Monday, December 28, 2009

Castle Rock Aikido Goes International

Our Aikido School Published in The Netherlands

Castle Rock AIKIDO was recently featured in a European Aikido publication. Aikido Centrum LUAR BIASA, a dojo from The Netherlands, saw a popular article of ours published earlier this year in The Aikido Journal and requested permission to translate the article from English to Dutch. It ws then published in their print version of their November 2009 issue of the dojo "Shishou" or newsletter.

The article was about "Mitori Keiko" or "watch and steal training." The article discussed the importance of continuing to come to Aikido class to observe even when you are injured because of how much a student can learn and improve simply by watching others practice.

The Dutch-translated article is now hanging up in our school's lobby. You can read the English version of this article by clicking here.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Iaido Students from Castle Rock Test for Rank

On Saturday, December 12th, Iwakabe, Hideki Sensei held his annual, End of Year Taikai seminar and testing event. Students from four regional Iaido schools attended the event.

Not only did the Castle Rock students pass their tests for rank, but the Castle Rock students performed very well during the seminar's Iaido form competition.

The competition had two levels: 1) a black belt level and 2) an under black belt level. Students from Castle Rock took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the under black belt competition.

Congratulations Peter, Anders, and Sean!

Learn more about the fun and challenging art of drawing the Japanese Samurai Sword by clicking HERE.

Iaido Student Testimonial
"Thank you for your passion, vision and resolve in the creation of the Iaido program... You have enabled me to pursue a long-held dream of studying Iaido... It is my hope that Iaido will assist me in some modest personal refinement. Your aesthetic awareness and appreciation for excellence has created a powerful environment of which you should be very proud."
- Peter in Castle Rock, Colorado

Saturday, December 26, 2009

On Training with Martial Intent...

by Pat Mussleman Sensei

The truth is it's easy to get lost in our martial arts training and lose sight of the primary purpose for being there in the first place. Why do we training martial arts? There are many reasons a person might chose to study martial arts. A person may be looking for such things as fitness, self discipline, a place to meet people, and countless other reasons. But don't forget the primary purpose for studying a martial art... and that is self defense. At the very core of everything we do in Aikido, we are focused on being effective at defending ourselves against an aggressor. Although all the other benefits still exist, I do not believe anyone finds themselves in a martial arts dojo without some desire to accomplish that primary goal.

Most of us are in the dojo for a very small time as compared to the rest of our week. In my last article I touched on the topic of falling and rolling - what we call "ukemi." The idea that we should not dismiss that part of our training is closely related to the desire to maximize our training opportunity during that small window of time. Likewise, we should keep in mind the concept that we are training for the purpose of self defense. I believe very strongly in this idea and speak of it often when I have the opportunity to teach. I see it time and time again that when a defensive technique fails or doesn't feel right the student simply stops and asks their attacking partner or "uke" to attack again. If that is how you train you might as well be doing Tae Bo. I'm not bashing Tae Bo, rather pointing out that you would get the same level of martial arts training with a much better cardio workout. It is my opinion that the martial aspect of any art comes with the intent of the student who studies that art. If you wish to maximize the effectiveness of your Aikido training you must not lose sight of its' martial nature.

The practical application of this concept is simply to never quit. To look at an extreme example, in a life or death situation there is no time out. In that type of situation it is not over until you or your aggressor is stopped. My hope is that every one of you reading this article would train your Aikido (or any martial art) with that kind of "never say die" attitude. In law enforcement it is common to hear "we always win." Police officers have a deeply ingrained sense that no matter what situation they face, they go home at the end of the night. That attitude starts in the training room. If/when the day comes when you face an aggressor with intent to do you or your family harm, the desire to win in that moment won't be enough. Both you and your attacker have the will to win the battle, the difference will depend on who trained to win.

Take any given Aikido technique for example. The instructor has demonstrated the technique and now you are training with your partner. As the defender ("nage") you begin the technique (attempting to emulate what the instructor taught), but you accidently move off line in the wrong direction. At that moment the technique you were training is over, but your martial arts training it not over! This is when the real training happens! If you blunder a technique and still maintain a level of awareness that allows you to do nothing else but to break free of your uke then you have accomplished a great deal. Once you achieve this state of mind you will find other techniques appear before your eyes. When one technique fails you will find three more in its place. In my opinion this kind of awareness and ability to flow from one thing to the next (called "Henka Waza") is far more important than mastery of any one technique. How you train in the dojo is how you will react in a real life encounter. My hope is that everyone would train Aikido sincerely with the intent that someday they may be called upon to use it.

I realize that the subject of this article may be interpreted as being out of line with some of the teachings from the founder of Aikido (Morihei Ueshiba). He taught that true victory was victory over oneself ("Masakatsu Agatsu"). Many quotes and sayings from the founder imply that in budo (martial way) there is no winning or losing. To defeat someone else at their expense is not winning at all. I believe that Morihei Ueshiba was a very wise and profound man and I acknowledge that I will never even come close to grasping Aikido such as he did. That being said, I have to believe that within his idea of Aikido there was still room for physically stopping an attacker with appropriate force when all other methods have failed.

Philosophical debates set aside, Aikido is still a martial way or "budo." O'Sensei taught that "budo is love." Although it is my ultimate goal to understand and embrace that teaching, for now I must follow my heart and train consistent with my current understanding of the art. Just as with anything learned, there is a natural progression. For anyone to believe that they can start their Aikido training with the same level of understanding as O'Sensei is ridiculous. If we study his biography we see that even the founder had a progression and change in philosophy as he grew in his art. In my opinion it is a natural and critical process to begin our study of budo with the focus and intent discussed in this article. The ideals and principles taught by the founder serve as a beacon for our ultimate understanding of Aikido shall we be so fortunate to find that path.

Read Musselman Sensei's previous article HERE.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Why Practice Iaido?

Why Practice Iaido?

People choose to train Iaido for numerous and varied reasons. Here are some of the most common ones:

1. You have always been enamored with samurai culture and you want to learn more about the art, philosophy, and discipline of Bushido.

2. You want to forge a powerful spirit of self-confidence within yourself and take that spirit deeper into your personal and work life.

3. You still want to practice a martial art, but think you may be too old or believe your body isn't up for a more dynamic activity. You're never too old or too out-of-shape to begin Iaido. There is no falling, no rolling, and no contact. So injury is very rare. This means you can still learn a fun, powerful martial art without having to go to the office the next morning covered in bruises!

4. You want to strengthen your core muscular in your arms, back, torso, pelvis, legs and shoulder, but you want to do so in a fun way!

5. You want to improve your hand-eye coordination, balance, and graceful economy of movement.

6. You have a stressful work or home environment and you need a weekly mental escape.

7. You're looking for a martial art that you can practice just one evening per week!

Through Iaido training, you can learn to project a powerful aura in everyday situations. In time, you can cultivate a commanding confidence and demanding respect of and within yourself by mastering your physical body and projecting it to the world. Please come see what our program has to offer you.

Come find out if Iaido is right for you. We welcome visitors to come watch a class. Call 720-221-3665 or click here to visit our website for more information.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rambling Reflections: Aging & Aikido

by Tip Harris Sensei

As I celebrate my 66th birthday, I presume that I have reached the point where I am considered a "senior martial artist". Reflecting on my 25 or so years of Aikido training, I have noticed that all people age, some slowly in good health and others quickly and in ill health.

I've never been fanatical about my age or aging, as I consider it a natural part of life. Although some people try, there is just no escaping it. To age we must! I do my best to try to keep myself physically and mentally active as my health and circumstances will allow, which is really the best anyone can do. I strongly believe that this is the key to a long and healthy life. Those people, who do not strive to keep their mind and body active in some way, usually deteriorate fairly rapidly and develop more physical and mental problems as they age.

That is not to say that Aikido students (Aikdoka) do not get their fair share of injuries. Becoming a senior martial artist has been very enjoyable and very personally rewarding to me, but not easy, because as we age training doesn’t get any easier. There have been many injuries along my way. An inventory would include numerable cuts and bruises, dislocated toes and sprained fingers, a dislocated shoulder, torn ligaments in both arms, and even worn cartilage in my knees, and aches and pains from old injuries or sore muscles. However, I think that with continuous training we eventually reach a point at which we are able to ignore these pains. I believe that over time, one’s threshold or tolerance of pain is greatly elevated. I know I can have aches and pains here and there; but when I get on the mat and into my "Aikido mind set", they seem to disappear or become very minor.

Some injuries are unavoidable along our Aikido journey. However, I firmly believe that most training injuries are the result of roughness or carelessness. Aikido is a blending of the hard attack on the part of the Uke (the Yang) with an equal but opposite soft reaction on the part of the Nage (the Yin). A balance of the hard and soft energies must be achieved for there to be harmony. Countering hard with hard is not the proper spirit of Aiki. Negative energy must be countered with positive energy.

I have found that if we take the time to practice slowly with proper timing and blending, we can develop our Aikido skills while minimizing the possibility of injury. Speed develops naturally as we improve our techniques and confidence. It is my experience that injuries occur when harmony and blending are missing. While tension and using your strength and lack of coordination are natural at some levels of experience (and we have all been there at some point), there is no excuse for roughness or carelessness in Aikido. To train either with abandon or in fear of being hurt is to ensure an injury. We can, however, train with confidence.

Despite our desire to believe otherwise, we become more vulnerable to injury as we age, and each injury takes longer to heal. As we age, we have to accept this or quit training.

Occasionally, I have been asked, "Why do you continue to train at your age?" My answer is that it is partially from habit because it is an important part of my life, and partially because of the physical and mental challenge it provides. And I've also been asked, "How long do you expect to continue to train?" My response is, "As long as I live and am able to!" Some commitments in our lives are never really finished; they just continue one day at a time. As O-Sensei said when he was much older than I am, "I'm still learning!"

Get Started today with AIKIDO.

CLICK HERE for a limited-time, special offer.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Succeeding with Samurai Sword Training

Q&A with Iwakabe Sensei

Sensei, what qualities do you think are the most important for an Iaido student to possess?
The most important quality that an Iaido student should have is patience. Learning Iaido is not something you can master overnight. It is a lifetime process. In the beginning, your thoughts are focused only on learning the movements. As you learn the movements, you then learn how the movements are applied. As your experience grows in Iaido, so does your learning. You will even hear from those that have achieved the highest ranks in Iaido that they are still learning. This is a perfect testament that your learning as a student never stops and you must have the patience to keep trying to improve.

Dan Lowry, author of In the Dojo, has a perfect passage on what a student is. "Shoshinsha is another word - a 'person with a beginning mind' - that can describe the new student. The wise student remains a shoshinsa all during his training in the martial Ways, always with a mind that is ready to learn more and always ready to accept that he has not seen it all, no matter how much experience and talent he may gain."

Iaido Student Testimonial
"I can see Iaido carry over to the rest of my life with a self-contained pursuit of constant improvement.

Iaido also gives me a much needed outlet of physical and mental exertion, and time to focus on myself in a stressful work week and career."

Anders L., Castle Rock, Colorado

CLICK HERE to learn more about our Iaido / Samurai Sword program.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Samurai Philosophy: Bushido: The Soul of Japan review, Part 4

We continue to explore Bushido's major principles, concepts, and values as articulated in the classic 1899 Japanese text, Bushido: The Soul of Japan, by Inazo Nitobe, and evaluate their applicability in today's modern world. Bushido: The Soul of Japan is one of the first major works on samurai ethics and Japanese culture. It is considered by some to be the first collective statement of what is commonly referred to as the Seven Virtues of Bushido.

Nitobe offers for consideration seven virtues of Bushido that attempt to illustrate the philosophical values of the samurai. However, it should be recognized that there are not, in truth, seven virtues of Bushido. This is only Nitobe's subjective articulation of samurai culture and it is little more than an artificial construct. Other academics like Nitobe or practitioners of Bushido could easily and perhaps in an equally comprehensively fashion offer four, ten, or even one-hundred virtues of Bushido. Furthermore, the seven virtues presented here are concentric. That is, each value overlaps with and is influenced by another. No single virtue of Bushido exists or can exist by itself. Remember, all systems, including Bushido, Aikido, or any other, are ultimately artificial. The holistic nature of any system of values is unlikely to be comprehensively articulated in written language. Some virtues transcend written word. Nonetheless, we will attempt to explore each thoroughly.

To read more, visit the main article here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Politeness is Power, an Unexpected Connection

A Critical Review of the Classic Samurai Text: Bushido, The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe

Part 5: Politeness (Rei), Politeness is Power in Repose

Article by Sean Hannon

We continue to explore Bushido's major principles, concepts, and values as articulated in the classic 1899 Japanese text, Bushido: The Soul of Japan, by Inazo Nitobe, and evaluate their applicability in today's modern world. Bushido: The Soul of Japan is one of the first major works on samurai ethics and Japanese culture. It is considered by some to be the first collective statement of what is commonly referred to as the Seven Virtues of Bushido.

Nitobe offers for consideration seven virtues of Bushido that attempt to illustrate the philosophical values of the samurai. However, it should be recognized that there are not, in truth, seven virtues of Bushido. This is only Nitobe's subjective articulation of samurai culture and it is little more than an artificial construct. Other academics like Nitobe or practitioners of Bushido could easily and perhaps in an equally comprehensively fashion offer four, ten, or even one-hundred virtues of Bushido. Furthermore, the seven virtues presented here are concentric. That is, each value overlaps with and is influenced by another. No single virtue of Bushido exists or can exist by itself. Remember, all systems, including Bushido, Aikido, or any other, are ultimately artificial. The holistic nature of any system of values is unlikely to be comprehensively articulated in written language. Some virtues transcend written word. Nonetheless, we will attempt to explore each thoroughly.

To read more, visit the main article here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beyond Golden Clouds: Japanese Screens

Student Visits Japanese Art Exhibit in Chicago

In September, Castle Rock AIKIDO student, Sean Hannon, was stuck in Chicago during a layover and had just barely enough time to pop into The Art Institute of Chicago to visit their featured exhibit on decorative, Japanese Screens called: Beyond Golden Clouds.

It was a powerful exhibit with perhaps nearly one hundred different, folding Japanese screens called "byōbu" from as far back as the 15th century. Although photography was not permitted, the exhibit still left visitors with a profound appreciation for this long time, traditional artwork.

Like many Japanese arts and crafts, folding screens originated in China; prototypes dating back to the Han dynasty have been found. The term "byōbu" means figuratively "protection from wind", which suggests that the original purpose of byōbu was blocking drafts. Byōbu were introduced in Japan in the eighth century, when Japanese craftsmen started making their own byōbu, highly influenced by Chinese patterns.

Read more about the Golden Clouds exhibit HERE.

Also at the museum, unrelated to the Golden Clouds exhibit, was a more modest, but equally moving, Japanese art exhibit. In the Asian arts wing of the museum was a beautiful exhibit exclusively feating the works of Japanese woodblock print artist, Ito Shinsui (1898-1972). Shinsui was one of the great names of the shin hanga art movement, which revitalized the traditional wookblock style art after it began to decline with the advent of photography in the early 20th century. Shinsui is best known for his numerous, reflective portraits of Japanese women, but his seasonal landscape are equally captivating and were also featured in this exhibit.

The exhibit's summary sign stated that Frank Lloyd Wright was greatly inspired by the works of Shinsui. In fact, one of Shinsui's most famous pieces, Before the Mirror, (pictured above) is soon to be hung in our dojo lobby.

Learn more about Ito Shinsui HERE.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Review of the Seven Virtues of Samurai Bushido text, part 3: Courage

Part Three: Courage - Doing the Hard Thing

We continue to explore Bushido's major principles, concepts, and values as articulated in the classic 1899 Japanese text, Bushido: The Soul of Japan, by Inazo Nitobe, and evaluate their applicability in today's modern world. Bushido: The Soul of Japan is one of the first major works on samurai ethics and Japanese culture. It is considered by some to be the first collective statement of what is commonly referred to as the Seven Virtues of Bushido.

Nitobe offers for consideration seven virtues of Bushido that attempt to illustrate the philosophical values of the samurai. However, it should be recognized that there are not, in truth, seven virtues of Bushido. This is only Nitobe's subjective articulation of samurai culture and it is little more than an artificial construct. Other academics like Nitobe or practitioners of Bushido could easily and perhaps in an equally comprehensively fashion offer four, ten, or even one-hundred virtues of Bushido. Furthermore, the seven virtues presented here are concentric. That is, each value overlaps with and is influenced by another. No single virtue of Bushido exists or can exist by itself. Remember, all systems, including Bushido, Aikido, or any other, are ultimately artificial. The holistic nature of any system of values is unlikely to be comprehensively articulated in written language. Some virtues transcend written word. Nonetheless, we will attempt to explore each thoroughly.

Read the full article here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Aikido Q & A with Harris Sensei

Q: Will I hold back an advanced student if we train together?

A: I have often observed in my many years of training, practicing, and teaching Aikido that many beginner or inexperienced Aikido students seem to be intimidated when training with a more advanced student. At seminars and large classes, I often see less experienced students (perhaps subconsciously) pairing themselves with other less experienced students, and conversely more advanced aikidoka pairing themselves with others of the same level. This is very unfortunate, as both beginners and more advanced students can learn from each other.

A less experienced student can learn much from experiencing first-hand how more advanced students move and perform a particular technique. A more advanced student with the proper attitude should have the desire to impart his or her Aikido knowledge and help less experienced students learn and become more proficient. Hopefully every seminar, class or practice of a particular technique is a learning experience for both partners in their role of Nage or Uke.

That being said however, it is true that many more advanced Aikido students (a.k.a. Aikidoka) prefer to practice with others of the same level - especially when practicing more advanced techniques - because then they can do it faster and more advanced method. It is also probably true that many less experienced students feel more comfortable practicing with others of the same level. However, sometimes two inexperienced students trying to understand the mechanics of a technique is like a "blind-man-leading-blind-man" situation. Neither understands clearly the mechanics of the situation without more instruction from the Sensei. A good Sensei will usually overcome this propensity to pair up with others of the same level by periodically asking students to change partners.

So, getting back to the question; a less experienced student should not feel they are holding back a more advanced student by asking them to practice with them. OSensei said, "Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something." He also said, "Progress comes to those who train and train..." Beginner and advanced aikidoka training together is a win-win learning situation for both.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Governor Who Protected Japanese-Americans

(pictured to the right: Sean Hannon with Adam Schrager)

A few months ago, twelve-time Emmy award winning television reporter Adam Schrager from NBC affiliate 9News in Denver spoke at the Parker Library on his new book, The Principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story.

The Principled Politician is the true story of a forgotten Republican Governor of Colorado who took an unpopular stance against ignorance and bigotry toward the treatment of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. A stance that would ultimately cost him his career.

Between the years 1942 and 1945, over one-hundred twenty thousand people of Japanese descent from the West Coast of the United States, most of who were American citizens, were rounded up and placed in internment camps. One such camp was Camp Amache in South East Colorado, near the town of Grenada. Governor Carr vehemently objected to President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, which required any person of Japanese descent to be relocated to internment camps. Carr believed that such a directive was unnecessary and violated the Constitutional rights of many American citizens of Japanese descent.

Governor Carr received threats of impeachment, unrelenting criticism in the press, and non-stop phone calls to the Governor's residence from scared Colorado citizens for his outspoken stance on protecting who The Denver Post even described as the "yellow devils." Schrager asked, "Who stands up when everyone else sits down?" The answer, in this age of fear not unlike today's post-9/11 age of fear, is Ralph Carr. "Ralph Carr represented the best of humanity at the worst of times," Schrager continued. "He was a man of principle - a man who did the right thing even when it was the unpopular thing."

The Principled Politician details one man's crusade to stand up in the face of overwhelming fear, racism, and a lack of leadership. Carr believed that if the principles of the Constitution are not upheld for everyone one, then they won't hold up for anyone. Through his politically incorrect and unpopular position, Carr believed that he was standing up for the rights of every American, not just those of Japanese-Americans. He was often quoted as saying, "Principles are as true as truth."

Before being elected Governor, Carr predicted, "If elected Governor, I will probably become the most hated man in Colorado because I intend to follow my principles... I see it as my job to direct public opinion, not to follow it."

Prior to the events on December 7, 1941, Carr was being seriously discussed as a future Republican Presidential candidate, but Carr lost his 1942 reelection campaign in one of the closest gubernatorial races in Colorado history. He asked, "What are we fighting for abroad, if not for these very ideals at home?" Carr showed Coloradoans a faith that Coloradoans did not reciprocate. Schrager was reminded of the old adage spoken by repeatedly unsuccessful Presidential candidate, Henry Clay, "It is better to be right, than be President," and he suggested that perhaps we should remember Carr in this context.

I asked, Schrager why this issue was important enough to him to write an entire book on the subject. He responded with a famous quote from Lester Lave, "People deserve the government they get and get the government they deserve." He then added, "I would like to see a world where politicians do the right thing instead of the popular thing. Principled politicians like Governor Carr should be the rule and not the exception."

A bust of Governor Carr stands in Denver's Sakura Square, near 19th and Lawrence St. in commemoration of his efforts on behalf of Japanese-Americans. Part of the inscription reads, "A tribute to his unflinching Americanism."

How did Carr remain so sold, focused, logical, and rational during a time of great fear? Why was he one of the only US representatives willing to defend the constitutional rights of Japanese-Americans? The answers to these questions may perhaps reveal the most admirable qualities of great leaders, like Governor Carr, who frequently go unrecognized and unacknowledged. Schrager's book is a long overdue tribute to this man's character.

The Principled Politician: The Ralph Carr Story is published by Fulcrum Publishing out of Golden, Colorado.

You can order the book from by clicking HERE.

Visit Adam Schrager's web site.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Purpose of Practicing Iaido: A Japanese Samurai Sword Art

The purpose of practicing Iaido is:

To mold the mind and body;
To cultivate a vigorous spirit;
And, through correct and rigid training,
To strive for improvement in the art of Iaido;
To hold in esteem human courtesy and honor;
To associate with others with sincerity;
And, to forever pursue the cultivation of oneself.

This will make one be able to love his country and society;
To contribute to the development of culture;
And to promote peace and prosperity among all people.

- from by Iwakabe, Hideki Sensei, 6th Degree Black Belt

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Busiest, Most Energetic Grandpa in Castle Rock Happens to be an Instructor at Castle Rock AIKIDO

Sixty-six year old Tip Harris is one busy grandfather. He retired from a long career with Walgreens several years ago, but certainly has no intention of slowing down. Several times per week Tip gets up before dawn to go teach 5:45am martial arts in Colorado Springs. Then he spends his days working for a garden and landscape company. When he's done with that, he drives over to Castle Rock to, again, teach evening martial art classes at Castle Rock AIKIDO, a traditional Japanese martial arts program exclusively for adults. On weekends, Tip can often be found attending one of his wife's orchestra concerts, doing upkeep on his vacation property in the mountains, or chasing around his grandchildren. Where in the world does this man get all this energy and vigor? Apparently, there is a secret.

Tip attributes his abundant energy and continued flexibility and agility to his 25 years practicing a Japanese martial art called Aikido (pronounced 'eye'-'key'-'doh'). "It's simple, really. If you don't ever stop moving, your body doesn't get stiff," says Tip. Aikido is a fun, sophisticated martial art that teaches you not just how to defend yourself, but how to produce peace, relaxation, and balance inside yourself by learning to connect with your body. This balance produces energy, agility, and strength. It also helps keep the body free of pain. "It is all about finding your center and learning how to use it to your advantage," says Tip. "Aikido has nothing to do with strength you may or may not yet possess. It is all about body position, leverage, and focus."

In the art of Aikido adult students of any age learn how to do things that they didn't know they were still capable of. "We spend a lot of time teaching people how to fall and roll safely. Many adults haven't done things like somersaults in 20, 40, even 50 years and they are absolutely terrified of relatively benign things like falling down or slipping on ice," explains Tip. "We slowly and carefully teach people how to wake up their bodies and show them that they don't have to grow weak and stiff as they get older."

Visitors to Tip's classes in Castle Rock are often amazed to see that Tip doesn't just passively stand there on the sidelines and instruct. He fully participates in class and does all the techniques, falls, and throws with the students. During the warm up he is often performing splits and in class he often takes 6 foot long dive rolls and breakfalls that boggle the minds of students half his age. He is living proof that Aikido helps keep your body, mind, and spirit young and strong into your 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond. "I hope I am a good example of that. People are often stunned to hear that I didn't even start practicing Aikido until I was forty."
Surprisingly, Tip is not all that unique. The Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, vigorously trained Aikido into his late 70s. A quick search for "Aikido" on will bring up dozens and dozens of videos of men and women in their 60s, 70s, and even 80s practicing Aikido with such intensity and power, you'll start to doubt your eyes.

"Tip Sensei is a real inspiration to many of the students here in Castle Rock, not just physically, but, in a martial arts sense, spiritually, too," says Aikido student, Tim Keating, age 50. "Most people Tip's age tend to retire from life. Tip shows us that there is so much more to be had." Tim Keating lives in Castle Pines, but is the owner of a California mountaineering business, SWS Mountain Guides (,%20which/ takes people on mountaineering trips all over the world. "In my business, it is imperative that I stay healthy and fit so that I can keep climbing mountains with my clients. I know that practicing Aikido with Tip Sensei will help me maintain that fitness level. Plus, it's a lot of fun!"

If you're 30, 40, or 50 something and are starting to complain about how tired, old and stiff you are getting, you might want to come watch Tip Harris practice Aikido. It might make you reconsider a few things about getting older. And, who knows? Maybe you, too, could create a younger, stronger, more energetic self! Visit or call (720) 221-3665 for more information about Tip's classes at Castle Rock AIKIDO.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Castle Rock AIKIDO Celebrates One Year in Their NEW Aikido Dojo Facility!

July marked the one year anniversary of Castle Rock AIKIDO's purchase and renovation of their new 2400 SF facility on Caprice Court in Castle Rock.

It was a long, labor intensive journey, but well worth it! CLICK HERE to view a photography journey from a dirty, furniture manufacturing warehouse to our beautiful Aikido training facility.

Without a doubt this new dojo has greatly contributed to the rapid growth of our school and of the other programs in our facility such as the Iaido Samurai Sword program and Zen meditation classes. Thank you to all the students, contractors, and others who helped make this building such a wonderful place to train.

CLICK HERE to view the renovation process.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ukemi: The Other Half of Aikido

by Pat Musselman Sensei

Ukemi (pronounced 'oo'-'keh'-'mee') is defined in many different ways, but the common theme among all definitions has to do with receiving and falling. Many times it is simply referred to as "the art of falling." In my opinion it is a mistake to simply think of ukemi as falling down. If we break down the word itself we find that 'uke' (the person being thrown) means "to receive," and 'Mi' means "through the body." Therefore, I like to think of ukemi as just that; receiving through the body. In general terms, we all recognize ukemi as tumbling and falling. It is a method of protecting our bodies as we fall from an Aikido technique applied by the thrower or 'nage' (pronounced 'nah'-'gay'). In reality, ukemi is so much more than just falling down.

If we consider that roughly half the time on the mat we are uke and the other half nage we see just how important ukemi is. Ukemi is 50% of our training! Many times we only consider our turn as nage to be important for our development. This thinking couldn't be further from the truth! Proper ukemi practice is an essential part of training that is often overlooked. Ukemi helps us with spatial awareness. It also provides crucial information about the technique being practiced. If we change our perspective from just being a training dummy, to being a receiver, we gain more insight about the technique. Developing good ukemi skills is also very important because it prevents injury and serves as a gateway to more advanced techniques.

There are many different styles of ukemi. Just like everything else in Aikido, it will alter slightly from one person to the next based on their particular style and body type. The fundamental principles of ukemi stay the same. First and foremost we must protect the head and spine. No matter what your ukemi looks like, if you can get up off the floor without injury you are on the right track. The way we protect ourselves is by eliminating the corners of the body. The goal is to make our bodies round so that we blend with the mat as we land. Finally we must stay relaxed and breathe through the roll.

There is another very important aspect of ukemi which is often overlooked and that is the "art of attacking." As uke we must be 100% focused on the moment. It is easy to allow other thoughts to enter our mind during ukemi. This is especially true if we treat ukemi like wasted time between turns being nage. As uke we must commit ourselves completely, both mind and body, to the role as attacker. Once uke attacks he/she needs to follow through. The common problem is that many times we are attacking in slow motion and we know what technique it coming. If we loose focus this may cause us to alter our attack and our body's response to the technique. It is important that we don't input unnatural movement or fall prematurely.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to overcome when learning how to take ukemi is fear. This is a very natural response to something which we know has the potential to cause us pain or injury. As uke you should never hesitate to communicate to your nage that you are uncomfortable falling from a particular technique. With that in mind uke should remember to never attack faster than he/she can fall, and nage should always take into consideration the experience level of their uke. Ultimately, through continued practice and repetition we develop muscle memory and uke no longer has to mentally prepare for a fall. Once this level is achieved ukemi becomes as simple as going with the flow.

A final thought on ukemi is this: Never take an opportunity to train for granted. The idea that our training doesn't begin until we break off into partners and practice as nage will severely limit our ability to grow as Aikido students (Aikidoka). Most of us have such a small amount of time during the week to actually spend in the dojo. When we come to the dojo we need to take advantage of every moment to hone our Aikido skills. The moment we step foot on the mat we need to turn off all of life's distractions and be totally focused on the training at hand. Don't waste this opportunity. We must make the most out of every moment.
Try an Aikido class for free.
Castle Rock AIKIDO, a Japanese martial arts school exclusively for adults

Why is it that we bow so much in Aikido class? What does it mean? Aikido Q & A

Q: Why is it that we bow so much in Aikido class? What does it mean?

A: I have been asked this question often. I think the simple answer is that it helps develop a correct attitude of respect in all things we do, both on the mat and off.

Aikido is not a sport. It is a discipline or an educational process for training the mind, body and spirit. A correct attitude of sincerity and a proper atmosphere are essential to the learning process of Aikido.

When we enter or leave the practice area of the Dojo, we always bow respectfully (either standing or kneeling) towards the front of the training space or Shomen. At the beginning and end of each class, we also bow to the Shomen and then to the Sensei. After receiving instruction from the Sensei, we bow to the Sensei and then again bow to our partner as we start to practice the demonstrated technique; and we bow again to our partner when the practice to the technique ends.

This may seem like an awful lot of bowing, but it is simply showing respect to the teachings of O-Sensei, to our Dojo, our Sensei and each other. It helps create a positive atmosphere of harmony and respect.

The words spoken at the beginning and end of class and at the beginning of practice between the students and the instructor also reinforce this respect. "Onegai shimasu", when spoken by the student loosely translates as, "Please give me your instruction." When spoken by the teacher it means, "Please do what is expected of you."

The words, "Domo arigato gozaimashita", spoken at the end of class by the students to the instructor loosely mean, "You have my respect and gratitude for what you have taught us." This is a most respectful way of saying thank you.Bowing helps create this essential attitude of respect which is necessary to properly practice and develop your Aikido. See you on the mat!

The Last Samurai of Martial Arts

On Wednesday, January 28th, Kei Izawa Sensei of Tanshinjuku Aikikai in Louisville, Colorado lectured to a crowd of nearly fifty on the last samurai of martial arts and Founder of the art of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. The one hour lecture was sponsored by The Center for Asian Studies and the catchy title, no doubt, contributed to the excellent turn out. Mr. Izawa, or Izawa Sensei as we know him in the Aikido community, was introduced by a lengthy and impressive docket of both business successes and Aikido credentials. Perhaps the most recent of which was the publication of the new English translation of Osensei's biography: A Life in Aikido, The Biography of Founder Morhihei Ueshiba by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, published by Kodansha International.

Izawa briefly chronicled the early life of Morihei Ueshiba, his upbringing, education, and early martial studies. Izawa began by contrasting the typical upbringing of a child born to the post-feudal samurai class with that of the more humble farmer's class of Morihei Ueshiba. The point of this comparison was to illustrate how Osensei transcended the social implications of his lower class and became a man of tremendous national prestige, respect, and reverence - a testament to him living the principles of Bushido.

Even after Japan's governmental restoration of the late 1880s, the samurai class was still regarded as the most esteemed class, follow by farmers, artisan and craftsman, and finally merchants. Perhaps in stark contrast to American values of the Gilded Age and even of today, merchants of Japan were considered the lowest of all classes. Despite all of this, Ueshiba became a man of overwhelming significance, and arguably, the last samurai of martial arts, in his country and around the world by living the principles of which he taught for many decades.

Izawa briefly reviewed the seven virtues of Bushido, which is the Japanese samurai's code of conduct. This code of conduct is considered by some to be analogous to that of medieval, English chivalry. Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honor, and Loyalty are frequent interpretations of Bushido's virtues and were first articulated in the English language by a Japanese national named Inazo Nitobe in 1899.

Nitobe was a fascinating personality in Japan's history, in part, because he was raised and educated in Japan as a Christian, which gave him a unique perspective on East-West relations. His classic text, Bushido: The Soul of Japan will be reviewed in a series of articles to appear in future issues of the Dojo News and on the Castle Rock AIKIDO web site.

Like many successful people, Ueshiba was plagued, it seemed, by a multitude of career failures until his late 30s. While at first I found this surprising, I then remembered that success author, Napoleon Hill, in his classic 1939 text, Think & Grow Rich!, articulated that most people do not experience any real success in life until after their 40th year. It was around this time that Ueshiba began to integrate his martial skills into an early version of what we know today as Aikido.

"Aikido can be very difficult to describe in words," Izawa said. "But, it's really about diffusion, instead of defeating." Izawa then illustrated Aikido by playing two videos of Ueshiba filmed at different times in the Founder's life. The videos demonstrated how Morihei Ueshiba evolved from a more brutish martial artist in his late 30s to a more gentle martial artist in his late 70s. As can be readily seen by the two videos, what did not diminish over the decades was Ueshiba's power. In fact, it could be argue that his power continued to expand into his elder years.

Izawa had the opportunity to demonstrate his own use of Aikido philosophy during his lecture when a computer incompatibility issue initially prevented him from showing the audience from viewing the two videos he brought with him and were an important element to the presentation. But, as Aikido philosophy teaches, we must learn to adapt to our ever changing environment, blend with the challenges we are faced with, and redirect the energy of any given problem or set of circumstances to a positive outcome. Izawa quickly petitioned the audience for a Macintosh laptop.

One young student happened to have a Mac in their back pack and quickly volunteered its use. Within 5 minutes, Izawa was back up and running with his presentation. Considering that the lecture's content involved the philosophy and practice of Aikido, it seems appropriate to see such a non-martial application of its philosophy right there, on the spot. There was something overwhelmingly charming about the technological glitch and its prompt resolution. It seemed to add a true sense of authenticity to the subject matter being discussed.

What was so nice about the lecture is that there was no "angle" or "pitch" attached to it. Izawa was there simply for the pleasure of sharing his hard work of translating this Japanese text to English, and to share his experiences in doing so. One question from the audience inquired as to whether or not Izawa experienced some challenges translating from Japanese to English. Izawa responded that there were times when translation posed a challenge. There are so many elements of Japanese communication that do not possess a literal translation to English, or if they do, the notion initially intended by the author is lost in the literal translation and, therefore, some editorial license was needed.You can order the book through by clicking HERE

Zen with Len: Change Your Mind

by "Kensho" Len Silverston
Instructor, Mondo Zen Meditation
Student, Castle Rock AIKIDO

Since Aikido is about developing the mind and body, how interested are you in "changing your mind?"

As conditioned human beings, we often do things that do not make sense. My Zen teacher, Roshi Jun Po, refers to this phenomenon as the "hysterical historical." When someone insults us or says something that we do not like, our conditioning may lead us to anger, shame, judgment, violence, or repeating the insult many times in our mind, even though the person only insulted us once! Our minds are often conditioned to react, instead of respond intelligently.

If instead of reacting unconsciously, as we often do, we train our minds to respond with a combination of wisdom and compassion, we can completely and positively transform our lives. Is this possible? Gautama the Buddha, frequently taught that "experience, itself, is the great teacher." In my experience, while substantially changing one's mind is very difficult and requires a great deal of practice, it is possible, and it is the most worthwhile thing one can do. In my life, I changed my mind and the way I think, and my life has been transformed. I have transformed my life from having very frequent and long states of depression, to hardly ever experiencing depression, having a relationship where my wife was just about to leave me to a wonderful, strong, peaceful and intimate relationship with this same wife, and from being a stressed workaholic to living in a much more balanced way, while still enjoying professional success. My point is that we can change our minds!
So how can we change our minds? So how can we change our minds? There are many ways. The Hoffman Institute provides a powerful program, framework, and toolkit of effective techniques that help us identify and transform the patterns in our minds . Dr. John DeMartini has numerous program such as "The Breakthrough Experience" that provides a method to recondition our mind by "collapsing" negative thoughts which zap our energy.
Vippassana meditation is a technique that helps us to see things as they really are, not how we want them to be and "aims for the total eradication of mental impurities and the resultant highest happiness of full liberation." Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism offering a form of meditation called "Zazen" that is designed to "calm the body and the mind and experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment (satori)."
Hollow Bones is a Rinzai school of Zen that offers a way to change the mind called "Mondo Zen," which involves a dialectic protocol of koans (questions) designed to liberate us and has two parts of "Awakening to Clear Deep Mind" and "Transforming Your Disturbing Emotions." Techniques such as "Kouk Sun Do" and "Qi Gong" are designed to build chi and balances our mind, body and spirit, thus changing our minds. I have mentioned these in particular, since these are some of the techniques that I have personally used to change my mind. There are countless other schools, techniques, forms of meditation, and teachings that can help us change our minds.
What do these techniques share in common? They all focus on awareness, and more specifically, becoming aware of our conditioning, so that we can stop reacting, transform ourselves, and become more conscious, allowing us to think and act more wisely. We, as human beings, live a great deal of our lives unaware of important things, for example, how our minds work.

If you would like to learn about and practice ways to "change your mind", come to a "Zen With Len" held at Castle Rock AIKIDO in Castle Rock CO. For current schedule, visit:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Feel Sorry for the Natural!"

From Sensei Corner for Aikido Training
Featuring David Ito Sensei of Los Angeles, California

Many students new to the art of Aikido often become frustrated in their first few months of training. They feel awkward as they struggle with what sometimes they feel should be the most basic of techniques. In fact, many students often erroneously conclude that they aren't "naturals" and just don't have the aptitude for Aikido. Of course, this belief is usually untrue and students will begin to see progress if they will just stick with their training. The following article by David Ito Sensei should comfort students who don't quite feel like "naturals."

Shoshitsu Sen, the great tea master said, "When you enter the way of tea, no matter how you think you may disgrace yourself, it will not be taken as disgrace or shame. Make mistakes, be rebuked, stand corrected and learn." This wisdom has many applications, and certainly in Aikido you have to put in the work in order to develop yourself and improve your technique. Nobody wakes up one day and finds they can suddenly do Shomenuchi Ikkyo correctly. No matter what your skill level, you have to dedicate yourself to your training and work hard. Or do you?

Some individuals at first seem naturally talented while others seem unskilled by comparison. Interestingly, the unskilled or uncoordinated beginners usually emerge as the best students, a pattern which probably gave rise to the old martial arts saying, "Feel sorry for the natural."

The natural never has to learn the techniques fully and often jumps from stage to stage without any struggle. Yet, contrary to popular belief, the struggle itself helps us. Our struggle with Aikido can lead us to overcome our ego and to learn the infinite details of the techniques. Often, (my instructor) would identify someone as a natural and overnight they would seemingly pick up the technique, but before long something would happen to their practice.

That something bubbles up from the ego. Those naturals would get from A to Z and know a vast number of techniques, but what their practice had in variety it lacked in substance. Somewhere along the way they would lose the essence while retaining the form. The naturals tended to think of themselves as something great because they happened to look good doing Aikido or had attained the rank of black belt. Similar to fast food, in Aikido, looks can easily deceive, especially if we let our ego get the best of our practice: this thing may look like a burger, but it tastes like a shoe! Naturals too often forget that Aikido training is a privilege and that most students only earn their black belt long after the day they receive it.

The other day I spoke with a friend who teaches Kung Fu, and he had some sage words: "Students should train everyday with the heart of a black belt." These words to my ear sound profoundly correct; whether you took your Shodan test yesterday or you began practice yesterday, to get any lasting benefit from Aikido you must dedicate your heart and soul to your training.

I think our dojo has always worried less about rank and more about training, and rightly so, simply because training happens daily and testing amounts to just one day designed as a tool for you to gauge your progress. Furuya Sensei used to say that the great thing about Aikido is that it is completely egalitarian because no matter who you are or what your ability, anyone can learn Aikido if they dedicate themselves and work hard. I believe such dedication and discipline allow us to flower fully as martial artists and human beings. Enjoy your practice!

David Ito Sensei is the chief instructor of the Aikido Center of Los Angeles in California. He is a friend of the Colorado Aikido community and has been very supportive of Castle Rock AIKIDO this year. Should you find yourself in Los Angeles, be sure to bring your uniform with you and go train with Ito Sensei. You can visit the Aikido Center of Los Angeles website: HERE

Article published with the consent of David Ito Sensei. Castle Rock AIKIDO offers traditional Japanese martial arts for adults only. To find out more, please visit

Friday, August 14, 2009

Bushido: An Antiquated Values System? Part Two: Rectitude - Living Free from Guilt

This month we continue to review and evaluate Bushido's major principles, concepts, and values as articulated in the classic 1899 Japanese text, Bushido: The Soul of Japan, by Inazo Nitobe, and evaluate their applicability in today's modern world. Bushido: The Soul of Japan is one of the first major works on samurai ethics and Japanese culture. It is considered by some to be the first collective statement of what is commonly referred to as the Seven Virtues of Bushido.

Nitobe offers for consideration seven virtues of Bushido that attempt to illustrate the philosophical values of the samurai. However, it should be recognized that there are not, in truth, seven virtues of Bushido. This is only Nitobe's subjective articulation of samurai culture and it is little more than an artificial construct. Other academics like Nitobe or practitioners of Bushido could easily and perhaps in an equally comprehensively fashion offer four, ten, or even one-hundred virtues of Bushido. Furthermore, the seven virtues presented here are concentric. That is, each value overlaps with and is influenced by another. No single virtue of Bushido exists or can exist by itself. Remember, all systems, including Bushido, Aikido, or any other, are ultimately artificial. The holistic nature of any system of values is unlikely to be comprehensively articulated in written language. Some virtues transcend written word. Nonetheless, we will attempt to explore each thoroughly.

Read the full article here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Samurai Sword Training: The Change from a Killing Art to a Spiritual Discipline

From Iai-jutsu to Iai-do:

The Evolution of a Killing Art to a Spiritual Discipline
by Iwakabe, Hideki Sensei, 6th Degree Black Belt

The designation of "sword-drawing technique" as a distinct budo form, iai-do, was made only in the twentieth century. But the essence of iai-do, a non-combative discipline engaged in for the individual's spiritual cultivation, is clearly a product of Edo period thought.

Iai-jutsu, the classical sword-drawing art practiced for combative purposes, was contained in the curricula of hundreds of martial traditions that existed prior to the Edo period. For the kenshi who specialized in iai-jutsu, the sword was to be drawn quickly and struck accurately onto the target. During the peaceful Edo period some of the ryu that featured iai-jutsu died out, but the majority continued to function, while new ones emerged. The socially privileged Edo-period warriors continued to wear the daisho combination of long and short sword, and as long as the sword served as the symbol of the warrior class, there were those warriors who saw a use beyond the practical for sword-drawing techniques. These visionaries were responsible for employing the sword as a spiritual instrument, using it in a manner distinctly different from that of iai-jutsu; these men were the pioneers of the disciplines that are called iai-do.

Orthodox tradition claims the original essence of iai-do to be the product of the genius of Hojo Jinsuke Shigenoby, more popularly known as Hayashizaki (or Rinzaki) Jinsuke. There are all sorts of ideas as to the details of his life, but most of them are pure fiction.

Only a few facts are definitely known about Hayashizaki Jinsuke. He was born in Sagami (present Kanagawa Prefecture) in the mid-sixteenth century. That he had combat experience is unproven, but the Bujutsu Taihaku Seiden, an Edo-period manual, states that he spent seven years, form 1595 to 1601, studying swordsmanship. He then devised a system of sword-drawing techniques that he called batto-jutsu, a term equivalent to "iai-jutsu," and gave his style the name Junpake Den. To test himelf and to establish his teachings, Jinsuke toured various provinces in mush-shugyo fashion. He gathered many disciples. When he was seventy-three years of age (around 1616) he toured for the second time then disappeared; no one ever heard of him again. Hayashizaki Jinsuke's influence on swordsmen was great; during the Edo period more than two hundred ryu primarily concerned with sword-drawing techniques emerged, stimulated by his teachings.

The successors to Hayashizaki Jinsuke embodied their teachings under the name Shin Muso Hayashizaki Ryu, generally subsumed today in the Muso Shinden Ryu. Jinsuke's successors can be traced with certainty through the eleventh headmaster. Thereafter a split in the ryu developed, and one segment terminated with the teachings of Nakayama (Hakudo) Hiromichi, the sixteenth headmaster; the other segment claims continuity in its teachings down to the present, and nineteenth, headmaster, Kono Momonori. Modern exponents of the Muso Shinden Ryu generally regard the line that ended with Nakayama Hiromichi as the true centerline of the ryu.

All evidence indicates that Hayashizaki Jinsuke may have taught only a kind of "quick-draw" technique. His choice of the word "batto" (literally, "striking sword") to describe the sword in action affords a clue, for the term "batto" includes the implied meaning "to strike instantly" with the sword. Thus, Jinsuke's method differed little from the older systems of iai-jutsu, many of which also used the term "batto-jutsu." It also appears that Jinsuke may have taught that his system of drawing the sword was to be used only in a limited way during combat, that is, only as a defensive art useful in meeting the attack of an assailant. If this is so, his method differed from the older iai-jutsu systems, which were both offensive and defensive systems as the situation demanded.

Part Two: coming soon
Published with permission of Iwakabe, Hideki Sensei

Would you like to come watch a Iaido class to see if it is right for you? Visitors are welcome. Click here for more info about Iaido, visit, or call 720-221-3665. Classes held at Castle Rock AIKIDO.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Castle Rock AIKIDO Introduces New Logo

Our Dojo Kamon

A Japanese martial art school's logo is often referred to as a dojo kamon. A dojo kamon is an important aspect of any martial arts school because it often possesses symbolic significance reflecting the values and culture of the school. Below is the dojo kamon for our Aikido martial arts school.

Waterfalls (Taki)Water is a symbol of life, purity, and power. The two waterfalls in the Castle Rock AIKIDO dojo kamon represent the two universal sources of power: internal power and external power. They remind us that all things in life are created twice: first in the mind, and once again in the physical world. The two waterfalls are also meant to represent the multiple sources of power at Castle Rock AIKIDO. Our dojo's strength is found in the acknowledgement of the value of each of our instructors and their unique backgrounds, experiences, and lineages. The waterfalls converge into a single pool where we can all teach, learn, share, and grow Aikido together in a unified, collaborative spirit.

Japanese Kanji (Makoto)Within the turbulent water of the waterfalls' bottom, an astute observer may notice the Japanese character for 'Makoto,' which means "honesty," "sincerity," and "integrity." Makoto is frequently articulated as one of seven virtues of Bushido. A student's journey along the Aikido path will, at times, challenge the student with questions relating to his or her degree of self-honesty and integrity in how a person interacts with oneself and with others. The virtue of Makoto will gradually emerge and/or increasingly reveal itself as a student progresses through the Aikido ranks. The longer a student practices the art of Aikido, he or she will discover new qualities and insights about themselves that can then be taken off the mat and into their day-to-day life.

The red stamp or 'hanko' in the lower right corner of our logo also reads 'makoto.' Castle Rock AIKIDO is committed to interacting with its students with honest integrity. Our fair, "no contracts" policy is just one representation of how we strive to conduct ourselves with a sense of honesty and integrity. Unlike many other martial arts schools, the students of Castle Rock AIKIDO can be assured that their Aikido dojo will always be a dojo first, and a business second – and not the other way around.

The Japanese characters or 'Kanji' on the left side of the logo read 'Ai'-'ki'-'do,' meaning "the way of peace and harmony" or "way of harmonizing energy." It is the name of our style of martial art. The kanji on the right side of the logo read 'jyou'-'gan, which translates as Castle Rock, the town in which our martial arts school is located.

Dragonfly (Tonbo)In Japanese culture, dragonflies symbolize many things including courage, happiness, and martial success. The dragonfly (or TONBO) was a favored symbol of strength among ancient samurai and dragonflies were frequently depicted on samurai battle armor. This association came about as a result of the similarity between a Japanese word for victory (SHOURI) and one of many words for dragonfly (SHORYO). The significance of the dragonfly in the Castle Rock AIKIDO kamon is multi-faceted, however, the virtue of courage is emphasized. It means, for example, having the courage to do what one believes to be right even when that means doing something that may be viewed as unpopular by others.

In some cultures, dragonflies represent honesty and the transcendence of self-created Illusions. The dragonfly in our kamon also emphasizes transcendence. Through the diligent practice of Aikido each of us can transcend our own, personal, self-created illusions and discover how much more we are all capable of experiencing and having in our lives.

Kamon Shape (Tsuba)Lastly, we must recognize the deliberate shape of the dojo Kamon. The Kamon shape is that of a TSUBA or hand guard of a Japanese samurai sword. The samurai sword is a powerful symbol in Japanese culture symbolizing, among many things, a person’s soul and inner strength. Like the dragonfly, the hole of the tsuba (that cone-like shape in the center of the logo) through which the sword's blade passes also represents personal transcendence because of how we all must, metaphorically, pass through our own personal challenges.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

6th Degree Black Belt Visits Castle Rock

Please join us for a special Aikido Workshop at Castle Rock AIKIDO with 6th degree black belt, John Sabo Sensei of San Diego on Monday, June 29th 2009 from 7pm - 9pm.

John Sabo Sensei (pronounced 'Say'-'bo') began his martial arts training in Kempo Karate in the early 1960s and his Aikido studies at San Diego City College under Dick Kadalubowski Sensei and John Damien Sensei in 1974.

Sabo Sensei has a strong background in Ueshiba Aikido, Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido, and numerous other Aikido styles. He is a member of Mira Mesa Aikikai, which is a part of the greater Ki Society under Koichi Tohei Sensei. Currently, he is the instructor of Aikido Jugensoku, "gentle principles," of San Diego, California.

Workshop Cost:
FREE for Castle Rock AIKIDO and Center for Aikido & Tang Soo Do students
$10 mat fee for Aikido students of other schools
For Questions or Information:
Call (720) 221-3665
or e-mail us:

You can pre-register for this event at:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bushido: An Antiquated Values System?

A Critical Review of the Classic Samurai Text:
Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe - Part One
Article by Sean Hannon

Many martial arts students have romantic notions of, and frequently espouse, the virtues of Bushido – the traditional, behavioral code of ancient Japanese samurai. These individuals often claim to live and abide by such values and sometimes even pass judgment on themselves and others claiming Bushido values as their standard of judgment. But do people today really know what those values were? Or, what those values might mean today? For example, some martial arts students and instructors profess unquestioned loyalty as a virtue of Bushido. However, is unquestioned loyalty always intelligent? If, at times, unquestioned loyalty is not intelligent then wouldn't that also suggest that Bushido, at times, is not intelligent?
And, what about honor? Does honor really exist as a legitimate virtue? Or, is honor just a more sophisticated way of inflating or defending one's ego? Are these and other alleged virtues of samurai culture relevant outside of the oppressive, feudalistic society from which they emerged? Do people really understand these behavioral virtues as they existed? That is, in a context of feudalism? Is it really possible to live Bushido today as it was in the 12th through 19th centuries? Is it possible that Bushido is an antiquated system of values that is either no longer relevant today or at the very least in need of adaptation and modernization? Can Bushido exist in cultural environments based on freedom and capitalism? This series of articles will explore questions like these and will propose possible answers for consideration. We will summarize Bushido's major principles, concepts, and values as articulated in the classic Japanese text, Bushido: The Soul of Japan, and evaluate their applicability in today's modern world.

Read the full article here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Basic Rolling and Falling Aikido Workshop

Just a quick reminder that Castle Rock AIKIDO will be hosting a Basic Rolling and Falling (or UKEMI) Workshop this Saturday, June 6th, 2009 from 1pm-3pm.

Due to the large number of new, beginner-level Aikido students that have joined Castle Rock AIKIDO in recent months, we thought it would be valuable to have a special class dedicated specifically to mastering the basics to falling and rolling.

All students are welcome to attend. However, it is strongly encouraged that any students training for less than six months make every effort to attend this FREE workshop.

Basic rolling and falling is a critical first step in one's Aikido training and mastering such early dramatically accelerates one's skills and greatly reduces the likelihood of injuries.

Some advanced falling, called breakfalls, will be demonstrated at the end of the workshop by more advanced students.

This workshop is FREE to all active or inactive Castle Rock AIKIDO students. The workshop is only $10 for students who train at other Aikido schools.

Regular Saturday morning classes at 10am and 11am will be held as scheduled with the Ukemi Workshop to follow.

Hope to see you all there! Call 720-22-3665 for more details.

Monday, June 1, 2009

From Daily Stress to Daily Joy! Zen Meditation Classes

Monday evenings at Castle Rock AIKIDO in June! "Zen with Len"

These 30 minute, intensive Zen meditation classes are intended to succinctly cultivate a stronger sense of self-awareness and rejuvenate one's spirit for the week ahead.

Here's what you'll get in these short bursts of intense Zen practice:

• 10 min of sitting meditation (includes brief instruction)
• 10 min of the ancient movement meditation of Qi Gong
• 10 minutes of conscious mindfulness with discussion

Classes are led by "Kensho" Len Silverston. Len has been practicing, studying and applying various styles of meditation for 20 years, which has transformed his life. He is an authorized teacher of Zen through his instructor, Roshi Jun Po, a Zen master and lineage holder.
Len has co-taught and led spiritual group sessions at numerous Zen retreats sponsored by Hollow, attended nearly twenty, week-long silent meditation retreats, and participated in dozens more multi-day workshops and retreats.

CLICK HERE for more information about these classes.

When: Monday evenings in June - 6/1 6/8 6/15 6/22 & 6/29 from 5:15pm -5:45pm at
Castle Rock AIKIDO

Cost: Classes are $5 each (cash only please)

Walk ins welcome. No appointment necessary.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Which is Stronger? A Speeding Bullet or a Samurai Sword?

I was flipping about the channels last weekend when I came across a very funny, and rather chovanistic, television show on Spike Network called Manswers! It is a show that pseudo-scientifically tries to answer questions that only guys would ever think of. An example of such questions include, "How many days can an average man survive on beer alone?" This ought to give you an idea of the intellectual capacity of the show's producers.

Nonetheless, they aired a segment called, "Which is stronger: a samurai sword or a speeding bullet?" The answer very much surprised me. It turns out the answer is: A Samurai Sword.

They carefully lined up a Colt .45 handgun to fire a bullet at 1,022 mph to strike the sharp edge of a traditional, Japanese samurai sword handcrafted by heating and folding its steel 33,000 times.
The sword was mounted in an upright vice so that the bullet would strike the blade of the sword perfectly. The result? When viewed in slow motion, it can be easily seen that the edge of the sword literally slices the lead-encased the bullet in half! Think about that next time your swinging around a katana blade!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Japanese Flower Arranging Class: Ikebana

Event Details:
Japanese Flower Arranging Workshop - at Castle Rock AIKIDO (click here for directions)
Saturday, June 6th 2009
11am - 1pm

Cost $35, includes flowers and you may take the arrangement with you.

Pre-Register by Clicking Here. * Mother's Day Gift Idea - If this seems like fun, tell your family that this could be a great Mother's Day gift idea.
Castle Rock AIKIDO is honored and excited to host accomplished Ikebana instructors, Seiko Yoshikawa and Kyoko Kita for this hands-on beginner's Japanese flower arranging workshop. Mrs. Seiko Yoshikawa teaches in Colorado Springs and senior Ikebana instructor (called a "sensei" pronounced "sen-say"), Mrs. Kita, is well known throughout the Japan and United States Ikebana community.
This workshop comes at just the right time of year and is a great opportunity to learn a new, artful way of displaying your flowers all summer long.

Space is limited! Click Here to Pre-register today or call Castle Rock AIKIDO at 720-221-3665.

What is Ikebana?
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. It is a three dimensional art form and the philosophy expressing the interrelationship between the self and the outer world.

Sogestsu Ikebana Class

There are many different styles of Japanese flower arranging. Sogetsu is a modern (since the 1920s) and innovative school of Ikebana that encourages imagination, individual creativity, and the idea that anyone can create ikebana anywhere, any time, with anything. Line, open space, focal point and asymmetry are key elements of Sogetsu design. After mastering many basic forms to learn technique and the design principles, Sogetsu Ikebana students progress to free style designs where the only limits are those of imagination.

Castle Rock AIKIDO, a Japanese martial art exclusively for adults, is committed to offering quality Japanese cultural events to the Denver metro area. In the past they've hosted a chef from Nagasaki, Japan who cooked a delicious tempura dinner at the school, Zen meditation seminars with an Renzai Zen Master, and a lecture on Japanese sake alcohol. To find out more about their award winning program, please visit

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

No Kids Allowed! New Angle for Martial Arts School

Castle Rock AIKIDO is a martial arts school unlike many others in that their program is reserved exclusively for adults. That's right! No Kids Allowed!

This martial arts school has identified a growing demographic of adults who are specifically looking for adult only martial arts programs. These people want to be able to completely and totally focus on themselves for just a few hours each week - a place where they can get away from the overwhelming responsibilities of work, home, and child raising for just a little while. Castle Rock AIKIDO provides just that.

At this school, adults have the opportunity to socialize exclusively with other adults, to de-stress, to physically reconnect with themselves, and get centered psychologically. In fact, it is not uncommon for parents and couples to train Aikido together where they can reconnect with each other, as adults, and step outside their non-stop roles of Mom and Dad. The philosophically non-violent martial art of Aikido also serves as a great new activity for recent empty-nesters or divorcees who may be struggling to some extent with their identity and newfound position in the world.

"We love kids," says Sean, the owner of this highly-specialized martial arts school, "but for our program, you must be over eighteen and we are quite strict about that policy. We have to be. For every child we might allow into the program, we would stand to lose several adults students who specifically train with us for our unique, adult-only atmosphere."

Since winning the 2007 "Best of Castle Rock" designation for martial arts by Castle Rock Magazine, Castle Rock AIKIDO has continued to grow, attracting students from as far north as Boulder and as far south as Fort Garland, Colorado, which is west of Pueblo. This came as quite a surprise to them. After investigating this interesting phenomenon, they quickly discovered why they had an affinity for attracting students willing to drive significant distances to come train in Castle Rock. "It isn't just because of the amazing quality of our Japan-trained instructors," boasts Sean. "We ask every single person who walks through our doors what made them select us when there are so many others closer to where they live? One particular answer kept coming up: they really liked the fact that we are for adults only."

It has become increasingly clear to Castle Rock AIKIDO that there exists a distinct impression that the martial arts industry has, in their words, been more or less "hijacked" by the day care industry. In many schools, it has become less about serious physical training and more about babysitting in flashy, colorful uniforms. In some respects, it has become a part-time, surrogate parenting program. Of course, these programs for children are fantastic and are very much needed today. However, this trend appears to have created a negative side effect: it has alienated those adults who take their continued personal growth in the martial arts more seriously and don't like seeing their passion for martial arts caricaturized and commercialized. Castle Rock AIKIDO is now serving the needs of this neglected, abandoned market.

"In my opinion," says an instructor at Castle Rock AIKIDO, "the martial arts industry has become so kid-focused that many adults are almost embarrassed to participate in martial arts programs beyond their youth. This is incredibly unfortunate considering the tremendous health, fitness, social, and, of course, self-defense benefits martial arts has to offer adults." Castle Rock AIKIDO is committed to changing this distorted perception.

Lots of martial arts programs claim to have adult classes. But according to Castle Rock AIKIDO, the actual definition of an "adult" is often very loose in some schools. For example, it's not uncommon for some schools to consider 14-year olds an "adult." But, the truth is that most 41-year olds don't like being in a martial arts class with 14-year olds. At Castle Rock AIKIDO, an adult class is an adult class. Period. Most of their students are between 25-55 years old and the oldest student they've had, so far, is now seventy. Aikido is one of the few martial arts that doesn't discriminate against its practitioners as they age.

"To our knowledge, we may be the only martial arts program exclusively for adults in Douglas County," says Hannon. "We are very proud of that distinction and that is what our students want - a kid-free zone."

You can visit their web site: or call them at 720-221-3665 for more information and to receive a coupon for a FREE class.