Comments from Aikikai Members on
Growing up I lived in a healthy, sheltered community on a small island off the coast of Canada. I was surrounded by friends and family that shared a caring attitude toward one another and toward life. The community had a “can-do” attitude…and as I have grown older, I would now describe it as sustainable living. Some members of the community specialized in agricultural activities, others raised livestock and others worked with textiles, etc. The island was self-sufficient in many ways.
The community was somewhat separate from the world around and therefore had to learn to co-exist with different lifestyles and political beliefs. This worked well because as different as each individual was, there was a common link: creating an ever expanding and growing life with positive impact on the world around. This is not to say that everyone was perfect or that there were no challenges or downfalls.
That small island community is much like the one I live in today. And from this place, I can feel compassion for the suffering of people in the world at large. I believe that this cohesiveness and expansiveness is also a great part of Aikido. Aikido sharpens one’s capacity for sensitive awareness, through focused body and mind practice. These are life practices. Aikido is not just a martial art …Aikido is a life style as well. It is about understanding where you are in relation to the world around you, to nature, to other people and to the non-physical (time and space.) It is also about seeing the impact we have in the world…with both short and long term consequences…some intended and some that may not be intended.
As we go forward as a society, we may spare other beings (both human and non human) the future of suffering and pain by embodying some of the basic principles of non-aggression and sensitivity.
It is clearly not enough to know these principles simply in the mind---they come through real-world practice in real life situations. What we may be lacking is the notion of “One Mind” – the notion that the combined alignment and agreement of many can create a lasting and positive shift for the better. There are strong and hopeful examples of this throughout the history of evolutionary changes in human society.
The basic drive to survive can appear as aggression or violent behavior. It can also result in positive change and growth. Aikido practice offers a systematic way or path of learning that channels the drive to survive in more sustainable and healthy ways. Aikido practice can nurture positive change and growth.
For me, Aikido is very powerful in that it helps develop the resilient individual but also encourages the practitioner to reach out to others, to their community, and then to the world at large. At least, this is what it has bestowed in me. I like the following doka by the founder of aikido; O’Sensei, I think it sums up Aikido’s potential for creating goodness:
“If your heart is large enough to envelop your adversaries, you can see right through their petty-mindedness and avoid their attacks. And once you envelop them, you will be able to guide them along a path indicated to you by heaven and earth.”
In my experience, this teaching does not apply to adversaries only; I think it could include someone who’s confused, in pain or in need of help. So this principle gives another way to respond to actions that may not be an attack, but instead may be an opposing opinion, an unhealthy outlook, etc.
So, how does Aikido bring positive change to our society? It seems that it happens within the individual—and then radiates out to the community—and then to the greater world. It starts with individuals who come into the dojo not just for a physical workout but for a life changing experience. Each time someone walks into the dojo there is chance for transformation.
It begins as new members enter the dojo. I think it is very important for more senior students to encourage them in an understanding and caring way…and to help them learn dojo practices. At first, new students may not see the deeper benefits available to them in Aikido. They will understand more as they hear about the positive results others have achieved.
As a practiced student, I seek to demonstrate the benefits I’ve received through Aikido through communication and actions. In this way I can convey something about Aikido to the newer members. Then it is up to them to embody the essence of Aikido (each to their own ability) apply it to their own lives and eventually pass on this acquired knowledge. From these beginnings can come countless ways in which Aikido can benefit our society through its practitioners.
In these ways, Aikido offers both the beginner and the more advanced student a focused environment for both physical and emotional growth. They can develop a stronger emotional balance within an individual to remain effective and calm in the face of stressful situations. This in turn will reduce conflict and negative escalation in emotional or physical situations.
It is a great outlet for people who long for friendship and want to belong to a club or group with a good cause that extends out to a worldwide circle of practitioners. As a result, Aikido offers people a personal path with a higher purpose. I think this helps build self-esteem.
Through Aikido we are exposed to traditional teachings that incorporate values of honor, humility and integrity. From the practice come relationships of trust and sensitivity, with an overall feeling of enjoyment!
Aloha everyone who makes this Aikido class happen...
Having no dad, my son really looks forward to sensei Kevin, Ryan, Leilani, and Sean. He quotes sensei Kevin at home and beams when I haven't made it to watch, only to tell me how sensei complimented him. The balance, positive influences and the love is worth our drive to Kohala from Waimea. we are honored and humbled to be part of such a wonderful SPIRIT. Mahalo Nui Loa.
From K. K.
Aikido has affected my life in so many ways. Since Aikido has been a part of me for half of my life, it's helped me build a strong foundation and has been somewhat ingrained into my everyday movements, lifestyle and practice. Aikido has taught me discipline, how to interact with different types of personalities, and how to learn but also teach. Aikido is unique because it's a more peaceful and spiritual martial art. Instead of using all kinds of force, you can just use your opponents energy, weak spots, and openings to throw or pin. Aikido is made up of so many different techniques that all can help you with your practice but also your everyday life. I believe that Aikido is definitely something that everyone should try. It's such a different experience for your body and mind than what anyone would imagine. Things that we learn in our practice benefit even the littlest things that we might not even think about.
From M. K.
The main things I see from Aikido in my everyday life is seeing if I'm relationship with other around me, how I really interact with others, and always using it to imagine how else can I do something.
From K. Y.l
1) Aikido has strenghten my Spirit.
2) Never lose learning spirit. Thank and appreciate those who share their experience with you (sensei). Don't focus to the movement, focus to the meaning of movement.
3) I had always thought martial art as self defense yet offensive in many ways. I learned Aikido has teaching elements. We teach opponents how it hurts to hurt someone.
4) If you are not looking for competition but instead self-dicipline, join Aikido.
would this be all right, Mori-san?
From H. M.
Aikido has not really affected my life so much as it has been an integral part of my life. I think Aikido has had a hand in my development from the moment of conception. Its philosophies have infused my belief system and it's movements have infused my body. I believe it is what helps keeps my family close, and what has helped me avoid conflict all my life.I think that the benefits of Aikido change depending on the practitioner. For instance, a very aggressive person that comes into the dojo and trains may learn to resolve conflicts peacefully, or even avoid them all together, instead of seeking them out or creating them themselves. Alternatively, a person that comes to the dojo and is very timid may learn to be more assertive and step in and take their place in the world, to resolve conflicts by entering first, instead of running away. Two people on the opposite sides of the spectrum will also learn opposite lessons, though they are both working towards the same thing: balance. I believe that everyone on the path of Aikido is working towards becoming a whole, balanced person, and for each person Aikido will provide those benefits that help them work towards that goal. Of the countless benefits Aikido has given me personally, the ones that come to mind the most are patience, coordination (through integration of mind and body), increased presence, and a general sense of well-being that I get while practicing. I think the thing that distinguishes Aikido from other martial arts is that it has different facets. While many martial arts concentrate on offensive practices, making them good for starting fights, but not resolving them in a non-harmful way, Aikido is for diffusing conflicts that arise without causing harm. I have been asked many times if we have tournaments in Aikido, and to each of those people I say that an Aikido tournament would be very boring, as the opponents would simply stand there looking at each other, each waiting for the other to attack. At the same time that Aikido is touted as being a peaceful art, I think it is important to remember that it is still a Martial art. Which means that it still has the potential to harm, and while we do not instigate fights, we do not back down from them either, often even forcing our attacker into an ill-considered or forced attack to get them off balance from the moment the conflict is inevitable. Aikido is also a way of life. It is not like an aerobics class you attend twice a week, it is a commitment you make to set your foot on a path that will change you forever. Regardless of how much you practice, if you commit to a certain level of training and follow through, you are on the path. While I'm sure almost all martial arts used to have this aspect to them, I'm afraid that many have lost this feeling in recent years. I believe that to reap the most benefit from Aikido, you must understand these different aspects of it, and that is what makes it different. To someone who shows an interest in Aikido I would say, "come and try". Unfortunately I have become somewhat disillusioned about people who talk a lot, but never take action, and I do not feel like anything I say to someone who expresses interest will make them make the decision to commit to a life long study of Aikido. So I say come and try, and if what they feel in their body speaks to them, they will stay. There are countless people who could benefit from Aikido, unfortunately, most do not have the fortitude to practice long enough to reap those benefits. Some may not be ready. (Hollie continued)People come to Aikido at different points in their lives, and while it may not resonate with them today, it may be that someday down the road they will seek it out again, and be ready to accept the kind of changes Aikido inspires in them. For some, it is what they have sought all their lives, and they simply fall into place. Regardless of how people come to Aikido, I once again invite anyone to come and try, for it is wonderful to watch someone take joy in the art the way I do.
Recently, while working atop a six foot retaining wall, I somehow stepped back into empty space, lost my balance and fell to the soft ground below. In the split second that I fell, there came a feeling of relaxation, the result of countless falls experienced on the dojo mat. My body immediately shaped itself to accomodate a hard yet safe landing with no injuries. How many 61 year olds could have done the same? Probably most of them would be Aikido practitioners. It's just one example of the value of daily practice, repeated for years, until the movements become an ingrained, inseparable part of body and mind.
Since I no longer practice on the mat, my work has become my practice. When I handle my equipment or hand tools, I ask myself: Am I am working and moving from my center? Is my posture upright? Am I firmly grounded? Am I aware of my surroundings? What possible dangers exist? Am I fighting or persuading? Agitated or calm? I feel that my ability to sometimes work 8 or more hours is the result of good physical and mental practice.
I've also learned to be non-confrontational, even though I have a tendency to confront injustice. Last week I overdrew my checking account. I found out about it only after having two fees deducted. I was a bit upset. First at myself (don't remember making this mistake before), and also at the bank for not calling me (not their policy to call). I was prepared to express my anger at a stupid policy, but when I finally contacted the person with authority, I had cooled a bit. And after explaining the situation (which was my fault), she said she would deduct the charges. By remaining calm, I may have saved $40.
Similarly, physical confrontation can often be avoided by using soft words and gentle persuasion. But if verbal Aikido fails and an attack occurs, then the art teaches us how to react. It's another lesson Aikido teaches every time you practice with a partner. How to be soft, yet powerful. How to be sensitive to your partner so as to respond to an attack with only enough power to safely subdue them, without injuries. These are lessons which can be applied directly to our relationship with others outside the dojo. After years of training, they become automatic.
Aikido is unique among other martial arts in several ways. There is no inherent competition to defeat an opponent. Practice is with a "partner" with alternating roles of "uke" (attacker) and "nage" (defender). Rank is attained by proficiency in applying the various techniques. Not by defeating others. Large physical size is not an advantage, as in some arts. It can actually be a hindrance when a large attacker encounters a smaller, (Rick continued)faster nage with a lower center. Aikido is the "art of peace" and is practiced only for defense. And learning the art takes much longer than most martial arts. Because it is extremely technical, many years of practice are necessary to gain proficiency. However, the basic principles can be practiced immediately.
If you are interested in Aikido, come to the dojo and watch. If you feel it may be right for you, get on the mat and try it. But if you do, be prepared to commit to daily practice, or at least 3 classes per week, ideally for many years. Be prepared for changes within your body as a result of training. At first, there could be some minor discomfort which will eventually disappear as your body adjusts and you learn to move properly. Come to the dojo with an empty cup to be filled with knowledge by your teacher. If you engage in conversation on the mat, you are not listening.
Valuable Benefits of Aikido Practice:
1. Physical conditioning and discipline of daily practice.
2. Gaining self confidence by learning defense techniques.
3. Mental and spiritual calmness.
4. Joining with others to achieve peace through non-violence.
From F. A.
1/ In what ways has Aikido practice affected your life?On the surface, Aikido has been a fitness program for my body---a study in flexibility, balance, and coordination. It has blossomed into a rich study of how I can live in the world with a more open attitude and cultivate mental flexibility and resilience. The deep philosophical roots of Aikido are profound and they constantly satisfy my thirst for new intellectual and spiritual learning and stimulation. 2/ What do you feel are the 3 or 4 key benefits of Aikido practice?The benefits begin with teaching our body to be flexible and to sharpen our balance. Next, just as in everyday life, we learn to work with different people's style and levels of training---we learn responsiveness to new situations. The body & mind develop a stronger foundation and so confidence grows to handle unexpected events. The result is a cooler, more effective attitude in the face of chaos, aggression or violence. 3/ What makes Aikido unique compared to other martial arts?With my height of 6'3" and former training in boxing and karate, it seemed natural to dominate my opponent---to intimidate them---as I would beat them down. Aikido offers a completely different approach---a profound difference in polarity for handling an aggressive encounter. For me it was an astounding discovery because it fits (Forrest continued)more closely with my personal philosophy of life; and works to reduce violence instead of forcing the "put-up-your-dukes" style of most of the world. This is a personal practice that heals fear and makes us more capable of being the strong-yet-peaceful-minded citizens the modern world needs us to be. 4/ What would you say to someone who shows an interest in Aikido? Please just come to watch a few training sessions. If you have ever wanted to be more fit, more confident, and enjoy a more vital and balanced life---this is a rich path to follow. You will join a spirited world-wide community of people who are growing in their healthy practice and discover new dimensions of focus, positive power and strength in many aspects of your life. This is a martial art to teach to children---in a world of growing stress and aggression, let us be mindful to nurture kids who are composed, balanced and prepared versus teaching them the damaging win-lose skills taught by other martial forms. The other comments about Aikido from Forrest:In a complex and stressful world, Aikido practice helps you develop both physical and emotional balance and flexibility. Aikido helps you build greater confidence and skills to react to conflict or even to violent situations. In Aikido practice, you join other heathly, active people who form a spirited learning circle---You enter an international community of people committed to personal growth and resolution of conflict. This is a practice with deep traditions and profound teachings that inspire further study and exploration. Aikido is a practical martial art that sharpens your awareness, strengthens your body and teaches cooperation with others.When life gets difficult, you can always return to your Aikido practice as your time on the dojo mat lets you release tension and build your vitality.
Comments from Visitors:
" I love to visit Dojo when we come back someday. I really enjoyed watching your class, and was proud of you as a sensei who understand, respect, and teach Japanese tradition. Thank you so much for keeping a great energy in your Dojo for a lot of people!!"