Your Training Partner is Not Your Pretend Enemy

Recently, Jeramy Hale Sensei was teaching at the dojo. He brought up a point which I thought was so important that I decided to make a video about it. Jeramy Sensei was making the point that your aikido training partner is not your pretend enemy.

Here’s the video. I hope you enjoy. I look forward to seeing your comments.

 

Here’s the transcript to the video:

Hi, everyone. My name is Frank Bloksberg. I am Chief Instructor of Aikido’Ka, an aikido dojo in Grass Valley, California. My good friend Jeramy Hale taught at the dojo on a recent Friday evening, and said something so important and profound that I feel compelled to discuss it with you. Jeramy was talking about the relationship between the people training. Jeramy explained that even though your partner is playing the role of an attacker, that person is not your pretend enemy. Let me say this again because it’s so incredibly important. Even though your training partner is playing the role of attacker, that person is not your pretend enemy. I’ll explain why Jeramy’s point is so important.

Here’s a quote from an article about the self-defense value of a particular form of karate. “When we train, we’re as serious as we would be during a life-and-death struggle. Our mindset throughout each session is that we’re really defending ourselves. We’re conditioning our minds to see our attackers and to fight them with every move we make.” In other words, see the people you’re training with as your enemy and treat them that way. After years of this type of practice, how do you think you’ll respond to any type of a threat, whether physical or emotional?

Well, here’s what the article says about that:

“When students practice, we try to develop reaction. Ideally, when you’re attacked, you’ll react automatically. The further you go in your training, the more your techniques will become reactions. They’ll become second nature to you.”

I agree that it’s absolutely true that training should create fast, precise movement. If you have to think about how to respond to a physical attack, then chances are your response will be too late. But if year after year you practice a violent response to attacks, then that’s how you’ll respond to any perceived attack – without any thought and lightning quick. Indeed, that’s the point.

The self-defense aspects of Aikido are about resolving disputes, even potentially violent disputes, with no one getting hurt. With Aikido, we look to blend with our attacker. We use evasive movements to unravel the attack and place the attacker in an untenable position. We practice these movements until we can precisely perform them without thought and lightning quick. So if you do perceive an attack, you will not automatically respond with violence. And that’s the point.

Here’s another important point:

Aikido, as with every other real, modern martial art is not a combat system. Aikido is primarily about self-improvement and relationship building. While Aikido practice can build incredibly effective self-defense skills, it’s primarily an art. Practicing Aikido can make you a much happier, healthier member of an incredibly fun community. Practicing a true combat system will make you a better fighter and get you beat up a lot, likely nothing more. You get to choose which one of these you want from your life. You know which one I choose.

Here’s how I describe the roles that attacker and defender have in Aikido practice:

You bring the attack in such a way so that your training partner can do his or her technique perfectly. Likewise, you perform your defensive techniques so that the attacker can receive the technique perfectly. We’re people, so we don’t do anything perfectly. Nonetheless, that’s the goal. We practice to support each other’s improvement. We’re not pretending to be enemies. We’re partners in our practice, and working together for mutual self-improvement and to learn whatever the thing is that we’re working on.

Whenever human beings understand something, we automatically believe it. You don’t have a choice. The belief happens automatically. Once you understand something, you may be able to override the belief. But many beliefs continue even after the belief has been thoroughly debunked. The scientific literature is filled with studies about this. If we pretend to be each other’s enemies, then we actually are enemies at least for some time. We then have to somehow override that belief.

Consider for a moment what pretending to be enemies can bring up in your mind. Bringing an attack as an enemy involves trying to hurt your enemy. It brings up the desire to defeat, even humiliate one’s enemy. We destroy trust and community by doing so. In no way is this appropriate for Aikido practice.

Aikido exists to improve our lives and our relationships. Not surprisingly then, creating enemies has absolutely no place in the dojo – not even pretending and not even for a short time.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. Aikido is martially effective. Depending on your practice, it can be extremely effective. You can train as vigorously and powerfully as you want. You will get there with respect and by building trust with your training partners.

The dojo is a safe place for everyone who trains here. If you and I are training together, you have to feel safe. If you don’t feel safe, then I have work to do to get you there, and being your enemy sure isn’t going to accomplish that.

So thank you, Jeramy. If Aikido training sounds good to you, then please check us out at JoinAikido.com, and thank you so very much for your time.


Start your 30 days free aikido training by filling out the form below. I look forward to training with you!


On Making Things Better

It’s hard to fathom how the country went so wrong with yesterday’s election. I can’t say that things won’t be as bad as we fear. I’m afraid that they’ll be worse. So many, many people are going to suffer badly.

Our task is to figure out how to thrive given the circumstances.

One of mNkosi Johnson Sayingy favorite sayings is . . . “The best revenge is living well.”

That’s what I think we should do. Let’s not pretend that something horrible hasn’t happened. It has. But we should enjoy ourselves and our loved ones. We should work to create a better, happier world. We should work to increase well-being. What other people do certainly affects us, but they’re going to do what they’re going to do. And we can live well.

Which brings me to how we can do this. And, for that, I turn to Nkosi Johnson:

“Do all you can, with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.”

That’s how we can make things better. Or, at least, that’s what I’m doing to increase well-being:

I’m going to do everything I can with what I have, in the time that I have, where I am.

Re-starting now.

Way more to come.

Light Tomorrow with Today

light-tomorrow-with-today

Light tomorrow with today. Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

In aikido terms, that’s “train everyday.”

Feeling Good About Martial Arts Training in Grass Valley

Maya-Angelou-make-you-feelMaya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This is an excellent description of how we approach our community at the dojo. We practice lots of martial techniques, but we only remember so much from each practice. We say a lot of things in our practice sessions, and our get-togethers at other times, but only so many of those words stick.

But here’s the thing I hear over and over from people who have visited Aikido’Ka: The dojo feels friendly, loving and kind. People who have never attended before feel welcome and safe. They have fun.

The way we train in aikido is as a real and effective martial way. I want my students to survive any serious attack. In fact, I consider that a sacred duty to instill those skills in them.

But the simple truth is, more than anything, I want you to feel that you can be yourself at the dojo. I want you to feel the dojo as a place of support for you, your family and our community.

That’s what the dojo’s about. That’s what we’re working on. If that feels good to you, then please stop by.

For Real Success, Embrace Your Failures

Failure is the key to success

Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.

O’Sensei Morihei Uehsiba, Founder of Aikido

When practicing aikido, or any other martial art, we often focus on over coming our attacker. We want to succeed at the technique we’re practicing. And we want to throw — with power! While this makes sense, in a lot of ways, it’s misguided.

Yes, we should practice our techniques carefully to improve our skills. Perfect practice makes perfect, after all. But our learning mostly doesn’t come from getting things right. Getting a technique or movement correct, doesn’t teach us how to improve ourselves. Getting the technique right simply confirms that we understand what’s going on to a certain extent. While that’s certainly valuable, it’s not learning something new.

We start learning new things when we fail. Making mistakes gives us the opportunity to change our behavior and adjust our understandings to more accurately conform to reality. We can then adjust our movements and techniques to refine them so that they work better.

Do your utmost best. Then embrace your failures. Doing so will speed up your learning and make every aspect of training more fun.

In this way, aikido practice is different than school. In school, you are supposed to get everything right. Your grades reflect how correct your answers have been in homework, tests and class participation. If you make a mistake in front of class, that’s an opportunity for humiliation. Mistakes are frowned upon. In school, failure is as bad as it gets.

At the dojo, we support and learn from each other. We all make mistakes regularly and help each other overcome those mistakes. We get in front of class and show how we’re having difficulties and we turn those failures into learning. We embrace our mistakes and use them for self-improvement. And fun.

Why Aikido’Ka Won’t Be at this Year’s Fair or Why Elephant Rides and Respect Don’t Mix

African elephant photo

Elephants are not carnival rides. Image from Wikipedia.

An Open Letter to the Community,

My name is Frank Bloksberg. I have lived in Nevada City for about 18 years. I am a lawyer and run a martial arts school, in Grass Valley, called Aikido’Ka. At Aikido’Ka, we train in aikido – known as the “Art of Peace.” Aikido’Ka is different than other martial arts schools, because we are dedicated to peacefully resolving disputes and performing community service. For instance, we have raised over $13,000 and 6,000 pounds of food for the Food Bank.

Aikido’Ka has been open for 6 years. We’ve had a booth at every County Fair since we’ve been open. The County Fair is a huge outreach opportunity for us. We meet a lot of our future students there. Deciding not having a booth is a really big deal for us.

Aikido is based upon respect – respect for our fellow students, teachers, our training space. The respect inherent in aikido is a deep, profound respect. Without the support, trust and willingness of our fellow practitioners, we cannot practice the art and improve ourselves in the ways that aikido provides.

By design, the respect that we learn spreads to the rest of our lives. And for that reason, I have to seriously consider the respect/ethical implications of supporting a Fair that offers elephant rides to entertain children.

Elephants are intelligent, wild and very dangerous animals. The only way to help ensure that they are reasonably safe in unpredictable public situations is to use training techniques that are extremely powerful. We know that the training techniques involve some pain and fear.

Whether the training techniques are brutal or abusive doesn’t matter. One may be able to argue in good faith that abusing a creature is ethical for an incredibly important purpose. Or one may be able to argue in good faith that causing pain and fear in a creature is ethical for a really good reason. I might disagree with these arguments, but one may be able to make the arguments in good faith.

In my personal view, the value of entertaining children with an elephant ride is trivial, at best. In other words, what a child receives from riding an elephant is not worth putting the elephant through anything at all. It certainly cannot justify taking elephant babies from their mothers or putting elephants in fear or pain. It certainly cannot justify the risks involved in moving elephants around the country and placing them in unpredictable public situations where they can hurt people.

To me, the only ways to conclude that elephant rides are appropriate is to consider the rides of far greater value than I do or to completely disregard the elephants’ interests. Please do not think that I am placing the elephants’ interests over human interests. I am saying that we must consider the elephants’ interests to ethically decide what to do. And, here, where the value received from elephant rides is so small in comparison to the harms inherent in offering elephant rides, I cannot ethically support the rides.

Now that I have concluded that offering elephant rides at the Fair is unethical, should Aikido’Ka have a booth or perform aikido demonstrations at the Fair? If respect means anything, acting respectfully must include acting ethically.

If Aikido’Ka supports the Fair by participating and paying our fees, then we directly and indirectly support the presence of the elephant rides. We would support the rides directly because HTWT will not be paying the Fair anything at all. So we would, in part, be paying for HTWT’s presence. We would support the rides indirectly by letting the Board know that we will support their decisions even if those decisions are unethical.

We could have a booth and place a banner saying that we don’t support the elephant rides. We cannot do that, because that seems hypocritical to me. We’d be supporting HTWT’s presence, while trying to convince everyone that we didn’t.

For these reasons, and others, we won’t have a booth at this year’s Fair.

Each year at the Fair, we offer a “Fair Special.” The Special is always really good. Since we won’t be at the Fair this year, we’ll be offering a really good “Un-Fair Special.” Please watch for it. We’ll announce it soon.

Anything Worth Doing is . . .

Anything worth doing is worth over-doing. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly. Why are these both true?

Love Mondays?

If you don’t love Mondays, then you’re doing it wrong!

Think about it. If you love what you do, then you’re going to be thrilled to get back to it. So if you’re not loving Mondays (or whatever day your workweek starts on), then you’re not doing what you love.

Stop doing that unloved stuff ASAP and start doing what you love.

But, you say that you don’t have a choice. You have to go to school because you’re a kid. Or you can’t get a job you like, so you have a job (or 2 or 3) that you hate. You have to make a living, after all.

True.

And so what?

You do have a choice.

If you’re a kid, you can embrace school and do your very best. Engage with those things that are difficult. Dig into those things which seem boring on the surface. School is your springboard to doing anything in life that you want. In other words, school teaches you where knowledge is and how to get knowledge.

Knowledge is power – the power to do whatever you want in life.

If you’re an adult working at a job you don’t like, consider what you actually want to do. Don’t be shy. Admit to yourself what you’d really like to spend your life doing. Now start working towards doing that thing. Before you know it, you’ll be doing that loved thing and having a great time.

I know this is simplistic. But some things aren’t complicated. This is one. Just do what you love.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a musician. So I practiced like crazy and became a professional trumpet player. As much as I loved it, I couldn’t make a decent living. So, I went on to another dream I’d always had. I’d always wanted to be a lawyer.

I went to law school and became a lawyer.

When I was a musician, I met a young woman and fell in love. I wanted to spend forever with her. Almost 29 years later, we’re still married.

I started aikido when I was around 17 years old and stopped training after a few years. I didn’t have time to train in the evening, because I was pursuing working as a musician. But I always wanted to go back and earn my black belt.

When my son, Alex, was young, he started training in aikido, and I went back to it. I earned that black belt I always wanted. I love aikido and wanted to spend more time training and being with aikidoists.

I opened my own dojo and get to spend time with wonderful people doing aikido.

I’ve been doing what I love for pretty much my entire adult life. It’s a really good way to live. I highly recommend it to you. Please start. Now.

We Can Drive Through for the Food Bank

We Can Drive Through 2012 for the Food Bank

Helping the Hungry on Saturday, October 20
11:00 am – 6:00 pm

Photo of Food Bank Truck for Aikido'Ka food drive

Collecting Food at We Can Drive Through by Aikido’Ka

On Saturday, October 20, from 11 am – 6 pm (rain or shine), Aikido’Ka members will be at the corner of Broad & Union Streets for We Can Drive Through 2012. This will be the 5th Annual Aikido’Ka food drive for the Food Bank of Nevada County.

Drive Through is an amazingly easy and effective way for you to support the Food Bank and our community. Clean out your pantry and drop off your extra non-perishable food items at the corner of Broad and Union Streets in Nevada City. Just pull in on either side of the street, drop off your cash and/or food donation and drive away. We will be there rain or shine. It’s that easy!

I spoke with folks at the Food Bank on October 11. They emphasized how important this food drive is to them. In essence, by this time of year, the Food Bank is broke. They need to begin purchasing food for the big holiday season, but they really don’t have any money. They also have practically no food. Drive Through is their first significant boost going into the season. They said that Drive Through is critical to their success.

In early October 2007, we learned that the Food Bank was experiencing a tremendous increase in demand and had been running out of food. In fact, the Food Bank inventory was down to one case of cans. When the Food Bank runs out of food, children go hungry.

In emergency response, Aikido’Ka held We Can Drive Through. On October 27, 2007, at the bottom of Broad Street in Nevada City the community raised approximately $2,500 in cash and over 1,600 pounds of non-perishable food.

With We Can Drive Through, Aikido’Ka has raised approximately $11,000 and 5,750 pounds of food for the Food Bank!

The Food Bank does necessary work in our community and needs our support. The Food Bank provides food to senior citizens, single parents, working poor, families and homeless in our county. They are serving more families than ever before, on a budget made up of 80% donations.

Here is a partial list of the food items that the Food Bank needs (of course, this is not a complete list):

100% Fruit Juice
Canned Fruit
Dried Beans (any type)
Canned Tomato Products
Enriched Rice
Powdered Milk
Canned Fish and Meat
Enriched Pasta
Peanut Butter (plastic containers only)

Additional Child-friendly items:

100% Fruit Rolls
Raisins
Graham Crackers
Unsweetened Applesauce
Cheese and Crackers
Fruit Cups
Raisins
Pretzels
Trail Mix, Granola, Nuts
String Cheese
Dried Fruit

Please help us make this the most successful We Can Drive Through that we’ve had!

For pictures from previous Aikido’Ka food drives, click on the link:

Aikido’Ka food drives for the Food Bank of Nevada County.

If you have any questions, want to make donations or would like to volunteer, please contact Frank Bloksberg at (530) 273-2727.

If you have any questions or comments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Frank Sensei

Functional Flexibility and the Splits

Tonight was our first regularly scheduled flexibility class and it was really great.

I mentioned to Eric that I’d like to get into the splits, which I’ve never done. I’ve actually never really tried, though when I do a splits-like stretch I do pretty well.

He told me what to do and I got really, really close. When I dropped into the “splits” position on the ground my stretch was darn-near 180 degrees. Amazing.

I’ll be doing the splits in no time. Oh, and I’ll be 57 in less than 2 weeks. Come to the class, you’ll be thrilled you did.