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
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
P.S. Thank you Holly for writing this great article!
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?”
With Aikido Olympia’s new commitment to greater community partnerships, we are beginning to work with area parks departments and the Olympia Senior Center to explore how we might be able to mutually support one another. One path that is starting to form is an opportunity to offer classes for elders, initially at the Olympia Senior Center, beginning as one of the spring offerings. Since Aikido teaches self-awareness and respect, both for oneself and for others with whom one is privileged to practice, one can begin practice at any age beyond six or seven, and with any range of physical abilities, even if one currently is more comfortable sitting than walking. Tim Sensei and I have been exploring this in our teaching and practice over the past year and are excited to create space for this in our community.
By Chuck Pailthorp
Throughout 2017 (and maybe a little of 2016), several members of our dojo have been working on officially establishing Aikido Olympia as a non-profit organization. Aikido Olympia has operated for many years as a 100% volunteer organization where dues and donations go toward mats, rent, utilities, and the occasional new fan, but we weren’t actually incorporated as a non-profit organization.
Well, we recently received our letter from the State of Washington recognizing our organization in this new status. This change in our organizational status won’t change the fact that we are a member supported, volunteer organization but we hope that it will help open up new relationships and opportunities.
Coming in 2018, we are implementing some changes to our weekly class schedule:
Some of you may recall filling out a survey where you were asked about your preferences for class times. The dojo leadership used that information to create a new schedule for 2018 that should benefit both students and the instructors.
Changed: Youth classes to Tuesday/Thursday beginning at 5:30 instead of 5:00
Added: Adult general class on Tuesday/Thursday following youth class. Class begins at 6:30.
Removed: Classes at 5:30 AM on Tuesday/Thursday and no regularly scheduled classes on Friday.
We will begin this new schedule on January 3rd, 2018.
Shugyo is a term used to describe activities, usually arduous, used to train the spirit. This isn’t really the same thing as spiritual training but rather developing one’s hara, grit, ability to “take it.”
At the beginning of this month’s Adult Basic class we, as typical, discussed how Aikido helps us develop the ability to thrive in many of life’s most difficult circumstances. Part of the training designed to develop this ability is focused on the spirit. Our bodies are great, they help us move around, and interface with other things in our environment. However, our bodies also have some limitations. There is only a certain amount of pain, fatigue, hunger, and oxygen deprivation that they can endure. A well trained spirit can help us change our relationship to these factors. These experiences are all sensations that we experience and that everyone else experiences in their lives. These are not things that stop us from accomplishing our goals but rather signs that tell us we are in the process of accomplishing our goals.
Throughout the first week of December (12/4 – 12/8) our dojo will provide an opportunity for training our spirits. At 5:15-6:30 each morning we will do breathing exercises as a group. This training, combined with our regular evening classes, will lead to strong development in our practice.
By Nate Weed
November brings several cultural opportunities to be thankful. (Even though we can actually choose to be thankful every day.) One of those opportunities is Veterans Day on November 11th when we can demonstrate our appreciation of our veterans. Within the martial ways, there is a connection among the concepts, mindsets, training objectives, and approaches to combat and warfare. As 21st century Americans, it’s common to look at these concepts and automatically turn our mind to violence and destruction. However, we, as martial artists, apply the perspective of budo and armistice – both words meaning peace, setting aside arms, and restoring harmony.
Within any martial endeavor, doctrine shapes how those involved will behave. Commanders use doctrine and turn it into leader’s intent – a description of what what success will look like. From the leader’s intent, officers select strategies that can be applied to meet the leader’s intent. Finally, the martial practitioners develop tactics to implement those strategies.
In every martial art and every martial discipline this logic establishes a decentralized and empowering path. The Aikido doctrine is to maintain peace and restore harmony where it is missing. Senior sensei’s craft clear leader’s intent describing how aikidoka will develop awareness to a level that they can recognize conflict early and resolve it without injuring any party. Senior students, informed by the leader’s intent, select strategies for teaching, enabling, and reinforcing key principles among their fellow students. Finally, as individual martial artists, we apply the techniques in the dojo and struggle to apply the principles behind those techniques in our relationships and our lives. And, through this process each of us is doing our part to help our communities realize the doctrine of Aikido – creating peace.
In September, I read a book called Leader’s Eat Last, by Simon Sinek. I had heard his TED Talk about the biochemistry of meeting goals, being rewarded, and building trust. It seemed interesting and when he released his new book, I decided to check it out.
This was an interesting book and it certainly illuminated several key elements of leadership and how they play off of our own human biochemistry. For example, when we reach a goal our bodies often release dopamine. This hormone makes us feel good but it’s also a chemical closely related to addiction. If our bodies and actions are in harmony, this works out great because as we do things for others, our bodies release serotonin which fills us with feelings of wellbeing. Finally, there is oxytocin which is the key hormone related to trust and is released with positive physical contact.
This could also be the biochemistry of Aikido, or perhaps an aim of Aikido is to better help us maintain harmony among these chemicals. In the pursuit of any martial art, one must set goals, identify milestones, and so forth. This keeps us motivated and keeps us training hard. On the other hand, our training partners are essential to our practice and when we focus on helping them improve and excel, we have the opportunity to balance dopamine with seratonin. Best of all, Aikido encourages the release of one of the most powerful hormones, oxytocin. This trust-creating hormone allows us to further our practice as individuals and as a dojo. So whether we’re seeking to improve our leadership or deepen our practice of aikido, if we dig to the foundation of human biochemistry, Aikido and leadership might be the same thing.
This September is National Preparedness Month. And as I’m writing this, I ‘m heading to Texas to support the national response to Hurricane Harvey. This month focuses on planning for the small and the large disasters, with an overarching theme “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.”
In Budo (Martial Ways) our path is becoming more prepared in many ways- physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This preparedness can be personal and focus on our selves but it is perhaps as important to look at how our individual preparedness increases the overall resilience of our whole community.
We should all take action to prepare! We may be the first first-responders in our community if a disaster occurs. And, by training how to respond during an emergency and what to do when disaster strikes — where we live, work, and train – we can model the Budo in our community, making it healthier, safer, and more resilient when disasters happen.