Friday night we were practicing ten-chi-nage and towards the end of class, Shihan mentioned Fudo-Myo-o as the inspiration for the technique. Since ten-chi-nage can be translated as "heaven and earth throw", Shihan explained a bit about Fudo-Myo-o and how he is portrayed in statues.
I found and read several explanation of Fudo-Myo-o and what the religion that reveres him is. Shugendō, like any religion, would require a lot more explanation than I can put in a post. Here's a short definition:
Shugendō (修験道 ) is an ancient Japanese religion in which enlightenment or oneness with kami is obtained through the study of the relationship between Man and Nature. Shugendō literally means "the path of training and testing." It centers on an ascetic, mountain-dwelling lifestyle and incorporates teachings from Koshintō, Buddhism and other eastern philosophies including folk animism. Shugendo practitioners are the most direct lineage descendants of the ancient hijiri of the eight and ninth centuries The focus or goal of shugendō is the development of spiritual experience and power.
Here is a link to a longer explanation of Fudo-Myo-o and Shugendō, including some concepts like zanshin and fudoshin.

Failure and Success

The other night, I was stumbling around trying to get my footwork to match up with the technique Shihan Sam was teaching. Over and over, I would start on the wrong foot, shuffle two extra steps, make the blend and be in the wrong place to effectively complete the cut. That's not a problem, just an observation.

I could make it a problem with what I tell myself. Something like "It's impossible, I'll never get this" would be enough to make it a real problem. Failure is not a problem, it is a critical to learning Aikido. It is the story of my journey in this art.
Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something."
- Morihei Ueshiba

Tsubame Gaeshi

Tsubame Gaeshi refers to a sword movement developed by Sasaki Kojiro in 1605. Here's a Wikipedia comment on it from the page about Kojiro:
His favorite technique was both respected and feared throughout feudal Japan. It was called the "Turning Swallow Cut" or "Tsubame Gaeshi" (燕返し literally "Swallow Reversal / Return"), and was so named because it mimicked the motion of a swallow's tail during flight as observed at Kintaibashi Bridge in Iwakuni.
Last night's class was techniques using the tsubame gaeshi movement. I have much to learn.

Balance, Energy, Relaxation

Here's an interesting example of basic principles.


Being a member of a dojo is not just attending classes and learning to beat up bozos a martial art. It's a commitment that takes place on many levels. It starts with attending class regularly. Then it's practicing outside of class time. But it grows from there. It becomes the web of relationships you build with the other people in the school. Time spent volunteering to help maintain the building that houses the school. And then there is money.

If you're holding 3 or 4 classes a week in a small town, with a fairly small number of paying members, money will be the ongoing problem. There's rent, utility bills, and insurance just to keep the doors open. If you're saving for equipment, like building up money to eventually replace your mats or replace the jo staffs and bokkens, that is an additional expense. It's not just a problem for the person running the school. It is a problem for everyone who is a member. If the school is going to stay open, those expenses must be met.

We joke when someone misses class because they are out of town for work or vacation, "Well okay, but where's your commitment?" Things are usually funny because of the underlying truth. When it comes to money and your dojo, "Where's your commitment? takes on new meaning.

Here's what it takes in terms of money over the course of a year for an individual. Monthly dues, travel costs to get to class (mostly gasoline), fees and travel costs to attend camps, possibly fees for testing (not every year). Here's what that means to me personally. From my home, it's 16 miles to the dojo. In my vehicle, that is about a gallon of gas. Getting home is another gallon. 3 times a week. If gas is $3.50 a gallon, it's about eleven hundred dollars a year just to get to the dojo. Another thousand for dues, more or less. Summer camp is five hundred, plus travel cost and expenses. With some incidental costs, when it is added up, I am spending about three thousand dollars a year on Aikido.

It is simply part of the commitment.