community writings

Granlibakken - The Power of an Aiki Summer Retreat

The Aiki Summer Retreat in Tahoe City is a unique and wonderful experience. One of the things that makes it special is that it is residential - unlike a Bridge model seminar, at Aiki Summer Retreat nearly everyone on the mat during the day is living on site for the full duration. That builds a real sense of community that is very different from a typical seminar in which we all return to our separate houses, generally with those from our home dojos, in the evenings.

Zanshin in the Beautiful Storm

Aikido is in my body.  Not in quite the same way it is in someone who began training as a child and has risen through the kyu ranks to Shodan, but it’s there.  It’s been quietly settling in for a while now, layering in among the accrued years of habit and memory.  I am an alloy of many things, but introversion, anxiety, and twenty years of fencing make up my core.  These facets of my experience have profoundly influenced my aikido practice, offering challenges to examine and strengths to leverage along the path they create.    

Vulnerability

            The past year I have spent grappling with one central issue: whether to truly accept responsibility for my life.  On the mat and off, I reached crossroads that asked me to finally and firmly chose whether to take my life and my training into my own hands, or to let them both slip away from me, to hamper my own personal growth, to die.  My preparation for Nidan has been saying yes to being vulnerable, saying yes to the truth, and honoring uke and uke’s falling sword, whether uke is another person or myself.

A Glance Towards Nidan

 

How is it that four and a half years have passed since my shodan?  What do I have to show for it?  What has changed about my Aikido?  What has changed about me?  What have I learned?  What am I working on? 

I could spill a lot of ink answering any one of these questions; in all likelihood, it would devolve into gratuitous navel-gazing that would be of interest to no one other than myself.  Having said this, I will attempt to explore some of these questions in the space of a few pages in what might amount to a coherent narrative.    

Life

Sitting by newly lit campfire
Next to river
Dusk approaching
I listen
 
To the conversation of
Uncountable trillions of atoms of hydrogen and oxygen
Bound together as water molecules
Loosely coupled to neighbors
Cascading
Babbling
Affiliated in their allegiance to gravity
Aligned
Flowing
Continuously moving
Down the upper reaches of Ohanapacosh River
Past the La Wis Wis campground
Where my wife and I
Enjoy the last evening of our vanagon camping trip
Washing evening dishes

Getting on the Mat

Over the past seven months, I developed an undiagnosed case of dizziness. This dizziness has crippled me in my daily life when it is at its worst; it has kept me from going to college classes, from walking safely for distances longer than a block, it has sent me to the ER when my friends cannot keep me upright. Almost ironically, this aggravating and confusing dizziness has kept me from my practice of balance and calmness. The art of aikido has previously centered me in times of distress and grounded me when my life seemed to crack around me.

To Mom and Dad

From an old martial art teacher - about martial arts lessons and children.

I'm going on 50 years old, which really isn't that old, but to talk to you about what a child, your child, stands to learn from taking martial arts lessons, it's old enough. I took my first lesson at the age of 9, received by first degree black belt at 19, and this year I will celebrate my 30th year of teaching and assistant teaching the martial arts.

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