Saturday, October 12, 2019

Happy Brithday to AKR!

October 12th, 2019, the Mayor of Rochester, Lovely Warren, designated as "Aikido Kokikai of Rochester Day" in honor of our 35th year serving the community of Rochester, NY. Our dojo started as a club at the Rochester Institute of Technology. It has not only grown and persevered as the oldest/longest continuously operating martial arts school in the area, but it has spawned several dojos across the country as students moved for work and family. Our members have started dojos in Los Angeles, Maryland, Queens, Ithaca, as well as our local sister dojos in Pittsford and at RIT.  Many thanks to visiting Sensei Rick Goodman, 8th Dan, for helping us celebrate with an excellent seminar.

We are proud of our service to our community and of the family that we have built. More over, we would love to have you help us write our next chapter.

#aikido #aikidoroc #kokikai #rochesterny #rochester #monroecounty #RIT

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Aikido Kokikai of Rochester Day!

As part of our ongoing 35th Anniversary celebration, the City of Rochester has proclaimed Saturday, October 12, 2019 "Aikido Kokikai of Rochester Day"!

To celebrate we are having a seminar on Saturday, October 12, 2019 with Rick Goodman Sensei, 8th Dan.

To kick things off, a representative from City Hall will be at the dojo at 10:00 am to present the "Aikido Kokikai of Rochester Day" proclamation to us.

Please join us for the presentation and/or the seminar!


One of the things I am forcing myself as a teacher to consider more often of late is footwork.  One of our dojo sayings is "Don't fix with your hands what you should fix with your feet."  But that requires to teach what or feet are doing and more importantly how.  Our traditional garb, the hakama, actually obscures details of our movement, no doubt a tactical consideration in the evolution of the garment.  As instructors we need to remove barriers to learning such that our students can not only replace us, but exceed us and elevate the art.

Here's an exercise to play with for the initial movement in response to a shomen attack.  In the case we were playing with at the moment of realization, was bokken tori, so consider that distance in the description.   Begin in hanmi, assume left for the discussion.   The desire is to move slightly offline to the left,  avoiding the downward slice of the weapon.  Rather than stepping, which disrupts the alignment of the hips and pelvis, we want to slide the forward foot over while doing about an quarter to half tenkan turn.  If we slide by telling to forward foot to move, it will have similar effects on balance to stepping.  Solution? Lighten the weight on the forward foot, leaving the only contact at the ball of the foot.  Now push off with turn back (right) foot, allowing some "stickiness" of the ball of the forward foot to cause drag and therefore turn the foot, allowing the heel to swing out.  The heel position dictates the distance the body moves off line.   The push from the opposite foot produces a slide that doesn't upset the hips and therefore helping maintain balance and posture. The push also create a spring loading effect that can be used for a forward 3rd foot kote gaeshi.

Try it.    Like it, keep it.  Hate it, improve it!


Saturday, August 24, 2019

String Theory

Think of uke (your attacker) as a taut thread.  Pull too harshly, and your connection to them will break, releasing them to repress their attack.  Push them, and you will become entangled.  But draw on them properly, and you can lead them anywhere.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Congratulations on Testing and a Welcoming a Visitor!

Congratulations to Tim Seitz (now 6th kyu) and Elizabeth Mahoney (now 5th kyu) on their successful tests tonight.  We had a great turn out for class to cheer them on and uke for them.  As an extra special treat, we had a visitor, Dillon, from our sister dojo in Seattle!  It's always great to work with students from other dojos.

Thanks to all who came out and to Tim and Elizabeth for their continued commitment to their practice.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Do: Look up and out. Greet the world. Exude relaxed confidence. Be your height. Smile.

Avoid: Looking down. Hiding your face in your phone. Projecting vulnerability. Slouching or hunched shoulders. Looking distant.

Self defense starts with not being an attractive target. You may not be feeling great everyday, but when out and about, don't show it. Channel your inner Master Thespian (search SNL archives for Jon Lovitz). As a side effect, smiling actually induces changes in the brain that will make you feel happier!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Finished Products

It's tempting when looking at a master of their craft to think what an incredible talent and see their ability as unattainable. But what we see is the finished product rather than the toil and trials of learning. It's also amusing to think that if you stepped inside the mind of the master you'd find an incredible amount of self-doubt and self-scrutiny regarding the quality of their work. What sets the master apart is the choice to be better than they were.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


One of the few highlights of work travel is that occasionally it brings me the opportunity to practice with one of our sister dojos.  I have been welcomed into many dojo across the country.   Tonight I had my first practice at our dojo in Ellicott City, Maryland.  Not only were they welcoming, they all rearranged their schedules to hold class an hour early so that I had plenty of time to catch my flight afterwards.   Thank you to Brian Kantsiper Sensei and Louis Ibarra Sensei for being such great hosts and sharing your insights.  It was a pleasure and I hope my travels take me back there again.

If you live in the Ellicott City area, I highly recommend you check out their dojo.

Saturday, July 27, 2019


Please join us in congratulating Mark Douglas on an excellent 1st kyu test at the 43rd Aikido Kokikai (R) Summer camp.  Mark tested this Friday night with three other candidates from around the east coast.

Good work Mark!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

We all have something to teach.

It can be difficult to see yourself as a teacher. We are, after all, our own worst critics. But each of us brings our own experience and perspective to the mat. As we practice, new students come in behind us and see us as examples to follow, whether we like it or not. Embrace and respect this simple fact of life. When we realize this about ourselves, we become better students. We can now accept that even our recognized teachers are a work in progress. Knowing they are a moving target not only helps us accept new explanations but also invigorates us, knowing that there is no plateau, there is always more to learn.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

July 2019 Update

Thank you all for another successful test prep series.  We concluded Mark Douglas' prep cycle this past Thursday with a full mat of help despite the heat.  We look forward to Mark representing us and demonstrating his knowledge at Summer Camp next week.  Speaking of Camp, we will be having most of our classes with the exception of Thursday's 7pm class (7/25) and the following Tuesday's 7pm class (7/30).  The 6PM classes those nights will be held as usual.

Earlier this month we were treated to a fine 6th kyu test by Konner Oakes.  Don't forget to complement him on how good an orange belt looks on him! After which we enjoyed celebratory ice-pops.  #simplejoys

Picnic!  Don't forget out summer picnic on August 10th from 10-4 at Ellison Park.  We will have outdoor (plain clothes) practice sessions as well as have offered to the public demos between 1:30 to 2:30pm.  Please come and have some off the mat fun,  bring a dish to pass and your favorite beverage.

Keep cool, keep practicing, and enjoy the summer!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Going with the flow

Sensei Maruyama has always stressed natural movement. Until recently I innocently thought he was just talking about how Nage (the person throwing) is moving in calm, relaxed states, without stylized deep stances or awkward poses. In our last camp where Kokikai students from all over the US congregated to learn from Sensei, he exposed us to what, at least to my ears, was a new term, “jun/順”. He had one of the bilingual students help him articulate the Japanese idea into words we all could (begin to) understand.
Our bodies have rules to them. Just like we need food, air, water, and sleep, our bodies have mechanical rules. Knees bend primarily in one plane and to a limited degree. Fingers bend inward, but not so well backward. You get the idea. Joints are designed to works certain ways and cause great pain and damage when forced against those.
Many martial arts take advantage of this. Joint locks and breaks are a staple among many "real" looking martial arts. Particularly those used in military and police contexts where the snapping joints by young practitioners in their physical prime who need not worry about civil liability.
However, Aikido, and in particular Aikido Kokikai®, relies on manipulating Uke (our attacker) in ways that go with the natural, or “jun/順” movements of their body. On the surface this would seem, well not all that "martial arty". And it would if it stopped there, but using natural movements is a multi-faceted strategy. We could attack individual joints and break them, but one must generally be at least as big as the attacker and fairly fit. Aikido needs to work for every one so it relies on movements that the attackers mind won't resist and brace against. Subtle movements that lead the attacker to a position to which all but one natural movement remains - falling. We use Aikido Kokikai® to remove all potential natural movements of our attackers but the one we want. Uke is left not with a choice but an eventuality of falling.
One might be quick to point out that we still have small joint locks like Nikyo and Sankyo which certainly have the appearance (and the feel, oh the feel...) of painful counter joint movement. Again, look a little deeper. Our goal in Nikyo or Sankyo is never to confine uke in a puddle of pain, ok we *can*, but, it is really to entrap a single joint and make it such that any further advancement toward us is impossible without the assistance of massive amounts of drugs.
Off the mat:
This simple concept, “jun/順”, is really a powerful and fundamental to a way of life. Consider this concept the next time you are in a "discussion" at the office. Rather than verbally clobber your coworker into submission or at least tolerance, or worse yet, get their way. Can you craft the argument to make the only natural, reasonable conclusion to do what you need done?