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Building a Civil Society with Martial Arts Training

“F**k you!” My Monday morning greeting from a third grader I was meeting for the first time as the substitute teacher in a suburban mid-west town.  I was struck by the intensity of his emotions. His face contorted with anger, body tensed with fear. What could cause such a reaction from an 8 year old? What was going on in his life that this was his way of communicating? How did he learn this behavior? How as a society have we allowed this behavior to become more and more common?

 

Read more on how martial arts training can aid in develpoing a more civil society.  Click here to read the article at Medium   (this will open a new window.

Every Day a New Chance

The calendar pages are about to turn on another year as well as a decade. It is traditional among many of the world’s cultures to take a moment and reflect on what has been and consider what is about to be. Kagami Biraki is one of these traditions.

Kagami Biraki, or breaking the mirror, encourages us to look at what we see reflected back to us, shatter it, then over the new year strive to improve our reflection, our image of ourself. In this way we strive to see teachings in a new way. We look for more depth in the knowledge we seek. We work to improve ourselves in some small aspect that can be a benefit to those around us.

While we may make this practice ceremonial each year at this time there is no reason that this emptying of the cup in preparation for growth can not be a daily practice. Consider my bread starter. Twice each day, every day, I feed the child. I take a very small spoon’s worth out and give the small seed a bit of flour and water. While throwing the rest out, Again and again the same thing.

I have been asked what part of the starter do you save? All of the parts. The seed is stronger with all of its parts just as we are stronger with all of our parts. I mix the stringy part together with the more body-full part and with the wetter part. Together they form to just the right tension, body and life, that when given the proper attention will make a beautiful loaf of bread.

We enter the dojo and bow, in a way shattering the mirror that has followed us in our day, throwing out the unneeded. On the mat we are challenged to be empty of preconception and judgment. In this way we absorb a new lesson and let it feed us, becoming part of us, just as I feed the little bit of seed each day.

Let Aikido work through you without confines of yesterday’s lessons. In this way your exploration is joyous and fresh each day. When you walk out of the dojo your reflection will hopefully be a bit different then when you walked in.

Growth Through Consistency

Any growth activity requires that we stretch our edges, extend our boundaries a bit. This is how we learn, how we grow, how we engage with challenges.

Twenty some odd years ago Aikido class was held only two evenings a week for about 90 minutes. You know where I would be found each Tuesday and Thursday evenings. With those being my only two options for class it was necessary to organize my schedule so that those two times were dedicated to class. It would take quite a disruption to my schedule to make me miss a class.

Now with classes 6 days a week, day and evening there is the same challenge with different qualities. The same challenge exists to prioritize time for a consistent training schedule. The qualitative differences are that we have more options and therefore more opportunities to say “there is always tomorrow.”

Consistent intentional training is the most important part of our training, in any growth activity. Each time we look at technique and feel technique we are able to better define what we are seeing. Through filtered lenses we observe. As we understand what we see in one filter we move it aside and explore the information the next filter has to offer. Eventually we build an understanding based on many layers of information (think about the images we get from the Hubble telescope). Just when we think we’ve got it we realize that there are more depths, more filters to look through.

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Aiki Bread

I recently began baking bread at home. Many of you know I have from time to time been a baker for work. Adjusting my methods from a commercial bakery to a very small home kitchen bakery took some thought and considerable math (at least for me). I have not baked in about two years. My mixing and shaping skills had left my finger tips. Mixing and shaping is a challenge made all the more difficult by changing environmental conditions and nuance in ingredient consistency.

In the beginning of bringing my home bakery to life there was the excitement of working with the dough again. Also the realization of the commitment and work that it would entail. Baking with a live culture is like inviting a stranger to room with you.

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Lead Away From Hatred A Call to Action

“The Art of Peace is medicine for a sick world. We want to cure the world of the sickness of violence, malcontent, and discord-this is the Way of Harmony.” O’Sensei

Our world is sick and has been filled with a growing dis-ease. It has gone on in many ways, subtly for a very long time. The hate filled speech and violent actions we are seeing more and more of are symptoms of a world out of balance.

“The purpose of the Art of Peace is to fashion sincere human beings,...one who is free of hesitation or doubt, and one who understands the power of words.” O’Sensei

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Open the Door

The first step is to open the door. You can not step through the threshold of a new experience without first opening the door. Next open your chest wide and breath in deeply, now step into the dojo. And so begins the journey of Aikido. A journey that teaches us to enter into conflict with open minds, open hearts, and open hands.

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Hey Dad, Grab My Wrist!

An eight-year-old stands in good hanmi with right hand extended in invitation, “Hey Dad, grab my wrist.” Dad walks up taking his son’s invitation in a cross hand grab. Dad is quickly introduced to the mat as son steps in performing a kokyunage. Father and son exchange grins, the elder’s in approval, the child’s in glee. As father gets up off the mat he is met with the next invitation, this time from Mom.

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Come Together

In class one night I was instructing irimi nage. In doing so I said to bring uke's cheek and nage's bicep together. Interestingly this was interpreted as forcing uke's head to nage's arm. This of course set up a struggle. Uke fought, nage pulled harder, tensing the shoulders and stiffening the next movement of tenkan, pivot.

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Investing In Self-Aiki Investing

During this time of down turned economy we all know someone who's investments have lost. We all know of someone with a tragic story, lost retirement, lost home, families breaking under the stress. At these times we are reminded of the fragile nature of our material world.

There is an investment that we can each make that will create opportunities for true wealth building. The potential to not only grow our personal wealth but the wealth of our family, our community, our nation, our world.

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A State of Openness


Not that I would ever want to admit that doing kids classes is good for me but I feel it only necessary to attribute the beginning of the following concept to being in kids class. Consider yourself warned.

Often in class I will see a technique or opening and think I've done that one before or oh thats just like the one we did Monday. I believe this to be a common part of the human existence, to make things more palatable to my mind I connect it to something my mind is already familiar with.

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Leadership Posture

"A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind."
O'Sensei

"What makes someone credible?" or "Why do we trust someone?" These questions were asked by Albert Mehrabian in his book Silent Messages. The answer in his studies and confirmed by many studies after, 7% content, 38% voice, tone, and tempo, and 55% body language

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