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!
By Jim West
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
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