Archive for aikido

The Real Deal

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


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.


Purification Rituals

Posted in Martial Arts, Spirituality, Zen with tags , , on July 18, 2012 by seniorsamurai

Aikido founder O’Sensei was said to begin each day by standing under a waterfall—  yes, even in the winter—  as a daily ritual purification of body, mind and spirit.


waterfall (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

With some fear of being called an aikido purist, I think that any time we can approximate what the founder did in his daily life (and incorporate as much of his philosophy of aikido into our daily lives) we are on the right path.

There is a time and place for philosophical plagiarism!

Living in a city or the ‘burbs’ often precludes having a waterfall, ocean, or lake handy for a morning purification ritual. But, what about viewing the sun, rain and snow as our waterfalls?  I suppose, in the proper state of mind, the morning shower can serve.

Rain and snow particularly are perfect substitutes for waterfalls: steady, sometimes strong and often cleansing. Shifting our thoughts away from,  ‘oh darn I’m going to be caught in the rain and get soaked so I better scurry inside’ allows us to at least consider lingering to let the rain wash over your body. It’s a step.

How much easier is it to use the sunlight — especially the sunrise — in the same manner.  A morning gift.  How do you best connect with the light to welcome another day above ground?  To wake up every morning and work with what’s been given to us may, in fact, be following the path O’Sensei set out for us.

What are your rituals for purification?

“No Pain, No Gain” is Against the Grain

Posted in Martial Arts, Spirituality, Zen with tags , on April 26, 2012 by seniorsamurai
植芝盛平(Ueshiba Morihei, 1883 - 1969)

植芝盛平(Ueshiba Morihei, 1883 - 1969) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meet Karl Geis, (10th dan aikido, 8th dan judo, 9th dan Jyodo) who says, “When we endure pain for the sake of enduring pain we oppose nature. The true art of aikido can never be found in an atmosphere where pain is a part of the practice.”

Wait.  Pain is against the grain?

I recently read about an “ultimate” aikido program where pain seemed to be a rite of passage.  Oxford poet Robert Twigger,  joined the brutally-demanding, year-long  Tokyo Riot Police course in aikido budo training.  One of the results was a book called Angry White Pyjamas. His approach to pain during the harsh, daily physical training was philosophical.

He explained that much of the course was about:

  1. coping with pain,
  2. losing the pain,
  3. experiencing pain
  4. getting the pain under control

“If you train until you faint you lose the pain element.  If you stop when it hurts you may be doing the safe thing, but you are not commanding your body, it is commanding you. There may be a time and a place when your life depends on who is in command,” he says.

I’ve thought about this a lot and my current relationship with pain looks like this:

  1. it IS a relationship, and like all relationships, requires some conscious decision-making
  2. there is some level of pain that just goes with the practice
  3. efforts to ‘avoid pain at all costs’ usually result in pain
  4. pain associated with practice is just part of the path and not something to endure simply for the sake of being seen as a tough guy.

What’s your attitude toward pain?

Dojo: A Snibble

Posted in Friendship, Martial Arts, Snibbles, Spirituality with tags , , , , on February 9, 2012 by seniorsamurai
English: Shihōnage technique performed in &quo...

Image via Wikipedia

If the word ‘dojo’ means “a place of learning The Way” then I suspect there’s a lot more going on there than the study and  practice of ‘technique.’

I assume you understand?

faces of aikido center

Posted in Martial Arts with tags on December 29, 2011 by seniorsamurai

More Black Belt Demos

Posted in Martial Arts with tags , on October 27, 2011 by seniorsamurai

Recreational Restoration

Posted in Aging, Spirituality, Zen with tags , , on October 24, 2011 by seniorsamurai
dog in Ljubljana

Image via Wikipedia

I have imagined that restoring an old car or truck is a wonderful feeling.  It’s a form of birth and renewal that plays out through our effort and attention.

For seniors it can also be an exercise bringing back memories of loves, family and “the good old days.”  The restoration process is painstaking enough to give us an opportunity to look deeper at what those moments were really about.  There is a mindful quality that keeps us firmly rooted in the present while honoring the traditions of the past — like in our aikido or Zen practices.

I’m so accustomed to the dogs that are now our family members that I forget the extensive “restoration” each underwent between death row and the foot of the bed.

What’s the payoff? None of these activities is especially cost-effective.  What sense does it make to keep trundling off to a dojo or to paint or write?  Or to create a feeding and training schedule so consistent and predictable that love melts memories of abuse and neglect? Two generations from  will anyone remember?  Does it matter?

I have to trust the efforts are not selfish and initially narcissistic. I trust them to bring me closer to answering the questions, “What is it I need?” and “What am I searching for?”  Somehow these projects seem a better use of time than accumulating toys or using a golf club to kill time.