Wednesday, December 24, 2008

No AIKIDO class over the Holidays

It is customary for AIKIDO dojos to close for a short time over the holidays.

Keiko Osame, the final practice of the year, will be Tuesday, December 23rd at 7pm & 8:15pm.

Keiko Hajime, the first practice of the New Year will be Saturday, January 3rd at 10am.

Monday, October 13, 2008

New Earlier Aikido Class Times Prove Successful

7pm class times well-received by students and prospective students

A few weeks ago, Castle Rock AIKIDO added some earlier evening classes to the class schedule. Over the past six months we have received many requests for earlier class times from students and many prospective students. However, due to our restrictions at our previous facility, we were unable to accommodate those who wanted earlier class times. Now that we have purchased our own building, that is no longer an issue!

Castle Rock AIKIDO now holds Aikido classes for adults only from 7pm to 8pm on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Visit www.CRaikido.com to get a FREE coupon to come try an AIKIDO class. If you have not been able to try the Castle Rock AIKIDO program because classes were held too late, now might be a great time to come visit us and see if our program is right for you.

Come find out why some students travel over an hour to come practice AIKIDO with Sensei!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Twilight Samurai Movie Review

Samurai movie review by Sean Hannon

When many people think about a stereotypical samurai movie, one often thinks the movie will be full of swords and bloodshed. Twilight Samurai surprised me. I'm not sure why I loved this movie, but I very much did. It was a personal story, a very intimate one, as opposed to some tale of epic societal shift. I literally felt as though I lived in this small, feudal shogun village.

Twilight Samurai (or titled 'Tasogare Seibei' in Japanese) is a 2002 film, starring Hiroyuki Sanada who you may recognize as "Ujio" in 2003's The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. The story takes place around the 1860s and involves members of the Unasaka Clan in the Shonai Province. This area is now referred to as the Yamagata Prefecture in northeast Japan.

It is at a time of significant, progressive change in Japan just prior to the Meiji Restoration when the samurai effectively lost power. Some samurai pretend nothing is changing, others defiantly resist the changes, and some accept it as a natural defeat. The age of the sword is coming to an end and society struggles to adapt to that change.

The scenery is breathtaking and I was immensely impressed with the village sets. It very much makes me want to visit the countryside of Japan. The music is also quite good; emotional, fitting, and complementary to the cinematography.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well annunciated the Japanese dialogue was. I recognized some words, having studied Japanese for a year and a half in college. However, it would be a gross understatement to suggest that I actually understood any of the story's detail without the assistance of the subtitles. At over two hours of reading subtitles, this may not be your kind of movie – but I really connected with it.

Twilight Samurai, in some respects, has occasional tones of a romantic comedy, but is overwhelmingly a romantic tragedy in that the two that love each other are consistently blocked from being together by the arbitrary standards of a conformist culture and the societal expectations of a doomed feudal regime. The story is so familiar and so human, that non-Japanese speaking viewers can easily connect with it.

Much like many books and movies today, the protagonists in this film are people of modern-day values trapped in a time and a system of antiquated, obsolete ones. The order of the samurai and their sense of obligation and loyalty are part of what keeps a low-ranking samurai, Seibei (pronounced 'Say'-'bay') from his childhood love, Tomoe (pronounced "Toe'-'mo'-'eh'). Similarly, the conformism and social conservatism of a woman's expectations are what keeps her from him.

There are only two fight scenes in the entire movie. So if you are expecting an action movie, you'll likely be disappointed. This movie is a story about relationships. Told from the point of view of Seibei’s youngest child, the story reveals itself with hints of the class Romeo & Juliette dilemma.

The samurai belong to a class and each individual samurai's rank within that class is measured by a monthly rice stipend called a 'koku.' Our widowed hero raises two daughters and cares for a mother with Alzheimer's with only 50 koku. This petty amount is described to be only enough for a single person to survive for one year. This low stipend has forced Seibei to take menial side jobs such as cage building and farming to subsidize.

Twilight Samurai is valuable for someone who is interested in Japan's culture beyond that of just martial arts. Here, a lot is learned of a samurai's place, position, and interaction with a society. While there is much that I have always admired about the samurai, there has also been a part of me that wonders if the reason why they are essentially extinct is because of some of the rigidity of their alleged values. This assertion is something I am currently writing about for an upcoming article for the Castle Rock AIKIDO Dojo Newsletter, which will review the Seven Values of the Samurai first articulated in the 1899 Japanese text entitled Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe.

In a scene near the end of the movie, I am reminded of some of the text from Miyamoto Musashi's Book of 5 Rings: The Water Book, when he describes the best ways to fight indoors. I had not truly appreciated these passages until I watched this scene from Twilight Samurai.
I first saw Sanada-san, the male lead actor, portray "Ugio" in The Last Samurai. The Last Samurai and Twilight Samurai are similar to each other in that both take place at approximately the same time period. However, The Last Samurai deals with these societal changes on a macroscopic level and Twilight Samurai addresses these societal changes on a microscopic level.

Twilight Samurai wasn't about changing the country or saving the world. It was about a series of events that brought two people together. It was about a man who was, overall, content with his place and standing in the world – who had no ambition to rise in it other than to provide as best he could for his family. I guess one could argue that of the seven virtues of a samurai, Seibei most valued that of humility.

As I watch more and more Japanese films I’m getting used to what I (at least by Western standards) might call their melodramatic performances. I can definitely see how this movie won 12 awards from the Japanese Film Academy, including Best Director, Best Film, Best Actor, and Best Actress. If it means anything to you, Roger Ebert also gave it 4 stars. You can rent this movie from Blockbuster Video. However, I borrowed it from the Castle Rock Library. Enjoy!

www.CRaikido.com

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Aikido Testing Seminar Held in Castle Rock for First Time

The summer's testing seminar for Colorado's Aikikai dojos under Izawa Sensei was held on Saturday, September 6th. For the first time ever, testing was held in Castle Rock at our new dojo on Caprice Court. It was a hot, sweaty time, as dozens of students packed into the dojo.

For many students, it was their first rank test (Go-kyu). Others tested for brown and black belt. Senior student, Steve Yee, tested for black belt after ten years of Aikido training. This is quite an achievement because in Aikido, less than 5% of all students ever reach black belt. Significantly less than other more popular martial arts in America, this may explain why earning a black belt in Aikido is so coveted and respected in the martial arts world.

This promotion represents only the 3rd time Sensei has ever promoted someone to the rank of sho-dan or 1st degree black. As is part of our tradition at Castle Rock AIKIDO, Steve's black belt earns him the right to wear the Japanese hakama. Hakama are the dark colored, pleated pant-skirts reminiscent of traditional samurai dress. Many Aikido school's hakama are black. However, at Castle Rock AIKIDO, our hakama are a deep indigo color, which, like the depths of the ocean and the layers of a night's sky, are meant to symbolize the continued future journey of a student privileged enough to reach the rank of sho-dan.

View pictures of Aikido seminar, click here.


****

The ranks issued by Castle Rock AIKIDO are sanctioned by the home school in Japan. This is one way Castle Rock AIKIDO is unique among some other Colorado dojos.

Castle Rock AIKIDO is an award winning, traditional Japanese Aikido martial arts school. Aikikai affiliation. Program exclusively for adults, sorry no kids classes. No contracts ever. Visit http://www.craikido.com/ for a coupon to try a free class.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Visit from Japanese Martial Arts Student Reinforces Traditional Culture Taught at Castle Rock AIKIDO Martial Arts School

Several weeks ago, Haruki MATSUZAKI-san sent me an e-mail saying that he'd be visiting the United States and that he would very much like to treat our Aikido students to an authentically-cooked, Japanese tempura meal. Matsuzaki-san owns a quaint little restaurant in Nagasaki where he cooks right in front of his patrons. That way he can interact with them, tell jokes, and sometimes even perform magic tricks – all this, while he's preparing their four-to-five course meals! How could I possibly refuse such a generous invitation?

Matsuzaki-san and I are both students of Morihei IIO Shihan (pronounced 'ee-yo'). We met shortly before I left Japan to return to the United States. Unfortunately, it wouldn't be until several years later upon revisiting Japan that I would get to enjoy his unique and delicious tempura-style cooking. Although we only had the opportunity to train in Japan together once, he made quite an impression on me.

Matsuzaki-san is an incredibly friendly person with a great sense of humor. In fact, I can't imagine him not getting along with anyone.

A san-dan (3rd degree black belt) in Aikido, Matsuzaki-san lives and breathes Aikido both on and off the mat. One could easily observe his Aikido fluidity and creativity as he adapted to his new and unfamiliar surroundings here in the US as he set up a make-shift mini-restaurant right outside the front door of our dojo! For someone who claims not to speak very good English, Matsuzaki-san also managed to crack several very funny jokes in English!

In addition to his amiable disposition and delicious tempura, Mastuzaki-san brought with him many good wishes and salutations from past friends of ours in Japan and some fun stories, too. For example, there still appear to be some remnant stories about me being perpetuated back at the Nagasaki dojo. Matsuzaki-san reminded me of an old "rivalry" during my tenure there. In Japanese the term "rival" is used in a positive context for someone who pushes you to get better (as opposed to the negative context of the word here in the US, which usually means an enemy or hostile). A student named, Kei WAKASUGI and I were "rivals" to each other. That is, we definitely pushed each other very hard to grow.

Today, Matsuzaki-san and Waksugi-san are good friends with each other and Matsuzaki-san said that whenever a student complains about the intensity of the training at Nagasaki Kiwakai being too tough, Wakasugi-san says, "Aww, come on, this is nothing compared to when Jefu-san and I trained together." Wakasugi-san was a big guy (by Japanese standards), about 5'11" and quite muscular. We were good rivals for each other and that is, in part, because of the tremendous spirit that exists at Nagasaki Kiwakai. Shiraki Sensei and I are very much intent on creating that same spirit, authenticity, and sense of community here at Castle Rock AIKIDO that exists at Nagasaki Kiwakai.

Indeed, I did train more intensely in those days. Actually, in order to get enough training to satisfy my seemingly insatiable appetite for Aikido I trained at three dojos simultaneously: Nagasaki Kiwakai, Nagasaki Aikidokai, and Nagasaki Aikidoukai. Nagasaki Aikidoukai was actually located in Omura, which was about an hour from Nagasaki by train. I trained six days a week with two practices on Thursdays and another day just for practicing Iaido (the art of live sword drawing). In Japan, they called me Keiko Oni, which literally translates as "training demon." Here in the States, we call someone like that a "dojo rat" – a student who eats, sleeps and breathes their martial arts training.

Matsuzaki's visit reminded me of an amazing and truly meaningful time in my life - one which I shall never forget. He reminded me of how much our mutual teacher has influence my life. Yet, using the word "influence" to describe Iio Shihan's effect on me is grossly inadequate. In Japanese, the noun SONZAI kind of translates as "being" or "existence." Iio Sensei is the biggest sonzai in my life, in the sense that the effect he has had on me has truly touched my very being, my very existence. He taught me everything that I was seeking, at that time in my life, and he opened me up to a world to which I wouldn't otherwise have had access to. Without him, I would not have had many of my cherished life experiences. Indeed, he was very much a father figure to me. Yet, no matter how hard I try to convey his significance in my life, words consistently fail me. I simply cannot accurately and comprehensively express in words what my years and experiences in Japan have meant to my life and Matsuzaki-san’s visit caused me to, once again, reflect on these times.

It was an absolutely pleasure hosting Matsuzaki-san at our Castle Rock dojo. Matsuzaki-san, and I sure had a blast going from store to store in Denver trying to find the right Japanese produce or the closest thing we could find to such. It was quite the scavenger hunt! It was also nice to drink some real Japanese sake that Matsuzaki-san brought with him.

Our friendship was greatly strengthened over his recent visit and I very much regret not having gotten to know him earlier when I was living in Japan. What a much needed gift from Japan his visit brought. We look forward to having him return to Colorado and perhaps visit a future Colorado restaurant of his!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Share Our Facility: Below Market Rent For Physical Exercise Businesses

Castle Rock AIKIDO is renting their new building during non-martial arts hours. Now you can get your physical arts business off the ground in Castle Rock with below market rates.

Perfect for yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Dance, Bootcamp Fitness, Aerobics, Meditation & More

Now you can safely expand your business, add more class offerings, or introduce a satellite school in Castle Rock without worrying about high rents or costly flooring purchases.

Facility Features:
Nearly 2000 sq feet of unobstructed, matted floor space;
14 foot ceilings;
Rent based on hours and times usage;
Morning, day, evening and weekend times available;
Single event use available;
Quarterly "Business Growth" marketing meetings with landlord;
Easy highway access - I 25 at exit 181 (Castle Rock;
Plenty of parking;
Zoned B2 Retail;
Women's & men's changing rooms;
Clean, tranquil Japanese decor.

Sorry, NO KIDS CLASSES. The facility is not conducive to hold children's classes. Classes are exclusively for adults.

Visit: Affordable Retail Space to rent in Castle Rock to view calendar.

Located at 185 Caprice Court #5; Castle Rock, Colorado

If you would like to tour the facility or have questions, please contact the property manager, Allison Frederick, Sophia Management, LLC at:
303.522.4740 or allison@craikido.com

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Nagasaki Chef Visits Castle Rock AIKIDO & Treats Dojo to Authentic Japanese Dinner!

We received an incredible gift from Japan earlier this month. Haruki Matsuzaki (a.k.a. Chef Yumeno) owns a restaurant in Nagasaki, Japan. On his first visit to the United States, he contacted Sensei and requested that he come to Colorado and cook us a special tempura dinner for us. How could we refuse!

Matsuzaki-san is researching the viability of opening an authentic Japanese restaurant here in the US; possibly in Colorado. Matsuzaki-san and Sensei all learned Aikido from Iio Shihan in Nagasaki, Japan. They trained briefly together in the 1990s. Like Sensei, Matsuzaki-san is a san-dan or 3rd degree black belt in Aikido. He understands more English than he speaks. Sensei found himself doing a lot of translating, but seemed to enjoy it very much.

Matsuzaki-san worked out with us at our new dojo before we were treated to his divine culinary skills. However, Matsuzaki-san was a bit surprised at how much Colorado's elevation affected him on the Aikido mat.

We look forward to another visit from Chef Yumeno!
'Arigatou gozaimashita, Matsuzaki-san! Hagimemashite!'
(Thank you very much, Matsuzaki-san. It was great seeing you!)

Read more about Matsuzaki-san's visit HERE.

Get Started Today with AIKIDO.
CLICK HERE for a limited-time, special offer.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Finally Our Own Aikido Dojo!

Come See Our New 2,500 SF Building!
- With 80 tatami mats, there is plenty of room to roll around.

Some students have noticed an air of secrecy around the dojo for the past few months. That is because we have been working on getting what we have really needed for quite some time now...
Our own facility!!!

We are in great debt to the generosity and cooperation of Omega Gymnastics for allowing us the opportunity to hold classes for the past fifteen months at their facility.

A lot of thanks also goes to Aikido Student, Tim Keating, who is responsible for brokering the deal to purchase our new building on Caprice Court.

Click Here to view pictures of our own new Aikido home now located at:
185 Caprice Court - Unit # 5 Castle Rock, Colorado 80109

We have also been informed that this summer's Aikido testing seminar will be held at our new dojo in Castle Rock. It is a great privilege and we are very much looking forward to hosting this summer's Aikido testing!

"Our new building is great! I'd like to compliment Sean Hannon and all those who have made the new dojo a great place to train in. It's fantastic to be able to feel the great energy which is being infused into the new dojo. I'm looking forward to training at Castle Rock AIKIDO for many years and watching the school progress into a truly special place to further explore the depths of Aikido." - Student Tim Keating

Photos of Castle Rock AIKIDO Dojo

Visit www.CRaikido.com for the latest promotional specials.
"I would encourage others to try Aikido in order to find that place within one's self that is calm, quiet, and yet strong and confident, all of which can be used in all situations in life. Aikido is training in life itself." - Student Tim Keating

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Virtual Dojo: Free Online Aikido Instruction

Now you can further study Aikido online! Beginning this month, the Dojo News (our bi-monthly newsletter) will include what we are calling a Virtual Dojo segment where Sensei will share an Aikido video clip with you and describe the significance of the techniques being demonstrated. Some video clips may emphasize fluidity, while others may emphasize power, hip movement or footwork. Expect to see videos of famous living Aikidoists and masters that have passed away.

This month's clip is of Mitsugi Saotome Sensei. Saotome Sensei was an uchideshi (or live in student) of the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Saotmoe Sensei is the author of numerous Aikido books and is also the founder of ASU, the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba and currently lives in the United States. You can learn more about Saotome Sensei on Wikipedia.

Click Here to view the inaugural segment of Virtual Dojo.

Do you want to find a traditional Aikido school?Castle Rock Aikido is a Denver metro martial art school.Located just 20 minutes south of Denver Metro and 30 minutes north of Colorado Springs, Castle Rock Aikido attracts martial art students from surrounding areas including Denver, Aurora, Parker, Highlands Ranch, Colorado Springs, Larkspur, and Franktown. Come try a class for free and see why we were voted "Best in Castle Rock for martial arts, 2007" by Castle Rock Magazine.
Visit www.craikido.com to get a coupon for a free class.
Get driving directions to Castle Rock Aikido.
Visit www.craikido.com to watch an Aikido video.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What Qualities Do You Need to Be Successful in Aikido?

Continued telephone Aikido interview

Sean: What qualities does a student need to have in order to be successful in the art of Aikido?

Sensei: Perhaps the most important thing people need is a willingness to learn, not to be too uptight, or too upset with themselves when they can't learn the Aikido techniques right away. It is OK to feel awkward and make mistakes – that is, after all, how we really learn. If you have a willingness to learn, and a willingness to make mistakes, then you are pretty much ready to train Aikido.

Something else that does help on the mat is a sense of humor. When you make mistakes, and you will, if you can smile and have a good time, then that is what it is all about. I think that is what life is all about – smiling and having a good time.


Sean: That is an interesting answer. I think if most martial arts teachers were asked the question, "What does it take to succeed as a martial arts student?" I think it would be rare to hear someone say "Well, you’ve got to be able to smile and have a sense of humor." I don't think those are behaviors people would normally think about as the pre-requisites for beginning a martial art. That is a pretty refreshing perspective.


It reminds me of that story I'm sure you've heard before of the student who climbs a mountain to meet with a master who has sequestered himself in an Asian mountain range. When the student gets to the top, he and the master start to have tea and the student is going on and on about all the training he's had. "Oh, I've trained here, I've trained there, I've done this, and I've done that." Meanwhile, as the student continues to talk about himself, the master starts pouring the student a cup of tea. The tea cup continues to fill up as the student continues to talk. The tea overflows the cup's edge and spills over but the master continues to pour the tea.


Finally the student, who has been watching the whole time says, "What are you doing? Stop pouring. Can't you see there isn't any more room in the cup?"


The master says, "Ah, yes, much like you. You've come to me with a full cup. If you want to learn anything from me, you need to present me with an empty cup." Maybe that is what you mean by having a willingness to learn, a willingness to be a beginner and to make mistakes.


Sean: Yes, that is what we always strive for in Aikido. As we practice for years and years we are taught in our training to come back to our "beginner’s mind" – or having that empty cup. Be willing to go into a situation and just experience it rather than think it is supposed to turn out a certain way. Just try it, experience it, and let your body take it all in. That is the essence of the art of Aikido.



Do you want to find an Aikido school?
Castle Rock Aikido is a Denver metro martial art school.Located just 20 minutes south of Denver Metro and 30 minutes north of Colorado Springs, Castle Rock Aikido attracts martial art students from surrounding areas including Denver, Aurora, Parker, Highlands Ranch, Colorado Springs, Larkspur, and Franktown. Come try a class for free and see why we were voted "Best in Castle Rock for martial arts, 2007" by Castle Rock Magazine.
Visit http://www.craikido.com/ to get a coupon for a free class.
Get driving directions to Castle Rock Aikido. Visit http://www.craikido.com/ to watch an Aikido video.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Castle Rock Aikido Martial Art Student Profile

April 2008 Castle Rock AIKIDO Student of the Month

Michael Kilman studies Cultural Anthropology at Metro State University in Denver. When he's not deep in the books, Michael is an Intuitive Life Coach who helps others to find a sense of peace in their lives. He also works part-time as a freelance videographer. He's been training at Castle Rock AIKIDO since last summer. Michael grew up in Philadelphia, had a short stint in Portland, Oregon, and have lived in Castle Rock for 11 years.

Michael, what are some of your hobbies in addition to Aikido?
"I spend a lot of time reading and meditating. I like to be in the outdoors and especially love the ocean, even though I live in Colorado. I like hiking and playing with my two young children, Francis and Gabriella."

What other martial arts have you trained?

"I trained briefly at an Aiki-Jujitsu, but I feel much more at home at Castle Rock AIKIDO. Even though my other teachers were great, I always felt like there was something missing, and Castle Rock AIKIDO is really like a big family. Everyone is wonderfully accepting of each other and is there to help each other learn and grown on a personal level, not just a martial arts level."

What do you like best about Aikido?

"Aikido is very similar to what I do with people on a daily basis. Aikido teaches you to stop and think about how you deal with conflict. It lets you step outside of yourself for a moment and see not only how you could try to do the technique differently, but how to deal with other aspects of your life differently. It works hand in hand perfectly with the transformational meditation that I do everyday. I think Aikido also teaches a person to remain calm in stressful situations and that, itself, can be an extremely valuable tool."

Why did you select Aikido as opposed to other martial art styles?
"I was told that Aikido was a more spiritual path; that it was a path of personal growth and change. After some research, I discovered that it was perfectly aligned with my goals as a person. I think Aikido helps me to be more well-rounded and it is nice to have a physical path towards spiritual growth. I think people often associate spirituality with the non-physical, but Aikido is proof that spiritual growth can be a very physical path! I feel my mind and body grow in harmony with one another, and I feel that the contrasting teaching styles of Castle Rock AIKIDO really push that harmony along. Additionally, since I have started Aikido I have changed my whole attitude on physical health for the better."

Why do you think others should practice Aikido?

"I think anyone who is interested on trying to make positive changes in their life should at least try Aikido as one means toward achieving that change. Aikido presents us with a rare opportunity; one we don't normally have in our society. It gives us an open place to explore and attempt personal change with the support of two wonderful teachers who are willing to go above and beyond the simple title of "teacher." It is very difficult to find such an environment that fosters this kind of tremendous personal change and growth. Castle Rock AIKIDO is definitively the place to do just that."

Anything else you'd like to offer about your experience at Castle Rock AIKIDO?

"I think we should recognize how important it is to learn to blend with and redirect conflict. Be it internal or external, there is conflict all around us. Aikido is a tool we can use to address conflict and to try to look at it from another perspective. Conflict is a part of life, and if you learn how to deal with it in a calm, rational manner many obstacles that life presents us with can become non-existent. Sometimes, when the sun shines on an object from a different direction, the image appears to change entirely. Similarly, Aikido helps me to look at my life in a different way, and many of my problems seem virtually non-existent."

Learn more about Michael's Intuitive Life Coaching services at: www.michaelkilman.com

We are blessed with a great group of students at Castle Rock AIKIDO. We welcome you to come and meet them and our teachers. You can even try a class for free. Visit www.craikido.com for more information.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Castle Rock AIKIDO Expands Schedule to Four Days a Week

We added A FOURTH evening per week to practice AIKIDO on April 10th!

Because you asked for it! We have decided to add a 4th evening per week to the Castle Rock AIKIDO training schedule.

On April 10th, 2008 we started holding an additional Thursday night class at our regular class time. That means we will now offer Aikido Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings!

This decision was made in an effort to allow students additional training time, particulary for those of you who are unable to attend class on other evenings per week. There will be no increase in tuition for this additional training time. We at Castle Rock AIKIDO are always looking for ways to add value to our students' training. We hope our new Thursday evening classes does exactly that!

Are you looking for things to do in Castle Rock, Colorado? Try a traditional form of Aikido. Aikido is perfect for adults who are looking for a fun way to get exercise and develop self-mastery.

Visit www.craikido.com to get a coupon for a free class.
Get driving directions to Castle Rock Aikido. Visit www.craikido.com to watch an Aikido video.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Aikido Black Belt Awarded After 4 Years of Training




Worldwide stastics for Aikido reveal that less than 5% of all Aikido students ever reach the rank of black belt. To show how proud we are of Daniel-san for his recent promotion to black belt, Castle Rock AIKIDO decided to purchase Daniel's personally embroiderd hakama (those large, pleated skirt-like pants) and black belt for him.

Embroidered in gold, one end of Daniel's belt reads "Keiko Shochin," which roughly translates as "training in the old ways brightens the present." The other end reads "Da-ni-eru," which is the Japanese phonetic for "Daniel" in the katakana alphabet. This phrase was personally selected for Daniel by Sensei and was meant to inspire Daniel's continued growth in Aikido and in life.
The three characters that comprise Daniel's phonetic name have special meaning in and of themselves. 'Da' means "big, huge, or great." 'Ni' represents "benevolence." 'Eru' implies "to receive" or "to gain." Therefore, Daniel's name in Japanese means "to receive or gain great benevolence!"

Daniel received his indigo-colored hakama from Sensei. Castle Rock AIKIDO has decided that all black belts will wear the more traditional... more Japanese... indigo-colored hakama in the Castle Rock dojo. In the United States it is somewhat more common to wear black hakama.

Do you want to earn a black belt in Aikido? Our traditional, "un-Americanized" style of Aikido gives students a chance to learn Aikido in a Japanese cultural environment. Aikido is perfect for adults who are looking for a fun way to get exercise and develop self-mastery. Visit www.craikido.com to get a coupon for a free class.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What Do You Like Most about the Students at Castle Rock AIKIDO?

Interview with Castle Rock AIKIDO Instructor

Sean: What do you like most about your students at Castle Rock AIKIDO?

Sensei: Well, we have a lot of really good folks here. They are really nice people. Everybody is trying to learn something, trying to grow, and trying to develop themselves. We don't seem to attract people who are out to hurt other, or people with a chip on their shoulder. They are just really nice people, the kind of people you want to hang out with.

Sean: Yeah, I know when I talk with some people about martial arts one of the first things they say is that they are intimidated. They say things like "Oh no, martial arts is not for me" or "I don't want to get hurt," or something like that. But it sounds to me like that is not the kind of person you attract.

Sensei: No, not at all. Typically the people who are a little more hot-headed tend to be attracted to other kinds of martial art styles like MMA. We attract a really neat group, have a great time, and stay safe.

Sean: Cool. What is MMA?

Senesei: MMA stands for mixed martial arts, all the no-holds-bar type fighting you see so much of on cable TV channels these days like Spike or VS.

more interview questions coming...

For more information about our Aikido culture, read our "Make Friends Fast with Aikido!" article.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Impression from the 8th Annual Aikido Summit at the Denver Buddhist Temple in Denver, Colorado – March 22nd 2008

Edgar Johannsen Sensei's personality and drive is, perhaps, the only reason that the Colorado Aikido Summit has come to fruition once again. It is only because of Edgar's amiable, easy going disposition that he is able to successfully blend with all the diverse personalities in the Colorado Aikido community and bring us all together each year to share in our similarities and learn from our differences. The Aikido Summit is a great place for younger Aikido students to experience a wide array of Aikido styles once they have attained their black belt and created a foundation from which to build. It is also an opportunity for more veteran black belts to get refocused on their own training and decide what aspects to develop on in the coming year.

Having attended several previous Colorado Aikido Summits, this year's was in many ways very much the same as years past. Therefore, it was my responsibility to be sure that I took away from it something new and different. The Aikido styles represented included Ki Society, Tomiki Aikido, Shindo Yoshin Ryu Aikijujutsu, Aikikai, represented by Kei Izawa Sensei of Aikikai Tanshinjuku, and Aikido Schools of Ueshiba represented by Hiroshi Ikeda Sensei.

As I thought about how I'd like my Aikido to evolve this year, and what I want my students to have as a foundation, I chose to focus my training at last week's Aikido Summit on the teachings of Izawa Sensei and Ikeda Sensei. These two instructors' unique styles have both been profoundly influential in my recent Aikido growth.

Over the past several decades, Kei Izawa Sensei has had the opportunity to train with several masters at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Japan. He even had the pleasure of training as 'uke' for Doshu himself in the past. Izawa Sensei also trained with Mitsunari Kanai Shihan, which must have contributed to the development of Izawa's incredible power and dynamic style rooted in the fundamentals of body movement in relationship to uke. If you have ever had the pleasure of being thrown about by Izawa Sensei, you already know that he possesses both tremendous control and power in his technique.

When I trained with Sasaki Sensei in Japan, he would often tell the story of how Osensei would give private lessons on the secrets of Aikido. One day Sasaki Sensei had the opportunity to peak into the training area through a shoji (sliding door) and noticed that what was being taught was, in fact, exactly the same as in the basic classes!

Sasaki Sensei asked about this, to which Osensei shouted, "BAKAMON!" – loosely translated as, "You Fool!" Osensei scolded young Sasaki and said, "all the 'secrets' lie in the basics and fundamentals." Izawa Sensei is an inspiring instructor who emphasizes Aikido's fundamentals to his students in Louisville, Colorado. Izawa Sensei's power originates in the hips and, in Kanai Sensei fashion, is used to forge elliptical power at various angles. As uke, these angles when applied – whether horizontal, vertical, or a combination thereof – are what project you through the air. It may sound odd, but you actually feel a wonderful sense of control and awe over the distance that you travel as Izawa Sensei completes the technique.

The class led by Ikeda Sensei at the Summit was much more focused on the internal aspects of the art. His movement reminded me of some of the more esoteric, metaphysical, and spiritual training that I received while studying with such instructors as Sasaki, Endo, Shiragami Senseis in Japan. Musubi, or connection, is a somewhat ethereal experience that, when applied, can truly develop internal power. Ikeda Sensei regularly teaches an entire class dedicated to this very subject at his dojo, Boulder Aikikai in Boulder, Colorado.

The internal power derived from connection or musubi is quite an advanced concept for many Aikido beginners and can take a long time for beginners to acquire. Ikeda Sensei demonstrated one particular path that Aikido students may choose to walk, and to develop from within, once they have firmly trained and ingrained the fundamentals into natural reflexes.

Having trained Aikido for many years, it is exciting to see what others are focused on, and the Colorado Aikido Summit is a great place for all to do just that. It is a nice, fun social gathering and a time to catch up with friends made in years past. The Summit always causes me to re-evaluate and to renew my personal commitment to Aikido training. It is a great way to be exposed to the vast variety that exists in the "art" of Aikido. Seeing these tremendous differences in style at the Summit reminded me that Aikido truly is much more an "art" than a science with perhaps as many different "styles" as practitioners.

Thank you, Edgar Sensei, for bringing us all together, once again. I very much look forward to attending in years to come.

Review of the Colorado Aikido Summit

Friday, March 28, 2008

Privacy Policy for Castle Rock AIKIDO, LLC

COMMITMENT TO YOUR PRIVACY

This site is owned and operated by FFN, LLC (a.k.a. Castle Rock AIKIDO, LLC). Your
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Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Japanese Text on the Way of Strategy, by Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645)

Article and summary by Aikido Student, Sean Hannon

Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings is a classic Japanese text of samurai sword strategy. Yet, it is so much more than just a manual on how best to wield a sword. The principles discussed in Miyamoto Musashi's masterpiece can, in many respects, be applied to life as a whole. Even though most of us today may not carry around a samurai sword on a daily basis, a reader can still find great value in the observations of this great, innovative, and eccentric samurai. Musashi developed what is called ni to ichi ryu or the "two as one way." In short, it is Musashi's preferred way of fighting with two swords simultaneously, instead of the traditional, two-handed fighting style of Japanese samurai. We can find meaning in Musashi's text beyond that of just sword fighting because, in both in Japanese and in other cultures, the sword is often used as a comprehensive metaphor for life.

Musashi was born in 1584. According to legend, Musashi had a real knack for fighting and killed his first opponent, a well-known samurai, when he was only 13 years of age. He cut down dozens more men by the time he was in his late twenties. In one such altercation, Musashi was said to have single-handedly killed over thirty men in a single challenge. Perhaps mired by his constant killing, in 1612 Musashi made the decision to never use a real blade in battle again. He, instead, elected to use only a wooden sword (a bokken). It is thought by some that he believed himself to be too good to fight others with a real sword. Perhaps out of mercy or a true compassion for life, he chose not to use a live blade. It just wasn't fair to his lesser skilled opponents.

It was also around this time that Musashi speculated that his undefeatedness was not due to his mastery of the sword, but perhaps only to natural talent, luck, or even divine intervention. So at thirty years of age Musashi then decided to dedicate the rest of his life to discovering the Principle, or as he called it, the Way of Strategy. It was not for another twenty years, at age fifty, that he had decided that he had truly discovered this Way.

In 1645, at age sixty, Musashi isolated himself in a cave near Mt. Iwato on the island of Kyushu. It was there that he committed the Way of Strategy to writing. Allegedly, Musashi died only a few days after completing Go Rin No Shu, the Book of Five Rings. Each book of the Book of Five Rings is titled after an element of nature; Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and, what Musashi calls, the Void.

In this six part series, I offer my own thoughts and propose modern day interpretations of this great master's philosophy. I present excerpts from Musashi's introduction plus each of the five books that I found important in my own study of budo. Please keep in mind that what I share here is strictly my own opinions and interpretations of Musashi's writings. You, of course, are welcome to disagree and/or dismiss my interpretations in part or in whole as you see fit. I make to claim to know the true mind of Musashi.

I believe that understanding Musashi's writings requires an appreciation for the notion of paradox. Many people could easily read his books and say that he constantly contradicts himself. I feel differently. Many paradoxes exist in his writings, but I don't feel that they are necessarily contradictory because, after all, life is full of paradoxes. For example, Aikido is a very powerful martial art, yet it can be practiced very gently without sacrificing power. To some this is a contradiction. To others, it is merely a complementary paradox. A paradox being a statement where two facts appear to be in conflict with each other, but, in fact, are both true. This, of course, is congruent with some of the principles of Chinese Taoism and Musashi appears to have an appreciation for such a philosophical perspective.

Introduction to Go Rin no Shu

Before entering the first book, the Earth Book, Musashi acknowledges his place in the Universe and demonstrates humility on the subject to which others claim him to be a master.

"There is no fighter in the world today
who understands the Way of Strategy completely."


Within this statement Musashi acknowledges that even he cannot claim complete mastery over the Way. I think this statement demonstrates Musashi's humility despite sometimes appearing to be somewhat arrogant. I have found that sometimes, a healthy self-confidence is interpreted by others with less self-confidence as arrogance. A modern day cliché or affirmation expressing a similar notion might be the idea that "no matter how good you are, there is always someone better." This, of course, may or not be true. You very well may be the best at something. However, the acknowledgement of such a possibility is the admirable trait of humility. A similar saying is "There's always room for improvement." We can strive for mastery in any calling, even achieve it to some degree, as long as we simultaneously recognize and respect the fact that there is no such thing as perfection; there is no such thing as absolute mastery. Indeed, there is very much a difference between mastery and perfection. One is achievable, one is not.

"Even if a man does not have an inborn ability to fight,
he can become a warrior by consistently practicing each of these Ways."

To me this statement simply means that we are all capable of reaching our own potential. One of the most common things I hear when prospective students call our Aikido school in Castle Rock is, "I'm not sure I'll be any good at Aikido. I'm really out of shape and I'm in my mid thirties." Of course, when it come to Aikido, your age and your weight aren't relevant. Virtually anyone can train Aikido at any age. We can all become a warrior in any calling, on or off the mat, if we choose to make the decision to do so and take the persistent action necessary to become such.

"The Way of the warrior is the brave acceptance of death."

This is often quoted in samurai bushido code and I think it tends to come across to many people as scary or morbid. To me, this quote doesn't mean you need to be prepared to die in order to train martial arts. It really just means embracing life to the fullest and not taking this great gift we have for granted. Accepting the notion of death is just a more macho way of saying to live fully… to live completely. It is only because of death that we, as humans, value life to begin with. It is the supposed contrast between these two that creates value. The fictitious samurai, Katsumoto, in 2003's film, The Last Samurai expressed a similar notion as "Life in every breath." This is the brave acceptance of death. It is the willingness and the courage to experience life in every breath. This is something most people never do.

"The warrior is different because by studying the Way of Strategy
he learns to defeat other men."


Here Musashi differentiates his Way of Strategy from that of mastery over other non-martial arts such as calligraphy, tea ceremony, carpentry, dance or even sword crafting. He contends that they are different, in many respects, because mastery of, for example, the Japanese art of tea ceremony (sado) is the mastery of a system of self – or put another way, one defeats oneself. In warriorship, people learn to defeat other people. Personally, I don't recognize the difference Musashi is trying to make, but, of course, I am not a samurai master!

"The spirit which defeats one man is the same
as that which defeats ten million men."

"If one masters the long sword, that one man can beat ten men."


Musashi appears to be a big believer in the idea that there is no such thing as size or scale. One is the same as ten. Ten is the same as one hundred and, of course, one hundred is the same as one. For a classic, pop-culture reference, I would relate this saying to that of the Yoda character in the Star Wars movies of the 1980's. Of course, many know that the character of Yoda (a Jedi master) was probably influenced to one degree or another by ancient samurai masters, perhaps even Musashi. Nonetheless, Yoda, a creature probably less than two feet tall was represented as having great strength and power despite his physical stature. "Size matters not. Do or do not. There is no try," is a famous saying of the little master.

Notice how Musashi states that it is the "spirit" that defeats one man or ten million men. He didn't say it was the man, or the skill, or the weapon, but the spirit. This is essential in learning the Way of Strategy. A classic illustration of this principle is the infamous Japanese Tea Master Story.

When the tea master met the samurai, he thought the samurai was a Ronin, and this insulted the samurai greatly. The samurai was so displeased that he challenged the team master to a dual the next morning. The tea master was terrified. He ran to the only sword master he knew and pleaded with him to train him in one night to become an able swordsman. But the tea master was a hopeless student. No matter how patiently the sword master tried to teach him, the tea master remained inept. At last the sword master said to him, "Just approach your sword fight the way you approach your tea ceremonies," and gave up.

The following morning, heavy hearted, his fate sealed, the tea master reluctantly went to his appointment. When he faced the samurai on the misty hill he shut his eyes tight, lifted the heavy sword above his head, then concentrated and centered himself the way he did when he performed his tea ceremonies. At that, the samurai threw down his sword, got down on his knees, and begged the tea master for forgiveness. "If I had known you were such a great swordsman," he said, "I never would have challenged you!"
(Source)

Musashi tries to communicate that large is small, and small is large. It is a rather holistic way of viewing the world, a world of sameness, likeness, and whole-partedness (if there is such as word).

In my opinion, Benjamin Franklin made a very similar quote. "You can only grow to the size of your thoughts." Think small and you will be small. Think big and you will be big. This also applies to other aspects of our lives. Think yourself fat and you will be fat. Think yourself tired and you will be tired.

"The principle of strategy is the accomplishment of one thing,
in order to accomplish ten thousand things."

I sum this notion up in one word: Focus. Musashi is firm on the notion of mastering one thing in order to be victorious in every thing. It is only by mastering one thing that we can learn how to master all things. Most people try to be great at a number of things before they have learned to be great at just one thing. I contend that it is this misconception that keeps people from having the success in their lives that they crave.

What will you master? How will you learn the art of mastery? Aikido? Your job? Another hobby? Your emotional state? Master one thing and you will be able to achieve great things because of what you learn in the process of mastery. Try to succeed at multiple things simultaneously without first learning the process and having the experience of mastery, and you will struggle indefinitely.

"You must train day and night in order for you to be able
to make decisions quickly."


Successful people from Napoleon Hill to Andrew Carnegie; from Henry Ford to Anthony Robbins all say that the most successful people are those who make decisions quickly and change their minds rarely, if at all. The ability to make decisions quickly in battle, of course, can mean the difference between life and death. This is definitely a skill that must be acquired. But this skill very much spills over into other areas of life as well.

To acquire this skill, you will be the recipient of heavy criticism. You may be called excessive, compulsive, stubborn, or even neurotic. However, these are often the criticisms of people less committed to their own success, growth, and mastery. I recommend that you ignore anyone who isn't absolutely and completely supportive of your attempts at mastery.

Your training doesn't end when you step off the mat – at least, not if you are paying attention it doesn't. If you've been practicing Aikido for even just a few months I'm certain you have already recognized how you actually are practicing Aikido (or the Way of Strategy) 24 hours a day, seven days per week, even though you may only train at the dojo 2 or 3 times per week. You begin to see the Aikido in everything, in every interaction, in every challenge you face. The more you practice Aikido the more you will find your intuition, your visceral body wisdom, and the more you will be willing to trust and execute your instinctive decision making abilities. I believe this is what Musashi means about training to make decisions quickly.

In the next article, we will dive into The Earth Book, the first of the 5 books of rings.

*******
Castle Rock Aikido combines Aikido philosophy and Hombu recognized Aikido training. We practice Aikido in everyday life. We are greatful for our students who commit to regular training and are even willing to travel from Denver or Colorado Springs to practice Aikido at our dojo. We welcome people to come watch or try a class for free.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Midorigeiko: Observations of a (temporarily) Crippled Martial Arts Student

By Sean Hannon

I am a student of the traditional, Japanese martial art of Aikido. I train three nights per week at Castle Rock AIKIDO in Castle Rock, Colorado. Yet, I haven't stepped foot on an Aikido mat in over a year. In early 2006, I injured my lower spine so severely that I could not hold up my own body weight and could not walk at all for several months. Practicing Aikido on the mat with everyone else was simply out of the question. Despite my not having been able to get on the mat, my Aikido continues to improve with each and every class I attend because, for the time being, I practice 'midorigeiko.' Midorigeiko loosely translates as "watch and steal" practice.

I am always surprised and somewhat saddened to see martial art students of any style like karate, taekwondo, judo, mixed martial arts (MMA fighting or submission fighting) stop coming to train at the dojo when they sustain any injury, only to return once that injury is healed. Incurring an injury simply means, to me, that I must train differently until I am able to return to the mat. I regret that some students miss out on the total experience of Aikido; that, in my opinion, they don't quite understand or embrace the comprehensive value and benefit of Aikido. I regret that they perceive Aikido only as a physical art and not as a way of life.

In America, students expect to be "taught" Aikido (or any martial art) step-by-step-by-step by a willing and generous instructor. What a luxury that is! In Japan, students never expect to be taught. Instead, they are expected to have to "steal" technique from their sensei by carefully watching them demonstrate Aikido techniques year after year. Observation is in many ways just as valuable as actually practicing the techniques. Perhaps in some ways, it is more valuable. We at Castle Rock AIKIDO are very fortunate to have instructors traditionally trained in Japan who give us the best of both cultures. They "teach," but they also force us to "steal it" from them.

By using midorigeiko, I learn Aikido through OPM – No, not "Other People's Money," but by watching "Other People's Mistakes." I remember how difficult it was at times to learn while on the mat. I was sometimes self-conscious and, therefore, less than completely self-aware of my body position, my body movement and my mind. This self-consciousness adversely affected by ability to learn. In fact, sometimes I was too aware of my mind and that adversely affected my training just as much. It reminds me of a great scene in the movie, The Last Samurai, with Tom Cruise where the samurai say to him, "Arugen-san, you too many mind!" I remember how I would have a tendency to try to break down each technique step-by-step when I was on the mat. And, while perhaps necessary at the time, I would simultaneously lose the "essence" of the technique because each technique is more than just the sum of its parts. That is something I really learned through midorigeiko.

I also continue to learn Aikido by watching OPS – "Other People’s Successes." I learn by watching Aikido practiced well and successfully by other students. By seeing techniques practiced over and over again I learn to see the holistic totality of each technique and the synergistic energy it creates – or as Albright Sensei would say the "musubi." Additionally, I see how to apply the philosophy behind Aikido – entering, blending, and redirecting – off the mat and in my daily life. When I practice midorigeiko I feel as though I get to see the whole forest of Aikido instead of just the trees.

Without a doubt, one must physically practice the techniques in order to fully learn the art of Aikido. But there is another, more philosophic, more panoramic dimension of Aikido to be learned through midorigeiko.

When you have an injury like mine you end up wearing a different set of "glasses" from which you see the world. You have to learn to perceive things from a different vantage point than you have in the past and you have to find value and significance in the things you can do, instead of brooding in the things that you can't do. Even though I am not yet ready to return to the mat, I find my own way of entering, blending and redirecting with the things I can do. That is how I practice midorigeiko. That is how I practice Aikido… for now. I'll see you back on the mat soon.

In the meantime, I would encourage you to come try an adult Aikido class in Castle Rock for free and discover how Aikido can add tremendous power, achievement and depth of friendship to your life.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Confessions of a former Karate Black Belt: How to revitalize your martial arts training

I used to be a karate student. I began studying Okinawan karate when I was 17 years old. I loved it. It was hard, challenging, it pushed me to my physical and psychological limits. And after four long hard years I finally earned my black belt and wore it proudly in the karate dojo.

I found myself not progressing...

Less than 12 months later, I found myself teaching many of the classes to the lower ranks. It was kinda fun… for a while. But I soon found myself not progressing. My sensei at the time said to me that after black belt one's rank is based more on their contribution to the art and the amount of time they train rather than on technical skill or progress. I found this answer frustrating and, to be quite honest, unacceptable.

While I was good, I certainly didn't think of myself as great. I wanted more. I wanted to continue to grow my skills. Yet, my instructor was quite adamant about me (and the other black belts in the dojo) not venturing outside of the art of karate. I didn't understand why. Afterall, the art I was training was the synthesis of three previous styles of martial arts.

If the founder of our art studied multiple styles, why wasn't it OK for me to do the same? Like something out of medieval Europe, "Blasphemy!" is what I heard. "How dare you! Who do you think you are venturing outside our style? Do you think you are better than the founder?"

What could be more exciting than earning a black belt?

Earning a second one!

I remember secretly confiding in one of my karate black belt peers who was about 18 years my senior that the truth was that I found the journey from white belt to black belt far more fun and exciting than actually being a black belt – that in many ways, I longed to put a white belt back on again and learn something new. I was surprised to discover that he completely agreed with me.

Even though I was only 22 years old back then, I deemed this "blasphemous"attitude as mere dogma and set out to evolve and diversify my martial arts skills. Since I had been studying karate, a very rigid, linear, hard-style of martial art, I decided to try a style I thought was on the opposite end of the spectrum. I decided to train Aikido. Based on what I knew at the time about Aikido, it was very much the opposite of karate. Aikido was flexible instead of rigid, circular in nature instead of linear and more gentle on my body instead of hard like karate.

(Special Offer to Try Aikido and See if it Can Diversify Your Martial Arts Training once you click on this link, see bottom of the page for the special offers)

A Quick Lesson in Humility

At my first Aikido class, now more than 12 years ago, I remember stepping on the mat with perhaps a wee bit more confidence than some of the other new students. After all, I was already a black belt! Not in the art of Aikido, mind you, but at least in karate. For the next 90 minutes I found myself being repeatedly instructed by the senior students to relax. "Lighter, softer," they would say. "You’ve got to loosen up. You’re going to tire yourself out very quickly expending all of that energy." Strangely, the other new students in the class were not being told the same things I was and didn't seem to be having any of the difficulty I was having.

Then one of the senior black belts said to me, "You’ve studied karate before, haven't you?"

"Yes!" I respond quite proudly. I was glad that somebody acknowledged my skills.

"It would have been better if you hadn't!" He retorted.

What!? I was shocked, even a little hurt (or at least my ego was). Why would he say that? I assumed my karate training would have helped me learn Aikido faster? Several months later after continued Aikido training, I finally began to realize what this gentleman was saying to me and why. It reminded me a lot of the famous "empty cup" story.

The Empty Cup
A great martial arts teacher was visited by a young, well-known and respected university professor. "I have come a long way to see you," he said. "I have heard that you are a great Karate Master, the Art of Empty Self. I have so many questions for you. I, myself, have studied very hard for many years to understand the essence of what you teach. Can you tell me the meaning of Karate? Of Empty Self? How it can bring peace to the world? What is the secret of this teaching?"

The Martial Arts Master was serving the professor tea as the professor rambled on with question after question. The Master poured the visitor's cup to the brim with tea… and then, kept on pouring. Now, the tea was running off the table onto the floor.

The professor watched bewildered until he could no longer restrain himself. Finally, he shouted, "Can't you see the cup is full! No more will go in!"

"Like this cup," the Master smiled, "your mind is full of questions and seeking answers! Until you empty your cup, no more can go in. Likewise, until you present me with an empty mind, you cannot learn or receive anything."

Growing my skills by starting over

The decision to leave my karate school, take off my black belt and strap on fresh white belt in Aikido was my way of "emptying my cup." I still love karate. I still practice my katas almost daily, but Aikido has opened up my world, giving me a whole new way of looking at martial arts, self-defense, and even self-mastery.

If you have grown bored with your karate training, or just feel stifled, and wish to diversify your martial art skills with a complementary, yet radically different art then I would encourage you to come join us in Castle Rock.

(Special Offer to Try Aikido and See if it Can Diversify Your Martial Arts Training once you click on this link, see bottom of the page for the special offers)

We welcome you to train with us in Castle Rock...
Our dojo is just 25 minutes south of downtown Denver and 35 minutes north of Colorado Springs. We have students from these areas and everywhere in between coming to train with us several times per week. Come find out why people from all over the Denver metro and Colorado Springs areas are willing to travel to Castle Rock several times per week to practice Aikido with us. Contact us today so that you can come try a class for FREE, meet our talented instructors, and friendly, excited students.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Your Experience in Life is What You Bring to It!

A past teacher of mine would frequently say, "Bring it!" What she meant by that was whatever you want to experience, you have to "bring it" to the experience. This can apply to tangible things as well as intangible things. For example, let's say you are going to a party. If you want there to be guacamole at the party then you'd better "bring it." Similarly, if you want to have a fun at the party, then it is your responsibility to "bring it," – the fun, that is – to the party and not expect it to be waiting there for you. It is your responsibility to "bring it." It is not the responsibility of others, the activity or the event.

Aikido training works exactly the same way. Bring a willingness to learn, an attitude of humility and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of humor to Aikido class, and those qualities – and their inherent benefits – are what you will experience at class. I should point out that this attitude isn't unique to the traditional, Japanese martial art of Aikido, but would also apply to other martial arts like karate, taekwondo, judo, and Brazilian Jujitsu or any form of mixed martial arts (MMA fighting or submission fighting. Unfortunately, the "bring it" philosophy works both ways. If you bring anger, frustration and resentment to Aikido class, then that is what you are sure to experience on the mat.

Aikido really is a microcosm of life… your life. If you experience happiness throughout your day, then that is what will come out on the Aikido mat. If you carry your ego around all day, you shouldn't be surprised when you find yourself bumping into egos on the mat – both others and your own!

The value of "bringing it" to the Aikido mat is that it offers us an opportunity to have a physical, non-verbal dialogue with ourselves that can lead to psychological, or for some, even spiritual transcendence. On some level this physical, non-verbal dialogue we have with ourselves on the Aikido mat is more honest than the usual mental dialogue we engage in within our own minds each day. While words can hide truth and significance, physiology cannot. Your body doesn't lie physically. Physical dishonesty will often manifest as an ache or pain or, if held long enough, even a disease. As Aikido students we can learn to "listen" to our physical-selves, our physical movements and make changes in our lives accordingly.

Aikido provides us with a venue of self-exploration and self-transformation. It reveals and unearths things deep within ourselves that we sometimes don't want to explore or don't think we need to work on. Yet, if we don't explore these things students often find themselves frustrated, not progressing in their training or sometimes even quitting. Students are often surprised to discover just how much of their "inner selves" manifest physically, outwardly on the Aikido mat. It is nearly impossible to hide on the Aikido mat what lies inside… especially to an experienced Aikido teacher.

Physical movement (like that experienced in Aikido training) is one of the most primitive and fundamental forms of communication and is, in my opinion, far superior to verbal communication. There is something primordial and deeply honest about physical movement and the powerful messages it contains. Most people have heard the saying that only 20% of communication is verbal. Personally, I think that percentage is way too high. You can tell a lot about a person by their physical movement. Confidence, comfort, ease and happiness have a certain "look" to them on and off the Aikido mat. Self-consciousness, fear, anger and frustration have an equally identifiable "look."

Interestingly, the presence or absence of these physical attributes has nothing to do with how long or how experienced a person is at Aikido. It has to do with what they psychologically "bring" to the Aikido dojo. I have seen first day Aikido students demonstrate tremendous confidence and comfort. Similarly, I have seen experienced Aikido students demonstrate near-paralyzing timidity and unparalleled anger at times. Again, what shows up physically on the Aikido mat is what they "bring" to the mat. Their physical appearance, posture, movement and fluidity are all part of a larger physical language that is Aikido. A student's physical flexibility or inflexibility is often (but not always) congruent with their mental, emotional or psychological flexibility. As such, Aikido instructors will sometimes even challenge their students mentally or emotionally through physical movement on the mat or even verbally off the mat in order to help them progress in their Aikido training. Of course, these efforts are not always welcomed by students, but nonetheless, is still an important aspect of their training.

My instructors would often deliberately provoke a reaction in me in their efforts to teach me something. The Sensei/Student relationship is a sacred one. The Sensei's role is one of technical instructor, confidant, coach, counselor, trainer and most importantly, friend. I take my experiences to heart and attempt to provide students with insight and lessons in not only the physical aspects of Aikido techniques, but more importantly about life. I do this not as a superior in Aikido, but as a peer in life.

Those who make Aikido a life-long pursuit often do so not for the martial art and/or self-defense applications, per se, but for the self-transcending benefits of Aikido. Aikido truly is a physical path to self-mastery. Ultimately, Aikido is meant to be experienced firsthand, not just read about. Aikido is always challenging to describe purely in writing because the experience of Aikido transcends the written word. The practice of Aikido really represents an opportunity for transcendence on every level of existence. So let’s get rolling… and bring it!

Come discover how Aikido can serve as a catalyst for tremendous growth and expansion in your life. We invite you to come try a free class at our Aikido school in Castle Rock, Colorado. Call us today at 720-221-3665 or visit us at: http://www.craikido.com/ for a limited time special offer. Experience a power you never knew you had. Experience Aikido!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Power vs Force in Aikido: How to amass great power in your life.

Many people seek out martial arts as a means to creating more power in their lives. Power, of course, can be defined in many ways. Some people are seeking self-empowerment in the form of self-improvement, self-discipline, or self-esteem, while others may be seeking power or control over others. Martial arts can be a very a good place to discover power. However, more often than not what people end up learning is not true power, but force. Many martial arts teachers do not really understand the difference between power and force, or worse, think they are the same things. As such, the student ends up creating more resistance in their life, instead of more power and he or she never learns to truly generate power.

In Aikido, your objective should be on generating power. Most people tend to think that the fastest way to power is through force. Not true. Short-term power can be generated through force. However, that power is one-dimensional and usually doesn't last. It could be argued that the Japanese discipline of Aikido is, in fact, the endless endeavor of physically harnessing maximum power with the least amount of physical exertion. Overwhelmingly, the power people learn to generate in Aikido is a form of personal power within themselves as opposed to a power over others. Power over others is almost always a product of people exerting force, not harnessing power. Indeed, people's misconception of what power is often leads to the very opposite outcome of what people seek.

In physics, Power and Force are often (but not always) used interchangeably. However, in Aikido force and power are too very different things. In the Aikido dojo power is a product of intent and position.


Power = Intent x Position


Intent is what directs your position. Intent means beginning with the end in mind. Those who practice Aikido with intent, that is, with a visceral, internal understanding of the objective of each technique and a pliant, empty mind are far more powerful than those who may be physically stronger and may be applying more force to a technique. Intent multiples one's power and furthermore, intent guides position.

The other half of the power equation in Aikido is position. George W. Bush, Ben Bernake and Bill Gates all have power because of their executive positions in various organizations. These men make things happen (good or bad) because of their intent and subsequent positions they take. Mahatma Ghandi was powerful because of the mental and social positions he assumed as a consequence of his intent. Fictional character, Howard Roark, from Ayn Rand’s famous 1943 novel, The Fountainhead, exhibited tremendous power by the philosophical positions he assumed. None of these men exert personal, physical force. Yet, they are all powerful.
Force is merely the product of mass or, in physics, mass times acceleration. When novice martial arts students seek to add power to their techniques, they are often inclined to add more force. That is they exert more muscle mass into the equation. Power should create more ease. Force tends to only create more sweat. Think about it. The people I know who have the most power tend to exhibit the most ease in their life by utilizing leverage. Leverage, of course, is merely a matter of positioning. These powerful individuals also tend to be wealthier and healthier. In contrast, those who exhibit the most force in their lives also tend to be the hardest working, the least leveraged and subsequently produce the least amount of outcome. Not coincidentally, they also seem to be the poorest of people and often the sickest. Truly, what we want to learn on the Aikido mat is how to generate in our lives is not more force, but more power.

A properly executed Aikido technique should require very little force (if any) but should simultaneously possess a tremendous amount of power. Because of our default, physics-oriented perspectives of power and force, this can seem rather paradoxical. A great way to gauge to your Aikido technique is simply to ask oneself, "Am I exerting force?" If so, you need to re-evaluate your physical position and your mental intent in order to generate more power. In Aikido, there is rarely any situation in which a martial arts technique cannot be increased in power by improving one’s position rather than increasing their amount of force. Often a two inch move to the left or right or maybe a 10 or 15 degree change in angle will mean the difference between an ineffective technique and an immensely effective technique. Therefore, there is an inverse relationship, in Aikido, of force to power. That is, the more force you exert in Aikido, the less power you actually possess.


As Force ↑, Power↓


Think about it. When you "force" some one to do something, don't you simultaneously expose yourself and limit your power? For example, think about having to exert force to hold someone down. While you’re holding them down through force, your arms and legs are probably occupied with the task and you are now more susceptible to an attack by another assailant. Your power – your power to respond – has diminished. You are, in fact, less powerful by having to hold some one down. You may have them held down, you may be in control, but ironically you have simultaneously imprisoned yourself to some extent. Your control of the situation has come at the expense of a portion of your own freedom. When you force others to do something, you are, in fact, forcing yourself and relinquishing your resources (your power) to them in a way.

You may notice that when the teachers demonstrate techniques in class, they almost always have their hands open. Rarely do they close their hands as a fist or in a grasp like so many other martial arts. This is meant to illustrate that the power of each technique is not found in the hands and arms but elsewhere. So many new students think that the power originates in the hands – in the place of "control." We are used to controlling things like our computers and our cars with our hands, so it is natural to assume that this, too, is where Aikido's power originates. However, Aikido's power comes from the intent and positioning of the practitioner and it manifests physically and projects from the "hara" or physical center of the body. That center is about two inches below the navel and about two inches "deep" from the navel.

Harris Sensei is an excellent example of some one who understands power. He knows that he is unlikely to "out muscle" or "out force" someone. He knows that his power is a function of his intent and his positioning. Practice on the Aikido mat with her and you will quickly recognize that power is not exclusively dependent upon mass or muscle strength. Anyone who works out with Harris Sensei knows that his touch is extremely gentle, and at times almost imperceptible, yet he maintains complete control of the technique and only applies the absolute minimum amount of force – the most efficient exertion of energy. Try to redirect the technique on Harris Sensei and you will very quickly be reminded that he is, in fact, powerful and quite in control of the technique being executed.

If you'll notice, Harris Sensei matches the energy of his Aikido partners. Come at him with a committed attack and her response will be proportionally powerful (but not forceful and not necessarily equal). On the other hand, come at him with a weak, uncommitted attack and his response will, again, be proportionally powerful. Why? It is because a less than committed attack requires a less than committed defense. Harris Sensei never wastes energy, never wastes power.

Force truly has nothing to do with power. Tremendous force can exist without any power being present. Conversely, power can even mean zero force! If some one attacks you with a fully committed attack and you simply step out of the way allowing them to fall on their face, how much force have you exerted? Zero. Yet you have demonstrated power where they have not.
Most people are taught in life (and in most other martial arts) to meet force with force – to fight fire with fire. It is very similar to the often misunderstood Hammurabi's code of "an eye for an eye." However, isn't it more intelligent to fight fire with water, not with fire? When was the last time a fireman showed up at a burning home with a truck full of fire?

One of my instructors taught me much about the difference between power and force, and its application in the practice of "musubi" – or connection with others. When someone attacks you with all the force of their being – say a ten on a ten point scale – then, contrary to what you might think, you probably would not want to add more energy to the system and reciprocate with all your might at a ten. That would be exerting force, not power. When you perceive and attack of that much force it would be most effective to respond with little or no force (maybe a zero or a one out of ten). Conversely, if someone comes at you with little or no energy, it would be most effective to add energy to the system to maintain the integrity of the relationship, the connection.

So exhibiting an appropriate amount of power relative to the attack or the encounter is crucial. Provide too much energy to the system and you unbalance or stagnate the connection. Provide too little and there may be no connection at all. Then, if you have the right intent, respond with the correct angles and with the right "kuzushi," or off-balancing techniques (again, forms of positioning), and it may seem to the attacker that you are using 100 times as much force or strength (a product of leverage or exponential power) when, in reality, you are expending a minimal amount of energy. This is true power.

Power is about generating energy from one’s "hara" – one’s physical center – and building on the commitment to a relationship that one's attacker initiates. Maintain the connection, adapt and flow with their movement. Learn to differentiate between power and force and that is where your power will be found.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Avoid the Winter Blues with a Unique Japanese Exercise

It's winter again and as the daylight hours shorten many people become afflicted with what has become known as seasonal affect disorder (or, aptly named, SAD). Most people are affected to one degree or another by SAD or SAD-like symptoms. It is a perfectly normal change in the brain that occurs each year as it gets darker earlier and is thought to be the result of altered brain chemistry caused by fewer hours of exposure to sunshine. The condition can become so significant that some people may require professional intervention. Normally, the brain creates a chemical called serotonin in response to exposure to sunshine. This chemical is largely responsible for producing a happy, healthy mood in a person. Because days are shorter in the fall and winter our brains make less of this chemical and this can lead to SAD. Having bright lights on in the fall and winter afternoon is one way to keep your serotonin levels up, but another healthier way is through exercise.

Now, most Americans don't exercise enough, especially in the winter. There is a very good reason for this. For the most part, exercise is boring! Especially most indoor exercises! Here's a reality of life when it comes to exercise; "If it’s boring, you won't do it. Period!" As a result, most people know they should exercise more, but most people simply don't. This not necessarily because they don't want to be in better shape and be in a good mood, but because so many popular kinds of exercise and fitness routines are utterly boring! If you're bored of endlessly walking on treadmills or elliptical trainers at the gym while watching depressing cable news channels or bad infomercials; or if you've tried yoga and Pilates but find them painfully slow, then I have a suggestion for you. Come try Aikido! Aikido, pronounced "eye"-"key"-'doh', is a unique Japanese exercise that engages your entire body in a fun, entertaining and exhilarating way. Aikido is a martial art, but can be practiced at any level of intensity according to the needs or physical capabilities of the student. In Aikido, there are no punches or kicks, unlike most other martial arts, so injury is extremely rare. A student learns to move their body effectively and efficiently by employing almost dance-like moves that evade and off balance your partner (who is pretending to be an attacker) without injuring him or her.

People of all ages practice Aikido, but it is particularly beneficial for adults. In fact, you're never too old to start practicing Aikido. Several of our instructors' teachers in Japan continue to train into their 70s and 80s! Many past martial artists once again take up Aikido as they enter their 40s and 50s because Aikido is much easier on your body than other more well-known martial arts like Karate and Taekwondo. Most of all, Aikido is fun! Every class is different, so you don't get bored. Every technique requires your complete and undivided attention, so you can't "zone out." One of the most common things we hear at Castle Rock AIKIDO is, "Wow! The time just flew by. I can’t believe it is over so quickly!" Also, Aikido is a great workout for the body… but there is a good chance that you won’t even notice that until you are done with class! Instead of feeling exhausted after a class, most people feel exhilarated.

Many people have more energy, not less, after Aikido class. The reason why is because when you practice more boring forms of exercise, that don't simultaneously engage your brain, time seems to move much… much… slower. However, Aikido requires you to focus constantly on what you are doing so much that time flies by! Aikido is so engaging to your body and to your mind, that there is a synergistic energy created between the two that absolutely reinvigorates you. Simultaneously, you are left in a happy, relaxed, tranquil state when you’re done. "After every class, I leave in a better mood than when I came in," says Aikido student Cari, a Castle Rock resident.

Classes are held weekday evenings in Castle Rock to accommodate working adults. Working out in the evening in the fall and winter is a great way of boosting your serotonin levels to keep you mood up. If you don't live in Castle Rock, hey, no problem! About half of our students come from outside Castle Rock to practice Aikido. Some students drive from as far north as Westminster and as far south as Colorado Springs to come train with us. Our instructors and programs are so good that people are willing to travel significant distances, if necessary, to practice with us.

Come discover how Aikido can serve as a catalyst for helping you keep your mood up during the winter and help avoid the "winter blues."