Category Archives: Aikido

Walking with G’d

B”H

In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge. They become aware of their own vulnerabilities, their nakedness, and see to cover it up. When G’d calls them forward, they are afraid, and hide, instead of walking with Him.

I had a chance to share this story with some Aikido students of mine, where I explained that the great tragedy here is not that they ate from the tree of knowledge (face it, they didn’t know any better), but that they hid instead of owning up to it, and were afraid to walk with G’d when he called. I ended saying “Do not hide. Bravery is when you realize you are weak, but still say what needs to be said, or do what needs to be done, and in so doing, walk with G’d.”

I see the students weekly, and through the medium of Aikido teach trust and respect. One of the teachers has taken an interest, and helps in class.

This teacher recounted what happened last Sunday. Sunday is their off-day. No classes, and teachers will take them out of the orphanage to eat a boxed lunch and to see a museum or have fun outside. It was proposed that they go to a certain museum. One of the students, C.C.., said he did not want to go, and would not say why.

“Then offer up an alternative.” said the teacher. C.C. offered no alternative. “Then if you don’t say why you don’t want to go, the other students will go, and I can take you back to the school [the orphanage] to do homework.” Yet this still did not satisfy him, and his gloomy silence persisted over lunch, which C.C. refused to eat.

Finally, the teacher said. “Have you forgotten what [the Aikido teacher] said? ‘Do not hide.'”

And C.C. said without tears or agitation that the museum was the last place where he had seen his grandmother and his father, and the place where his father had abandoned him.

And the teacher asked “Do you think, being brave enough to say this, that you are also brave enough to go to the museum?” And C.C. said “I think it is worth a try.”

But it came to be that the time had passed where they could go to the museum that day, so the teacher said “It’s already afternoon, so we’ll play some badminton instead of going to the museum today, but next time, you can tell us you want to go, we will all go together.”

[… and so doing walk with G’d.]

My student is growing up 🙂 Also, what a great teacher she was, to have persisted in asking for the answer.

Psalm 19:8-10

The Torah of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.
The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The mitzvoth of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The decrees of the LORD are firm, and all of them righteous.

Because I have shared the mitzvah of studying the Torah, I have participated in this story.

Every mitzvah counts.

Why did I start reading the Torah? Because I missed Chabad Japan (www.chabadjapan.org Donate!). After many years of living away from Japan and not studying the Torah with Chabad Japan, I tried to find some people to study with, but was dissatisfied with their interpretations, but what could I do but study by myself? This led to finding commentaries online, to studying with my family, and to sharing the story of Genesis 3 with the children of the orphanage.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, once said that every setback is a chance to grow by spurring us to draw on untapped resources. So it was that my disappointment led to me to finding ways to study by myself. So it was that C.C. is learning to surpass his abandonment by not hiding from it.

If I have done nothing else in Taiwan, I have at least played a part in this story. Yet after hearing this story, I begin to see possibilities, and that there is so much more to do.

We are living in the time of the redemption, where there are many tools by which we can amplify good. Every mitzvah counts. May we through our actions shine the light of lovingkindness out into the world. May we thus make the world more joyous and habitable. May we not fear that our shortcomings will prevent us from doing so. May we direct our attention and energies outwards as G’d bade Adam and Eve. May we make straight the road for the Messiah. And may He come quickly in our time.

一歩づつの合間

今夜道場の方々とサルサのライブを聴きに行き、踊った。武道、舞踊、音楽三昧の一夜だった。踊っている時には、足を踏まない合間がある。それこそ、一歩一歩が大切で、安穏に踏んでいなければならない。止まる合間を感じないと動きが荒れてしまう。これはまさに武踊一如。

長年、日常でも、出張でも、暇でも、忙しくても、笑っても、落ち込んでても、毎週に規律よく稽古していたら、とにかく合気道が一つ息抜きの合間になっている。

そして、少なくても歩く時に安定に踏むことができるような体づくりになった。これからも長く、稽古の相手の皆さんが日頃の修行でそれぞれ一歩づつ邁進できるよう、心からお祈り申し上げます。

質疑並玩耍的心態

這陣與同學透過練習及討論之些心得。
一, 和一位學長練時要不怕地表達出動作。如上班時需在上司前表達意見,甚至被駡時也要把該說的說出。我們不只在練身体,亦在練一個心態。
一, 我們可以質疑技法。特別在自由稽古中,覺得有空間必開,逃開, 阻擋時,我們可以這么做。但,要以玩耍的心態,不得比勝負。如此我們自然會避開死板的練習,將練習化而為活動的探索
一,不要讓對方受傷。自已也要當心不要硬撐著對方的壓力而自已受傷。則,衡量對方的容量。再說,不能比勝負,做不出來就算了。逃不開對方的技法,也算了。
一,最重要是兩人有沒有運動到。日人曰練武時要先「作身」。在討論細節之前,學生須有基礎的体能才可以了解。
一,開祖盛平大先生曰「目で分からんことは言葉で言ふても分からん。」釋是「眼睛看憧的,用說的也聽不𢤦。」
一,我與弟妹練時要謙虛。我亦未明皆答,惟練得久些已。皆學長姐與學弟妹練時必亦然。
一,教和練不同。學長姐教學弟妹,容易。與學弟妹練,較難。先輩要學如何和後輩練。怎么做得呢?我曾有本部道館的學長說「白帯にも稽古をさせなければ行けない」意為也要未昇段的

In Focus

We had a teacher visit from Japan with two students, to teach an Aikido seminar. During the seminar, I was doing freestyle with the bigger one. I’m about 60kg, so he must have been about 90kg, a former sumo wrestler, I heard.

The teacher walked by when it was my turn to throw. “You’re being nice.” She observed. “You should throw harder.”

“Harder?” I asked. I did a series of three iriminage techniques on my partner, at growing intensity.

“Yes, that’s better.” said the teacher.

Turnabout is fair play, so when it was my partner’s turn to throw me, he threw hard, too. Aikido has ancient jujitsu roots, but the techniques have been de-lethalized just enough that they can be done at full speed for practice. For a few minutes, I felt myself acutely alive. When I was slammed into the ground, I rolled out of the fall to attack again. When he attacked, I broke his balance, led him along, then slammed him into the ground. Everything curiously in focus. I can play the experience back in slow motion.

Over a decade of training. Freestyle practice brought into focus by the intensity of training with an unpredictable and skilled attacker. Aikido is many things. It is aerobic exercise. It is postural improvement. It is a bone-strengthener. It is good for metabolism. It is a way to meet people. But it is also the joy of finding a compatible partner and slamming each other into the ground until you each are panting and sweaty, and bow to each other saying “thank you for this experience.”

尊敬

昨日の合気道の稽古の後、後輩と一緒にかき氷を食べに行き、やっぱり甘いので、喉の渇きが治まらない。それで後輩が店主に水のかかったき氷をひと碗頼んで、それを分かち合った。

「先輩は飲みますか」と聞いた。

「はい、いただきます。」と一口飲んだら、お碗を返した。

後輩が碗を両手で取り、軽く会釈した。その時に、私がお碗をとったときに同じ動作をしたと初めて気が付いた。後輩がそれをまねしただけだ。こういうお碗での飲み物の取り方は一度モンゴルの草原でテントで泊まったときに夕方にウォッカの碗を回して泊めてくれた家族と分かち合ったことで学んだかもしれない。なんだか、されたらすごくうれしい。

 


自分が好きということは正当化する必要がないだろうな。

高校、親が外語の教科書をよく買ってくれたが、ある時に「積分学の成績がそんなに良くないので、あんなに漢字を勉強せず、数学を習ったほうがいいだろう。」といった。

俺が怒って「いや、そんなことないよ。」といった。

でも、一番の親孝行そして自己尊敬で大切なのは自分の幸せに自分で責任を取ること。平静で「これで私が幸せになるから。」といえること。

Aikido: “It’s like surfing.”

I took a co-worker to Aikido practice a few weeks back. He was a complete beginner, but was an accomplished surfer. His body was flexible, and he moved a lot. When I trained with him, it was a good workout.

After practice, he made comparisons with surfing – about how he was reminded of learning to maintain one’s balance, about sensing the momentum of a wave, and moving with it.

He asked me – “Today, everyone was very polite and accommodating to each other. Is Aikido ever nasty?” I told him yes, it is a martial art, and I have been guilty of throwing people hard when they resisted. But at the same time, I expect to be thrown very hard when I resist, and it is very fulfilling.

“People do Aikido for different reasons. We can help each other to become stronger. It can be like a dance. But it is a martial art. Ultimately we are studying how to fight. What about surfing?” I asked.

Well, the thing with surfing is that only one person can ride the wave. Everyone is watching for where the wave will come, and it’s a fight to get to the spot where you can ride it. If you are strong enough and can read the waves well enough, you can be the first one to the spot. When I was learning to surf, we would travel places, and sometimes the local people wouldn’t let us surf. My instructor would get really mad, and sometimes there would be fistfights on shore. But, in the water, there’s little you can do.

I used to do that, too. I was good enough that I could ride the wave whenever I wanted. But now, I don’t think that that is such a fair thing to do.

On Recreating Knowledge

@ Brian H: Yeah – the important thing is to approach with fresh eyes. The importance of questioning things is not to question them for questioning’s sake, but to try to figure things it for yourself. Like Richard Feynman would work on physics problems. He would try to work through a problem himself. If he go stuck, he would open the literature, peek a little ahead, then close the book and continue on his own. This meant he spent a lot of time recreating things that others had done, but allowed him to develop a keen intuition, and sometimes he would come up with a simpler or more intuitive solution.

He wasn’t really so iconoclastic as he was using existing solutions as reference. This is how we train martial arts – in the same way as how Nobel laureates understand their material.

The more we pay attention to norms and standards, the further we get from this sort of organic learning.

This sort of thing should be fun. Not a chore, but recreational.

The Link

I studied Aikido this afternoon with a friend. He is a new to it, and has lots of questions. As we train, I realize that I do not have explicit knowledge of the answers to the questions he is asking. I have been led to them by years of practice and experimentation. Movements in martial arts are those movements that were originally left behind by those that survived wars. They come to us from the deep past, and are largely passed down from person to person. They are not really mine – I only channel them.

I can hold these techniques and movements for awhile, but only while I am alive. They are mainly for me to pass on. I am a vessel for these thoughts. I am the river to gather streams of thoughts and channel them to the great sea of infinite time and space.

I am not the first to think these thoughts, nor shall I be the last.

It is the Lunar New Year, and the Taiwanese believe the ancestors are close. They burn offerings of ghost money to comfort them, they set firecrackers to scare away the restless souls that still wander the earth. I am not afraid of ghosts, in fact I think it would be nice for me to meet the ancestors, and learn how better to use what I have been given.

We are all given a finite time in this world, though we don’t know how long. Today we are just a little closer to the end.

The knowledge of the ancestors comes to me in sensations, some learned, like en-trained reflexes in martial arts. These originated in battle, and have been preserved, refined, and transmitted from person to person in an unbroken chain. Some ancestral knowledge is instinctual – I crave bananas when I am low on potassium, for instance. I know this because in between the time I took my last blood test and saw the results, I ate a lot of bananas. They looked good on the fruit stand, so I bought a lot. When the results came, they showed me that I had been low on potassium. This instinctual knowledge has been passed down to us from organism to organism in an unbroken chain, reaching back through deep time. We are just the latest link.

A prayer to the ancestors while they are close: show us the Way, protect us as you would protect your Legacy, let us channel you in work and in play, remind us that life has just one source, and that we are all children of the common beginning. May all restless souls find a listening ear, and be able to rest in peace.

伝承

火曜日の夜、大学の卒業生に招待されて体育館へ合気道の稽古をしに行った。その学生が先月卒業したばかりで、公務員試験を受け、結果を待っている。その結果で抽選の優先が決まり、台北に残れるかに繋がる。台北に残って、いろいろと武道を体験して稽古したいとのこと。その相手とも、この二年間で稽古をして、同じクラスに出るときにそっちから、「稽古をお願いします」と積極的にきて後稽古を積んできたので、自分の教え子とも思える。

夏は大学が休みに入り、学生クラブがこの間解散で、稽古不足の私。社会人のクラブに行ってもいいけど、良くあるのは話が多い相手と組んでしまい、運動量が足りない。一度、ある道場で「あなたはそうやった運動的な合気道が好きですね」と批判気味に言われた。そうだよ。

大学生だと体力がよくて、まじめで、いい稽古になるから、好き。

こうして、一ヶ月ほど稽古をしていなくて、体育館で生徒と久々にすることができて、嬉しかった。一時間ほどほとんど無言で動いていたら、残りの三十分で道場の端で座った中学生らしい男の子に「ほい、稽古しよう」と誘った。三人で掛かり稽古そして取り受けAB, BA, AC, CA, CB, BC と組んでやった。これも、ほとんど無言。話さないのは相手への敬意。相手を動かせて、自分で気づかせる為に。こうすると技は私から教えるものではなく、私が相手に技に気づかせる為の物となる。師弟関係を敢えて設けない。こうしてお互いの稽古のためになる。

それで稽古の中で印象に残ったのは、中学生に入身投げの後ろ受けのやり方を指導して、相手が少し上手くなって、動きを速くて大きくしたら、相手が受けて、立ち上がって笑った。それまでにはその中学生が皆に無視されて座ってみていた。増して先週にその学生もある先輩と組んで技のやり方はああでもないこうでもないとむやみに指摘された。やっぱり、流れる方が楽しいだろう。

既に仕事で頭と言葉で考える事が多い。合気道は体で考える。その技がでる瞬間で悉くそれまでに組んだ相手の動きが具現する。そして、その動きが相手に伝わり、その人の目録に入る。過去、現在、未来を結びつく瞬間。

その大学生が他所へ行っても、技を持って行く。その中学生が楽しさを覚えて稽古し続けるかも。こうして、少しけれども合気道が広がり、未来へ伝わっていく。