Relaxation in Aikido

by Tom Buis (Shodan) In aikido, we practice attacking one another and defending ourselves, and either of these roles may feel unfamiliar or even a little unsettling at times, particularly when it all happens quickly and unexpectedly. Imagine sitting down at the breakfast table when your little brother yanks your chair from under you, and you feel yourself falling backwards toward the floor, eyes bulging. Or imagine you are looking at your phone as you step off a bottom step, except that there is one more step and you feel yourself falling forward. This is what aikido can feel like. As Uke (attacker), you see your target and deliver some strike or grab, but just at the very last second, what was just there now no longer is, and as you are realizing this, you are upside down in the air. As Nage (defender), you may be looking at a hand or the edge of a hard wooden weapon coming down toward...
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Peripheral Awareness

by Nick Stam (2nd kyu) This month's theme for practice at the dojo was “peripheral awareness”, a skill useful in Aikido in scenarios like multi-uke randori or jiyuwaza, as well as general safe practice on a busy mat with bodies flying everywhere. Indeed I think there is a lot of opportunity to develop this skill within the dojo, from sitting in seiza with a soft gaze to finding a safe place to stand when you are the odd one out in partner practice, and of course any time you are actively practicing by being aware of the other practitioners and the space. A beginner like me might get very focused on the technique, or even part of a technique, and because of this everything falls apart. Maybe I get too focused on the grip I am trying to find, but I forget to move my feet, or keep my posture, or breathe, or any number of important points. I think this is normal...
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Posture

by David Wilson (1st Kyu) Good Posture: Alignment is Everything Head over chest over hips: the posture mantra.  When you have good posture and maintain it throughout a technique, you stand a far better chance of keeping proper maai (the distance between you and your attacker), of moving from your center, of unbalancing your attacker and of using chi and physics rather than force.  But good posture can be elusive.  Many of us think we have good posture when, in fact, we are leaning forward (or back), leading with our chins or looking down at our hands. Here are a few simple ways to develop good posture: 1.  Stand parallel to a mirror in hanmi.  Turn your head and look at yourself.  If necessary, correct your posture and pay attention to how proper posture feels different than the way you were standing at first.  It might feel quite unnatural if you are used to leaning forward or back. 2.  Sit in seiza parallel to a mirror. ...
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Hanmi

by Len McKee (3rd kyu) This month I learned, discovered or was reminded that hanmi is a state of equilibrium for both the mind and the body. In hanmi, the body is balanced over the feet, firmly rooted to the ground, not so close as to trip over each other yet not so far apart that you can be knocked over easily. The feet are in a position that will allow you to blend with whatever uke may do - moving forward, backwards, diagonally or from side to side, however slight or large the movement. The mind is focused, equally aware of all that surrounds you, You feel and project calm, relaxation and stability, neutralizing aggression in your own mind and the mind of your partner. This creates a positive, not confrontational, feeling. Paying attention to hanmi also minimizes opening up to an attack.  All techniques, begin and end with hanmi....
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A Brief History of Aikido Shugyo Dojo

by Fran Turner It started with a phone call in the fall of 1984. I happened to pick up the phone at the dojo where I was training. The caller was a member of the downtown YMCA and he wanted to practice Aikido. There were early morning time slots available at the Y; was anyone at the dojo interested in teaching? Yes!  I had been yearning deeply  to help spread the message of Aikido. I had taught beginner classes at Capital Aikikai in Washington, DC and had recently passed my nidan. My teacher there, Clyde Takeguchi Sensei, had encouraged me to teach. It was as though the Universe was opening the door for me with this phone call. It did not take long before I met Simon, the caller, my first student at the 7 am class. The Metro Central YMCA provided us with a matted room twice a week. For weeks, Simon was the only student and when he couldn’t be...
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Zanshin and Harm Reduction

by Justin Baily After throwing or pinning our uke, we are instructed to face them, standing in hanmi, prepared for the possibility of another attack. In Aikido, this is what zanshin, or “lingering mind” looks like. However, off the mat and in our daily lives, zanshin can take on many different forms. I work at a supportive housing unit. It houses around 80 “at-risk” clients—“at-risk” due to behavioural, mental health and substance use issues. We are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in order to provide support to our clients. We work from a harm reduction-based philosophy. The key concept of risk reduction is to limit the amount of harm someone who is “at-risk” would face in their day-to-day life. An example of harm reduction at my work would be our guest sign-in policy. All of our clients are allowed guests. However, they are allowed a limited number of guests at one time and these guests need to sign in...
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Play and Practice

by Dash (age 12, 5th kyu) and John (Dash’s dad) Dash has been studying Aikido since he was six years old. He has happily set aside the practice time to devote to the classes at the dojo twice or sometimes three times a week. He has really enjoyed his training and has developed in many ways beyond his ever increasing Aikido skills. The children’s classes that he began with were full of fun and easily accessible movements that kept him interested and enjoying each lesson.  Dash says of his early sessions, “The teachers in the kids classes were really great with the play and practice ratio. It was exciting and fun to join the Aikido classes. At the beginning I didn’t always want to come to class but by the end of each class, I was always glad that I had. I had learned new things and it was great practicing new techniques.” This spirit of learning and playfulness in classes kept him coming...
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Family Time / Aikido = Awesome!

by Falon Webb, parent Our experience with Aikido Shugyo Dojo has been nothing short of wonderful. With such a limited amount of time available to families nowadays, how we choose to spend that time is becoming increasingly important.  When our children embark on new classes we consider: are they enjoying themselves;  does the activity provide the opportunity to learn new and valuable skills; by spending our time engaging in this activity are we helping our children learn the value of today's most fleeting resource—time? We can, without a doubt, say that Shugyo has shone far above our hopes and expectations. Upon leaving after his first class, our son Jack, a cautious fellow, announced for the first time in his history of first classes, “That was awesome! Can we come back tomorrow?” It took only the first class to convince us we had found what we were looking for.  It was beautiful to see the true nature of the children come flooding out. The older ones...
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New City, New Dojo

by Anita Abbasi, 4th kyu Aikido had been in my life for two years before I moved to Toronto in the fall of 2009. In Montreal, we trained on hardwood floors! My Sensei was borrowing space from Concordia University's dance studios and he had to modify certain elements, indispensable to Aikido, to work in the allocated space. Ukemi had to be softened, no breakfalls—a  very step-by-step demonstration and slow transition into a standing forward roll. Sure, training on floors without mats had its challenges; it imposed its limitations too, but it also encouraged an attentiveness which carried over to wherever I trained next. When I moved to Toronto, I knew that, along with my other life adjustments, I had to find a dojo. I settled into the big(ger) city as best as I could in a month, then went dojo shopping. Aikido Shugyo Dojo was the third dojo I visited. I entered the dojo and was charmed immediately by the kamiza. The space...
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Uke awareness: it’s not easy being the fall guy

by David Wilson, 2nd kyu I have a complicated relationship with ukemi.  The fancy rolls and spectacular high falls made me want to learn aikido, but ukemi has never come easily to me.  When I was a beginner, I had an unpredictable front roll.  Aim as I might, my front rolls were never straight:  I would commonly veer off into a wall, into another uke or – gasp – into the instructor.  My rolls have straightened out.  Mostly.  But I’m still seeking to apply the lessons about uke awareness that I started to learn in those early days, especially my very first lesson in ukemi:  uke awareness is safety awareness. An aware uke creates a safe practice environment for everyone, including himself (or herself).  When I couldn’t predict the direction of my front roll, I learned to be aware of who (or what) was nearby on the mat.  With this awareness, I could walk out of a technique or tap out before...
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