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. https://apm.activecommunities.com/olyparksartsrec/?# . 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).

http://www.southsoundseniors.org/images/LifeLongLearning/Life-Long-Learning-Catalog-Spring-2018-single-reduced.pdf

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. 

www.community-resources.com

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

Aikido in Daily Life: March 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 our lives, things can start coming at us pretty fast. Work, family commitments, illnesses and injuries, other demands. Balancing all of that is challenging and often we’re tempted to get stuck on one or more of these activities, even if it’s only temporary. When that happens, it’s typical for another of the demands to start “pressing in” on us.

Our practice is to accept that life is full of energy and full of opportunities and that we can address each of our commitments directly and completely, and then to move on to the next one. This is certainly easier said than done but practice not perfect. First, it’s all about how we frame the situation- when we look at our hand, from the back, with our fingers spread apart, we see that there are five fingers all facing us. However, if we turn our hand so the thumb is facing us, then we see a series of fingers- one, then the next, and so on. The multiple competing commitments in our lives are the same. When we focus on all of them facing us, it’s a lot. Alternatively, if we can find the right angle, then we see one thing, then one thing, and one thing, and so on. Our practice helps us better remember to remain centered, extend our energy, and approach the world with optimism.

During Kangeiko, in February, we practiced randori where multiple uke are trying to grab the nage. For a nage to be successful, they have to find a way to get the hoard of uke to line up. Once that has happened, then it’s a matter of throwing them or evading them in turn, without getting stuck on them. Finally, the nage must keep moving forward- a step backward and the energy can become oppressive.

Beyond the metaphor and training in the dojo, we have a commitment to those around us. As our family, friends, and colleagues are facing this reality, it’s also up to us to support them both by sharing the optimism and by helping them take up the slack as they would like.

By Nate Weed

Preparing

In my office, I keep an old page from a calendar designed by Olympia artist, Nikki McClure. It says “Prepare” and it contains the image of children playing capture the flag and a fox in some blackberry bushes.

In the martial arts, there is an ethos around preparing. We train to become better prepared to respond to conflict, crisis, amazing opportunities, or whatever comes down our path. Preparing isn’t always what we want to do, but Aikido allows us to approach it with positivity, curiosity, and playfulness. And, like the fox, we use every day and every event to become better able to respond, or some might say- more response- able.

Periodically, we also get the opportunity to demonstrate our preparedness. There can be many ways that we demonstrate our preparedness in our lives but the way we get to demonstrate our preparedness in the dojo is in the form of a promotional demonstration. This month, Aikido Olympia will be hosting promotional demonstrations for those members of our community who feel they are ready to show us that they have expanded their practice and are ready for additional “responsibility.”

Promotional demonstrations or “Testing”, will be on March 15th. We typically begin with a short whole dojo class (kids, adults, beginners, and instructors) at 5:30. After the class, we begin the demonstrations with our young people going first and ascending in rank, followed by adults with the same strategy. We encourage everyone to attend so they can be part of this experience and contribute their energy to the event. Family and friends are also welcome. Typically, we finish the evening with a “snack-luck” so that everyone can spend time together and unwind after they’ve demonstrated how much they’ve prepared.

By Nate Weed

Local article about Aikido Olympia

For those of you living in the Olympia area, you’re likely familiar with ThurstonTalk.com.

Recently Holly Reed published a wonderful article about Aikido Olympia which several people have commented, really captures what our dojo is about.

Good reading at the following link:

Finding the Center: Aikido Olympia Designated a Non-Profit

Be Well,

Nate Weed

P.S. Thank you Holly for writing this great article!

Aikido in Daily Life: February 2018

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

Fear of falling, fear of getting hurt, fear of dying, fear of failing?

In our lives we all face fears. In some cases these fears create resistance for us t truly find our potential and experience life at it’s fullest. Understandably, fear (or perhaps the desire to confront fear) is what draws many people to the martial arts. And, chipping away at our fears is certainly an implicit outcome of practicing a “Do” or martial way.

Most of us come to adult life having developed a set of fears (some are probably rational and some not so much) and an ego that finds ways to use our fears to keep us safe but also hold us back. Additionally, our fears are often layered like an onion. We have a fear of falling perhaps. Within that fear there might be other fears like the fear of getting hurt, the fear of dying, or maybe the fear of failing or of being embarrassed. Finally, these fears can be hidden with self delusion and justification where they become subtle mental friction that make us pause, lose our centers, present our openings, and lose opportunities when otherwise we might have achieved something great.

Practicing Aikido, is designed to help us first, become better aware of our fears, then to help us process these fears as we work to overcome those fears, and finally to live our lives with a “warrior spirit“. At Aikido Olympia, we all work together to support each other as we travel this path. And to truly support each other, our practice must be sincere in order to unravel the layers of fear and ego that keep us from our full potential and keep us from living fully.

By Nate Weed

Kangeiko

It’s the time of year when Aikido Olympia practices Kangeiko. Kangeiko literally means “cold training” and each year we try to pick a time when early morning temperatures are about as low as they get in the Olympia area. Last year, there were two weeks where temperatures were in the 20’s, the first week of January and the second week of February. Since we already do water misogi the first week in January, we chose to host Kangeiko in the second week of February with hopes of cold weather.

But what is Kangieiko you ask?

In almost every martial arts tradition, there is an emphasis on austere training to develop grit, spirit, hara, or kokoro (as in the calligraphy we hang on the front wall of the dojo). The goal is pretty simple, to test ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually so that we can become more self-aware, learn where we need to develop further, and to build confidence in our ability to thrive in adversity. For our practice, Kangeiko provides the opportunity to wake up earlier than some of us think is normal, to accept the world around us even if its cold and rainy, to remain undistracted by the feeling of our bare feet on the freezing cold mats, and to intentionally practice vigorously.

From kangeiko, we elevate our own practices, nourish the kiai of our dojo, and hopefully develop greater perspective- “If I can participate in kangeiko and enjoy it, then what else am I capable of doing?”

Aikido in Daily Life: January 2018

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

2018 has arrived!

For many, the New Year is a celebration of what we’ve accomplished, what we’ve learned, what we’ve endured, and what we’ve experienced. For others this is the time for setting new goals, looking to new opportunities, and an look to the coming year with hope. In the practice of Aikido, we certainly reflect and learn, we also open our hearts to new opportunities, and we set our minds and hara’s on positive thoughts and deeds. We also practice our art in our lives and work to maintain our centers and our presence. And, from that strength we enter with our full intention and commitment. The martial aspects of our practice help us to appreciate the value of action and appreciate the grit that we develop from repeatedly pushing beyond our comfort zone. The discipline of Aikido also helps us learn to “take up the slack” and apply a gentle and harmonious energy as we move along our journey.

So, let’s all work to use our training to “enter” into 2018 with presence and intention!