Practice Watered Down

“Don’t change the kata,” Sensei Mark reminds the class. We stand in pairs down the mat, like characters in a Jane Austen novel about to dance a quadrille or cotillion; only we are equipped with swords, not witty repartee. We are struggling with the day’s weapons instruction. Specifically, we cannot comprehend the correct and proper…

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…

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?…

Kinesthetic Skill

I never expected to fall in love again. For several months, my wife Adele had been taking tai chi at the community college. After class, her teacher slipped out of his Chinese garb, donned a black hakama over a white gi, and taught aikido. Adele watched a class, thought I might be interested, and suggested…

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.…