Monday, August 27, 2007

Men's "center" vs. Women's "center" in Aikido Practice: A Student's Observation by Sean Hannon

It seems to me that there are substantially more men who practice Aikido than women. However, I have observed that women who practice Aikido tend to pick up the subtleties of Aikido's techniques a bit faster than men do. I always wondered why that was? Is it possible that women have a physiologic affinity for Aikido? What might that affinity be?

While in grad school, the answer to that question came to me one day in a biomechanics class. It appears there may be a very logical, physics-based answer to my inqury. In Aikido, the power of each technique originates from the hips and pelvic area, not from the hands and arms as so many young Aikido students think. Most men tend to carry their gravitational center in their chest. As such, they also tend to carry their psychological center in their chest. I think it explains why there exists the Hollywood "broad-chested" male hero archetype. Just look at any male comic book or cartoon hero and what do you see? Usually it is an overdeveloped chest and a square jaw. The chest, for men, seems to be the anatomic symbol of strength, pride, courage and bravado. Unfortunately, for men, when their "center" is located in their chest, they may look strong, but more often than not they are actually quite unbalanced and therefore, vulnerable.

For women, their anatomical center or "hara," as the Japanese call it, is located about two inches below their naval. A woman's physical center rests just on top of the pelvic girdle and as such, like a pyramid, their gravitational foundation is often superior to that of most men. Perhaps because women bare children, women tend to be more intuitively in touch with their hara - their physical and psychological center. And, again, since the hips are where the power of Aikido's techniques come from, that may explain why so many women seem to pick up on the subtleties of Aikido somewhat faster than men do.

That is not to say that men cannot be exceptional Aikidoist. They can. It is just that those who have mastered Aikido to one degree or another have learned to "drop" their center from their chest to their hips. What most men do not realize is that their chest center is more of a psychological phenomenon than it is a physical phenomenon. I believe the "dropping" of one's center from their chest to their hips is largely analogous to their ability to "drop" their ego from the equation especially when practicing Aikido. That is, the more a man can "get out of his head" and drop his awareness from his chest to his hips, the more powerful their Aikido techniques can become, and ironically, the less energy they will expend in executing those Aikido techniques.

Thoughts and comments on this post are welcome.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Watch the Show "Human Weapon"

Last weekend I caught a great new show called "Human Weapon." It airs on the History Channel. The series thoroughly explores a unique martial art style on each episode. The co-hosts, Jason Chambers and Bill Duff travel to the country of origin of that week's featured martial art and they experience an intense crash course in that art.

I've only caught one episode so far, but I'm really impressed. Last weekend I watched an episode, which
featured Judo. The hosts visited several highly respected and well-known judo schools in Japan including one in the high, rugged mountains of Japan where some exceptionally rigorous training occurs. A lot of time was spent exploring the origins of the art of judo, which paradoxically means "gentle way." Today's sport judo is apparently the evolution of historic Samurai hand-to-hand combat. Of course, much of Aikido also originated from samurai techniques.

I'm not aware of any judo schools in Castle Rock, Colorado so if you're looking for a martial art that has traditions and origins rooted in feudal Japan, you may find that Castle Rock Aikido suits you. In Aikido class we practice hand-to-hand combat moves that historically were only performed with a traditional samurai sword. I really hope a future episode of Human Weapon will feature the art of Aikido. I think people would find an Aikido feature fascinating and radically different from so many of the other martial arts on the show. If they do run a feature on Aikido, I'd definitely purchase that episode off of the History Channels web site. I highly recommend that Castle Rock Aikido students watch Human Weapon, which airs on Friday evenings at 7pm on the History Channel (channel 41 if you're on Denver Metro's Comcast cable network). It'll give you a great perspective on the various type of martial arts around the world.

Do you want to find a martial art with traditional samurai training?
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. The convenience and our quality aikido instruction make the trip worthwhile. Come try a class for free and see why we were voted "Best in Castle Rock for martial arts, 2007" by Castle Rock Magazine. Call 720-221-3665 to get your coupon for a free class. See map to Castle Rock Aikido. Visit to see samurai sword videos.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hiking Mountains and Practicing Aikido Prepare One for the Ups and Downs in Life

Hiking Sasaguri Shikoku is a famous trek started by the Buddhist Monk, Kobo Daishi, which makes its way in a circle to 88 spiritual sites. The most famous of these treks is on the island of Shikoku, thus the name Sasaguri Shikoku. Sasaguri is a mountainous region just between Fukuoka and Kitakyushu on the Southern island of Kyushu.
This type of Shugyo, or forging of the spirit, is not as common among youngsters of today and this type of training can come in handy in preparing for the the ups and downs in daily life.
If you would like to learn more about the ancient pilgrimage, Sasaguri Shikiku, click here.

To understand how the principles of Shugyo can help you manage the ups and downs of life, click here.

It is the application of the principles of Aikido in daily life that is most valuable. I invite you all to come try an Aikido class for free at our Japanese martial arts school in Castle Rock, Colorado. It is an art, a practice and a discipline that will truly change your life. Call us at 720-221-3665 or visit our web site: Castle Rock Aikido is perfect for people in Denver or Colorado Springs looking for a martial art. We are conveniently located 20 minutes south of Denver Metro and 30 minutes north of Colorado Springs.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Strongest Technique in Aikido

What is the strongest technique in the martial art of Aikido? I'll bet that every Aikido student has thought of this question at least once. We learn many different techniques in our Aikido practice, but which one is the strongest? The first technique? The forth? An arm bar? Wrist lock? Or maybe, a hip throw? To help answer this question, I'd like to share one of my favorite stories about Aikido.

One curious student asks his master this question, "Sensei, what is the strongest technique in Aikido?" The master responds, "The greatest technique in Aikido is the ability to become friends with the one who attacked you."

I believe this is the essence of Aikido. Aikido is often translated as "the art of harmony," and that is why an Aikido dojo has such a different feeling to it than many other kinds of martial arts schools. Through Aikido, we learn to create harmony... not conflict. It is a great feeling to recognize that we can choose to be harmonious with any given situation, rather than constantly fight it. Aikido helps us embrace this awareness.
It is the application of the principles of Aikido in daily life that is most valuable. Sasaki Sensei (one of our Aikido teachers in Japan) once said that, "Aikido practice is your daily life, or vice versa." If you cannot make it to the dojo to train physically, think of how you can practice Aikido techniques with your co-workers. Perhaps verbally, one can fend off an "attack" and redirect it toward the betterment of the relationship with your co-worker, the company and society as a whole. This is the technique I try to perfect on a daily basis. I believe this is the ultimate technique, the ultimate purpose of Aikido training.

I invite you all to come try an Aikido class for free at our Japanese martial arts school in Castle Rock, Colorado. It is an art, a practice and a discipline that will truly change your life. Call us at 720-221-3665 or visit our web site: Castle Rock Aikido is perfect for people in Denver or Colorado Springs looking for a martial art. We are conveniently located 20 minutes south of Denver Metro and 30 minutes north of Colorado Springs.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

School Offer Martial Arts with a Twist: No Pain!

Castle Rock's newest martial arts school will put its students on the defensive. Aikido has no punching or kicking. The point is to deflect an attack without harming the attacker.
Sean Hannon opened the Castle Rock Aikido March 25th with a free class and demonstration. The school is located inside Village Fitness at 880 West Happy Canyon Road.

"Aikido is particularly aerobic," says Hannon, a student himself at the school. "You're up and down a lot. "The Japanese-style tatami mat cushions falls.
Aikido, literally translated, means "the way of harmonious spirit," according to Castle Rock AIKIDO & IAIDO. Aikido students defend themselves by moving in the same direction as an attacker while applying pressure to vulnerable joints to establish control. Police officers use the same technique to subdue suspects.

Beginning aikido students learn how to fall in a safe manner and how to follow the pressure being applied by their opponents. If students don't follow the pressure, limbs would snap; however, aikido has an unusually low injury rate for a martial art."I think the most serious injury we've had is a pulled muscle," says another instructor.

Hannon continues that aikido classes could benefit relationships. "I think aikido improves communication skills because it's based on resolving conflict," he said. "You're not fighting force with force."

Aikido students' movements are fluid, almost dance-like. To an untrained observer, the art resembles a carefully choreographed sequence in a martial arts film but without violence.
The instructors wear hakamas - large, loose pants that were traditionally worn to obscure the martial artists' feet and stance. Their students wear traditional white martial arts uniforms.

Aikido is a relatively new martial art with its influence seeded in World War II. Following the war, the Japanese were seeking a martial art that wasn't focused on injuring the opponent. Morihei Ueshiba developed aikido to bring peace and harmony to martial artists.

The Castle Rock AIKIDO is affiliated with aikido's founding family in Japan. Their students learn some commonly used Japanese words, etiquette, and customs as a part of their training.

Anyone is invited to observe the classes, and they encourage "people who think they may be too old" to give aikido a shot.

For more information on the Castle Rock Aikido, call 720-221-3665 or visit

This article was originally published in the Casle Rock News Press April 5, 2007 and was written by Jess Burskirk and was revised and updated in 2013.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Castle Rock Colorado Residents Over 50 Taking Up Martial Arts

There's something strange going on in Castle Rock. Residents over fifty years old are beginning to practice a Japanese martial art called Aikido (pronounced 'eye-key-doh').

Aikido isn't exclusively for men and women over fifty, but Aikido does seem to have an affinity for that age group. "I think it is because Aikido is a great form of exercise and a powerful form of self-defense, but still allows you to go to work on each morning without being covered in bruises and broken bones," says an instructor.

Castle Rock AIKIDO & IAIDO don't seem surprised that their Aikido program is attracting people over fifty. "We have a tendency to attract more a intellectual, mature and introspective student, which may come with age, I suppose" he continued. "Our students really are here to become better people. It makes it a pleasure to teach them and we learn so much from them, as well." According to the instructors, there are no young, "hot-heads" with a chip on their shoulder in the program. "When those kind of people do show up, they tend not to stay," said another teacher. "Our program attracts people that are interested in having fun and growing personally, not people who are interested in learning how to hurt others."

Working adults tend to get forget that it is important for them to play, too. It's important for their health, their fitness, their mental state and even their social life. Aikido is a great opportunity to cover all of these needs. "Kids already have so many different activities to choose from. Our adult program is specifically targeted to adults - no exceptions. We have a separate program for teenagers 13-17, but the adult program is exclusively 18 and over. Our focus is on providing adults with a fun, friendly, and physical environment to de-stress and grow as people."

Castle Rock AIKIDO & IAIDO also tailors to adults by holding weekday classes in the evenings. Classes don't start until 8 p.m. This allows adults to come home from work, eat something, spend time with children, and then go practice Aikido for an hour or so. "This approach has been very successful for us. We seem to be fulfilling a real need in many Castle Rock households," expressed school owner, Sean Hannon.

When most adults think of a martial arts school, they often think of children's classes, colorful belts, and pre-arranged fighting forms performed against imaginary opponents. Walk into many martial art schools and you'll hear loud shouts, screams, and grunts and if you look at the faces of many students you'll see a lot of brooding and grimacing. This Aikido program in Castle Rock is different. The predominant sound in class isn't shouting, but laughter. And, if you look around the room you see nothing but wide, bright smiles. "Aikido has a tendency to produce extreme happiness in people."

While many martial arts have an age-related shelf life (like many professional sports do), Aikido is a life long practice. Aikido doesn't adversely discriminate with age. While much more dynamic than yoga, Aikido is similar to yoga in that you tend to get better, not worse, as you get older. "One of our teachers back in Japan is over 80 years old and still practices Aikido daily," says one instructor. Furthermore, like yoga, Aikido contributes to health and longevity by helping to keep the body limber.

Aikido strongly promotes and emphasizes body awareness. It is a way of physically reconnecting with yourself. By practicing Aikido, you learn to recognize just how much people have lost touch with their bodies, their senses, and for some people, their spirit. Aikido truly reawakens a spark of life long forgotten by many working adults. And, it does this without causing pain or injury.

Student Gary S., 56, shared that "As I get older, I think about how I might maintain my balance, agility and coordination. As a health care professional I see many older people who have fallen and broken bones, in particular their hips. This happens, in part, because of a diminished sense of balance, a loss of agility. Aikido, through its repeated practice of centered movements, can help prevent such injuries by helping to maintain agility and a strong sense of balance."

Paul P., 51, another health care professional at Parker Adventist Hospital, is attracted to Aikido because of it's non-competitive nature and relaxed atmosphere while still providing a good workout and good means of self-defense. "We accomplish an awful lot in a hour long class" says Paul. The low risk of injury played a significant role in his decision to practice Aikido, too. "Because of my profession, I need to be able to go to work the next day without injury. Aikido let's me do just that. Plus, I feel refreshed and revitalized after each class."

Doug S., 55, has studied other martial arts in the past, however he prefers Aikido because of its more natural, flowing blend of form and function. "It's powerful, but graceful at the same time," says Doug. "And, it's really great for stress relief. When I'm grumpy after a long day at work, Aikido is a great way to focus on something non-work related for a while."

Castle Rock AIKIDO & IAIDO located inside Village Fitness at 880 West Happy Canyon Road in Castle Rock. You are welcome to come watch or try a class for free anytime. You can visit their website You can also reach them by calling 720-221-3665.