Remembrance

by Jennifer Cheney, 5th kyu An article about my father's wartime experiences appeared in the Remembrance Day issue of the Globe & Mail.  It was written by a distant cousin, Peter Cheney, who writes the ‘Globe Drive’ section. I'm very proud of my Dad, as are all of us in our family, but war is a terrible thing.  While he was so young and enjoyed the excitement and adventure of flying, accompanied by a crew of other young men with whom he had an incredible friendship, when the horror of fighting a real war set in with the bombing and eventual loss of three of his crew, he was devastated.  Although he survived, was praised for what he did, and has lived overall a good life since, he has also suffered greatly from the effects of that war. I find myself often thinking about his experiences while we practice Aikido, an art of peace,  a positive way of dealing with violence.  O-Sensei knew...
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Music and Aikido – The Way of Harmony

by Nicolai Tarasov, 2nd kyu The musical process, as a human activity that unfolds in real-time, shares many similarities with sports and Aikido. Playing instruments, playing sports or practicing martial arts require years of training to build up technique, strength, coordination, endurance, speed, stamina and other abilities associated with physical performance. As well, a constant sharpening of nonphysical skills as concentration, awareness, and other aspects of mental and psychological training is required. But there are some basic differences between sports, martial arts and music. Ultimately, sports are about competition and a win: the objective, the goal and the source of excitement in sports. Contrary to that, nobody "wins" or "loses" in music. The enjoyment of music has completely a different nature than the thrill of defeating the opponent and being a champion. Of course, there are all kind of musical competitions, contests and auditions but all of them have nothing to do with what music is all about, with the essence of...
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Reflections on Suwari Waza

by Paul Seto, 2nd kyu After the last class of the evening, everyone usually gathers at the door and we all leave together. On one particular evening towards the end of the month someone asked me the theme for next month’s practice to which I replied suwari waza. I heard a series of groans followed by talk of going on vacation next month or being happy they had to work late and would miss some classes. What is this suwari waza that elicited a negative reaction? Suwari waza is performed when both nage and uke are seated. The practice began during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) in Japan. As architecture evolved to suit the ruling warrior class, rooms became completely covered with tatami, and seiza and shikko became the norm in the presence of territorial lords called daimyo. The thinking at the time was that it would be harder to attack a daimyo from a seated position. Samurai employed by their daimyo were...
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Hakama

by Ayumi Mito Hakama is probably best known as traditional piece of samurai clothing and as a part of keikogi or training uniform worn in Japanese martial arts such as Kendo, Iaido, Kyudo, and Aikido. Samurai had to wear a long hakama when visiting Shogun castle. This holds back the ability to walk or doing fast shikko (the knee-walking that we practice in Aikido). This helped preventing a surprise attack or assassination attempt. History of Hakama The history of hakama dates back to the third century. Some clay figures excavated from early Japanese gravesites (250AD - 538 AD), are wearing hakama. "Hakama" used to mean any type of baggy pair of pants and skirt-like bottom wear in Japanese.  The word appears in the Japanese creation myths described in Kojiki, the oldest surviving book in Japan (712 AD). The type of hakama used in Aikido appears much later in the 12th century when theBushi (warriors) started to rule the country.  The hakama originally worn bybushi/samurai was divided like trousers, tied at the...
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Footwork in Practice: Ashi-Sabaki

by Justin Baily, 4th kyu I believe footwork is a crucial area of development in Aikido training, not just for beginners like me, but for all practitioners. It is one of the first things a beginner should focus on, as it directly affects the basics of Aikido. If you do not have good ashi-sabaki (footwork) you will not have a good foundation for hanmi, mai-ai, and your timing will most likely be off. Overall, it will affect your execution of the techniques. Where you take your steps and how you place your feet is of great importance. For me, footwork has been slow going for two reasons. One, when I first started practicing Aikido it seemed there was a lot of focus on the hands. Te-sabaki (handwork) seemed to be directly involved with the execution of techniques, while ashi-sabaki seemed to play a lesser role. I stepped, shuffled and pivoted every once and a while, but largely it seemed that my legs...
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Self Defense Story

by Sean Braune, 3rd kyu I left a party down by Guildwood Parkway in Scarborough at 3:00 am and was waiting for the bus. A van was driving up and down the street. It pulled down the side street just next to the bus stop. Two men, both wearing black bandanas pulled over their mouths, got out of the van. One was tall, thickly built and held a tire iron. The smaller one was unarmed as far as I could tell. They began walking towards me at the bus stop. O-Sensei, the founder of Aikido, is credited as saying: Face a single foe as if you are facing ten thousand enemies; face ten thousand enemies as a single foe. With this in the back of my mind, I decided to walk over towards the two of them and say "hello." Essentially, this method of engagement in Aikido is called irimi, leading an attack a split second before the attacker is even aware of wanting...
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New Challenges

by Sheridan Torres, 6th kyu I started Aikido a few weeks back. When I first called the dojo to ask if I could get some information on the classes, I was just told to drop in and see for myself. To tell you the truth, I got excited and tried to get there as soon as I could. When I walked into the dojo, the air seemed clean and the space seemed bright. Now, it could have just been the lights and the ventilation, but all in all it seemed different somehow. As I watched the students practice Aikido looked like a slow martial art that would not be difficult to learn. But when I began to actually start practicing it, it changed my whole perspective. With each different move there would always be some kind of little adjustments that had to be made. It could be anything from posture, proper footing, movement or direction – there is always something to be...
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Aikido Lessons Learned: Power in small hands

"Tap, Daddy." I hear it every week; I help out in the kids' class and invariably wind up practicing with my daughter in her diligent practice of Aikido. Inevitably, I find myself in the awkward position of being calmly but firmly pinned to the ground by an 8 year old. I'm used to it now, but it always takes me by surprise. I struggle to get up off the ground without too much success. I hear the familiar refrain again, "Tap, Daddy." Though any other parent-child battle of wits could continue in this stalemate endlessly, the outcome of the Aikido submission is brief and one-sided. I sigh and submit to her gentle demand. As she releases me from my prone position, I reflect on the subtle power of Aikido, and the relative physical advantage that a girl one-third my size can effortlessly deploy with a careful application of her limited strength, coupled with the patient lessons learned every week on the mat. By...
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