Wandering Warrior- Qigong

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Wandering Warrior- Qigong

By Jill Roth


THE MARTIAL ART
This month we’ll be entering the amazing world of Qigong with the gentle guidance of Bina Bou. Bina is a certified instructor of Qigong and Tai Chi who enjoys sharing her knowledge with her students in Cave Creek and other locations in the Phoenix, Arizona area.

DEFINITION OF QIGONG
I began with Bina’s website (www.binabouchi.com), which answers the question “What is Qigong?” Long used in training for the martial arts, Qigong is described by Bina as an exercise “designed to cultivate your Mind,Body, and your Spirit; and revitalize your Chi, the life force energy, by deep breathing and synchronized movements.”Qi or Chi means energy—a resource so essential it is impossible to define or translate Gong or Kung means to cultivate—a practice or methodology.

Qigong, therefore, refers to the exercise of one’s internal energy, and is a path to Mindfulness. Intention – Attention – Repetition – Guidance.

While everyone has Qi, most people don’t know how to tap its potential for healing and stress management. Qigong training allows practitioners to learn to relax and develop their mind-body connection. Through slow and gentle movements, Qigong has the practical benefits of providing balance and enhancing the body’s own natural healing—benefits which are documented in numerous medical publications.

With this background on the Qigong tradition, I attended one of Bina’s classes. To warm up, the group of about 24 gathered together in a large circle. You could feel the effervescent energy rippling around the room. We started with some wonderful, uplifting music and reflexology for the feet. We accomplished this
by walking in a giant circle, first on our toes, then on our heels, followed by the outsides of our feet, and finally on the insides of our feet. Next, we continued to walk while kicking out to the front, and then kicking our tushes, kicking out sideways, and lastly, marching with our knees up high. The room was filled with smiling faces, exuberant walking, and good cheer. Oh, and did I mention that the participants in the class ranged in age from 55–83?

Qigong can be used for its martial, healing, or meditative aspects. Bina says that Qigong is the mother of all martial arts, and that with slight variations it can be used for each of these goals. According to Dr. Jwing-ming Yang, a well-known teacher and author in the field, there are two separate trains of thought in the Qigong schools focused on martial arts. One, Nei Dan, believes that one should build Qi in the body and then have that spread to the limbs to increase their martial effectiveness. The other, Wai Dan, follows the belief that you should build up the Qi in your limbs and then have it flow inward to your internal Qi. This type of Qi can be used to “energize the skin and the muscles, enabling them to resist a blow without injury.” Both schools teach that by harnessing the focus of the mind (Yi), you can send Qi to the muscles and increase your fighting effectiveness. The progression of acupuncture theory also increased the effectiveness of Qigong as a martial art. By gaining a thorough knowledge of the acupuncture meridians, a Qigong practitioner would know the most effective cavities to hit and the necessary depth at which to strike. This combination of knowledge had made for a formidable martial art.

The meditative aspects of Qigong can be as simple as enjoying the focus and stress release of the movements, or as in-depth as the intense Marrow/Brain Washing, a level of training revered and kept secret from all but a handful of practitioners in every generation. To learn more about this area you can read the Marrow/Brain Washing Classic by Da Mo. Da Mo wrote this book about energizing the brain and attaining enlightenment after nine years ofseclusion in a Shaolin Temple.

Bina Bou has focused her practice on the healing properties of Qigong. I was impressed by how her students were brimming with health. Don’t be mistaken— many of her students have faced and overcome health obstacles that would have stopped others in their tracks. Take, for example, Debra, who developed a serious illness and was having difficulty with stamina and balance. Debra had been in a wheelchair before she started working with Bina. After a few months of Qigong practice, Debra was helped to the extent that she is now walking freely. But more on this later; back to the class…

Read the rest of the article and get facts about Qigong on pgs. 40-43

By Jill Roth
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SOUL FOOD- Fried Ice Cream

SOUL FOOD
Fried Ice Cream
SF-Fried Ice Cream

Ingredients:
• 6 scoops Vanilla Ice Cream
• 1 Cup Graham Cracker crumbs
• ½ tsp cinnamon
• 1 Egg
• 1 T Half-and-half
• Vegetable Oil (enough to make ¼-1/2 inch of oil in bottom of pan)

The Process:
1. Scoop Ice Cream into balls and freeze for two hours.
2. Mix Graham Crackers and cinnamon.
3. Roll ice cream balls into the mixture and refreeze for at least 30 minutes.
4. Beat egg and cream until well blended
5. Roll Ice cream balls into egg mixture and reroll in graham cracker mix.
6. Freeze until firm.
7. Freeze until firm. Heat oil to 375 degrees, fry until coating begins to brown. About 10 seconds.

To make homemade whipped cream. Whip 1 Cup of heavy whipping cream, 3-4 Tablespoons of confectioners sugar and 1 teaspoon of vanilla until fluffy.

See the article on pg.45.

-Jill Roth

Roth,Jill

Profiles-Juliette Gordon Low

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Profiles-Juliette Gordon Low


They say that there is an average of 5 people with whom we spend the most time. This was clearly true for Juliette Gordon Low as two of her closest friends started the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts in England. They inspired Low to found the Girl Scouts in the United States. She started with 18 girls, and there are now over 10 million Girl Scouts and Girl Guides across the world.

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“My purpose… to go on with my heart and soul, devoting all my energies to Girl Scouts, and heart and hand with them, we will make our lives and the lives of the future girls happy, healthy and holy.”

Juliette was a rebel in her time. She wanted the Girl Scouts to go camping, enjoy nature, and play sports – things many girls and women were not supposed to do back then. In the original Girl Scout handbook,girls could find instructions for how to stop a runaway horse and how to tie up a burglar with eight inches of cord. (1)

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“Scouting rises within you and inspires you to put forth your best.”

The Girl Scouts is a place where girls can become great leaders with a strong focus on integrity. Girls are taught to be fair, honest, friendly and helpful. Here is a place where our daughters can become the leaders of the future.
“Right is right, even if no one else does it “

Juliette Gordon Low changed the world for girls with one simple idea and a lot of pluck.

Sources:
(1) Brownie – The Girl Guide to
Girl Scouting
Quotes are from brainyquotes.com
JGL-Group

-Jill Roth

Roth,Jill

Jill Roth, our resident “Wandering Warrior” holds her fourth-degree Black Belt with the American Tae-Kwon Do Association, a Blue Belt in Kempo, a level 2 Reiki and an NRA Certification in Basic Pistol. She is proud to write about strong woman in each issue as well as introduce us to different experiences in martial arts through her Wandering Warrior column (see page 42).

Maya Angelou

Maya

“If you don’t like something, change it.
If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Maya Angelou is the inspirational author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” She has inspired generations of women, and indeed all walks of people, who have worked to overcome prejudice, discrimination and abuse.

Maya Angelou withdrew inside and was mute for five years, after being raped by her mother’s boyfriend. With a great deal of encouragement from her grandmother, who introduced her to literature, she gradually emerged as a talented artist.

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue
erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

Angelou started acting in 1954, but fell back to her true love, writing, in 1970. Her first autobiographical work became a best seller and was nominated for a National Book Award. She has written seven autobiographies providing insights into the development of black women in America. She has also published three books of essays, several books of poetry, and a wealth of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years Angelou’s writings have changed society for the better, inspiring greater diversity in both theater and literature.

Maya Angelou has indeed changed the world through her writings and actions. What an amazing woman!

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.”

-Jill Roth
Roth,Jill

 

Wandering Warrior-Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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This month we will be learning about the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with Seta Reupenny from the Gracie Arizona Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Seta teaches the all women’s class on Saturday mornings.

DEFINITION OF BRAZILIAN(GRACIE) JIU JITSU
Gracie Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that focuses on grappling and ground fighting techniques which can be used by a smaller person to defend against attacks by larger, stronger opponents. Specifically, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu refers to the style developed by Helio Gracie in the 1900s from a modified version of pre-World War II Judo including some techniques from Japanese Jujutsu.
Because of Helio’s slight build, he developed a fighting style using technique, leverage and timing allowing a practitioner to successfully defend themselves against a bigger, stronger adversary.Today, we train in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu for self-defense, sport grappling tournaments (gi and no-gi) and mixed martial arts (MMA) competition.(www.graciearizona.com)

THE WORKOUT
The first thing I saw when I pulled up to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy was a sign that read “PROFESSOR PARKING ONLY ALL VIOLATORS WILL BE CHOKED.” I thought, “These people are either going to be really fun, or I’m in for a world of hurt.” It was a little bit of both.
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After I changed into a Gi that they were nice enough to loan me, I had time to sit and watch the kid’s class before mine. I was blown away. There were 30 kids in the class and EVERY single kid was enraptured in what they were doing. And, they weren’t just rolling around on the floor “playing” and having a good time. They were rolling around on the floor, demonstrating good technique and well thought-out strategy…. and having a good time! I have never seen 30 children that focused on one task. Impressive.

I was welcomed into the family before class had even started. Donna, an experienced student, had spied me sitting alone and waiting for class to start. She didn’t hesitate to come over and make me feel at home. She said hello and answered several of my basic questions. With Donna on my side, I felt more secure in learning something new, which was good because our fabulous instructor, Seta, was calling us to start.

Now, I should tell you that I started off my morning with a 3 mile run. I figured, “It is my first day of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, how much could they really have me do? I’m sure it won’t be a very thorough workout.“I have one word for that plan of action…..STUPID! Even though it was my first day,I had a very good workout. And, I’m sure as you get better and better, (and your
instructor can spend less time explaining and more time doing) it will be an even more challenging workout. We started by warming up. This was achieved by running around the perimeter of the mat forward, then sideways, the other sideways, and then backwards. We then proceeded to run to one side of the school and slide down the floor on our backs and sides. This is called shrimping. It kind of looked like a switchblade opening and closing, but on your sides. Seta had to demonstrate this to me and then explained that no matter how long it takes, you always finish the skill that you are working on. We then ran back to the other end. Next we did forward rolls down the mat, run back, followed by backwards rolls down the mat, run back. I missed it, as the rest of the class did bear walk (I was learning the beauty of rolling backwards over one shoulder from Seta). I caught back up with the class when we did monkey walk. These were kind of like cartwheels, but on your knuckles, run back. At this point Seta figured that we were warm. Yep, pretty warm over here.

We made a large circle in the room and then began to swing our arms to loosen them up. Ah, time to breath. Having swung our arms forwards and backwards, we stretched our legs. Yay, more
breathing. We did forward bends over our legs and then straddled our legs and leaned forward again. We were back in my comfort zone, now, and I was feeling better. We laid on our backs and circled our hips and legs and then rolled forward and backward, coming up to a squat each time. I was a little behind the class, but was rewarded with a smile when I finished all 5 of my required tasks.

Now it was time for partner work. I was worried that I would be all alone when Donna came over and saved me. Seta instructed the class to go through a set pattern of drills that help to
prepare you for “rolling” later. “Rolling” is like sparring in other martial arts. But since most of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) takes place on the ground, they call it “rolling.”

Donna did a great job of being patient with me and helping me to understand the “hows” and “where fors” of each technique. The first thing you need to know about BJJ is that you will be
VERY close to your partner. An anorexic tapeworm would not fit between the two of you while you are practicing. I took an all- women’s class and can see how this would be much more comfortable for a beginning student. That being said, the Gracie Arizona Jiu-Jitsu Academy is the only school that I have seen with an all women’s class.

Our partner practice started with “going up and down the body.” You practice where you would put your feet on the other person to gain the largest advantage.(hook behind the knees, locked on the hip joints, and pushing against the crux of the elbow). You work your feet up and down your partner’s body focusing and pushing as necessary.

Next, we practiced “sweep 1” and “sweep 2”. I never really “got” these two, but the general concept is to move your body around in the way that you would need to in order sweep your partner from the right or left side. A sweep is when you position yourself and your partner in a way that you are able to “sweep” their legs out from under them and they end up on the ground.

I felt much better about my attempt at the “berimbola.” This was an intricate combination of rolling over and placing your hands and feet on your partner. You use their legs for leverage and
move in and out of their legs in a rolling kind of dance. I’m sure it wasn’t pretty but at lease I kind of got it.

Finally, we laid on our backs and held our partners ankles while they stood. We did a series of leg lifts that would have made Jillian Michaels proud. I was beginning to see why Seta was in such great shape. Donna told me she was a mother of 6, but you would have thought her abs had been flat her whole life.

With our drills completed, Seta called us all together to show us the technique we would be focusing on that day. The all women’s class isn’t a beginner class, so this was an advanced description of the intricacies of the technique. Seta, carefully demonstrated all the weak spots you need to “shore up” in order to succeed when you roll. Fortunately, I had Donna to fall back
on since I had never seen these before. Seta had us focus on making sure that our weight is spread out evenly. She suggested that we visualize a tent. Each corner of the tent has a spike to hold it in place. We should endeavor to be this stable. It is key to stay close to your partner and block them from being able to move. If they can move, they can move you-not what you
want.
After I had practiced with Donna for a while, Seta came over and showed me some of the places that I needed to shore up. BJJ is an excellent combination of physical workout and mental mastery.
It is like a chess game. You and your opponent are constantly searching for each other’s weaknesses. Seta, showed us one more key point to focus on and then it was time for us to roll. Donna left me, and I thought for sure I would just end up watching the others roll, but I was so impressed. One by one, the other students came over and invited me to roll with them. We switched
partners about every 5 minutes, and not once did I feel left out or awkward. One of the students always jumped right in and made me feel welcome. With that, class was over.

We shook hands and hugged each person from the class. If you If you had had the pleasure of working with that person that day, you thanked each other as well. After all the hugs were over, Donna came over one more time. She asked if I wanted to join her in the following class, as she usually stays for two more classes and then 2 hours of yoga. What? After I politely declined, she said she hoped to see me next Saturday. These are some Gung ho women, and I was inspired by their openness and commitment.

NEXT ISSUE
Where will you send me next?

Read the Interview and more on pg.43 at http://joom.ag/jSbb

-Jill Roth
Roth,Jill
Jill Roth holds her fourth degree Black Belt with the American Tae Kwon Do Association, a Blue Belt in Kempo, a level 2 Reiki and an NRA Certification in Basic Pistol. She has taught Tae Kwon Do across the country. She studies different types of martial arts all over the state and writes about her experiences in our Wandering Warrior section.

Tai Chi- Mindful Movement for Vitality and Health

Adam
For this issue we are exploring the “softer” art of Tai Chi through Adam Montoya of the Desert Song Healing Arts Center. Adam teaches a Tai Chi form, inspired by all five Tai Chi styles, that he created himself. His personal practice and study is with the Chen Practical Method. (1) He teaches a style of Tai Chi that is a combination style that focuses on health and well-being.

THE CLASS

You could almost feel the calm emanating from the building. As you walked through the front doors, you were enveloped in a sea of bliss. Soft lighting, peaceful chanting, and delicate
incense embraced you as you entered. “Welcome to Desert Song Healing Arts Center,” lilted a voice from behind the front desk; and with that, our Tai Chi adventure began. Lady luck had smiled upon me as it just so happened that Adam had started a 3-week intro class the week before. Here was my perfect chance to join other would-be practitioners otheir quest. It was interesting to discover what had brought the different classmates to this introduction class. One woman was looking for a “moving meditation,” another was searching for a workout that was “less intense than yoga”. It was clear that all of them were enjoying the camaraderie of pursuing a new path with fellow explorers.

Before class, Adam had instructed us to set up a folding chair with a yoga mat spread out in front of it. He greeted us as he started class and then asked us to lay on our backs with our heads towards the chairs. Next, he invited us to notice the support that the earth offered us. “What an interesting perspective,” I thought. So, I gave it a try, and, yes, it was quite comforting to note that the earth supported my body completely without any muscular effort on my part. Next, he asked us to bring our feet up by our bottoms with the soles on the floor. He then instructed us to move our feet to the edges of the mat and let our knees touch.

Hmm, where did all the stress in my lower back go?”
Following this, he encouraged us to keep our feet in the same spot but let our legs fall to the left. We stayed in this position for about a minute and again focused on how little we needed to do to support ourselves; gravity and the earth were doing all the work. “Hmmm, so if I harnessed the energy of the earth and used it as my support, I would be pretty connected and rather formidable,” my little mind suggested. “Clearly this is going to be an interesting night of learning,” I concluded. We balanced this movement by dropping our legs to the right and again spent a minute or so noting the effect.

Next, we placed the soles of our feet together and let our legs fall out to the sides (kind of like a frog) and again centered ourselves in this new position.Finally, we rolled to the right, rested a moment then used our arms to push ourselves to sitting – no straining here, just centering, observing, and focus. Nice. We then rolled up our mats and prepared to do some movements while standing.

Adam then stood in front of the class and instructed, “Follow me.” He proceeded to perform dozens of intricate and flowing movements. At first I panicked a little and thought “Holy cow, this is the INTRO class?” But,then I relaxed into it and just did my best to follow.

During our interview later Adam commented on how fun it is to watch students as they release “thinking mind.” This is exactly how it felt. When I quit thinking about it so much and just “felt” the form, it was fantastic. All the moves were done incredibly slowly and it was fun to recognize the weight shift required in Adam’s body before he would be able to lift a limb. It became quite easy to tell which way his next move would go simply by paying attention to his body position and replicating it with your own weight distribution. You began to feel what must happen next just by the way your body was prepared.

Like watching a Hawaiian hula dancer, you suspected that each movement had a meaning, and a benefit. I felt that if I studied this art long enough I would be able to unlock these secrets. According to Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming, certain movements will heal or prevent illness in specific parts of the body. (2) Adam later explained that he designed his form to slowly open and balance his students.

I must say that towards the end, when the moves were getting more elaborate, I loved the way that it made me feel inside. I felt powerful and agile.Powerful may seem like a contradictory word here as each move is done intensely slowly, and your goal is to keep your muscles and mind completely relaxed throughout; but somehow it just felt bold to move in this way.

Adam later explained that many people believe that the body and Chi are separate, but the body and Chi actually are reflections of each other. When you open your body, you automatically open your Chi. When your Chi is open, your body can use energy better and the body becomes like a vessel utilizing the Chi. (**) Obviously, this is an art form that you could study for your whole life and never completely master.

After giving us a “taste” of what Tai Chi feels like, he went back to the beginning of the form and showed us the intricacies of the first couple of moves. This is where it really got fun. When you begin the form you stand with your feet about shoulder width apart and bend your knees. You then sink until you can feel your feet connecting with the earth. From here, you gradually sink until every part of your body feels like lead that has bonded with the earth except for your head. Your head is suspended above your neck as if you had a string tugging from the tip of your skull. It is amazing how grounded you feel.

In the next move, you mindfully raise your arms with a slight bend in them with relaxed wrists. This seems deceptively simple. If I asked you to pick up a glass of water, you would start with your bicep and pick it up. But here it is completely different. You sink into the lift and your arms come up as your elbows sink. Confused? We were to, so Adam did an awesome demonstration. He had each of us, in turn, push down on his arms. He showed us how it felt when he lifted with just his arms. It was very easy to hold his arms down. But then you could see his body sink into the earth and the movement came from his base. Each woman in turn fell off balance and giggled at their inability to hold his arms down. It was very cool!

He demonstrated a similar lesson with lifting our legs. Several times in the form you must lift your leg and step to a new location. But he explained we didn’t want to lift that leg, but rather move our bodies in a way that the only possible outcome is for the leg to raise. What? Again, I was struck by how cleverly he guided us to the answer. He had us stand near the wall and
ease our weight onto the leg that would become the “base leg.” Then, gradually, we pushed against the wall and moved our energy into that base leg. Low and behold, at the tipping point, your other leg just rises, because you have set it up where there really is nothing else for the leg to do. AWESOME!

Now, here is the kicker. Imagine doing a form that lasts 15 minutes with each move being that intricate! No wonder Tai Chi is renowned for healing and focus. With that kind of centering
you would be unstoppable!

All too soon, class was over. We had so much fun exploring the form that we didn’t get a chance to meditate. Adam shared that he often has meditation at the end of class. There was no formal bowing in or bowing out with the class. We just quietly put our chairs and yoga mats away and said our goodbyes.

Wikipedia defines Tai Chi as the following:“T’ai Chi Ch’uan training involves five elements: taolu (solo hand and weapons routines/forms), neigong & qigong (breathing, movement and awareness exercises and meditation), tuishou (response drills) and sanshou (self defense techniques). While T’ai Chi Ch’uan is typified by some for its slow movements, many T’ai Chi styles (including the three most popular – Yang, Wu, and Chen) – have secondary forms with faster pace. Some traditional schools of T’ai Chi teach partner exercises known as tuishou, pushing hands, and martial applications of the taolu’s (forms) postures.” (3)

According to an article by Bruce Frantzis, there are five different types of Tai Chi. (4) He states that all Tai Chi styles are similar in that they develop Chi, use slow-motions, and flowing,
circular movements. Yet, each of the styles focuses on different specific strengths and its practitioners espouse varied benefits. The fivetypes are Yang, Wu, Chen, Hao and Combination. Yang is the most popular and widely practiced. Wu emphasizes small, compact movements. Hao is focused primarily on internal chi, and the physical movements are less important. Chen is known for a combination of fast and slow movements with jump kicks and stamping actions, and it is often preferred by the young and athletic. As you might expect, combination is a mixture of the other four styles. (4)

You may also find this martial art listed as T’ai Chi, Taiji, T’ai Chi Ch’uan, Taijiquan and Tai Chi Chi Kung.

Written by Jill Roth.
Roth,Jill
You can read the interview with the instructor Adam on pages 29-31 here.
Email requests to Jill at: jroth@mindsetselfdefense.com

1)You can learn more about Master Chen Zhonghua and the Practical Method at
http://www.practicalmethod.com
(2) The Essense of Tai Chi Chi Kung, Health and Martial Arts, by Dr. Yang Jwing-Ming.
(3) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T’ai_chi_ch’ua
(4) http://www.taichimaster.com

Bujutsu – The Way of The Japanese Warrior by Jill Roth

I came in looking for Ninjitsu, but, left with a glimpse at an entire Japanese Martial Art system. The way of the Japanese warrior is actually a combination of many paths. At the Budo Shingikan Dojo the students are guided along five of them, through the system of Bushin Ryu Aiki Bujutsu. This literally translates as “Authentic Style of War Arts Utilizing Harmonious Blending of Energy”. At first glance those concepts may seem to be at war with each other, but as I learned, that is the beauty and balance of this art. (www.martialartsmesa.com) From the moment I chatted with Shannon on the phone I knew we were in good hands. She asked that we arrive 30 minutes early so we could have a tour of the school and be assigned a student to “shadow”. This student would help us a along the way through the class so that we could blend comfortably into the class and learn some basics. She then further shared that we should wear long pants and a t-shirt to be most comfortable in the class. I took Kris Costa, our favorite Editor, along for the adventure.

BUDO-SHINGIKAN-FRONT

Entering the dojo was a study in balance. Dedeuc D’Antonoli Kaiso proudly shared that they moved into their new location about a year and a half ago. It is the perfect combination of spacious 21st century warehouse and feudal Japanese simplicity. We were only 10 minutes into the tour when Kaiso demonstrated the intricacies of his art. We were chatting about AiKi, the study of the marriage between body structure and energy. After carefully listening to a question of mine, he clarified with a simple demonstration. He asked me to stand in a typical martial arts front stance with my hand extended in a punch. After I complied he pushed on my extended hand. I noted the familiar concussion as the jarring energy pushed me backwards and my body attempted to accommodate by exerting pressure of it’s own. Next, he asked if he could move my body a little. With my permission he then rotated my hand position about 20 degrees and bent my elbow in. Again, he struck my hand. I was riveted, as I realized my body didn’t have to absorb any of the energy, and I felt his impact flow right out of my right heel into the floor. I had read before about Japanese martial artists wanting to emulate an “immovable mountain”. At 128 lbs, I didn’t think I had an immovable anything. It wasn’t my strength or powerful resistance, rather, the structure of my stance and body position by which the energy flowed right through me.

I was hooked!

Back in the front office we were filling out permission forms when we were introduced to Jim. Jim is referred to as Senpai (sen-pie). In class, he is the highest ranking student. We were to shadow Jim throughout our class. Senpai did a masterful job of guiding us through the ins and outs of the lesson, while gently educating us on the culture and etiquette of the dojo

The first thing I noted upon entering the dojo was the silence. Students are encouraged to remain quiet and I was moved by the centering affect this granted. Before the class the students lined up by rank and knelt in Seiza (say-za). This is a position where you kneel on both knees with your feet tucked under your bottom. We bowed in as each student mindfully placed their left and then right hand on the floor and bowed their head towards their hands. Then, equally mindful, placed their right hand and then left back onto their thighs. We bowed to the front of the room and then to the Sensei. The students recited several words in Japanese. Kaiso then asked one of the students to lead the class in warm ups. It was clear to me that this would be considerably different than classes I had been to before. Rather than warming up with jumping jacks and stretch kicks, we focused more on wrist and hip limbering techniques. Almost all of the stretches were static and each student was responsible to stay within their own limits. We stretched in unison as the leading student counted out the moves. The commands were spoken in Japanese and I was told the students are taught these through a student guide and practice.

Freshly warmed up, we moved onto Ukemi (ooh-kim-e) – tumbling. As new students, Senpai took us to the side and taught us forward rolls. I was guessing that these were designed to make me feel as uncoordinated and humble as possible! However Kaiso, explained that they are actually a very important way to teach us how to fall. He shared that living in such a safe area, we are more likely to get hurt by slipping and falling than by being attacked. Falling gracefully and without injury is an important skill. Senpai’s demonstration did look like a graceful flow of skirts and limbs. My rolls, well, …. not so much.

Next, Kaiso gathered us back into a straight line kneeling in seiza. I noted that if students became uncomfortable in this position that they would bow and then quietly move into a cross-legged position for more comfort. Kaiso asked Senpai to come to the front of the class and they demonstrated an attack with it’s counter move. It was an artful escape and countering control technique one could use if an attacker had both hands held behind you. D’Antonoli Kaiso demonstrated that it wasn’t a tug-of-war between you and your attacker. If there is no conflict, there can be nothing for your attacker to move against. He flowed masterfully out of the grab and Senpai ended up on the ground.

Beautiful!

We paired off and attempted to emulate the technique. This was my favorite part of the entire experience. Sensei would visit each pair and make minute changes that made all the difference in the world. He would gladly repeat the technique with you until you could see the differences. In other martial arts schools I have practically felt the testosterone rolling off my instructor as he made the students “comply”. Often times it seemed to me that the students would submit just to stop the pain. This was not like that. Never for a moment did I feel negative energy flowing from Kaiso or Senpai. It was clear that their goal was to share this knowledge until you truly “got it” and without conflict. I felt as if they were effortlessly guiding me through the lesson. It was like the gentle swish swish you feel and hear as you ski down a gentle mountain slope.

Each time we partnered up to practice we would say “Ome gai shimasu”. This is a way of saying that you are trusting your partner with your body and your theirs. You are both sacrificing your body’s security for the potential learning of your partner. Before returning to the line up, each partner says “domo arigato’. Which means “thank you, very much.” After each technique I felt the pride of victory and achievement. Not because I had overpowered, or outmatched my partner, but because we had travelled down this path together.

Later, as Kaiso was demonstrating a technique to me, he explained “I then help my partner to the ground”. I laughed at this, and joked about “how kind he was”. He acknowledged my mirth, but then shared, that this is actually an important point. “Forcing” your opponent to the floor holds a much different feel and energy than “helping” them to the floor. Practitioners of his art, always strive for the absence of “fighting mind” and internal centering is a big part of this. It was interesting to me that there wasn’t any “kihaps” (yells) in the dojo. Ki-haps are used in other martial arts to harness and release your energy during the time of impact. Of course in Bujutsu there is no “point of impact”. The dojo is flush with quiet and centered energy.

Kaiso then called us back to line up and showed us what to do after we had “helped our opponent to the floor”. Again, we paired off and practiced the technique. And, again Senpai insured that I actually understood it. There was no veil of mysticism that would be raised after years of study. He helped me understand it right.

Fantastic!

D’Antonoli Kaiso called us back to the line up to have a chat about Chudo (chew-doe) — The way of the middle. He asked the students to put this into their own words. I heard, “balance”, “no extremes”, “taking the center path”. Kaiso expanded upon these definitions. In the martial arts you may have two extremes. For example, you may have one martial art that is teaching you to rip someone’s arm off and take it home for dinner. At the other extreme, a martial art that is completely defensive and would never hurt another. Rather, he spoke of taking the middle path. Not constantly moving through life looking for, and interpreting, signs of an attack. And, not moving through life shying from all attacks and cowering. Rather moving through life with expectations of peace and a willingness to defend oneself if necessary. D’Antonoli Kaiso had explained during our introductory tour that there are five tips that each student must demonstrate to earn their next belt rank. And, like a star, each of these five points need to be equally developed in order to be a complete and well rounded Japanese warrior. They are:

1. Yellow Tip – Koppo Jutsu – punching and kicking techniques,

2. Blue Tip – Jujutsu – grappling/joint locks and chokes,

3. Purple Tip – Aiki no Jutsu – internal components, body mapping and body architecture (structure),

4. Brown Tip – Kobujutsu – weapons – they focus on sword, staff and knife,

5. Black Tip – Martial concepts, principles and philosophies.

Our final lesson of the evening was one in energy. Kaiso invited Senpai up to the front of the class to try and “push him over”. They were both kneeling on the ground, facing each other, with their knees planted wide. Senpai would push against Kaiso and Kaiso would flip him around on the floor with little or no effort. D’Antonoli Kaiso explained that he had no conflict with Senpai. That his mind was actually behind him and that he let the energy flow right through him so there would be no “point of conflict.” Dutifully impressed, we set off with our partners to practice this mystical art.

Guess what? It worked! Again, I had that feeling of complete immovability. I wasn’t “fighting” against Senpai’s force. Rather, I just focused my energy behind him. And, when it was my turn to push against Senpai, it felt absolutely useless. Because I could tell I was actually just pushing him harder into the mat. The only one pushing was me.

Awesome!

We lined up by rank a final time and knelt again in seiza. Kaiso made a couple of school announcements and we mindfully bowed out. What an amazing lesson! After class each of the classmates came up and shook our hands and introduced themselves. It was clear that the dojo was a family and we were welcomed in with open arms. What a wonderful adventure!