Monday, November 30, 2009

Week 6 day 1

OK, I made it. I think I'm coming down with a cold but I made it to the gym. After the first couple exercises I felt warmed up and was able to work at an almost normal pace. Last night I attempted some jumping jacks to start my calisthenics a few times a week and unfortunately heard a "click click click" in my shoulder. I still have some pain in my right shoulder from a fall I took at Aikido a little more than a week ago. I will ask my teacher to look at it on Thursday if I'm still in pain and by then, may go to the doc.

Till then, slow and steady is the way to go for me. If I can't go at full pace, I CAN go at a reduced pace. I'm going to add one more day too to fill in my tuesday. So hopefully by the end of the week I will have blogged "Week 6 day 4".

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reflecting on the Esoteric Teachings of Professor Okazaki

After our Aikido class yesterday I had lunch with one of my Friends, Jim. We talked a bit about how we started in martial arts. I told him that my fist exposure was not in Aikido, but was in fact in Ju Jitsu when I was a kid, around the same age that my son is now. I asked him if he had ever heard about Danzan Ryu Ju Jitsu and he said that he had not. Danzan Ryu was founded in the late thirties by Professor Seishiru Okazaki and was the form of martial art that I started learning for a few years way back in my child hood.

I told him about the esoteric teachings as described by Danzan Ryu's O' Sensei, Seishiru Okazaki. I believe that every martial artist should know and understand these principles. A translation of his esoteric principles can be found here:

To paraphrase and abbreviate:
  • Have gratitude to your teachers
  • Be gracious to your family
  • Be a productive citizen of your country
  • Do not be afraid of the strong or despise the weak
  • Show restraint and modesty
  • Be a good teacher to those who need it
  • Train hard and learn diligently
  • Remain calm in crisis
I love the fact that the art I started with is rooted in such love and respect. These are principles that can be used regardless of the art. These are principles one can use to cultivate themselves as growing and loving men and women.

In his esoteric principles he describes his art as Judo, elevated from Ju Jitsu and claims it to be a "finer moral concept called Judo, 'the way of Gentleness'". I am greatly moved by Professor Okazaki's esoteric principles. As he refers to "Judo" I do not believe he is referring to a series of techniques making up his art. Rather, he is referring to the more esoteric "way of gentleness" that needs to be cultivated to become a better person and live a better life. To end this morning, here is a quote from the esoteric principles:

"Remember always parental love and one's enormous indebtedness to teachers. Be grateful for the protection of Heaven and Earth. Be a good leader to younger men. To lead younger men well, will in the long run, mean to attain proficiency in the skill of Judo."
- Professor Seishiru "Henry" Okazaki

Friday, November 27, 2009

Week 5 Day 3 - Wahooo!

Alrighty, then. It is the day after thanksgiving and I've completed Week 5 day 3. I've made it to hte gym 3 times a week for 5 weeks. I've added Aikido 3x a week for the last couple of weeks, and have gotten a walk in a few times a week as well. I think that this is a good mile stone. I think it's time for me to add some calisthenics at home now.

An excellent resource for calisthenic exercise is here:

The exercises provided here are good basic core, arm and leg exercises. No gimmicks, just the promotion of natural movement. Back to basics as it were. Tomorrow, I think I'll start with that and then move on into monday where I will start week 6, day 1 and Aikido that evening.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Week 5 day 2 - short and sweet

OK, I got to the gym today and went through the circuit. I was at about 80% capacity weight wise, taking care to rest my shoulder. The take away from today... I made it, I got back into my routine, and my goal of consistency is still being met. Yay me!

For my friend, Linda Eskin

Linda has been writing about Aikido and states that she is a beginner. She is new on the mat. I do not believe she's been training longer than a year. She maintains a blog at and writes everyday.

Aikido is lucky to have such an enthusiastic student. It is sometimes easy to get caught up in the mechanics of the art, and lose the big picture. We sometimes use terms like "beginner's mind" as just some things to say and forget that we should keep this mind set always. Linda's wonderment of our art and appreciation of how it affects her personal, spiritual and professional life is nothing short of awe inspiring.

Recently, she wrote the following:
and it reminded me of a meeting we had at our work once. One of the chairs from our parent company came and talked about the stages of competence. Those stages are:
  • unconsciously incompetent
  • consciously incompetent
  • consciously competent
  • unconsciously competent
As an example of this, take someone who has always wanted to learn French. They go about their lives not realizing that there is a desire to learn the language and being unconscious about their inability.

Perhaps they go to a French movie and are moved by the tonal qualities of the language, see on the screen the expressive involvement that the attributes of the language allow for and realize that they do not know this language and want to learn it. They are now conscious about their incompetence in the language.

They go take a class, and another, and then another. They first struggle with "Oui" and "merci" but after a semesters worth of classes, they are now able to ask where the bathroom is, who put the pen on the table, and please pass the snails. They are now consciously working to be competent in the French language.

Then, after years of practice, studying, reading Voltaire, Baudelaire and Proust, trips to France, and discipline, they now can dream in French. They understand the small subtleties of the French Language. They can talk on a philosophical level with ease on the nature of man, God, and our universe. French, now has become as easy as breathing. They have become unconsciously competent in their mastery of the language.

This process happens in our art. I really appreciate Linda's blog, and I enjoy the metaphor from her recent post, "Scanning the instruments". When we do this more and more, we become more adept at our art, whatever that art may be. We can have that instrumental scan happen on a deeper level and as a part of habit verses conscious effort.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Week 5 day 1 - On persistence

Recently, Robert Nadeau Sensei did a series of seminars. The theme was "Don't ask what you have to do to get 'this' done. Ask who you have to be."

I regret not going, however, I can do some thinking about this theme and take it to my own conclusions. There is a saying in T'ai Chi, "The mind moves the chi and the chi moves the body." I think that both of these thoughts are extremely profound. I am finding that both of I can enact both of these themes in my life, then I can live better and healthier.

I am one for small examples. I think that it is much more worth our endeavors to have small examples of positive action and thought than one big one. We can create small examples many more times than we can create the big ones. So, my small example today is this:

I took a fall in Aikido on Saturday. We were doing some free form training (Jiyu waza) and as I uke'd for my training partner, I got tangled up in his legs as he threw me. Rather than roll out of the throw I came straight down on my shoulder. I had never hurt myself in Aikido before and felt upset that I let this happen to me. I quickly thought that all of my efforts for the last few weeks would be for naught and that I would not be able to go to the gym for a few days or train.

But, Nadeau Sensei asks of us, "Who do we have to be to be to get 'this' done?" I think I know the answer. I have to be persistent, determined, patient and consistent. This doesn't mean killing myself. This does mean taking care of my shoulder with ice, ibuprofun and arnica cream and waiting till I got up this morning to see if I could go to the gym. My shoulder still hurt. It wasn't as bad as Saturday or Sunday but it still hurt. Well, there are other things I can do there. I can jump on an elliptical rider for 30 minutes. So I dd. 30 minutes. I may do this again on Wednesday and then attempt weights again on Friday. Part of the process for me is just simply knowing my limits, and working with them. This means I need to neither over or underestimate them. I can't lift, but I can walk. So I'll walk.

OK, I have to start my day now. See you next time.

Onegai shimasu!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Week 4 Day 3 - patience

Today I completed my last work out of my 4th week. I am seeing the benefits of being more consistent in my training. I keep on adding weight, even just a little at a time. I'm also managing to get back to the dojo a few times a week. Currently, my schedule looks something like:

m - 30 min circuit, Aikido class at nite
W - 30 min circuit
Th - Aikido
F - 30 min circuit
S - Aikido

I've also started "brisk walks" around my campus at work. Walking is a simple thing that I keep on forgetting to do. Recently we added .25 mile markers. Once around is 1.2 miles and takes about 20 min walking briskly. I can fit that in too.

So things are good. Consistency helps in many different areas, my work, my social life, and lately, I've been feeling pretty good being more active. Next week, in the spirit of patience and not overdoing it. i'll just add a few walks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Week 4 day 2 - short but sweet

I finished week 4 day two. I didn't want to go today but made myself. As it turns out I'm still gaining strength, and am able to add 5 lbs here and 10 lbs there on some machines while maintaining good steady technique.

Onward to Week 4 day 3 on Friday!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Silent Conversation of Birds

Originally uploaded by markdeso

I was watching two crows fly around a pond a few days ago. They both flew as if they were one. Keeping the same distance between them, they knew when to turn, whether they were going left or right, how far of an angle or how much of a curve they would make on their flight path as they circled the pond, and whether they would ascend or descend. This happened with no audible signal, just an innate "knowing" between the two.

I wonder how I can cultivate that in my life. How I can tune in to my friends, coworkers, family, my partner with the same "knowing". Conversation is always a good thing. Knowing how to ask for something, how to receive it and being able to communicate verbally is a wonderful skill. The birds went beyond this though. I yearn to have that magic in my life, where a relationship can transcend the verbal communication.

As humans, we depend on verbal communication. I very much enjoy the act of sharing my thoughts, dreams, stories, jokes and fears with people close to me. Conversations of the heart are an important part of human interaction. There are other conversations though, and if we look, dig inside, and know us intimately we can have them as well.

We have learned a lot from animals. Scientists gain perspective on the nature of play by watching bear cubs frolick. They gain perspective of familial activities by watching apes tend to their young. They gain perspective on group think by herd animals. Shaolin monks copied the snake, the mantis, the tiger, to incorporate into their fighting styles. I look to the skies and am amazed and intrigued. I want to be able to have a conversation with someone I love dearly, transcending words and voice. I want to be able to gain perspective on the silent conversations of birds.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Week 4 day 1 - secret of consistancy

I'm figuring out that the secret to consistancy is to simply be consistant. I see people at my gym that live there. I decided a few weeks ago that I can do 3 days a week, and that I will do that faithfully. Part of the reason I blog is to keep a running tab on my work outs. When I look back at a string of tweets that say "Week x day y" i can feel that I've achieved something. I've added consistancy in my life, just a little bit more.

Last week I made it to the dojo three times on top of the three circuit work outs in the AM. I will commit to the dojo atleast twice a week for the next couple weeks and be happy if I can get a third class in too.

A good friend of mine is a personal trainer and is part owner of Undisputed Boxing Gym in San Carlos, CA. I remember a conversation a long time ago where he told me, that we shouldn't exercise to get stronger so we can go back to the gym and exercise and be stronger to go back to the gym and exercise more. He said that we should be going because being fit allows us to do run with our kids, play ball with them, enjoy a long walk, take a nice hike with someone we care about. Likewise, my Aikido teacher says that we should not live to train but train to live.

I'm glad that I'm reminded of this. So, week 4 day 1 is done. Just that much stronger and that much better on the stairs. Maybe one of these days I will be able to wrestle my son again and not be pinned inside of two minutes!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

After the third week

3 facts about the number 3:
  • This is the end of my 3rd week of being back to the gym
  • I've committed to 3 days a week and have fulfilled my commitment thus far
  • I've made it to 3 Aikido classes this week
So all in all this has been a good few weeks. I'm thankful for consistency in my life. I'm thankful for people who care about my progress. So, it is Sunday AM. It is cold in the house... I think it's time to turn on the heater and do some T'ai Chi.

Onegai shimasu!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Week 3 day 2 - corrections and trivia

I just realized the last post I put up said "Day 3, week 2" when it should have been the other way... Week 3, day 2. I will correct this.

I don't have much but still feel the need to post past 140 characters via twitter. I went to Aikido last night. Sensei teaches Thursdays and Saturdays. it was good to see him and the class. Apparently, the bulk of the dojo is up for their next rank at the next test in about 5 weeks. I'm happy for them but feel a bit put out that I was not one of the candidates. However, it's obvious why I am not. They put in the time and I have not. They have dedicated 3 or 4 days a week and for the last 6 mos I was averaging 2 days a week at best. I didn't show up at all for the month of October. So, while I'm a little put out, it's clearly my issue. The training is there and it's available for me, I need to show the discipline to at least show up.

By design, Aikido does not have competitions. O' Sensei believed that the only competition and only victory can be over one's self. So rather than put out, I will work on the competition within. "True Victory is self victory, right here right now." I wish my fellow classmates much luck in this round of Kyu tests and will be there to help them as their peer.

Onegai Shimasu!

ps. Week 3 Day 3 went pretty well actually.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Week 3 Day 2 - of faith and inspiration

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1)

I would rather learn from the multitude of small lessons that we can find hidden under rocks, inside a smile, in the gentle nod of a person walking by, then the bigger lessons. The smaller lessons can teach us much and are much more abundant if we look.

Today, I worked out, I was tired. I am still working at a good pace, but I was more tired than the last time. I will have faith that this will get easier. I in fact have seen it happen, so I will have faith that this journey isn't a constant arrow up, but rather a set of stairs that go in an upward direction, with the occasional step or two backward.

I like to think metaphorically, my work out is not isolated from other parts of life. It is an exercise in determination, just like my work day is, just like my Aikido, just like my relationships, and just like the inner work I do to be an open and loving man. Everything compliments. Compartmentalization leads to exactly that, a house that is not a house. A weird quirk of physics where it is a house, but all the rooms are separate from each other.

So I will have faith that my work outs will get better, which leads me to believe that if I can have faith in that, then I can have faith in bigger things... which leads me to the fact that I can have faith that this burgeoning, crazy love I have for a woman 2000 miles away will work out for us. We have to think (dare i say it... dare i say it...) out of the box, (ooooh snap, i hate that corporate speak, but i said it... shoot me) and unconventionally for our relationship to take root, grow and blossom. i am up for this, and so is she.

Of inspiration, I look to my beautiful friends Jennifer and Kirk. They were high school friends when Jen moved away, got married and spent 20 years in Canada. Somehow they found each other again. This inspires me greatly to see that love can thrive through the miles. I am touched deeply by their love of each other and inspired that I can in fact have that as well.

Till next time, Onegai shimasu!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Week 3 Day 1

I've decided that 140 characters are not sufficient to relay my thoughts for my morning work outs. Read it, don't read it... it's ok! :D These are for me to reflect on. So it's ok if you roll your eyes. It's ok if you don't read. I'm going to commit to these posts for a period of 4 weeks. That will put me at week 6 by the time I'm done. So...

Some things I noticed:
Today there was a beautiful sun rise in Northern California. The hue of red and gold and blue that God painted on the sky was truly spectacular. Before I walked into the gym I took a moment to look, breath in and breath out.

I do have been doing the 30 minute circuit at my gym. This is similar to the Curves set up where there are step stations and weight machines, 10 each, interwoven so it's machine, step, machine step, etc. They have a light that turns green for 60 seconds and red for 30. On the first station for 60, off for 30, onto first stepstation for 60, and off for 30 till you're done. My first goal in this is to do this consistantly. I've committed to MWF in the AMs. I did this for two weeks and now I'm on to my third.

This third week I want to add two more activities. I haven't been to Aikido in about a month due to work being so crazy but I'm yearning to go back. I will do that today with my son. I will try and get a walk around the building a couple times sometime this week as well.

My biggest two issues have been (not just for exercise but for many things) patience and discipline. This process is a good exercise in building both.

At many Aikido dojos, we greet our partners with the term, "onegai shimasu." It roughly translates to "Shall we begin?". I think about this today, because regardless of whether class has begun, is almost over, are training partners stepped on the mat today or have been training along side us for years, we still say, "Onegae shimasu." I hear this in my head to myself, "Onegae shimasu, Mark. Shall we begin, Mark?" I answer with a resounding yes!