Aikido in Daily Life March 2021

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

Training in the dojo is an interesting part of any martial art considered a “way” or “do”. The teaching and practice that occurs is often couched in metaphors. And, there’s rarely a clear road-map for students to follow. For most martial artists, it takes decades of studying the techniques, katas, and exercises before they begin to appreciate the fundamental lessons hidden within them. It is for this same reason that martial artist from previous ages would frame learning as “stealing the secrets”. 

There’s a famous (likely apocryphal) story of Gichin Funikoshi, the founder of Karate-Do. It goes like this… Funikoshi Sensei, advanced in years, held a seminar for his most senior students from around the world. After the seminar they all went to dinner together and the students were having fun seeing each other and catching up. Then one of the students noticed their teacher sitting quietly moving his arm in the shape of a basic block taught to all beginning students. That student asked: “Sensei, what are your doing? And Funikoshi Sensei responded “I just figured out the lesson in this movement!”…

There are no easy paths to learning how to live in harmony with the energies of the universe. It’s simply a matter of committed and disciplined repetition. However, there is one thing that’s part of committed and disciplined practice that  every student can do to make this onerous pursuit more rewarding and seem less daunting. Setting clear training goals and reflecting on them at regular intervals. For any Aikidoka at any level of practice, creating a clear idea of what they want to accomplish and then proceeding to accomplish it will keep the practice and the commitment fresh. At some points the goals may be learning a particular technique, at other points the goal may be finding deeper meaning within a technique, and there are countless points in between. As you’re pondering your training goals, never hesitate to reach out to your instructors for ideas and advice.

By Nate Weed

Intoku and Generosity of Aikido Olympia

The COVID pandemic has created many challenges for the broader Aikido community to continue training in the way we wish we could. The same pandemic creating challenges has also pushed many of us to adapt and grow our practices in some wonderful ways. Aikido Olympia has been so lucky as many of you have continued to contribute to dojo our space and our basic expenses. One of the practices inherent in Aikido is “intoku” – good done in secret, or doing good without drawing any attention to the action. 

On behalf of the whole Aikido Olympia Board of Directors, I want to communicate our sincere gratitude. Gratitude not just for the financial support but for how you have continued training in the aspects of Aikido that are more important than learning how to throw someone! And we deeply appreciate the financial contributions that ensure we all have a dojo in which to continue our practice (including throwing people) as this global pandemic begins to wane. 

I hope to see you all on the mats soon!

Nate Weed

March 2021 Aikido Olympia COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 rates are starting to decrease to levels we experienced last summer (generally pretty good) and many people are getting vaccinated (more than 2.5 million vaccines have been provided in Washington). These welcome changes are allowing more movement, more gathering, and more training than we’ve seen in over a year.

On March 22nd, our state will move to phase 3 of the Healthy Washington Roadmap to Recovery. This invites gyms and fitness centers (which includes martial arts) to hold classes with 50% occupancy. Masking and social distancing will still be required but this will allow us to be flexible with our class sizes. Additionally, the the state released a new COVID-19 guidance document that applies to “contact martial arts”. This guidance allows indoor “team practices” for high risk sports (which includes martial arts)… , and for additional information please see the Washington State Department of Health website at

Beginning April 1, 2021, Aikido Olympia will begin offering a class for people comfortable throwing each other again. The plan is to start with one class per week where we’ll return to techniques that have limited and brief contact and work from there. Aikido Olympia continues to encourage everyone to make good decisions for themselves, their families and the community. And, Aikido Olympia will continue to follow stringent symptom screening, social distancing, masking, and personal and environmental hygiene practices to keep everyone safe. In addition, our Aikido Olympia instructors want to emphasize our expectations that people not attend classes if they feel ill or even a “little off”.

By Nate Weed

Governor Announces COVID-19 Closures November 2020

You may have seen or heard the latest COVID-19 news from the Governor…

Beginning Monday night at midnight, several closures will take effect. These include closing gyms and fitness facilities for the next four weeks (until December 14th). The restrictions include:

1. No indoor social gatherings with people outside one’s household.

2. No outdoor gatherings with more than five people from outside the household.

3. Gyms and fitness facilities will be closed to indoor activity. Outdoor fitness classes can happen, but they’re limited by the outdoor gathering restriction…

These latest restrictions require us to suspend Aikido Olympia classes for the next several weeks. On behalf of the board of directors, we are disappointed in this closure and also recognize it as an opportuntity to deepen our personal practices.

I’ve attached a short video that describes the situation here:

We will be communicating our intentions and providing updates regularly, and appreciate the support and ki’ai you all bring to our dojo.

Be safe and be well,

Nate Weed

Veteran’s Day 2020

Veteran’s Day – November 11, 2020

In the Japanese martial tradition that evolved into Aikido, the Samurai hold a distinct relevance. The Samurai or Bushi were the ruling class of warriors in ancient Japan. Arguably, the Bushi were the most disciplined, well trained, and well-equipped warriors in history. However, the word Bushi means ‘to serve.’ Service in the same way that all veterans have served and how our country’s own veterans have served. This service should never go unforgotten and on Veteran’s Day we have the opportunity to remind ourselves to never forget. As one now famous U.S. Navy veteran once said so well: 

“When you say ‘Never forget’ to a veteran, you are implying that, as an American, you are in it with them… connected together as grateful fellow Americans who will never forget the sacrifices made by veterans past and present.”

In our martial arts tradition we work to erode the idea of us and them. We learn that we are not separate from each other and that through our commitment to each other we become better people. So, take it from 3,000 years of martial arts tradition or take it from a modern warrior whose credentials cannot be dismissed… Never forget!

To never forget is recognizing that 3,000 innocent lives were wrongfully taken in the attacks of 9/11/2001. To never forget is taking a moment to reflect on the fact that over 1.3 million service members have lost their lives and more than 1.5 million have been wounded since the inception of our country. To never forget is acknowledging that while time marches on, memorials erected, and people move on with their lives, thousands of families, first responders, and service members continue to experience long-term medical and psychological effects that result from their experiences or the experiences of those they care about, in service to others.  To never forget is to remember what brings us together as a country and to see the good in each other. To never forget is recognizing that it’s our responsibility, as martial artists in this tradition, to dedicate ourselves to serving others. And, to never forget is remembering that we are all in this together. 

In our dojo, we have people who grew up in military homes, we have people who have served our communities as teachers, we have people who have served as first responders, we have people who have served by helping others in many ways, and we have people who have served in the military through many conflicts around the world. Our practice, like the Bushi before us, is to serve and, in service, we experience being in this together.

By Nate Weed

Aikido Olympia COVID-19 Update: October 2020

Currently, Thurston County is experiencing less disease transmission than many other coun- ties in our state and is in Phase 3 of the Governor’s Safe Start process. In this phase, Aikido Olympia can operate at 50% capacity as long as we are following the health and cleaning protocols we established earlier this year.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Aikido Olympia has adjusted our training approach to meet the Governor’s “Safe Start Guidelines” and we continue to hold regular classes. Since July, we have resumed an almost full schedule with classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, as well as Saturday mornings. We have required everyone training to self-assess for any symptoms, monitor their temperatures, wear masks whenever they are at the dojo, and pay close attention to hand hygiene. In many ways, this additional effort is training in Aikido – how do we best maintain harmony with our community during a pandemic?

We have also spent more time focusing on the katas, ukemi, bokken, jyo, and seated medi- tation. This shift in focus is having a positive impact on both the ki’ai of the dojo and the fun- damental skills that we practice in all of the arts of Aikido.

Many of us have heard the story of Hirata Sensei’s first year of teaching in the United States where he did not have any students to train with. To keep his Aikido strong and to continue developing his ki’ai, he trained with the bokken. One practice that has become rather leg- endary was that he would hold his bokken, while standing in hanmi, and breathe for 20 min- utes. When he returned to Japan, his cohort of training partners were expecting his Aikido to have suffered but they all found that his ki’ai was stronger and his Aikido was better. Training in this COVID- 19 world is challenging but we have his example to follow (and we do have people to train with).

From our experience so far, this seems to work well for everyone who is training regularly, and when it’s appropriate to re-integrate the physical contact into our training these funda- mentals will shine through our techniques.

By Nate Weed

Aikido Olympia Fees and Finances (Updated)

Last month I wrote that Aikido Olympia will be dividing the annual maintenance fee into a January installment and a July installment. The Board of Directors has had further discussions about this approach and we’ve decided that this is perhaps a bit too complicated to implement easily. So, we’re going back to the previous approach of asking everyone to pay the initial maintenance fee when they join our dojo and every January thereafter ($60 adults and $40 youth & students). 

The board also recognizes that some people who join later in the year (October-December) may feel that they receive little value in this and we want to provide them with a standard lightweight gi when they join to offset the months of the year when they weren’t yet members.

By Nate Weed

Yagyu Munenori – Life-Giving Sword

Recently, West Sensei has mentioned Yagyu Munenori. Some of you are familiar with this 17th century Japanese sword master, but others of you may not be so. For a little background, Yagyu Munenori lived from 1571 to 1646 and served as the sword master and a key leader in the Tokagawa Shogunate (essentially serving as the director of intelligence). Yagyu Munenori was a contemporary of the famed Miyamoto Musashi (though there’s no evidence the two of them ever met). He was also the author of a key book on swordsmanship called the Heiho Kadensho which is one of the most influential martial arts books ever written. 

The question is: how does he relate to our practice of Aikido? There are a number of answers to that question. First, this particular sword art, Yagyu Shinkage-Ryu was one that set the stage for fusing Zen practice with martial arts. Second, perhaps more mechanically, is the subtle use of distance and movement – like moon-shadow steps. The third, is that Munenori established the idea of a “killing sword” and a “life-giving sword.” Using the life-giving sword, a martial artist does not lose but also does not strive to win. 

Yagyu Munenori was a fascinating character in both the history of Japan but also the history of martial arts. One of the strongest principles Yagyu Munenori instilled in his students was the idea that swordsmanship was not a skill learned to kill but rather to fully realize one’s true self. This lineage connects to Aikido directly in that both Morihei Ueshiba (O’ Sensei) studied Yagyu Shinkage-Ryu, as did Muryama Sensei. 

By Nate Weed

Aikido Olympia Fees and Finances

Aikido Olympia is a 100% volunteer, non-profit organization and our board of directors works diligently to minimize the financial impact our dues have on our members. And, we must pay our rent, our insurance, some modest utilities, and ongoing maintenance throughout the year. Monthly dues generally cover our expenses, but for insurance, maintenance, and other expenses, we rely on our annual Dojo Maintenance Fee (currently $60 for adults and $40 for youth and students). Generally, we all pay these fees when we initially join the dojo and then each January thereafter. One overlooked area of dojo maintenance is our uniforms. As we all learn, gis don’t last forever and they are part of our dojo’s overall maintenance. Therefore, Aikido Olympia will be dividing the annual maintenance fee into a January installment and a July installment  (each installment will be $30 for adults and $20 for youth and students) and Aikido Olympia will use some of these fees to pay the cost of basic gis for those who need one in the fall (October – December).

By Nate Weed

Zazen Training Schedule

This month Aikido Olympia is working to get our Zazen training back onto a more regular schedule. Over the Summer, several of our students were training to attend a Zen intensive. At one point, I think they may have been training several days a week. Since they returned, we’ve had an opportunity to re-set the schedule. To accomplish this, we are seeking input on what days and times work best for those interested in this aspect of our training. If you would like to add your input, please stop by the dojo and put in your vote.

By Nate Weed