Showing posts from February, 2014

That Little Voice That Says You Suck!

The other day my piano teacher said that he sometimes practices the piano using an intention or mantra, the way people may do at the beginning of a yoga or meditation practice. I thought he meant a mantra, like: "I will practice relaxing my hands," or "I will focus on what scale I'm using to improvise." But it turned out he meant something like, "I will sound good and people will like the music." What? This is someone who has been a professional musician for over 35 years and has played with many of the greatest musicians in jazz. That's his mantra?

My piano teacher is a smart guy. He knows that all the technique in the world is useless when faced with a lack of confidence. And I think there is a little voice inside all of us that can respond to stress with some variation of, "I suck! I suck!"  Sometimes I swing between "I'm so fantastic!" and, "I suck, I suck, I suck!" Some people tell me that they don't exp…

Mukudoku: No Reward Whatsoever

An aikido student who also practices the "way of tea" told me this story about Mukudoku 無功徳 :
"I had my weekly tea ceremony class yesterday, and, as usual, there was a scroll hanging from the wall of the alcove. Generally, these are chosen for the occasion, though sometimes they are more general, but in the spirit of the way of tea.
"This one said 'Mukudoku.' 
"My teacher tried to explain what it means, but it's one of those difficult Eastern concepts that's hard to express in English, especially if your English isn't fluent. Later, she emailed us with a fuller explanation: "There is a famous dialog between Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of the Zen school of Buddhism, and Emperor Wu. The Emperor Wu said to Bodhidharma, “I am a faithful Buddhist, I built many temples and made various offerings to monks. What kind of reward can I expect?” To this, Bodhidharma answered, 'Mukudoku - no reward whatsoever.' "In our daily life we …

Kokikai Aikido Winter Camp - Which Classes to Attend?

Kokikai Aikido Winter Camp is approaching once again. This year (as always) many students will be attending camp for the first time. Many wonder, "Should I attend all of camp? If not, which classes will be the best to attend?" Often they hear that some of the classes are "mostly testing" and since those will be the "boring" ones, they choose others.

This is a beginner's mistake! Of course, the opportunity to practice under Sensei's teaching, with people we may not usually practice with, is certainly one of the joys of camp. But do not underestimate the value of watching testing! Here's why:

1. Watching testing trains your eye. Sensei says it is very important to "develop your eye," - to learn to distinguish what is real from what is fake, what is relaxed from what is stiff or tense.  You will learn to look for small details such as how nage's posture looks at the end of the throw,  or look for relaxed hands and face -  and then y…