Friday, December 30, 2016

January 2017 Winter Intensive Training

January 2017 Winter Intensive Begins!

There is a tradition in the Japanese martial arts of training intensively for a period of time in the coldest part of the winter (winter keiko). 

What’s “intensive” about the January  “Winter Intensive?”

At the dojo, we like to cultivate a sense of training seasons throughout the year. Winter Intensive is a time to focus in on a training theme, experiment with a teaching approach or try out a new class on the schedule. This year we are poised for all three.

The theme this January is proficiency with the 5th and 4th kyu curriculum. This month, teachers will focus classes on the techniques found on the 5th and 4th kyu Birankai test guidelines. We are working together to give you a focused experience of these techniques week by week. One of our goals is to cover all the techniques on the 5th and 4th kyu curriculum over the course of the month. Attend classes consistently in January and you will have the opportunity to build your confidence with performing these techniques well. At the end of the month we will conduct kyu testing.

If you are not yet 5th kyu, we encourage you to bring your mettle to training this month and set a goal to test at the end of the month. If you are 5th kyu and already preparing for 4th kyu, train diligently 3-4 times per week and you will be ready to test at the end of the month. You can do it! We will equip you. Sign up for either Jan 31 or Feb 1 and make the commitment to test on that date.

If you are currently above 4th kyu, then this is your chance to take your art to the next level by infusing familiar forms with a whole new level of centeredness, connectedness, wholeness, liveliness and openness (Chiba Sensei’s five pillars of training). Work the forms, embody the principles.

Bokken and Jo training will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, respectively. The relationship between body arts and weapons work is germane to our art. In January we will focus on the fundamental weapons forms as outlined on the kyu guidelines.

This January we’re also trying out new, added practice sessions:
  • Wednesdays, 12:30pm, Greg Corbin will host a practice session with a focus on test preparation help.
  • Wednesdays, 7:30pm, Oliva Sensei will lead zazen sitting practice.
  • Saturdays, 11:45am,  Van Amburgh Sensei will host a practice session where you can bring test prep questions, get feedback on your technique and practice your ukemi.

Will the new practices sessions continue past January? It will largely depend upon the level of member support and enthusiasm through January. On reflection, in a previous year we tried out a new monday evening class during winter intensive - it was well received and we’ve continued the class as a regular part of our weekly schedule. Similarly, last January we tried out a new 12:30pm class and it too has continued with enthusiastic support.  Your participation shapes our future class schedule.

This January we have several special events lined up for you.

Special events in January:
Jan. 2, Mon, first class of the new year. Resolve to Train!
Jan. 3, Tue, Overview for the month’s intensive (First Tuesday open to all levels this month, all members encouraged to attend)
Jan. 4, Wed, 4:30pm: Fold a Crane for the New Year (public event for adults and children - concurrent with children’s class)
Jan. 8, Sunday, 1pm-4pm, intensive training session
Jan. 10, Tue, Kagami Biraki
Jan. 31, Tue Kyu tests part 1
Feb 1, Wed, Kyu tests part 2

Dojo party (date to be announced)

Note: Children's program has special practice sessions scheduled on Sundays in January 10:30am- noon.

The new year is an excellent time to renew our commitment to training, look in the mirror (kagami), break our old habits (biraki) and resolve to improve ourselves. We invite you and challenge you to step up your training, focus in on a defined set of techniques and hone them.

Aki Fleshler, Suzane Van Amburgh, Jon Paul Oliva and Sean Sheedy

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Shodan reflections on the questions: “Where am I? Who am I? What am I doing?”

Congratulations to Dan Reid who passed his shodan test over the weekend of December 2-4, 2016; the Northwest Regional Seminar held at Multnomah Aikikai. Part of the requirements for his test included a written essay. This essay is published with his permission below.

Shodan Essay

The warm June air inside the university gym was thick with sweat, so the announcement that Chiba Sensei’s weapons class would be held outside was a welcome treat. We were in the thick of 2007 Summer Camp, and we all filed eagerly into the fresh air with bokken in hand. After a vigorous session of suburi and kirigaeshi among the broadleaf trees, we sat in seiza on the cool grass and Chiba Sensei gave a lecture. During his talk he said that whenever he trains in any form, he asks himself three simple questions that have stayed with me ever since:
“Where am I? Who am I? What am I doing?”

These questions may seem innocuous on the surface, but when I begin to parse their
implications they reveal hidden depths of meaning. The effort to internalize them and keep them at the forefront of my mind has been a core element of my Aikido and Zazen practice for nearly a decade.

The first question is the most straightforward and accessible, but the answer to “Where am I?” is not a street address or set of coordinates. Instead, the answer presents itself when I open all my senses completely to my surroundings. I try to widen and soften my field of vision in all directions, open my ears to small and distant sounds, smell and taste the air around me, feel the light breeze drying the damp spots in my gi, feel the smooth oak of my bokken, feel gravity pulling my body downward and pressing my feet into the earth. The sensation of gravity, which is actually a relativistic distortion of space- time, opens the door to perceiving existence in all four spatial dimensions of “where.”

The second question, “Who am I?”, seems to be the most deceptive of the three to Westerners. The answer is not my name; it can perhaps be best understood through other questions. How do I see myself when I’m not looking in a mirror? What does my inner voice sound like? What do I feel like inside my skin? Eventually, I begin to understand that this is not actually separate from the first question. This realization feels similar to the Hindu maxim “that art thou,” which reminds us that the outer universe we perceive is not different from our inner universe. The spatial boundary of my skin is a convenient external reference for my individual identity, but it is permeable and temporary. There is a constant exchange across the boundary of air, food, water, waste, sweat, light, thought, and speech. Continuous streams of cosmic rays and neutrinos from the far corners of our galaxy zip through my body without slowing down or noticing that I’m here. After my consciousness dissipates in death, my body will likewise disperse into the local ecosystem. Ultimately, “I” am a finite occurrence in time; understanding the second question effectively extends the first into the temporal dimension.

Finally, “What am I doing?” can be considered an intersection of the first two questions. When I do something, the “who” of the second question projects agency to affect or alter the “where” of the first. This “doing” includes but is not limited to what we perceive as direct action; it is uke’s committed strike, but it is also nage’s receiving and blending with the energy of that strike. The interaction between partners in Aikido training reveals the fuzziness of the boundary between self and other. When uke and nage both fully commit to a technique, we become like a binary star system, each orbiting a geometric point in space between us that is our common center of gravity. In the martial tension of each encounter, the center of the technique can move anywhere within or

between our bodies depending on our ma’ai, momentum, balance and weight distribution, points of contact, and intentions. When we can perceive the center’s movement, the possibilities for reversals, kaeshiwaza, and freestyle practice begin to present themselves, until the distinction between nage and uke is simply one of convenience.

Of course, I am by no means a master of any sort, and a visceral understanding of these ideas is difficult to maintain in my daily life and practice. Indeed, they often elude me altogether. However, these three simple questions have been enormously valuable to me as I remember and return to them again and again. I will always be grateful to Chiba Sensei for giving us this gift in that lecture on the grass. 

Daniel Reid, November 2016

Dan Reid has contributed an article to Dojo News previously.  Enjoy his September article "The River of Aikido":

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Two new Shodans! Northwest Regional Seminar December 2-4, 2016

Congratulations to Dan Reid and Greg Corbin. They passed their shodan test over the weekend of Dec 2-4, 2016 on the occasion of the Northwest Regional Seminar. More than ten Birankai North America certified instructors were in attendance.

Greg left, Dan right; testing for shodan Dec 3, 2016

Part of their requirements included writing an essay.
Here below is Greg Corbin's essay. The next post will feature Dan Reid's essay.

Greg Corbin, December 2016:


My daughter asked me – why Aikido?  I explained it like this.  I was first exposed to a martial art (Taekwondo) at an early age, around 6 years old, taking lessons with my father.  I liked it but as with so many things at that age it didn’t stick.  Still, the seed had been planted and I kept coming back to martial arts, formally and informally.  

Toward the end of high school and the first years of college I starting training in Taekwondo regularly and was close to taking my black belt test when school and the rest of my life became too much of a distraction.  I loved the training, and was disappointed not to continue and reach black belt, but my priorities were elsewhere at the time.  

Fast forward a few years and I found myself living alone in Boulder, Colorado.   Looking for something to fill my time, keep in shape, and meet new folks, I gravitated to martial arts again.  This time Shotokan Karate.  I was instantly addicted and knew right away that Karate was an even better fit for me than had been Taekwondo.  I don’t have the impossibly long legs the most successful Taekwondo practitioners all seem to have, I always struggled with the high and flying kicks, and the direct, seemingly simple approach of Karate just made sense to me.  Plus, the style mirrored my personality.  I loved it.  Couldn’t get enough.  Went to the dojo every chance I could and even travelled to the home dojo in Denver for special trainings.  I progressed quickly, but less than a year after I started I was on the move again.

It was more than a few years before I made it back to martial arts.  A couple years floating, a couple years in graduate school, a couple more passing through LA, then law school, a new job, a son, another new job, a daughter, pushing to make partner at my law firm, the years stacked up.  But the seed had been planted.  And as it happened, a good friend and law school classmate had his shodan in Aikido.  He had trained in Japan, but I didn’t know enough, and was too focused on school and being newly married, to learn much about his path.  What I do remember is that one evening during our first year of school he and I went to check out a local Aikido dojo.  He and I had been playing around with basic Aikido techniques at the gym and he seemed interested in getting back to formal training.  So I went along.  I remember visiting Multnomah Aikikai and talking with Suzane Van Amburgh Sensei, and yearning to train.  I just wasn’t in a place to add another obsession to my life.  

A decade passed, my kids were older, I had made partner, my wife’s veterinary clinic was on solid ground, and every day I drove home past Multnomah Aikikai.  I had been doing so for years, but one day, and I have no clue why, I decided it was time to start training again.  That was eight years ago.

So, I told my daughter, I never got my black belt.  When you do, will you be done, she asked?  Now that’s a good question.  Yes, and no.  I will have achieved a goal that’s been stuck in my mind since at least high school.  So I’ll be done with that.  But will I be done with Aikido?  No.  Here is how I explained it to my daughter.

It’s like your soccer.  You know the basics.  You can pass, dribble, trap, shoot, and play different positions.  You are starting to have a feel for the field and anticipate plays.  And now that you have those skills, you can see how much more you have to learn, and that you can be even better.  Learning the basics has opened your eyes to a deeper level of play, and you know that if you keep training you will improve and understand the game in ways you can’t even imagine now.  It’s the same for me with Aikido.

I know many of the techniques, and I’m even reasonably competent with some of them.  I know the things to watch for when Sensei is demonstrating (foot work first!), and I see connections I couldn’t have imagined when I started.  I can’t do everything, and I only do a few things well, but it’s different than when I first started.  Yes, I still need to practice katate dori ikkyo, and all the others, but it isn’t just choreography.  I know I need to use my hips more and my arms less.  I need to relax, and breath.  I need to think about the angles, and I need to be aware of where uke’s foot is.  I need to make a center to center connection, and not lose it.  I need to be light, and heavy, at the right times.  I need to look up.  I need to move, get low, and stay there.  And I know all of that leads to something more complex, more subtle, and more satisfying, and I know I’m just starting to glimpse it.

But is that enough?  It’s hard, I get bruised and sore, I’ve been hurt, and I may never need to use these techniques to defend myself.  Is getting better at a physical skill worth all that?  Maybe.  I do like being good at something, and I love the idea that the more I practice the better I will become.  It feels like the ability to improve is infinite.  It isn’t boring, and it’s nice to move after a full day at the office.  The physicality is exhilarating.  But it’s more than that.

I’m better because of Aikido.  I’m a better husband, father, lawyer, friend, and person.  I work on staying centered.  I try not to let the circumstances around me take my balance.  I recover more quickly.  I let go more easily.  I breath more often.  I used to get stress headaches all the time, but haven’t had one in years.  I think about my connection to others, and I think about how to respond to the energy (positive and negative) sent my way by them.  I try not to react out of emotion, especially anger or a desire to win.  I value community and service to others, and I do my best to accept and respect differences.  I try to be aware of my surroundings.  

I didn’t learn all of these things from Aikido, but the practice brings them to the front of my mind.  I find parallels between on and off the mat all the time, and I think about how to apply the five pillars in my daily life.  I have a long way to go, both in and outside the dojo, but without training I won’t improve as quickly.  

So, why is because I want to be better.  I want to keep exploring, I want to be better at my art, I want to be a better person, and I know Aikido is the way for me to do that.  It isn’t about rank, though the recognition will feel good and put a very old goal to bed.  It’s the path I’m on that I want to continue.

Greg Corbin

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Six weeks after the flood

Dear Northwest aikidoka, Yes, we’re hosting a seminar this weekend, Dec 2-4, 2016. It has been quite a journey to bring us to this point.

Usually when we start preparing for a seminar, we begin with a set of “givens” in the basic infrastructure and then plan hosting activities on top of those fundamental components. For example we usually have a floor, a mat to train on, a roof overhead, a place to take off your shoes, a registration desk, dressing rooms, working restrooms. All of these basic accommodations were disrupted by our flood of October 14th.  At this writing, six weeks after the flood, one week before seminar begins, this basic infrastructure has been restored and we are just now putting the dojo back together.

Here’s what happened.

Friday night Oct. 14, 2016 a storm hit the Portland area. Tremendous wind and rain beat down upon our dojo and overwhelmed the drainage system. The gutter overflowed. The downspout could not drain effectively. The water came flowing down the wall to meet a ground already saturated. The water flowed in. Like an uninvited guest, the water came in and took over the place, demanding our attention. It took out the floor from under us. About 70% of our floor was impacted.

The morning after the big storm I came into the dojo and discovered the damage. I contacted senior members and asked them to come in if they could. Class that day was just the fourth session of a new beginners series. I had to ask participants to help move wet items before we started class. Everyone pitched in. I am grateful to all our students and teachers for their efforts.

How did we respond to this flood?

First order of business was to move stuff out of harms way.
As in many disaster situations, a certain practicality kicks in. Emotional response is set aside to deal with later. We set right to work and moved stuff off the wet floor. We separated wet items from dry ones to minimize further damage. Members and the new beginners pitched in to help. We got wet vacuums in and fans set up to start drying the place out. These tasks helped us assess the damage.

Next step was to consider our options.
We communicated with the landlady, we reached out to professionals and we gathered information. From there we generated options and decided what our best outcome might be. From there we defined actions to take and set into motion steps to take us in the right direction.

We decided a concrete floor would be the best solution for our dojo interior. This solution required significant preparation. We would need to move everything off of the floor in order to remove all the carpet and laminate flooring and make space for the concrete professional to come in and install the new floor. With 70% of the floor affected, that left only 30% to receive and store all the items. Most of that area is our mat space!

We stacked up part of the mats to make more floor space. We trained in a smaller area and trained with the visual distraction of all our stuff piled up just adjacent to the mat. Our habitual ways were disrupted and our training changed.

photo provided by J.P. Oliva
We had to check our habits at the door and keep our shoes on. We had moved the shoe racks and the flooring was ripped up to expose the old, uneven concrete underneath. It felt strange to walk around the dojo with shoes on, but in extreme times safety is a higher priority than observing our customs. The edge of the mat was jagged and unsecured. We had to be attentive to that and adjust our training to take care of each other during class. It served as a metaphor and reminder of a martial principle; we’ve got to adapt and be present to what is actually happening.

In the fourth week after the flood came, our new concrete floor was installed. For three days we had to close the dojo. These three days corresponded with the days following the presidential election. Personally, in those three days I observed myself fluctuating through the various stages of grief. I was grateful for the space of time to be at home and absorb the impact of the election results.

By the fourth day, I needed to come back to the dojo, teach class and be with people again. I found a certain comfort and meaning in our concrete floor. There it was, pristine, fresh, cool and not yet ready to support weight. We entered the dojo from the back door instead of the usual front entrance. We trained on the mats next to the floor but did not walk on it. The old floor is gone and the dojo will never quite be the same again. We have a new floor now. That was Saturday November 12th.

Our new floor needed a few days to dry completely before it could be sealed and finished. During this time it was essential to keep the floor clean. Any speck of dirt, even oils from walking barefoot would compromise the finish. It was during this period that the city worked on the sewer system just down the street for the dojo and, on November 14, disaster struck again.

I was locking up the dojo for the night when I noticed the toilet didn’t look right. The bowl was so full it looked like it might overflow. A plunger did no good. I noticed the shower pan was full of water too – dirty water. Then I noticed a sound from the other room. The other toilet was overflowing and the water was rushing out from under the base and flowing all over our new floor. At the rate it was flowing the whole dojo would be flooded with dirty water in a matter of minutes.

I called the landlady who called Rotorooter and I waited for them to show up. “Thank the gods” the flooding slowed down on its own and the water receded from the toilets. At the time I did not know that the city was working on the sewer system, which caused the sewer back up. I called the concrete vendor to let him know our new floor had been compromised with dirty water.  He agreed to come in, clean the floor and put down another thin layer of concrete. After more drying time, the sealant was applied.

Monday November 21 was the first day we could start putting furniture back on the floor. Attendance was thin in the days before Thanksgiving but on Saturday November 26th we put in a robust workday. By end of day all heavy pieces were put back in place and the mat perimeter was set back in place. Now we are attending to an issue with the mat frame; a result of another concurrent floor repair project.

This week, the final days before the seminar begins, our focus in “seminar hosting” is to make a supreme effort just to provide a reasonable space to train. Our dojo teachers and members have met the challenge and put in the time and sweat to restore the dojo to basic minimum functionality.  We’ve had to make that our priority. The usual set of seminar hosting activities you have come to expect from Multnomah Aikikai will not be prepared. I hope we can enjoy coming together and find gratitude in our opportunity to train. For us, your presence will be a welcome reward for all our efforts. We are looking forward to training with you.

Seminar schedule and information on our "Seminars" page of this site:

-Suzane Van Amburgh

Monday, October 31, 2016

Children say aikido is awesome!

aikido is awesome
Our Children's Program Director, Rudy Puente, asked students what they like about aikido.

Here are a few of the responses...

I like Sensei, the animal exercises and the aikido moves.

It's fun.
It's discipline.
It teaches you respect.

Aikido. I don't even know how to start. This program has changed my life from the very beginning! Before I started doing this martial art, I would randomly have these weird anxiety attacks at night, when it just started to get dark. It didn't happen just once a week; it would happen every single night. One day my Dad found aikido online. He said it sounded perfect for what I was dealing with. When I went to go watch what it was like, I instantly knew that I wanted to participate in this program. After a few sessions, my anxiety was almost gone evey time I got to bed. I couldn't believe that this program was helping me get through my life without anxiety! I totally recommend this dojo to anyone at all, especially if you are going through the same thing I was.
~Ali (age 12)

Multnomah Aikikai's children's classes are held Wednesdays and Fridays 5pm to 6pm. We're located at 6415 SW Macadam Ave, Portland OR 97239. You are welcome to drop by and observe a class without prior appointment.

Learn more about the children's program:

Saturday, September 24, 2016

First Course in Aikido begins October 5

Do you have the appetite for aikido practice?
Indulge in your First Course in Aikido.

Aikido First Course October 5 - 29

This 4-week beginner series allows new students to explore the practice of Aikido. Emphasis is placed on the fundamentals. Movements and techniques are broken down to instill a healthy relationship with one’s own physical structure and movement abilities to ensure a fun and safe practice for you and your fellow students. 

Schedule and registration details:

If you know others who might be interested in checking us out and taking some classes, please invite them to join us! Share this post or share the postings on our Multnomah Aikikai Facebook page

See you in the Dojo!
Aikido Multnomah Aikikai 6415 SW Macadam Ave Portland OR

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Aikido practice "magic" for an aching back

Aikido in my Life
by Moshe Rachmuth 2016
You are reading the thoughts of someone who had about fifty “dojo-hours” in the last ten months. It means that all that I am about to write can teach you very little about Aikido as a martial art or as a way of thinking. It can only open a window—for what it is worth—into the experience of a forty-something Israeli, living in Portland, at the Multnomah Aikikai.
About a year ago I discovered that I have a back. I work as a college professor so—other than the ten hours a week of teaching—I spend most of my day sitting in front of the computer. Sitting, I prepare classes, I write, I watch chess broadcasts and in the weekends I play chess tournaments at the Portland Chess Club. This is what I do today and this is what I was doing a year ago—living an intellectual life. I needed my head to think, my fingers to type (or move pieces on the board) and my legs to carry me from my chair to the car. But about a year ago I discovered I had a back—it ached.

I tried to solve the problem. At first I asked myself who was it that had designed the weird curve between our heads and our buttocks but as the pains moved to my neck and shoulders I realized that flawed or not, this back and the whole body surrounding it had to be taken care of, and with exercise. So I tried to keep in shape: I ran—it was tough on my knees. I walked—it was too easy. I went to a Tai Chi class—the teacher retired. I went to another Tai-Chi class—I did not feel the teacher was knowledgeable enough. I looked at a couple of Taekwondo classes—it seemed too tough for me. Everything was either too easy or too hard, did not feel safe or did not seem helpful. And the pains continued.
Things changed after I arrived at the Multnomah Aikikai. Google tells me that “Aikikai” is the original school of Aikido, headed by the Doshu. You see, Aikido has many words in Japanese that are defined by other words in Japanese. You can easily sink into the intellectual side of learning the terms and the philosophy but this is not what I came for, I came for the life change and this is why I stayed. I joined the introductory-month program—I was given the uniform and two beginner classes a week for nearly the price of a month's membership. With the other beginners I was taught how to call the uniform (Gi) how to wear it, how to tie it, how to bow at the beginning of the training and how to fall, and fall, and fall. My main memory from the first two weeks is taking a step back, turning around, sitting down, rolling backwards, and standing back up. My back hurt for the whole two weeks, on and off the mat, mainly because I was so afraid to hurt it that I tensed my muscles constantly. Everybody but one (unfairly young) person who started the program with me reported pains. For one it was the thighs, for another a wrist and for a third the elbows but each hurt at their weakest link.
After two weeks the pains passed, and I felt much better than I had felt before I started and have been feeling much better since. You may ask, “What, like that, just like magic?” and my answer would have to be “yes.” In fact, when I go to the Aikido I feel exactly that—I am in a show that is a combination of magic and dance. A black belt student “attacks” the sensei (=teacher), the Sensei’s feet dance away, behind the attacker’s back, while the sensei hands perform their own magic escape. Suddenly, it is the attacker who has his wrist caught. Like a tango master, the sensei gently helps the attacker to the ground, where the latter taps the mats to sign for surrender. It is my turn to practice and I am lucky to practice one-on-one with another sensei that is present. She is a woman and smaller than me. I attack her with confidence, not because I think I will harm her but because I know she will drop me on the ground within the blink of the eye and it will not hurt (we practice a lot of falling). Still, I am surprised, every time and I get up of the mat laughing as if I were the magician’s assistant who was cut in two but is somehow intact.

I have been on the mat for mere fifty hours but Aikido is with me through other parts of my life. I come back from practice exhilarated, even if exhausted (Somehow, the practice is no longer difficult physically but it still is a cognitive challenge.—I get learn so many new moves every time that after forty minutes I cannot remember what is left and what is right, what is up and what is down, what is forward and what is backward). I go to sleep happily and wake up happily. The next day, waiting at the Max stop, I imagine getting away from a wrist-grab. In my head, I perform an Ikkyo. I do not move my body but in my imagination I dance and I do the magic. Recalling the last class makes me more aware of my posture and my breathing. The train whistle awakens me and I look at it as it pulls into the station. Between me and the front car there is a line of people, all on their phones. I could have performed a complete Katate Dori Ikkyo Ura and nobody would have noticed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The River of Aikido by Dan Reid

The River of Aikido
Dan Reid, August 2016

Aikido is many things to many people. For me it is like a broad and deep river flowing through time. It springs from its source in the mountains with O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, runs down and spreads across the plains and valleys with his students, and carries us forward through the decades as we continue to train. And like any river, the deeper we venture into the water, the more powerful the current becomes.

I first discovered Aikido in May 2000 at Tom Read Sensei’s dojo in Arcata, California when I was an undergraduate at Humboldt State University. I had always had a fascination with martial arts and Eastern philosophies, but up to that point I had only dabbled my toes in the water. My training at Northcoast Aikido gave me a chance to wade in and start to feel the current. My body began to learn these strange new ways to move, resulting in sore muscles that I never knew I had. As I continued to train, the movements and techniques gradually began to feel more natural, and I began to understand the first layers of their underlying martial logic. At the same time, the humbling knowledge that the more senior students and sempai had been training for years or decades reminded me how little I yet understood. I began to sense the depth of the channel that stretched out before me.

I moved to the Bay Area after college in 2002 and reconnected with my training at Aikido Institute of San Francisco under Gloria Nomura Sensei. After wading tentatively into the water from this new bend in the river, I gathered my courage and plunged in headfirst. As one of Chiba Sensei’s disciples, Nomura Sensei and her students carried forward his unique interpretations of Aikido in a vigorous and challenging style of practice. The training seemed dauntingly martial and even severe at first, but as I began to accept my fear and give myself to the swiftness of the current, I found that it supported me even as it swept me downstream. My body began to change, my instincts and reactions began to align with the practice, and I grew more confident even as I struggled through my own limitations. At the same time, my membership through the dojo in Birankai International connected me with a worldwide community of Aikidoists. I had the opportunity to train with many new people through seminars and Summer Camps, and I realized that the river of Aikido has many streams, channels, and tributaries, all flowing toward the same sea.

The deep and serene waters of Aikido have also been an enormous source of stability and community during periods of transition and difficulty in my life. I moved to Minneapolis in 2007 when my wife started her doctoral program there, and I had the opportunity to train at the Twin Cities Aikido Center for the next three years. The members of TCAC became like a wonderfully boisterous extended family, and the training and friendship I found there carried me through many trials in my professional life. We then moved to Oregon in 2010 when I began graduate study at UO, and I was lucky to train briefly with Steve Thoms Sensei at Eugene Aikikai before the combined demands of children and architecture school forced a hiatus. Even when I was unable to train, however, I always considered myself an Aikidoist, and the pull of the river’s current was never far from my mind and heart. We then spent my wife’s internship year from 2013-14 in southern Illinois, and I was able to rejoin the stream with an Aikido community there to continue my training through another difficult period.

Finally, my family and I moved back to Oregon in 2014, where I had the opportunity to join Multnomah Aikikai. This return to the Birankai community was a long-awaited homecoming. I feel fortunate to be able to continue my development in Aikido with Suzane Van Amburgh Sensei and Aki Fleshler Sensei, who also trained with Chiba Sensei. A sense of continuity in the lineage of my training stretches upstream through Van Amburgh Sensei, to Fleshler Sensei and Nomura Sensei, to Chiba Sensei, and finally to O’Sensei at the wellspring of Aikido. However, to paraphrase an old saying, one never swims in the same river twice. The flow and swirl of its currents and eddies are constantly carving new channels, silting in old ones, eroding old banks, and depositing new ones. Aikido is a living river that evolves with the dedicated training and stewardship of its practitioners around the world, and it is my honor to be considered a fellow Aikidoist. I can’t wait to see where the flowing water takes me.