Aikido Lab

Aikido Lab

For several years, Aikido Olympia held what we called an Aikido Lab on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. These labs weren’t really intended to be classes but rather an opportunity to practice arts that were taught the previous evening. These classes were often conducted in randori-style where one person would work with multiple uke “in the round”, quickly moving from partner to partner. This approach had several benefits. First, students had an opportunity to review techniques taught the night before. Second, everyone involved had an opportunity to practice the techniques on a variety of partners and could explore how the same technique might change depending on how an uke’s body worked. Third, the multiple uke approach provides an opportunity for further refining one’s 360 degree vision and awareness. 

As Tuesday and Thursday evening classes often have smaller attendance than other days, we intend to do more of the Aikido Lab type classes on those days. If you’re interested in working on these types of things, please join us!

By Nate Weed

Aikido in Daily Life: August 2018

We come to our dojo to train so that we’re better able to apply the principles of aikido in our daily lives.

The first beginner class of each month Aikido Olympia instructors begin with some talking about what Aikido is and typically take a moment to describe the kanji of Ai, Ki, and Do as a way of living in harmony with the energy of the universe. These classes are fascinating in that you can attend them almost every month for years and learn something new each time. 

When we talk about energy in a physical sense, we are also talking about its relationship with both power and work. Reviewing high school physics class, the basic idea is that energy is contained in all sorts of things (even the atoms of nitrogen in the air surrounding us) and when that energy is applied to making something happen, it can be considered power. 

In our training we discuss energy as the material we use to do our arts, the same way a painter might use paint or a potter might use clay. And we typically use the energy with our partners to make something happen  like a kokynage or ikkyo (to do work). So, from a certain perspective, Aikido practice has a focus on recognizing and working with power. 

Power is a such an interesting topic- especially when we think about it from an interpersonal perspective. Many of us often look at power as though it has some moral value. In many cases we view it as a negative thing, something that others use to force us to do things. In many cases, we look at power as something that certain people have and that those people use to achieve their goal.  However, if we consider that our practice is to help us live in harmony with the energy of the universe, that energy is contained in everything, and that the application of that energy is referred to as power, than living an Aikido lifestyle requires us to accept that everyone (everything) has power and to respect everyone’s application of their power. Once we can truly embrace power (whether it’s physical power, the charismatic power of a certain person, the reward power of an employer, perhaps the coercive power of yonkyo, or the expert power of an instructor) then we can constructively work with it and apply our practice to all of the relationships in our lives. 

Aikidoka should consider the relationship between energy and power when we think about the nature of our practice and when we consider how Aikido can be applied to our daily lives.

By Nate Weed

Kata and Exercises

At the beginning of every class, we go through a series of movements. It’s common for many of us to start taking these movements for granted or to start thinking of these movements as exercises to prepare our bodies for practice. In fact, these movements are intended to help us find some insights into the techniques of Aikido. They are the “forms” or kata of Aikido.  

In many Japanese martial arts, kata are a series of movements that students practice many times over. Kata provide an opportunity to explore mind and body integration and one might go so far as to say that they are ultimately a way to practice integrity. Aikido kata are rather simple in their form, funikogi kata, ushirodori kata, etc. However, these kata all contain the core movements of Aikido arts. Additionally, they are often done as a group, giving Aikidoka the opportunity to further practice the movements of our art, in harmony with one another. This exploration of mind and body integration, combined with the intentional focus on maintaining 360 degree vision and being in harmony with our training partners, is a powerful training technique. Finally, kata are most instructive when we can effectively visualize a training partner challenging our movements and helping us commit to our movements. 

Taking up the slack

As we practice our kata at the beginning of each class, we should work to be present and focused on what we’re doing. As a group, this activity will help us all develop our Aikido and enhance the kiai of our dojo.

Aikido in Daily Life: July 2018

We come to our dojo to train so that we’re better able to apply the principles of aikido in our daily lives.

At the end of last month, some of the instructors were talking about practice. This conversation started with the question – what is your practice? 

At a high level, most Aikidoka would answer that their practice is doing Aikido. This is a pretty good answer and covers considerable breadth. However, the question was directed at a group of people who clearly practice Aikido regularly and was intended to elicit a more granular response. In fact, many of the people who train at Aikido Olympia have a set of personal practices that help them along their personal journey. Some people sit zazen each week, others participate in misogi, some have more solitary practices where they mediate each day or perhaps recite the Aikido Yuishinkai motto every day. Regardless of the activity, the important part is that they are intentional and regular. It’s through this regular and deliberate activity that we develop our discipline and self-mastery. 

As we advance in our martial arts training, it becomes increasingly important to nurture a practice that helps us continually move toward self mastery. As O Sensei has been quoted, “true victory is victory over one’s self.” And, it’s through this process that we begin to take our Aikido practice from inside the dojo into our daily lives. 

By Nate Weed

Promotions and Rank

Across the martial arts world, discussions abound about the concept of rank, what it means, the level of rigor that should be required, and so on. In most respects the standard for promotions are not completely transparent. At Aikido Olympia, we have criteria for the number of classes everyone must complete to be eligible to participate in an examination, we also have a list of techniques that students are expected to demonstrate during promotional examinations. Finally, we have some expectations- “That you will become increasingly positive in your daily life.” We also observe the martial tradition of maintaining some level of mystery around promotions.

Promotions 2016  

At Aikido Olympia, our practice focuses on the ongoing personal development and individual commitment to our practice. As each person’s journey is different, so is the manifestation of their Aikido.

While many of our training partners are preparing for the upcoming promotional examinations, some of us are asking ourselves, are we ready? This is a question that promotional examinations are intended to bring out. And there is an appropriate response: decide to do it, set your hara, train hard, and proceed with confidence that things will work out well (one way or another).  


By Nate Weed

Aikido in Daily Life: June 2018

We come to our dojo to train so that we’re better able to apply the principles of aikido in our daily lives…

In the kids’ class, we read stories about martial arts principles. Although these stories focus on many concepts, several highlight the importance of awareness in the lives of martial artists. Developing awareness is a clear goal of martial arts training, but it’s also an abstract and somewhat elusive idea for many of us. Concretely, what are we supposed to be more aware of?

This past month I experienced three events that really helped me better understand where increased martial awareness is valuable in our daily lives. Near the beginning of the month, I participated in an endurance event that focuses on team building and leadership development through getting together with a group of strangers and finding creative ways to explore suffering together until we could gel as a team. One of our instructors, a former Army Special Forces sergeant, was clear about the necessity for being aware of how our teammates (these total strangers) were doing with the tasks. A few days later, I was involved in a set of unrelated discussions at work. These conversations had different stakeholders and goals but they also required the same information and the same connections with partners who could help make the goals more accessible. Later in the month, one of the leaders I work with made an observation about the organization I work for, requiring people with a history of conflict to work together. His comment was, ‘I hope they’ve become more aware of what they’re bringing to that conflict.’

In Aikido practice, we are working at becoming more aware in several areas. First, awareness of the needs of those around us. Second, our practice helps us become more aware of the connections and rhythms that exist in the world. And, we are building self-awareness and an ability to continually improve our self-awareness.


By Nate Weed

Aikido in Daily Life: May 2018

We come to our dojo to train so that we’re better able to apply the principles of aikido in our daily lives…

Timing is highlighted in some of the first techniques we learn in Aikido. The notion of a kokyunage is interesting because the timing necessary to make  a kokyunage work is really the same timing as most other natural things. That said, trying to make that timing happen is challenging. Each Saturday at 7:00 in the morning, our dojo hosts an hour of bell misogi. This practice is largely meditative while providing an opportunity to unify mind and body. It also requires that each stroke of the bell be in harmony with every other stroke. Again, staying in harmony with that timing is challenging.  

In our daily lives, there are so many things where a natural rhythm clearly exists. And, it’s not an easy task to live in harmony with those rhythms. As human beings, we allow our egos to get involved and “second guess,” ignore, or override the natural timing. We also let our minds begin to intervene by analyzing and strategizing how to act in a way that tunes into these rhythms. When we do this, it takes extra energy and creates additional barriers to accomplishing our tasks and goals. 

As Aikido students, we have many opportunities when we’re in the dojo to explore ways to shed some of our mental, physical, and even spiritual “insulation” that prevents us from feeling and simply flowing with the rhythm of the universal energy.  The next step is to take those lessons with us when we leave the dojo and apply them in our daily lives. 

By Nate Weed

Aikido Olympia in the Community

In the same way that Aikido students grow and develop, Aikido Olympia as an organization is continuing to evolve and develop. In the past month, our dojo has made some exciting progress in expanding access to training in our community.

First, Aikido Olympia has worked with the City of Olympia to include our Monthly Introduction to Aikido classes, in the summer edition of the Olympia Parks and Recreation “Experience It” catalog. . If you have friends or family who want to learn more about Aikido, these classes are a great way to start. These classes are on the third Saturday of each month from 10:00 to 12:00.

Second, our instructors have been working with Senior Service for the South Sound to start an Aikido for Elders class. One of the leading causes of injuries as we age is falling. The intention of this class is to focus on improving balance, reducing stress, and handling physical and mental conflicts. These classes will be taught on Thursdays evenings through May 31st, from 4:30 – 6:15 pm at the Olympia Senior Center (just down the street).

Third, Community Resources, a group that supports adults with developmental disabilities has asked Aikido Olympia for a workshop for this organization’s staff. These are professionals in a complicated situation where they may be faced with physical aggression from the people they are committed to supporting and keeping safe.

These community opportunities are intended to add to the existing classes we teach at Aikido Olympia. And, we hope these outreach efforts will increase the number of people practicing the fundamentals of our art and making our community more resilient. We also expect that as more people are exposed to the practices of Aikido, our dojo will see some new members. 


By Nate Weed

Aikido in Daily Life: April 2018

We come to our dojo to train so that we’re better able to apply the principles of aikido in our daily lives…

Have you ever heard the phrase: “the right thing is not always the easy thing?” On many different levels, this is something that seems to be a theme that’s swirling around in public discourse lately. Whether it’s in politics, business, education, family life, or at the dojo, doing the right thing when it’s the harder thing is challenging. In a recent Aikido class, the instructors were talking about bushido- the samurai code of conduct which includes a principle of doing the right thing no matter how hard it is (and seriously they were harsh about this). In our practice, we undertake Aikido training to become accustomed to making the harder choice so that it’s easier for us to do in daily life. Consider, for a moment, making the choice to attack someone when you know they’ll hurl you to the ground…

Building a solid martial practice in our lives requires us to push ourselves to do hard things in the dojo and to do those hard things with awareness and presence. This training helps us all do a better job of this when we’re outside the dojo. By engaging in activities that push us physically, mentally, and maybe socially in daily life in Olympia, we begin to get more in touch with our community – we begin to see who is living in their cars, we begin to see who’s trying to make ends meet in the subsidized housing, we begin to see who’s packing their kids and groceries onto a public bus.

We see more of these things because we are becoming more comfortable with our own discomfort and better able to set aside the defenses that protect us from our reality. This is important because if we are going to conduct our lives in harmony with others, we have to be able to view the world around us without self-deception. We all recognize that there is a lot of suffering in the world and we have a great deal of privilege. By taking ukemi and approaching Aikido as a way to polish our spirit we can become models of doing the right thing especially when it’s the harder thing.


By Nate Weed

Weapons in Aikido

Marcel Practicing Jyo Tori

In Aikido, the way of living in harmony with the universal energy, students are sometimes a little surprised that there is a curriculum of weapons instruction. The weapons we learn to use include the bokken (a wooden sword), the jyo (a short staff), the tanto (a wooden training knife), and I’m going to include the suzu bell (I’ll get back to that one). The surprise about weapons practice seems to involve the idea that weapons and peace are mutually exclusive. In our current culture, this is understandable but if we consider the concept of Budo (traditional Japanese martial ways), weapons and peace are much more intertwined.

At Aikido Olympia, our practice uses weapons for several purposes. First, training with weapons helps us develop our centers (nothing like trying to move around with a heavy bokken counterweighting each movement). Second, weapons training builds adaptability as we adjust our ma’ai (spacing and timing), our techniques, and our ukemi. Finally, weapons increase the kiai of our practice. It’s one thing to get hit by your partner’s hand, but it’s a bit more concerning when it’s a jyo instead.

Through the month of April, our Tuesday evening General Aikido Instructors will be focusing on weapons practice. This is open to everyone in our dojo and is intended to support students across a range of abilities.


By Nate Weed