Thursday, December 15, 2011
Sunday, December 4, 2011
I used to say I hate shiho nage or I can't do it. Of course that became self fulfilling.
I decided to change my mind about it. I couldn't say I loved shihonage yet but I said that "I am embracing shiho nage". "I am exploring shiho nage."
Sure enough, it got better. Especially after we stopped going to camps because now I was doing one way with minor changes instead of a whole change of technique.
The "Summer of Shiho nage" changed everything. Stepping into my fears and frustrations was the key. I broke it down to three steps: L step, hands on a horizontal plain, then bend ukes elbow. I taught and practiced shiho nage every class this summer. My understanding of the mechanics and how to use Ki instead of hand strength grew with day of practice.
I can't believe I can tell you I love shiho nage now. I can't wait for class today so we can revisit it and see how it feels on this day with each new uke.
Monday, November 21, 2011
The oak leaf has fallen. The wind is very cool,with a promise winter. My back is warmed by the still balmy afternoon Autumn sun.
connection made deeper by attention to detail,
soft swooping arms,
dramatic movement or not,
there again and again,
ego subjugated by the desire to connect and learn.
Friday, November 11, 2011
My path through my yard and woods is circular. I walk it every day. Every day, nature looks different even though it is the same path.
Today the path is covered with large brown oak leaves. The poison ivy is mostly gone or turned to red. There is much more brown and gray than this summer when many shades of green were the dominant colors. Soon the path will be covered in white. Yet it is the same path through the same woods and yard during all these changes and cycles. Each day a new me walks on a new path even though it is the same me and the same path.
Testing for one point is an important part of ki development for both tester and the person being tested. By pushing with an appropriate amount of pressure the tester provides the person being tested with the opportunity to find their center and then, to learn to trust their center.
As a beginning reference we teach the center is 2 inches below the belly button. I could not feel my inner center at first so I had to practice feeling my center was where my hand rested on my skin 2 inches below my belly button.
As I continued to do ki exercises and aikido technique I learned what my inner center felt like. When I was a second kyu I decided to trust that feeling and my real inner strength started to develop.
The repeated falling, rolling and contact of aikido techniques with a partner presented me with opportunities to experiment and learn what felt most dependable for me. I progressed though times of power bursts and complacency. Both periods affording unique opportunities for me to meet myself and work though ego challenges.
The process of having one point and developing strong ki is a remarkable journey. No one can hand you the secret. Correct feeling can be developed by anyone through devoted training. Part of becoming an integrated martial artist is developing a sense of self. We don’t need experts to explain secrets to us anymore than we need priests to define the word of god to us. The secret is there is no secret.
Ki development provides one way to develop inner strength though the practice of ki exercises aikido technique and principles of non violence. Power over is discouraged as we train together so we all become stronger. A sense of compassionate understanding and appreciation of differences are all by products of non-competitive training, along with the desire to continue to learn and teach. There are no short cuts on this circular path. It is an enduring practice.
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
On my walk today I came across a huge oak leaf…it was mostly green with red edges. This leaf would have been huge on a big tree. However, this really big oak leaf was clinging to a single twig that was growing from a dead wood pile. The twig is about a foot and a half high and literally a twig. I can’t give you a dimension because I can’t talk that small.
So the huge leaf is hanging there and I started thinking about what would happen to this leaf when it let go. It probably would fall directly under where it hung and eventually turn into soil. I went out this afternoon to take some pictures of the leaf for my blog and it was still hanging there. I wonder if leaves let go easily or do they have to have their grips pried off like I do sometimes.
I notice when I let go of things and don’t try to fix me or others, my life is just fine. When I get into fix mode is when I get into problems. I neglect my own work, play and study and get busy with others. I notice that others don’t love to be fixed. They don’t love to be fixed even when I am undercover and they don’t know I am fixing them. They can still feel the energy they may just not know where it is coming from. I can tell, though. When I am sticking my hand, head or heart into somewhere where it’s not supposed to be it hurts. I feel really uncomfortable and often my stomach is in knots.
Aikido practice helps me notice when I shifted out of myself and onto fixing someone else. There is a difference between fixing and really helping. Fixing feels bad because my motives are bad. I have the, “I know better” state of mind. Helping feels okay because I am not attached to the outcome. I can help and have no hands on the results.
When I am nage I can practice patient and tolerance, and then guide my uke. If I am feeling impatience or lack of tolerance, I notice in my body. My hands will feel grabby or I will feel frustrated with how uke is moving. I know when I am trying to muscle my uke around by my inner reaction. If I am complaining about my uke in my head I know I am doing something ineffective.
Uke is like the big green, red tinged oak leaf hanging on her tiny branch until it is time to let go. When that time comes I guide her gently through the motions of the throw to a positive resolution of a gentle but powerful fall.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
It really is still fall, or Autumn. We have 17 inches of snow that is a beautiful contrast to the red yellow, green and brown leaves that still cling to the deciduous trees. I can almost hear the trees whining " Alright already, Mr. Sun, shine on me and melt this frigging snow so I can stand up straight again!" Some of the trees have just laid their branches down, too weary to hold them all up with weight of snow on the leaves. Main St., Great Barrington has shattered pear trees all over the sidewalks.
I accept what is. Snow in October is one of the blessings of living in New England. It is not an ordinary occurrence but it happens. It creates mystery and beauty. The sky this morning was October blue with bruised storm clouds, a little late in leaving. The sun shines on little snow showers as the branches shake and return to straightness. The mountains are dark green and yellow and white all accentuated by brilliant sun light. Not a sight I am used to but lovely just the same.
Uke tells nage where to go, nage goes, uke follows, all without a sound or moving on the outside.
Thursday, October 27, 2011
It's raining this morning. The leaves are colorful and muted. My morning walk was only partly accompanied by others in my head. Prayer and quiet time left me alone with god and nature on my path that wind through my yard, then in and out of the woods.
Yesterday was one of those days that rise up and the winds blow in circles and months of something gets said. Speaking up is uncomfortable for me. I do it anyway. Aikido training teaches me that it is just that; training. My actions are not reprehensible nor should I be ashamed of myself as one gentleman told me I should be. I can just do my best.
I have noticed that the discussions on Aikiweb are constantly being derailed. Hardly anyone talks about Aikido anymore. Anyone that tries to gets called politically correct or too sensitive. I think about leaving and have taken a couple of breaks, yet, I want community.
I like John Stevens’ translations; I like Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere. I know people can develop inner strength without competition. I know that the peacefulness of Aikido does not have to drop because you are afraid that other people will beat you up. This warring culture of MMA and corporate greed needs peace. I love the Daily Doka. I appreciate Jun’s efforts in keeping Aikiweb a place for everyone’s point of view. I renew my effort to stay on my side of the street. If I don't want get stung I need to keep my hands out of the wasp's nest.
Listening with my body, I perceive through my center, my mind rests.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
We used to have a gentleman that trained with us that was so much fun to train with. He had a self deprecating air. He could see himself and chuckle. I miss him. I see he is still training at another dojo in another state. We have exchanged pleasantries on the internet but that was it.
I notice myself feeling sad about that sometimes. We have had a dojo for a long time; Ron for 30 years and me for 19. We have seen a lot of students come and go. Some I am glad to see go and others stay with me after they leave.
This gentleman sometimes slipped into baseball mode. He would act like he was playing second base and start hopping around and getting syked. After being gently reminded that this was another way to be he would notice himself and change.
Ah, nostalgia… back to the present. The seasons are changing…the leaves are in full color. The light is slanting and magnificent.
We have class tonight. Classes have been small and really fun. Technique is changing and expanding in and out of self- defense and ki development. I accept what is and move on. Maybe the time of teaching beginners has ended and this is a new phase. I accept.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Fall comes early in the Berkshires. “Summer of shiho nage” is coming to a close. The rains of Tropical Depression Lee have subsided for the moment leaving the woods washed and shiny. Poison ivy and red berries are contrasting green and red, foreshadowing holidays to come. The end of summer light is slanted and forgiving. Mushrooms parade on rotten logs, their subtle tans and browns muted by the green of again, poison ivy. The “summer of shiho nage” has really deepened my understanding of the technique as uke and nage. I am relaxing more as uke and extending ki with my whole self not just my hands as I enter as nage.
As the “fall of the earnest uke” begins I will again commit to an idea and train through that idea. I noticed this summer when students were reminded to attack in a more committed way, they did so. So my idea “fall of the earnest uke" was born. Some people are naturally good ukes. They understand the give and take nature of aikido training. Others are good nages and need encouragement to really understand the nature of attack and then follow like you don’t know what is going to happen. I delight in this challenge and look forward to what we will learn this fall. I anticipate days filled with color and soft autumn light. There is no place like the Berkshires in the fall.
Friday, August 12, 2011
It's still the summer of shiho nage. The day has dawned cool, with no humidity...the greens are emerald and yellowish...birdsong and squirrel chatter fills the air. Summer is still here in the Berkshires yet I can feel autumn sliding in with a bit of color here and a cool breeze there. All the seasons are welcome to me..and summer is now and precious because it is now.
I felt sloppy in my shiho nage practice last night...it could be because I was sleepy but I think it was because I was not neat. I hurried...my shower and comfy bed were calling. Distracted from the now I missed the wonder of blended movement. I will be mindful on my morning practice so as not miss a moment of shigo nage in this short summer of my life.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Dora came to class tonight…we decided to practice tomorrow even if just the three of us showed up but for tonight we would rest. Ron always feels a little sad when we don’t have class…he thinks students are all going away. I look at it like the universe gives us space to rest sometimes because we need it. He and I did a little stick work and we will do our ki exercises again before bed. August is always a quiet month because so many people go on vacation. When I first started training Ron used to close the dojo in August…he forgets that now but I remember straining at the bit for the whole month just waiting for the next class. Now we stay open and have really small classes or none at all. People will be back in September…I open my arms and my heart to embrace a plethora of old and new students.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Tonight at the end of class we did an interesting ki exercise. All nage was to do was to focus on their center no matter what way uke moved them. Uke moved nage in any direction in a manner not to overpower nage but to challenge nage in keeping their center.
I noticed such a peaceful feeling as uke moved my shoulders and my hips in many directions. Uke could only move me so far until the energy ran down into the ground and just went away.
My shoulders and arms got more relaxed. My posture adjusted naturally and calmness surrounded me.
Monday, July 25, 2011
Drifting? What the heck is that? It’s sort of like taking up slack…but it is really paying more attention to which way uke wants to go and letting them go that way. Every time I am grabbed I notice where uke is heading. By letting uke go in the direction they want to… all resistance disappears.
By paying attention from my center I am able to let my uke lead and follow simultaneously as I start the technique that will happen between us. The world gets quiet and still as uke grabs and follows as I lead the drift and connection that creates the feeling that is Aikido. The peace and relaxation that follows calms my spirit and restores harmony in me and hopefully my uke.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
This can be a long, lonely journey or one that is a complete adventure. Each class provides yet another opportunity to meet yourself.
My journey is both…though mostly, lately it is filled with joy. I have hung in there though the hard parts. Through classes that seemed like I am never going to get it and that everyone else gets it. Through times where people have left our dojo because of what and how I was teaching. Through times where Ron’s teacher acted badly and I wanted to leave and Ron wasn’t ready to leave yet. Through times where my oldest daughter was missing for months and I would cry at every class. Through classes where there was 25 people on the mat and times where there is 3 including Ron and I. Through a dojo that was in a dirty youth center basement where the roof leaked and kids ran all over the mat with their shoes on. Through teaching everywhere and anywhere I could; churches, schools, colleges, town fairs, inside and outside, company seminars, weird collections of various martial arts events, strange summer camps…anywhere that would have me.
Now, here we are at a beautiful dojo that is attached to my house. We have classes 4 days a week so Ron and I get to train all the time. We get to do ki exercises together most mornings.
Thank you to all our students. Thank you for those who show up 4 times a week, twice a week and once a week. Thank you to the students that just come to seminars. Thank you to all the students who came… trained for a while and stopped for whatever reason. Thank you to the students who left angry and frustrated. You have all taught me so much.
Thank you to the students who pay your dues every month on time. Thank you to students who pay what they can when they can. Thank you to the students who pay extra for students who can’t pay. Thank you to the student who paid $500 a month dues when we first started teaching in our present town when we had 4 teenagers and not much income.
Thank you all for showing up so we can train. To me that is all that matters. All the rest is just blather in the wind. You and I and all the rest who come that particular day make joy. We connect, we throw, we fall, we work on ki development, we sweat and then we go back into our lives a little lighter and a little more able to be present in whatever the day throws at us.
Thank you, Thank you. Thank you…I can’t thank you enough. I am so grateful for you all.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
This morning I had a moment that almost hurt with joy. It was a small class. The sun was shining. All the windows and doors were open giving the illusion of being outside. The air was clear. The fans created a slight breeze. I could smell woods, blossoms and sweat.
We were practicing ryote tori shiho nage... focusing on bending uke's elbow with the second hand, keeping nage's arms on a horizontal plane and doing an L step.
I used to Hate, Hate, Hate shiho nage. A couple of years ago I decided to change my perspective. I embraced shiho nage.
At first, I was definitely acting as if. Now I am loving it. I am still not great at it. There are awkward moments. However, my self acceptance and my openness to each unique uke and moment are increasing.
I have declared this the summer of shiho nage. Each class we do shiho nage from some attack. I am focusing on three fundamental aspects. Who knows? By winter the awkward moments could be less as I relax more and more.
I let go of the beauty of the morning to be in this moment with a little reget. Summer passes so swiftly.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The green cathedral that is my yard is awash with early morning light. The barrenness of winter is gone, replaced with subtle shades of green accented by filmy streaming yellow light. Birdsong blends with the slight rustle of leaves as Mr. Chip scurries to his haven in the gnarly apple tree. The splendor of late spring is more apparent than winter’s beauty yet every season holds its own wonder when I take time to look and listen.
Last night in class Ron changed a technique ever so slightly and corrected me every time I did it my way. I wanted to argue and rebel. Then I saw and heard myself. I quieted. I did my best to do the technique the way he was teaching. My mind was not as open as it is sometimes. I did some inner grumbling and outward explaining. Then I shut up and focused on class.
Every moment in class doesn’t feel fun yet every moment is important to my development. I don’t have to comfortable to learn. I brought some of the outer world onto the mat last night… a lucrative business deal that fell through, my daughter’s broken foot and a still sore knee. By the time class was over perspective was regained. My ego was right sized, my mind relaxed and my body tired from a good class with good people.
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
Two Canada geese rose up together from the rippling, slate gray, green pond. Their flight separated by inches. I could feel the blending and connection as their wings beat in unison to gain height. They rose first then turned in unison. All wings moving together… so close…never touching except in energy and movement. Barren wheat fields lay beneath the geese. The air smelled of snow and the promise of green beneath the brown and yellow shafts.
Winter is ending, yet here in the Berkshires each sign of spring must be mentioned and relished. I saw crocuses today and now it is snowing. I bought some daffodils to remind me of summer’s sunshine.
I have been really sick with flu. The yellow blossoms and the geese remind me that soon I will be back on the mat…spring will really be here and all is well right now.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Yesterday Ron and I practiced a short jo kata with spatulas in the living room. He was resistance at first but why not? The flippies were a little weird yet when we demonstrated before the class it worked just like I knew it would.
During Ki exercises yesterday we did a ki testing where first we tested for one point traditionally at the shoulder. Then we grabbed our partner’s arm; ryote tori, pulling gently, consciously helping them establish and develop the centered feeling. Then the puller dropped their partner’s arm randomly. If the partner was not centered and was cheating just a little it was revealed by their loss of balance.
I could feel the pull from the arm going down my legs as I focused on my center. Practicing centering is such an interesting way to experience our bodies. The head mind is quieted as we rely on our centered feeling, 2 inches below the belly button. I feel plugged in, in question and open to subtle direction. I love it!
Saturday, February 19, 2011
It snowed today. The wind blew white waves across the barren corn fields. Sun played with our heads by shining brightly, calling us out to play. Shocking briskness greeted us as we hurried to the car tricked by yesterday’s tease.
In class this morning I felt roily. I wanted to argue and explain. We don’t. So I quieted and trained. My center returned. I was still confused but not frustrated. So much depends on the willingness to commit to myself over and over. Wanting to blame and rationalize only distract from the truth. It’s not you. It’s me. I can change one class at a time. Patience please, with the process. Spring always comes.
Friday, February 4, 2011
Does the air always sparkle when it is cold and sunny? This morning looking out at my mountain and yard I was moved to tears by the beauty I live in. Hard choices have brought me to this life. It is totally worth every single thing I have not gotten to be right here right now.
I may never be rich or famous yet I am rich and known and loved by some. That is enough and “Enough is as good as a feast”. I am excited about the seminar on Sunday and class tomorrow.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
There are sparkles in the air today, the faeries must be flying. The mountain is strong and deep blue. I can see the cold. The wind chime is blowing. I believe there are tinkles and can hear them in my mind.
Last night 2 women showed up for class despite the weather. We did a whole class on ki development. The exercise that freaked me out on Saturday was more comfortable last night. I could find my center and move despite the invasive posture of the tester. Progress comes to those who train and train. Who said that? :o)
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
I see no mountain today. I see suggestion of a light blue shape behind filmy white. The black and brown of tree trunks and limbs contrast in the gray of the winter rain. I trust the mountain is still there though I can’t see it.
Saturday’s class was like that. A flashback triggered PTSD…I feet nauseous and teary and the beginnings of a migraine. I step out of class to eat a banana and to remind myself that what happened was in the past. This day I am safe. I can feel my feet on the floor. I take deep breathes.
Ron encouraged me to come back to class after a gentle hug. I finished class trusting in the process. Classes that feel the worst usually offer breakthrough. Sunday’s class was focused on two beginners. In giving I find my mountain again. It is always there.
Monday, January 31, 2011
What color is a shadow? Purple, absence of white, bluish black? It depends who is looking at it. The mountain looks black, the hot ball of fire is directly in front of me making me squint and shy away. Long thick shadows cover the snow that still looks fresh save for small animal tracks. All is well.
Shomen attack can make people squint and shy away…yet they are safer if they enter or turn…
What color is Ki? Is it red or deep blue? It must depend on who is feeling it. Mine feels deep and dark and good. My center got shook up in the last couple of weeks by events of the past. It is part of the process…before my ki deepens it scatters and percolates then it settles and becomes more dependable. I stay with the process…the feelings shift on and off the mat. All is well.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
The mountain is the color of old blue jeans, the sky so light a gray it is pearly, almost white but not. The trees are dull gray and brown, no flirty sunlight to make the colors dance. A quiet cold surrounds me, am I lonely or peaceful?
A lone crow just flew overhead. Ki exercises felt dreamlike this morning. I had better get to the grocery store before I sit for the whole morning just because I don’t want to scrape the snow off my car or hear the crunch of snow under my feet. Acceptance doesn’t mean I have to love something…acceptance means I see what is real right now…the feeling will shift as I keep moving.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
The snow is barely visible yet it is falling steadily again. The trees are all outlined with white from the burly knots to the tiniest needle on the huge evergreens that surround our house. Gray sky, purple mountain, silent snow, muted white outlined greens and browns make it seem like I am alone in a quiet world.
Tonight the dojo will be warm and filled with good folks. I love the feeling of days we have class. I do winter one day at a time. I can get though another day. Soon will be the January thaw…and then spring and then July when I feel young again on the mat in the warmth of summer.
Sunday, January 23, 2011
Today in class we worked on exaggerating our posture, opening our chests and exposing our hearts. During freestyle I noticed one student’s posture stayed more open than usual. High hopes.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Slowly drifting snow is changed to faery dust sparkling through the trees by the wan January sun. My mood has shifted as easily to peace and joy and contentment. I can’t change the world or fix a sad child. I can come from a place of love consistently for myself and others. It wasn’t always so. My training has changed my perception of what is and what can be. Plain snow can turn to sparkles in a moment of quiet.
I just got back inside from an hour of shoveling show. Who needs the gym? Faery dust gets really heavy on the ground. ;o) The dojo is ready for class tomorrow morning.
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
The other day the sun made long blue shadows on the fresh white snow. Today we have a wintry mix. The light is even and duller, no shadows, just soft hues of grey, brown, green and blue accented by white snow.
Ukes are like that. Each day, each uke brings new opportunities to relax, blend and explore. Assumptions can be acknowledged and then let go. When resistance is met I relax more, I turn or enter as I blend and down they go. Each time I choose to stay with, to let my center return, to be committed to my uke, my practice, my growing centered feeling. I watch. I notice. I feel. I continue. No matter what my mind might think, my center knows better.