28 augustus 2010


Mary Oliver is arguably one of the greatest contemporary American poets. Her work, which spans more than four decades, is filled with a quiet wonder about nature and our place in it. This poem below is both joyful and pensive, quiet and exuberant at the same time. A bit like when in Aikido we flow with our partner, so I thought I'd share it with you. Enjoy!

Messenger (by Mary Oliver)

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird —
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.

Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still not half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,

which is mostly standing still and learning to be astonished.
The phoebe, the delphinium.
The sheep in the pasture, and the pasture.
Which is mostly rejoicing, since all ingredients are here,

which is gratitude, to be given a mind and a heart
and these body-clothes,
a mouth with which to give shouts of joy
to the moth and the wren, to the sleepy dug-up clam,
telling them all, over and over, how it is
that we live forever.

More about Oliver can be found at the Poetry Foundation. Some more of her poems are
- here
- and here

20 augustus 2010

The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts

Woven deeply into the martial traditions and folklore of Japan, the fearsome Tengu dwell in the country's mountain forest. Mythical half-man, half-bird creatures with long noses, Tengu have always inspired dread and awe, inhabiting a liminal world between the human and the demonic, and guarding the most hidden secrets of swordsmanship. In The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts, a translation of the 18th-century samurai classic by Issai Chozanshi, an anonymous swordsman journeys to the heart of Mt. Kurama, the traditional domain of these formidable beings. There he encounters a host of demon; through a series of discussions and often playful discourse, they reveal to him the very deepest principles of the martial arts, and show how the secrets of sword fighting impart the truths of life itself.
The Demon's Sermon opens with The discourses, a collection of whimsical fables concerned with the theme of transformation--for Chozanshi a core phenomenon to the martial artist. Though ostensibly light and fanciful, these stories offer the attentive reader ideas that subvert perceived notions of conflict and the individual's relationship to the outside world. In the main body of work, The Sermon, Chozanshi demonstrates how transformation is fostered and nurtured through ch'i -- the vital and fundamental energy that flows through all things, animate and inanimate, and the very bedrock of Chozanshi's themes and the martial arts themselves. This he does using the voice of the Tengu, as the reader is invited to eavesdrop with the swordsman on the demon's revelations of the deepest truths concerning ch'i, the principles of yin and yang, and how these forces shape our existence. In The Dispatch, the themes are brought to an elegant conclusion using the parable of an old and toothless cat who, like the demon, has mastered the art of acting by relying on nothing, and in so doing can defeat even the wiliest and most vicious of rats despite his advanced years.
Chozanshi's deep understanding of Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Shinto, as well as his insight into the central role of ch'i in the universe, are all given thoughtful treatment in Wilson's introduction and extensive endnotes. A provocative book for the general reader, The Demon's Sermon will also prove an invaluable addition to the libraries of all those interested in the fundamental principles of the martial arts, and how those principles relate to our existence.

It has been said that even Morihei Ueshiba was trained by a Tengu in the mountains of Mt. Hongu.
(Read more)

ISSAI CHOZANSHI (1659-1741) was the pen name of Niwa Jurozaemonn Tadaaki, a samurai of the Sekiyado clan. Among his works, The Demon's Sermon on the Martial Arts (1729) and The Swordsman and the Cat (1727) are his most famous.

> Read part 3 'The Swordsman and the Cat' online
(shortened version in English, 4p.)
> Read Book @ Google books

19 augustus 2010

Ai-Kid-You ;)

A Fractured Introduction to Aikido "Terms":

General Words
Aikido "Aikido" means "the path of spiritual harmony" except when it means "the way to unite one's inner energy" or when it means "the way of unity with the universal force;" unless you have a Chinese grandmother, in which case it means "the way of holding
breath." Which is why we are drowning in arguements, sorry, philosophical discussions about the existence of "ki."
Marital Art Aikido is a marital art (that's why there is an altar in the dojo) that grooms you for unbridled self-defense.
Ukemi The history of ukemi: A big fat bully was really tired. He saw a skinny little guy who looked like he had a lot of energy. He grunted "You carry me" as he went to climb aboard the hapless fellow's back. The skinny little guy executed a perfect forward roll. Being too focussed on the predicament in which he had found himself he never did make exact sense of what the bully said, replying "ukemi, indeed!" as he walked away. And to this day we call our rolls and falls "ukemi" in his honor.
Tai Sabaki Similarly, "tai sabaki" results from the mis-hearing of "Thai souvlaki," which everybody knows is actually Satay, or chicken on a skewer; the significance is that in olden days if your footwork was done chicken-toed, the teacher would skewer you. Nowadays they just glare.
Aikido "Styles"
Aiki-Just-So For the finicky; they never progress past ikkyo because nobody ever does it well enough.
Bike-ido Developed by bicyclists tired of being run off the road; the only style that does a "true" kaiten-nage.
Boo-do Stealth techniques, possibly ninja-influenced, in which uke initiates attacks by leaping out of hidingwith a shout.
Haikudo Appeals to enthusiasts of Japanese culture who cannot decide if they prefer to study poetry or martial arts.
Iko-Iko-Ido Bizarre regional style of New Orleans characterized by rythmic technique and brightly colored costumes.
Nike-kai Practitioners wear gis made in special sweatshops; during practice of kokyudosa are heard to make a loud "swoosh" during exhalations.
Reikido Tntegrates body work and body arts in one discipline so you can throw your back out and put it back into place in the course of one technique.
Waikikai Hawai'ian regional style, done on long boards.
Aikido "Techniques"
Tushie-nage This technique is never taught, but beginners invariably discover it the hard way.
Baptism-nage Kaiten-nage done in a body of water. Potentially lethal.
Ten-pin-nage Randori against ten attackers in a long narrow dojo, scored as in bowling. "Strikes" do not mean "atemi" in this application.....
Jujube-nage Uke is distracted by offers of candy, then thrown hard;
likely inspired by Dr. Who Sensei and his famous "jelly baby atemi."
E-I-E-aido The Old Macdonald style; the art of live blade drawing and quartering, with livestock as uke.
Go-flya-kaitenage Technique in which uke is projected out of the dojo, outdoors into a thunderstorm (with Ki of course). First cited in Poor Richards Alamanaikido.
Delicate-tessen Technique favored by southern belles, in which uke is distracted by the fluttering-eyelash atemi, then flattened by whipping forward of the iron-ribbed fan. Nage settles back into rocking chair, murmuring "my, my, my..." (with thanks to JonM, Blake, and Chuck)
Cacciattori Chickennage Italian dish prepared one-handed by Aikido-Listers being tested for rank (with thanks to Ivan.....)
RyeOatTandori NoChickennage East Indian vegetarian variation of the above.
Rant-ori Multiple verbal attackers (when performed seated, known as "Seiza Who?")
Tai-No-Hankie Basic technique for blending your nose with the sleeve of your gi.
Rokyo You will be pinned by a drunk chanting "We will rock you"
ChiChikyo You will be pinned by a high-heeled nage in a Chanel gi.
Hatchkyo You will be pinned by a brood hen named Sky
Queuekyo You will be pinned by a whole line of people
Jukyo You will be pinned by the legendary Rabbi sensei, Matt Burn
Aikido "Attacks"
HeyManUchi Attention-getting strike
HeManUchi Repeated strikes, closed fists alternating, to one's own (hairy) chest
LikeCoolManUchi Left-of-center strike to the bongos
EthelMerManUchi Show-stopping stike that gets you right here
YesManUchi Strike with a rubber stamp
NormanUchi Sat next to me in third grade at P.S. 269, Brooklyn

11 augustus 2010

Ezra is geboren!

Een familiebericht:

Afgelopen maandagochtend ben ik op babybezoek geweest bij Ellen van Beek. Ze heeft een dochtertje gekregen dat Ezra heet. De bevalling is heel vlot gegaan en Ellen en haar man Marc zien er heel gelukkig uit. In de hal hangt het geboortebericht en daarnaast kun je wat aan haar pennen op een kaartje dat ik gekocht heb om diegenen die Ellen nog kennen de gelegenheid te geven om te reageren.


3 augustus 2010

Non-Violent Communication

In Aikido we sometimes say: ”Move yourself, don’t move the other.” When we move the other - when we do a technique onto someone – we treat them as an object, which means there can be no Ai. If we move ourselves and connect to the other, the other becomes an extension of ourselves. Then, when we move, the other moves in harmony with us.

A similar principle is the cornerstone of Non-Violent Communication, a process of personal communication pioneered by Marshall Rosenberg. NVC focuses on two things: honest self-expression (exposing what matters to oneself in a way that's likely to inspire compassion in others) and empathy (listening with deep compassion).

Let me explain using an example. Imagine at home someone is playing their music really loud. This is upsetting you. At some point, you may confront this person with annoyance in your voice. “Come on man, you are being really loud, don’t be so annoying.”

This way of communicating tends to be counterproductive. The other cannot but feel attacked, which usually generates verbal or physical aggression, which in turn undermines the relationship. “Mind your own business, you always play your stupid music loudly and you shout on the phone.” Forget about Ai in that house….

NVC has an alternative approach that encompasses four steps: observation, feelings, needs and requests. This may look like this. “I am noticing really loud music. This is making me feel uncomfortable. I am studying and I feel the need for some quiet. I would like to ask you to turn down the volume a bit.”

This approach is fundamentally different and will get you a completely different outcome. After all, the other is not being judged and it's hard to argue with someone's feelings and needs. True, the other may decline your request, but the communication process itself will not get in a way of being heard by and listening to someone else.

Try it on for size, it’s good fun and actually quite simple to use. The easiest thing to do is to start each sentence with ‘I’ instead of ‘you’.

So in the dojo don’t say “You are being rough, relax.” but say “I am not comfortable at this pace, could you please slow down.” Or say “I would like us to be more connected while moving” instead of “you are being a bad uke.” Moving from blaming/judging to identifying needs/facts will get you empathy rather than a counterattack.

There is a lot more to NVC than this, so if you are curious have a look at http://www.cnvc.org.

1 augustus 2010

Angry White Pyjamas

"Angry White Pyjamas, An oxford poet trains with the Tokyo riot police"
by Robert Twigger (source: Wikipedia)

Angry White Pyjamas is a book written by Robert Twigger about his time in a one-year intensive program of studying Yoshinkan aikido.

The book is set in Tokyo in the mid-1990s. Twigger is living with two friends in a tiny apartment near central Tokyo. They all decide to enrol at the Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo in order to get fit and break out of their sedentary life-style.
Soon after beginning regular training, Twigger decides that the only way you can truly experience aikido is to do the Yoshinkan Senshusei course, a gruelling 11-month program to train up instructors of Yoshinkan aikido. The course consists of four hours of training, five days a week, in addition to dojo-cleaning duties, special training weekends and demonstrations.
Twigger spends the majority of his time describing the rigor and sometimes agony of the very intensive course. He refers to doing kneeling techniques, or suwari-waza, until his knees bled, only to practice the next day and in so doing tear open the scabs. He describes techniques being performed with such vigor and intensity that smashing one's head into the mat was a frequent occurrence.
Other experiences on the course include "hajime" sessions where one technique is performed repeatedly, without a break, sometimes for up to half-an-hour or more. During these sessions, trainees sometimes pass out or vomit, especially in the summer months. Instructors sometimes dish out punishments to trainees if they feel they are not pushing themselves enough, including rounds of push-ups, sit-ups and bunny hops.
Other people featured in the book include several top Yoshinkan instructors, including Chida, Shioda and Chino senseis, as well as Robert Mustard sensei, the chief foreign instructor and David Rubens Sensei from England. Teachers are sometimes portrayed as being quite cold and occasionally brutal and unsympathetic to the students, whom they are trying to push to greater and greater efforts in order to build their technique and "spirit".
In addition, Twigger describes other aspects of Tokyo and his life there, including his relationship with his girlfriend and her family, his work at a Japanese high-school as an English teacher, and stories of living with his two flatmates. He also gives thoughts and observations about Japan and the Japanese culture.


De dojo gaat ook van de zomer genieten en daarom is er van 1 juli tot 1 september zomerrooster. Voor de kids van -12 jaar is er geen les van 2 juli tot 15 augustus. Alleen de volgende lessen zullen gegeven worden:
  • dinsdag 20.00-21.30 Robert, alle niveaus en leeftijden
  • woensdag en vrijdag 19.00-20.00 Anni, alle niveaus
  • donderdag 19.30-21.00 Francisca, alle niveaus
  • zaterdag 12.00-14.00 Robert, alleen hakama dragers
  • Katori: dinsdags v.a. 21.30, zaterdags als gewoonlijk.
Fijne zomer iedereen. Rust uit, heb lol en kom gezond weer terug.

How many Aikidoka? ;)

Q: How many Aikido students does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: None. Aikido students don't attack problems.
Q: Ok, so how many Aikido students does it really take to change a light bulb?
One, but the light bulb must initiate the attack.
Q: How many Aikido students does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
A: Two. One to perform the technique, and the other to take the fall
Q: How many Aikido Instructors does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One. But first he (or she) will show you five wrong ways to do it before showing you the right way.