USAF Update from Summer Camp Meetings

(Last week the letter below was circulated to Chief Instructors regarding the recent summer camp meetings and updates. It has since been decided that sharing the information with the USAF community at large would be helpful to all members. Keeping our full membership updated is key to furthering everyone’s understanding of how the USAF works as an umbrella organization. We hope that by sharing what the Board and Technical Committee work on in the present reflects that a strong foundation is also being built for the future.)
Dear USAF Members:
It’s hard to believe another Summer Camp has come and gone. The week was hugely successful in attendance, practice, and spirit! During camp, both the Board of Directors and the Technical Committee held their semi-annual meetings and there was an instructors’ meeting on Wednesday after the dan tests. As part of a continuous effort to keep Chief Instructors informed of ongoing discussions that effect the USAF, here is a summary of what was discussed at the various meetings:
  1. Financials -The Board’s review of the mid-year financials showed the USAF is financially sound and is expected to end the year on budget. Also, the drive to collect donations to the USAF to help celebrate Yamada Sensei’s 80th birthday was successful and Sensei was very pleased by his gift.
  2. Summer Camp Venue – The ownership of the Seaview Hotel changed hands during this camp. We have since found out the sale was to KDG Capital LLC of Florida. The hotel will continue to be managed by Dolce Hotels and Resorts by Wyndham and Troon will continue to operate the two 18-hole golf courses. Future plans include renovations of rooms and public spaces. Please know, the USAF has in place a contract for its 2019 summer camp and expects to negotiate a new contract for 2020 and 2021.
  3. DVDs and YouTube Channel – The USAF is no longer selling DVDs at summer camp. Instead, the intention is to set up a USAF YouTube channel where all past and future summer camp footage will be posted, for free access to the aikido community and the general public. The projected launch date for the YouTube channel is 2019.
  4. TC Members – Andy Demko & Steve Pimsler were re-elected to the Technical Committee for a new 4-year term.
  5. Etiquette for USAF and non-USAF relations – Instructors were reminded of proper etiquette regarding approval for a USAF member teaching at a non-USAF affiliated dojo (including Sansuikai) or inviting a non-USAF instructor to teach at a USAF dojo.
The guidelines are as follows:
    • The USAF instructor who is invited to teach by a non-USAF instructor/organization must contact Yamada Sensei for approval prior to making any arrangements (including travel).
    • The non-USAF instructor/organization that invited the USAF instructor also must formally request permission from Yamada Sensei.
    • A USAF dojo must contact Yamada Sensei for approval if their dojo space is to be used by a non-USAF aikido organization.
Please also refer to Yamada Sensei’s letter from Aug. 10, 2018 to USAF and Sansuikai instructors for more details. Below is an excerpt from the letter:
From Yamada Sensei’s letter to USAF and Sansuikai instructors:
“Whenever you are approached to teach a seminar outside your organization, especially if it is from a country other than your own, please remember to follow this proper etiquette: both you and the dojo inviting you should request permission from me (through the USAF or Sansuikai office) in writing before you accept the invitation. Also, this must be followed in the reverse situation – if you are inviting an instructor from outside your organization and especially from another country, it is your responsibility to not only write to me, but to also request from the person you are inviting that he/she write a letter regarding the invitation before the invitation is accepted. These are the correct steps to take, and when they are followed, everything flows smoothly. When they are not, it often puts my organizations and me in a very difficult situation. These are also simply good manners to follow and will reflect well on all involved.”
6. The TC implemented new guidelines for Yondan (4th dan) promotions:
    • Yondan: minimum 4 years after Sandan if a practical test is to be taken; minimum 5 years after Sandan if promotion is to be by recommendation. Yondan testing can only be done by a TC member.
    • Shodan, Nidan, Sandan: typically promotions to these ranks are not done by recommendation, unless there is a special case; all people are encouraged to take a practical test for these ranks, and recommendations should generally wait at least 1 year longer than if testing.

7. Membership building, and how to assist dojos in increasing membership and the exposure of Aikido in general – The group discussion at the instructors meeting at camp focused primarily on the difficulty many dojos are experiencing in attracting and keeping new members, and in particular, young adult members. Several instructors volunteered to form a “Social Media” committee to brainstorm and research ideas about how to best use social media, both for the USAF as an organization, and for individual dojos. A report regarding this initial step is expected to be presented to the Board at the Florida Winter Camp meeting in November.

8. Revision of Ethics Guidelines – A committee of the Board is currently working on revising the USAF Ethics Guidelines and expects to finalize the guidelines by year end.

We hope this helps you feel informed and up-to-date regarding the activities of the Board and the TC. As always, we thank you for your support and membership.
Sincerely,
George Kennedy
Chairman of the Board

From Yamada Sensei: Etiquette for Seminar Invitations

Dear USAF and Sansuikai Instructors:
The following are very important procedures I would like you to keep in mind, and it applies whether you are a member of the USAF or Sansuikai International.  When it comes to organizing seminars, we must consider the USAF and Sansuikai International 2 separate organizations that must show a mutual respect towards each other.
Whenever you are approached to teach a seminar outside your organization, especially if it is from a country other than your own, please remember to follow this proper etiquette: both you and the dojo inviting you should request permission from me (through the USAF or Sansuikai office) in writing before you accept the invitation.  Also, this must be followed in the reverse situation – if you are inviting an instructor from outside your organization and especially from another country, it is your responsibility to not only write to me, but to also request from the person you are inviting that he/she write a letter regarding the invitation before the invitation is accepted.  These are the correct steps to take, and when they are followed, everything flows smoothly.  When they are not, it often puts my organizations and me in a very difficult situation. These are also simply good manners to follow and will reflect well on all involved.
As long as you are part of the USAF or Sansuikai, you must consider the proper way to proceed in these situations, and not take matters in your own hands. Please follow these correct procedures.
For any circumstances that involve dan testing at a seminar, if this correct path is not followed, the USAF will not or cannot take responsibility to assist with the business of promotions/registrations.  Testing should not be given at any dojo or to any members that are not a part of the USAF or Sansuikai, and I should be approached regarding all testing and arrangements well before they occur.
When this respectful process is observed, it will greatly help avoid conflict and create more harmony for everyone.
Y. Yamada

A Message From Yamada Sensei

Dear Teachers and Members,
We just finished our annual summer camp 2018 with great success. It was a great summer camp and I am sure everybody had a wonderful time creating new friendships and new love.
Our summer camp is very unique and one of the best summer camps in the world. I can say this proudly because we offer so many varieties of the best instruction. Well- organized by the staff with lots of explanation and knowledge. Greeted at the desk by intelligent and charming ladies. What else can you ask for?
During summer camp, there were a couple of meetings by the Technical Committee and Board of Directors.  I am very happy with the result of both meetings.
Before I finish this letter, I’d like to say that I hope you have a wonderful rest of the 2018 year, creating deeper friendships with one another. And I’d like to encourage all the dojos to have seminars inviting our talented T. C. members.
Y. Yamada

SUMMER CAMP DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JULY 1ST

Good news! Summer camp registration has been extended to July 1st – hotel rooms are going quickly, so please make sure to observe the new deadline if you are hoping to stay on site for a half-week or full-week camp package!

All camp details can be found here:
Let us know if you have any questions, we are always happy to help!
With warm regards,
Laura and Karen
Camp Coordinators

Summer Camp Deadline is 1 Week Away!

This is a friendly reminder that the deadline for registering for camp and reserving a room at the discounted rate is 1 WEEK AWAY – FRIDAY JUNE 22nd.  Please spread the word, and forward to your dojo members and friends.
All camp details can be found here:
We hope to see you on the mat!

The Vocabulary of Conflict

There was a time, during my youth and early adulthood, that I had only a one-word response to any conflict, a loud and forceful “NO.” In a lot of situations, there’s nothing wrong with a strong “NO!” as a means of stopping aggression. It’s a word whose delivery everyone should practice. But while that word had been useful in my formative years, as a boy and young man facing larger bullies, as a response to conflict in other situations, it lacked a certain capacity for nuance.

After all, it’s not only bullies looking to humiliate you that result in conflict; you can get into arguments with bosses, significant others, family members and friends, and for many of these situations, a loud, aggressive “no” is not the appropriate response. “No” stops things. “No” puts the brakes on processes that often need to occur in conflict, processes that lead to outcomes which could be desirable for both participants.

But as a young man, I didn’t know that. I knew that “no” kept me safe and out of trouble, and that was really the only response I had in a conflict. As a result, girlfriends tended to find me “hardheaded.” Work relationships could become fraught as well. In those days, I worked in a high-conflict profession. Because I had to frequently swallow my “no” to ensure I had a job the next day, long-held frustrations would eventually boil over.

It wasn’t until I was well into my study of aikido that I realized what I was learning at the dojo was not just an assemblage of techniques for responding to physical attacks. I was learning an entire philosophy and vocabulary of conflict. I was learning other words in addition to “no” that I could use in disagreements, physical, verbal or emotional.

I was also learning — and this is equally important — a certain selflessness in conflict. And by selflessness, I don’t mean it in the giving, loving, kind sense. I mean it in the direct sense of a lack of self, a no-self that allows you to focus in an objective, unemotional way on whatever you feel is attacking you.

When I began training in aikido, I would keep my awareness focused intently on the hand, stick, or sword that was trying to strike me. As I began to master the techniques of coping with the attack, my attention shifted to a slightly broader focus, to that of the attacker’s body. By placing my attention there, I became able to incorporate information about my attacker’s line of force, speed and direction into my calculations, allowing me to begin blending with the attack in a way I could not before. Most recently, my focus has shifted again — or, more accurately, diffused. I now “see” the attack as I look beyond the attacker with an unfocused gaze, my mind captured by nothing and taking in everything. Now, at last, I have the capacity to meet my attacker on his grounds with my intent.

This corresponded to an increasing range of physical responses. At first, I had “no.” Then I added “left, right or down.” Now, I have “I’m sorry, but nobody is here right now,” along with a host of adverbs and adjectives, modifiers that amend my response, tailoring it to an exact fit for the situation.

Outside of the training space of the dojo or the unlikely occurrence of a street brawl, the importance of what I’ve learned physically is how that has morphed into a more comprehensive emotional response as well. Spousal disputes — and when two people who are warriors at heart marry, you’re going to have them — become less emotionally destructive when both of us engage in creative conflict. As do conflicts with business associates, employees and others.

Worst-case scenario

In a worst-case scenario, when a strike reaches its intended target, I can choose to simply not be there. Sometimes being non-reactive to a verbal or emotional attack is the best response, allowing the attacker to expend their energy fruitlessly, and then, the smoke having lifted from the battlefield, negotiations can begin.

Sometimes, however, non-engagement only serves to increase the attacker’s ferocity, in which case other tactics are in order. A counter-attack, however, is not one of them. That’s part of the beauty of aikido, as it has no counter-strikes, no offensive moves. Yes, a punch or a kick may be administered as part of a defensive action, but that is only as a protective measure; and again, techniques may be done with or without such amenities, allowing you to control the level of the conflagration, even in the middle of a firefight.

So you redirect the aggression. Turn it toward the door, or the window, or redirect it back at them, allowing the attacker to experience the noxiousness of their own energy. Help them to leave (literal defenestration is not required) by the exit closest to the aim of their attack, giving them a chance to think things over before resuming hostilities. Often, this will turn down the heat enough that the conflict can then be resolved.

Martial arts alchemy

How do you learn these emotional techniques from training physical techniques in the dojo? Even having experienced the process, I can describe it no better than being some form of alchemy, where the physical activity rewires the circuits of your brain.

Certainly part of it is just being swung at. If you figure that on a typical night in the dojo I’m dealing with anywhere from 50 to 100 shots to the head, at some point being swung at loses its emotional gravity, and it’s just another fist in the air.

Another part is a sense of competence. If you feel competent in an activity, your fear of participating will decrease and your need to “prove yourself” will evaporate. This is important, as conflict makes up a small part of most people’s lives but can consume vast amounts of emotional resources.

The last part comes not simply from training in conflict, but specifically in the martial art of aikido. Aikido opens your mind to a third path of conflict; one where there is no winner, and no loser either. When you throw someone on the mat, you aren’t beating him; you aren’t somehow superior to her; you are simply taking their balance, which they offered to you in the attack, and moving it a few inches north, south, left or right. And you will have your turn to be thrown as well, a time in which you realize that to roll in response to your partner’s throw is protecting your own integrity, ensuring your safety for yourself. Self-care in the midst of an attack on someone? Well, that’s a novel thought. And there it goes, from your muscles, joints and sinews to the synapses of your brain.

These days, in this world, it is increasingly hard to avoid conflict. Hard not to provoke others or be provoked by them, while we’re all involved in a game of high stakes poker that determines the fate of ourselves and the larger world. We cannot end conflict, nor can we avoid it; in truth, conflict is a necessary tool for advancement, but only works if wielded wisely.

————

For more essays on aikido, follow Dr. Avery Jenkins at https://medium.com/@avery.jenkins

by Avery Jenkins

Litchfield Hills Aikikai

Ichi-go ichi-e

The white oak tip of a jo was shooting toward my throat and I was doing my best to curl under it before it hit me. My body was horizontal, roughly four feet above the mat. In my hands was a bokken. And all around me was a gasp from the seated students who were watching. The tsuki to my neck was as unexpected to them as it was to me.

A few minutes earlier I had been called by Seichi Sugano Sensei to get a bokken and attack him with a kirioroshi. He stood on the mat holding a jo as the students all sat to watch his next demonstration. I lined up in front of him with a bokken and attacked. As my bokken descended toward his head, I expected him to get off line. But he wasn’t moving. My brain went into rapid alarm mode: “He-is-not-moving-he-is-not-moving-I’m-going-to-hit-Sensei!” I did not want to be the student who hit Sugano Sensei.

I knew what he intended to do. He had been talking about getting off the line and I had done enough demonstrations with him to know that’s what he planned: step off the line as I attacked and counter my strike with his jo.

But he wasn’t moving off the line and I stopped my cut before hitting him. Actually, I wouldn’t have hit him, not then or ever. And he wasn’t happy about my aborted strike. For such a generally soft-spoken man, Sugano Sensei’s voice could shake the entire dojo when he wanted to. That’s what he did then. He glared and shouted, “Strike me!” He was definitely annoyed.

I moved back into position. This time I would finish my cut and if I hit him, so be it. I had failed to give him a proper attack and this time I was going to make up for it.

I raised the bokken and before I could strike or even think, he suddenly did a jodan tsuki. I was being taught a lesson.

That’s how I found myself airborne, doing a kick-out so I could curl myself under the tip of his oncoming jo. I landed with the bokken frozen in mid-strike. My heart was hammering, adrenaline spiking, and I got up to attack him again as fast as I could.

This time as my bokken went for his head, he vanished from the line and countered with the jo, threading it between my wrists and throwing me. It was the technique I had expected the first time. We did this a few more times and then the class practiced the technique.

As went back to my partner, I was dazed. And I felt rotten. I’ve always felt it’s an honor to take ukemi for an instructor, especially Sugano Sensei and Yamada Sensei. I had let him down. And I had learned some important lessons.

First, it’s not the ukemi, it’s the attack AND the ukemi. I had failed to give Sugano Sensei a real attack. He knew what my abilities in ukemi were. Doing an unexpected jodan tsuki, he knew I could take the ukemi. But that’s just half of it. A good attack is equally important. And it wouldn’t have required an emergency kick-out.

More importantly, I had completely failed to understand how good his aikido was (sadly, Sugano Sensei passed away in 2010). He would have moved and I wouldn’t have hit him. I underestimated his skill. By extension I underestimated aikido. It’s at the top of my list of things to never do again. Ever.

I pondered this experience for a long time after that class. I guess I’m still pondering it years later. At the time it really hurt and I wondered if he would call me for a demonstration ever again. He did, of course. Training always goes on.

Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会) is a saying that gets passed around martial arts dojos. In Japanese tea ceremony it’s typically translated “one lifetime, one meeting.” In this sense, each experience is unique, even if it’s something we experience every day, such as a cup of tea or the morning sun. In Japanese martial arts traditions it’s more often translated as “one encounter, one opportunity.” In this sense, when an attack occurs, especially with a lethal weapon, we may only have one opportunity to neutralize the attack.

Both interpretations apply to what I learned that day. Every time we practice it is a unique experience, whether we’d done a given technique once or ten thousand times. And each technique—each encounter—should have a life or death intensity. Sugano Sensei demonstrated the razor’s edge of budo, not only that day but every time he did aikido. It’s an encounter I will always remember.

Paul Alexander

New York Aikikai

2017 – USAF At A Glance

We would like to share with you our 2017 year-end report that was circulated to USAF Chief Instructors.  The formatting is for a trifold brochure, so please take that into consideration when you review the content.  We hope you find it informative and wish you a wonderful 2018.

               2017 Year At A Glance

 

New Year’s Recommendations 1-1-2018

The following list comprises the 2018 New Year’s recommendations for 5th dan and above, and Shihan.

 

The recently posted list on Aikikai Foundation’s website can be found here: Kagamibiraki Grading 2018

Godan 

  • Maite Azcoitia – Gold Coast Aikikai
  • Renee Bean – Chushin Aikido Center
  • Driss Benmoussa – Aikido of Park Slope
  • Luis Javier Burghi – Aikido of Park Slope
  • Christy Calder – Aikido of Santa Barbara
  • Anthony Chong – Aikido Curacao
  • Michael Clair – Fudoshin Aikikai
  • Sean Conley – Martha’s Vineyard Aikido Club
  • Tim Cooper – Albany Aikido
  • Jerome Curiale – Aikido of Red Bank
  • Thomas Davis – Peachtree Aikikai
  • Byron Eddy – Litchfield Hills Aikikai
  • Wendall Gault – Aikido of Park Slope
  • Philip Gendrault – San Francisco Aikikai
  • Paul Glavine – Aikido Institute of Newfoundland
  • Walter Gonzalez – New York Aikikai
  • Colleen Hogan – Aikido Institute of Newfoundland
  • Michel Hovan – Granite State Aikido Club
  • Richard Morrison – Center Island Aikido
  • Oleg Polishevich – Aikido of Park Slope
  • David Ross – New York Aikikai
  • James Shell – Aberdeen Maryland Aikikai
  • Michael Terruso – Vineland Aikikai
  • Aristedes Stamatelakey – Southland Aikido
  • Alexandre Vieira – Skylands Aikikai
  • Giovani Villafane – Chiheisen Aikido
  • Mark Voohees – New York Aikikai
  • Gennadiy Zolotarov – Aikido of Park Slope

Rokudan 

  • Elizabeth Albin – New York Aikikai
  • David Childers – North Coast Aikikai
  • Christopher Clark – Portland Aikido
  • Jaime de Jesus – Midwest Aikido Center
  • Motier Haskins – Fairfield Iowa Aikikai
  • Ayal Joshua – Miami Aikikai
  • Thomas Kelly – Midwest Aikido Center
  • Eiji Kurashige – North Chatham Aikido Club
  • Rock Lazo – Kenoshi Aikikai
  • Harry McCormick – Florida Aikikai
  • Susan Monroe – Aikido of Cincinnati
  • Kenneth Pletcher – Midwest Aikido Center
  • Wayne Sherman – Providence Aikikai
  • Jeff Shimonski – Florida Aikikai
  • James Soviero – Aikido of Red Bank
  • Jay Stallman – Peachtree Aikikai
  • G. Jeffrey Vernis – Palm Beach Aikikai
  • Naomi Wentworth – Midwest Aikido Center
  • Robert Whelan – Shodokan

Nanadan 

  • Raymond Farinato – Aikido of Fairfield County
  • Irvin Faust – Albany Aikido
  • Dennis Meno – Suncoast Aikido
  • Edward Peteroy – USAF Academy Aikido Club
  • Gordon Sakamoto – Northern Virginia Aikikai
  • Darrell Tangman – Augusta Aikido Club

Shihan

  • Josef Birdsong – Aikido of Austin
  • David Birt – Davis Aikikai
  • Glenn Brooks – Aikido of Scottsdale
  • Don Dickie – Ottawa Aikikai
  • Edmund Di Marco – Lake County Aikikai
  • Chester Griffin – Long Beach Island Aikikai
  • Eugene Monteleone – Suffolk Aikikai
  • Laura Jacobs Pavlick – Litchfield Hills Aikikai
  • Gentil Pennewaert – Newport Beach Aikikai
  • Gustavos Ramos – Miami Aikikai
  • Eliot Rifkin – Miami Aikikai
  • William Xavier Staub – Waianae Coast Aikido
  • Geraldine Tremblay – Waianae Coast Aikido
  • Art Wise – Evanston Aikido Center

 

Aikido of Scottsdale, Arizona Opens New Dojo

Aikido of Scottsdale and Glenn Brooks Sensei have yet another reason to celebrate. Just coming off the heels of their 20th anniversary this past year, they are now announcing the relocation and opening of their stunning new dojo. Designed and built by its wonderful members, construction took over 3 months to complete and at nearly 4,000 square feet, it is the largest Aikido dojo in Arizona.

“Every detail was meticulously thought out, designed and created” states Brooks. “From the custom made sliding shoji doors and 20-foot long oak Kamiza to the bamboo flooring, concealed hinged doorways and satin-chrome hardware accents throughout. It’s a beautiful blending of traditional and modern Japanese design”.

Perfectly located in one of Scottsdale’s most popular outdoor destinations, hosting movie theaters, multiple restaurants, bars, ice cream shops and more. Foot-traffic of all ages is plentiful day and night. Aikido of Scottsdale is open 7 days/week and offers children, youth and adult classes.

They cordially invite all Aikidoist to their upcoming 1 year anniversary seminar February 16-18, 2018.

Special guest instructor will be Rado Marinov Sensei, Chief Instructor, Aikido Shiyukan Federation of Bulgaria. They are directly affiliated with Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Rado Sensei teaches seminars regularly throughout Eastern Europe and Japan. This will be his first seminar in the United States.

Please visit Aikido of Scottsdale website for more information; www.AikidoofScottsdale.com

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