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Old 04-11-2010, 08:16 PM   #1
Amassus
 
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Grr! Developing courage

Hello all

It seems to me that having all the martial prowess in the world will not matter if in the critical moment, you freeze up.

After reading the comments of those with military experience on the forums and speaking to people face-to-face who have been exposed to violence (my brother being one of them) it appears the crucial factor comes down to the mental rather than the physical strength a person has (oh, and a lot of luck).

I can see this in some of the people I have trained with at my club. It is a subtle 'hardness' in their character. They can be very nice people but they are under no illusion about what would be required in a life-threatening situation. Others are internally 'softer'. I sense hesitation and self-doubt in these people. I'm not just talking about beginners either.

My question to you all is this...what training can be used to get over the psychological barriers that are placed on a person in a moment of crisis.
Oh, if this has been discussed before, please direct me to the appropriate link and continue with the usual broadcast

Thanks.
Dean.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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Old 04-12-2010, 06:02 AM   #2
James Edwards
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Re: Developing courage

Well, quite a few of the early teachers in aikido have trained tanto-dori techniques with real knifes... That's a way but we probably shouldn't even attempt it these days.

Personally I think you can be "courageous" by being centered at all times. So things such as not forgetting to breathe and consciously releasing extra tension can lead to a calmer mind and therefore a seemingly courageous one.

As for the training, I think Aikido training can be used to build this courage, but only when there are strong and sincere attacks involved. If you freeze up, you get hit. Then your body would learn from it. Perhaps meditation can help as well, especially with proper breathing.
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Old 04-12-2010, 06:25 AM   #3
Marc Abrams
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Re: Developing courage

Dean:

Simple focus: Concentrate on a proper breath out when perceiving an attack. Most people begin to hold their breath, which starts a cascade of not so good things.

Marc Abrams
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Old 04-12-2010, 07:34 AM   #4
dps
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
Dean Suter wrote: View Post
My question to you all is this...what training can be used to get over the psychological barriers that are placed on a person in a moment of crisis.
Training that reflects as real a situation as possible.

David
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Old 04-12-2010, 08:01 AM   #5
phitruong
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Re: Developing courage

can't develop courage, but you can desensitize fears. systema teaching/learning methodology revolves around that. they put you in lots of uncomfortable training situations and work with you to desensitize the fears which cause tensions in your body. personally, i think systema folks can teach aikido folks a number of things on relaxation and breathing.

here is an example. take a jo, slide it between your elbows and behind your back. now do forward front fall, then back fall, then forward roll, then backward roll. uncomfortable? fearful? you betcha! can it be done? you betcha! watch the backward roll out of the chair on this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLY68FBcCwo how many aikido folks comfortable with their backward roll to try that?

ya, 'em buggers are crazy, but kinda fun to hang around.
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Old 04-12-2010, 08:03 AM   #6
Chris Covington
 
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Re: Developing courage

Hi Dean,

Many of the koryu arts spend a great deal of time training just that, the mental side. Read the "Life Giving Sword" to get a little taste of this. Mind you, reading the book won't help you get what you want but it should help you understand what the training is doing. You really need to be brought up through the kata with a skilled teacher who can challenge you and push your boundaries during training.

I have personally seen the benefit of this sort of training. I've been in situations where EVERYONE else around me freezes and I have not. It is sort of like when you are about to get the adrenal dump before a fight or flight response and instead it doesn't happen and you move very clearly and with great focus. I'm sorry if that sounds a little silly but that is the only way I can describe it.

There is a good article in "Koryu Bujutsu: Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, volume 1" titled "Marishiten: Buddhist Influences on Combative Behavior" by David A. Hall. It is a short version of his PHD work on the subject which can also be purchased from the University of Hawaii.

I guess at the end of the day it is a lot of really hard, focused practice that challenges you past your comfort levels the entire time to push your limits and boundaries. I don't see why you can't do that in a good aikido class if you have a teacher who is willing to take ukemi for you to really challenge you.

Best regards,

Chris Covington
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Old 04-12-2010, 08:40 AM   #7
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
Dean Suter wrote: View Post
My question to you all is this...what training can be used to get over the psychological barriers that are placed on a person in a moment of crisis.
IMHO, just physical training does not necessarily overcome psychological barriers.

Like physical training, one can also mentally/psychologically/cognitively train and change.

Like physical training slow down and be mindful of the thoughts which create the fear response (psychological barriers), moving away from. Step out and dissociate from them (see youself). Replace them with love based thoughts (courage), moving towards. Step into and associate inside them (as if you were seeing, hearing, feeling) as if you were there. Hold these positive courage-based thoughts while you train.

Slow conscious repetition will change the neuropathways through neuroplasticity until it becomes the normal firing path.

Meditation is a passive way of calming the mind and also teaches more mental control and discipline. Very useful.

Hope that helps in some way to answer your very large question.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 04-12-2010, 11:13 AM   #8
Basia Halliop
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
I can see this in some of the people I have trained with at my club. It is a subtle 'hardness' in their character. They can be very nice people but they are under no illusion about what would be required in a life-threatening situation. Others are internally 'softer'. I sense hesitation and self-doubt in these people. I'm not just talking about beginners either.
I wonder, though, if your guesses are right. It's not unreasonable to make the predictions you are based on what you see, but I'm not sure it would always be right... people may seem, as you put it, softer or harder _because_ they are not actually in a life threatening situation. E.g., a person may be more confident and aggressive because they know they are not in real danger, likewise a person may be more hesitant about causing harm because they know they are not in real danger.

I'm not sure, though, how to know what the real reaction would be, or how to change it.
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Old 04-12-2010, 11:24 AM   #9
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Re: Developing courage

There is also the question of whether this change is desirable. As a broad generalization, people who have survived stressful situations tend to function better in them than people who have never been under these stresses. Unfortunately, those changes are often accompanied by other changes that, in some ways, make you function less well in a normal, non-threat situation. I think it's worth asking yourself whether your need to be able to function optimally in this hypothetical "critical moment" is more important than your need to be able to function well in a normal situation.
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Old 04-12-2010, 12:46 PM   #10
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Re: Developing courage

That is very insightful Mary.
Thank you.
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Old 04-12-2010, 01:50 PM   #11
Amassus
 
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
can't develop courage, but you can desensitize fears. systema teaching/learning methodology revolves around that. they put you in lots of uncomfortable training situations and work with you to desensitize the fears which cause tensions in your body.
That sounds interesting. Something for me to think on in my own training for sure.

Quote:
Many of the koryu arts spend a great deal of time training just that, the mental side.
I hoped someone from koryu training would reply to my post. I have read many articles now on the koryu arts (online at least) and I had noticed mention of such training. Without giving away too much (I understand you can't?) can you give some specific examples?

Quote:
Slow conscious repetition will change the neuropathways through neuroplasticity until it becomes the normal firing path.

Meditation is a passive way of calming the mind and also teaches more mental control and discipline. Very useful.
Thanks for your answer. I understand it is a large area but I am interested in how to instill these processes in training because I have noticed some aikido students come through already with a sharp focus and mental strength while some don't. I'm very aware that while our club can make people feel more comfortable with our training it is not really addressing the mental strength as much as I would like.

Quote:
There is also the question of whether this change is desirable.
A good point. However, I did mention in my OP that I mean crisis and not necessarily combat. Surely being more relaxed and able to act in a crisis is beneficial?

Thanks for the input all. A good start.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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Old 04-12-2010, 02:26 PM   #12
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Re: Developing courage

Freezing is something Ive been working to overcome for the past year. Each new attack has to be dealt with again. First jsut the grab, then shomen then yokomen and now currently tski. The only thing that I have found to really help me learn to keep from dissasociating and locking up is to have my partners continue to attack me over and over until I am finally able to try to move, then continue until I can move freely. It takes hundreds of reps but slowly it is working.

A lot also depends on what has led the person to this sort of reaction.

I would not say, at least for myself, that it is so much lack of courage or lack of focus as the focus is in the wrong place and past experience has trained me that if I freeze and disassociate that things will be less bad. Some attackers are far worse if you fight back and are not skilled in doing so, and some can be completely nullified by the impression that their threats do not faze their victims.

Ive also noticed that if I get myself in the mental set that the weapon is real and the attacker is convincing that I have less likely hood of locking up and disassociating than if the attack is unconvincing. So I generally ask my ukes to give me more intent if they are not being agressive enough.

However now I am learning things I can do to deal with attacks proactively which are far more beneficial but I still have to overcome years of prior programing.

It also helps to have teachers who are aware of your background and can help you when you really get overwhelmed. Encouragement, understanding and support go a long way when these things arise.

This is just what works well for me. Not saying that it would be the best way for everyone to handle this.

Last edited by Shadowfax : 04-12-2010 at 02:28 PM.
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Old 04-12-2010, 09:15 PM   #13
Michael Hackett
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Re: Developing courage

You can't train to develop courage - you either are courageous at a specific moment or you aren't. And courage is the willingness to act despite your fear.

You can train yourself to act in a crisis and that is a process of practicing making decisions while under stress and may have nothing at all to do with courage.

You can also train to not freeze under certain circumstances by repeatedly facing those circumstances in reality or by mental preparation.

Often courageous acts are calculated risks taken by the actor in situations that he has faced many times. A good example is the firefighter who rushes into burning buildings. While I see that as incredibly brave, my firefighter buddies will tell you that they know the dangers involved through their training and experience and that courage has little to do with their actions.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 04-12-2010, 10:12 PM   #14
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Developing courage

As David Skaggs said, you have to train with real as possible conditions.

However, those conditions must be appropriate and progressively trained.

It is not about fear, heck we are all afraid, I am. However, you must drill over and over the things or habits you want to be automatic in yourself once the conditions of stress are present in the given situation.

Lots of good advice above.

The answer is train and train some more until it becomes automatic, a habit, and done without thought.

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Old 04-13-2010, 01:34 PM   #15
Gorgeous George
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Re: Developing courage

Zen/Buddhism.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Burningmonk.jpg
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Old 04-13-2010, 07:56 PM   #16
Ketsan
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
Dean Suter wrote: View Post

I can see this in some of the people I have trained with at my club. It is a subtle 'hardness' in their character. They can be very nice people but they are under no illusion about what would be required in a life-threatening situation.
It's a personality thing, it comes down to how a person views themself. About once a year I find myself in some kind of potentially violent situation because I've seen something I don't like the look of. For instance one night I was walking home from the pub and I could hear a woman screaming. I went and had a look and there was a guy dragging a woman along the ground kicking and screaming into a house, so I stepped in.

I've come to the conclusion that I do it because I believe that that's who I am. I see myself as the one who's busy dealing with the problem when everyone else has frozen. I see myself as the one that takes charge of a situation and is cool and calm when everyone is panicing. I'm the lunatic that will walk into a situation because it's the right thing to do, even if it is nigh on suicidal to do so. I mentally reherse this.

I think it's in hagakure where it says, "Meditation on inevitable death should be performed daily. Every day, when one's body and mind are at peace, one should meditate upon being ripped apart by arrows, rifles, spears, and swords, being carried away by surging waves, being thrown into the midst of a great fire, being struck by lightning, being shaken to death by a great earthquake, falling from thousand-foot cliffs, dying of disease or committing seppuku at the death of one's master. And every day, without fail, one should consider himself as dead."

This is something I take seriously. In my experience the people that don't freeze are the ones that give serious thought beforehand to how they're going to react in a given situation and who have a strong sense of who they are and how they react when in trouble.

I suppose this is why we have war chronicals and books like the Illiad so one generation of warriors can say to the younger generation, "This is who you are, this is what you will do in a critical situation, this is how you will conduct yourself." It forsters a sense of identity that they could fall back on when they found themself in the dodo.
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Old 04-13-2010, 08:41 PM   #17
RED
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
Dean Suter wrote: View Post

My question to you all is this...what training can be used to get over the psychological barriers that are placed on a person in a moment of crisis.
.
To be honest, I think there are somethings you have to be born with.
Not saying I am, or anyone I know is... just saying.

MM
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Old 04-15-2010, 07:21 AM   #18
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
Maggie Schill wrote: View Post
To be honest, I think there are somethings you have to be born with.
Not saying I am, or anyone I know is... just saying.
And yet, as others have pointed out, there are various kinds of training programs that are designed to teach people how to act in a crisis, without necessarily having had to deal with any real-world crises in the past. My EMT training was like this: deliberately stressful scenarios designed to simulate the stress of a real emergency (or, I suppose, to help people to realize if they're really not cut out for this sort of thing).

I think there is a difference, though, between this and the sort of "training for crisis" that one might do in aikido. While there are countless medical crises that can afflict the human body, they fall into definite categories, and there's a definite hierarchy of severity: faced with severe bleeding and a broken arm, it's a no-brainer which problem needs to be addressed first and how you need to address it. You can put someone through a training program that will teach the skills of assessment and tell them what the correct decisions are. I don't know that you can really do that with a sort of open-ended self-defense "crisis".
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Old 04-16-2010, 01:34 PM   #19
Pat Togher
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
There is also the question of whether this change is desirable. As a broad generalization, people who have survived stressful situations tend to function better in them than people who have never been under these stresses. Unfortunately, those changes are often accompanied by other changes that, in some ways, make you function less well in a normal, non-threat situation. I think it's worth asking yourself whether your need to be able to function optimally in this hypothetical "critical moment" is more important than your need to be able to function well in a normal situation.
Great post.
Amdur Sensei's character sketch of Sokaku Takeda came to mind as I was reading this.

Pat
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Old 04-16-2010, 03:05 PM   #20
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
Mary Malmros wrote: View Post
And yet, as others have pointed out, there are various kinds of training programs that are designed to teach people how to act in a crisis, without necessarily having had to deal with any real-world crises in the past. My EMT training was like this: deliberately stressful scenarios designed to simulate the stress of a real emergency (or, I suppose, to help people to realize if they're really not cut out for this sort of thing).

I think there is a difference, though, between this and the sort of "training for crisis" that one might do in aikido. While there are countless medical crises that can afflict the human body, they fall into definite categories, and there's a definite hierarchy of severity: faced with severe bleeding and a broken arm, it's a no-brainer which problem needs to be addressed first and how you need to address it. You can put someone through a training program that will teach the skills of assessment and tell them what the correct decisions are. I don't know that you can really do that with a sort of open-ended self-defense "crisis".
I think you can, however, I think when it comes to self defense, we go all over the map on what constitutes self defense and how do you frame the risk, scenarios, and the various was to mitigate those risk.

The problem with Martial Arts, is that most programs are designed around making it interesting enough for people to want to attend on a regular basis and go home with a warm and fuzzy feeling about what they did that night! If you don't do that, then folks don't come back and you can't pay the bills.

The point is, if you are being genuine in your efforts to rationally mitigate the risk of most self defense situations, as you know, most of what we do would be a waste of time, or at least a very poor delivery mechanism for skill...plus it would not be fun or interesting.

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Old 04-16-2010, 03:08 PM   #21
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Re: Developing courage

As far as Martial situations for self defense, I think there are several fundamental scenarios. You get trapped and pushed into a corner of a wall, you get pulled down between objects like couches or cars. You get pushed inside a vehicle. Pulled out of the vehicle. The person is on top of you. You are on top of the person...etc.

Things like that. How to "improve" yourself, mentally, skillfully, and physically CAN be trained and you CAN improve your ability to act MORE correctly or efficiently.

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Old 04-16-2010, 03:23 PM   #22
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Re: Developing courage

Oh btw...I don't think defending yourself has much to do with courage, you do this cause you don't have a choice. Courage is having a choice, and choosing to do that which you are afraid to do.

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Old 04-16-2010, 06:10 PM   #23
Amassus
 
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Re: Developing courage

Quote:
Oh btw...I don't think defending yourself has much to do with courage, you do this cause you don't have a choice. Courage is having a choice, and choosing to do that which you are afraid to do.
That is a great definition, Kevin.
So can that mental capacity be trained in people that walk into the dojo. I certainly think it can. Physical training can help towards this by giving the person confidence (false or otherwise) but must be trained along side mental development to be fruitful IMO. Depending on how you define spirit, that could be trained to aid in crisis management as well.

I did choose the word crisis rather than conflict to point out that we can train for sudden unforseen events to allow us to remain relatively calm to make good decisions. I don't want this thread to be just about self defence.

Thanks for everyone's input thus far
Dean.

"flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo." Chaung-tse
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Old 04-16-2010, 06:39 PM   #24
Kevin Leavitt
 
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Re: Developing courage

Well I think it depends on the task or process. Most crisis oriented task have a certain amount of physicality to them, if it is doing CPR on a heart attack victim, entering a burning building, or what not. As Mary pointed out above, these things are definable by a process, and the steps are typically well codified.

So, I think that for most things it is both a mental and physical thing. You do the task over and over until it become muscle memory.

For example I jump out of military aircraft in the middle of the night. It scares me. Always has, always will. However, through training and following the process of the operation, I can take "baby steps" through each jump and it allows me to subjugate the fear. I am afraid and I have that pit in my stomach that says no, but I go through the steps/ritual and do it anyway as a matter of muscle memory and habit.

At the base level I have to turn myself over to the process and there is a great deal of trust that is involved. I suppose you could call in confidence, but I don't think so. I am never confident. If I where I think I would not have fear. No, I am afraid that something will go wrong. I will forget to do something, or get caught, land in a tree, chute won't open etc.

However, I have trust having done this before, and having others go before me that it will somehow be okay. My rigger packed my chute right, my jumpmaster has us over the drop zone, the winds are good, and I don't get tangled up...it happens, but at some point, you have to let go of all those "what ifs" and simply go through the process.

Maybe semantics between confidence and trust, but I personally think there is a difference.

BTW, ego plays a part in this process of courage as well. We sometimes talk as if ego is a bad thing. I don't think it is always. Ego can help get us through a difficult point.

I had a young soldier tell me on a jump that he was afraid to go out the door. I told him so was I, but what I was more afraid of not doing it and having all my fellow team member think I was a wimp!

That is pure ego and it can help get us through things we might not like.

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