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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, who is free of hesitation or doubt, and one who understands the power of words.” O’Sensei

While working in the social service industry working with mostly homeless and those coming out of the prison system I experienced first hand how our speech can be as brutal to the emotions and mind as constant body blows can be to the physical body. This was not just true of those we served but I saw it grow in our own service professionals that were constantly bombarded with this level of violence.

Witnessing this I developed a training program addressing this issue with both staff and client. This training drew heavily on Aikido, other conflict resolution teachings and communication methods. The most enlightening part was just watching people become aware of something that had so slowly crept into their being that it was unnoticed. Once the pattern was pointed out motivation was easily found to make the necessary change.

I am old enough and young enough to remember the race riots and wars of the 1960’s and ‘70’s. I experienced the tearing apart of family, and neighbors.

I remember a time in the early ‘80’s I had to tell my drivers for an airfreight company to not stop for stranded motorist in Northern Idaho because of a Neo-Nazi group that was ambushing people. My life, as many of yours, has been profoundly shaped by those times. Times I do not want to repeat.

Any of us that have trained in Aikido for any length of time has been asked, “why do you train in Aikido?” My answer has always been for the last 33 years, ” to save the world, one uke at a time.”

“Aikido is a vehicle for preserving and fostering human life, a means of preventing murder and mayhem” O’ Sensei

As practitioners of Aikido, as explorers of the Way of Harmony we are uniquely qualified, and positioned to foster peace and healing in our world. I can’t count the number of times I have been feeling off, dark, or out of balance, gotten up and put some solid energy into kata or into just shadow Aikido. The immediate re-balancing and return to lightness is undeniable.

O’Sensei was known to perform kata before a demonstration to clear the air and re-balance the energy. Is this not what we are doing each day and night in our practice at the dojo? When Fumio Toyoda sensei passed on to eternity no one was quite sure of what to do with all of the emotion....well, except that everyone just started showing up at the dojo and trained, and trained, and trained....

“Aikido is the study of the spirit” O’Sensei

In our practice of the physical movements of our technique we learn to lead. We learn to feel tension in our partner as well as in ourselves. We learn to see the bigger picture. We learn how to create space.We learn how to fill space. We learn how to take the energy of an attack directed at us and turn it so it
has no real target and so is released back to the universe not contained, not contested, harmless.

“Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within.” O’Sensei

I did not have much time with Toyoda sensei but he certainly touched me and there were a few moments and sayings that are constant companions of mine. “What is your intention?” Perhaps the most powerful question we can ask ourselves and a question we need to ask of ourselves often.

If our intention is to study Aikido we can not mindlessly make our practice wrote. We must make it a mindful exploration of all aspects of Aikido and how that can effect our lives off the mat.

“Victory over oneself is the primary goal of our training. We focus on the spirit rather than the forms, the kernel rather than the shell.” O’Sensei
“Fiddling with this
And that technique
Is of no avail.
Simply act decisively
Without reserve.” O’Sensei

I encourage all of us that practice this Art of Peace to “simply act decisively, without reserve.” Do this by applying the lessons of Aikido in everything you do on and off the mat. Take every opportunity to share your Aikido with the world. Take every opportunity to challenge yourselves to be a better human.

A Call to Action

As Aikidoka we are in a position to lead the conversation and thereby lead our communities to a more peaceful way of being. Train hard in the dojo so that you may extend what you have learned to the larger community.

Our dojo will be hosting a training seminar with emphasis on training for peace in the next few weeks. More information to come.

I will also begin exploring off the mat training with local community groups so that those who are unable to join us on the mat can still benefit and contribute.

I am interested in hearing more ideas on how we as students of Aikido can use our super powers for good.

“Everyone has a spirit that can be refined, a body that can be trained in some manner, a suitable path to follow. You are here for no other purpose than to realize your inner divinity and manifest your inner enlightenment. Foster peace in your own life and then apply the Art to all that you encounter.” O’Sensei

It is no longer enough for us to keep our training in the dojo. We must positively engage with our communities. We have too much to offer, we have a responsibility to our world. Take the lead, create a better more peaceful world!

James Landry Dojo Cho Roshinkan Aikido Dojo

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."

"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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Aikido At Work

How can an Aikido class for your office help at work? What might the benefits of an entire department, work group or agency training in Aikido be? While teaching in Chicago we had a software company that encouraged their employees to participate in a company sponsored Aikido class held twice a week during an extended lunch period.

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Ukemi: “To Catch with Your Body”

In reading an interview of Toyoda Shihan I was particularly struck by this phrase, “to catch with your body.” I knew ukemi translated into something like that but didn't know exactly what the translation was mostly because the business of ukemi is usually filling my mind when I think of ukemi. This statement, to catch with my body, reminds me of the personalness of Aikido.

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