Showing posts from 2014

Simple Ideas, Challenging Practice

Recently after an aikido seminar, a bunch of us convened at a local restaurant with Sensei. As I was chatting with someone next to me I looked up, and Sensei met my eye across the table.

"Judy, what do you think of Sensei this time?"

 I laughed and said, "Sensei, you're even more amazing than before!" (First principle of ethical speech: Is it true? Yes. He was definitely more amazing.)

Somewhat tongue in cheek, since the answer is the point of all his teaching, I asked him, "Sensei, how do you do it?"

He pulled up his sleeve to show me (for probably the 100th time) the way he can keep his forearm and biceps totally slack and soft. And he said, (for probably the 1,000,000th time,) "Judy: the secret is, I never use muscle!"

A friend of mine once lamented, "Why is it you have to be in therapy for years before you hear the thing the therapist has been telling you ever since the first day?"

Looking back over my posts for the last year …

Admitting Mistakes Opens the Door to Change

At this time of year everyone's thinking about how to "be better" next year. Here's my thought:

So many of us want so badly to be better at something (musicians, aikidoka, life partners, parents...) but if we can't look at our mistakes straightforwardly, we can never identify the steps needed to change.

If we want to change, the most important step is to admit we made a mistake.

I think it's hard for us to admit mistakes because deep down most of us think we suck. If we admit to a mistake, it just proves the fact.

But this doesn't make sense, does it? If I think I'm bad, I should be happy to improve, right? For some reason, though, admitting a particular mistake is much more challenging than carrying the subconscious burden of "not measuring up."

It doesn't matter if it's realizing I'm having a hard time with a particular set of chord changes, or admitting that I actually do text while I drive and it's dangerous. Owning our f…

Five Tests for Ethical Speech

Some years ago I made a commitment to speak the truth, in other words, not to lie. Since then I have been working to refine my speech, so that, more than simply speaking truly, I speak in a way that is good for myself and others, i.e. ethically.

I came across these five tests for ethical speech in a talk by the Buddhist scholar and teacher, Gil Fronsdal.

They're posted above my desk. I try (!) not to open my mouth unless my speech meets all five tests. I'm afraid most of the time I end up administering the test after the fact...

Five Tests for Ethical Speech
Is it True?
Is it Kind?
Is it Useful?
Is it Timely?
Does it Create Concord?

For me, the last test is the toughest.

Creating More With Less

I recently attended a violin workshop with the renowned Irish fiddler, Kevin Burke (who's actually English and lives in Oregon). He was talking about adding rhythm to the music with certain notes that are repeated on the beat. Below is a snippet from Walsh's Hornpipe. Even if you don't read music, you can see that the same note is repeated rhythmically. (I made those notes red.) When you listen Kevin play it, (it's very the first tune on this video,) those notes really stand out.
How to Make More with Less
Kevin said that to give this tune more rhythm, you have to play these repeated notes more lightly. He said that most people make the mistake of playing them heavily, and then they sense the tune doesn't have enough of a rhythmic feel, so they play them even more heavily, and so on and so on.
Man, does that sound like aikido.

My Sneaky Scheme

Have you ever had this happen? You try to persuade someone of something, and they just won't listen. but three days later they read it in the news and it's as if they came up with the idea themselves - they tell you about their great idea. It's frustrating! But it's understandable. Sometimes we have a hard time grasping a new idea when it's presented "straight on." It's like it has to come at us from a different angle, and then we have to absorb it as our own.

I think it's like that with my practice. I have to absorb new ideas, think about them, and make them my own.

Sometimes I write about aikido and sometimes I write about music. Most of the time I think the concepts I write about relate to both, (though I don't always mention it). You may wonder, "What audience is she writing for, that practices aikido and music? That can't be more than 100 people on the planet!"

Here's my sneaky scheme: Both music and aikido are are disc…

Why I Don't Sexualize Interactions on the Mat: A Personal Account

Long before I was an aikido teacher, I made a decision to remove sexuality from my interactions on the mat.

It happened because I found myself inappropriately attracted to another student, and the way I acted as a result bothered me. I'm not sure that the change was obvious to anyone but myself, but for me the benefits were immediate and far-reaching.
I stopped unconsciously judging other students by whether they were attractive. I could more clearly see all their human qualities, including their aikido ability. I'm embarrassed to admit that until then, I gravitated toward people who were attractive or attracted to me. Now I have a much wider range of potential friendships and interactions.When I stopped flirting - either overtly or subtly, I stopped being concerned whether what I was doing looked good or was impressive. I started paying more attention to others:  what they needed, what they heard, what they did.I started to develop much more close friendships with women.  I&#…

Is it OK to Sleep with your Students?

What's the Attraction?

When I first started aikido we used to go out after class and stay out pretty late. A client, hearing about this, said, "Oh, aikido? You have to watch out for those aikido people..." He said where he was from (San Francisco), aikido instructors were notorious for having affairs with their students. I started wondering: why would aikido teachers have this special reputation?

Any teacher is in danger of "falling into" sexual relationships with students of the opposite sex*: students look up to teachers, teachers enjoy the adulation, and so it goes. But I think there's a reason why aikido has a "reputation."

First: aikido isso cool! When you're start taking aikido you realize you're developing a kind of power you never imagined. It's awe-inspiring. And there's your teacher, who has that power. It's really easy to confuse that great feeling with a sexual attraction.

Second: most of the teachers are men, and s…

The Four Minute Mile - Shattering Psychological Barriers

In 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than four minutes. It was hailed as an "epic human achievement." The world record of 4:01.4 seconds had held for over 10 years, and some wondered if it was humanly possible to break that 4-minute barrier. Yet six weeks later Bannister's record was broken by John Landy. Today, running a mile in four minutes is considered the standard for all male professional middle distance runners.

Whether we realize it or not, we all struggle with barriers in our practice. To what extent are these barriers purely psychological?

Shuji Maruyama Sensei, is a role model for me in this way. In his lifelong practice of aikido, he has not been constrained by concepts of what "should" be possible. He does things that shouldn't be possible, and makes them look so easy that it takes an effort to recognize how remarkable they are. Sensei is slight in stature, and yet he throws big, strong martial artists - people he has trained to resist h…

What's Next?

One of my biggest challenges in playing piano is remembering to think ahead. When I don't, it usually ends badly. I have a habit of going on autopilot. I'll be playing everything smoothly, my left hand is right on with the rhythm, my fingers are moving by themselves, and my mind drifts. Then here comes that unusual chord and...Crash! Or, I'm improvising and I'm in the groove, and I start listening and drifting, til I realize I'm repeating my ideas. I think, "OK, what now? "Crash!

I have put a post-it on my music stand. It says, "Think Ahead."

We all go on autopilot when we get comfortable at something. It's a natural that when we become competent at something we stop devoting so much attention to it. But in order to be creative, I need some things to be on autopilot and yet at the same time I need to be consciously aware and ready for what's next.

I wondered how to practice this.

I know I need to practice it a lot. My aikido sensei ofte…

Excuse Me, But You're Doing It Wrong....7 (no- 9!) Reasons NOT To Correct Your Partner in Aikido

In Aikido practice, I often see a less experienced student "correct" an experienced student. I'm sure these people genuinely feel they're offering something of value. But it's inappropriate, incorrect and detrimental to your own progress to correct people who've been practicing longer than you.

A while ago someone asked Cecelia Ricciotti (7th dan), "What do I do if I'm working with someone who has more experience, and they just plain out-and-out are doing it wrong?" "Well," she said, "You have to make a decision: Do you want to take on the role of teacher? Or do you want to continue to be a student?"

7 Reasons Not To Correct Your (More Experienced) Partner In Aikido
Respecting each other is one of the most important parts of our practice. You demonstrate respect for someone who has more training than you by listening to what they have to teach you. Especially if you disagree with them, it's a great opportunity to practice f…

Clearing the Path of Resistance

Weirdly, sometimes when you stop fighting back, It's easier to get what you want

In Kokikai Aikido we often say that when practicing, the more you encounter resistance, the more you have to relax. When an attacker feels you resisting, they fight you even harder, hold you even tighter. 

Your own resistance acts like brambles clogging a path. They cling and slow you down. To get where you want to go, you have to clear them away. 

It takes a big leap of faith to believe that we can really defeat an attacker by using less muscle. We say we believe it, but when the time comes to do it, our brains just seem wired to the idea that tensing our muscles will work.

An aikido technique comes to mind. Called ryote tori kokyunage saio undo, it starts with the attacker grabbing one arm with both hands. As you can imagine, it's very hard to move your arm when someone is grabbing it with two hands. I'm not tall or particularly athletic. In addition to being female and over 50, I weigh about 12…

Getting Off the "OK Plateau" - Breaking Through Walls in Your Practice

Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking with Einstein, gave a talk on 99u about the techniques that experts use to become great at what they do. As a martial artist and musician, I'm always looking for ways to improve and to practice more efficiently.

The OK Plateau
In 1967 a much-cited textbook was written about how people acquire skills. The authors said that we go through three phases. Think of the way we learn to ride a bicycle, learn to type, or drive:

Cognitive Phase - We devote a lot of mental energy to the skill, thinking about the tasks, discovering new ways to do betterAssociative Phase - We start to feel that we're improving, we make fewer errorsAutonomous Phase - This is when we decide we're competent. We "turn on autopilot," doing a lot of the tasks without a lot of cognitive thought. 
Foer calls the third phase "The OK Plateau." It's fine to reach a plateau when I'm OK at typing or driving, but not when I'm practicing something I want…

7 Ways for Musicians to Stay Positive about Your Progress

As we achieve a certain level of accomplishment, the details that we focus on in practice become more and more subtle. It can be hard to stay motivated to practice, because it's harder and harder to see results.

When I was a kid my piano teacher put gold stars on my music in every lesson. Where are my gold stars now???

I asked my piano teacher, Dave Leonhardt, about this. Here's a list of his ideas and mine.
Keep a note pad, and write down something you did well. Record/videotape yourself. Study your recording. After I get over the initial "cringe factor," recordings are some of my most valuable tools. And if you keep them organized, you can compare old and new, to get perfect snapshot of your progress.At the beginning of your practice session, make a point of noticing how you are playing something you set out to practice. Then notice how you do it at the end. Take notes of what you're working on every week. If you feel you're not making progress, going back …

How to Slow Down Your Practice For Big Improvements

I know that when I'm practicing and making mistakes I need to slow down. This is true for music, and it's true for aikido, so for how many other things must it also be true!

But we all know it's not that easy. How much should we slow down? How long should we slow down? When we speed up again, how fast should we go?

Here's a really helpful breakdown related to practicing piano, adapted from instructions from my teacher, the awesomely talented David Leonhardt. I apply the same general principles to my aikido practice.

When you detect a mistake you want to fix, get out your metronome. (You're using it already? Great!)Break down the problem section into small pieces - a couple of bars, a series of 3-4 chord changes.Set the metronome at a speed that you think you can play the section comfortably. Comfortably means not frantic, able to think ahead, with good posture and hand position.If you're still having trouble, you can either slow it down some more, or break it do…

Strength of the In-Breath

"Which is stronger: breathing in or breathing out?"

Most of us don't think much about our breathing, but if you do, you may realize that most of us naturally exhale (breathe out) when we do something requiring physical effort. Just try lifting one end of a heavy couch: we naturally breathe out as we lift. And try again while you're breathing in: not so easy!
So, it's not surprising that in fitness training, in yoga, in martial arts, the emphasis is usually on the exhalation for any movement that requires physical effort. As for the inhalation: in most martial arts, the opponent's inhalation is considered to be a weak point - something you can seek out and exploit.

In the practice of Kokikai Aikido, too, I've always thought of the in-breath as a weak point. Sensei has said that we shouldn't make our breathing obvious, lest our opponents use it against us.

The Strength of the In-Breath

But inhalation can be strong as well. Consider the idea of yin and ya…

Strength Training for Kokikai Aikido

After taking her first classes with Rutgers Kokikai Aikido Club, a student asked, "Do you do conditioning exercises, like pushups, leg lifts or squats?" She seemed surprised when I said, "No," since strength and aerobic conditioning exercises are part of the warmup drills for most martial arts.

Here's why we don't spend time on "conditioning" and "muscle building" exercises in Kokikai Aikido classes:

Kokikai Aikido training is highly-specialized. Black belt instructors have typically trained for a minimum of seven years to gain the level of experience needed to teach. If they have advanced black belt degrees (which many do), they may have been training for 10, 15, even 35 years! (In contrast, you can get a certificate as a fitness trainer in a few days or weeks.) We try to make best use the limited time in class, teaching things that require this expertise. The "strength" that we develop from practicing Kokikai Aikido is not ba…

Top Practicing Techniques of Great Musicians (and Great Martial Artists)

I dislike the concept of listiclesas readers may know, but I ran across a nice blog post called 8 Things Top Practicers Do Differently. It's a brief summary of some research done in 2009. The principles translate (as they so often do) to martial arts practice as well.
You can read the post, ("No! I'm too busy! Just tell me what it says!"), but here's my takeaway ("Thanks!").
A group of piano students were set a brief excerpt of music, given the same amount of time to practice it and had to come back the next day to play it. Their performances were evaluated for correctness (right notes, right rhythm) and quality (tone, character, expressiveness).
Practice Strategies of the Winners Since most people can only remember three things, here is a distillation of a distillation of the winning strategies: Whenever you practice, practice with focus and attentiveness. As we say in Kokikai Aikido, with "mind and body coordinated." If you are not focused…

Having to Practice vs. Wanting to Practice

Practice, almost by definition, is something that you have to do regularly.

Most of my music teachers (ALL of my music teachers) have told me I need to practice regularly, usually way more than I do. Or they have told me that "professional musicians" practice X hours a day, with the implication that if I ever want to be as good as I aspire to be...well.

Thats why I was surprised to hear Frankie Gavin, legendary fiddler and founding member of the group De Danann, saying this in a master class:
"Practice for as long as you feel like practicing. If you're really enjoying yourself, time will fly...Practice when you want to. If you feel like you have to practice, it's an awkward one... Decide to practice, yourself...You have to think, 'I know what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna take out the fiddle and play a tune!'"   I like that thought!

Yeah, But

As an aikido teacher, there's nothing worse than hearing a student say, "Yeah, but..." or obviously dismiss the idea I'm trying to convey.  Sometimes they say something, sometime they just look at me funny. When they do say something, it's usually something like this:

I don't really think that will work. I've done it differently with another instructor. I'm not able to do that. I already know that. Now, it makes sense that the best way to learn new things is to be open to new ideas. So why are we often so resistant when someone makes the effort to help us? It's especially illogical when we actually came to a class to be taught, to then resist the teaching! 
I am not immune to this reaction, myself. Both in piano lessons and in aikido seminars I often catch myself on the point of saying (or thinking), "Yeah, but..." Where does it come from? Do I need the teacher to acknowledge that I "know something"? Is it hard to accept critic…

Don't Strive to Be the Best

Everyone wants to feel like they are truly unique, different, better, the best, even though, statistically, with more than 314 million people in the U.S. and 7 billion in the world, well, there's just no way.*

In my case, I want to be the best musician, the best at aikido, the best mom, the best driver, the best at everything. Maybe not literally, but somehow deep down I am always comparing. If someone else is better, at some level that means I'm just not good enough. And out of 314 million people, there's always someone who's better. Sometimes this means I'm never satisfied and always pushing to be better. Other times it's depressing and makes me want to give up. And from what I've seen, I have a lot of company in looking at things this way.

It doesn't help that there's a strong message in our culture that competition is good. Competition supposedly drives us to work harder, be more productive, invent more and accomplish more.

But on some level th…

Making Time for Play

I have to work hard to carve out time for practicing, and sometimes I lose track of the fact that I play music because I love playing. I don't know how it is for other people, but, especially when I'm playing alone at home, I have to remind myself sometimes to just play. Play for fun. Play for playing's sake. Sit on the front porch with my instrument and mess around.

It makes me feel guilty to have free time and not use it to practice. So I tell myself that, yes, it's fun, but it will also help me improve. That makes it OK.

Maybe I should just pay more attention to my cat...

And Now, for Something Completely Different!

Seeking a Curriculum  I've been struggling for several weeks with a new approach to playing piano jazz tunes. It involves taking an approach I was comfortable with and extending it: more notes in the left hand, adding more color tones, bringing out the bass lines, etc., etc. My brain was exploding. That's when my teacher said, "OK, let's work on something completely different." One of the things I like about my current teacher is that he follows a curriculum — it's one that's tailored to me, but still, there's a plan. But sometimes, I guess, completely changing gears is part of the curriculum.
When I started practicing Kokikai Aikido, I wasn't paying much attention to whether or not there was a "curriculum." Lost in a beginners' fog, I never expected to feel accomplished at any single technique, since we seemed to practice new techniques in every class. Like most Kokikai practice groups, the class had everything from first-nighters…

Making Mistakes - with One Point

I roomed with a fellow accordionist at a recent music camp, and she asked me about my favorite subject: Kokikai Aikido and how it helps me in playing music. I think I said something like this:

We sometimes practice a partners exercise or drill in aikido, using wooden practice swords (bokken). The concept is somewhat like the tai chi practice of pushing hands. I've described it before, but here it is again:

Two people face each other holding crossed bokken in a guard position. Each person applies some pressure. Theoretically, they are at a standstill: If one tries to thrust, the diagonal positioning of the other's sword will foil the strike. If he takes the pressure off his opponent's sword (for example, to go around the guard), the opponent can thrust. The only way out of the impasse is to quickly slap his opponent's sword aside, and thrust before she can recover.

But, with correct technique, his opponent can defend against this attack. The key is to retain a relaxed,…


Recently I took a few violin classes with Patrick Ourceau. Most of our time was spent learning bowing.

When I first took up the violin I soon learned that the way you use the bow is the way you bring out the soul of the instrument, and bowing techniques are very distinct in different styles of music. Good bowing requires a really delicate touch, and a lot of practice. Actually I think if I had known how daunting the bowing aspect would be, I might have been frightened off.

Patrick talked about bowing and musical phrasing in relation to breathing: up-bowing is like breathing in, and down-bowing is like breathing out, a release. He talked about the down-bow being extremely relaxed, letting gravity draw the arm and the bow downward. Making your bow strokes with minimum effort brings out the best sound, and allows you to play in a more relaxed way, so you can play for hours without getting tired.

In a recent aikido seminar with Shuji Maruyama Sensei we practiced a sword exercise from the…

Correct Posture (In Everything)

In Kokikai Aikido we use four basic principles as a way to express the core ideas of our practice, in a way that's easy to remember. One of these is:

Correct Posture (in everything)
Good posture makes everything easier. In class we usually teach correct posture while standing or sitting. But the wording of the principle is Correct Posture (in everything). How many of us forget to have good posture as soon as the instructor stops talking about it? I think the part in parentheses is the most important part! 
Sensei often says, "Habit is second nature." We want to make good posture a habit, so that it becomes second nature. For me, it took many years of practice to unlearn my habit of poor posture. 
Making good posture a habit meant thinking about posture on the mat and off:  while walking, sitting, talking, playing music and working. I make use of any trick that may help me be mindful of my posture. An experienced aikidoka friend used to unobtrusively reach over, as I watc…

Beware of the Dark Side

Traveling in Montreal, my husband and I ate at a noodle shop called Saka Ba! We sat next to the window facing the kitchen (our favorite seats when eating in a ramen shop) and there was this little Jedi warrior. I got back to my room and started looking up Yoda quotes.

"Yes, a Jedi's strength flows from the force, but beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression: the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark side, forever it will dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan's apprentice."

It's so easy to agree with this, and to claim that this is how we practice. Yet, when we find something that really makes us angry, how difficult it is to let go of that anger. As Yoda says, "Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight." How easy it is to believe that our anger is fueling a righteous motivation to act and that without it, we would not rise up to do good in th…

Learning Violin-Playing Posture in Kokikai Aikido

I'm at Kokikai Aikido Summer Camp this weekend. I'm very happy to see people I've known for many years and to work with instructors, including Maruyama Sensei, who are able to give me advice that really applies to my body and my practice. One great nugget of teaching came early in the weekend, when Veronica Burrows Sensei, (my teacher's teacher) talked about a way of moving my arms that makes throws both softer and more powerful.

It's a bit hard to explain "on paper," but I'll try. I learned in yoga that if you hold your arms over your head with your thumbs pointing towards the back of your body, and then rotate your arms so that the elbows come toward each other, you are externally rotating the shoulders. When you do this you can feel that your shoulder blades settle over your back. Most of us sit, stand and walk with our shoulders hunched i.e. internally rotated.

So, as you stand normally, if you lift your arm with your shoulders externally rotated…

How Aikido Helps Me Practice...The Piano

A lot of people ask me what aikido has to do with music and here's the essential reason:

Musicians, understandably, spend a lot of time thinking about music - learning tunes, listening to their tone, practicing technique. But in aikido I learned that there is a hugely important element to practicing and playing, which is to practice mind-body coordination. This is nothing esoteric. It has to do with paying attention to your body in a specific way while you are playing.

Go to the gym any day and you'll see rows of people on the treadmill, elliptical and stair machines, doing exactly the opposite. Many of us who are trying to learn a physical skill, whether it's a musical chord progression, throwing a perfect curve ball, or a tango "ocho," assume that doing the drills/exercises is primarily a physical activity. In practicing aikido I learned how to coordinate my mind and my body. And I learned why it leads to much better results.

To improve mind-body coordination …

Do You Measure Up?

One of my musician friends is always making sarcastic comments about her own playing:
"Of course, when I play with you guys, I can never keep up," or
"My embrasure is so terrible, I just don't practice enough," or
"That would have been great solo if I had played it in he right key," or
"I'll just play quietly sitting next to you, so you won't hear my wrong notes." She constantly compares herself to others and finds herself wanting. The thing is, she's a really good musician!

I used to pride myself on my witty sarcasm. I knew that sarcasm can be hurtful, but I thought it was ok as long as I aimed it at myself. I thought it made me seem clever, discerning and appropriately humble to put myself down.


My negativity restricted my ability to play well, not to mention my joy in playing. As adult musicians we're all doing this because we love it. Maybe we're getting paid, maybe not, but were definitely not in competition wit…

The Price of Taking Sides

The Increase in Divisive Communication Recently a friend shared a post on Facebook - one of those posts that “proves” that one (usually political or religious) viewpoint is right and the other is wrong.

“This makes my blood boil!” she wrote.

In 35 years as an adult, I have seen a trend toward more and more communication that is divisive in nature: More taking sides, more demeaning language, and less and less tolerance of different viewpoints.

I connect the trend with the advent of 24-hour news, masses of TV channels, Facebook and social media sharing. It could be my bias as a television and advertising professional, but it's also something I know a lot about. Strong emotions like anger have a kind of addictive appeal. That appeal is not unknown to Internet and TV media. Getting people excited, angry and upset is good for advertisers, television programmers and social media companies: more viewers=more ad dollars, more Internet “eyeballs” and more shares=more ad dollars. We know h…

Ki Development Exercises - Part III - Finding a Focus in the 4 Basic Principles

My instructor, Dan McDougall, often suggests that beginning students try picking one of the Four Basic Principles to focus on during ki development exercises. Here are a few specific ideas that may help during ki development exercises:

Keep One Point:  Find your one point.Try imagining that this point is very heavy and is grounding you, making you balanced and strong.As more movement is introduced into the ki exercises, see if you can keep your sense of one point just as strong. Unlike gravity, one point is an idea, and maintaining it is totally under your control, so if you want to feel heavy, you can, but you can also feel light if you choose. You may want to try imagining your one point to be very small, or imagine it to be infinitely large. Or you may feel its enough to simply feel it is there. Entire treatises have been written on one point. It's best not to get too carried away, just keep it simple.Find Correct Posture: Are your feet under your shoulders? Are you leaning forwa…

Ki Development Exercises in Kokikai Aikido Part II - What is Ki?

In a previous post I wrote about why, and how, we practice ki development exercises in Kokikai Aikido.

What is Ki, Anyway??? So, we're supposed to be developing our "ki" during "ki development exercises," but what is ki?

Ki is an concept that is shared among many Asian traditions. While Google translates it unhelpfully as "ki", the word is used in many ways in Japanese to signify everything from spirit or life energy to air and atmosphere. There are many common Japanese expressions that use ki such as "O-genki desu ka?" ("How are you/Are you well?")

"Ki" is part of the word "Aikido" and "Kokikai" as well as some other health-related practices you may have heard of such as "Reiki." In Chinese it's "qi" (pronounced "chi") and is part of Qi-Gong and Tai Chi Chuan. In Sanskrit the word prana means much the same.

One of my favorite descriptions of ki was in our old testing …

Ki Development Exercises in Kokikai Aikido - Part I

At the beginning of every Kokikai Aikido class we practice ki development exercises. Beginning students often wonder about the purpose of these movements. I sometimes sense students are waiting to get the ki exercises over with so we can get to the fun part of class. Don't make this mistake! Ki development exercises are really important!

I was lucky to have an instructor who devoted a lot of attention to ki exercises, and I learned to give as much attention to them as to all the other aspects of my practice.

Ki Development Exercises: PurposeSensei often compares ki exercises to strength training exercises for athletes. Quite simply: they help make us stronger. No one claims they're a substitute for technique when it's time to defend yourself. A boxer may do push-ups to become strong, but in the ring nobody's going to be doing push-ups!

Mindful practice of ki development exercises helps us form good habits of mind/body coordination. One of the first things we learn in …