The dojo will be closed for both morning and evening classes on Monday, January 15, 2018, in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr., Day. Give peace a thought.
Welcome in the New Year and we are extending the invitation to all Aikido friends to join us Friday, January 19, for our annual Kagami Biraki (6:30 – 8:30 PM) led by Marsha Turner Sensei. We will hold a potluck after class and celebrate!
Questions? Please email us at email@example.com.
A special introductory class is offered each Sunday morning class. This class will give instructors an opportunity to meet new students, work closely with them, and share the principles of Aikido to those visiting the dojo for the first time. Wear sweatpants and a t-shirt and join in the fun.
Sign up for classes and get a free dogi (traditional white cotton practice uniform).
Every practice has a cost, there is a ton of slag for an ounce of gold. Just walking in the door and getting on the mat for an hour doesn’t necessarily meaning that you’ll make any progress. Over time technique will stagnate and training may get boring, but even worse the risk for injuries goes way up. For years I did suburi work thinking that I was building up my form and muscles, now my elbows are creaky and my shoulders overly tense.
In order to try and undo that damage and other bits of slag I have been carrying around I train differently. At the most basic level I train with a particular goal in mind so that a few months down the line I can check in and see if the training I am doing is helping me achieve something or not. Also, I train so that at the end of class I feel looser and more relaxed than at the beginning of class. Even when doing something like push-ups I want to keep a sense of openness in my joints and in my breathing. Finally I try and keep coming at an idea from different angles so that my mind stays interested and doesn’t get stuck in a rut.
Half of an aikido class is falling down and while falling down is fun, good exercise and a chance to feel the skills of my partner I want it to be more. I’ve come to realize that I can help a new student more when I am taking ukemi that when I am doing the technique (or even than when I am leading class). In addition I can learn more about how to do the technique and why the technique works from uke side than from nage side. All of this makes me ask myself how much more could I have gotten from my aikido training if I had picked up on this earlier.
In basic technique success is dependent on uke and nage agreeing on a set of parameters and staying honest about them. Obviosuly my partner cannot do shomenuchi ikkyo if I attack with a punch, but even more than that there are hundreds of ways to very a shomenuchi attack that can make any particular technique cleaner and better or ugly and bad. When I am working with a beginner I can lead him or her through a technique by understanding what attack the technique calls for and in knowing this I learn more about why the technique works and what principle I can learn from it.
Fighting with my partner and testing them when I am uke just teaches me to struggle more and hold more tension in my body. Understanding the technique and relaxing in to it allows me to be more responsive to changes in the technique and gives me the foundation to do free training without losing the aikido and without letting my ego turn it into a competition. In some forms of practice this might be more applicable but when I am studying basic technique strong ukemi is often soft ukemi and especially with a beginner good ukemi is the best teacher, much better than the frequent, “No your foot goes there… no there…. No other foot…”
Have you ever noticed this about yourself?
Your partner does an “unfair” move towards you, for example, he responds to your light strike with a hard and painful one. And then you get angry.
Or your partner is a bit arrogant or slow to learn, and you get irritated.
Then again, your moves work very well, and it makes you proud of yourself.
Or someone praises you and vanity starts to creep in.
I see this happening every class. In this case, your real training time might be only a few minutes out of the entire session…
Technique is relatively easy to learn; you can break it down into parts and grasp it. It is specific and with some practice – you’ve got it. The focus of Systema is different – you need to understand yourself. What does that mean? Watch constantly what is it that interferes with your calm, objective and continuous movement.
Uncontrolled emotions are detrimental to effective work. These feelings come in a subtle way and unnoticeably begin to dominate and eat away at your strength. We must be vigilant. Step one is to be aware of these weaknesses; step two is to try to overcome them through breathing, understanding, changing the attitudes and the movements. Then we gain true strength and skill.
At that point where you feel angry, annoyed, resentful or self-important – you are not longer perfecting your movement or breathing or doing other tasks, instead you are dealing with a petty conflict. If you succumb to your emotions you can be easily controlled and manipulated. While taken by emotions, you can no longer have clear judgment and swift decision making – and that is destructive for your training and for your life.
I recommend, throughout the entire class for you to try and identify what are your limitations that prevent good work. Whether you are learning or teaching, always observe your emotional condition. As soon as your emotions are unstable – you are not really working any more.
When we come to class – we come to train, that is the foundation. You might be disappointed in yourself or something in class could be disagreeable. No matter what happens in a session, it should all serve its useful purpose.
The work of recognizing and facing our pride and weakness is much more difficult than polishing techniques, but it is much more profound. As we know, memorized techniques often let you down in real unrehearsed confrontations, for example, if your arm is broken or if you are in a confined space. Whereas, if you can control your emotions and study movement, you will be capable of solving any problem in a multitude of ways. I know from experience that such work is extremely rewarding, it creates true skill and allows us to survive and succeed.
Notes from class by Vladimir Vasiliev