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April 23, 2007

Aikido For the Impaired

Ukemi, nage, uke, tenchi nage, uchi deshi, yame! These are just some of the terms being used in the practice of aikido. I have been practicing aikido for the past four years and a half, and what I have learned in that four years does not even come close to what I have learned and is learning now these past few days of practice.

I am suffering from an ear infection and is now affecting my hearing for the past two weeks. In my practice of aikido, I have often thought you would need eyes and ears to be able to get the instructions. You need it to properly coordinate your movements and try to grasp and demonstrate what sensei is trying to teach. I have done that for years, listen and watch. I was wrong.

You don’t need ears to be able to practice aikido. What you need is a pure heart, an open mind, and open eyes. I practice aikido every other day… or if time and schedule permits (which is not often). And in the time I practice, now that I have a hearing impairment, I have never seen or even been able to completely understand all the movements, its fineries, its complexities, its simplicities.

I now see every detail of the movement, I now understand the purpose of every step my sensei tries to teach. What I used to imitate, I now comprehend. Every “no irimi, no tenkan”, I now can perform with ease. What used to be a static and rigid technique for me, I now do it with fluidity. As what O’sensei keeps telling us in the practice of aikido, “go with the flow”. I now feel what it is like to just be yourself in practice, the essence of working in harmony with everything that is going on around you. The energy flowing inside and outside your body. The aura that surrounds you, and the aura that surrounds everything you get into contact with.

If only all aikodokas would have the sense, the real sense of putting the practice in their heart, and not consumed by showing off that they can do good ukemi, or a good irimi nage, then, and only then, will they be able to see the beauty of the practice and discipline of aikido. They will not need to have their hearing impaired, or go blind in order to understand the beauty and true essence of “an ever flowing circle”, the “ever flowing energy”, and understand what working in harmony really is.

Ram Rances
1st Dan
Philippine Heart Center Dojo

April 26, 2007

Maturity in Practice

Six months ago I had an accident which left me with a compression fracture of the spine (specifically the 1st lumbar vertebrae) due to a bad fall. Following doctor's orders, I had to stop any physical, strenuous activity which would no doubt cause further damage to my injury and possibly leave me paralyzed from the waist down.

I became worried that I would never get to practice Aikido again. Practice was a rare opportunity for me and I was excited to practice again since the semestral break was coming when the unfortunate accident happened. I was ordered complete bed rest for three months and I had to wear a painful brace to support my back. I was in severe pain everyday, even missing my final exams in school and I was in constant pain killers and muscle relaxants and every movement was pure agony.

After six months I went back to my doctor and asked if I could practice Aikido again, because I read it in a book that patients suffering from back pains are encouraged to exercise to strengthen their backs and abdominal muscles (with the supervision of the doctor and physical therapist of course). I was overjoyed when I was given permission to practice again, but with certain prohibitions.

I was prohibited to expose my back to any high impact force, from lifting heavy things, I was to avoid falling flat to my buttocks since the shock would shatter my already fragile vertebrae. That means no more crazy flips, no more impressive high falls, no more agile back rolls and front rolls I won't even try for now.

I thought that I can't do the Aikido that I always wanted, fast and high-falling. Then I started thinking that I should be happy that I am able to practice Aikido again and it was then I appreciated the practice of Aikido more. I realized that since my body cannot move the way it used to, I started to concentrate more on form and subtlety of the art and on the proper mindset in performing the movements. I then noticed that maybe I was maturing in my Aikido practice, in my early days high-falls and fierce grips were the only thing I thought of Aikido, now I can say that I appreciate Aikido more in a different sense. Practice has never been so sweeter.

I remembered the great Kendo Master Moriji Mochida (1885-1974) said in his admonition, "In the way of learning Kendo, you have to train hard to learn the basic skills. Many people think that they have already understood the basic skills, but this is totally wrong. During a long period of kendo training, people easily forget what the basic skills are. It took (me) 50 years to learn basic skills. And then I started real Kendo training because I tried to do Kendo with my mind. People start losing good ability of legs, when they turn 60. I started to train to use my mind correctly to support physical disadvantages. When I turned 70, I started losing strength in other parts of my body too. Then, I trained to control my mind to stay calm. At 80, I know how to control my mind. But still I “think” sometimes. Now I am training myself not to think."

As what O Sensei always said... "Aikido is not only training for the body, but also of the mind."

Joshua Daryl V. Navarro, BSBio
1st Dan
Philippine Heart Center Dojo

Onegaishimasu! I would like to welcome you to the new Philippine Heart Center Aikido Website. This portion is dedicated to News and Events regarding Aikido at Philippine Heart Center Aikido Club and Aikido Philippines, Inc., news articles and reader submitted articles. You may even consider this as the "blog space," I encourage the readers to submit any article Aikido related or non-Aikido related (but no inappropriate articles please).

             The Philippine Heart Center Aikido Club website was first established in February 2002, and it has been 5 years since the old website had a renovation. I actually planned to change the website long ago but due to schedule constraints I had to do only maintenance and update work on the site. I would like to thank you to all those who wrote in the guestbook and sent e-mails, I have valued all the thoughts, comments and suggestions of all the visitors, domo arigato gozaimasu! It has been a pleasure to construct and maintain this website and it has been also my small part to play in the dissemination of the Art of Aikido.

             Improvements of this new website includes the use of MacroMedia Flash 5.0. I tried for a more animated look on the website and more visitor interaction. The pages have more simplicity to them and the whole website has an easier navigation panel, opting for a faster loading time of the whole site. Unfortunately, some of the links still don't work especially the Mailing List due to some problems in the Tripod Server. The old website had some bugs of computer generated spam e-mails, I am still currently getting a lot of these but I promise that the Mailing List will be coming soon and is currently under construction. The Gallery Page is also under construction since I am still collecting new pictures and I will be now uploading some videos (which the old site didn't have). The new site also features an E-Shop which sells PHCAC and Aikiphil merchandise. We had a lot of requests of the products (gi, weapons set, etc..) advertised last time and now we will be improving that feature. I also added interactivity between the members of PHCAC and fellow Aikido Practitioners by posting the MultiMedia section where you can view some videos and posting messages on the PHCAC Friendster Account (don't forget to invite us!)

             I hope that you will enjoy your visit to the new Philippine Heart Center Aikido Club Website and I would welcome any comments, suggestions (and of course, you're submitted articles), and may this website help you on your way in discovering The Art of Aikido.

Joshua Daryl V. Navarro, BSBio