Aiki Biz of the Moment – Homage

I haven’t posted an Aiki-biz for a while, so I thought I’d put one up here.  I’m at Homage Bakery and Coffee in good ole’ Reno, Nevada, and I gotta say, this place is one of the most, shall I say, delectable, places I’ve ever been.  It’s in an old, historical home that’s been transformed into its current carnation of a bakery/coffee shop.  I knew this place was great as soon as I walked in, and I was right.  The staff was accommodating and nice.  From the furnishings, to the paint, to the displays, it reeks of quality but maintains its comfort.  The colors are soft on the eyes.  As I said, it’s an old house, so there’s three rooms with extra comfy furniture you can park it at (the rooms are not huge, so I’d imagine seating may be tough on a busy day).

Now, people, I’m serious here, because this point is huge, but it has, hands-down, THE nicest bathroom I’ve ever been in.  Yep, ever.  I didn’t want to leave it.  When a business places that kind of care on the design and comfort level of it’s bathroom, it sets a tone for how the rest of the establishment is cared for.  It is very open and has walls of corrugated steel.  Super clean.   Nice lighting.  No loud, obnoxious fan.  No 1975 style hand dryer.  Okay, I’ll leave the bathroom alone.  But seriously, if you go there, don’t use the bathroom before you arrive.  Hold it until you get there and experience it.

Oh, another great thing about them is that they brew Hub coffee, roasted right here in town.  Huge points were scored when I saw that.  So, Homage Bakery Reno, people.  It’s an aiki establishment, for sure.   Don’t rush in and rush out, though.  That’s what Starbucks is for.  Bring your laptop or a good book.  Stay a while.

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get your rock and roll on

I follow Hugh MacLeod’s blog,, daily.  This is his post for today along with the sweet cartoon above.

“One of the great tragedies of life, and you’ll find it deeply imbedded in every major world religion and mythology is to know that the power, the life spirit, is within you, and yet you choose to ignore it.

Call it rock n’ roll. Call it the voice of God. Call anything else.

Only you as an individual can decide to awaken it. It’s a decision only you can make.

And thank goodness for that….”

What a simple, yet profound, statement.  That decision, that choice, to awaken the (insert name here).  In Aikido, we call it ki.  Rock on.


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interview with Miles Kessler

…incredible interview by Eagle DeBotton. Miles Kessler is a good friend of my teacher, Vince Salvatore.  He’s doing amazing things in Tel Aviv right now at the Integral Dojo, which he founded. You can find out more about him here.  Many, many great points covered in this interview including, but not limited to:

  • Unless a shift in perspective takes place, it isn’t Aikido…
  • Aikido happens in relationship…
  • The natural occurrence of conflict between people who, if not self-aware, results in a chain of action/reaction. We play with this relationship in training.
  • Aikido is Jazz.  You can’t predict it nor keep it in a box.

So glad to see him online more and more.  Looking forward to much more in the near future.

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the brain within the brain within the brain


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So, I’ve written about the lizard brain before, along with a host of others. I’m a bit obsessed with it, actually. I love studying people, and I think it’s so interesting to see how people react to things. Anyways, the lizard brain explains a lot about the human condition. BUT (dramatic pause) there’s yet another brain we have to deal with, people. Yep, I’m not sure what to call it yet, but maybe the ‘snail brain’ would be best. Allow me to explain.

So, something disconcerting happens, we’re stressed, threatened, angry, or whatever the case may be. We have two distinctions to make here:

– Scenario A: Am I facing ‘fake’ fear (speaking in front of people, having that difficult but necessary conversation, etc.)? Or….

– Scenario B: Am I facing immediate danger (a midget coming at me with a machete, a shark, a whitetail deer, an angry bird, the IRS, etc.)?

Once we designate this, if what we’re facing is ‘fake fear’, the answer is obvious. Do what the lizard brain tells you NOT to do. Get up there and speak, have that uncomfy conversation, work on those abs, don’t hit that snooze button AGAIN, put the calzone down, whatever. Hear it out, do the opposite, and you win.

The SNAIL BRAIN comes into play during scenario B. When we’re actually threatened with immediate danger, our lizard brain is activated. We know it immediately. We’re taken over by a kind of force that makes our heart beat faster, zooms our sight into tunnel vision, and clenches our fists. We’re in survival mode, baby! HOWEVER, and here’s the kicker, the question I ask is if the lizard brain is so ‘automatic’, why do we usually lock up, slow down, and freeze rather than ‘automatically’ move into appropriate action? It’s like the lizard brain sets us into survival mode, which is good in this case, and then this snail brain (which is like the brain WITHIN the lizard brain) activates and we are relegated to the state of a helpless… well… snail. We can’t think, we can’t act, all we can do is stop and slither around.

Maybe the lizard brain isn’t so bad in this case? Maybe it’s getting a bad rap? Maybe it takes clarity of mind to not only ignore it, as in Scenario A, but to actually LISTEN TO IT and do what it says here in Scenario B? To properly align and unify with whatever energy you happen to be dealing with, appropriately, is aiki. Achieve perfect aiki. Squash the snail. Control your lizard. Be well.

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independent movement and grace

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I left something out of my last post which I took from the Dan Messisco seminar that I attended a couple weeks back. During the warm ups for the class, Dan had us do rolls very slowly and had us concentrate on having complete control of our bodies throughout the whole movement. Usually during falls, we let momentum take over. Only problem with that is that we’re then at the mercy of the momentum. It’s really a great practice to feel like you’re consciously controlling every fraction of movement to the point where you can change or reverse direction at any time (it’s also a great workout for your lower body and core). During the training, Dan took it even farther to perform each technique with independent movement. He went on to explain that this was a good example of grace. Grace is apparent in a great athlete or dancer where they are living under the same laws of nature as all of us, but they move through the world, from what it seems, independent of those laws. They are obviously not independent of them (this would be impossible, of course), but are actually in absolute harmony with these laws and have tested and pushed the limits of just how much control they actually have within the boundaries of them, and are not at the mercy of them. By working on complete body awareness, Aikido can be a great practice for this.

Think of it this way. Super basic. Go find a table. Rest your hand on the table and fully relax your arm and hand. Now, if someone were to come along and kick that table out from underneath your hand, you’d lose control of your hand and arm and it would fall. Now rest your hand on the table and have the awareness of that action being independent of the table. Your hand is where it is because you want it to be and if the table was kicked out, your hand and arm would remain in the same position. You can practice this when walking. At any moment of any step, you should have complete control and be able to change direction or stop completely. Of course, there is only so much ‘control’ we can have over our bodies since they do have to conform with these laws of nature (momentum, gravity, inertia, etc), but we are way too dependent of them and controlled by them. Especially with ukemi, when we’re taking falls, we get chucked around and lose control completely. We forget we’re still doing Aikido. That changes when we consciously take control of our movement even when taking fast ukemi. I noticed it made my Aikido super balanced and strong when training with this intention. It’s, of course, slow at first. But as you train in this way, I can imagine, if you get really fast at this, your Aikido would be insane. I can’t wait to start playing with this. Our dojo is very basics focused, and I think it would be very powerful to apply this concept to the basics.

We can also take this into incredibly stressful situations in our day to day lives. It’s easy to get caught up in the inertia of the conversation and get swept away by the intensity of the moment, losing ourselves completely. I experienced this recently when dealing with a difficult customer service ‘situation’ at work where my emotions were totally commanding what I was saying. It’s the same feeling as taking ukemi for someone who is just chucking you at a point that’s just way out of your comfort zone. But I stopped and brought awareness back to my body. Here I am, right here. I can move, think, talk, and act completely independent of this abnoxious asshole on the phone right now. He was controlling my mind, dog-gone it! (Yep, I think ‘dog-gone it’ was the term I used too). Now I’m in complete control. I can now take this conversation wherever I want and am not at the whim of his next reptilian brain induced vocal spasm. Yippee! Be independent. Take control. Now.

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