Archive for the Martial Arts Category

Aikikai Junior

Posted in Aging, Martial Arts on September 2, 2014 by seniorsamurai

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To be honest, the idea of a peaceful martial art sounded strange to me.

I had been introduced to aikido by watching my father practice a few times; this summer I was finally old enough to give it a try. After practicing for the six whole weeks of my summer break I have come away with a new perspective and a new passion.

I learned that aikido is more about bringing about calm than about punching and kicking.  It is about redirecting the force of an attack but it is powerful and mighty. Knowing the right technique is essential.  I liked both nage and uke because it’s important to experience both sides of a fight.  (“Seeing both sides” is probably important in life, too.)

I also really like the tradition and the respect that is part of the dojo, especially for the sensei. As a completely new student, not only did everyone accept me, it felt like all of the “older” students took responsibility for helping me learn techniques.

Maybe I liked it so much because I had a nice dojo, with great peers and, of course, Dee Sensei. I went to classes three times a week and I liked it so much that I plan to join a dojo in my hometown, too.

Every year when I spend summer vacation with my family, they introduce me to many new places and activities.  Aside from being with my family the thing I liked most this summer was definitely aikido.

Buddhism vs. Martial Arts

Posted in Martial Arts, Zen on June 10, 2014 by seniorsamurai

aikido meditate

 

In her new book, Paradise in Plain Site: Lessons from a Zen Garden, Zen teacher and Buddhist priest Karen Maezen Miller wrote:

“These days I want nothing more than to enter an empty room with a group of strangers and sit still and quiet in samadhi, non-distracted awareness, for the better part of the day. I am always astonished by the presence of people who would dare to do such a thing—burn perfectly good day light to get nothing done.”

What struck me about that paragraph was that my first reaction was to translate that to Aikido practice. I caught myself transposing words to fit my life to get dojo. It goes something like this:

” These days I want nothing more than to enter the dojo with a group of practitioners and practice quietly the philosophy and techniques of O’Sensei — sometimes for the better part of the day. I am always grateful for the presence of people who would be here to do such a thing — burn perfectly good day light to get nothing done and come back the next day and do it all over again.”

In Gassho, Sensei Miller and O’Sensei.

The Real Deal

Posted in Martial Arts, Zen with tags on May 30, 2014 by seniorsamurai

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I have been an aikido and meditation practitioner for many years and have been fortunate to practice in locations around the USA.  Unfortunately, I have become pretty picky about where — and with whom — I practice.  My personal shorthand for teachers whose practice speaks to me — with gratitude  — is “the real deal.”

Author Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen Buddhist priest and teacher at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. Her book, Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden, was written from the soul and clearly from a place of joy.

Her book moved me toward greater appreciation that my home is where I am and I have what I need. I was better able to realize the magnitude of the gift of this life I’ve been given …and it’s mine alone to live. “What goes into sitting isn’t pretty, but after a while it becomes  beautiful” struck a chord and helped soften my heart just a little more.

Her description of the beauty of her pond being that “it’s muddy” allows me more latitude to deal with what’s in front of me right now, in this moment and any other. It helps to ease up on the ‘being perfect’ expectations.

I am delighted to say that, in my not so humble opinion, Maezen and her books are the real deal. Savor and enjoy.

Buddhism vs. Aikido

Posted in Martial Arts, Zen on April 24, 2014 by seniorsamurai

In her new book, Paradise in Plain Site: Lessons from a Zen Garden, Zen teacher and Buddhist priest Karen Maezen Miller wrote:

” These days I want nothing more than to enter an empty room with a group of strangers and sit still and quiet in samadhi, non-distracted awareness, for the better part of the day. I am always astonished by the presence of people who would dare to do such a thing—burn perfectly good day light to get nothing done.”

What struck me about that paragraph was that my first reaction was to translate it to my Aikido practice. I caught myself transposing words to fit my life at the dojo. It went something like this:

” These days I want nothing more than to enter the dojo with a group of aikidoists and practice quietly the philosophy and techniques of O’Sensei—-sometimes for the better part of the day. I am always grateful for the presence of people who would be here to do such a thing–burn perfectly good day light to get nothing done and perhaps come back again the next day and do it all over again.”

In Gassho, Sensei Miller and O’Sensei.

Impermanence and It’s Brothers and Sisters

Posted in Martial Arts, Zen on January 25, 2014 by seniorsamurai

Shihoo nage, a aïkido technical falling, illus...

Recently I made a significant change in my life. We put our New England  home of many years on the market, had the requisite tag sale, and moved 1,000 south to a much warmer place.

Along with the turmoil and emotions involved in saying good-by to friends and neighbors of 15 years, moving and leaving,  I realized that I received multiple doses of the Buddhist concept of impermanence.

Of course a move of this magnitude makes any of us face change, and it was obvious even to me. But it was the more subtle reminders that surprised me. One of the more significant reminders that surprised me the most was  the first class at my new dojo.

I had been pleased to find that the new aikido dojo was near my home and had a small group of  dedicated students led by a Sensei who after 24 years of practice still brought great energy to practice and enthusiasm for his students learning. Yet my first night on the mat—you know when you don’t know anybody and are just trying to get the lay of the land— impermanence came front and center immediately after the warm ups.

At my old dojo we had been practicing together for a number of years so everybody knew everybody else’s capabilities. At the new dojo, after the warm up and at  the first pairing off , I was paired with an Uke who kept correcting my technique…every time, all the time.

I was a little taken aback but I quickly realized something.  My ego had moved with me and I really didn’t like some younger, less experienced  practitioner telling me what to do.

It dawned on me that impermanence, ego, and possible some other unsavory aspects of my personality didn’t get left up north. And here I was in this instance thinking that a new start at a  new dojo would mean something different here just because I moved.

I guess that just like at my old aikido dojo, it’s show up, shut up, and practice.

Artist or Warrior: Part #1

Posted in Martial Arts, Spirituality, Zen on December 21, 2013 by seniorsamurai
Saotome-Sensei teaching at the 2003 Summer Cam...

Saotome-Sensei teaching at the 2003 Summer Camp in the Rockies (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mitsugi Saotome has devoted his life to the study and teaching of Aikido, the martial art of peace and beauty. Further, he is a personal descendent of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei,  the founder of aikido.

However in her book about Saotome, Susan Perry writes that he “insists that there is art in martial arts” and in his opinion, “the skills involved in art work are warrior skills.” Saotome himself also works as an artist with wood, stone, fabric and ink.

Some of Saotome’s thoughts in this regard are:

  • “A rock or piece of wood talks to me”
  • “ I approach my medium by meeting the objects at hand with an eye for their uniqueness and listen with an open heart for their messages to me”
  • “ The warriors spirit is the struggle for life—spiritual as well as physical”
  • “ One has to study things to see how to use them. But people are too busy today. It takes time to stop and look”
  • “ Proper design is based on a very deep respect for the universal spirit”
  • “The objects that I fashion are not entirely my idea. I see shape and then inspiration comes. Universal forces created the form not humans”
  • “ Carving natural wood, making designs, working with my hands—these are my meditation”

My or our job is to make the leap from Saotome to your endeavors.

 

Framing Your House

Posted in Aging, Friendship, Martial Arts, Questions, Spirituality with tags , , on December 7, 2013 by seniorsamurai
A classical aikido throw being practiced. Tori...

A classical aikido throw being practiced. Tori maintains balance and structure to throw uke, while uke safely takes a forward roll (mae ukemi). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Poet Maya Stein  wrote about a potters effort to sculpt a face, “Her fingers could not handle the finer points of the clay, and so it’s face warped into a caricature with oblique white ovals for eyes and improbably round lips. There wasn’t much to the skull or the ears, and hardly a trace of the jaw line that marked her own silhouette. She was simple and doughy; the roughest of creatures, but such is the beginning that marks any beginning: vague outlines, hopeful guesses at proportion, an innocence of form and shape. The hard work will come soon enough, of course, the ruthless attempts at getting it right and the self-flagellation that ensues when failure hits, the way we chew and scrape at our own tender insides. So she will do her best love her now, this uneven, funny being, and hold her for exactly what she is: blameless and forgiving. “

Reframing this text in the context of aikido goes something like this:  In the beginning her hands could not handle the finer points of the technique, and so her face froze into a frown with wide questioning eyes and improbably questioning lips. There wasn’t much to her effort, and hardly a trace of completion that marked her finishing throw. She was simply and clearly, the most awkward of students, but such is the beginning that marks any beginner: stumbling entering steps, hopeful guesses at positioning and proportion, a clueless innocence of what exactly comes next. The hard work will come soon enough, of course, the ruthless attempts at getting it right and the self-flagellation that ensues when failure hits, the way we chew and scrape at our own tender insides for our inadequacies. So we Uke, do our best to support and take Ukemi for her now, this uneven, clumsy being, and honor her for exactly what she is: a work in progress just stepping on the path…just exactly like we did in the beginning and continue to do one practice and one technique at a time.

Why should we martial artists be different from a potter, musician, weaver, or swordsman?