Monthly Archives: November 2015

“If you miss a week, the teacher notices.  If you miss a month, the other students notice.  If you miss several months, you’ll eventually notice, and by then you’ve lost a lot.” – Mark Ehrlich

Gosh, this really is the truth.  Training is something that we sometimes think is a singular pursuit.  Whether we show up or don’t is completely our business and we think nobody notices.  In a dojo as small as ours it is hard not to notice when someone hasn’t been around for a while or if their level drops.

The aphorism, “You don’t really know what you have until it is gone” is so true.  Students sometimes think that their level of accomplishment in Aikido is tangible and will never deteriorate.  The truth is that what one gains through training is primarily ephemeral in that when we stop training our bodies begin to forget.   We don’t lose it totally, but we do lose a step or two or sometimes even more.

Furuya Sensei used to say, “We should pick up our swords everyday so that our bodies remember.”  This is so true.  If we don’t use it, we lose it.

Training is a habit like brushing one’s teeth.  Nobody, except maybe your spouse, will notice until that one fateful day when you go to the dentist and she tells you how many cavities you have.  Please make your training regular.

Happy Black Friday
















How will you spend Black Friday?  Hopefully, conducting yourself with etiquette and decorum.

When we start to take ownership of our lives, we see what Eleanor Roosevelt was saying when she said, “Life is what you make it”  Our lives unfold due to our actions, our efforts and, most importantly, our choices.  After a certain age we are the architects of our own destiny – nobody else is responsible for us. 

Thus, in Aikido training we are learning “how” to do Aikido not only physically, but mentally and emotionally regardless of the type of confrontation.  This training begins with taking ownership of one’s actions.  Training gives us options and having options allows us to choose “how” we deal with confrontation.  The path of Aikido dictates that we use our intellect and choose compassion and harmony over aggression and brutality regardless of the situation.  Our belief is that harmony and compassion are the antidotes to the aggression and hostility that seems to plague man today.  We understand that the person attacking us is really attacking themselves and is thus unaware of themselves and because of that we choose not to destroy them.  They are in need of kindness, compassion and forgiveness just as we are when we get worked up and end up making a mistake.  Sometimes we need a gentle reminder to stay the course or as Furuya Sensei used to say, “Always act as if your teacher is watching.”  This aphorism is the platform that reminds us to look deeper into the situation and act accordingly.

Our lives are made up of the decisions that we make.  We chose the path of Aikido and so we must act like Aikidoist and this includes when we think nobody is watching.  Sartre’s quip that, “Man is nothing else but that which he makes of himself” can be thought of as the mantra of Aikido training.  It is our choice to choose to be better and thus our lives are nothing more than what we make it.

Happy Thanksgiving

“The true path of the martial arts is that of great love that protects and nurtures all growth and development. Were the path of Aikido anything less than that, it would not be a true martial art. Aikido is not for the purpose of creating winners and losers.

The human body and the universe are one in the same; the universe is the body we inhabit. Aiki can only be understood as the expression of universal movement.  Until you realize this, you will not understand Aikido.”

– Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido. From Mitsugi Saotome’s book A Light on Transmission. 

Being able to give thanks is the first step of compassion. Thank you for all you do or have done for me. I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

What do you say?

I recently read an interesting article that people who talk to themselves as a means to remember can be considered geniuses.  Here is an excerpt from that article:

Psychologist-researcher Gary Lupyan conducted an experiment where 20 volunteers were shown objects, in a supermarket, and were asked to remember them. Half of them were told to repeat the objects, for example, banana, and the other half remained silent. In the end, the result shown that self-directed speech aided people to find the objects faster, by 50 to 100 milliseconds, compared to the silent ones.

“I’ll often mutter to myself when searching for something in the refrigerator or the supermarket shelves,” said Gary Lupyan. This personal experience actually made him conduct this experiment. Lupyan, together with another psychologist, Daniel Swigley, came up with the outcomes that those to talk to oneself are geniuses.

I guess from this assertion, people who study the martial arts are geniuses.  A good teacher does their best to not overwhelm the student with a lot of talking.  They demonstrate the technique and give easy one to two word teaching cues for each step of the technique.  Easy one or two word cues enable the student to follow the steps along in their heads while they say the steps silently to themselves.  This is the way I teach and is the same way my teacher taught.

An easy way to be successful is for the student to follow the steps the way the teacher lays them out.  The first step is follow their cuing by saying them in your head.  The second is to do them but this may take some time.  There is a saying, “Each movement begins with a thought.”  One might not be able to do the movement right away, but at least they will know the right steps.  From this rationale sooner or later the thought will become right action.

So genius, go right ahead and say the steps in your head  – you’re in good company.

If you want to read the full article visit

I would also suggest applying their suggestions to learning Aikido as well.


Aikidoist are people who excel at confrontation management.  Here are four powerful statements that have the ability to change any confrontation.

I am sorry.

I was wrong.

I don’t know.

I made a mistake.

It doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong.  What matters is one’s ability to see the other person’s side of the argument.

To be able to say these statements without coercion shows that one has attained a level most never get to.  It shows that one is not only powerful, but humble as well – A combination not easily overcome by an opponent.  The one final supremely powerful statement is “I love you.”

Try some of these out next time you are confronted and see just how powerful they are and how powerful they make you.

Dojo Christmas Party

santaWhen: December 5th at 6:30 PM
Where: The Smoke House in Burbank

$50.00 per person for adults and $25.00 for children

Everyone is invited to attend.

Please come even if you haven’t been training lately.  We would love to see you again!

Do you ojigi?

One of the most difficult things for foreigners to do properly is bow or ojigi (お辞儀).  Why do people bow in the first place?  Bowing is a customary sign of respect.  How one bows and how low they bow depends on the situation and ones sincerity.  The hardest part is knowing what type of bow is necessary for the situation.  It is said that no two people are of the same rank.  Therefore, one should always assume that the other person is of higher status and thus treat them with more respect.  This idea of rank and respect is a difficult one for even native Japanese people.

alg_bow_barack-obama2For instance in 2009, President Obama was criticized for bowing to the Emperor of  Japan.  The proper form for bowing to someone of the Emperors stature is called Saikeirei (最敬礼) and one bows to a 45 degree angle with their back straight.  Many said that his bow was too deep and that he let his back curve and his head drop.  Others said he was the leader of free world and thus not obliged to bow to someone who is not even a true head of state.

Here is how I read the situation.  For starters, President Obama was in Japan and thus must follow the etiquette of the land he is visiting.  Two, the Emperor of Japan holds a hereditary rank and President Obama holds a positional rank.  So technically speaking, regardless of one’s politics, the Emperor is of higher rank.  Next, President Obama is six feet one inches tall and the Emperor is five feet five inches tall so it was necessary for him to drop his head below that of the Emperors (In samurai culture his head could never be held higher than the Emperors).  Finally, President Obama’s bow was neither naive or offensive.  He is a foreigner who was trying to conform to the local custom and the Emperor, who is schooled in every detail and nuance of etiquette, would have realized Obama’s sincerity.  There is a saying, “In terms of respect, never be outdone.”  President Obama was showing the Emperor respect by bowing the way he did despite the fact he is a foreigner.  The Emperor showed Obama respect by realizing the nuances of the situation and not getting offended.

Below I have posted a pretty good basic outline for bowing.


































































































































Important dates for the next few months

Important dates for the next few months

November 26-27th: Dojo Closed for Thanksgiving

December 5th: Dojo Christmas party

December 12th: Osoji Dojo cleanup at 9:00 am

December 20th: Children’s class Christmas party

December 24-25th: Dojo Closed for Christmas

December 30th: Osame keiko Last practice of the year

December 31-January 3rd: Dojo Closed for New Year’s

January 9th: Kagami Biraki Dojo official opening of the New Year

January 16th: 2nd Doshu memorial service

Sumo loses one of its greats

The famous Sumo wrestler Kitanoumi Toshimitsu (北の湖敏満) passed away today.  He was 62 years old.  Kitanoumi (北の湖) was the youngest person to be promoted to the rank of Yokozuna or grand champion at 21 years and 2 months and was the most dominant sumo wrestler of the 1970s.  When I watch his bouts, I am amazed at how quickly and how agile he moves for someone who weighs 373 lbs.  His yorkiri ( 寄り切り) or force out technique was always exciting because he would sometimes pick up the smaller sumo wrestlers by the belt (mawashi) and force them out.

In this match, you can see Kitanoumi’s excellent balance and agility as Takanohana (貴ノ花)  tries several different take-downs.

Here is a compilation of Kitanoumi’s matches where some he loses, but they are always exciting.  His chief rivals were Takanohana (貴ノ花), Wajima (輪島) and Chiyonofuji (千代の富).

May he rest in peace.