially needed and especially helpful. It was an ordinary Aikido class at our dojo. We trained in groups of three, concentrating on 3rd kyu techniques with the formal finishes. Training always makes me feel better and the quiet practice of kata tori sankyo with the finish lulled me back to now again. Ron had us do other 3rd kyu test techniques separated by repetitions of ki testing that further focused our ki and settled me down even more.
I left class sweaty, tired and centered, able to relax into another evening after a long day at work. Menopausal hormones mess with my mind and age has made my body more achy breaky. My Aikido training continues to help me blend reality with the scary places my mind can take me.
Today we don't have class, so breathing from my center and remembering where my feet are bring me back to now over and over. I train where I am in the moment in or out of the dojo.
3 quick ideas about how aikido training can enhance your fitness regimen.
Your fitness regimen can be enhanced by aikido training. Imagine become safer, more flexible in body and mind and having tons of fun.
Aikido is a Japanese martial art that was developed in the last century by Morihei Ueshiba. Often called the art of peace or the way of harmony with ki, Aikido training will affect your life in many ways but I will start with a quick 3.
Often overlooked in Aikido is the self-defense aspect because until you have trained for at least 3 or 4 years the techniques can seem ineffective. On the contrary, the philosophy of least possible harm and an unlimited set of responses is a great place to start your safety practice.
Aikido emphasizes timing, body and space awareness, along with measuring our responses to stimuli and being in the now.
Just by embracing these ideas a beginner has come a thousand steps into the fascinating journey of aikido and of increased safety in this crazy world we live in. As your training makes your technique's more effective, the awareness you develops is concrete. You will notice the world all the time. Once you make a decision to be in the now you will constantly be called back to it through your training.
Aikido is fun. Yes, it is. The exercise can be moderate or intense. Easily modified for each individual's fitness level and physical limitations, aikido can also be adapted for age and gender. The shared renewal of ki energy is inv