Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A free taste of Aikido at the Aikido Appetizer Open House

We invite our Portland neighbors, our extended dojo community and anyone curious about the art of Aikido.





Aikido Appetizer
Saturday  Oct 7, 2017

Free!
Enjoy a taste of what the practice of Aikido is all about. Get ready for fun! This is an ideal opportunity to experience Aikido firsthand. This free event is open to both adults and children.

You are invited to our Open House - the Aikido Appetizer! Family, friends, neighbors are welcome! This is a great opportunity to try something new. Here's the schedule:

  • 10am: Doors open. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and get oriented to the space. 
  • 10:30am: Step onto the mat for a sensory experience and introduction to the art of aikido. Whet your appetite for for martial practice and get your body moving. Everyone can participate at their own pace. 
  • After class: We will have tea and sushi. Socialize and ask questions of members.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Jo Ha Kyu - universal progression of phenomena

Jo - Ha - Kyu 
by Adam Westphal

shishi-odoshi = deer scarer

Any season is a beautiful time to visit the Japanese Gardens but summertime is especially nice.  The warm weather, the lush greenery, and all the sounds that fill the natural space combine to make for a wonderful experience.    Tucked away between what is called the Strolling Pond Garden and the Natural Garden is a curious device made of bamboo called a shishi-odoshi which translates as ‘deer-scarer’.

This dual-purpose fountain and animal chaser consists of a piece of hollow bamboo resting with its heavy closed end against a rock.  A pivot suspends its middle and the open end points up towards the sky as water pours slowly and steadily into it.  Filling up with water causes the center of gravity to change, forcing the open end downward.  This shift dumps its contents, forcing a sudden reversal as the heavy end knocks back against the rock making a sharp sound.  The cycle repeats.

In many traditional Japanese arts, there is a concept called jo-ha-kyu (序 破 急).  The characters can translate in many different ways.  Jo is most commonly means ‘beginning’, ha when isolated can read ‘to break; to ruin; to destroy’, and kyu reads as ‘rapid; urgent; quick’. 

The term jo-ha-kyu first appeared in writings around the 14th century by the renowned Zeami Motokyo, creator of the Noh Theatre.  Similar to martial teachings, his writings were hidden away, shared only within families of the Noh theatre, until they were discovered in a second hand bookshop.  He wrote, “Every phenomenon in the universe develops itself through a certain progression.  Even the cry of a bird and the noise of an insect follow this progression.  It is called Jo, Ha, Kyu.” 

This progression describes how a Noh actor should raise their arm slowly, hold it momentarily suspended, and then quickly drop it.  It also dictates the composition of the music, progressing towards faster and more climactic tones.  Even the acts of a Noh drama follow this form towards climax.  The bamboo shishi-odoshi fills slowly and just as slowly starts to teeter.  It reaches a point where it suddenly purges itself of its water and rushes back to its stationary position, punctuated with a loud noise.
In partner practice in aikido and iaido, there is a build-up of tension as the pair approaches each other, a sudden break in this tension as a technique is executed, and acceleration towards the end of the form.  The solo practice of iaido kata lends itself well to the study of jo-ha-kyu.  One can isolate movements without interference or distraction.  At more advanced levels of practice an onlooker might be able to imagine an opponent being cut down by the strikes of the practitioner. 

What forces work upon the pair or the shishi-odoshi?  It is not simply the bamboo that makes the noise.  Gravity, the water, and the positioning of the bamboo all play their part.
 
At the beginning of your next practice, you will face the shomen while sitting in seiza.  The calligraphy on the wall is a permanent record of a moment of jo-ha-kyu by the calligrapher.  If the preparation of the ink is not correct, it will be too light or too dark.  If the composition is not considered, the lines and characters will be out of balance.  If the calligrapher lingers or hesitates while writing, ink will pool.  How heavy or light the hand was that held the brush will show in the lines.

How will your next practice begin?  And how will it end?





Sunday, July 23, 2017

"Let Go of Me!" Self Defense and Embodied Learning workshop


"Let Go of Me!"

If someone takes hold of you, literally or figuratively, how do you release their grasp?
 

At this event we will explore common wrist grabs, options for response and how you can move your body to release a person’s grip on you. This physical practice serves as not only a metaphor for interpersonal encounters but an embodied learning experience you can carry with you and apply to your everyday interpersonal encounters.


A supple stance, both mentally and physically, allows us to move and adapt to the changing environment. The non-competitive martial art of aikido affords us the opportunity to make the conceptual physical and explore the nuances of communication and leadership in a safe laboratory of embodied learning practice. When we imbue the sensory activities with intention and awareness, the relevancy to our workplace encounters springs to life.

Benefits and outcomes include:

  • Practice simple wrist releases to quickly escape unwanted physical contact.
  • Learn how you can use the power of the ground to apply leverage and break someone’s grip on you.
  • Understand the mechanics of the human grip and experiment with the natural levers of the body.
  • Sense your instinctive response to challenging encounters and consciously introduce options for change.
  • Build confidence that you can learn to change the dynamics of a developing situation in its early stages.

Please be prepared to remove your shoes and participate barefoot. Wear something comfortable you can easily move in. This event is free for dojo members. $25 for non-members. Become a member: http://www.multnomahaikikai.com/becomeamember/

Taught by Suzane Van Amburgh, Chief Instructor of Aikido Multnomah Aikikai and Founder of Space to Move.

When: August 5, Saturday, Noon- 1:15pm
Fee: $25 (Free for dojo members)
Where: Aikido Multnomah Aikikai, 6415 SW Macadam Ave, Portland Or 97239

Register now!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"Five Principles - Looking Deeper" by Aki Fleshler Sensei

Chiba Sensei memorial class held at Multnomah Aikikai on June 6, 2017


Five Principles - Looking Deeper
Aki Fleshler, 6-dan, Shihan
Founder, Technical Director, Multnomah Aikikai
Portland, Oregon
June 5, 2017

[Disclaimer(s): Along with other senior teachers in BNA, I was asked to write a long piece for the community. I’ve never been very shy about this, but now that we are approaching the 2-year anniversary of Chiba Sensei’s passing, it might be thought that I am contributing to some kind of Sensei-worship. So I need to be clear here: Sensei was flesh and blood and mind and spirit, mortal, magnificent, and also on good terms with his own demons. He taught us that we must learn to “swallow the teacher whole and then spit out the poison.” Many of us have done exactly that.  My hope is that I can pass along the medicine which I retained.

Sensei often spoke of his work as a kind of gardening: he spoke of planting seeds deeply into his students, and then releasing them to see what would come of it. He also acknowledged that he was setting impossible goals for himself, but said, “I would rather be a noble failure than not try.”

I would love to have some confidence that any of my own efforts, on the tatami or behind the keyboard, could help some future student, or future teacher. And surely there will be someone who is offended by what follows, or who sneers at my naïveté, or who wonders how that grouchy old guy in the corner survived the training to which we are committed. However, all of that is out of my “span of control”.]

Some 10+ years ago Chiba Sensei presented to us his “Five Principles”. As I recall, he said that O’Sensei has shared “Six Principles”, and that we were to pay attention to that. However, Chiba Sensei was presenting principles based on his own personal experience.

The Principles:
    Centeredness,
    Connectedness,
    Wholeness,
    Liveliness and
    Openness

In all honesty, this penetrated barely below the skin of my own practice and my own teaching. It seemed so clear that you could look at beginning, intermediate and advanced aikidoka and see little, partial, and finally mature manifestations of these principles. That was all I needed to see, all I need to know. Just keep training. Help students become more lively etc…

My perspective has shifted; deepened, I hope. Before elaborating, I need to share more about the process of training from my perspective.

* * *
 
Recently I was asked what was unique about Chiba Sensei. The undertone of the question was really, “How could you stand to study with such a person?” Indeed, from the outside, i.e, watching classes and demonstrations live or over video, the younger Chiba Sensei appeared to be brutal, uncaring, and violent. 

Sensei was famously concerned that Aikido would become de-fanged, watered down, lose its martial roots. To the very end of his career he would remind us of O’Sensei’s teaching: that the techniques of Aikido are potentially deadly, and should be practiced with all due seriousness and care.

From the inside, although the physical training itself was indeed quite risky, there was a dimension of relationship and communication, completely invisible from the outside, which was intimate, compassionate, and supportive. I don’t mean simply that we’d go out for beer and talk about life after class, or roll around on his floor listening to 1950s Top 40 (which we did). I’m talking about the crucible of the dojo itself.

The depth and meaning of this is only now becoming clear to me, over 4 decades since my first contact with this remarkable master.

For example, I was always astonished at how every class I took from Sensei was specifically intended for me, for what I needed in my development at that particular moment. Then I realized that everyone, even in a room of 300 people, felt the same! I asked my sempai how he did that… “I asked him the same question. He told me, ‘I walk in the room and stop, and feel everyone present, before taking another step.’”

Initially I accepted this response as a direct answer to my question. Somehow Sensei was able to “get” that I needed to see the relationship between ikkyo and kokyu-ho, or how to take ukemi from kote-gaeshi, while at the same time filling the needs of the other 299 bodies on the tatami.

Another example: Sensei urged us to “Know where your teacher is at all times!”, to “Walk in your teacher’s shadow!”  It seemed to me that this was simply encouragement to pay attention (no small thing), and to maximize the value of your time with your teacher (also important, to be sure).

Another example: Once he took a group of teachers outside to sit on the grass and listen to some stories. He told us that a teacher must have “claws of an eagle and heart of a Buddha” (as I remember it). Initially I thought he was telling us that in order to transmit  Budō, the Way of the Warrior, it was necessary to be ruthless and violent; but without the restraint of compassion and human understanding, we would destroy our students, so who would be there in the end to receive and pass along the teaching?

Likewise Sensei explained that teachers embody the “Bodhisattva principle”: some are satisfied to get to the “other shore”, even after a very long and difficult journey. Then there are those who feel compassion for humanity and go back to bring others across. In doing so, they, the teachers, must suffer through the journey again with their students; one must be willing to bleed all over again, to have one’s heart broken all over again! But in my bottom-line understanding: it’s the other shore that is the objective.

I had also heard — this from Sensei M Nakazono — that the character for Ai () could be read either as Love or as Combat/Battle/War. This seemed really clever to me: a vital encounter between two sides could be either erotic or violent; and perhaps sometimes, in some pathological manner, the distinction might even blur!

Also — again with Nakazono Sensei — after a particularly exhausting and terrifying two-hour session — we sat seiza until our legs were falling off — then he shouted at each one of us in turn demanding to know, “What is the purpose of Aikido”? Finally his answer, “The purpose of Aikido is to become a human being!” It seemed to me that he was saying, “if you can survive this, all the violence will be gone from you, and you can be a good person.”

* * *

After a very long time, it has become clear that my thinking and understanding was completely upside down.   Having survived a lot of extremely challenging life experiences, hearing the lessons of the dojo whispering in my head and my heart, louder than thunder, here where the road has led me:

    The real transmission of Sensei’s very personal embrace of each student in the class of 300 was not at all the techniques which he imparted, but rather the feeling of complete, unreserved connection.

    The real teaching of Know where your teacher is at all times! / Walk in your teacher’s shadow! was to fire up our own ability to connect, at all times, beyond our own personal boundaries, and ultimately to a way of self-denial and self-sacrifice.

    The real teaching of eagle’s claws/Buddha’s heart was that the Way consists of both sides, that the Teacher must transmit both sides, that the Student must absorb and digest and embody both sides.

    The real teaching of the Bodhisattva principle was that the Way is actually embodied in the shared journey of the Teacher and the Student, not in some destination that, once reached, releases you from further effort and sacrifice on your own behalf.

    The real teaching of the two sides of Ai is that Life and Death, Living and Dying, are the same, intimately fused at the root, and that one does not come without the other.

    The real teaching of “To become a Human Being!” is that even in the midst of desperate, risky, frightening combat, one can be conscious and compassionate, at every moment.


These are not abstract teachings. If you embody these teachings, then you embody Sensei, and his teacher, and his teacher before him. This is why we bow to the shomen at the start of class.

* * *

It is very natural that people come to study a “martial art” with a dualistic, mechanistic mindset, with raw physical self-defense as an objective. It is very natural that it would take a lifetime to penetrate beyond the technical to the soul-depth of this remarkable Way.

Recently I had an conversation (a martial encounter?) with a new student, who is ordained clergy. He was somewhat trained in western boxing, Thai kick-boxing, hapkido, and parkour (not considered a martial art, but…). In his training, he embodied the principle of break-or-be-broken, kill-or-be-killed — what Chiba Sensei called “Ai Uchi — mutual striking down”. He could not see or sense the principle of executing techniques with any sensitivity to the uke or moderation to the circumstance. He responded to techniques (hard to call it “took ukemi”) with rigidity and resistance, and, frankly, fear.  I marched him over to a sign on our wall listing Chiba Sensei’s “Five Principals”. “This is what we are all about. This is where we are going,” I said. I presented Sensei’s concept of “Ai Nuchi” — mutual passing through, with full commitment. “I don’t understand,” he responded. “What does any of that have to do with martial arts? what about the bad guy?”  I proposed that this was the path to a compassionate outcome for both him and his attacker, a complete way of life, and that if he really took his faith seriously then this was the only martial path to embrace.

He was not convinced.

* * *

But I did have my own epiphany. For Sensei, and for those of us who strive to embody his art, these are the principles of the Big Aikido.

to be Centered at all times and in every interaction,
to be Connected to all things and all people,
to be Whole in all your movement and all your stillness,
to be Lively in your responsiveness to the ever-changing,
to be Open to all that surrounds you, in every direction of time and space … 

The dojo is a pure laboratory where we can assess and improve our embodiment of these principles in their simplest, purest form.  Sensei railed against a “pleasure-seeking attitude” in our training, a “winning-losing mentality.” As I now understand it, these are deep flaws which block and undermine our acquisition of the “Five Principles”. I believe that training is no more than escapism, and a decadent self-indulgence, if we do not carry that embodiment and its continual improvement beyond the kata, beyond the tatami, beyond the walls of the dojo, and out into our wide crazy life in the wide crazy world.

If nothing else, this is my challenge to myself. I hope to meet with you again on that trackless path.

Palm-to-palm 
Aki Fleshler


~

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Aikido Summer Camp - a revelation and an opportunity not to be missed!

Aikido Summer Camp is in Tacoma WA

Wednesday July 26 -  Monday July 31

Birankai North America sponsors summer camp at University of Puget Sound

Why go?


When I attended my first Summer Camp, I had only been practicing Aikido for a few years, and the world of my practice was largely defined by the narrow walls and small circle of dedicated students at our San Francisco dojo. I was training in a snug mental room with only a small window offering me a glimpse of the larger world. 

My arrival at Summer Camp was a revelation, as if an entire wall of the room had been torn away to reveal an expansive landscape of Birankai members and teachers from across the country and around the globe. I couldn’t help but venture out and start exploring, both the larger world of Aikido and the limits of my own endurance and capabilities. 

Summer Camp showed me that I could train harder and longer than I’d ever dared before, encouraged by the vast wealth of sensei and sempai all around me. As the week progressed and I became weary, I found that I no longer had energy to waste on rigid or inefficient movements. 

My technique became more supple and flowing because I was too tired to be otherwise. This unique experience stuck with me after Summer Camp ended, and I couldn’t wait to return the next year to find it again. ~ Dan Reid

Read another compelling story of Leslie Cohen's first summer camp experience:
 http://biran.birankai.org/?p=1500

 Learn all about Summer Camp at: http://camp.birankai.org/
  • Early registration discount ends May 21 
  • Be sure to complete your registration by June 18



Sunday, May 14, 2017

Kyu tests next week

We will hold kyu tests in Forest Grove on 22 May at 6pm.
Everyone in the Multnomah Aikikai community is welcome to attend.

Contact me if you have any questions.

Thanks,
Dave

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Right Way to Fall - "aim for the meat, not the bone"



Is there a right way to fall?


This New York Times article describes the value in learning how to fall and strategies for minimizing injury during a fall.

here are a few excerpts...


The key is to not fight the fall, but just to roll with it, as paratroopers do. “The idea is to orient your body to the ground so when you hit, there’s a multistep process of hitting and shifting your body weight to break up that impact,” said Sgt. First Class Chuck Davidson, master trainer at the Army’s Advanced Airborne School at Ft. Bragg, N.C.

Accept that you’re falling and go with it, round your body, and don’t stiffen and distribute the energy so you take the fall in the widest area possible,” said Paul Schreiner, a black belt jiu jitsu instructor at Marcelo Garcia Academy in New York City.

...try to take the hit on the fleshiest parts of your body, like the side of your thigh, buttocks and shoulder. “Aim for the meat, not bone,” said Kevin Inouye, a stuntman and assistant professor of acting, movement and stage combat at the University of Wyoming

Full article:

or this short url link is "print friendly":