The Green Martial Art - Aikido

I was just in the bay area for the week. One of the places and friends I always thing about when I am down there is my Aikido dojo (Aikido of San Jose), my training friends, and teachers. After coming back I decided to try and look up a bunch of Aikido friends online.

I like Aikido because it taught me a lot of things that have made a lasting impression and made great friends who think the same way.

A surprise discovery is my sensei, Jack Wada has this post 3 days ago while I was in SJ on the green martial art.

The Green Martial Art

We are trying a new marketing approach, that of aikido as the Green Martial Art. You may have seen it on some of our new literature and our new posters. For me green means environmentally safe, connected to the earth, preserving our planet in going ahead with advances in technology. It has become quite a catch word recently.

In the above picture taking the fall for Jack is a good friend Harry Concepcion.  Harry was my partner for my black belt test, and one of the best training partners.  Here is a picture of Harry demonstrating his throwing technique in his 4th degree (yon-dan) black belt test.

Another great teacher with a practical and spiritual approach is Peter Ralls.

Peter Ralls Sensei
Peter Ralls Sensei
Rokudan (6th degree black belt)

Born in 1959, Ralls Sensei began Aikido in 1975 at the age of 15, with Frank Doran Sensei at Stanford Aikido club, in Palo Alto, California. After receiving his Shodan (first-degree black belt) just before his nineteenth birthday, he moved to Tokyo, Japan to study Aikido at the world headquarters in Shinjuku ward. Peter remained in Tokyo for a year, practicing Aikido daily.

An interesting story Peter tells that opens your eye to how things can work is from the day Peter went to Tokyo to the day he left he was in pain every day.  Why was he in pain? Because, he was the cocky tall white boy gaijin who thought he knew Aikido with his black belt, and every day there was at least one person who would teach Peter there were new levels of pain as he was slammed, thrown, twisted and blocked. The good thing is Peter was 19, and could recover physically, but when he came back to SJ, he quit Aikido because he was mad and frustrated with one year of being beat up by little Japanese men and women.  After a year, Peter started to train again, and he discovered that his Aikido skills were now much better than most people.  All those painful hours of ukemi taught him how to work with energy.  There are multiple lessons in this story.

Peter has a good perspective on Aikido he shares in this discussion forum where Peter responds to the question here.

I started aikido when I was a teenager also, but it was along time ago, when doing both traditional martials arts, and spiritual practises were "cool".

Unfortunately it seems like that is not the case now. These days when I talk to people who think poorly of aikido, which tends to be people doing certain more competitive martial arts, I don't try to convince them of aikido's effectiveness. One, because I have used aikido in self defense situations, and I know it can work. Two, because I really don't care what they think about aikido. And three, because I'm not going to change their minds anyway.

So when they diss aikido to me, I simply tell them that I enjoy doing it and I get a lot out of it, and don't get in any debate about it's effectiveness as a martial art. I think that the thing to remember is that you are doing it because YOU like it.

The other thing you can do if you feel like it is cross train in some other martial arts that would allow you to be more effective in a sparring type situation. Aikido isn't really very good for sparring, it isn't designed for it.

Peter’s comments fit well with Sensei Wada’s blog entry.

Way before it became important and even trendy, we were helping people to recycle their own energy. When we are in our shoulders, head spinning, caught in a fight/flight/freeze response we are taught to settle, ground, and allow the energy that is there to flow through us. Its major reason for being is to help us deal with whatever is in front of us. This can be an attack or a technique in class, or a situation outside. When caught in something like gridlock, you get the energy to deal with that. Relax and settle with it. It can then have a meditative quality.

I use my Aikido mentally every day, and it works well to have green data center discussions. Understanding the energy from people and where there are attacks and defensive moves in concepts and conversations.

Now, as much as I like Aikido don’t think all dojos have teachers like Jack, Peter, and Harry, but if you are in the Bay Area try to check out these to judge how other dojos compare.

If you think you know someone who has an interest in Aikido or a green martial art in the San Jose area, please forward on this post, as my old dojo is attempting to reach new members.

And you can help us by getting behind the concept. In the dojo we have new flyers and new schedules with the green concept. Feel free to take a poster to put up at a workplace, laundromat, bookstore, or coffee shop. There are posters on our display table as you enter the dojo.

For a video that gives you a movie version of Jack’s ideas see this one, his favorite comic book hero.