The Middle of February – REALLY!?

This month, and all of Dai Yon, is moving so quickly…  We have been learning so much material in a short amount of time and yet we still have so far to go.  It’s been a beautiful challenge coming through the flu season, sickness, injuries, Kan-Geiko, Japanese language studies for Shido-ho, and the many waza plus additional practices…

It’s hard and I’m loving it!

But the end isn’t here yet, and every moment needs to be lived as if it’s its own lifetime.  Here we go!

New Year & New Challenges

Last weekend we celebrated Kagami Baraki at Mugenjuku Kyoto.  We rededicated ourselves to another year of training and development.

Dai Yon has offered us a different regimen of challenges just in the few weeks of 2017 training.  Additional Ippan classes are being attended to gain more experience to a variety of teaching strategies and waza as we prepare for our Shido-Ho examination.  We are covering four to five waza a day in order to review the entire Yoshinkan Kihon Curriculum before our next exam.  We are exploring Tanto Dori Jiyuwaza and Ushiro Ryote Mochi Jiyuwaza.  The body continues to be taxed heavily during this pace and I find my mind more extensively challenged as well with the wider spectrum of curriculum.  Especially as it relates to learning Japanese language and vocabulary in preparation for our final test.

This is an exciting and challenging time, as it also has been, in the Kenshusei course.

Driving Home to the New Year

This has been a busy week for the dojo with special events and seminars coupled with Shinsa Preparations for both children’s class and adults.  Today a beautiful seminar was held with a Kyoto public high school and this weekend will be kids’ class testing at both the Marutamachi and Kamigamo locations in Kyoto.

The Kenshusei are engaged in review and drill in preparation for their Shodan test to be held on the 23rd (But isn’t every day shinsa for each person in their own mind?).  There is still much to do for our bodies and waza in preparation for this public event.  Let’s get it done!

November in Flight

We are crashing through this month so quickly.  There is so much material we’ve covered in these past weeks compared to the pace of previous months and there’s still so much to learn before the Dai San Shinsa now less than a month away.  We all must stay focused and committed to our curriculum every day.  It feels as if the letters and vocabulary of Yoshinkan language we’ve this year are now being used to write so beautiful and some atrocious sentences in Jiyuwaza, this is an inherently stimulating and complicated new challenge.

Mid October Update

We’ve had a busy week with many special events.

One week ago we just returned from Gasshuku at Homanji in Kobe where we also celebrated the one year anniversary of Kameyama San’s Dojo and partook in many special Zen ceremonies and traditions.  This week we conducted Shinsa preparations and subsequently engaged in a seminar and demonstration with Ritsumeikan University students where we were again treated by Lim San’s overwhelming generosity.  Then this Friday the Kenshusei engaged in their Dai Ni Shinsa which was attended by special guests:  Nick Sensei and Sasaki Sensei!

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 Dai San and All Tokyo Enbu here we go…

 

Turning another Corner

My karmaic and emotional pots have gotten a heavy stir in the past few weeks.  The heaviest and most negative crud which has been burned and stuck to the bottom for years has been coming to the surface. In many ways, the artificial extremity and intensity of this environment effectively brings out the best and the worst of me, even though any pain or suffering is experienced voluntarily and pales in comparison to the horrific atrocities transpiring elsewhere in the world.  I’m not convinced that there is some special or ultimate “truth,” lesson, or epiphany that is supposed to come from some of these experiences; but I’m still left to reason, rationalize, or simply stomach what comes out of them during this time…

“Be like a slave” (Oh this word would make me mad as hell – because I am not a slave! Right? Hmmm…To what have I been in the habit of yielding myself?)

“If someone tells you to eat … (be creative here), do it…”

After Gasshuku last weekend it feels like a modicum of self-control was established in understanding and redirecting some of this negativity.  These are a few of my newest rationalizations for doing what we do to our bodies and minds:

1) A Sensei IS the dojo.  Their self is forfeited to the community and the vision they’ve chosen to embody.  And in that absolute forfeiture of self is strength.  If a Kenshusei can’t handle pressures of training, physical pain, demeaning degrading or completely disrespectful commentary from without; how could they ever hope to be self-actualized enough to stand unshaken from their core purpose within for the sake of others on “The Way.”  To choose to serve as the embodiment of principles; to be a forever-student of “The Way;” to live as an expression of the “The Way” itself; there is no room for a fragile and emotionally directed or egotistical “self.”

This is not a new understanding; but similar to many other maxims tenants and “truths” of my past Aiki Shugyo, I feel this year has been about “owning” and “testing” those understandings in a more profound way.  Like working through a geometric proof for some B^2=C^2+Zeta^2…  Wait, what does that mean?  The variables don’t match what I memorized years ago…  We have to be able to own and trust our core selves under pressures and situations both familiar and previously unforeseen.  Making connections with uke, being compassion and love, staying controlled balanced and hope-filled, these have all become easier in Ippan flavored Aikido Keiko.  But that now feels synonymous with being an optimistic and loving person when my personal and professional life just click along with no unexpected setbacks or turmoil – while those moments may feel good, they’re just short moments in a lifetime of diverse emotional experiences.  What about the not so easy moments…?

2) after 12 straight days of grinding keiko which included being subjected to unrealistic physical expectations, obnoxiously berated in-spite of doing your best, performing “punishment” exercises for failing to meet arbitrary and impractical demands; being condescended to through verbal and physical disrespect; but then, THEN, still choosing to create and maintain a properly balanced and extended kamae – that is how we use our bodies to test and train our spiritual strength, resilience, and expression of our core tenants.

3) Anger – This most natural emotion, if displayed, is the emotional equivalent of physically stumbling or falling off balance.  To rise to anger AND BE GOVERNED BY IT is to have betrayed your position/form/self to an aggressor.  Others can then see your individual weakness clearly and you as well as your community become vulnerable.  The only logical result is an escalation of conflict and then the Path has taken a different and dark direction.  This and other emotions don’t need to be suppressed, they should be embraced as a diagnostic reading of the environment in relation to core tenants, but they can’t be allowed to mindlessly govern our actions.  Even if I feel a seething  volcanic fire within, I’m now working to notice and redirect this energy without letting it leak into my posture, expression, or eyes.

Just… Osu!  This next waza is going to be balanced, compassionate, non-destructive, purposeful, fast but un-hurried, and focused; my kiai will be full and clear, but not gruff angry or wild; it will all be as perfect as possible for the sake of my Shugyo and “The Way.”

5 Months a Kenshusei

This weekend afforded us a reprieve from the pressures of our grind through the first half of Dai-Ni curriculum.  Cusped upon the second half of our time as Kenshusei, our (or at least my), conversations outside the dojo are filled with reflections and questions regarding what’s passed and what’s to come (Even though I know I should just be content with doing my best in every present moment).

I’m thinking that it’s unreasonable to try to hold on to feelings of goodness or happiness while simultaneously expecting to transcend or release negativity; all these emotions reside on the same spectrum.  The only option left is to observe with neutrality.  And while this may seem a bleak or dead existence, it’s not.  I believe these emotions can effortlessly be appreciated for happening just as they are allowed to slip away; so that, energies can be solely directed towards prosecuting my purpose in life while listening to my conscience for guidance.

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Summer is fading and the natural signs of fall are beginning to show on the practiced, efficient, and repetitive path to the dojo – change is undeniable and inevitable.  And each morning serves to remind that The Sun Also Rises.

 

Shochu Keiko into Obon Holiday

Finishing ten straight days of morning practice covering a variety of Kihon Waza in a steaming dojo followed by full days of additional Kenshu training and conditioning can only mean one thing, Shochu Keiko was here!  After day eight of this conditioningIMG_20160808_191059.jpg push the Mugenjuku Kenshusei took a night’s reprieve at the Lake Biwa Summer Festival Fireworks Display.

(Click HERE for a Youtube link to some of the highlights from this amazing show!)

Obon holiday is now in full swing and there will surely be stories and pictures to be shared from travels, festivals, and celebrations from throughout this week of holiday.

 

Ritsumeikan Elementary Summer Camp

The kids of Ritsumeikan Elementary are on summer vacation, but many of them returned to the school for three days of Aikido Lessons!  Payet Sensei, Mugenjuku Instructors, Sewanin, Traveling Students, and Kenshusei worked together to create a fun, engaging, and informational introduction to aikido for these young students.  The kids seemingly enjoyed themselves and learned the basics of Kamae, Ukemi, a few Dosa, and a few Waza.

This was a great learning opportunity for all of the dojo staff and students to experience teaching and working with students who have no previous Aikido experience.