Monday, January 6, 2020

Wisdom from our archives...

Copying Sensei's Mind
by Jim Lahue, 2006
Whenever I get ready to go to a seminar taught by Maruyama Sensei, there are certain essentials that go at the top of my packing list, things that I simply cannot practice without: Gi jacket. Gi pants. Belt. Hakama. And a brand new 8 1/2 x 11" notepad.
The notepad is for the copious notes I take whenever Sensei teaches. People often ask me what I write about, or ask me when I'm going to publish my book. But if they were to read through my notes, I don't think they'd be too impressed: Just my sorry attempts to write down what I saw Sensei do, so I can try to duplicate it myself.
But why? What's the point of trying to get it right? What's the point of trying to do it like Sensei?
In truth, it's really not the movements that I care most about copying. What I want to do is copy Sensei's mind.
Unfortunately, we can't open up Sensei's mind and peer inside. We can't hook him up to an EEG and understand his mind's inner workings. And we can't get Sensei to describe what's going on in there. Even if he tried, he wouldn't be able to find the words.

All you can do is examine the evidence-the evidence that is displayed every time he throws. Studying that is the only sure path I know for copying Sensei's mind.

How do I know this? I wish I had better proof, but all I can say is that I've felt it. Now and then, when doing the right technique against the right strong, challenging uke, I've felt a shift in my mind as my movements became more like Sensei's. Suddenly, it's all effortless. And I feel a strangely familiar smile creep across my face. It's not familiar because I've felt that smile before. It's familiar because it's Sensei's smile. And I realize it can only well up from a certain wonderful feeling within.
I've seen this method work many times with my students, too. Say someone's technique is on the right track. With my mind on how Sensei looks, I can offer suggestions: Stand up taller. Straighten this leg. Turn your hips like this. Gradually the adjustments become second nature. The student's posture and movements becomes more like Sensei's. The ukes start flying better. And then, the confirmation: That student's face changes, exposing a new look, a new feeling of calmness, a new manifestation of power- and an undeniable truth: For that moment, she feels what Sensei feels.

That's why it's so important to try to do things just like Sensei. The way he moves is your secret door for entering his state of mind.

Roni Burrows Sensei, one of Sensei's long-time students, prodded me with this observation recently. She said, "When I watch Sensei, I try to imagine what it feels like in his skin." What does this approach do for her? Watch her, and you'll see she looks a lot like Sensei. Be thrown by her, and she feels a lot like him, too.
It's like a great impressionist. He'll find the little gestures, the facial expressions and the quirks of the person he is imitating. He'll put those on like a costume, and begin to feel more like that person. To capture that person's mind.
So copy the body, and your mind will follow.
It would be amazing to have a record of what is actually going on in Sensei's mind, some resource to turn to when we're trying to get our Aikido-and our lives-on the right track. Unfortunately, that can never exist.

But I've got something close: A big stack of notebooks reminding me of what Sensei did. And with those, I can sometimes catch a fleeting glimpse inside an amazing mind. And now and then, begin to copy it.

Monday, December 30, 2019

New Year - New You

Feeling Resolved? Start your path to self improvement at with Aikido! Attend this Thursday night 1/2/20 for a New Year - New You special. New Students who attend and sign up get 4 months for the price of two! No contracts or obligations after that, but we'll bet you'll want to stay. Learn more about our dojo here:

#martialarts #aikido #kokikai #newyearsresolutions #selfdefense #defense #innerpeace #ki #chi #aikidokokikai

Check out the event on FaceBook: 

 Wooden Bridge on Rainforest

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Listening Through Touch

Aikido relies on awareness not only of your balance but your attackers'. One of the many reasons muscle and harsh movements do not work for Aikido is that you must allow your brain to "listen" to your attackers body. We will sometimes even train blindfolded in order to help the brain concentrate on the tactile feedback and connection to our uke's body. Our brain's our incredible engines, well tuned and trained, they can pick up on the slightest nuances and make adjustments at an almost the speed of reflexes. Provided we let it. Practicing a calm, empty mind in the face of stress is a key element in developing this ability.

The linked article is a very interesting recognition of what as martial artists we are already aware of, though perhaps less apt to articulate. One has to recognize that "Proprioception" is a pretty fancy word for everyday dojo use. But one that maybe we should. Martial artists often resort to flowery language like "feeling" and "ki". But these terms are just the flip side of the same coin. The science side of the coin is great for explaining, but the art side makes it real for us. Concepts may be conveyed through talking and writing, but it must also be experienced. Perhaps your New Year's resolution will bring you our way, or maybe you have already found us, either way, have a read and these about concepts the next time you are on the mat.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

New Year's Day Class!

Our annual tradition of ringing in the new year continues at 10AM on Wednesday January 1st!  All past, current, and future students are welcome to attend.  This year we are adding a drawing for some great hand crafted items right after class.  Check out the details here:

Start 2020 off right!  Hey, if your resolutions are dead 10hours into the new year, then, well, you need to be at class even more!

Monday, November 11, 2019

snow day 11/11/19

The dojo will he closed tonight in honor of people who forgot how to drive in the snow since last year.

Be safe and have a snowball fight.