The Caretaker’s Test

The above picture comes from Scott Carlton’s recent 5th kyu test—the first demonstration a person gives to establish their rank as a beginner. The first time they truly come to Aikido’s front door and knock, knock, knock. At first glance, the photo seems like an innocuous and typical first test snapshot, and yet, it actually…

Aikido, App’d for Dating

I downloaded the dating app, entered a punchy profile, and uploaded some pictures. My index finger hovered over the submit button. I hadn’t dated in almost 20 years. Back then, there were no smartphones or apps, I didn’t have cirrus gray streaks in my hair, and wrinkles existed only in my laundry. Did I really…

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…

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…

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…