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Old 08-31-2015, 04:18 AM   #1
Dojo: Roskilde
Location: Roskilde
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 24
Aikido and time

This post will be long, please see it as an honest statement of ignorance and extreme frustration, a cry for help -- nothing more.

Time irks me. In this mysterious and wonderful (perhaps) 10 or 11-dimensional world of (possibly) vibrating one-dimensional filaments, in this dance of pure energy, the concept of time seems to annoy my brain more than anything else. There's one's own subjective experience of time, there's the physics, there's the spiritual and psychological wisdom of both east and west, add the dimension of aikido and it all becomes clear -- or not.

O-Sensei has many times been quoted as stating his belief that time (and space) does not exist. One example:

"Even standing with my back toward the opponent is enough. When he attacks, hitting, he will injure himself with his own intention to hit. I am one with the universe and I am nothing else. When I stand, he will be drawn to me. There is no time and space before Ueshiba of Aikido only the universe as it is."

It does truly seem to be so -- time doesn't exist, at least not (only) the way we think it does. It is easy to assimilate this fact as a sort of "cold fact", but integrating this truth with "ordinary everyday time", everyday experience of time....

A few years ago I was practicing for a grade-test and was huffing and puffing myself (and my partner) through a series of free techniques (Jiyu Waza). My Sensei, presumably considering both the technique and the heart condition of the old man before him, said to me: "slow down to the point where you can give yourself time to feel every part of every technique". During ki no nagare techniques I try desperately to remember that kihon represents, amongst other things, the means to truly learn the details of technique and subsequent ki no nagare techniques should include all these details, albeit perhaps in modified form. I had heard it many times, and tried to live up to it, but this time it was different.

I tried again and truly experienced the phenomenon described in some of the dan-syllabusses as "extending time". It simply felt like I had much more time, and energy, to do what I did -- even if it didn't take more time. Someone here on aikiweb wrote: "slow means smooth -- smooth means fast". Those were pretty wise words I think. Admittedly we didn't make any empiric time measurements etc. when I had this experience, but it sure brought home to me the plasticity and elasticity of time, at least in a subjective sense.

Subjective indeed, if I understand some of the mainstream scientific thinking at the moment, time is always fully present in all three of its "components" -- past, present, and future -- and the fact that we experience these three at all is, in fact, a psychosocial construction, a consequence of the way our senses are constructed and the way we are "brought up". Time is like an old VHS videotape, the whole tape is there the whole time, but the detector (our own mind in the case of time) only reads one snippet at a time, and this snippet we call "the present". I find the idea that all time is there at all times a truly mindboggling concept, it is the mind's program apparently that experiences the "present", remembers the "past", and expects the "future". The mind is constructed to experience time in a specific way.

Mind over matter, or at least mind and matter in equality and harmony, those are considerations illustrated all the way from religion to philosophy and on to quantum physics. It does seem to be true that an elementary particle, existing in an indeterminate state between a wave and a particle, manifests as a wave or a particle only as it is observed. An electron exists as a probability wave function, a sort of oddly shaped "field" around the nucleus of the atom and, when observed as a particle, manifests as such at the location where the probability wave function determines that it is most likely to do so. Creation actually does play dice!

If you hold an elementary particle in your hand and send its antiparticle to the ultimate end of the universe the twin particles still apparently communicate. Change the "spin" of one of them and the other also changes instantly. Quantum entanglement -- freaky, do they actually talk over this vast distance or do they know that you are going to change the spin of one of them in the future? Do they operate completely outside our concept of time, or space -- or spacetime??

The faster you travel the slower time passes and at the quantum scale of things, in the so-called "quantum foam", time forms loops and spirals, goes around in circles, forwards, backwards and forms all sorts of tricks.

Myriads of questions and very few answers in my mind when it comes to true understanding of time -- or reality at all. True mystery.

Dogen says: "time is being" - what the hell does that mean?? Heidegger said pretty much the same, but did he mean the same as Dogen? In the end, though -- can you communicate the ineffable with words? In "The Sandman Ouverture", by Neil Gaiman, Lord Time is described by Morpheus like this:

"Time watches us from the micromoments between seconds. Night exists in the vast stretches of untime and unspace beyond every event horizon".

Reading what physics says about "true reality" I'm just about ready to believe anything....

In a practical aikido sense, understanding time better somehow seems important. A few months ago I noticed some of my students making grim faces every time they thought they had performed a technique less than perfectly. I considered this in my mental blender of time, kokyu-ho, mind over matter and intention, power through full focus etc. etc. and realized that perhaps one should use zanshin not to second guess your technique but to just fill yourself with a "feeling of perfectness" and focused energy. What if the period of zanshin is actually connected to the time at the start of the technique, could a feeling of having carried out a technique badly actually reach back in time and ruin the execution of it? I believe it would violate a few paradoxes and current physics-thinking, but I wonder.....

I once heard a Japanese Shihan talking about the absolute necessity of intention in kokyu Ho, the totally absorbing visualization of actually cutting the enemy with your sword in order to carry out true technique. Mind over matter. Judaeo-christian scripture says that if you have faith only as little as a mustard seed -- you can tell a mountain to rise up and throw itself in the sea. Mind over matter. A significant portion of different spiritual literature emphasizes mind over matter, faith as a precursor for action, dreams as the foundation of reality. It seems to me O Sensei pretty much emphasized the same thing, mind and matter in harmony, e.g.:

The secret of aikido is to make yourself become one with the universe and to go along with its natural movements. One who has attained this secret holds the universe in him/herself and can say, I am the universe.'"

Mind and matter, mind and time, only a few things are certain -- we understand very little of it and everything is possible. I only know that I wish to understand more of this and I would like to include these possibilities in my aikido-training.

Could anyone add some wisdom in connection with time and aikido?
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Old 08-31-2015, 02:07 PM   #2
Cliff Judge
Location: Kawasaki, Kanagawa
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,271
Re: Aikido and time

I've got enough on my hands being the "consciousness doesn't exist" guy to help you out on this one, buddy. Best of luck!
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Old 08-31-2015, 02:41 PM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,318
Re: Aikido and time

Don't confuse changes in your subjective perception of time with changes in actual physical reality.

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Old 08-31-2015, 07:23 PM   #4
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 3,130
Re: Aikido and time

Katherine Derbyshire wrote: View Post
Don't confuse changes in your subjective perception of time with changes in actual physical reality.
Yeah, I'd go with this one. I've known a number of people with substance abuse issues. When they're passed out, to them, time doesn't exist, time isn't passing-- except, of course, that it is, all around them, they're just not aware of it. That's one example of the difference between perception and reality.
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Old 08-31-2015, 09:29 PM   #5
Dojo: Open Sky Aikikai
Location: Durham, NC
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 431
Re: Aikido and time

I see several separate topics.

"Slow is smooth, smooth is fast." Sensei told me "No Rush" on many occasions. Speed can cover up a mistake or a hole in my technique - until I find myself with someone just as fast or faster. Moving slow was finding moments that I might lose integration or balance, plugging those holes - and then moving with more balance and power and giving fewer opportunities away. It's like tying your shoes - you used to take several minutes to do it badly and with total concentration; now you can probably tie your shoes very rapidly and maybe even carry on a conversation or watch the news at the same time.

The closest I ever came to Mushin was surprising to me. We spend most of our lives with our brain doing a dozen different things, or having a completely different intention or no intention in our actions. Most of our daily live is reflex, and divorced from our cognition. For me, a school bully was attacking other people one by one, and the day came that I knew it was my turn. He was going to jump me from behind, but I could see what he was going to do. He had a stick, I had a book. I went from angry, a miniature hurricane in my mind, to an overwhelmingly quiet "this stops here." No dilemma, no second thoughts, no inner voices saying anything different. Every discordant thought in my head became a single voice. The world moved very slowly, there was no sound that I remember, and then I had him against the locker. He was shocked, none of his friends helped him, and I didn't inflict any injury but I felt numb. I've since heard police officers and psychiatric workers describe the time distortion effect of stress (often described as one of the more frightening aspects of the situation) and I have come close to this experience again. Most recently was a head on collision when another car swerved into oncoming traffic (me). Yes, the world seemed to stop for me briefly. No, I didn't pull out a stopwatch but I am sure the universe proceeded along as usual and no slower. I think there is research out there from psychology sources and law enforcement training.

For the rest, I got nothing.
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Old 09-01-2015, 01:17 AM   #6
mathewjgano's Avatar
Dojo: Tsubaki Kannagara Jinja Aikidojo; Himeji Shodokan Dojo
Location: Renton
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 2,221
Re: Aikido and time

Lots of fun things to consider and play with in the mind! I love the infinite what-ifs, but whatever physics I held in my tea cup got tipped over years ago. For what it's worth, I think of time as the constant unfolding/shifting of now; there is only now (whether that is exactly true or not I can't say, but for practical purposes it's close enough for me). We remember what now was like because we've imprinted memory of it; and we have a sense that now will be different in the future through awareness of change.
As for the perception of time slowing down, I think of this as relating to sample rate and perception. As our perception/mind/body relaxes, focuses, and wastes less energy, we can perceive more, and our sample of reality by way of the senses, per some period of time, increases, creating the illusion that we are covering more ground, as it were, within that period of time.
Thank you for the delicious food for thought!

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Old 09-02-2015, 11:22 AM   #7
Location: andover
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 9
United Kingdom
Re: Aikido and time

Short reply I've always thought of time as being in an ever present now, comes very clear particularly when meditating on the one point.
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Old 09-07-2015, 07:30 AM   #8
Dojo: Prairie Winds Aikido
Location: Morris, MN
Join Date: Jan 2011
Posts: 3
Re: Aikido and time

Mr. Hultberg,

Interesting post! I have been thinking a lot about similar things and am currently reading a book called 'The Quantum and the Lotus' about the intersections between modern physics and Buddhist doctrine. You might enjoy it as well if you haven't already read it.

Another book, 'The Unfettered Mind', advises the swordsman who asks where to put his mind in a contest not to put it anywhere. Putting your mind somewhere, i.e. on your opponents sword or hands or eyes, etc., means it will become attached or stuck there. If the mind becomes stuck, it can not respond immediately with disastrous results in a sword fight.

I have found in my own practice that as my body becomes more relaxed and my mind becomes more empty (or relaxed, after all the body and mind aren't really different are they?), I become aware of uke's attack sooner, even before he or she starts physically moving.

There is the adage that the master moves, but is never in a hurry; and O-Sensei saying something like the opponent thinks to attack me and I am already standing behind him. I think what is happening is that uke's mind becomes stuck on the idea or intention of attacking. When the mind becomes stuck on something it becomes unaware of other things creating gaps in awareness. If nage's mind is empty, he will be aware of the attack before movement begins and can respond appropriately in plenty of time while uke is initially unaware of that response.

To a bystander watching it will appear as if nage moved first or that the whole thing is choreographed. To uke it will seem as if he is trying to attack, but nage is just too fast. To nage it seems as if things have slowed down and he can almost casually deal with uke without thinking - Takemusu aiki?

So time is relative and it seems like uke creates gaps in his awareness by focusing on an attack, and nage can move in those gaps with advantageous results.

So Aikido like O-Sensei's is simple. One just has to completely empty the mind and be unconcerned with the result of an encounter even if that result could be your death. And completely relax the body, but still maintain a functional ability to receive and neutralize forces from any direction. And have the techniques of your art completely ingrained in muscle memory so they can be used without conscious thought. And...
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Old 09-08-2015, 10:49 AM   #9
Join Date: Aug 2002
Posts: 1,318
Re: Aikido and time

Eric Buchanan wrote: View Post
So Aikido like O-Sensei's is simple. One just has to completely empty the mind and be unconcerned with the result of an encounter even if that result could be your death. And completely relax the body, but still maintain a functional ability to receive and neutralize forces from any direction. And have the techniques of your art completely ingrained in muscle memory so they can be used without conscious thought. And...
If you master the first two, you probably don't need the techniques. I once saw Saotome Sensei do a randori with three attackers (all sandans) in which he used no techniques because no one managed to touch him. Lots of body movement, lots of atemi.

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Old 09-14-2015, 12:03 AM   #10
T. Mike
Dojo: 4 winds dojo. Leucadia, California, USA
Location: Muang Phang-Nga
Join Date: Aug 2015
Posts: 4
Re: Aikido and time

I have experienced this. One time that stands out to me was when i was only 15 or 16 years old. We we were in a paintgun war and I was ambushing my friend. He wasn't aware of me and was getting closer and closer to where I wanted to engage him. As he hit the target area he wasn't presenting me with a good shot. I wanted a clean chest shot and the way he was turned I just wasn't getting it. I decided to shoot him and maybe catch a chest shot as he reacted. As I shot him time slowed down an amazing amount. I was making choices and waiting and evaluating and waiting and waiting and not getting my opening I shot him again and then more waiting and watching and waiting and finally another shot all in the about 1 to 2 seconds real time. And then back to normal time.
Part of what I find interesting today was that although I was really into my ambush this was nowhere close to a life and death type situation. Also although I remember a bit of euphoria I don't remember coming down off of adrenaline like I would after a fight type situation.
I am guessing it was more a matter of intense focus rather than an adrenaline charge that put me in that space that day.
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Old 09-14-2015, 05:16 AM   #11
Demetrio Cereijo
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 2,209
Re: Aikido and time

From another point of view: http://breakingmuscle.com/sports-psy...etic-endeavors
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Old 09-14-2015, 12:58 PM   #12
Dojo: Berkshire Hills Aikido
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 772
Re: Aikido and time

Demetrio Cereijo wrote: View Post
Interesting read. However I disagree with her assumption that "...we can't enter the flow state at will...".


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Old 11-07-2015, 07:32 PM   #13
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 54
Re: Aikido and time

Ironic, I think some folk have too much time on their hands.
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Old 11-30-2015, 07:37 AM   #14
johan smits
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 2
Re: Aikido and time

Hi to you all,

It is a long time since I posted something in this forum but on this subject there is something I can share.
Many moons ago at a birthday of my sister.
A few of us (including yours truly) had become pop's and mum's with me being the proud father of a daughter. I was walking with my daughter of four months (in another forum I posted seven months but according to my wife our daughter was four months old at the time) sleeping in my arms through the debris of the living room. Children's toys all over the place. When I stumbled, lost my footing and went down face first.
During the fall I turned, landed on my back, using the upper part as a bridge. My baby girl in my arms, she did not even wake on impact. She slept through it all.
No harm done, I was not even scared. Looking back, I know it sounds funny, I got a feeling that it took a really long time before I hit the floor.

Happy landings (of which the above is my most beautiful example)

Johan Smits.
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Old 01-29-2016, 08:56 AM   #15
Join Date: Nov 2015
Posts: 5
Re: Aikido and time

I would have to agree with Katherine on this. If you'll forgive me for quoting a movie line, it reminds me of the spoon boy from "The Matrix" and his line. "you will see it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.".
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Old 01-29-2016, 07:20 PM   #16
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 2,299
Re: Aikido and time

"Science does not need mysticism and mysticism does not need science, but man needs both."

The Tao of Physics by physicist Fritjof Capra

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Old 03-14-2016, 08:45 PM   #17
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 83
Re: Aikido and time

Great post Stefan, very thought provoking.

I have been reading the "Hidden In Plain Sight" series by Andrew Thomas (very good read). Before I start please let me make it clear I totally understand that my perspective is only one perspective of "Time" and is definitely not the be all and end all.

My limited understanding of time is that we live in a relative universe and as such have no definitive time reference outside our own universe, hence relative. That said we live in what is called a box universe which comprises of "space-time" and all times (past,present and future as humans perceive it) are all as real as each other. Space-Time (I am lead to belive) is actually the very weak force of gravity and has no "time" scale as we humans perceive it.

My understanding is that what we as humans perceive as the arrow of "Time" is actually our entropy which gives us the illusion we are moving forward in time when in fact it is our system that is slowly but surly moving toward the highest state of entropy (death).

In relation to Aikido, if all states of past, present and future do actually exist as equal then if you were able to truly connect to our universe and be of it not in it then you would definitely have a definitive advantage.

The slowing of time and speeding up of time is, I belive biological (our chemicals in our brain) so for me entropy and time are 2 totally different things and time does not exist only entropy.


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Old 02-09-2017, 03:43 AM   #18
Dojo: Roskilde
Location: Roskilde
Join Date: Jul 2015
Posts: 24
Re: Aikido and time

I don’t know whether there is interest or if, indeed, it makes any sense at all to revisit this diskussion about time and, specifically, time in aikido.
O-Sensei, I think, was a “true believer”. When he expressed that “time doesn’t exist in aikido” I think he actually believed it. It wasn’t a parable, no metaphor. That was his true view of reality.
Earlier in the thread Katherine Derbyshire says “Don't confuse changes in your subjective perception of time with changes in actual physical reality” - and she is so right, anything else is just so far from common sense. BUT STILL, even if I probably confuse the two is it possible, could we go past everyday conceptions of time (and space) and aikido????
And then, one more twist – reality is really really weird and the more I study it the more I am willing to believe almost anything. Time, is a dimension which ought to be quite comparable with the space dimensions. Our consciousness as well as the laws of thermodynamics seem to be intertwined with the linearity and directionality of time. Could these things be suspended in a sort of "true reality" of time??
When it comes to time in aikido and the whole question of whether one, whether I, could be a true believer too. Can I truly believe that time doesn’t exist in aikido and could we be able to experience openings and possibilities in aikido close to the one’s experienced by O-Sensei?
Can one practice aikido in a true state of enlightenment, free from the illusion of linear and unidirectional time? If that state is possible – how can it be achieved.
O-Sensei gives us part of the solution, he stressed training, training training and training, aligning ourselves with the movements of the universe. His advice is worth any amounts of gold. Still, lying here on my sofa with a back ache from hell my training will have to be more mental than physical for a few weeks – again. I think and I speculate, I meditate and I search.
If anyone has some advice as to where the ultimate aikido, the one where time truly does not exist, could be found – even for old men with aching backs  ………

In the mean time – a few inspirational lines from Rydberg’s “tomten” (“the elf”):

The cold of the midwinter night is harsh
The stars glitter and sparkle
All is still at the ancient farm
Deep in the midnight hour
The moon wanders its nighttime walk
The snow lighting up the dark
The roof a crystal slate
Only the elf is awake

He stands there, grey beside the barn
Grey against the white snow drift
His gaze rests afar
Upon the moon in its usual shift

He looks at the forest, the pines tall
They shelter the house, a protecting wall
He ponders, as in a dream
The riddle, the riddle supreme

He runs his hand though his beard and his hair
Shakes his old head resigned
That old riddle, one all sentients share
Will not be answered in my time

He straightens, ready for duty
For practical work in its beauty
He tends the farm
Silently enters the barn

He checks the locks and the doors
Making sure all is safe
The cows dream of summer and grass of course
Moonlight strokes them, full of grace

The wagon forgotten
The horse also dreams
A crib full of clover
Appears and he eats

He goes to the door for the goats and the sheep
Cozily lying there, fastly asleep
On to the chickens, where the old cock
Stands proud on the highest knock

The dog in his doghouse is cozy and warm
Wakes and wags his tail
He knows this old elf, guardian of the farm
Friends are they without fail

Silently he goes into the house
To check on the beloved folk
He knows they give honour and he feels proud
Over this deep bond they hold

He reverently enters the room of the young
the children, for a while he stays
His heart fills with joy, with song
His dearest love are they

So he has seen them, father to son
Newborn, and then old and brittle
Where do they come from, these sleeping young
Again there it is, the riddle

The generations all followed eachother
The grew, they blossomed, they followed the others
The riddle comes back, he wonders
Where do they go, he ponders

The old elf climbs up to the loft
That is his favourite place
Feeling warm, laying soft
On his bed of hay

The swallows nests are barren and empty
But spring will be back with birdsong a plenty
The swallow will clean out its dome
A new family calling it home

The swallow can tell, spin many a yarn
Of many a travel sight
Yet nothing to dispel, here on the farm
The ache of the riddle in his mind

Through a small crack in the wall of the barn
A silver moonbeam shines down on his arm
He studies the moonbeam and wonders
The riddle, the riddle he ponders

Silence covers the forests and fields
Life is frozen and still
From far away, though, he can hear the stream
A silent song down by the mill

The elf listens and half in a dream
He follows the silent song of the stream
Where does it go, this stream of time
Where is its source, oh riddle of mine

The cold of the midwinter night is harsh
The stars glitter and sparkle
All sleep deep at the old farm
Until the morning hour

The moon concludes its nighttime walk
The snow still lighting up the dark
The roof a crystal slate
Only the elf is awake

My practical advice, just to be safe, is to use zanshin to, among other things, fill yourself with a feeling of having performed a perfect technique in order not to ruin it by reaching back in time with a feeling of failure……..

I don’t know WHAT I believe….

Last edited by StefanHultberg : 02-09-2017 at 03:49 AM.
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Old 02-09-2017, 08:24 AM   #19
Dojo: Berkshire Hills Aikido
Location: Massachusetts
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 772
Re: Aikido and time

Stefan Hultberg wrote: View Post
Earlier in the thread Katherine Derbyshire says "Don't confuse changes in your subjective perception of time with changes in actual physical reality" - and she is so right, anything else is just so far from common sense.
The idea that there's a "real, actual" reality underlying our perception of reality is grudgingly giving way under the experimental onslaught of quantum theory. Experimental results increasingly point to the fact that the act of observing is intimately connected to and entwined with the results obtained from the act of experimenting. Einstein, and others, insisted that quantum mechanics was an incomplete theory and that future developments in physics would bear this view out (a detailed discussion of Einstein's view can be found here). To date it seems that Einstein is on the short end of that particular stick.

But whether or not there's an actual reality beneath what we perceive doesn't matter. From a practical standpoint all that matters is what you perceive to be real in the moment. The moment is all we have to work with. Moments past and moments future have/have not happened and, as related to Aikido, need not be considered. So if you perceive a change in your perception of the speed of time passing, in that moment that's your reality; that's what you have to work with.

The common sense view of reality is bust, leave it behind and accept what is in the moment.


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Old 02-11-2017, 12:48 PM   #20
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 775
United Kingdom
Re: Aikido and time

Like a punch in the face:

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away

-- Philip K Dick

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Old 02-23-2017, 05:31 AM   #21
fatebass21's Avatar
Dojo: Westminster Tenshinkai Aikido Dojo
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Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 281
Re: Aikido and time


Chris Sawyer
Training day is every day
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