Aikido in Daily Life: April 2019

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

Spring appears to be springing in the northwest this month. As we extend our senses to the changing season, we can feel the expansion of nature as the rivers, trees, plants, and flowers all expand to fill more space in the world. This is not an aggressive or rude acquisition of space belonging to something else, but a harmonious and gentle opening up. 

In a class a couple of weeks ago, we were working on several ushirodori techniques (when uke bear hugs you from behind). These techniques are often really challenging to learn, because being grabbed from behind is really uncomfortable. And, for many of us, expanding to fill more space in the world is uncomfortable too, and a key feature of the techniques we were practicing. What may not be immediately obvious is that they are the same thing…

Our practice helps us bring our mind, body, and intentionality together, which helps us be more comfortable with the ways our body can take up space; moreover, we also learn to take up that space (take up the slack on our environment) in a way that is warm, welcoming, and in harmony with those around us. This ability is important for asserting ourselves without threatening and for extending our integrity to our intentions without being pushy or abrasive. 

As you all enjoy the spring, take some time to feel what gently and subtly expanding into the space around us and gently taking up the slack on the world around us feels like. Then see what you can do to incorporate that into your practice and your daily life. 

By Nate Weed

Zen Training at Aikido Olympia

Zazen is a seated meditative practice that forms the foundation of Zen. As we move into the new Aikido Olympia schedule, Zazen will continue to be practiced on Monday evenings from 7:00 to 8:30. With some extra time, 45-90 minutes, activities will expand to include some additional forms of practice, including primarily taiji and okyo (chanting) and occasionally other fine and martial arts and discussion of Zen precepts. This schedule will also allow for a full complement of Aikido classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and keep our Zen practice from running too late into the evening.

As a related prelude, Larisa, Will, and Erica plan to attend a seven-day intensive with Wong Roshi in California this coming July.  The additional time on Monday evening sessions will provide an opportunity to elevate this part of our training in preparation for the July intensive while continuing to increase the kiai of our dojo.   

Looking ahead, in June Larisa, Will, and Erica (and maybe some others) will again increase the intensity and cadence of the training to longer and daily practice for the final week of June and the first week of July. The forms and location of this practice is yet to be determined.  And beyond July, well, to offer a Zen take on the old Jewish proverb: humans plan, and Buddha laughs!

Please note that everyone at the dojo is invited to this practice, whether you are a new, occasional, or dedicated Zen practitioner.  It will be an act of compassion if you would kindly let Larisa know, in advance, if you or anyone you invite intends to join the Monday evening  Zen practice.

By Larissa Benson and Nate Weed

Aikido Olympia Schedule Change Starts April 1

Aikido Olympia will change our schedule beginning April 1st, 2019. Our classes will move to a Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday class schedule to help us consolidate the kiai of our dojo and provide the best training we can. 

MonTueWedThuFriSatSun
No Class5:30-6:30 PM Youth AikidoSpecial classes TBD5:30-6:30 PM Youth AikidoNo Class7:00-8:00 Am MisogiNo Class
6:30-7:30 PM Basic Aikido6:30-7:30 PM Basic Aikido8:00-9:00 Am General Aikido
7:30-8:30 PM General Aikido7:30-8:30 PM General Aikido

By Nate Weed

Aikido in Daily Life: March 2019

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

Randori… or “one damn thing after another”… but in an optimistic way!

Last month, Aikido Olympia held Kangeiko, the annual winter intensive training week. All that week a group of dedicated students met from 5:30 to 6:15 each morning for a vigorous practice. This year, the vigorous practice focused on randori. Randori is a more advanced Aikido practice where one nage (thrower) is faced with multiple uke (attackers). For most people learning randori, it’s an intimidating and intense experience.

Like Randori, life is a series of opportunities that come at us quickly and with real energy and real risk. There is also real work that requires intention and focus as we complete each necessary task. Success in all of this could be viewed from a number of different perspectives but from an Aikido perspective, always being engaged in the thing we’re doing now and always being excited to do the next thing as it comes at us, is probably pretty close.

Back in our regular lives outside of the dojo, we all have multiple commitments, obligations, deadlines, and tasks that we must attend to. Some of us will compartmentalize these things in our mind by grouping certain activities as professional activities, daily activities, family activities, aikido practice, etc. Some of us will work to prioritize and organize all of the things we have to do by making lists and calendars, a couple of us might read a couple of the many books on how to get more done and how to be more productive. While there is value in any of these approaches, we must eventually dive in and start getting the work done – and usually getting it done to a standard. 

In our Aikido practice, Randori is a training tool that we use to overcome the natural fear and hesitation in choosing what needs to be done first, second, or fifty-third and using our natural intuition to prioritize what we’re doing in a way that creates a flow. We also use Randori as a way to build our self-efficacy in moving from one activity to the next while being centered, present, and mindful as we do each activity completely. Like everything worth doing, it takes practice, persistence, and a fair amount of self-compassion.

By Nate Weed

Weapons Maintenance

Over the last month, we have seen a couple of wooden weapons fail during class… Fail as in they became two separate pieces. Additionally, we’ve had reports of splinters in people or on the mats. Right now the weapons racks are getting rather full and it’s time that we all take a good look at our weapons and the communal weapons in the rack and make sure they are in good working order. Please take a little time this month and carefully assess the weapons you use for any cracks, chips, splinters, roughness, or “funny looking spots”. For most wooden weapons, any minor damage can be rubbed out with a little sand paper (typically 220 grit does the trick). If the weapon has a crack or chip that can’t be taken care of that way, it may be time to retire that weapon (be aware that glue, wood filler, and even most epoxy won’t hold up in paired weapons practice). If you have any questions or find something that’s borderline, please speak to one of the sensei about it. 

By Nate Weed

Kangeiko

Due to weather conditions that will make it difficult if not impossible to get to downtown Olympia on Monday, February 11th, at 5:30 in the morning, Aikido Olympia is postponing Kangeiko until the week of February 18th.

Kangeiko is “cold weather training”. At Aikido Olympia, this is an annual event that provides the opportunity to wake up earlier than some of us think is normal, to accept the world around us even if it’s cold and rainy, to remain undistracted by the feeling of our bare feet on the freezing cold mats, and to practice vigorously before we begin our day. Kangeiko elevates our own practices, nourishes the kiai of our dojo, and hopefully helps us develop greater perspective- “If I can participate in Kangeiko and enjoy it, then what else am I capable of doing?” Kangeiko will be held Monday, February 18th through Friday, February 22nd, we will meet at the dojo from 5:30 to 6:15 in the morning for these classes. 

By Nate Weed

The three sisters

To go along with Aikido in daily life: February 2019, I want to share this short aikido simile. I’m not sure who originally wrote this but want to share…

“Jujitsu, Judo, and Aikido are like three sisters. Jujitsu is the oldest sister. She has a temper and likes to fight. She is only interested in winning, has fought many times, and knows what techniques are effective. Since she will fight anyone, she must have excellent technique to secure victory. And, if you had to be in a fight, you would want her standing next to you. Judo is the middle sister. She is more interested in fun and competition, not actual combat. She is excited by the glory of competition. But she can and will fight if pushed. Years of training and competition has made her tough. And remember, she grew up with big sister who taught her a few tricks. Aikido is the youngest sister. Although she is familiar with war and competition, she has little use for it and almost always finds a peaceful solution. She is also the most beautiful of her sisters and people feel good just being in her presence. But she is not incapable of defense. She can manage quite well on her terms, and she is very tricky. Even still, one should be aware that even if she fails, she still has two older sisters who watch over her. “

Author not known

Aikido in Daily Life: February 2019

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

Aikido or Aikijujutsu? Our practice at Aikido Olympia revolves around an idea that Aikido is “A way of being in harmony with the energy of the universe”. On the surface, that sounds like we are applying harmony in a martial way. However, there’s an important nuance when we say “a way of being”. Our art is about how we, as individuals, interact with everything around us. To put a finer point on this, our practice is about how we behave differently and lead our lives better, not about how we make others behave. 

Considering the martial arts world, there are ways we can organize practices. In our specific martial lineage of Aiki – “being in harmony”, there are basically two main approaches. One is the “Do”- the way, and the others are “jutsu” – the arts or techniques. What is not always apparent to students of these marital arts is that in Aikido, our techniques and training are designed to change ourselves. Alternatively, in Aikijujutsu the techniques and training are designed to help the practitioner more efficiently affect another person’s behavior. Both use similar principles and even look similar, but intent differs.

In the martial arts world, some contend that practicing martial arts is only valuable if it focuses on building one’s ability to dominate others. Others take a perspective that martial arts are primarily for self-improvement. Our contention is that these practices all coexist, and that people should do what they believe will help them be the best person they can be. Personally, I don’t have a lifestyle that brings a lot of violence my direction. However, I have a high-stakes career that requires me to embody integrity, humility, relaxation, centeredness, and intent while facing a continuous stream of demands, challenges, struggles, (sometimes law suits) and opportunities. So, for me, training diligently in Aikido adds substantial value and as we all develop together, I hope we can continue to help each other find the way through our practice and become even better versions of ourselves.

By Nate Weed