Aikido in Daily Life: October 2018

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

Ma’ai… Time, options, and our decisional space. The practice of aikido emphasizes relationships in space and in time. We strive for a harmonious spacing or ma’ai when we’re practicing in the dojo. Our goal, however, is to take that concept and use it in our daily lives. Ma’ai is a particularly useful concept when we use it to shape our decision-making. 

We’re all faced with many decisions, some decisions are relatively minor:  “Should I get another cup of coffee?” Other decisions are much more significant: “Should I engage in a violent act that may alter my life or someone else’s life forever?” Sometimes we have a great deal of time and information to use in our consideration of the options and other times we have to decide in a split second. Regardless of the situation or the decision, we have a set of options that decrease over time. 

By focusing on proper ma’ai in this context, we can grow our ability to make decisions early and when we have many options available to us. This leads to a couple of things. First, it helps us respond sooner, or be more responsible. Second, it shapes how we apply our personal power in our lives by being intentional and effective with our influence.  

 

By Nate Weed

Reflecting Practice in Demonstrations

This month many of us will have opportunities to participate in demonstrations. The Fall Arts Walk occurs on October 5th and our dojo will hold promotional demonstrations on October 12th.  Because of this, I want to share a couple of thoughts about what makes a good demonstration. 

First, those demonstrating their practice have to have a clear sense of what they’re demonstrating. This may sound funny but there are different aspects of our practice that can be highlighted in a demonstration. Technique, centeredness, calmness under pressure, moving in harmony with a partner, moving in harmony with a group of partners, reflecting the rhythm of the universe while moving in harmony with a bunch of partners. Ok, the last one’s a little aspirational but you should have the idea. 

Second, demonstrations typically elevate the connection between uke and nage. Similar to dancing, when people watch aikido it becomes obvious how well the two (maybe more) partners are connected with one another. 

Third, we can see a broader awareness of the space and timing. Working through demonstrations, it’s important to have awareness of the space, the people in the space, the area around the space, and the timing of the techniques and falls that you’re presenting. A big part of a demonstration is to let the people watching see what you’re doing. Big throws are exciting and engaging; complex joint locks are hard to see from across the room. 

Finally… Joy! Everyone wants to see you having a good time. 

 

By Nate Weed

Aikido in Daily Life: September 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 harder things are often the right things to do. Perhaps this is giving an apology, giving a co-worker uncomfortable feedback, or getting up early so that we have enough time to get ready for work without racing around. There are many examples of situations where we’re faced with a difficult option and an easy option. So, how does our practice help us choose the harder thing/ the right thing?

The practice of Aikido in daily life is generally about applying the fundamentals of relaxing completely, focusing on our center, and extending ki as much of the time as we’re able to. If we diligently practice doing this, it becomes easier and we spend more of our time living in this capable state. Additionally, we develop our ability to maintain relaxed, centered, awareness when circumstances become challenging.  Through that, a couple of things tend to happen – first, in being relaxed and centered we generally do a better job of making the right decision, and, second, by being centered and extending ki we are more easily able to enter into the harder choices.  As a bonus to our practice, we learn to approach challenges and obstacles with an open heart – both considering the well-being of others and having compassion for ourselves. This provides a unique advantage in our personal resilience as we choose harder things and learn from them.

 

By Nate Weed

Aikido Olympia Dojo Fee Changes in 2019

Aikido Olympia has carefully evaluated our fee schedule as we move into 2019. As an organization, it is important for us to keep costs low and to make Aikido accessible to as many people as possible. We do this by working to negotiate the lowest rent that we can, minimizing our use of utilities, relying on all of our non-profit board members to contribute to the overall upkeep and operations, and, of course, continuing a tradition of our instructors volunteering. And, we also appreciate the training space in downtown Olympia that we’ve developed over the years.  

To continue operating the Aikido Olympia dojo as we have, fees will have to be increased in 2019. The plan is to increase the monthly dues by $10 for adults and students. The drop-in rate will also be increased from $15 to $20. Finally, we will increase the Annual Dojo Maintenance Fee by $10 for adults and $5 for students. To continue supporting families who participate in our dojo, we’re simplifying things and taking $15 off for each additional family member. 

Beginning January 2019

Monthly

Annual Dojo Maintenance

Adult

$90

$60

Student

$80

$40

Drop-In

$20 (per visit)

N/A

Senior Center/Parks & Rec/Evergreen

As described in flyer

None – though donations welcome

 
These fees will go into effect on January 1st, 2019. If you have questions or would like to provide feedback on this, please let an instructor know. 

 

By Nate Weed

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