Dear parents and students,
We have lived through history in 2020. Apart from the world wars in the previous century, nothing has had such a profound and global impact as a virus, invisible to the naked eye; grinding the whole world to a halt at one point. Healthy athletes, massive body builders, and pro-fighters have been rendered defenseless, emaciated, gasping for breath, and fighting for life against an intangible assailant. Isolation from travel bans, abstaining from socializing, working from home, and just having to stay at home has caused anxiety, stress, frustration, and mental fatigue. Never have we shared a collective challenge on such a deep and massive scale.
Although we weren't able to practice for most of this year, I do still thank you for the year. Thank you for your support and encouragement from the moment classes were cancelled in March. Thank you for signing up for the Aikido Warriors' Camp in July, and through the months of September to November. It was marvelous to see you, although class sizes were limited, protocols were stringent, and the schedule was uncertain. I do appreciate how mindful everyone was and is; sanitizing hands, masking up, and for helping to sanitize the mats and weapons after every class. Thank you.
While the art of fighting has been around for centuries, it is more than learning to fight, or defending oneself and others. For instance, the reason Bodhidharma developed a system of exercises for the Shaolin monks was to provide holistic care and balance to the routine of the monks; to instill discipline, and to prevent muscle atrophy from hours of sitting in meditation. These exercises, 'kung fu' in the vernacular, came to be known in America as an art of fighting. 'Kung Fu' actually refers to skills acquired through prolong, diligent practice. So, it is not uncommon to hear a South East Asian or Chinese compliment a skillful Chef or Barber with: "Hao Kung Fu" or "Good/Excellent skills".
Though not to the same extent as the previous lock down, once again, we are faced with the suspension of our classes until the new year. Staying home for the better part of the year can be debilitating and degenerative, if not addressed positively and constructively. We have effectively been hermits for most of this year. Taking the cue from Bodhidharma, and O Sensei, a martial journey is both physical and internal, where holistically, martial practice also contributes to molding one's behaviour, attitude, demeanour, and 'spirit'.
As there is no indication yet of what the class restrictions will be in the new year, I encourage you to continue practicing on your own - both physically and internally. The forms and kata for weapons are on the Ueshiba Aikido website. Visualize and practice movements and techniques you can remember. Then physically perform as many as you can while being mindful of your breathing, your posture, your footwork, and your balance. Be deliberate, and diligent. Continue to stretch your limbs and body. If you are averse to jogging, try doing squats, ankle and leg raises, sit ups, push ups, and if possible, pull ups. Running on the spot helps too, as well as playing with your skipping rope, burpees, and jumping while pulling your knees to your chest.
In those quiet moments, should a negative thought or an emotional need to blame arise, try to refocus or keep moving on to the next thing on your 'To Do List', and smile. It is not to distract through denial or to ignore the impulse. In the midst of the fray, while external factors do affect us, it is difficult to recognize that blaming (and by the same token offering excuses) is an abdication of responsibility, accountability, and the ability to choose and respond appropriately, consciously, intelligently, maturely, and constructively for one's benefit, and for those around us. Watch a comedy, interact and chat with the family, read uplifting literature, play family games, phone a friend, draw, paint, listen to music, dance, cook, bake, and help clean the house. Uplift and make someone's day.
Meanwhile, with a little more time on my hands, I have been helping my pastor with his online videos
, and working on my music and our website. As such, I finally recorded our 31 Jo Awase - the paired practice based on Saito Shihan's Jo Kata, and mine. It is deliberately performed slowly to enable you to digest it. I hope it will be of help in your Jo practice. Here, below, is the link:
Finally, although I was not able to see and practice with most of you this year, as always, my family and I are grateful for your interest in Aikido, and for your patience in these challenging times. I look forward to seeing and practicing with you again in 2021. Until then, be well, stay healthy, and ...
Have a most meaningful and joyful Christmas Season, and a prosperous and blessed New Year!
With peace and harmony,
Rafael Oei Sensei
Go Dan (5th Dan) Aikikai Hombu Dojo
Ueshiba Aikido Victoria
© Ueshiba Aikido Victoria: December