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Showing posts from September, 2016

Listening

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When I meditate, it's pretty hard to keep from getting lost in my thoughts. One thing that helps a lot is to try very hard to just listen.

I imagine that there's some very subtle sound I'm trying to hear, just barely at the limit of my ability to hear it. Sometimes I can become very aware and attentive.

It struck me that this is a great thing to practice in general. So often, when playing music with others, or by myself, I'm generating thoughts, judgments, desires, remembering what just happened. It would be so much better if I could just listen.

In my conversations with others, I've found I do the same thing: I start to generate a reply, or a judgment, or a reference, and suddenly I'm not listening anymore.  I think the analogy extends easily to the martial arts, but in a more metaphoric way, in that I can learn to be more attentive to what is happening with the other person, instead of myself.

It's not easy, but maybe with practice, I'll get better..…

Comparing Kokikai Aikido to Other Martial Arts - A Survey

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I've practiced the same martial art, Kokikai Aikido, for over 22 years. Even though I've written elsewhere about how to choose the best martial art, I've never tried another aikido style, or even another martial art. I lucked out and landed in a practice that's perfect for me, with a highly effective curriculum, a world-class founder, amazing senior instructors, and I never saw the need to look elsewhere.
Even so, it's always bothered me that a lot of other martial artists consider aikido to be a "joke." I can't speak for other styles, but there's no question in my mind that Kokikai Aikido is effective. Our founder, Shuji Maruyama Sensei, personifies everything that aikido ever claimed to do or be: small of stature, powerful, effective, without harm to opponent. But he's always been reticent about blowing his own horn or putting video of himself on YouTube, so I can see why most people don't know much about him or his style. So, I asked s…

What's the Best Martial Art?

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Which Is Better? Beginners in the martial arts are always asking, questions like: "Can MMA beat aikido?" "Can judo beat capoiera?" I've practiced Kokikai Aikidofor 22 years. Our founder, Shuji Maruyama Sensei, always tells us seek proof: Try things one way, then try them another, and find out for yourself which is better. Of course you can't try every martial art, and you certainly can't try them all for long enough to get really expert, not in this lifetime, anyway. So I thought I'd take a little survey...
But First: Are You Asking the Right Question?After we have some martial arts experience, most of us realize that asking, "Which is the most effective martial art?" is a little meaningless. All have strengths and weaknesses, depending on what you're trying to achieve, and also on your body type, personality, level of dedication, etc.

Think about why you want to practice a martial art in the first place.  If your goal is to kill someon…

Why Meditate?

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Recently somebody asked me why I practice mindfulness meditation, and particularly what it has to do with playing music and or martial arts.

When I meditate, I practice being attentive. Or you might say "metacognating": thinking about thinking. When I'm in the habit of noticing my thoughts, my time spent practicing is much more effective. For example:

+   I'm able to better notice when my posture is wrong
+   I can notice my thoughts - more like an observer - and therefore consider whether they might be side tracking or undermining me
+   I can be aware of whether the reason I'm not getting something is because I don't see it, or because I don't hear it, or because I'm playing it too fast, or because I don't really know how it feels in my body to play those notes, or I don't really know the changes or the harmony
For most of us, the myriad thoughts that pass through our minds while we're practicing usually happen way too fast for us to catch…

External Rotation of the Shoulders - It Helps Everything!

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In yoga, I learned to externally rotate my shoulders. It has a bunch of benefits for yoga practice, including:
giving you more mobility in the shouldershelping open up tight shoulders opening up the chest for more relaxed breathingtransferring weight bearing from shoulder girdle (lots of small, overstressed muscles) to the lats (big, giant muscles spread over the back)  I got into the habit of thinking about this in yoga, and that got me to thinking about it during my music practice and my aikido practice as well. I can feel the change right away and it's a good one:
When I externally rotate my shoulders, it settles the shoulder blades down over my back, and right away my arms do less work, and all my movement comes from the center of the body. I sit up taller and breathe better.

How to Externally Rotate Your Shoulders
If you learn what this action feels like from a couple of positions, you'll be able to get the right feeling when you're holding or sitting at your instrumen…

Take the Meditation Challenge!

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A Challenge and an Experiment
My friend and I are about 10 days into a meditation challenge. We're both meditating every day for 40 days, to see what changes it brings in our lives. It's really great to have a partner, even though he's in another state. It helps me stay on track, probably (sadly) because of my competitive nature. I really don't want to be the one to admit, "Well, no, actually, I didn't meditate today." :-D

My friend is taking an awesome 40-day Mindfulness Daily audio course created by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield. I'm doing 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation and 10 minutes of aikido breathing.

Getting Scientific: Endpoints and Benchmarking
We're actually not being very scientific at all. But we do have some general "endpoints" we're looking to "measure."
Do we have improvement in mood?Are we more effective in daily life?Are we better musicians/martial artists? Is our practice more effective?
Some reputable