Archives for May 2015

Q&A Blog Series With Some Top Instructors

This is a summary of the Q&A Blog Series with some high ranking Aikido friends in the USAF & in Europe.  My guests include: Andy Demko, 7th Dan, Shihan, USAF Technical Committee; Steve Pimsler, 7th Dan, Shihan, USAF Technical Committee; George Kennedy, 6th Dan, Shihan, Joe Nemeth, 6th Dan, Shihan, Dennis Main, 6th Dan, Shidoin and Michelle Feilen, 6th Dan.

Dojo Cho: “Why did you start training in Aikido?”
Demko Sensei: “I was always interested in martial arts from my early youth and have practiced and self-taught many methods. When I first saw an Aikido demonstration on television, I was enamored with the techniques and philosophy and I knew that was the art for me.”
Pimsler Sensei: “I thought it might help me be less of a klutz. Then I watched a class at the New York Aikikai; the energy was electric and everyone looked they were having a blast. I wanted to have fun, too.”
Kennedy Sensei: “I was committed to non-violence but did not want to be a victim. I needed a path that required self-discipline and engaged my mind and body as well as my spirit. I knew I would be practicing Aikido for the rest of my life the first time I saw it!”
Nemeth Sensei: “When I first saw Aikido, I was impressed with the fluidity and grace of the practitioners. The concept of soft power was appealing to me. I had practiced Judo for many years, and I felt that a change to Aikido could take me down a path that I could pursue for life.”
Main Sensei: “I was a jeweler in Grove City, PA, a small college town. The chief of police informed my partner and me of some known dangerous burglars in the area. We were encouraged to carry a concealed weapon. I decided that I should study self-defense. I found Aikido to be a perfect fit for me from the philosophical to the physical point of view.”
Feilen Sensei: “I started practicing Judo when I was 10 and stopped at the age of 18. At that time my mother was practicing bokken and her teacher was also an Aikido teacher. On Saturday afternoons she used to practice Aikido with a group of friends and she asked me for months to come and join the class. Finally, just to make her happy, I joined them…. and thought “well this is fun!”

Read more of the interview here…




Click Here to Watch Video of Aikido of Charlotte’s 2 Senior Instructors discussing Aikido, the dojo, etc.


by Jonathan Weiner

Aikido of Charlotte

Ukemi as a Guiding Sense of Flow

Ukemi can be many things.  It is a way to train and fall safely.  It is a sincere and committed attack.  And for some people it is even a sub-art within Aikido.  Some people like to take high-flying and super soft falls, while others stick to the basics.  Ukemi is adaptable and changes with each individual.  Proper ukemi ensures that you and your partner have a continuous and flowing practice.  There are people that may offer resistance at times as a so called test to see if the technique “works,” but techniques can often be easily blocked even with proper technique due to fact that during training the uke knows what the nage is going to do.  Even someone with lazy ukemi, who won’t really move with the technique, can stop a technique (although that would most likely leave the uke open to all sorts of atemi from the nage).  While resistance can have its merits it can also break the flow of practice, and for newer students creating a sense of flow is a great help in internalizing techniques.

The uke can play three different roles: the guide, the partner, and the challenger.  The role of the guide can be played by senior students adept enough in their ukemi to guide newer students through techniques by placing themselves in the positions that uke should be in when the technique is done properly.  This gives the nage a sense of how the technique should feel and encourages a cooperating sense of flow.  Constant movement and adaptability are essential in good ukemi.  The continuous give and take between uke and nage through the repetition of techniques create a steady rhythm where the mind and its nagging thoughts fade away, leaving only you and partner in the present moment.  It is a moment of stillness within the consecutive beats of movement.  Students who are just starting to learn the techniques are often stuck in their minds, thinking about the techniques before performing them, and this is natural.  But as they continue to practice, especially with the help of uke who guide them through it with their cooperative movements, the sense of flow they feel along with persistent repetition builds their muscle memory, and eventually the movement will supersede the thinking.

The role of uke as a partner builds off the role of uke as a guide.  The sense of flow continues, but uke follows nage’s lead this time.  This role is for partners who both have a sufficient understanding of basic ukemi and basic techniques.  The pace of the training can be slow and smooth, or quick and aerobic.  The worries and stresses of everyday life disappear for that moment as the partners are enthralled by the motions.  The focus for uke is still cooperative to maintain the pulse of the training.  Corrections may be made to one another, but they are short and brief, leaving the more detailed corrections to the instructor.  The partners revolve as equals in the round and circular movements of Aikido.  They are relaxed, but not limp, constantly feeding their energy to be circulated through the rotating system of throws and falls.  Their centers are coordinated, similar to how the gravitational centers of planets move and align with a sense of stability.  Uke becomes like the Earth revolving around the Sun.  Flow is kept like the consistency of the four seasons year after year just as uke’s role switches after every four techniques.

The role of uke as a challenger involves some resistance, but that doesn’t mean the sense of flow has to be tossed aside.  Some ukes like to “test” nage’s technique to see how effective it is.  If an uke stops a technique, he or she may follow with corrections, but sometimes even relatively new students stop techniques just for the sake of presenting a challenge.  Of course they can stop it; it’s not like an experienced nage would risk injuring the uke by adding some power to the throw if the uke stops the technique by placing him/herself in an unsafe position.  Some inexperienced nage try to muscle through a technique when they feel resistance, which takes away from their technique.  Resistance should not be used indiscriminately.  Students at higher levels can use subtle resistance to add to the nuances of their technique, but a guiding principle is needed for beginners.  Uke as a challenger does not just stop a technique to see how good the nage is.  The challenger adds some resistance at various points of the technique to allow nage to learn and practice how to add power from the center and through extension, or how to stayed relaxed.  The movement continues through the resistance.

People practice Aikido for many different reasons and each person has his or her own individual style of practice.  And while flow may not be everyone’s focus in training, it adds a significant dimension to Aikido as an art.  As uke, students need to adapt to the plethora of different nage they will come across.  Some nage move slow and soft, while others go fast and hard.  Ukemi can be used as a tool to teach, a catalyst for continuous flow, or as a challenge used for the sake of growth and improvement.  This multivalent approach to ukemi shows that it is much more than just attacking and falling.  It can whisk the practitioner off from daily life into an almost meditative state of mind where only uke, nage, and the training at hand exist.


by Andrew Lee

New York Aikikai



At this time there are only 25 USAF discounted rooms left in the hotel for people purchasing full week camp packages (Sunday-Saturday).  If you plan on coming to camp for the full week, you should purchase your camp package and reserve your hotel room as soon as possible.


Also, the USAF room block has reached full capacity at the camp rate for the Saturday prior to camp (July 25th).  You may still reserve a room for Saturday, July 25th but at an increased rate of $209 plus tax which does not include breakfast on Sunday morning.

Please click here for more camp/hotel information and to proceed with your registration.

Best regards,


Laura Pavlick and Karen De Paola

Important USAF Camp Update











If you are planning on attending camp this year, we highly recommend you register for a camp package (half or full week) and make your hotel reservation as soon as possible to take advantage of the limited number of USAF discounted rooms still available.

Also, the Saturday prior to camp (July 25th) has a very limited number of rooms at the USAF discounted rate. The rate for Saturday, July 25th, will then increase to $209 (plus taxes & fees) and will not include breakfast on Sunday morning.

If you are not purchasing a camp package, you can pre-register as a day participant. There is no registration deadline for day participants.

Please click here for more camp/hotel information and to proceed with your registration.

Best regards,


Laura Pavlick and Karen De Paola

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