Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Aikido

Aikido is going back to what we knew when we were born before social niceties bred it out of us. When children don’t want to be around  Grandpa or don’t want to kissed by Auntie Lou that should be respected. It could be that Auntie smells bad or it could be that she is really mean and untrustworthy. Or it could be that the child just doesn't want to be hugged by that person on that day.

This Christmas I got to see Aikido at its finest being practiced by my grandson, Tony, age 5, who has been on our mat a bit only to twirl and run and laugh.

First, let me tell that Tony is not shy. When he was 3 he would walk up to anyone and say, “Hi, friend.” And he is sometimes not friendly. He has hit other kids when bothered too much and also knows how to use his words to take care of himself.

Tony and family were getting ready to exit after our Christmas gathering. He was giving hugs and kisses to everyone. He came up to my daughter Emily’s boyfriend Jay who he does not know every well. Tony was going in for the hug and then realized he was not comfortable with that. You could see the momentary hesitation on his face and in his body language. So Tony gives a huge smile and enters towards Jay and says, “High five.” They slapped out and all was well. It was so graceful; Aikido in action with not one bit of training.

Tony’s action was totally cool with everyone. Nobody said, “Oh Tony, give Jay a big hug.” Tony’s response was accepted as normal. What a long way my family has come. Good for us!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

20 Ideas about how to tell your story to habit holders:

     20 Ideas about how to tell your story to habit holders: 

                                                     (There is 1 in each of us)

1. Forget yourself.

2. Look at the same technique at different speeds.

3. Change the technique slightly.

4. Exaggerate the part you want to change.

5. Let student self correct.

6. Ask questions.

7. Keep repeating the technique until the habit is noticed by the student

8. Move on to something else and return later with the same approach.

9. Move on to something else and return later with a new approach. 

10. Ask for feedback from other students.

11. Do technique with eyes closed.

12. Do technique with one hand.

13. Do technique on one foot.

14. Make suggestions. A little at a time.

15. Be enthusiastic and animated.

16. Praise small achievements. 

17. Speak positively.

18. Talk about your own experiences.

19. Find each person’s currency.

20. Accept that often experienced students are not willing to let go of the familiar.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Will it ever go away? 25 years of training….20 years since he died. A noise, a smell, a word said wrong, a door slammed… can still set the response off. I can go from being perfectly comfortable to crazy adrenaline kicked in, hyper-sensitive, breathing getting choked out of me fear. I can relax through it mostly, nowadays, yet I can’t stop it.

Many a night I stare out the window to catch a glimpse of I don’t know what… straining my ears to hear another sound like the one I thought I just heard. I never believe myself…doubt riddles the fear adding shame to the adrenaline.

Now, I can think and breath…I can check in with Ron about what is real this day. Training does help…as does prayer and compassion for the process of outgrowing how my father showed his love.

Monday, October 1, 2012

uke and nage speak different dialects of the same language

When uke and nage speak different dialects of the same language can communication and deep listening still be accomplished?

This summer we have had a few visitors and a couple of new students. We had a young man who a brown belt in Karate come to a few classes. He was so busy in his head I don’t think he heard or saw anything new. He kept talking and explaining and apologizing. We both are fluent in English yet little communication has occurred. I heard him yet he can’t hear me. He hasn't been back.

Another youngish man has been training regularly since the beginning of the summer. He is very quiet and good humored. He had trained for a few months in an aiki jujitsu style, so he knows how to fall and is very open to rolling. His native language is Spanish so our communication is technique and ukemi and body movements with a little language. I feel like I can hear him and he hears me through aikido.

We had a visitor from Japan from very traditional dojo who was in his 50’s yet appeared much younger, he was so fit and trim. We had a great time training with him. He came to 3 classes and was very teachable and open. We were able to communicate with him mostly through aikido since we speak no Japanese. His English was wonderful but I could understand his Aikido better.

Last week we had another visitor from Eastern Massachusetts. She is from an Aikikai dojo. I look forward to seeing how communication occurs between us.

On another note, I just realized that communication with a long time student has ceased for me because I stopped listening intently and made assumptions based on past interactions. Aikido is so challenging. Even as I feel a bit discouraged over falling short again I am buoyed by the opportunity of becoming a better student and teacher each class.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

sexist and ignorant

Recently I was told I should be spanked for a comment I made to a man on AikiWeb. I found that really offensive. Would he have said this to a man? I think not. I am not a child or a second class citizen who trains. I have been training for 25 years, teaching for 21. My commitment to Aikido is solid. I am going on record in my blog to say that saying a woman should be spanked because you don’t like what she said is sexist and ignorant.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Growth spurts.

I greet the world with open hands on this day, ready to receive. A point that we touched on during the seminar was not using the fingers tips to throw. Not grasping or grabbing just letting and guiding.

Ron suggested to me the other day when I was griping about my ukes that I needed to go more inside. I have been thoughtful about that for many days. At the seminar we did a ki test where I could feel my partner directing me without moving because she was moving my center by moving her center. Thanks, Dora, now I understand a little better what Ron was talking about. I see I have a lot to work on. Yay! It has nothing to do with my ukes. I knew that in my heart yet without the chat with Ron I wouldn’t have known what to do next.

Growth spurts can be hard. I throw too hard; get impatient with people, think I need to drive to Texas….and any other distractions could fit in that blank. Really, what I need is an honest chat with a good friend or in this case, husband and then implement his suggestions into my practice. This is all part of what makes Aikido so interesting.  Of course, hindsight is much nicer than the unrest I was feeling a couple of weeks ago. Yet here is some compassion I hold for myself. I kept training and taking care of my uke. No matter what. The inner stuff is uncomfortable but my process has come to point where it is not noticeable to others.  This is progress. I am accepting the process rather than trying to grab it before I am ready. I am learning to let.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Our summer seminar's theme is "Let's Wrap the World in Peace. For me the inspiration has come from my newest grandson Vinnie. When I hold him, he looks up at me and tells me the secrets of the universe.  I feel at one with what is. I feel at peace.
It seems to me that peace is all around us... accessible at anytime if we but look and feel and let.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vinnie's foot

The picture of Vinnie’s foot inspired me. He has fresh feet that have taken no steps, kissable feet, soft, free from the calluses of life. I wish my little grand boy a splendid journey on his sturdy little feet, filled with the ups and downs of life as my feet have traveled.

My feet have never failed me; through a childhood filled with backyard games of hide and go seek, kick and the can, tag, baseball, kickball etc, through high school and college basketball, and various other sports, not to mention years of waitressing.

On my feet I tended babies, played with tweens and chased my teens. Now I get to repeat it all over again albeit much slower, with my grand boys.

Aikido has been a special project for my feet. I have developed tough soles from years of training. My big toes got broken, little toes dislocated, my big toe nail torn off too many times. All of the above can be trained through when properly taped.

I hope little Vinnie’s feet serve him half as well as my fine, beautifully manicured feet have served me.

(Pink Toes belong to Shannon, Vinnie's toes belong to me, Vinnie's Mimi.)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

church basement

I was at a meeting in a church basement the other day. There was a low table and several rows of flimsy folding chairs. The small narrow room is usually used for the church’s preschool classes.

I was standing behind the low table looking at the front of the room…there were doors on either side of me and the main door was at the other end directly in front of me with the length of the room between me and it. Most of the chairs were between me and the door. There are cabinets and shelves along the walls.

The furniture provided a path way that would limit any physical attack to a very small area. If someone tried to hit or grab me they would be limited in their movements by the smallness and cramped conditions of the space. I would be less limited because of my awareness and my willingness to use my environment to my advantage.
In my last 2 classes I set up conditions similar to the church basement  room (as best I could in the dojo). Nage started down the pathway and uke attacked from the end of the narrow corridor we made. Some nages forgot all the Aikido they have and started to struggle and just use their hands and muscle strength. Other nages relaxed and explored the situation, using uke’s energy and the environment to nage’s advantage. As you could guess the relaxed nages were much more effective.

We often set up situations in class that reframe The ABC’s of Aikido. When the ABC’s are remembered the situation seems easy and effortless. When the situation grabs us and we give away our focus and centeredness our technique and effectiveness is compromised. My challenge to myself is to focus, have good posture, pay careful attention and see what happens. I stay out of my head and move. I may get corrected. That is okay. I can incorporate the correction the next time when I focus, have good posture and pay careful attention.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vinnie is

Vinnie is perfectly centered, relaxed and content...I want to be like I was once. It will be an interesting process watching Vinnie unlearn his naturalness...maybe he will be the grand boy that wants to study Aikido!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I found Rik Ellis' ground work using Aikido to be really inspirational. The last two classes we have worked on finding nikkyo from the ground after a kata tori kokyu nage. We are practicing in a really slow fashion. I am asking nage turned uke to leave their hands in one place so uke turned nage can orient themselves and find the nikkyo from whatever angle we can find. As we continue our practice we can add more resistance and less co-operation.

I am finding moving on the ground to be a lot of fun. I especially like the opportunities for legs and feet. Last  week I was thinking about starting Tae Kwon do or Muay Thai but I think this was really what I was looking for. Thanks universe, for providing the challenges I need in my own back yard.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Vinnie's moment

My youngest daughter will soon be giving birth to my youngest grandson. I am practicing being in the now. In class this morning we were extending ki with unbendable arm from kosa katate tori so uke lost balance very easily.  

Taking my mind out of the now to imagine snuggling with little Vinnie distracts me from this day. Vinnie will be here soon enough. In the meantime Shannon and I have been enjoying pedicures every two weeks to celebrate his preparation and her growing inability to reach her toes.

My mind can run to good and bad imaginings around Vinnie’s birth…both take my balance easily. I need to stay in this moment on this day.
When Vinnie arrives it will be another moment. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dead tree wins

I practice my jo strikes on this dead tree when I walk in the mornings. My tree is helping me develop power. I can tell when I hit with my whole body and when I just use my arms. It feels definitely better when I use my whole body. When I hit with just my arms…the tree wins. ;o) My arms absorb the shock and my hands vibrate with pain. When I use my whole body I don’t feel anything but connectedness. With a dead tree…how about that?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

seeing and hearing and feeling

Have uke push as hard as they can on your shoulder…roll your shoulders forward slightly as you keep one point…relax into uke’s space turning and maintaining connection  as uke loses her balance.

When skiing, keep focus on the center…one slips much less that way…relax and enjoy the glide.  

The geese were unseen yet very much heard….I scanned the whole sky for them…it sounded like there was a least a thousand.

Why does the rolling of the shoulder change the relationship with uke? Why could I not see the geese? I know both are there because I can hear and feel the evidence. Sometimes it is best not to see clearly. The wonder slips in unfettered by thought and judgement.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


In my training and my life I work hard at minding my own business. I am not always successful.

 When I cross over on to another person’s side of the street I become uncomfortable and agitated.

When I am uke my job is to follow logically and resist or rest if I am allowed to. When I am nage my job is to lead, blend and let. If when I am uke I think I know what nage should be doing I have ceased doing my job. If when nage I have judgment about my uke I have become distracted from my job because I have become judgmental. Being centered has nothing to do with being judgmental or thinking at all…being centered has nothing to do with the mind.

There are so many distractions from just being myself, from being centered, from being the best uke or nage I can be at the moment. I can be distracted by thinking that someone is right and someone is wrong, that uke is stiff or nage is not relaxed. I think sometimes that I can help another by saying something. I think that if I just say something right perhaps I can shift something in some way. But aren’t I just trying to do the same thing I am hoping to correct?

Back to my own path. Again. Back with compassion for myself and maybe a little for others, too.

Monday, March 5, 2012

I got sliding snowshoes for Jesus’ birthday. We have had about 3 inches of snow since October. Today I was out on my skis on about a half inch of granulated ice that was quite slippery. The sun was setting and a 3 quarter moon had already risen giving the world a soft glow. The air was cold but I quickly shed my hood as I scattered around the yard mostly keeping my balance. I have never taken lessons so my skiing is not too graceful yet. My Aikido training helps me stay centered and keep my weight off my feet. When I let go of positive mind….when I think about falling, sure enough there I go.  Good that I know how to fall and good that I prayed and the universe helped me get up. Good that I can laugh at myself and be out in the woods on my new skis at 54 years young.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nage earnestly leads. Uke sincerely follows. As nage outlines the path, a void is left for uke to fill. The motion and connection created is Aikido.
Uke grabs and holds tightly to nage’s arm with both hands, katate tori ryote moche, offering energy for nage to perceive, move with and eventually throw uke. Listening to, really paying attention to, and honoring uke the earnest nage restores order. The throw is the by product. Often the throw is perceived as the goal. Instead the goal is the feeling of connection and harmony. The throw is the result of the connection and uke’s loss of balance.
Attention. Acceptance. Gratitude.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


My grandson got bullied at school this week. A kid told him on Friday that he was going to beat him up on Monday. When Kai went to the bathroom on Monday the kid punched him in the head and belly several times in front of another kid. The second kid said Kai needed to be beat up because he has never been beat up before. Then yesterday the kid beat him up again in the bathroom.
Both Ron and I had big feelings about this situation. We love Kai so very much. Kai goes to an inner city school. He is ten. He is very tall, thin, blond, bookish, dreamy and polite.  His nature is not that of a fighter. There is such a difference between fighting and defending yourself. Kai isn’t interested in fighting at all. Yet he learning how to defend himself. Just as anyone can.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I am present

Today I will meditate as I walk. I tend to make mediating much harder than it is by expecting myself to do it perfectly. Today I will mindfully walk. I will move from my center.  I will  consciously breath in and out.  Then I will forget about all that and enjoy the beauty of my surroundings. I will be grateful for the air I breathe and the sights I see. I will notice the flow of things and my part in that flow. I will feel the earth under my feet; how solid and permanent it seems. I will be grateful for my vitality at this moment. I am the Heavenly.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Listening through my body, I perceive through my center, my mind rests.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Going left

My high school basketball coach tried and tried to get me to use my left hand. She threatened to tie my right hand to my side so I couldn’t use it. I could not understand why she wanted me to dribble and shoot with my left hand. Being awkward because I was trying something new was appalling to me. I hated her for insisting that I use my left hand. I just couldn’t. I couldn’t explain why but I would rather explain why I couldn’t use my left hand than work at getting better. Besides I was already good. Just ask me. Why try to get better? Taking a risk to learn a new skill was not worth the discomfort of the process.

Looking back I feel bad for myself at that age. I was so comfortable being at one level I could not get better because I couldn’t acknowledge I was mediocre. I either had to be the best or the worst. Needing to learn something new meant that I was not perfect and not being perfect meant I sucked.

Today I voluntarily use my left hand. I usually default to my right if given a choice but Aikido training has really leveled me out. Ron took no excuses. Everything had to be done on both sides no matter what. I still don’t initially love learning something new yet I do love learning something new. Today I know that I can be good at Aikido and not have to be perfect. I know that being in the question is the answer. I wish I could have felt the same for basketball but I can’t change things I can’t see.

I am seeing clearer now. The future looks endless, challenging and fun.