Over 40’s, weight training for Aikido.

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At first glance, the idea of weight training and Aikido could appear to be much like water and oil that simply do not mix. Aikido  has techniques that ideally utilise your opponents strength against them and Aikido Dojo’s are quick to correctly point out that Aikido is a martial art that any one of any physical ability or fitness level can practice. Training with weights conversely is a sport that has a specific focus on muscle building and rewards people with strong stature and physical strength based on the amount of relative effort one is prepared to put into training and diet.

Yet I would like to put it to you that there are several good reasons to train with weights at the gym to become better in your ability to practice Aikido if you are approaching or are over 40 years of age.

A point that I would like to focus on is that if we look historically at the students that trained under O’Sensei, there are several differences between modern Aikido training and the Aikido of his era. No one could simply turn up to an Aikido dojo and expect to be accepted as a student. Acceptance was never automatic to anyone except for those people the Sensei wished to be their students. In all the Aikido footage that I have seen from that time, We see people training that are clearly in good physical condition. These are people that train full time on bamboo mats break falling at speed and force into the bamboo mats. No hight density foam mats here! The reason is that your commitment as a student to your Sensei included your commitment to presenting yourself and maintaining an appropriate physical condition for the required training.

Another difference is that when O’Sensei led his students the prevalence of sugar and high fructose corn syrup and other things that feed into the health problems of the western world was very low. Its a sad day when you cannot find bread in your local supermarket that is sugar free, yet that is largely where we find ourselves today, with high calorie consumption considered normal. At the same time our lifestyle has become relatively sedentary which also leads to health problems for many people. As a result its common to see people following dieting plans and holding gym memberships working to correct some of these health issues. Sometimes more is needed than simply the cardio fitness you get at your Aikido training night each week to reverse this process and get you into shape.

Physical training for body building was the basis of the original Olympics and it is suggested that it was revived by Eugen Sandow (1867-1925). In our modern times it was made popular by the likes of Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Over the years a number of medical and scientific studies have been carried out on body building with some interesting results. What we know is that for people in general, muscle mass begins to naturally decline around the age of 40 years with a small percentage of loss occurring each year. Yet for those who train with even moderate weights, this process is reversed. It is quite possibly to reverse this loss of muscle and be in your 70’s with the same or better muscle mass than you had in your 30’s. While the jury is still out on why, evidence is beginning to show that for some people, Parkinson’s disease and other age related diseases, symptoms can show signs of improvement with weight training.

If you are over 40 and training in Aikido, it is a good thing to take onboard the attitude that you want to present yourself for training in your best physical condition. Because of the nature of what we do, falls, sprains and tendon strains are often experienced.  Recovery from an injury can remove you from training for several months at a time. Presenting yourself to training in a good state of physical fitness and physical capability lessens your chance of injury and can shorten your recovery time in the event of an injury. Physical training will also capably prepare you for the cardio component of Aikido training if you wish to take your training to that level. If your form of Aikido takes techniques from the Yoshinkan school of Aikido, Then its expected that you will have the capacity to perform these techniques in the hard Yoshinkan style which is aided greatly by physical training.

If you would like to take this further I can suggest two books that may be of some help to you. The first is “Sweet Poison” why sugar makes us fat by David Gillespie – http://www.penguin.com.au/products/9780670072477/sweet-poison-why-sugar-makes-us-fat The second is “Natural Bodybuilding” by John Hansen which is a great book for beginners to look into and get started into natural body building. – http://www.amazon.com/Natural-Bodybuilding-John-Hansen/dp/0736053468

Cheers,

Ben

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Training Aikido at a McDojo.

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Is your Aikido Dojo is a McDojo? If that were the case, how would you really know? – Check on our list and find out!

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1, The Dojo prints advertising material that says “Black Belt Guaranteed”.

2, The Sensei cannot explain the meaning of any Aikido Technique.

3, Black Belts train in Taekwondo uniforms.

4, Students are routinely charged $29.95 for DVD’s of the clubs techniques.

5, Visting another Dojo or attending a seminar at another Dojo is strictly forbidden.

6, Your Sensei is an 11th dan and is 30 years old..

7, Between gradings there are special coloured stripes for only a small fee, to earn and to add to your coloured belt.

8, Sensei trains in a camouflage hakama.

9, Gradings are available by internet mail order.

10, Your Sensei routinely talks down other Aikido Dojos and Aikido Organisations.

11, Gradings are a significant expense.

12, Your Aikido style was created by your Sensei and its advertised as traditional and is superior to other styles of Aikido. It also contains deadly techniques that your Sensei can not show you as yet.

13, No one ever fails a grading.

14, Your Sensei loves nothing better than to lecture students about “the street” and which AIkido techniques work and don’t work there.

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I hope you enjoyed and found some humour in this list! it is an adaption of “93 signs your Dojo is a McDojo” by “KaratebyJessie” – http://www.karatebyjesse.com/93-signs-of-a-mcdojo/ A great site for all things Martial Arts and well worth a look!

Making good decisions out of poor decisions

decision-makingAs I reflect on my life I look back sometimes and reflect that a number of my decisions were the wrong decision. It seems that young people are required to make some of the hardest decisions at a very early age when perhaps they do not have the experience of life to guide them in their decision making processes.

I am fortunate though in that in amongst the bad decisions that I made were some good decisions also. I married the right person, and found a career that was the right one. I became a born again Christian and I began to make decisions based on what I felt Christ was calling me to do rather than what simply seemed to be the best option at the time.

What I would like to say to people is that poor decisions do not have to become your life story. We all make mistakes, in some cases very big ones, yet there is no life that God cannot take hold of and make new, no matter what you have done. Don’t live your life continuing to make poor decisions one after another because you think that is the kind of person you are. – It’s okay to embrace change and to find a new way to live your life.

Aikido and Imi Litchtenfeld.

539791_411631802262706_1663380700_n If you are connected with the martial arts community, the name Imi Litchtenfeld may be familiar to you. May 26th was his birthday, (1910-1998). Imi Litchtenfeld was the founder of the israeli Krav Maga combat system.

Imi Litchtenfeld grew up in the 1930’s and was faced with growing Anti Semitism because of his Judaism. He was both an accomplished Boxer and Wrestler. As WW2 loomed, Imi helped organise Jewish people to defend themselves against the mobs that attacked Jewish people for no other reason than they were Jewish. During WW2 Imi served with some of his fellow countrymen under the British forces in Africa.  Post WW2 he settled in Israel and became the chief instructor of physical fitness and Krav Maga in the IDF (Israeli Defence Force).

There is a wide amount of discussion and conjecture about how Krav Maga developed, yet its generally accepted that its based on content from Wrestling, Western Boxing, Judo, Aikido and the Philippine Martial arts of Kali / Escrima.

Aikido played a role in the development of Krav Maga and several Aikido techniques are used in Krav Maga.  Iriminagae is  a popular technique and Sankyo and Kotegaeshi are also utilised. Often Aikido techniques are taught via the Krav police holds syllabus. What many people are not aware of is that the first two people to be awarded black belts in Krav Maga were Aikidoka. Eli Avikza was the first person to be granted Black Belt in Krav Maga and the second black belt in Krav was awarded to another Aikidoka, Raphy Elrissy. Eli Avikza was promoted with Imi’s blessing to Imi Litchtenfelds position of chief Krav Maga instructor when Imi retired.

What I find interesting to ponder upon is why Imi Litchtenfeld chose to use Aikido techniques in Krav Maga, when at first glance the two systems appear to be like water and oil? Krav Maga is hard and vicious and relies on combat trained physical strength to complete the techniques, Atemi punching to the weakest points of the body and groin strikes flow fast and furiously. Aikido on the other hand is a flowing martial art that blends with, and utilises the force of the attacker to overcome the attacker and has at its loftiest goal a desire to overcome your attacker without causing physical harm to them.

My theory on the reason that Imi Litchtenfeld included and allowed Aikido techniques to be included into Krav Maga, was because of the way the Jewish religion views killing. Judaism has a strong focus on personal holiness and integrity. The act of attacking another person or killing is eschewed by Rabbi’s and Scholars alike. Doing such is the polar opposite of holiness. Still when Imi formed Krav Maga, he was left with no choice, he developed his techniques for self defence and taught them to others for the same reason. Those techniques have been built onto and saved many many lives since. Yet at the same time we see Aikido techniques in the background of Krav Maga, techniques that can immobilise yet are not for killing or for injuring people if it can be avoided. It is my view that perhaps Imi hoped for a time when violence would cease and Jewish people would not have continue to have to defend themselves against the onslaught of Anti Semitism and hate speech as is still so prevalent today. A time when Aikido techniques as envisioned by the founder of Aikido Morihei Ueshiba could be used to work towards peace for all people in our modern world.

Imi Litchtenfeld was promoted to glory in 1998 having served his people and nation with true distinction. One can only marvel at what he saw in his lifetime and his courage to respond in the way that he did and the way he became a leader of others who chose and choose today to take up the same pathway. Yet the quote that he left his Krav Maga students with is this, – Krav Maga “So that one may walk in peace”.

Cheers,

Ben

 

Aikido and Christianity?

jesus-healed-malchus-earRecently I was asked how I reconciled training in Aikido with being a Christian? – It has been my experience over the years that with most martial arts, people can have a mistaken belief that there are some type of hidden spiritual teachings that in some way could replace the students own religious beliefs. In the case of Aikido, nothing could be further from the truth.

O’Sensei taught a great deal of philosophy to his students and records of his teachings have been preserved for us in modern times. My observation is that in many cases O’Sensei often simply echos the teachings of Jesus Christ. He never seeks to usurp anyone nor any religious theology.

Yet the point that I would like to focus on is the fact that O’Sensei was by his own choice and teaching a Pacifist and I would like to make the observation that more often than not, people that wear the label Evangelical Christian are often keen to call for war and killing when Jesus Christ clearly had very different views. Pacifism used to be a fundamental teaching of many church denominations and still is when you look at the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist, Salvation Army, Brethren and other similar groups. Yet it seems that in the main, the teachings of Jesus Christ in this area have been largely forgotten and it has taken someone like O’Sensei to remind people of what they have lost.

if you go to the record of the betrayal of Jesus in Luke 22:50-51 we read “and one of them (Peter) struck the servant of the high priest with his sword cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered “no more of this” and reached forward and healed him”. Like O’Sensei would go on to teach, Jesus was well aware of the futility of attempting to kill and maim people with the sword and chose to give up his own life than to kill people, and that included calling down angels to kill people Mt 26:53.

Sadly people are stuck in the religious traditions that they have created as opposed to following the actual teachings of Jesus Christ and often it is these created traditions that are used to judge and condemn other people. Aikido is the art of peace, yet if people wish to believe that it must be in some way religious to talk about peace and harmony then there is little that can be done to convince such people otherwise. My personal testimony is that I am a born again Christian and I enjoy being a part of the Seventh-day Adventist church. If I felt that my Christianity, was in some way compromised by my Aikido training I would leave immediantly. Yet my observation is that training in Aikido has openly helped me to be a better Christian through bringing me back to the teachings of Jesus Christ via the encouragement of O’Sensei. If you are open minded enough, I hope you too also come to the same realisations and conclusions that I have, If you are a Christian, be encouraged to look into Aikido, you will enjoy what you find there!

Aikido, – Medicine for a sick world in 2015.

TXAF_0712_SSPIBOR_07_PM_0Do you watch the nightly news broadcast in your home? – I no longer bother, largely because its not anything like G rated and I don’t want to expose small children to the type of content that we receive each night at 6pm. Gone are the days of good news stories and in its place appears to be a constant stream of information about cruelty, hatred and violence.

It is interesting to ponder the fact that O’Sensei wrote a great deal about turning away from violence and into a life based around peace and love for people and creation. He went as far as to call Aikido “The Art of Peace”. O’Sensei knew a lot about the reality of violence. As a young adult he became skilled in different schools of Jujitsu and then became a champion of Japan in Daito Ryu Jujitsu. Daito Ryu at that time was not simply a martial art performed on a mat for two hours each week, it was a full time commitment and it was and is a killing system.

O’Sensei also saw the most grim realities of war. He served as an infantryman in the Russo-Japanese war and he saw first hand his own countries leadership rise up in a militaristic fashion for expansion into China and the Pacific war. Yet then O’Sensei did something interesting. He was asked to train people in Aikido for the war (WW2). O’Sensei refused, shut down his dojo and relocated to a rural area and went back to farming. One can only guess at how this was taken by his contemporaries and how it was received by the local political leadership at the time.

As the war came to a close and it became apparent that Japan would lose the war and be occupied by the west O’Sensei was reported to have said that this was necessary for the Art of Peace to grow and bring forth fruit. He had no fear of occupation and used the opportunity to spread his Aikido teachings into the western world.

Sometimes I have pondered what O’Sensei might say when exposed to the media in our current world and the current focus on terrorism. Yet I also concede that what is happening today would be likely no different in his eyes than the same violence and hatred that he saw during his own lifespan. O’Sensei spent a great deal of time attempting to speak to Aikido students about his philosophies about world peace, and the encouraging news is that many of his works of philosophy were recorded and left for Aikidoka and others today, to study and to ponder upon. It is my view that within those writings are in fact answers to many of the questions we face today relating to terrorism, hatred and violence.

It is my view that the study of Aikido is much more than just presenting yourself at training each week and participating in the practice of the various forms and techniques. I would like to put it to you that the philosophy of O’Sensei offers you a window into another way to live your life, if you are willing to really accept what he has to say.

My advice to you is to seek out his various works of philosophy, to study them and apply that study on the mat as well as off the mat in your daily life. Allow O’Sensei’s words to challenge you and to take you to a deeper place where the problems of this world fall away and your life becomes an open page with a new story being written each day.

I would like to leave you with this thought from O’Sensei himself on the matter,

“The Art of Peace is medicine for a sick world, we want to cure the world of the sickness of violence, malcontent and discord – this is the Way of Harmony. There is evil and disorder in this world because people have forgotten that all things emanate from one source. Return to that source and leave behind all self centred thoughts, petty desires and anger. Those who are possessed by nothing possess everything”.

Cheers,

Ben

Aikido for Over 40’s.

unnamed Turning 40 was an interesting time in my life, as it came nearer I tried not to really think about it and I really did not celebrate the occasion when it came around. Reflecting on it now, I don’t know what it was that I really expected to happen. What I know is that I soon discovered that I felt no different in any way at all. Still, it was in my late 30’s that I first made my decision to begin training in martial arts. I did not know a great deal about the differences between them, but knew that I wanted to learn self defence training. I tried Hapkido / Taekwondo first, then on to Krav Maga and then Aikido where I am today. I loved Hapkido but Taekwondo came with it, I struggled with kicking above waist height and found the Patterns or Kata incredibly confusing, It was and is a great martial art system, but it was the beginning of the realisation in me that different martial arts suit different people and it is a good thing to try several styles before you find the one that is meant for you. In my case this would turn out to be Aikido.

Taking Aikido as a new student and at over the age of 40 is an interesting experience. The observation that I have made is that the biggest fear that people seem to have is that of learning to break fall. I suspect this is because many people walk into an Aikido dojo and see experienced Aikidoka break falling from waist height and at furious speeds and feel that ‘there is no way that I can ever do that like they do’. Yet as I have seen, regardless of your age or physical ability you discover one day that after practicing under the watchful eye of your Sensei that you can in fact break fall just as well as anyone else and its a great feeling that brings you a great deal of satisfaction and confidence when all that you have been taught suddenly clicks together. Another observation on break falling is the health benefits that come with it, like weight lifting, break falling strengthens your body. Not unlike Yoga or Pilates it causes your body to develop into stretching positions and flexibility that have an end result of bringing healing to a aching and tired body and again to any one and at any age of your lifespan.

Bruce Lee once famously said that he did not fear the person that knew a thousand techniques, but he feared the person that had practiced a technique a thousand times. Aikido takes you through a series of forms and there are several techniques for each form these beginning with ‘first form Ikkyo’, then on to Nikkyo, Sankyo and others. What I found is that whilst these seem confusing, the point comes where you take one of them and make it your own having practiced it a number of times and you realise that at least for this one technique that you can perform it as requested and you then build other techniques in the same form and other forms onto it and your confidence blooms and continues to grow in your Aikido journey.

It is a sad thing that people place age discrimination upon themselves and hold themselves out of trying new things because they have this view that things are past them and they they are too old to try a new physical activity. For me, stepping out and trying Aikido was one of the best decisions I have made in my life, the benefits of Aikido training are endless. If you would like to try Aikido, take the first step onto the mat in a local dojo, start slowly and have the same experience that I have. Your only regret will be that you did not pluck up the courage to have a go earlier in your life!

Cheers, Ben.