On fighting and farming

In “A life in Aikido”, Kisshomaru Ueshiba quotes O Sensei, saying “Fighting and Farming are one.”    O Sensei spent a significant portion of his life farming.  I believe that farming for O Sensei has particular and unique connotations regarding his being grounded with the land that he tilled and the harvest that he reaped.  However, if O Sensei were an accountant, he would have probably said, “Fighting and Accounting are one.”  If he was an administrator, he would have probably said “Fighting and paper shuffling are one.”  The point is, his understanding was that Budo encompasses the totality of our lives.  It does not happen only on the mat or on the battle fields.

After class today, I was having a brief conversation with someone new on the Aikido mat.  He was talking about how he doesn’t have the chance to practice outside of class.   There are, however  many basic exercises we can do off the mat that will strengthen our Aikido skills.  Simple irimi practices, striking practices, tenkan (or two step), basic sword work can all be done off the mat.  When I started Aikido, I was blessed to have teachers that stressed basic exercises, posture, and I’m grateful that the solid foundation I was given as a beginner has aided me throughout my Aikido practice.

Aikido, being primarily a partner practice, can seem a bit difficult to practice off the mat.   In actuality, it is not.  Most of the fighting arts that are based more on strikes and kicks have many different kata forms that one can practice by themselves.   You can also do this in Aikido.  You can still offer your hand for a wrist grab and go through many different techniques, and you can still practice balance, posture, entering and finishing your technique with a strong grounded stance.  As we further our practice, we can incorporate the jo and bokken into our off mat training.  There is more though.

To get the most out of Aikido, we can practice the same awareness off the mat as on.  When we practice presence on the mat to keep us safe from attacks from our partner, we can practice presence off the mat when we talk to our family or our coworkers.  We can practice our daily tasks at work or at home, our projects around the house or our other activities as mindfully and as sincerely as we practice our techniques on the mat.   When we speak to others we can speak sincerely and earnestly as we offer our sincere and earnest attacks and strikes to our partners on the mat.

This does not mean that we stand in a martial stance at a bus stop, practice our kokyu or rowing practices when in line at the deli, or start every meeting or dinner time conversation with a kiai.  People would think that we are freaks.   I believe that it means the exact opposite.  Aikido is based on natural movement.  I am inspired when I watch my Sensei demonstrate techniques.  When he moves on the mat, he moves naturally.   When he moves off the mat, he moves naturally.  When he engages his uke he does so with presence and thoughtfulness.  When he engages people at a table in a restaurant he engages people the same way.   His Aikido training allows him to have the same presence in all walks of life, not just on the mat.  This stems from sincere and earnest practice and a “train to live” perspective.  And because Aikido is based on natural movement, if we can walk we can practice Aikido.  We only have to be present, sincere and earnest.

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Road to 1st Kyu – Week 1 Day 2


Originally uploaded by markdeso

I started the book “A Life in Aikido: The Biography of Founder Morihei Ueshiba” by O’ Sensei’s son and the second doshu of the art, Kisshomaru Ueshiba . I only got through the preface and the first couple of pages. What was overwhelming for me was how much love and admiration Kisshomaru Ueshiba had for his father. I am looking forward to gaining important perspective of the founder of Aikido but for now, I am deeply touched by how much his son loved him.

Tuesday nights are taught by Charlie. Charlie is a 4th Dan Aikidoka and has a very solid and elegant style. I really enjoy his classes as they are a little more fast paced and we go over several different techniques. One of the attacks on my test is kata dori (shoulder grab) menuchi (strike). The attack comes off to the side and uke grabs the shoulder and raises his other hand at the face. We did several techniques from this attack: Ikkyo omote and ura, Irime Nage, and Sankyo.

I’m grateful to our dojo and our teachers for the help in preparation for our testing. It’s always a good thing to see the dojo come together in support of the testing candidates in preparation of their next rank. I look forward to the coming couple months for the training and benefit of preparation for 1st kyu.

Road to 1st Kyu – Week 1 Day 1 – one more thing


Originally uploaded by markdeso

A coworker of mine is an exceptional classical guitar player. I asked him one day how he goes about learning new things. He tells me that before he starts to practice the piece he usually listens to a couple of pieces of the composers work, and tries to learn something about the author himself.

As Aikido is an art centered around O’ Sensei, I think this time of preparation gives me a good opportunity to learn more about him. To this, I’m grabbing the book “A Life in Aikido” by Kisshomaru Ueshiba off the shelf. I bought the book a while ago but never started and will start reading today.

Road to 1st Kyu – Week 1 Day 1


Originally uploaded by markdeso

A few months ago I wrote a series of blogs to get me back into the gym and be consistant. That seemed to work well for me. Subsequently, stopping that process has allowed other things in my life to come before my time in the gym, so I’m starting up again.

This time however, I am preparing for my 1st Kyu test at the Aikido dojo I attend. I am inspired by some of my friends on the net and the chronicling of their experiences with their challenges, whether it’s learning a new technique or preparing for a test.

In preparation of my last test at 2nd kyu, I took a different view. Rather than “I have to prepare for my test and be good enough” I took the perspective of my test as a gift back to my school. The people that I train with from a few days off the mat through Yondan to Sensei have all had a part in my preparation and my ability. My test is a gift back to all of them to show them my appreciation for what has been learned on the mat.

So my posts for the coming weeks will be more frequent. They may or may not be more vocal. But I use this as a motivational tool and a way to keep me focused.

Onegai shimasu!