A blog with some news, reports and articles from the Aikido community around the world.
Edited by Lawrence Warry & Ze'ev Erlich

Monday, August 17, 2015

July - September

1.0 Aikido and The Art of Happiness

On my last Aikido trip, to pratice with Yamashima sensei in Helsinki, I brought with me to read on the flight, the book of the Dalai Lama, "The Art of Happiness". This book is a good read at any moment, and useful as a repeat read as a guide to positive thinking even in life's difficult moments. Reading the book caused me to enquire what is it in Aikido that can make me happy and, in general, how can Aikido be used as a tool to bring people to a higher state of happiness and therefore a better state of health.
I look at Yamashima sensei, especially, as an example. At 73 years old, Yamashima sensei has reached the level of 7th dan Aikikai in Aikido, and is teaching his art all around the world. On every seminar I see him smiling and emitting joy wherever he goes. There is something in his life long practice of Aikido that has made him ultimately a happy man and I don't think it is the status of being 7th dan that has done that!
The book of the Dalai Lama covers a number of different topics, inclluding: Training the Mind for Happiness, Human Warmth and Compassion, Transorming Suffering, Dealing with Anger, Hatred, Anxiety and Building Self-Esteem.
When I think about those topics, I see some parallels about how Aikido can help.

Yaashima Sensei,  7th dan Aikikai,the smiling sensei, seems to be contantly in a state of happiness!

Training the Mind for Happiness. 
In the Dalai Lama's book, the author writes about Mental Discipline and the cultivation of positive mental states and the importance of making a practice or training. I think Aikido should be practiced with mental discipline high on the agenda. When we come together to practice on a regular basis, we cultivate a discipline of regularity but also our attitude on the mat as to how we practice is important. As we regularly practice the movement, we want also to practice a calmness of mind during the movement. When we put our minds to it, we can all do this, but it does sometimes require some awareness and applied focus in doing so.

Human Warmth and Compassion. 
The book quotes the Dalai Lama as defining compassion in this way: "Compassion can be roughly defined in terms of a state of mind that is nonviolent, nonharming and nonaggressive. It is a mental attitude based on the wish for others to be free of their suffering and is associated with a sense of commitment, responsibility and respect towards others ... In developing compassion, perhaps one could begin with the wish that oneself be free of suffering and then take that feeling to oneself and cultivate it, enhance it out to include and embrace others". The Dalai Lama goes on to separate two different forms of compassion, attachement compassion and genuine compassion, noting that attachment compassion is often leading to suffering whereas the genuine compassion leads to stability and reliability for a long term. In practicing Aikido, we hope to cultivate our compassion by the nonviolent and nonagressive way in which we should practice. Also, as much as we cultivate ourselves in the practice, Aikido is ultimately about how we relate to others and, during the practice, we connect to others. Therefore, it gives the chance to practice compassion in real time with another person. Sometimes, the person we practice with is neither somebody we know or somebody we initially might not desire to know but, with the practice, we train our minds to accept all those persons that we practice with and to be compassionate and gentle towards them. On the other extreme, we may wish to practice with people we desire and like and, even, are attached to. This can lead to the attached compassion to the extent that. So, the exercise, in that case, is to try to be objective and neutral, no matter who we practice with. You'd think it's easier with somebody we like but, in fact, the exercise is equally difficult!
As a teacher, I must be aware of the example I'm setting although I know I have my own faults which makes me a perfect human full of imperfections. It is very important, nevertheless, for the teacher to consider very seriously how he is leading the group and the Aikido class. The example can have a dramatic impact on how the students practice. Therefore, the teacher should consider treating the students with respect, kindness and compassion, keeping the practice safe. The techniques and exercises should be shown nonviolently and nonagressively, giving to all that watch an example of care to those he/she practices with. 

Transforming Suffering. 
The book talks of facing suffering and of  shifting perspectives. Indeed, in in practicing Aikido, because of the kind of contact we make, there is an aknowledgement of facing a "mirror" in the other person, as we recognise our own suffering and the suffering in the other person. With the right approach, the practice of Aikido is cultivating empathy and shared perspectives. In making the movement of tenkan (turning movement), for example, we gain a physical viewpoint which is equal to that of our practice partner, and this translates mentally into shared perspectives. Therefore, by training our physical movement in the space on the mat, we hope to develop a more flexible mind which allows us to expand our perception of the world and others that live in it.

Dealing with Anger, Hatred, Anxiety and Building Self-Esteem. 
In training for mental discipline, the Aikidoka aknowledges also the moments of negativity. No matter how much we train, negativity cannot be avoided. But, again, by focussing our mental state we can still practice in a calm state and not transmit the negativity to a physically agressive act. As an example from the book, the Dalai Lama gives an antidote to axiety by transforming our motivations which are influenced by anxiety. Aikido allows us to recognise our habbits and underlying motivations triggered by anger and anxiety. For example, when we are angry about something, we tend to automatically target somebody or something as the cause of our emotion and we may be motivated, as a consequence, to do something irrational related to that hate. Aikido practice gives us the opportunity to observe this process and reshape the underlying motivation to something more controlled, focussed and aware. When we are more in control of our emotions we gain more confidence in our abilities to deal with people and our interactions with them.

Well, I hope these thoughts gave you some ideas how Aikido can lead to happiness and let me know from your side what you think about that. If you don't agree, I'd invite you to practice with Yamashima sensei and other great happy senior teachers, and then review your opinion :-).

Saturday, May 9, 2015

April - June 2015

1. Mini Aikido Tour of Asia
I explored some new Aikido territory on my visit to Vietnam in April. I started with meeting the Aikido group in Ho Chi Minh city where the welcoming party met me at the airport and gave me a lift to the hotel on a motorbike. Motorbikes are the most convenient form of transport in Ho Chi Minh. It is not unusual to find a family of two parents and two kids all sat on the same motorbike. With my size considered, I guess fitting me on the motorbike was equivalent to having a Vietnamese family on the motorbike :-).
I also visited and trained with the group of Hanoi. 
This December, Yamashima sensei will visit Ho Chi Minh for the first time. Keep your eyes open for the official times. The people of Vietnam have been so friendly and helpful. Thank you.
My visit to Vietnam coincided with the 40 years anniversary of the liberation of Vietnam (29th of April 1975). This was celebrated in the streets of the cities with fireworks and parties. Noteable in Vietnam is the temparature and, when practicing with almost no airco, the practices become sweaty and tiring. Nevertheless, I enjoyed every minute of the practice.
On my last day, I got to join a children's class with Thien Nguyen as the main teacher. Many thanks for this nice practice. 
Aikido Group Hanoi
Aikdo friends of Ho Chi Minh, Lan and Anh :-)

My next stop after Vietnam was Japan, for the yearly golden week seminar of Yamashima sensei at Nerima sports center where I met and practiced with Aikido friends of Tokyo. We made a lot of practice and also drunk too much afterwards but it is always a pleasure to practice and learn from Yamashima sensei's vast experience.
Also present from Europe, was Alain Guerier of France, long time friend and student of Yamashima sensei. Alain invites Yamashima sensei yearly to France.
Golden week practice group at Nerima, Tokyo.
After keiko party, Nerima.
South Korea
My last stop on my mini tour of Asia was to Seoul, S.Korea, where I stopped by at the Sinchon aikido dojo for a practice with Yoon sensei. The practice was lively and enjoyable, with Yoon sensei always having a lot to say about what he was teaching. Unfortunately I didn't understand what he was saying because I don't speak Korean :-).

Drinking tea after a nice practice with Yoon sensei in Sinchon aikido dojo, Seoul.
2. Yamashima Sensei in Europe (21st of May to 6th of June).
During the end of May/beginning of June, Yamashima sensei will visit Holland, Belgium and Germany. The general schedule is as follows:
Fri 22nd of May - Mon 25th of May practice in Holland.
Official times are on the poster here: 

Tue 26th of May - Thu 28th of May. Practice in Belgium (contact: for more information).
Fri 29th of May - Wed 3rd of June. Practice in Manheim & Heidelberg. (contact: for more information).
Thu 4th of June - Sun 7th of June. Practice in Düsseldorf (contact: for more information).

3.0 Come and Practice at The Grote Pyr
We have a regular practice in The Hague every Monday from 19:00 to 20:30. Beginners are welcome to come and learn Aikido. You will be guided through the basics of Aikido and you will have a lot of fun whilst doing it.
Contact Lawrence Warry (, mobile: +31 624603343) for more information.
Grote Pyr Aikido, address: Waldeck Pyrmontkade.115, The Hague, NL
4.0 More Aiki Wisdom from Ze'ev Erlich Sensei
Masatake Dojo Aikido Rehovot
Musubi: In Aikido, the term "musubi" is sometimes a little insufficiently translated as "knotting/tying-up". If we look it up in the dictionary, it is a correct definition, but in aikido, musubi actually means creation or birth of things as a result of harmony between things or people. Harmony gives birth. Peaceful resolution to conflicts gives birth. Harmony between your thoughts, words and actions gives birth to wonderful things.
Each aikido technique is a beautiful and harmonious knot - within you, with your partners and with the whole world.
Musubi is a special knot. A knot with a promise, with a vow, with blessing. Like the one on the wrists of romantic couples when they promise to love each other for eternity. Like buddhist blessing wrist thread. This, I hope, is the nature of our aikido training. Lets try it today at the dojo.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

February/March 2015

1.0 Yamashima Sensei in the Italian Region of the Dolomites

An inspiring seminar took place in the last week of February, in the city of Bolzano, Italy, with Yamashima Sensei, 7th dan Aikikai, hosted by Bolzano's Aikikai head instructor, Alessandro Costa.
Yamashima Sensei was on form as he gave morning and afternoon energetic lessons. As well as the local Aikido people joining, many different friends who follow the practices of Yamashima sensei around Europe joined the seminar. 

It was, as usual with seminars of Yamashima Sensei, a pleasant meeting and an enthusiastic practice. The surrounding Dolomite mountains made the location a fantastic place to practice Aikido.
The Dolomites!
Seminars coming up in March with Yamashima Sensei:
Hamburg (11th - 15th of March). Contact Hamburg Aikido group for more information:
Seoul (21st & 22nd of March) . Contact Korean Aikido group for more information: Korea Aikido Federation

2.0 Using Aikido Principles in the Samurai Game®

The next public Samurai Game® in The Netherlands, takes place on Saturday the 21st of March, at The Hagukumi dojo, Mient.277, The Hague. This event is a one day personal development workshop in which people get to play a game, through which realisations can be made. Aikido principles are used as a tool in the learning process, to help understand, grounding, connection, and staying calm in moments of crisis. This event is open to all members of the public. Although Aikido experience is not necessary, people with Aikido experience may enjoy the connection the game makes with Aikido. It is not to late to sign up.
The Samurai Game® was invented, written, and first performed in 1977 by George Leonard, author, award-winning editor, musician, Aikido instructor and pioneer in the Human Potential movement. The Samurai Game® was copyrighted by George Leonard and is solely owned by The Leonard Family Trust.More info about our next event can be found here:

3.0 Remembering Western Teachers Who Passed Away
In the month of February, two well-known and popular Aikido teachers were remembered. 
K.F. Leisinger Sensei, 7th dan, passed away on the 19th of February 2014, and, A.H. Bacas Sensei, 6th dan, passed away on the 27th of Febrauary 2006. Both teachers were great friends and worked together to make Aikido more popular in Europe from as early as the 1970s.
It is quite fitting, therefore, that both teachers are also remembered in the same month.
People continue to be interested to the methods of bokken, jo and tanto taught by Dr. Leisinger (passed down from the teachings of K. Asai shihan of Aikikai Germany).

Bacas sensei will always be remembered for his charming personality and caring teaching all over central and Eastern Europe.