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

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 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

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

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 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

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

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

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!