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Passion "Discover You. Find Your Passion, Life Purpose And Take Action" - unknown

What a great video. Everyone should find and follow their passions.  The martial arts is nothing but watching and copying someone else to improve one's life. Watch this video nothing more needs to be said.

Fighting one man is the same is fighting ten thousand - Miyamoto Musashi I recently saw this video made in Japan where three Olympic fencers took on 50 untrained or barely trained fencers on a Japanese variety show. The video was made for a TV so it wasn't that serious but I was amazed at how poorly the Olympic fencers performed.  Not only did they show a low level of skill, but they also showed that since it is a sport there was no group strategy.

At first as the 50 converged on them, the Olympians fled to the stairs.  I thought, "Ahh, this is correct."  Furuya Sensei taught us that to fight one person is the same as hundred and to strive for high ground (which I am sure was gleaned from Miyamoto Musashi's Book of Five Rings strategy).  Going to the stairs would have provided them a natural barrier for three of the four sides of attack and they would only have to face opponents from only one direction and, most crucially, only one at a time.  This strategy would have allowed them to use their skill to win the battle.

As you can see from the video they abandoned the strategy of working together and using the stairs.  Those three Olympic fencers would have been overwhelmed and killed in a matter of minutes if it were are real fight.  They would have been picked apart as the odds stacked up against them because each Olympian could be surrounded by as many as 16 people at any given time who would be attacking from all sides.  Also, did you see by how many times the untrained fighters just poked them in the arms and back as they ran by?  This method is called "Death by a thousand cuts" in knife fighting where small non-lethal wounds add up to a tremendous amount of blood loss and eventually take their toll on the fighter as the battle rages on.

It is interesting, as things become more "modern" or sporty they can sometimes lose their martial sense. As martial artists, we can look at this video and take heart to make sure that we practice our arts as martial arts and not just something we do for exercise.



Deepak Chopra once said, "Gratitude opens the door to the power, the wisdom and the creativity of the universe." It is said that a happy life is rooted in gratefulness.  Gratefulness is probably on par with forgiveness as the two hardest concepts to not only understand but to practice as well.  They are both something which cannot be taught but one still can learn.  Here is an excellent TED talk about gratefulness by Catholic Benedict monk David Steindl-Rast.  I hope that it helps you keep the Mondays at bay and that it helps inspire you to your greatest height.

Please enjoy!

Are you ready for the teacher to appear? There is a Buddhist proverb, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear."  I can't tell you how many times I have heard this quote and I also can't tell you how many times I have heard it explained (in my opinion) incorrectly.  The meaning behind this proverb is that when a student approaches their training with the proper attitude and perspective then everyone and everything can become their teacher and thus they can learn anything.

Learning something new is difficult, but certain programs have found a way to teach even the most difficult concepts.  One of those programs is Sesame Street.  Kids (and adults) have used Sesame Street to learn English, counting, the alphabet, and life lessons to name just a few.  But who knew that you could learn how to learn the martial arts from Sesame Street?

Some how the people at Sesame Street have found a way to boil down to exactly what a student would need to do to be a successful in the martial arts.

Learning Aikido is simple if you follow Mr. Mi-cookies teachings.

Please come to class and listen with your whole body - eyes watch, ears listen, voice quiet and body calm.

Are you ready for the teacher to appear?





These guys are working hard. Are you? There is an old saying, "People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."  Here is a great video of a bunch of people who are living their passions.

It is not really my cup of tea, but it was inspiring to see their dedication and determination.  Every person looked like they were having a good time.  Isn't that all that really matters?

No matter what we find ourselves doing, we should do it like these people.

Do you have fighting spirit? Do you have kioi ( 気負い) or fighting spirit?

A warrior has fighting spirit.  Fighting spirit is not something physical or external.  To have fighting spirit is to have a mindset where anything is achievable regardless of the odds or obstacles.

Check out Josh Womack's bat skills.  Anyone can do these insane tricks, but sadly most won't.  The average person looks at something seemingly insurmountable and silently says to themselves, "I can't do that."  They are partially correct.  They can't "do" that right now, but with time and effort they could.  I believe that everything in this world can be accomplished.  I am not naive, I am a martial artist.   I firmly believe that if it can be done by someone then I can do it too.   Most martial artists see the world the same way.  This is what it means to have fighting spirit.

As a warrior, we are never supposed to look at the obstacles and think, "I'm done" or "I'm gonna lose."  As a martial artist we are supposed to have konjo or the willpower to see things through to the end.  We are supposed to use our superior attitude and mindset and find way so that we can be successful.

Because of this "can do" mindset, the only thing holding us back then is our beliefs.  Can you or will you?  Can implies ability or skillfulness - so yes anyone can acquire a skill.  Will suggests attitude, drive or determination - so yes, but one has to have the right mindset.

I believe that with time, effort and hard work that everything and anything can be achieved.  I am not being braggadocious when I think this way - its just the way I think when it comes to achieving something.  It is something deep seated in me that makes me think that if I put in the time and set my mind to it that I will eventually be successful.  I'm not trying to be better than anyone else, I am just trying to be the best that I can be.

A true martial artists is someone who is imbued this indomitable spirit or fighting spirit where if they put their minds and efforts to something then it will become so.  Do you have fighting spirit?

What is Aikido? Do you want to understand Aikido?  Then watch this video, but please watch it until the end.  What researcher Brene Brown is speaking about in this TED talk is the underlying philosophy of Aikido.  It is difficult to explain what Aikido is.  Aikido, more than just being a martial art, is an understanding of not only the world but of humanity too.  What I can tell you about the philosophy of Aikido is this:

Every person is good and only doing the best that they can. Every person is suffering and going through their own battles. Every person is human and humans make mistakes. Every person is ignorant to the true cause of their actions and thus not entirely at fault.

Therefore, every person deserves kindness, compassion and forgiveness just like we do.

Aikido is built on this platform of love and compassion but that too is a bit abstract when laid over this martial art called Aikido.  It is hard to explain Aikido, but this video describes the whys or underlying motives and the hows or impetus for the structure of the Aikido techniques.  I hope you can understand.

"Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them." - Dalai Lama In the video Trail Angel, Pony-tail Paul demonstrates the entire philosophy of O Sensei's Aikido.

To do Aikido means to have regard for all living beings and nature as well.  The core philosophy of Aikido is this idea of "non-violence."  Simply put, "non-violence" means not to fight or to hurt others, but more deeply it is a philosophy of harmony.  The ai (合) in Aikido means for two things to join or come together.  Harmony can then be defined with this quote from the Dalai Lama, "Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can't help them, at least don't hurt them."

With that being said, Aikido then become this kind of dichotomy.  On one side we have the potentiality for death and destruction and on the other we have this idea of harmony, non-violence and compassion.  This same dichotomy exists within all human beings.

To reconcile this dichotomy takes training and discipline.  We need to learn that harming others only harms us and this is something that is usually only discovered through hours and hours of training.  We then need to develop the discipline and inner strength to manifest this "turn the other cheek" philosophy.

Training in Aikido is the physical manifestation of the balance of these contrasts.  When we are nage or throwing, we have the ability to do great harm, but because we are learned we realize the futility in harming others.  When we are taking ukemi or being thrown, we are sacrificing our bodies for our partners salvation or in a sense physically manifesting compassion.  The nage thinks of the uke and the uke thinks of the nage - both are in harmony.

When we throw someone it is our responsibility to ensure their well-being.  They give us their bodies and because of their sacrifice we must act responsibly.  By thinking of them and taking care of them, "We rise by lifting others."  As Pony-tail Paul said, "I am helping them, but they are helping me at the same time."

To understand their suffering is to understand our own.  Then, to help them is to help ourselves in the process.  From this, we can understand the Buddhist understanding of suffering and use it as a way to cultivate compassion.  The Dalai Lama said that we are all the "same" and from this same-ness we can find a common ground and thus find and give compassion.  They suffer just as we do.  Therefore, their destruction is our destruction.  From this place, the harmony within us is manifested and we come to realize this universal concept of oneness and that all things and people are sacred.

Look at the smiles from the people in this video.  Could you feel the kindness, generosity and compassion from not only Pony-tail Paul, but from the people he helped.  He doesn't have to, but does it anyways.  Of course, he helps them because it helps him but he does it because he understands and cares.   As learned people, Aikidoists understand that too that life is tenuous and that all life is precious.

rise A person of exceptional skill who takes their craft seriously is referred to as a Shokunin in Japan.  It is rare to see one of these master craftsman at work as they tend to be people who let their work speak for itself.  Here is a video of Master Soba noodle maker Tatsuru Rai at work.  Tatsuru Rai has been featured on TV many times and is supposed to have one of the best soba restaurants in Japan.

Regardless if we like soba or not, his attention to detail should be our attention to detail.  The way he approaches his craft should inspire us to give our art the same "mastery" that he does.  This is not his home kitchen, but notice how everything that he does is done meticulously with a sense of care and purpose.  He never bangs something down or moves hastily.  He kind of flows around as he makes the soba.  Also, pay attention to how much preparation goes into making the noodles.  He is meticulous about how he organizes his space and notice how much he cleans up as he goes.  I personally believe that the more pristine the environment, the more sophisticated the art.

It's rare to see a shokunin or master at work, but hopefully when we do we can use their master to gain a better perspective on ourselves and our art. It doesn't matter if one is a master or not.  We can still have a master's perspective and approach our art in the same way.

"The falling leaves doesn't hate the wind." - From Zatoichi, the blind samurai

Kintsugi-bowl-honurushi-number-32Life is a never ending cycle of falling down, healing and getting back up.  In Aikido we call that taking ukemi.  As these scrapes, bumps and bruises heal, we have the tendency to try and hide them as if this damage some how defines us in a negative way.  These battle scars do more than define who we are - they makes us into who we become.  If we try and hide them, then we tend to take that negative path in life.  If we display them for all too see then we can use them as fodder to make us stronger. It is natural, I suppose, to want to hide one's flaws and only project one's accolades or strengths.  In chado or Japanese tea ceremony it is the exact opposite.  One's flaws are seen as the things which makes us human and this can be clearly seen when a tea bowl is broken.  Rather than throw it away, it is sent out to be repaired.  The bowl is painstakingly put back together with a sort of gold glue called kintsugi (金継ぐ) or gold patch.  However, the bowl isn't repaired back to "new" where one wouldn't even be able to see where the original damage was, but in some sense made better by the repair.  This repair, therefore, enhances its beauty.

In Aikido, we fall down and we get back up - it is part of the training.  The trials and tribulations of life's journey do add up, but they make us who we are - the person we have become.  We can either get back up and use it to make us stronger or hide them and make ourselves weaker.  We are all infinitely stronger than we think.  How do I know that?  Well, you are still here, right?

Below is a nice video explaining kintsugi in further detail.



Listening = Learning

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we’re listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”- Karl A. Menninger

In the TED talk above, author Julian Treasure discusses the concept of listening.  He said, "every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully -- connected in space and in time to the physical world around us, connected in understanding to each other, not to mention spiritually connected, because every spiritual path I know of has listening and contemplation at its heart."  Doesn't that sound like the definition and philosophy of Aikido?

Conflict usually happens somewhere around the intersection of misunderstandings, hurt feelings and emotions.  Could listening be the antidote for conflict?  I don't know for sure but it sure sounds like it by the way Julian Treasure talks.

In Aikido, there is no fighting, struggle, collision or any other confrontation.  In order to truly do Aikido, one must embrace O Sensei's philosophy of non-violence at every level and that includes how we listen which is an extension of how we think and what we believe.

An interview with Tamura Shihan

A super interesting video interview with Tamura Shihan who was O Sensei's favorite sword ukes.  Tamura Sensei was a huge propagator of Aikido in Europe and especially France.  Perhaps O Sensei liked his sword ukemi because Tamura Shihan's father was a Kendo teacher.  Tamura Shihan passed away in 2010 at the age of 77.  I found this interview incredible enlightening.  Anyone interested in studying Aikido should watch this video, but it also might be incredibly helpful to students who already practice Aikido.  He succinctly sums up not only training but motivation as well.

Great video of O Sensei

Why do I do Aikido?  I am not really sure.  Aikido is something that intrigues me.  I teach a lot of classes and on a regular basis I see something new or different.  When this happens, it peaks my interest and pushes me to study more.  I don't know why or how I became interested in Aikido so I can't tell you if it was some sort of nature/nurture thing from my past.  I can tell you that Aikido has been something that was around me but unknown to me as a child.  Here are a few things that make me think, "Hmm" and that perhaps Aikido was something that I was always supposed to do.  When I was a small child my grandfather suggested my mom take my brother to Aikido lessons.  People in Furuya Sensei's family were close to people in my family, but we had never met.  Interestingly, when going through Sensei's stuff after he had died, I found a funeral program for my great grandmother's funeral. Are things pre-destined?  I am not sure, but the signs and synchronicities are all around us.

Here is a great video of O Sensei doing Aikido.  Look at how he uses the angles and how he is constantly moving.


Can someone become an expert in a year?

“It takes 1,000 days to forge the spirit and 10,000 days to polish it.” – Miyamoto Musashi

What do you want?  Who do you want to be?  What do you want to do?  What do you want to accomplish?  All these questions arise sometime in our lives and are sometimes difficult to answer.  When you find something you want to do, it is amazing but that leads to another set of questions.  Mainly, "How do I do it?"

Author Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers theorized that it takes roughly 10,000 hours for someone to master a skill.  I think this number is on the right track in that it takes 10,000 hours to gain competence and confidence which is the basis of "mastery."

How long does it take to truly master something?  The funny thing about the word "mastery" implies that there is a some destination that one arrives at, but true mastery exists in the pursuit and not in the destination.  Furuya Sensei used to talk about how, "If one could master Aikido then they could master anything," but this was not original in that Miyamoto Musashi also talked about in the Book of Five Rings.  What they were talking about is the process to master one thing is the same process to master another.

How does one then attain mastery?  Whatever we want to accomplish whether it be Aikido or cooking requires the 3 Ds: diligence, dedication and discipline.  One has to be diligent and put in the work, dedicate themselves to the pursuit and be disciplined enough to actually do the work.  Once one can be diligent, dedicated and disciplined all that requires then is time.  Put in the time to improve.  Sensei used to say, "Aikido is egalitarian - those that put in the work will get good.

When I was in college, all of my friends played billiards or pool.  Before this time, I had never played pool so I always lost.  Then one summer, my best friend Steve and I played for an hour everyday at a local pool hall.  In the beginning, I lost every game and it got to the point that even the waitresses and bouncers started to feel sorry for me.  As we left, they would ask, "Did you win one?"  To which I would answer, "no."  By the end of summer, I started to win a few games here and there and by the next summer when we came back to play, I started to win half the games.  It only took about a year and a half and then I started to play people in bars and at pool halls.  People even started asking me to be their doubles partner.

I found this video about a guy who played or practiced table tennis everyday for a year in the hopes of going from beginner to expert and breaking into the top 250 players in England.  It was quite an interesting story and similar to my pool story.  They even created a website dedicated to encouraging "you to start your own deliberate practice project and begin your quest to skill mastery."

Can one become an expert in a year?  Sure, but that requires that one actually puts in the work.


Martial arts IQ: Rare footage of Mochida Moriji Sensei

mochidaMochida Moriji is considered one of few great swordsman of the 20th century and was thus dubbed the "Master Swordsman of the Showa period" by many of his peers.  He was the last person to have ever been awarded the rank of 10th Dan.  Mochida Sensei was the Kendo teacher at the famed Noma Dojo that hosted so many famous martial artist over the years and even O Sensei demonstrated there. Mochida Sensei was well known for his kizeme which is one of the highest level techniques in martial arts where one uses ki to either lead or disrupt their opponents.

In the first video below you can see how strong Mochida Sensei is in Kendo.  In the second video you can see a little about Kendo and some quotes by him.


Mind your footwork

It is my opinion that if one wants to get good at Aikido, they must master the footwork.  Footwork in the Japanese martial arts is called ashi-sabaki (足捌き).  Some teacher focus more on tai-sabaki (体捌き) or whole body movement, but to me foundations begin from the ground up.  To me there are only five footwork movements in Aikido that consists of: forward and backward tsugi-ashi, forward and backward ayumi-ashi and tenkan or turning.   Some think that there is a sixth, but I don't personally count side stepping as a form of footwork since Aikidoist employ the hanmi stance. Rightfully, many don't focus on footwork because what is really happening is that the hips are moving in Aikido, but for me the hips are driven by the feet.  So I don't want to jump the gun and have students focus primarily on tai-sabaki because if their footwork is bad, their hips will be bad and thus the whole body movement will be out of sync.

If you don't think footwork is where it is at, here is a video of the great Ronaldinho and you can see how he destroys his opponents with his excellent footwork.


"You have the freedom to choose something different." - Pema Chondron

What is the philosophy of Aikido?   It is one of love, but that is something of a paradox especially in the martial arts where people only see violence.  This might be true from a beginner's standpoint because they cannot see or understand true Aikido.  The problem with this outlook is that violence only begets more violence which something called Looping where the circle of violence never ends. Aikido understands this tendency towards violence and confrontation and that is why the techniques are designed the way they are.  It is said that each technique has a secret teaching about life that can only be revealed by training.  To break the chain of violence, one needs to change their mind first and that begins with one's outlook on life.  Here is a video of a 109 year old Holocaust survivor who has an "Aikido-like" outlook on life.  Her name is Alice Herz-Sommer and her outlook on life encapsulates O Sensei's teachings.

Here is an interesting segment from the movie Budo: The Art of Killing.  I find it interesting because they show some good Judo techniques, but also a glimpse of what it was like to train in  Judo in the 1960s.


People often ask me what the difference is between training now and in the past.  It is hard to explain, the things that teachers complained about 50-100 years ago are the same things that they complain about today.  In the past, students seemed more focused, eager and dedicated, but that might just be sentimentality. Here is a video documentary of what it was like to train in Judo under the famous Judoka, Masahiko Kimura.  He trained eight hours a day even in retirement and into to his old age.  His osoto-gari (outside foot sweep) was said to be so powerful that it could give even high ranking black belts concussions and that he was even asked to not use it in training and was sometimes asked not to use it in matches.  There is a famous saying in Judo, "No one before Kimura, no one after."  He was one of the most prolific Judo players of our time.

Olympian Doug Rogers from Canada is the focus of this documentary about what it was like to train in Japan in the 1960s under Masahiko Kimura.

Osame Keiko: Last practice of the year 2015 is almost over and what a year it has been.  To some, it was good and yet to others it was not so good.  Regardless, it is over.  As Master Oogway from Kung Fu Panda said, "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift.  That it is why it is called the present."  So true indeed.

Tonight we will train one last day before 2016.  Lets end 2015 on a good note and sweat it out together for tomorrow may never come.