Friday, October 26, 2007

Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba

Morihei Ueshiba was one of history's greatest martial artists. Even at age eighty, he could disarm any foe, down any number of attackers, and even pin an opponent with a single finger. Although virtually invincible as a warrior, he was, above all, a man of peace who detested fighting, war and any kind of violence. His way was that of Aikido, "the art of peace." He is referred to as O Sensei, "the great teacher."

Morihei Ueshiba spent his youth and early adulthood training under a variety of sword and Jujutsu masters. As he grew older he experienced increasing disquiet stemming, in part, from his rather violent youth, feeling that training for the sake of winning was not enough. One day, after a long, arduous period of training and meditation, he came to recognize an innate understanding that the true purpose of the martial arts was to be the promotion of universal peace and love. He saw that the ideal victory was a conflict resolved without winner or loser. He began to change his martial techniques and practices he had learned throughout his life to align his art with his new understanding. This led to the formal development of Aikido.

"In Aikido, we never attack. An attack is proof that one is out of control. Never run away from any kind of challenge, but do not try to suppress or control an opponent unnaturally. Let attackers come any way they like and then blend with them. Never chase after opponents. Redirect each attack and get firmly behind it."
– Morihei Ueshiba

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Castle Rock Aikido is a traditional, Japanese Aikido martial arts school in Castle Rock, Colorado located just 20 minutes south of Denver Metro and only 30 minutes north of Colorado Springs.
Visit www.craikido.com to get a coupon for a free class.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Natural Movement & Philosophy - A Wholistic Exercise

The Philosophy of Aikido

Much like a hurricane, tornado or tidal wave, the forces found in nature are efficient, rational, and soft, while the center is immovable, firm, and stable. Of course, these forces may not seem rational or soft relative to human experience, but relative to itself, these forces are perfectly balanced. This principle of a firm center and a soft, adaptable periphery is universally consistent -- and must be true for each person, as well. The culmination of Aikido is expressed by aligning one's own center with the center expressed throughout nature. One becomes "resilient" inside, yet this strength is expressed softly and powerfully.

The movements of Aikido maintain this firm and stable center simultaneously emphasizing spherical rotation characterized by flowing, circular motions. These pivoting, entering and circling motions are used to blend with, to control and to overcome an opponent. The principle of spherical rotation makes it possible to defend one’s self from an opponent of superior size, strength and experience.

Although Aikido movements are soft, logical and smooth, as are those found in nature, by applying a bit of force, these techniques can be devastatingly effective. The gentle quality of Aikido makes it appealing to many people. It not only provides excellent exercise and teaches proper etiquette and self-control, but for some it also offers spiritual growth and evolution.

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Many people are surprised when they find out that half of our students are over 40 years old. One reason could be because of the way Aikido blends natural movement with practical life philosophy. Castle Rock Aikido is a Japanese martial art school. Visit http://www.craikido.com/ for a coupon for a free class.



Read our story "Residents Over 50 Taking Up Martial Arts"

Monday, October 22, 2007

Castle Rock AIKIDO's Mission Statement

It is the mission of Castle Rock AIKIDO "to forge in our students a strength of character so strong, that conflict becomes unnecessary." Many assume that the "conflict" we refer to in our mission statement is physical conflict such as fighting with others. However, the conflict we mean to emphasize is inner conflict - the mental, emotional and even spiritual conflict most of us struggle within each and every day. Through the practice of Aikido we discover within ourselves a physical path to self-mastery…

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Aikido Video Clip - Using Bokken

video

Getting Centered with Aikido (Expansion Part 5)

"The key to good technique is to keep your hands, feet and hips straight and centered. If you are centered, you can move freely. The physical center is your belly; if your mind is set there as well, you are assured of victory in any endeavor."
- Morihei Ueshiba

Aikido teaches us to move, feel and, to some extent, think from our center or what the Japanese call our "hara." It is the place that we are strongest. It is the origin of our power. Our core is where we are eternally abundant. Physiologically, our core is our viscera our gut and it is where our real strength comes from. Many think big muscles are where strength comes from. However, big muscles don't work if the lungs and heart aren't strong enough to pump blood to those big muscles.

Fear produces a neurological response in the body call "fight or flight." This is also known as a sympathetic response. During a fight or flight response blood is shunted away from the internal organs - the hara – and, instead, goes to the muscles of the arms and legs for fighting. Therefore, the body actually loses core body strength. But ironically, a fight or flight response produces only a very short-term bout of strength. In the long run, flight or fight responses exhausts the body faster and actually weakens one’s core strength considerably.

In Aikido, we train to create the very opposite of a fight or flight response. Our goal is to create a relaxation response – or a parasympathetic response. The power of all Aikido techniques derives from one’s ability to relax (expansion), not to tense up (contraction). Physiologically, relaxation responses produce the exact opposite of a fight or flight response. In a relaxation response, blood shunts away from the muscles of the arms and legs and brings it back to our hara. This is exactly what happens when one takes a nap or eats food. A state of warmth, comfort and relaxation is produced. Warmth is an attribute of expansion, while cold is an attribute of contraction. Contrary to what most people think, the key to strength in Aikido is a product of relaxation responses like those produced while meditating. That is also why, for many people, Aikido is a moving meditation. Aikido, when practiced dynamically, produces the same physiologic responses and mental, emotional and spiritual benefits as meditation and meditation-like practices such as yoga and tai chi.

This expansive, relaxation response may seem counter-intuitive to many. However it is essential that the Aikido student embrace his or her surroundings and circumstances (a form of expansion) in order to practice effectively. Through training, one can learn to look at attacks, such as shomenuchi or even a tsuki, not merely as an attack against us but rather an opportunity to create a new expansive experience. If we perceive an attack as an opportunity to create and to reconnect, we can relax and become one with our environment which would include the incoming attack. From this expansive, relaxed state we can create a physical connection with our Aikido partner/attacker, which ultimately holds the potential to alter their intent of aggression. It provides for the opportunity for oneness… even friendship.

On the other hand, if we perceive our Aikido partner/attacker as something separate from us, we tend to contract. When we dissociate from our environment in both a psychological and physiological way, our muscles grow tighter and we either over-breathe or under-breathe. This causes constricted blood vessels in the brain. This, of course, changes blood and other fluid pressures in the body and ultimately does not allow for oxygen or glucose to be adequately fed to the brain. In short, we don’t think straight lose control of ourselves and, of course, our technique suffers.

Aikido is always challenging to describe in writing because the experience of Aikido transcends the written word. Aikido is meant to be experienced firsthand, not read about. The practice of Aikido represents an opportunity for transcendence on physical, mental and even spiritual levels of existence. Come discover how Aikido can serve as a catalyst for tremendous growth and expansion in your life. We invite you to come try a class at our Aikido school in Castle Rock, Colorado for free.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Aikido & Abundance (Expansion Part 4)

"If your opponent strikes with fire, counter with water, becoming completely fluid and free-flowing. Water, by its nature, never collides with or breaks against anything. On the contrary, it swallows up any attack harmlessly."
– Morihei Ueshiba

As we learned in Part Two of this article on expansion, Aikido is so much more than just a martial art. It is a whole way of life. Indeed, those who practice Aikido quickly learn that it is, in fact, a microcosmic arena for life. When regular daily problems at home or at work come up most people do the same thing as most martial arts teach. They push back, contract, shrink – they shift into a defensive posture. Sometimes they contract into adverse behaviors like excessive television watching, alcohol or overeating. Others contract by complaining, gossiping, hiding or ignoring their predicament. Aikido teaches us to address our challenges differently.

Is expansion a natural response? Think of how a muscle grows. When muscles are exercised, the muscle fibers are broken down (contraction), but then life responds not by shrinking the muscle, but instead the muscle fibers grow back stronger, bigger (expansion). The result is a net gain in growth, not a net loss.

Look at other forms of nature. What do most flowers do when the sun shines upon them? Do they expand or contract? Most expand in the warmth of the sun and then contract at night when the air cools. Look to the Universe. Is it expanding or contracting? Most astrophysicists agree that the Universe is in an expansive state. You’re part of the Universe too. Don’t you think that you are meant to be expansive, as well?

If you think about it, Aikido is a philosophy more resonant with life than many other martial art styles. Life is about growing, not shrinking; about expanding, not contracting. And, yes, while it is true that everything in life (physiology included) contains both reciprocal qualities (similar to the Taoist concepts of yin and yang) a balance between the two should not necessarily be the desired outcome. For example, most people would be upset if their monthly expenses and monthly income were in balance to one another because that would suggest that they were not gaining financially; that they were not saving. They were staying at zero. Balance implies the same on both sides. Balance means zero. Zero in physiology means dead. Only a corpse is "balanced." Instead, the desired outcome between expansion and contraction should be a net gain in expansion. Some might say that life, itself, is about expansion. Aikido is about expansion. Therefore, Aikido is about life.

Life is designed to be abundant, to be expansive. Why contract? Think about it. Has contraction really ever served you in the past? Aikido teaches people to grow, to expand when faced with challenge. If you don’t believe that life is meant to be abundant, then you need to discover Aikido and make that discovery. Come find out why Castle Rock AIKIDO may be a great place for you to discover your physical path to self-mastery.

Looking for an Aikido dojo?
Castle Rock Aikido is turing out to be an alternative to Denver martial art schools. That is because we are located just 20 minutes south of Denver Metro. We have several Denver Aikido students who commute from the heart of Denver to our dojo.

Come try a class for free and see why we were voted "Best in Castle Rock for martial arts, 2007" by Castle Rock Magazine. Call 720-221-3665 to get your coupon for a free class. See map to Castle Rock Aikido. Visit http://www.craikido.com/ to watch an Aikido video.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Reprogramming Inborn Reflexes - Aikido (Expansion Part 3)

"When an opponent comes forward, move in and greet him;
if he wants to pull back, send him on his way."
– Morihei Ueshiba

Aikido challenges us to evolve beyond primitive, instinctual survival mechanisms and reflexes that are taught in so many other forms of martial arts. For example, many Aikido students ask, "Why does Aikido take so long to master?" This is a valid question because Aikido does, in many cases, take much longer to master than other martial arts. In Aikido, we strive inwardly for self-perfection by training ourselves to utilize higher levels in the brain; to reprogram seemingly-contradictory, yet ironically, more sophisticated levels of thinking, non-thinking and other societally-conditioned responses into our unconscious mind.

An Aikido student must learn to break inborn reflexes that are culturally reinforced by society and replace those reflexes with new ones. When someone pulls us, we usually automatically respond by pulling back in the opposite direction. Similarly, when someone pushes us, we push back, again, in the opposite direction. This natural response is both an inborn reflex and is also culturally reinforced into us. This is a primitive reflex based on responding to fear or threat. Aikido teaches us to react not with primitive reflexes, but with higher levels of response. This retraining of the brain can have a long learning curve for students especially if you don’t begin to train Aikido until adulthood.

In stark contract to many martial arts, in Aikido we push when pulled at in the same direction of the attack. Similarly, when pushed we pull, again, in the same direction of the attack. This reprogramming of our nervous system's automated responses is challenging to learn, difficult to master and difficult to make automatic in our reflexes. Only through years of repetition in Aikido practice do we learn to break the primitive, conditioned responses of pull/pull and push/push and replace them with the expansive, higher level Aikido responses of push/pull and pull/push.

Come discover how Aikido can serve as a catalyst for tremendous growth and expansion in your life. Surprisingly, we have several Denver Aikido students. These students travel to our martial arts school in Castle Rock, Colorado because our instructors have integrity, advanced Aikido training and our classes are all adults.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Expansion Part 2: Aikido & Budo

"True budo calls for bringing the inner energy of the Universe in order, protecting the peace of the world as well as preserving everything in nature in its right form."
– Morihei Ueshiba

The novice martial artist sees martial arts merely as a fighting system – a means of self-defense. He understands only one-dimension of the word "martial." Martial, in the strictest sense of the word, means "associated with war." Therefore, to the novice martial artist, martial only means "the art of war" or "the art of fighting." For them, that is where the meaning stops. There is no evolution. There is no more growth. The master martial artist, on the other hand, understands this rudimentary definition of "martial" and expands it.

The master martial artist recognizes the inherent responsibilities of the martial arts and ultimately adopts the concept of budo or martial way into his or her life. The martial way is very different from that of martial combat. For example, the term budo is made up of the Japanese characters (or kanji) "bu" meaning martial and "do" meaning path. The characters of the kanji for "bu" or martial is actually made up of two symbols. The first symbol is a set of crossed weapons or halberds. The second symbol is the Japanese character for "stop." So, interestingly enough, in Japanese kanji, the character for bu doesn't mean "fighting," but somewhat paradoxically, actually reads "to stop fighting" or "to prevent fighting." Therefore, budo really translates as "the way to prevent fighting." This is congruent with the underlying message of the art of Aikido – the way of harmony. But truly, we have only scratched the surface of what budo really means. A comprehensive understanding of the term budo is a lifelong journey and can only be gained by thoroughly studying Japanese language and culture.

So, you'll notice that bushi-DO, bu-DO and Aiki-DO all end with the word "do." The word "do" is often used when a martial art is intended to be applied to other areas of life and is practiced as a way of life, not solely as a combat style. The master martial artist lives budo. He or she not only learns how to hurt, maim or kill, but also to recognize and value the wisdom of when to use one's martial arts skill and when not to. The master martial artist understands the responsibilities of budo and how to apply his or her martial art in non-martial, everyday experiences. Those responsibilities of budo expand beyond just the survival of one's self and apply to family, community, society and the world at large.

Japanese martial arts that limit their instruction to combat applications are often suffixed with the word "jutsu," which usually means "martial science." Such sciences include kenjutsu or aikijutsu. Therefore, all forms of budo are martial arts, but not all martial arts are budo. Aikido is a form of budo – a way of life, not just a self-defense system. Budo can be practiced at all times. It can be practiced when driving a car in heavy traffic, when dealing with misbehaving children, or when dealing with disruptive colleagues at work. Everything can be practiced the martial way – with a spirit of budo. Everyone can practice the expansive principle of Aikido in every arena of life.

As you can see, the art of Aikido is more than just a martial art. Aikido is a way of life; a philosophy practiced as a moving meditation of life. It is an art that holds the potential to outright challenge our humanity.

Come discover how Aikido can serve as a catalyst for tremendous growth and expansion in your life. We invite you to come try a class at our Aikido school in Castle Rock, Colorado for free.

Read Expansion Part 1: Aikido & Self-defense

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Expansion Part 1: Aikido & Self-defense

"A good stance and posture reflect a proper state of mind."
- Morihei Ueshiba


When most people think of "martial arts" one of the first things that to come to mind is the idea of "self-defense." When I think of someone defending themselves I tend to think of some one contracting, closing up, or hunkering down into a defensive stance. I also think the word defense represents a reaction to fear. Fear is always a function of contraction and is often met with defensive-oriented actions such as scratching, clawing, punching and kicking. Of course, there isn't anything wrong with these actions. There may be times in life when these become necessary. At other times, like in social environments, this lashing out may not necessarily take the form of physical strikes but, instead, may manifest as unnecessary, insensitive or sometimes even rude verbal attacks, glares or gestures.

The art of Japanese Aikido is a martial art like many others. However, the organizing principle of Aikido is radically different from most. While the majority of martial arts are based on the principle of contraction, Aikido is rooted in the principle of expansion. Expansion, not contraction, is the source of Aikido's power. As a general rule, Aikido tends to be very much the opposite of what most people imagine when they think of martial arts. For example, if you think martial arts are about self-defense, then you should know that Aikido is more about self-development. If you think martial arts is about protecting, then you should know that Aikido is more about growing. If you think martial arts is about learning how to hurt people, then you should know that Aikido is more about learning how not to hurt people. If you think martial arts are about fighting, then you should know that Aikido is more about not fighting.

In Aikido, when faced with a challenge or an attack we expand, not contract. Our posture, our stance and overall physical response gets bigger, not smaller. In Aikido, we address problems, challenges and attacks not by covering our heads with our arms and curling up into a ball, but by drowning the attack with giant, expansive waves of Aikido that engulf aggressors, much like a tsunami.

The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, was a man of small stature - not more than five foot three. However, he did not defend himself by dropping to the ground, covering his head and kicking fiercely. Instead, Osensei (or "great teacher" as we refer to him) conquered each attacker he faced by expanding his stature, energy and power; by opening up instead of closing down.

In my experience, contracting into a defensive, protective posture rarely can solve problems of any kind. That's one of many reasons why I most prefer Aikido to the many other martial arts I have trained in the past. In Aikido we learn to grow in the face of a threat, instead of crouch; to dwarf our problems and challenges by becoming more than we were before, not less. That is how we train to address challenges; by growing so much so that we actually "push out" adversity through an abundance of movement or action.

Come discover how Aikido can serve as a catalyst for tremendous growth and expansion in your life. We invite you to come try a class at our Aikido school in Castle Rock, Colorado for free.
Visit http://www.craikido.com/ to watch an Aikido video.