Tag Archives: martial arts

Off The Mat, But Still Training

Leaving the gym recently, I ran into a former classmate in an Aikido kenshu (advanced study) class. We spent a few minutes catching up, and he asked me if I was still training in Aikido.

I’m not taking any classes at the moment, in part because the winter Rec & Ed session was cancelled, and with increased running and strength training my schedule is full anyway. But I told him that in other ways I practice Aikido every day.

I can’t help it.

Aikido did not become a life-consuming passion for me like running has. But my eleven-plus years of training have definitely created a lasting influence, whether or not I’m standing on the mat in a dojo.

For instance, a few days ago I went to get a haircut. I emerged from my car into a cold, blustery, rainy day (re: March in Michigan). Instinctively my shoulders rode up, face tensed, eyes narrowed, and I began to hunch-walk rapidly toward the covered area near the shop. Standard behavior, right?

And then kenshu training kicked in. A samurai, Sensei had said in a lecture, does not let rain, or cold, or other external situations disturb his serenity. Running for cover all hunched over is for other people.

I relaxed, stood straight, and walked the rest of the distance at a normal pace, as though it were a perfect sunny day. Perhaps I got a little bit wetter, but it was worth the restoration of my serenity.

With enough training, one can even embrace bad weather!

Other things practiced in class come out in everyday life too. Being more patient in stressful situations, like slow traffic or long lines. More tolerance for the mistakes of others, and even my own. Being polite and respectful at all times, and seeking harmony in all situations. And more.

Sometimes the benefits of training manifest very quickly, too. Some years ago I left a stressful situation at work to attend a lunchtime class. When I came back my attitude had changed completely, and the situation was resolved harmoniously. You can read that story here.

I could chalk up some of this to eleven additional years of life experience, or the expected increase in maturity as one grows older (well, maybe). Except that many times when I remind myself to be patient, or remain polite, or listen more, in my mind’s eye I’m standing on the mat. All these behaviors are not just essential to Aikido training, they are expected by Sensei and the other students. Not to do so would bring quick attention to oneself, and not in a good way.

Better be nice to your fellow students.

Perhaps the surprising thing is that these behaviors aren’t always expected by other people all the time.

So like it or not, Aikido is certain to remain a fundamental part of who I am for the rest of my life, whether or not I ever go to another class. And I have no problem with that.

Osu!

Running for Clean Water

This post is from Rick Matz, author of Cook Ding’s Kitchen, a blog dedicated to the philosophy and study of martial arts. His site is packed with wonderful stories, videos, and articles written by martial arts masters that anyone can understand and enjoy. Check it out – I guarantee it will be worth your time.

While our shared background is in Aikido rather than running, this October Rick will cross the line and run a race with Team World Vision, a charity that provides clean water and sanitation services in Africa. I’m pleased and honored to give him an opportunity to spread the word about his latest challenge and the charity he’s supporting. Here’s Rick.

Jeff was kind enough to allow me to write a guest post here. I appreciate the opportunity to write about running.

I’m 56 years old and I’m not a runner. I haven’t run since I was a teenager and 5 miles was the longest I ever ran back then. Running leaves me with sore ankles and knees. It’s uncomfortable for me. I’d rather do just about anything than run.

A few weeks ago I found out that nearly 800 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water. They drink out of mud holes, out of water holes shared with animals; from wells that are so distant that the women and girls going to fetch the water are subject to assault, abduction and worse.

Two geese-2I live near the Great Lakes and can go out to the middle of Lake Huron and be surrounded by fresh water as far as the eye can see. To lack water is a concept that is kind of hard for me to wrap my head around. But I learned that so many people live in such desperate conditions, and a group named Team World Vision is doing something about it. They distribute personal filter straws, build filtration systems, dig wells, and install rainwater harvesting systems, among other services.

For $50 a person can have clean drinking water for life. And running with Team World Vision gives me an opportunity to raise money for clean water.

And so I’m going to run.

This 56 year old non-runner has signed up to run for Team World Vision in the International Half Marathon (part of the Free Press Marathon) on October 19th. My goal is to raise $100 for each mile of the race, for a total of $1,310. And I’m hoping you’ll support me.

Team World Vision at the 2012 Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon.

Team World Vision at the 2012 Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon.

I showed up at the informational meeting held after the service at my church, expecting to simply lend support to one of my daughters who had been talking about signing up for a marathon. The next thing I knew, I was filling out a form and was one of the first to hand it in.

Every dollar counts. Won’t you consider donating to my race? Your contribution will change, and possibly save, someone’s life.

Here is the link to my Team World Vision donation page: http://teamworldvision.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.participant&participantID=4068