I was reminded recently of a Japanese saying heard while training both in Seattle and in Hawaii – Okage sama de – I am what I am because of you. In the context of Aikido training, the saying was modified slightly to – Sensei, okage sama de – Teacher, I am what I am because of you. It was on honorific statement of gratitude to our teachers as we reflected on all they had given us.
In our training, Okage sama de takes on a broader meaning. We are what we are in part because of our teachers, but also because of our uke during class, our parents, our ancestors, our families, our environment – all the people and things we experience every day. If we are present we benefit greatly from everything in our life.
As Maruyama Sensei says, ‘I have faith in life, and life responds in kind.’ Enjoy this beautiful day, our beautiful city, and each other as we prepare for demonstrations this Friday – and of course a snack-luck!
This month, Aikido Olympia will host promotional examinations. At our dojo, these are opportunities for all of us to get together and support those testing and to socialize afterwords. The approach we take to testing is that people will train hard to be able to successfully demonstrate their techniques and the instructors can typically tell when people have been training hard. Then those people who choose to test themselves by embracing vulnerability and entering into the experience with intentionality and ki. There will be some techniques that the sensei will want to see, and there will be some moments where things don’t come together exactly as planned. Regardless, when everyone has completed their demonstrations, we will all get together and share some food. (It’s a potluck but usually we keep the fare a bit lighter so we call it a “snackluck.”) If you have any questions, please ask one of the sensei or senior students.
In April, my family invited a new puppy to come and live with us. As expected, the cute, furry, little bundle of energy was basically just a wild animal who chewed things up and pretty much did whatever she wanted. The question was quickly raised, “How do we get her to behave?” This is a reaction that many of us have when faced with someone or something that doesn’t conform to our expectations. It’s also a reaction that practicing Aikido is intended to overcome.
So what’s the alternative? The alternative to trying to change someone else’s behavior is to look at ourselves and change how we’re behaving. Those familiar with the youth classes at Aikido Olympia, may know that we’ve considered making their slogan: “You can’t change other people, you can only change yourself!” As we’ve been helping the puppy learn how to live in a home with people who have behavior expectations for dogs, it turns out that the most important changes we make are to our own behavior. Furthermore, we’ve all realized that the real learning lies in becoming consistent with those behaviors and with our expectations.
The youth Aikido instructors have been considering ways to evolve our classes to best serve the young people who come to Aikido Olympia. This month, we are going to maintain a high tempo with lots of game-like activities and an emphasis on mindfulness. Breathing exercise and sweeping up at the end of class will also be part of each class.
Aikido Olympia will host a seminar with Maruyama Sensei over next year’s memorial day weekend. Maruyama Sensei, the founder of Aikido Yuishinkai and his successor, Mr. Motegi are planning to come to Olympia Washington May 20 to May 27 2020.
This is a rare and exceptional opportunity for all of us and we need to begin planning soon. Some of the tasks that need to be accomplished include fund raising, advertising, making travel arrangements, and a variety of logistical details.
If you’re interested in helping with these efforts, there is a sign-up form at the front of the dojo and the Aikido Olympia Board of Directors (or at least some of them) will be convening the kick-off meeting near the end of may.
Maruyama Sensei, founder of Aikido Yuishinkai, our style of Aikido, will be coming to Olympia for a Seminar for all May 20-27, 2020. Save the date over this Memorial Day weekend for special training with Maruyama Sensei and his appointed successor, Mr. Motegi.
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.
Aikido Olympia will host our spring testing on March 15th! A whole dojo class will begin at 5:30 with the test following. Even if you’re not testing, it’s great having everyone there sharing their kiai.
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.
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.