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.
After much research and contemplation, I decided to start an AikiLiving Tumblr page. Tumblr’s awesome. After starting my personal page there a while back, I’m pretty sold on it. Not sure if you’re familiar with Tumblr, but it’s great for images and visual media and makes sharing quality content super easy. I thought it would be a fun, complimentary 2nd home for AikiLiving. Along with the posts from this home site, it’ll have some crazy cool Aikido images and randomness that relate to living in an Aiki fashion. Check it out and lemme know what ya think.
Three of my good friends just tested for their respected levels of black belt (dan) rank and I was fortunate enough to be able to see the test as well as partake in some of it. My next test will be for 2nd degree black-belt (nidan), so this post is mainly about that particular test (no offense, Austin, you crushed it). Although I haven’t been able to train, that hasn’t stopped me from stressing about taking my next test, even though I have no idea when that will be. It’s been about four years since I’ve been able to attend a nidan test, and since a lot of my stresses are from the unknown about what the test is like, it really helped seeing the test. What was really great, though, was seeing two people that I came up through the ranks with take that next step forward. I’ll explain.
The shodan (first degree black belt) test is performed in a very static, step-by-step fashion. We perform and demonstrate the techniques in this way to show we understand the very basics of the movement. In the nidan test, we’re expected to take those techniques into fluid, continuous motion (ki-no-nagare, as we call it). As easy as it sounds, this is not an easy step to make. The shodan test is such a big milestone, and we work for years on stop-start power positions and grounding after each step that, transitioning to fluid movement can be a challenge. It’s easier to break the techniques down into steps because our brain has a second to think about the next part of the technique when we do. With the nidan test, the whole movement needs to be fully together and integrated into a fluid motion.
Not seeing my friends train in six months, I haven’t seen the progression they’ve taken through the work they’ve put in to their test preparation to get to this point. What I saw was incredible and inspiring to say the least. There was a huge transformation from what I saw before. The movements were so incredibly effortless and smooth, yet still technically sound. The expressions on their faces were those of calm and control, as opposed to the ones seen on a shodan test which are more straining, naturally. Seeing them go up there and test made me very excited to be at this place in my training.
I see the shodan test as being the test where the steel is forged through variance of heat and cold, hammering your spirit through the technique constantly to get to a place of optimum strength and balance. Taken in comparison, the nidan test is one of smoothing out and sharpening the edges, filing and refining to make the sword accustomed to your use and aesthetic taste. You’re still fashioning the sword, but it’s a softer, more skillful touch. That was demonstrated masterfully on the tests and it was inspiring to be there and see it.
I follow Hugh MacLeod’s blog, gapingvoid.com, 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.
Garbage in, garbage out. Putting positive thoughts in your memory bank, leads to mental richness. You didn’t hear O’Sensei talk about how life was hell and we need Aikido to fight our way through it taking no prisoners. Although, come to think of it, he probably could have made a fortune developing an internet marketing campaign around that concept looking around at some of the shit they’re selling right now in internetland. Can you imagine the ad of him in a warehouse that’s been transformed into a gym wearing board shorts with a couple muscle cars in the background wearing a muscle shirt with his arms crossed saying, “If you follow my 7 steps, you too can be a fighting machine, bro”
There are martial arts out there whose underlying philosophy draws on these garbage mental and spiritual bank balances: