Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Make Friends Fast with Aikido!

When adults move to a new town or state, it can be difficult to make new friends. It is not uncommon for people to go through months and months of social isolation. This can lead to loneliness and depression, but over time, people slowly rebuild a new social network. That can be a tough experience for almost anyone. However, there is no reason to wait. Some more outgoing people may make an effort to attend activities like public lectures on interesting subject or things like that in an effort to meet new people. But more often than not, most people usually go to those kinds of events in pre-existing clicks and are often opposed to venturing outside their own groups or unwilling to let new people in to theirs. One of the reasons why events like these don't work so well as a way to meet people is that the event is usually passive (like listening to a lecture) and does not engage others or encourage others to socialize outside of their pre-existing social groups. Aikido, on the other hand, is a very different experience... a very active experience.

The Japanese martial art of Aikido is a great way to make friends fast. In an Aikido dojo (or school), the existing students are always excited to have some one new in class because they are excited to see that someone else is taking an interest in the art they feel so passionately about. Existing Aikido students go out of their way to make new students feel welcome and comfortable. In fact, it is their responsibility to do so. The head "sensei" or instructor makes it very clear to all existing students that new people are to be made to feel like this is their new home... because it is! That is, if they want it to be.

One of the most interesting things about an Aikido dojo compared to many other kinds of martial art schools is the "feel" of the environment. When you walk into an Aikido dojo or watch an Aikido class, the more prevalent noise you hear isn't shouting or screaming like you would expect in a martial arts school, but laughter. And, the most common expression you see on the instructor's and students' faces isn't grimacing or sternness, but big smiles and bright eyes.
In Aikido class, students always work in pairs or in threes and the new students work right away not just with other novice students, but with intermediate and advanced levels to provide an optimal learning experience. It is common for Aikido students to work with 6-12 different partners in each class! As a result, the new students get to know a half dozen people or so in their very first class. That is not too many names to remember and not too few. By the end of their first class, a new student is often on a first name basis with most of those people.
What makes an Aikido dojo such a great place to make friends is that instantly you have something in common with the other students... Aikido! You can't be self-conscious about yourself on the Aikido mat because you're too focused and too busy trying to learn the new techniques. Everyone is there to learn Aikido, a powerful and unique martial art with a tremendous capacity to transform people's lives in every aspect.

Everyone's motivation for practicing Aikido is different. Some people are there to learn self-defense. Others are trying to develop more self-confidence or self-control. Yet still, others are there for the exercise. But even if your reason for being there is just to try to meet new people and make new friends, you're still going to have a great time no matter what.

The friendships you make at an Aikido dojo - like Castle Rock AIKIDO in Castle Rock - don't end when class is over. Aikido schools tend to hang out and socialize with each other often. At Castle Rock AIKIDO, we periodically havea barbeque at a student's home and we cut class short on the 4 th Friday of each month and all go out to a restaurant or a late movie with each other to get to know each other outside of class. This New Year's Day, we are all going up to Boulder together to celebrate 'Mochitsuki,' an annual gathering of the Japanese communityacknowledging the new year.

Come discover how Aikido can serve as a catalyst for tremendous social growth in your life. Castle Rock AIKIDO is the martial arts school exclusively for adults in Castle Rock. We invite you to come try a class for free. Call us today at 720-221-3665 or visit us at: www.CRaikido.com for a limited time special offer. Experience a power you never knew you had. Experience Aikido!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why Do We Spend So Much Time Learning UKEMI? part 2

What does a black belt in Aikido mean to you? I was told that a black belt should be able to take UKEMI from any throw. My training insured that was true. UKEMI is the Japanese term for being able to safely receive an Aikido technique from anyone. It is the ability to follow, flow and fall without injury. It is often said that the first three years in Aikido training is UKEMI. UKEMI is that important.

A few years ago, we were training in Sasaki sensei's dojo in Fujiminou City in Saitama, Japan. Many of his students were already 4th, 5th, and 6th degree black belts. Sasaki Sensei, himself, is an 8th degree black belt. So imagine me, being only a 2nd degree black belt at the time! I was intimidated to say the least. In this situation, 2nd degree black or NI-DAN means next to nothing. Their level of understanding of techniques was so deep that it would blow your mind. In this situation, the only thing I could be confident in was my UKEMI. In their presence, I wasn’t even comfortable saying that I had a basic understanding of Aikido. All I knew was that I could receive their techniques. Of course, it is by receiving their techniques that I would learn the most from them. That is where the real learning in Aikido takes place, through the physical dialogue of UKEMI.

Once you’ve learned to take UKEMI, your technique will follow. If you really want to improve your Aikido technique… focus on developing your UKEMI. A little known secret about Aikido is that UKEMI is the key to reaching black belt, not technique execution. Many students spend a disproportionate amount of their focus on the performance of techniques like KOTE-GAESHI or SHIHO-NAGE. If one is truly present during training, one will be extremely intent while be both uke and nage. Being equally skilled is what will make you a complete aikidoka.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why Do We Spend So Much Time Learning UKEMI?

Response from Sensei:

When you come to an Aikido dojo, the first thing you will learn is how to fall or UKEMI. A wise Shinto priest and Aikido master once said to me, "First learn UKEMI because UKEMI is a form of losing. If you can learn how to lose and how you feel when you lose, the rest of it is easy. No ego, no nothing… Just the way it is." I learned UKEMI in very much the same way. The first thing my instructor, Iio Sensei, taught me was UKEMI. As a matter of fact, the first three years of my Aikido training was all about UKEMI. Nothing else mattered.

During this time, my husband had already earned his black belt in Aikido and had recently attended GASSHUKU (specialized training) with the Wakayama University Aikido Club. He was hoping that I would soon be able to take UKEMI at the same level of intensity as those who had been training for years. Since he had significantly more Aikido experience than I, he worked with me endlessly in an effort to get me up to par so that I, too, could fully participate in the more advanced aspects of Aikido.

For months after each and every Aikido class he would throw me repeatedly so that I could learn UKEMI faster. I am not talking about the regular, nice and easy UKEMI that we often practice in Castle Rock each week. I am talking about full-force break falls or TOBI UKEMI. My husband threw me as hard as he could (at least that is how it felt to me) and I tried my best to "take" good TOBI UKEMI. Unlike our Castle Rock students, I didn't have a luxury of a spring floor or soft mats to learn on. I had to take full-force ukemi on TATAMI mats which were as firm as boards. So it really hurt when you didn't land properly. After just a few nights of this special UKEMI training, my legs were black and blue all the way from my rear end to my knees and I didn’t seem to be making all that much progress. But, then one day something changed. Everything came together at once. Suddenly TOBI UKEMI wasn't painful anymore. My body had learned how to fall properly.

Ten years later I look back and appreciate the extra training my husband gave me. It greatly allowed me to advance my Aikido training. It definitely made me more confident when I trained with high ranking black belts at outlying dojo.

If you want to speed up your Aikido training, focus on UKEMI. You will quickly see that if you can take good UKEMI, the higher rank students will want to work with you more. Your ability to take good UKEMI is often proportional to your commitment level to the art and senior students recognize that and reward it by working with you more. Aikido is team work between the NAGE (thrower) and UKE (throwee). Techniques and UKEMI are both equally important in your training.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mistakes: The Key to Speeding Up your Aikido Training

The fastest, most expedient way to learn Aikido is not to be prepared, but to make mistakes… a lot of mistakes. The more mistakes you make, the faster you will progress in your training. Our brains assign cause and effect through contrasting experiences. An improperly executed technique is contrasted with a properly executed technique. The "gap" or distance between the two experiences creates "perspective" in the brain and within that gap is where learning occurs. The more out-of-place you feel, the faster you will viscerally internalize the techniques and the lessons they contain.

If you think about it, you have probably experienced this in other areas of your life. Haven't your greatest lessons in your life been the product of mistakes more so that successes? Early 20th century success researcher, Napoleon Hill, states that the key to success in any endeavor is failure. So if you want to progress your Aikido training faster then come to class and make more mistakes! Just be sure to do so with a sense of humor and a smile!

Would you like to try Aikido? We offer a week trial for $25. This will give you the opportunity to see if you enjoy our style of Aikido training and get a chance to meet our students. Click here for the $25 Aikido class trial.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Tell Us About Your Students at Castle Rock Aikido

Audio Interview between Sean, a student at Castle Rock Aikido and one of their many Aikido instructors.

Sean: Let's get to know about your Aikido school. Who are your students? Do they all come from Castle Rock?

Sensei: We get all types of students, they come from all over the place, outside of Castle Rock – as far north as Westminster and we have two students from Colorado Springs as well.

We get all kinds of different students, working professionals, parents; we've got a couple of college students, so we have a wide variety. We tend to get students in the 30-40 range, people who are searching and looking for different things as far as self development and personal development goes.

Sean: And don't you guys have students older than that also?

Sensei: Oh yes, we've had students as old as, I think 77 in Castle Rock.

Sean: Wow. I bet a lot of people do not think of practicing martial arts in their 60's and 70's, do they?

Sensei: They probably don't but there are many students and instructors who are well into their 80's and even their 90's who have thrown me around quite well. It is definitely a martial art you can do for a lifetime.

Sean: Well that is pretty amazing. It sounds like people are willing to travel if necessary – quite a distance to come train with you guys. I think that is probably pretty unusual considering there is, in most towns, at least one martial arts school on every street corner; so the idea that people would travel, it sounds like well over an hour in some cases to come train with you guys is quiet a credit to your program.

Sensei: Well, thank you. I think people just like the whole atmosphere – it is pretty energetic and upbeat and we have a good time, so I think they are willing to drive a little bit to be a part of that.

End of this segment of the Aikido interview. To find out what students of Castle Rock Aikido are saying about their dojo and the Aikido instructors, please visit www.craikido.com