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TAA Newsletter

Fall 2014

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Inside this Issue

Moving up (Promotions)
2014 U.S. Nationals - Results
Technical Director Ruminations on the 2014 U.S. Nationals: The Greyhound Games 
Japanese Language/Asian Language Fellowship
The MoJo, by Mark Colopy 
Akaishi Dojo Dedicated
Wade Current’s Dojo
Bob King’s Black Walnut Dojo
Why Aikido Doesn’t Work
The Basic Principles of Aikido
Here, Grab My Wrist!
The Age Old Story of Starting Anew Stories
Shodan Essay
Integrating Aikido into Everyday Life
TAA Financial Report
Upcoming Events:  UNC in January and Brisbane in August

Moving Up

Recent Promotions

We are pleased to announce the following promotions.  Congratulations to all! 
KCW Aikido (Vandalia, Ohio) – Carol Apple Sensei
Carol Apple – 6th dan (rokudan, 6th degree black belt)
NB:  Of special note  is Carol Apple Sensei’s promotion to 6th degree black belt.  Apple Sensei is the leading teacher of Tomiki Aikido to children in the United States, and she has taught multiple generations of young students in the Ohio region.  She is a tremendous asset and role model, and the TAA deeply appreciates her tireless efforts and continuing successes.
The Mojo (Columbus, Ohio) – Moe Stevens Shihan
Jessica Tackett – 1st dan (shodan, 1st degree black belt)
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) – Bob Dziubla Shihan
Michael Shaw – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Chioko MacNeill – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Taira MacNeill – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Jason Burns – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Andrew (Drew) Reed – 1st dan (shodan, 1st degree black belt)
Sean Flynn – 4th dan (yondan, 4th degree black belt)
University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles – Mark Colopy Sensei
Angel Orellana  -  5th kyu (yellow belt)
Isabella Soehn -  5th kyu (yellow belt)
Ran Liu - 4th kyu (orange belt)
Ewa Tymoszerosky  - 4th kyu (orange belt)
Princeton Legree - 3rd kyu (green belt)

CSM Aikido – Wade Currrent Sensei
Artie Gueth -  5th kyu (yellow belt)
New Jersey Shodokan – Ari Reinstein Sensei
Eric Hood - 4th  kyu (orange belt)
Matt Pipkin - 5th  kyu (yellow belt)
Kenneth L. Shoup - 7th  kyu
University of North Carolina (UNC), Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina – Erik Townsend Sensei
Justin Chang – 1st dan (shodan, 1st degree black belt)
Clint Bowen – 1st dan (shodan, 1st degree black belt)
Joshua Baker  – 2nd kyu (blue belt)
Barbara Zemskova – 2nd kyu (blue belt)
Andrew Graczyk – 2nd kyu (blue belt)
Steven Cupello – 2nd kyu (blue belt)
Ethan Biamonte – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Jennifer Nguyen – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Douglas Ryder – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Chris Miller – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Intel Aikido Club, Santa Clara, California – Shane Branch Sensei and Ash Morgan Sensei
David Tran – 1st kyu (brown belt)
Minh-Anh Vuong – 1st kyu (brown belt)
John Mi – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Maryland Tomiki Aikido Center, Baltimore, Maryland  - William Ball Sensei
Eric Johnson – 5th kyu (yellow belt)
Mansur Malik – 2nd kyu (blue belt)
Mansfield Tomiki Aikido Club, Mansfield, Ohio - Bob King Sensei
Grace Zader - 5th kyu (yellow belt)

Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York – Jun Zhao Sensei
Jun Zhao – 3rd dan (sandan, 3rd degree black belt)
Chelsea Anderson – 1st dan (shodan, 1st degree black belt)
Kenny Anderson – 1st dan (shodan, 1st degree black belt)


The Board of Directors extends a heartfelt thanks to all of our members, especially those in Ohio, who contributed to the success of the 2014 US Nationals.  Special thanks go to Moe Stevens, Wade Current, Bob King, Carol Apple and all of their students throughout Ohio.
The final results of the 2014 U.S. National Championships are as follows:
Technical Director Ruminations on the
2014 U.S. Nationals: The Greyhound Games

By Bob King, 6th dan, Technical Director

My fellow Tomiki Aikido players and TAA members: let me say I had a great time at Grove City.

It was wonderful seeing so many old friends and meeting so many new ones. To the many TAA family members who could not make it, you were sorely missed and you missed a wonderful festival. Hopefully we will all be researching Tomiki Aikido together again soon.

After every sport aikido festival I attend, I take time to review the pros and cons of the festival. I watch videos, and mentally replay the events I watched and/or played in. This festival was particularly different for me because it’s the first time where I completely traded my traditional, much preferred roles of player and coach for the roles of instructor, judge, and referee. I guess I had to grow up some time.

However, this role trade gave me the opportunity to closely observe and (hopefully) interact with almost every festival participant, either through instructing, helping instruct, or by grading tests, and through judging some kata, a majority of the tanto matches and every toshu match, at close range. What I saw gives me great inspiration and hope for continued growth and development, especially with the youth events. As always, we have work to do, all of us, in order to become better Tomiki sport aikido players, to become world class sport aikido players. From what I saw in Grove City we have huge potential to be not just world class, but world leaders in sport aikido. Here are my pros and cons of the festival, please take them in the spirit of constructive criticism, with the idea of stimulating growth in all of us. So with that goal in mind, let’s do some research!
Instructor interaction, cooperation and teaching:
The Core Instructor Group training session on Wednesday was great; the amount of knowledge demonstrated and shared was amazing. The open, relaxed, inclusive learning environment allowed for in-depth technique analysis, discussion and comparisons. It was probably the best such session I’ve ever been involved in, I’m sorry we didn’t have more time and more participants. For those who have never heard of it, the Core Instructor Group was created many years ago to enhance the training opportunities for upper ranking (sandan and up) yudansha. We have decided to expand the membership to include TAA certified instructors, nidan and above, who have shown a demonstrated commitment to the TAA. It’s time to grow the CIG group in order to grow the TAA, invitations from the board will be forthcoming. The seminars reviewed similar points, highlighting the principles and concepts behind Tomiki’s Aikido, showing great coordination of knowledge between the instructors. To me the highlight of the seminars was Apple sensei and her youth class taking over and teaching all the beginners at the festival; that was a classic. Domo arigato gozaimasu, Carol Apple sensei!
We had the highest number of participants in 3 festivals, 68 registered adults and youth from a multitude of Tomiki related styles besides the TAA members. It was a great demonstration of our growth potential, and gave us great networking opportunities with new and potential members. The only real negative was the large number of experienced yudansha (black belts) who could not participate due to personal and work conflicts. If that group had shown up we would have approached a hundred participants and the randori and kata events would have seen much more depth of play. I’m also sorry that not everyone who registered participated in the seminars. It’s always puzzled me to see people travel to a festival and then not participate in the seminars. I remember Nariyama chewing out the UK team at one international festival when they were watching the rest of us practice while sitting in the bleachers. The main reason I started attending festivals was to get to work out directly under high ranking instructors, not to play in the competitions, that was secondary. I just don’t get it, unless it’s a financial problem and if so, we need to help folks find a way around that. However, on the positive side again, I truly loved how many participants played in multiple events, demonstrating great competitive spirit. FIGHTO!
Kata events:
The pro is that there were plenty of good performances by the players in all the kata events: 17’s, goshin, freestyle, etc. However, the limited experience of many of the players showed through, and in general performance intensity was lacking due to primarily to missing idoryoku, locomotive power. Lacking idoryoku, kata appears less powerful, less crisp and less precise, and uke has to do a lot more work to take a good fall. My main suggestion for improvement is to work on developing your locomotive power, along with your leg and your core strength, which will help you demonstrate a more powerful, crisp, precise and therefore intense, kata.
Toshu randori:
This event was essentially an experiment because of the new rules we had just put in play. We had a few really good matches and a lot of mediocre and crappy ones but I definitely think it was a very successful experiment. The refereeing was challenging, to say the least. By the end of the first day Moe Stevens sensei and I had worked out a reasonable and pretty reliable team referee system for calling points and catching infractions. Playing in tee shirts was an overall plus by eliminating grabbing of the dogi (Moe Stevens sensei’s inspiration), though it eliminates the ability to create drag on a dogi sleeve or back. After watching match videos and talking to my toshu randori consultant, I have come to the conclusion that we missed a few points and a few penalties and we kind of screwed up the cumulative point scoring, not that it would have changed any results from what I’ve seen. We just often gave winners more points than needed. We can easily correct and simplify this process, and then really have the running of a toshu match down. One negative is that we were missing a core set of experienced players on the mats to help set the tone of the matches (Gonzalez, Teuscher, Morgan, King, Wallace, Pottebaum, Hudson, Ramey, Quinones, Cano, Branch, etc.). Another negative is that many inexperienced players could not demonstrate the basic concepts of aikido randori, especially correct ma’ai and correct footwork. Therefore we had too much clinching, and too much linear back and forward motion. Players did not exhibit enough taisabaki and tsukuri, not enough flowing, turning, setting up and chaining of techniques. To me this indicates that clubs are not practicing enough randori, a core concept of Tomiki Aikido. If you’re not practicing randori, you’re not practicing Tomiki aikido, IMHO. We need to develop more players and in order to do this we need to practice randori locally, not just at regional or national events.
Tanto randori:
I saw lots of new faces on the mat, which was great! I saw some good matches, and we had no major injuries. But to reiterate my comments above, we were missing key players, and a lot of the players at the festival were very inexperienced and need much more practice if they want to develop into good toshu or tanto randori players. Invite me, please; I will go anywhere to teach you the basics of Tomiki Aikido randori. But after that, you have to put in the hours and sweat.

Youth events:
This was the shining star of our festival. First off: Apple Sensei’s wonderful seminar, reversing the roles and putting the youth in charge of teaching the “beginner” adults, was wonderful, great concept. All the adults got a lesson in teaching youth and I hope it inspires more instructors to start up youth classes, to involve younger students in their classes or find a teaching in-road through a school system (both of which I have lucked into doing). Then the kids showed great competitive spirit and were an inspiration to the adult players. I think in general the youth kata events (especially the 21 jo kata) had more pop and sizzle than the adult kata events. Great attitudes, very inspiring, can’t wait to get to see more of them!
Bob King
And a picture of our Technical Director with continuing ruminations at the Baltimore seminars taught by Fumiaki Shishida Shihan, as he demonstrates a technique on Will Ball Sensei, on October 10. 
Never stop thinking. :-)
Japanese Language / Asian language fellowship
For those of you with an academic inclination and a desire to study Japanese or another Asian language in depth, please find below some information about the Blakemore Foundation, which annually awards fellowships for the intensive study abroad of Asian languages.
Tom Blakemore was an old friend and mentor of Bob Dziubla Shihan during his early years studying Japanese law as a Senior Fulbright Fellow at the University of Kyoto, Faculty of Law.  Mr. Blakemore, who was an early pioneer in the field of Japanese law, studied Japanese language and law at the Imperial University of Tokyo in the late 1930s, and was a senior legal officer for the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) during the post-World War II occupation of Japan.  In that position, he was deeply involved in drafting the new Constitution of Japan, which was adopted on May 3, 1947, and which renounced the use of war.
Mr. Blakemore was admitted to the full practice of law in 1950 after passing the Japanese bar exam; he then established the Tokyo-based law firm of Blakemore & Mitsuki.  After Tom passed away in 1994, his wife, Fran, a well-known artist and art aficionado and scholar, established the Blakemore Foundation in his honor.
Feel free to contact Bob Dziubla Shihan if you would like to discuss this Fellowship opportunity further.
The MoJo
By Mark Colopy
The MoJo
By Mark Colopy
The MoJo – 2,100 sf of Mats in Orient Ohio
How a dojo acquires its name and the motivation behind its construction, is always unique.   And in the case of the MoJo, the story may sound familiar to many of you reading these articles.

In 1999, a year before Moe retired from teaching, he and his wife, Pat, purchased a house on 13 acres of land in Orient, Ohio.  When they purchased their new home, both Moe and Pat were acutely aware that storefront space in the vicinity, suitable for a dojo was running $2,200 / month. It was apparent that at those rates, it would be cheaper to build a new facility than to rent one.

So, in the spring of 2000, the building process began. Moe’s research of economical construction systems, led him to “Struct-o-Core”; Styrofoam sandwiched between two plywood panels which serve as the perimeter bearing wall. Struct-o-Core is 7 to 9 times more rigid that typical “stick” (2x4 wood stud) construction which, in tornado plagued, western portion of Ohio is a definite plus.

Like Akashi and Oni Dojo’s, donations and volunteer labor were a key component of the construction. Moe got price breaks from contractor friends who did the foundations and laid the perimeter block foundation walls. Students put up the two long walls and  Moe rented a large Grade-All to lift the scissor trusses into place. The mats were the result of a trade, with the Grove City Wrestling coach (a position Moe previously held for 17 years) at the time. Moe and Pat provided several sets of custom made wrestling singlets for the school (…one of Moe’s’ entrepreneurial ventures during retirement) in exchange for wrestling mats.

How the dojo got its name (…if you haven’t figured it out yet…) was through alliteration.  Moe’s high school students who were assisting, morphed Moe and dojo and “WHALA” the MoJo was born! The simplicity resonated with everyone and no matter how hard Moe tried to “re-brand” the facility, the simple straight forward nature of the name, could not be undone.

Unfortunately, in the late Spring, just prior to visiting his daughter Alia, in Sweden, a micro-burst of high winds out of the east, pushed over all four walls; which miraculously, remained connected, leaving Moe and Pat with a building which looked either slightly drunk or like the big bad wolf had attempted to blow it over. Fortunately, Moe and Pat, had insurance and by the time they returned, the insurance company had “straightened” the dojo walls and roof, leaving Moe and his merry band of volunteers to finish the vinyl siding and shingle the roof.

MoJo Construction Crew on Pay Day . . . (actually a birthday party)

The grand opening occurred in March of 2005 for the March Mayhem at the Mojo. In order to make the Mojo operational for the March event, a generator was rented to power the lights. While the Mojo appears complete, to the average attendee, Moe notes that the Mojo always seems to be in a constant state of growth as students and training methods evolve.

In order to increase attendance, and avoid Ohio’s “charming” March weather, the annual seminar now occurs in May, and in keeping with alliteration, is now May at the Mojo.

Since it opened in the late spring of 2005 (just in time for March at the Mojo) the facility has become a hub for regional seminars and events. The Mojo is a 3,196 sf facility with 2100 sf of mat space; strategically located within a 90 minute driving radius, of the dojo’s of Apple, Current and King Sensei. This past summer, the Mojo hosted the Core Instructor Group (CIG) seminar held just prior to the 2014 National Tournament.

In addition to aikido, Moe teaches wrestling to elementary and middle school wrestlers approximately 6 months a year. Previously, Moe taught jujitsu for approximately 5 years and hosted seminars for Kachido Aiki Jujitsu with Tim Wolfe.  Kachido Aiki Jujitsu is the art founded by students of Moe’s father, Merritt Stevens.  Kachido translates to “the way of honor/merit” or “Merritt’s Way”.

Akaishi Dojo Dedicated
by Mark Colopy
Reverend Barish performs the first part of the dedication of the Akaishi Dojo, aka Red Rocks Dojo.

Finally, a date was set, Janell and I dusted off our Frontier reservations and headed to Denver to be part of the dedication of the newly completed Nettles/Glasman Akaishi Dojo. As we boarded the plane for Denver, I was still sad that we’d missed the opportunity to be part of the building process, the way the crew at the Rocky Mountain Invitational had been.
I don’t know why I never learn . . .
I’m certain everyone can relate . . . it inevitably happens . . . you’re having a party or relatives over for the holidays, there is ALWAYS some little project that always has to get done before the main event. Dojo dedications are no different, not only did we have components for the Shinto dedication ritual to be obtained, and set around the kamidana but we also had a “few”, “finishing touches” to do to the dojo. Did you know that prior to a Shinto blessing of a dojo, the entire facility must be “…pristine…”.
I do owe Dave, Kerry and Bryan a note of thanks . . . this dedication took me back to high school summers in Oh’a, stripping forms; cuttin’ grass (the lawn type . . . unfortunately…it is Denver after all, dude. . .) and cleanin’.
This OSHA Approved Apparel available on TAA website.
 . . .Yes, Sensei does windows . . . 
  . . . they’ll work until I say stop . . 
Finally after a day which saw us purchasing fruits, vegetables and sake; finishing the installation of the shower; trouble shooting the air-conditioning system; (…and let’s not forget all the yard work, and “form bustin’…) the Akaishi dojo was formally dedicated and open to all!

The one thing that Dave, Kerry and Bryan kept repeating was how thankful they were for the hard work provided by a huge crew of aikidoka from across the county (…even the unskilled, “migrant” labor from Japan . . .). A great deal of the “heavy lifting”; excavation, concrete and steel frame was the result of the hard work of Bryan Glasman’s construction crews . . . did I mention that the dojo is nestled in the bucolic rolling hills of Denver’s horse country, on the Glasman Estate? Situated amongst the other rural storage facilities for heavy construction that dot the landscape around the palatial Glasman enclave, the dojo looks like any other industrial building, except for the prominent walkway.

Listening to Dave and Kerry describe their fond memories of frigid winter winds, gently caressing their cheeks as they lovingly fastened metal siding to the dojo, reminded me that every project has a “colorful backstory” resplendent with blood, sweat and profanity . . . and I wanted to hear more!

This appears to be the perfect opportunity to highlight the other dojo’s built by TAA members.
Constructing a dojo from the ground up, is an enormous commitment of time and money to an activity we all enjoy. I apologize if I’ve omitted anyone who has built a dojo and these articles aren’t meant to downplay the huge amount of time and energy most of us expect teaching classes in rented facilities (. . . the unfortunate flooding of Tanaka Sensei’s dojo comes to mind…).
Wade Current's Dojo
By Mark Colopy
Entry and Training Equipment

In 2004, the Current family needed a barn, and decided that for a little additional cost, the could include a dojo, and with Conover, Ohio, being so far removed from most major cities it afforded Wade the opportunity to train on a more regular basis. Like the other dojo’s, construction was a family affair. Wades wife Patti and their two sons Jordan & Jaxon spend 4 months of evenings and weekends completing the project. Wade’s sons were 12 and 9 at the time and still at the age where they thought that pounding nails and lifting squares of shingles was fun. Building the dojo took about 4 months of evenings and weekends. The building is 40’ x 80’ with 12’ high walls; the dojo occupies half of the building.
In order to keep costs down, Wade used recycled 2x6 lumber that he had removed from an old stockyard building in early 2000. With the 6” stud walls with OSB sheeting, filled with blown in insulation it uses minimal heat and coupled with the corn burning furnace (…it’s Oh’a, they’ve got lots of corn and it’s cheap to burn…) the dojo is quite cozy during the bitter winter months. It has 2 large windows for light and ventilation paired with a 4 foot exhaust fan mounted above the ceiling to help draw in fresh air during the summer.  The building has steel siding and a shingled roof. 

Like many Aikidoka in the TAA, Wade contacted Queen Trucking in South Carolina, and got a good deal on Resilite 2nds (inside of a wrestling mat with no cover). While the mats were quite cheap (1,440 sf for $250), Wade saved a great deal of money on shipping by driving a truck and trailer to South Carolina to bring back six 6’ x 40’ rolls. This gave him enough material to cover the floor and 1 wall with a bit left over. In addition, the dojo has a 5/8” carpet pad on top of the mats and is finished off with a 40 x 40 green plastic tarp that cost less than $200. Mirrors on the wall opposite the mat wall, lights, electric and done.
Those of you who have 2005 JAA Curriculum DVD can thank Wade for hosting the video production in which Dave Nettles, Keith Benedix, Bob and Ian King along with Wade, and Kerry Nettles, spent a long weekend putting the entire curriculum on DVD. I’m told that Wades dojo will also be the site for filming an update to the 2005 DVD.

Site of the 2005 JAA DVD Curriculum, and soon to be the site of the 2014 TAA DVD Curriculum.
Subsequently, Wade has hosted several regional clinics and has had 30 plus people on the mats at one time.
This summer, Wade has had an influx of students, and is holding classes once  a week. In Wade’s case, his farm/dojo is 12 miles from the nearest small town, so it’s difficult to attract students. But Wade has what we’d all like to have . . . the ability to turn off the lights after class and walk into his house, sit down and relax without having to drive ANYWHERE! It is also handy to have a place where friends can drop in at any time, evening or weekend to work on katas or test requirements or randori training.
The dojo is always open, so if you are in Midwest Ohio and want to throw or be thrown… drop in any time. 

Bob King's Black Walnut Dojo
By Mark Colopy
Current Lotus Moon Store front Dojo

In 1987 Bob King and his wife purchased a small farm in Ashland, Ohio, complete with an 800 sf chicken barn with a two story loft and on one side a pit for manure . . . which was eventually transformed into a 600 sf dojo.
At the time Bob and his wife were looking to find life balance between Bob’s ever increasing training time at the Mansfield YMCA and the increasing demands on family time at home. So during the summer of 1995, Bob hired a contractor to re-build the back wall and install a structural beam along the center; then he tore out the loft and put in a floor for the dojo. Life balance achieved, Bob could increase training time while being at home! Like many of the US Tomiki dojo’s at the time, Bob utilized foam mats obtained from Queens Trucking in North Carolina, and covered them with PVC tarps. But like Akashi dojo, Bob had a little help from his friends. The joists and plywood subfloor for the dojo was installed over a weekend with the help of current students and a couple of old friends, but primarily by he and Mike Cesco, a nidan in Bob’s dojo
The dojo’s official name was the Black Walnut (BW) Dojo because of the trees surrounding it and because the squirrels fill the rafters with black walnuts which rained down at us every winter as they practiced, but most everyone just called it “The Barn”.

Training continued at the BW Dojo until 2011 at which time dojo membership dwindled as students grew up and became involved in pursuits other that aikido. Unfortunately, no photos exist from the Black Walnut dojo.

Currently, Bob is sharing the Lotus Moon storefront dojo and in addition to teaching aikido, Bob also holds classes in Tai-Chi (Chung Man Ching’s short Yang form), Kettlebells and hopefully soon a Judo club will join the dojo. An interesting point of history; the mats currently used at the Lotus Moon are mats that Merritt Stevens used and then Scott Calderhead stored for several years, before Bob was able to liberate them.
Bob noted that the Lotus Moon gets some walk-in traffic and is increasing its youth student numbers, he now has six students under 13. Unfortunately most people in the region consider a 15 minute drive too far to travel in most instances.

I can’t end this article without passing on a quaint tidbit, from Endo Sensei. Apparently in 2008, at the Rocky Mountain Regional, Bob was in charge of one particularly “challenging” tanto randori training session. According to Endo Sensei, it went on for 45 minutes, non-stop (something that they don’t even do in Japan!). At the end of the session, he walked up to Bob and christened him “Oni Sensei” or Demon Teacher. Anyone who knows Bob, can understand that such a comment is certainly not reflective of his kind and gentle demeanor.
The following articles were submitted in conjunction with black belt tests and promotions:
Why Aikido Doesn’t Work
By Jun Zhao, 3rd dan
Vassar College Aikido Club
I have been teaching Aikido in Vassar Aikido Club for several years now.  Over this period, I have had a few students who came to me and told me how Aikido didn’t work during their ‘fights’ with their friends.  And very similarly, the ‘fights’ were all pretty much like this:  the opponents usually were karate, Taekwondo (TKD), or similar style martial art practitioners.  The fights usually started like typical karate sparring or casual boxing matches. ‘Players’ were going after each other with jabs or punches, and Aikido students were also trying to attack opponents with joint locks or Atemi waza.  Then the problem happened – they couldn’t grab the opponents’ wrists to apply the joint lock because the opponent would just tighten their hands or keep their hands closer to their bodies, or they couldn’t throw the opponents with Atemi because the opponents were not off balance.  Therefore, none of the techniques they learnt in Aikido class worked in these kinds of fights.

The conclusion is that Aikido doesn’t work against karate or TWD.  Flashing back to when I first started learning Aikido, I remembered that I had the exact the same experience.  I was practicing TKD at the time and I had reached brown belt.  I was so impressed by those cool Aikido moves like kotegaeshi or shihonage and I wanted to use them in my TKD sparring. But when I moved in to grab my opponent’s wrist during the fights, I found myself in a terrible situation:  I couldn’t turn, twist, or lock the opponent’s wrist or elbow.  While I was struggling with their joints, they just landed their punches on me like I was a punching bag.  Again, Aikido failed. Is Aikido really no match for karate, TKD, or other similar kinds of aggressive fighting martial arts?  Is Aikido really not effective when it comes to the ‘real’ fighting?  Many Aikido critics will say so and simply point to the fact that no MMA fighter is an Aikidoka.  To truly answer this question, however, we must understand what kind of martial art Aikido is, the fighting principle behind Aikido, and the strategy employed by Aikido.

As we all know, Aikido means the way of blending the ‘Ki’, the energy.  The core Aikido defending strategy is to take advantage of the energy the opponent presents when attacking and use it against them.  If an Aikidoka initiates attack, there is no energy from the opponent to use; there is no ‘Ki’ to blend in.  Aikido works best when receiving a committed attack.  On the other hand, when initiating the attack, a person may execute a wrist twist, a body throw, or some ‘Aikido’ techniques, but he or she is not doing Aikido.  Aikido shares many similar moves with other martial arts. What makes it unique is its spirit, the way of blending the ‘Ki’.  Without it, it is not Aikido.

This defensive nature of Aikido determines that it is NOT a fighting martial art.  It is a pure self-defense martial art.  There is a big difference between the two.  Many fighting martial arts, like karate, boxing, or TWD, etc. can be used for self-defense, but they are also for initiating the attack.  On the other hand, Aikido techniques cannot be used for initial attack.  They just do not work, or do not work well.
Because Aikido is a pure self-defense martial art, the goal for an ‘Aikido fight’ is not to win, but to not lose, meaning you do not always have to take your attacker down, as long as he/she cannot harm you.  This is very different from more aggressive fighting styles like karate Krav Maga. I remember in one Krav Maga seminar I attended, the instructor told us that Krav Maga will seek the maximum damage to the attacker(s) even though that means that we may also suffer some serious injuries.  One example he gave was that he had a very strong head butt, which was his favorite technique. In one sparring, though his opponent wore a protective head gear, he still knocked the person out with the head butt.  However, he also suffered an open cut on his head.  He was very happy and satisfied with the result.  On the other hand, Aikidoka will try to minimize the harm to himself/herself, even if this means we would have to let the attacker go if he/she stopped attacking.

In the examples mentioned at the beginning, both fighters wanted to win.  They wanted to take down the opponent by attacking each other aggressively.  This goes against the Aikido principle and Aikido is definitely not the right martial art for this kind of fight.  In addition, since both sides are attacking, the Aikido practitioner will not be able to blend into the opponent’s energy, either due to the fact that the opponent has not presented the committed energy, or he/she is too busy consuming his/her own energy.  Either way, there is no Aikido happening in the fight, even if some techniques resemble Aikido techniques.  Therefore, saying that Aikido does not work in the ‘real’ fight is like saying a hammer does not work for driving down a screw, or saying an apple does not taste like an orange; the statement is correct but meaningless.
Naturally, one may ask, “Then, why Aikido?” Karate, TWD or similar styles of martial arts do offer options for attack and defense, and clearly those cool UFC fighters are using them in the ‘real’ fights.  Are the UFC fights the ‘real’ fights? That is still up for debate.  Somebody once said, “If you can afford to put total focus on the front, it is a game, not combat.” I do not want to get into deep discussion about this topic here.  I will refer to an interesting writing by Tom Collins titled, “Winning does not matter… only survival.” (

A majority of aggressive-style martial arts, such as karate, TKD, etc. heavily rely on the personal strength, (like power and size advantage) and usually use force against force.  Therefore, the bigger and stronger person usually wins, and since it is a clash of forces, even the ‘winner’ may also suffer damage.  The evidence can be found in many UFC fights:  both winners and losers come out with bloody noses, black eyes, and broken bones.

On the other hand, since Aikido mostly works with an opponent’s energy, an Aikidoka’s own physical strength is much less important.  Because Aikido is seeking the blending of the energy instead of a clashing of energy, the damage will be minimal to the Aikidoka.  If one only wants to protect himself/herself against assault, then yes, Aikido could be extremely effective and efficient, but it is not for everyone.

To answer the question, “Why Aikido?”, one should ask himself/herself:
Am I physically superior to most people in terms of strength and size?  Do I need to attack people or do I just need to defend?  Am I willing to defeat the attacker at all costs or is my goal to protect myself? And last but not least, do I want to escalate the conflict, or try to seek harmony?
  • Jun Zhao

The Basic Principles of Aikido
By Spyro Spyropoulos-Spears, 2nd dan
USC Aikido Club
The key principles I came up with are the following: proper posture, correct breathing and perfect timing. I believe that all three are required for an Aikidoka to be successful.

Proper posture is the first core principle. Posture defines a person’s structure. And structure is the Aikidoka’s foundation, which they rely on to initiate proper techniques. Tori tries to break Uke’s balance by upsetting their structure, while their own structure stays balanced. To achieve proper posture, ones legs need to be well balanced with the weight on the balls of the feet, the spine must be upright and straight, and most importantly, the head must be upright. These are all interrelated, if Uke’s weight shifts to the heels, which is one of Tori’s goals, then it is easy to break balance. The same is true with the spine position, if it is leaning to one side, then it is easier to shift the center of balance away from Uke’s base and achieve kazushi. The head plays a very important role in the equation because it has a lot of weight and is away from the center of mass and gravity. It is critical to keep the neck straight and a “level” gaze plays an important role in achieving this. For example, if you were to look down, as I often do, then the whole weight of the head shifts forward, which creates a domino effect of shifting your whole structure and creating an imbalance. This is the effect that Tori wants, and that is why a lot of techniques are targeted towards shifting the head: if you control the head, then you control the rest of the body or structure – “where the head goes, the body will follow!”. All Aikido training and techniques focus on keeping a good posture before, during and after execution.
Being breathless at my “high-altitude” belt test in Colorado also made me realize how important correct breathing is in Aikido. Apart from providing oxygen to your muscles, breathing also helps regulate your heart rate, relax your muscles and control the tension in your structure, which all contribute to you staying calm under pressure and being able to react quicker to attacks. A correct breathing technique can be achieved by breathing in through the nose, bringing the air down to the abdomen and then exhaling through the mouth. One should exhale while accelerating to execute a technique. Inhaling should be done while winding up for a technique. If you hold your breath, which can happen if you are caught by surprise or you haven’t trained your breathing, you tend to tension up, which causes your structure to stiffen and you are more likely to get your balance broken. This is exactly what Tori tries to do when “surprise attacking” Uke. A good Aikidoka has to keep on breathing even when under attach, and remain calm and vigilant. Also, a good way to prepare right before any kind of performance, whether that is randori or kata, is to take a moment to breath with a deep inhale followed by a long exhale. I believe a good way to improve breathing is also to incorporate some endurance training into your routine, like running. So breathing correctly is very important and is therefore the second key principle of Aikido.

Finally, perfect timing is the skill that complements the other two key principles. Most of my Nidan exam techniques required perfect timing- if the timing was off, i.e. too fast or too slow, it didn’t matter how good the technique was because it wouldn’t be successful. These techniques have a “window of opportunity” and part of the skill is identifying that window, and the other part is being able to execute the technique within that window. I refer to this skill as perfect timing. A good way to perfect it is through reflex training by constant repetitions with an Uke. An approach is to start in slow motion and gradually accelerate until you reach full speed. You know you’re ready when you can react to Uke’s motion without having to think about it.
The principle of breathing is also related to timing, because when one inhales and when they exhale in relation to a technique is important. Shifting Uke’s structure also involves timing: a lot of techniques rock Uke’s balance from one side to the other, thereby creating imbalance and momentum, this can only be implemented with correct timing. Therefore, perfect timing is the final key principle of Aikido.
In conclusion, in order to excel in Aikido, every practitioner needs to master the three interrelated key principles of implementing all techniques with perfect timing while maintaining a proper posture and correct breathing. Dan thesis, I decided to try and identify the three most important principles that one needs to excel in.
  • Spyro Spyropoulos-Spears

Here, Grab My Wrist!
By Andrew (Drew) Reed, Shodan
University of California, San Diego, Aikido Club
“Here, grab my wrist!” That is the first thing to come out of my mouth whenever someone asks me about Aikido. This simple four-word sentence makes anyone I am close to automatically wince, pull both hands close to their body, turn away from me, and yelp “No!” in about .53 seconds flat.
On the other hand, those same four words offer an endless flow of fun and entertainment with people I’m just meeting, or those who ask me to demonstrate Aikido to them for the first time. First, I show them a light kote-gaeshi that only moves the wrist and arm a few inches just to where it makes the body start to tilt. After that all bets are off, as they usually ask, “What else can you do?” 
Aikido means so much more to me than these demonstrations though. In my heart, I hold anyone who pursues mastery (in nearly any area) with deep respect and admiration. However, Aikido practitioners have a special place in my heart because of how they have to think, and how they must live their lives in order to be an effective Aikidoka.
From what I have learned, everything in your life that arises as a result of Aikido can be traced back to the thoughts and interpretations of Master Ueshiba Sensei. Master Ueshiba, also known as O Sensei, created his version of Aikido by using the wrist and joint techniques from ancient arts of the Samurai, so that they would not pass into the world of the forgotten. As all good teachers do, O Sensei then shared these techniques with all who wanted to learn. One of these people was our beloved teacher, Kenji Tomiki.
Tomiki Sensei then took this art and advanced it in ways he found to be most effective. These changes and developments are why we all love Tomiki Aikido today.
Aikido is often translated as “The Way of Unifying (with) Life Energy", "The Way Of Harmonious Spirit", or simply, “The Way”. In my opinion, this is what makes Aikido different from all the other arts in the world.
The Way infers that the focus and goal of a good Aikidoka is to defend yourself and those around you, while also protecting your attacker from serious harm and death. This is a very unusual approach. Protect your attacker? Seriously? Why not put the guy down in the dirt, hard and without mercy? Because that is not The Way, and it puts you (the defender) in the same energy and space as the attacker.
Aikido focuses on balance and grace. Before you can use Aikido properly, you must use your mind. By focusing on the situation at hand with accuracy and clarity, you then have the attentiveness to respond rather than react.
Aikido teaches you to respond to an attacker first by getting out of their way, or out of their negative energy. At the same time, years of training kicks in to help you calm your mind and unconsciously begin to look deeper into that person, and the energy they are emitting. As you study the situation and begin to respond, you are not only defending yourself from the physical attack, but also from the negative energy, so that it doesn’t enter into your body and mind.
This is why Aikido is so different from other martial arts. No matter how someone attacks us, we do our best not to lower ourselves to their level of thinking and actions. This is not to say that we are pacifists; any Aikidoka worth their salt could maim or kill someone with little effort. But just because we know how to harm does not mean we resort to that as our first option. Remaining calm, breathing deeply, moving with purpose, having no stance, and keeping an empty mind… this is the backbone of Aikido.
About a year ago, I was living in a rather unsavory part of San Diego, and my apartment complex had a group of young men that would gather near the entrance to the parking lot at all hours of the day and night. These guys looked to be in their late teens to early twenties, and they had a hard/mean look to them, and an air of mischief about them nearly all the time. These boys would harass people, yell catcalls at females who walked by, sell drugs, and occasionally get drunk or high then fight with each other (and anyone else unlucky enough to be there). During one particularly nasty fight, one of my neighbors got chased into his house for trying to break things up.
Our Homeowners Association tried to do something, but nothing changed. Police would come, but this would only make them disperse for a few days at a time. Things continued this way for several months, and I must admit I was not brave enough to do anything about it.
During this time, I was training very heavily in my garage with the door open most days. I had every friend that knew martial arts come over and train with me at different times. It was amazing getting that much time on the mats. Many of my neighbors saw this going on as they would come and go from work… so I assume the hooligans did as well.
Late one evening, my roommate and I had just finished a great session in jujitsu, and we were all hot and sweaty, wearing just shorts. We realized that we had forgotten to take the trashcans out to the curb so we grabbed them and headed outside without bothering to change clothes first. On our way, we passed the group of guys – there were seven of them that night – and they called out to us as we walked by…
Them: “Hey, whatcha doin’ without any clothes white boy?”
Me: “Oh… we were just Wra’slin together.” (Said jovially, but in a loud deep-southern accent.)
I ignored the comments they threw back at us, and kept pushing the trashcan toward the curb. At that point my roommate said to me (in an exasperated tone), “Great, now they are going to think we’re gay. Like they don’t already cause us enough trouble.” He said this in a lighthearted way, but I could see his point. I had just unintentionally fed the fire.
On the walk back to the house is where things really got interesting…
Them: “Hey! … You the guys the ones doing the fighting all the time?” 
Me (stopping): “Yeah, that’s me.”
Them “What are you, some kung fu master?”  (laughter)
Me “No, actually I’m training for the world championships of Aikido”
(I was preparing at the time for the Japan Aikido tournament, and thus could honestly say that I was training for the world championships… I just left out the part about me being a beginner.)
Them “Uh… what’s Aikido?”
Next thing you know, I’m standing in the middle of the seven guys, bare chested and wearing no shoes, with my roommate a few feet outside the circle. And can you guess what I said to them?
“Here, grab my wrist!”
The first guy grabbed my wrist, and I used a version of Kote-mawashi. He hit the ground with his knees instantly, and made a face only that move can bring. I did this with a smile and a laugh, thus making the rest of his crew laugh too, thinking it was some game. I proceeded to show them a few more moves, and demonstrated how to do them. Then the group leader (who had not been pleased during this entire show) decided to get a little mouthy with me. I saw this as a good opportunity for a little lesson.
I told him to grab for my neck, and he refused. (Time to establish dominance.) I called him out, so to save face with his guys, who had all bravely done what I had asked, he angrily reached out with his left hand to grab my neck.
Very quickly with my left, I reached across his hand and grabbed it in a Kote-Mawashi grip, twisting and pulling to my left. He spun slightly toward the inside of the circle, opening his left rib cage to me and thus blocking off everyone’s view of my right hand. In quick succession I jabbed my right fist’s large knuckle into three individual ribs, moving from low to high, with just enough strength to sting a little. Whatever his face did made everyone else’s eyes go wide, and all six of them stepped back.
I immediately went back to my friendly/funny guy mode, and gave the leader back as much face as I could. But he felt what I had done and was looking a little uneasy. Time to make my exit. I high fived the guys, exchanged names, and left them all laughing and smiling. My roommate and I went home, told our friends about what had happened, laughed a little, and left it at that.
Personally though, I was quite shocked at my behavior. I had acted purely on instinct. As soon as I walked toward them all thinking had vanished from my mind. Looking back, I would not be surprised if some of them had knives, or even a gun. I had essentially walked right into the lion’s mouth… but I only felt fear about this after the fact. I attribute my calm, and my ability to read the energy of the situation and respond appropriately, to the training and thinking Aikido has given me.
Fast-forward a few months: I went to Japan and competed – losing very quickly. Nonetheless, it was an amazing experience, and I met some wonderful people who share my love for this art.
When I returned home to California, my roommate had some news for me. Apparently, a few of the guys kept asking about me while I was gone, and said they hoped I was doing well in the tournament. He said they were genuinely nice, and meant it in all seriousness.
Their group started being friendlier to everyone in the complex around that time too. When my girlfriend’s friends would come over, they didn’t catcall or harass them like they used to. Within three months of that meeting, the group of hooligans vanished completely off the property. It was incredible.
Now, I would love to think that it was something I did to make that happen, but I have no clue as to the truth of it. Either way, it is one of my favorite personal Aikido stories to tell, and it has a fantastic ending…
Here, grab my wrist!
  • Drew Reed
The Age Old Story of Starting Anew
By Kenny Lee, Shodan
Vassar Aikido Club
It is almost the end of July and the 2014 TAA Nationals are waiting for me. This tournament has been patiently waiting for all people who practice aikido, regardless of age or experience level, size or strength, culture or beliefs. It welcomes all because the competition and camaraderie that is bound to ensue will change people and create lasting memories. It may discourage or distress some of its participants at times, but this is not its ultimate goal. The tournament is there to bring people together, to promote harmonious relationships, and to guarantee the future of Tomiki Aikido. Only by having all of us there can we learn from one another and work toward new beginnings while remembering our shared history and knowledge.

It was only a couple of months ago in May when I walked down Graduation Hill for commencement. I was proud of my achievements throughout my undergraduate years, but I could not help but feel sad as I realized that I would no longer be a part of the Vassar Aikido Club. I had joined the club as a freshman, hoping to learn how to take down multiple opponents like the superheroes of my childhood, but what I got out of the club was so much more. I learned many techniques and principles, but what I valued most was the philosophy. Aikido helped me define not only my relationship with forces and attacks, but also with people and obstacles. With Aikido, I learned to find ways to combine different parts of my life, rather than letting any particular aspect suffer, and find balance.

Being a part of the Vassar Aikido Club has been essential to my search for balance in life. It enabled me to supplement my academic and athletic efforts with a different type of mental and physical training. Aikido taught me how some goals can be achieved easier with less effort.

My sensei has said countless times that Aikido is the "lazy person's" martial art, but I prefer the description of "thinking person's" more. This is because in Aikido, there is a strong emphasis on the dynamics of movement to combine you and your opponent's energy. Instead of muscling your way out of a challenge, you are encouraged to use your mind to find simple, but effective, solutions. Most importantly, I have learned that staying relaxed and going with the flow of energy is the key to maintaining your balance, both in the dojo and in everyday life. The Vassar Aikido Club has helped me become a more happy and well-rounded individual by introducing me to wonderful friends and opportunities over the years.

I consider myself lucky to be attending the 2014 TAA Nationals. This is because the 2012 National Tournament, though a difficult and stressful experience at the time, has given me an enormous amount of knowledge and inspiration. The journey that was the 2012 National Tournament is over, but the experiences that I took away from this event continue to have positive impacts on myself and others. The most important thing that I learned from this event is that leadership is defined by the willingness to encourage others to succeed and surpass oneself.

Although I am proud of my personal growth, I am even more happy to help others reach their goals. I do this by being uke and student, but also exchanging roles and taking the responsibility to be tori and teacher. I expect the 2014 National Tournament to be just as enlightening and humbling.

As much as I want to stay with the Vassar Aikido Club and keep practicing with old friends, I have to move on. I am indebted to the club for the training, ideas, and support that it has provided me. I intend to represent Vassar Aikido Club as best as I can at Nationals. The future is filled with uncertainty, but I am determined to carry over the balance that I had worked hard to create over the last 4 years, although it will be different. Ideally, I will find a new place to practice and help spread the legacy of Tomiki Aikido, but I would be just as satisfied if I kept my spirits up and waited for the next opportunity to combine forces with Aikido once again.
  • Kenny Lee

By Justin Chang, 1st dan
UNC Aikido Club
Throughout human history stories have been told around campfires, changing with every retelling, to be passed on from mouth to mouth and generation to generation. Much like this oral tradition, martial arts too have been passed from body to body through the ages. Instead of words, we have waza, and instead of sentences, we have kata. In essence, we ourselves have become the scrolls of our teachings and are constantly writing and rewriting our “stories” in ourselves and those who learn from us.
Not all of a technique's intricacies can be passed from instructor to student. Because of this incomplete transfer of information, only a rough template of the technique made out of the basic principles can be given to the student. The student's received knowledge will be incomplete, much like how we never remember the entirety of a story told to us. That is not to say, however, that this is a bad thing. Because of that incomplete technique, the student can fill in the template with their own experience and preferences, in order to make a technique that, while following the principles, is essentially their own interpretation of the waza, their own telling of the story. This brings to light two important aspects of teaching/storytelling.
Firstly, that all instructors must carry within themselves a rigid template of principles which can be passed on to future generations, much like an archetype in literature. Secondly, that the instructor should facilitate active learning and growth in their students such that they may come to develop their own version of the story. These two aspects can be seen as tradition and change and both must be present in a martial art to ensure its continued survival.
In order for a dojo to maintain technical integrity in its waza, a reliable baseline must be established and followed. That is the kata. At its core, the kata are lessons that highlight various principles involved in martial combat. They are the template that all past, present, and future students of the art base their learning on. Because of this, it should be made abundantly clear to all aikidoka that the kata must be done exactly as it is taught, to preserve the principles within for future practitioners. The kata is a scenario of ideal circumstances designed to impart a lesson. It is a teaching tool. It is a template. It is the hero story.
Now, the reality is that there are many different people who practice martial arts, each with differing body types, physical abilities, and thought processes. If we were to ask each and every one of them to reproduce the kata exactly, it would be nigh impossible. A shorter person may need to take more than one step in order to execute a technique, any less may compromise their balance or force the use of muscular strength. A taller person may find it difficult to execute a low technique on a smaller opponent. In order for the student to make the most of their learning, they must incorporate the kata into their own version of the art, much like retelling a story with your own twists.
In order for an art to survive and thrive, a fine balance must be struck between these two points. An art must maintain their tradition to act as a foundation for all future students, anything less leads to confusion. An art must also foster individual growth and avoid stifling a student's will to learn. The same old story told over and over gets boring.
It is with this in mind, that I choose to hold “teaching” in Aikido not as a passing of knowledge from a superior to a subordinate, but rather an interartist dialogue from which both persons may learn. With the necessity for each student to adapt their techniques to their own circumstances, it is beneficial to see various perspectives, multiple retellings by different characters. The free exchange of ideas with an open mind allows for students to see different modified templates and decide on what aspects to adopt from all of them. It may also be the case that seeing other styles allows for a student to better understand their own. When teaching, questions help to fuel the learning fire and should not be turned away. Really good questions force the instructor to question their own beliefs, which leads to dedicated research into their own art. Thus, the instructor rewrites their story alongside that of their students' and the art of the dojo becomes that much more enriched. The greatest honor a story can be given is to be retold and it is my sincerest wish that Aikido be a story long told in the years to come.
  • Justin Chang
Shodan Essay
By Chelsea Anderson, Shodan
Vassar Aikido Club
In my opinion, one of the most intriguing (and maddening) things about aikido is how variable it can be. Although one could argue that there is a "by the book" way of performing each technique, insofar as we have standard kata that everybody learns, most of the time you have to drastically alter your approach depending on the situation and your partner. A throw which sends a smaller person flying might fail to budge a giant, the same way that a lock which leaves a sturdy person writhing in pain may be unimpressive to somebody that is flexible. In the beginning, it overwhelmed me how every new partner I worked with required me to develop a new version of the basic techniques. I only began to become comfortable and occasionally successful in the art after I came to learn (the hard way, and probably later than most aikido students do) that I needed to focus on basic principles rather than finicky details of execution in order to stay sane.
This emphasis on fundamentals and problem solving presents a subtle but meaningful contrast to my martial arts experience prior to aikido. Obviously, many of the habits that make one successful in aikido translate to other styles as well. Proper movement and balance are always essential, power comes from the hips rather than the limbs, and, for anybody that wants to improve, there’s no such thing as practicing a move “just one more time.” But although these fundamental principles were always present in my old style, I found that they tended to take a back seat to other considerations like speed, stamina, and aggression (which, to be honest, I really have more of an affinity for than the aikido-esque qualities of mindfulness, precision, and adaptability).
An instructor at my old school used to say that earning a black belt was a sign that you had “mastered the basics”, meaning that you had learned a certain number of kata and could use their techniques to defend yourself in a fight. With aikido, however, even though I’ve been practicing for five years and am on the verge of testing for my shodan, I often doubt that I have “mastered” anything. I still struggle when confronted with a larger or more agile opponent, and for every time I pull off a technique perfectly, I can think of numerous instances in the past when I’ve literally fallen on my butt doing it wrong.
But somehow I still feel like I’ve emerged from this parade of failure with a vastly deeper understanding of martial arts than I'd had before. Because, in an ironic way, the simple act of failing is an opportunity to learn about the conditions required for success. Through my struggles, I have become quite adept at identifying early on when something is going wrong and figuring out how to right it. Sometimes what's missing is not obvious from the beginning, and so I go through my little mental flipbook of possible errors: not enough kuzushi, inappropriate timing, trying to get force from muscling rather than movement… And if I'm still not sure after that, it often turns out that my partner has some valuable input to give, and is perfectly willing to let me experiment on them “just one more time” until I get it right. The strength of my aikido education has not been in how many individual techniques I've learned and how well I can do each one- rather, it is in how I've learned to break them down into their constituent principles and rearrange them into whatever defense best fits the situation I find myself in.
That being the case, I have taken the liberty of mentally amending my old instructor's definition of what a black belt means. Although I do hope that I have mastered at least some of the basics at this point, and that I can perform well enough during my test and the rest of Nationals to make everyone who has supported me proud, for a long time now all of that has only been an intermediate goal. My primary goal is to continue developing a set of tools for adapting to whatever situation I’m thrown into, and, in doing so, learn to “re-master the basics” with each new opponent I face.
  • Chelsea Anderson
Integrating Aikido into Everyday Life
By Clint Bowen, 1st dan
UNC Aikido Club

Aikido means many things to many people.  For some it is merely sport, an opponent to be defeated and a competition to be won.  The focus is on physical control of another being for the purpose of ‘wining’.  For others, aikido is one method of self defense, a practical skill in today’s world of carjackings and terrorism.  It is a tool they can carry with them, even though airport security scanners and in the workplace.  Others practice aikido to learn control of their own mind and body, a martially effective form of yoga.  The list continues, perhaps for exercise, socialization, developing self-esteem, or simply to learn something new.  Aikido encompasses all of this, and more.  Aikido is physical; as the thinking man’s art it is mental; some find a spiritual component; but I would like to focus on aikido as moral guide that can influence daily decisions.

Aikido is often described as a ‘defensive’ martial art.  Some dislike this label for aikido, others define many martial arts as defensive based on the practitioner’s mindset of control and peace.  I have not studied any other arts, but I am drawn to the blending softness of aikido.  There is a section in Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere that speaks to this topic, showing the height of the art to be where one can defend oneself without permanently damaging one’s aggressor.  We should all aim for that level of mastery, confidence, and control.

Although we do not use the term, the idea of namaste fits well with aikido.  Per Webster’s dictionary, namaste means “The divine in me honors the divine in you.”  It is the recognition that we are more than the same, meaning alike, we are THE SAME, meaning one.  To attack another is to take our self out of balance, and the goal for aikidoka is to restore that balance.  The energy of an attack will be delivered to a target, dissipated, or redirected into the attacker.  The outcome is determined by the intended victim via tai sabaki and the response chosen.  More energy put into an attack means more energy is available to redirect back into the attacker, which is to say the more an attacker is out of balance the more energy will be required to bring him back into balance.  Fortunately the attacker provides most of this energy; as aikidoka we simply need to know how to send it back where it originated.  The more forceful an attack, the more devastating the defense.  The attacker defines how strongly he will be reminded he has made a poor decision.

The way to keep our balance, beyond not attacking other people, is to stay centered, both physically and mentally.  We must be content with ourselves and not reach for what others have, which leads us to the libertarian principle of non-aggression.  Instead of taking from others, or pushing our ideas onto others, we need to focus on controlling ourselves and staying balanced.  Just as we do not wish to be attacked we do not attack others.  Just as we choose to defend ourselves against a physical attack we rebuke those who wish to tell us how to live our own lives.  Where many stumble, however, is this concept is reflexive.  Too many people want to force their views onto the rest of the population.  The principle of non-aggression extends beyond the physical realm and into our daily lives.

We make many decisions on a daily basis that affect other people: how much space to leave when we change lanes, how far ahead to signal and whether we pay more attention to our cell phone than our driving.  Are we grumpy and self-centered and assume others are in the wrong because we disagree with them?  Or do we choose an attitude of humbleness, realizing we all come from different backgrounds and experiences and someone may know something we do not.  This is aikido practiced on a daily basis, outside the dojo.  It is an attitude we adopt, taking “the way of harmonious spirit” far past our practice on the mat and ingraining it into everything we do and every thought we think. 

Imagine our world where each person strives for both internal peace and external harmony.  Picture a world where we respect each other, and when needed agree to disagree agreeably.  How can such a world exist?  Through one aikidoka taking one step at a time to overcome fear and restore balance; each of us internalizing our aikido and deciding to live a life that respects our aikido ideals; by inviting more people into our dojos to learn self defense, self confidence and randori skills; but most importantly to learn about balance in its many forms, both internal and external.  Aikido is more than a martial art; it is a way of life.
  • Clint Bowen

TAA Financial Report

The Board of Directors, with the help of our Treasurer, Antonio Gonzalez, is preparing a financial report for review and comment by all our members.  The purpose of the report will be to summarize the current financial condition of the TAA (Tomiki Aikido of the Americas) and to solicit members’ feedback on how we can improve and utilize our financial resources.
In this regard, it is important to remember that our goal and mission as an educational, non-profit organization is to promote the study of Tomiki Aikido within the Americas and around the world.  In particular, we need to develop a solid source of ongoing revenue to support the TAA and to support our members in their goal of mastering Tomiki Aikido.
One of our immediate goals will be to develop a plan for selecting, training and helping to provide financial support so that TEAM USA ably represents the United States at the upcoming World Championships in Brisbane, Australia, in August 2015.
The Board hopes to circulate the financial report in the near future.

Upcoming Events

University of North Carolina Aikido Club
January 23 – 25, 2015
UNC Aikido Invitational and Seminar, is confirmed for the weekend of January 23-25 for the following times at the University of North Carolina located at Raleigh / Durham, NC, in both the Fetzer Wrestling Room and Woollen Combatives Room:
·         Friday 12:00 – 7:00 pm
·         Saturday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
·         Sunday 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
Copyright © 2014 Tomiki Aikido of the Americas, All rights reserved.

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