Connection

In my early years of aikido, connection was not emphasized. I first conceived of connection as something to break away from. Someone grabs your wrist, and well, you’re trying to escape, right? Make them let go! It was a long time before it occurred to me that one of the principle things we are practicing…

Copyright 2013 Alain Grafal

Dignity and Respect

I’ve always thought of myself as the kind of person who treats everyone with dignity and respect. In the short 21 months that I’ve been training in aikido, it has become glaringly clear that there is someone new whom I am learning to treat with dignity and respect: myself. Through our aikido practice, I am…

Motion. Stillness. Joy. Every time we step onto the mat, it is a precious opportunity to start fresh, as a beginner.

Joy and beginner’s mind

My shaky signature on the little sign-in card betrayed the fact that I was choking back some fear. This was Day One of my aikido training, and although I was greeted with warmth, kindness, and friendly smiles, all I could see were hakama. The hakama. Symbol of someone else’s perfection. Mockingly pointing out the fact…

Have You Ever Had To Use Aikido?

  Have you ever had to use aikido? I suspect that most people who practice a martial art have been asked a similar question. “Have you ever had to use tae kwon do—kenpo—kung fu—brazilian jujitsu—kick boxing—sumo wrestling—northwestern wounded praying mantis style…?” What we’re really being asked is, “Can you give me the salacious details of…

Throw It All Away

A koan is an insoluble puzzle that gives deeper and deeper insights but is never resolved.   Recently Mark Sensei slipped us a dual koan to ponder: Uke is irrelevant/Throw it all away     “Uke is irrelevant” originated from a video produced by Warren W., 6th dan, from New York Shin Budo Kai. After…

Shall We Dance?

Our dojo recently enjoyed a spectacular, technically spot-on nikyu test—nikyu meaning 2nd rank below black belt shodan. No matter what level someone is going for, Durango Shin-Budo Kai always strives for high standards. Did the candidate know the vocabulary? Did he execute the correct technique? Did she demonstrate poise and focus in the present moment?…

A Choice in the Matter

I could have gone blind the light was so bright. It blazed so abruptly. I didn’t have time to take cover and shield my eyes. This luminous assault happened a few nights ago in class as we picked apart kata toris, shoulder grabs. Sensei Mark demonstrated some of the atemis, or strikes, available to the…

Moving Around My Own Center

Mark Sensei commonly reminds us to move around our own center, regardless of what uke may be doing or not doing. After spending my entire life reacting to the behaviors of others (a survival strategy that served me well as a child, but no longer serves me as an adult), this wisdom sounds very counter-intuitive.…