Monthly Archives: May 2015

Will robots be able to learn Aikido in the future?

b-pirate-6-4I recently read an interesting story about a robot that has been developed that can adapt to being injured.  It made me wonder if a robot could someday learn Aikido.

Here is an excerpt from that article on

A new study published today in Nature explains how robots can use a sort of “evolutionary algorithm” to learn new ways of operating after being injured, according to the MIT Technology Review. Take out one of its legs, and the robot uses rapid-fire calculations to figure out how to keep moving.

The MIT Technology Review lays it out in horrifying detail, reminiscent of a certain Toy Story character:

In a video accompanying the paper, researchers show a spider-like robot that suffers an injury to one of its six legs. The creature starts trying new ways of moving, and in about 40 seconds regains 96 percent of its speed, looking less like a broken toy and more like a wounded animal crawling away.

The amount of speed that the robot recovers is staggering and incomparable to humans who could never regain that much just after being injured.  The robot can do so because it does not feel pain.  Which brings me to the point as to why a robot like this cannot learn Aikido.  Don’t get me wrong a robot can learn Aikido or any martial art at a technical level where the moves are nothing more than perfunctory.  But, true Aikido requires one to have a kokoro or spirit (心)  and ki (氣).  These two elements make up this idea of “consciousness” in human beings.  Yoda in Star Wars deftly describes when he said, “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes. Even between the land and the ship.”  The force he is referring to is ki (氣) and the luminousness is spirit (心).  To be aware of oneself is not only how we are able to feel pain but also what makes us able to connect with other human beings.  A robot cannot make a true connection because it has not spirit or consciousness.  This connection is what makes Aikido “work.”  As Yoda would say, “It is not this crude matter” when referring to our bodies.  It is our minds or our consciousness that makes it work.  Therefore in a circuitous way – no robots cannot truly learn Aikido.

Read the full article here:


The Way is in training

hyakusen renma, veteran of many battles百戦錬磨
Hyakusen Renma
Literal translation: 100 battles gains improvement
Figurative meaning: To gain wisdom through experience

With this mindset in training is how one improves.  Aikido is an experiential martial art.  One needs to do it to improve upon it.  Sensei often alluded to  this when he said, “The Way is in training.”  If we don’t come to class, how do we expect to improve?

Don’t do anything

In Aikido, we don’t practice these techniques to be able to “do” things to other people.  What we are “doing” is effecting change in ourselves.  Shifting our perspective on what it means to study Aikido is one of the hardest things to do.  Don’t try and do things to others, just do them to yourself.

Aikido like all physical activity is good for you!

Aikido, like all forms of movement, is good for us.  Studies have shown that those who make physical activity part of their daily lives feel better physically, emotionally and mentally.  Sensei said, “One must make Aikido training part of their daily lives like brushing their teeth.”  So, if we are thinking, “Should I go to class today?”  The obvious answer is “Yes,” because it is good for us.



Old Kendo video from 1897

Here is an interesting video from 1897 that could be the first ever film of kendo.   It looks like a sort of controlled melee where different people are striking different opponents using long swords and short swords.  It even appears that one of the kendoist is using his sword in a European fencing manner.  I love the kid in the background beating the drum and the guy blowing the conch or is it a wine pouch?


The training makes us stronger

“What does not kill him, makes him stronger.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Training in the martial arts is supposed to be hard.  There are no easy roads to the top.  The experience is as only as difficult as one chooses to see it that way.  For the best result, choose to see it as something that will make you stronger.

I recently watched a video documentary about the famous judo shiai (tournament) between the legendary Yasuhiro Yamashita and Hitoshi Saito.  The tournament was Yamashita’s swan song and his last competitive bout.  Prior to this match, Saito had never won against Yamashita and so he knew that this was his last chance to beat him.  In the match there was a controversial decision that did not go Saito’s way and from that point Yamashita ground him down to take a yusei or judge’s decision victory.  It was a crushing blow to Saito and he himself said that it is something he thinks about every day.

Three years later, Saito found himself in a rather tough bout in the gold medal match at the Seoul Olympics where, coincidentally, Yamashita was a broadcaster and sitting in the press box.  There was 20 seconds left and the match was a draw and Saito looked up into the stands and made eye contact with Yamashita and both men gave each other a nod.  In that moment, Saito realized that Yamashita had given him the fighting spirit he needed with all those losses over the years.  Saito went on to get the judge’s decision and the gold medal.

There is a saying in Japanese, “An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught” which means that the environment is where our character is created.  So what Nietzsche says can be true, but we must first see it that way.  Generally this happens in hindsight, but our experience would be that much better if we could see it in the present moment.  After all, it is our choice.

Watch the whole video here:




The true battle is inside of you

519DdofjD5L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_“Fighting isn’t all there is to the Art of War. The men who think that way, and are satisfied to have food to eat and a place to sleep, are mere vagabonds. A serious student is much more concerned with training his mind and disciplining his spirit than with developing martial skills.”
– Miyamoto Musashi discussing the Way with his disciple Jotaro from the novel Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa

Although Eiji Yoshikawa’s book about Musashi is fictional, this quote is quite apropos.  It takes so long to get past the “fighting” to get to the real heart of the situation.  Inside of each of us is where the real battle takes place.  Any altercation before that is just a distraction.  Any fighting outside of that is just a waste of time.  Until we can realize that we are our enemy, the battle will never truly begin.


Today is a gift!

I came across this piece that newspaper columnist Erma Bombeck wrote in 1979.  As I read over the list I found myself nodding in agreement.  I hope you will too and join me as I try and learn from her “mistakes.”  What did Master Oogway say in Kung-Fu Panda?

“Yesterday is history,
tomorrow is a mystery,
and today is a gift…
that’s why they call it present”

This piece seems like something nice to read on a rainy day like today. Enjoy!

If I Had My Life to Live Over
By Erma Bombeck

Someone asked me the other day if I had my life to live over would I change anything.

My answer was no, but then I thought about it and changed my mind.

If I had my life to live over again I would have waxed less and listened more.

Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy and complaining about the shadow over my feet, I’d have cherished every minute of it and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was to be my only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.

I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten popcorn in the “good” living room and worried less about the dirt when you lit the fireplace.

I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.

I would have burnt the pink candle that was sculptured like a rose before it melted while being stored.

I would have sat cross-legged on the lawn with my children and never worried about grass stains.

I would have cried and laughed less while watching television … and more while watching real life.

I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband which I took for granted.

I would have eaten less cottage cheese and more ice cream.

I would have gone to bed when I was sick, instead of pretending the Earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren’t there for a day.

I would never have bought ANYTHING just because it was practical/wouldn’t show soil/ guaranteed to last a lifetime.

When my child kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, “Later. Now, go get washed up for dinner.”

There would have been more I love yous … more I’m sorrys … more I’m listenings … but mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute of it … look at it and really see it … try it on … live it … exhaust it … and never give that minute back until there was nothing left of it.


A beautiful view

The Solitary Cherry Tree

The Solitary Cherry Tree

The Solitary Cherry Tree is located at the base of Mt. Iwate at the Koiwai Farm in Shizukuishi in Japan.  The sakura or cherry blossom tree blooms against the backdrop of the snow covered Mt. Iwate.  This tree was planted over 100 years ago and gets 750,000 visitors every year during hanami or cherry blossom viewing season.