< All Posts


Mar 1, 2021

by Ea Murphy

Plans change.

One out of many of the things planned for 2020 was hosting Thierry Diagana Sensei and his family from California for a summer seminar at Tacoma Aikikai. When we finally did see the Diagana family over winter break, we were speechless when they gave us the calligraphy that now hangs above the kamiza.

“Remaining mind.” The state of relaxed alertness before, during, and after an action

Zanshin. Literally translated as continuing mind, zanshin describes the relaxed state of awareness before, during, and after every action, which allows for a natural, spontaneous reaction. How appropriate for this year. With plans, routines, livelihoods, and cultures
turned upside down and an inability to plan next week, let alone next month, the pandemic has emboldened us to live entirely in the present. To adapt, what choice do we have but to be present for what is and respond accordingly. Zanshin.

Our culture is filled with landmines that sabotage zanshin in our daily life. Our phones, social media accounts, television, advertising, desk jobs, and traffic can even outcompete hunger or thirst on the level of distraction. Yet the great pause of this past year fills the air with a collective breath as we are forced to Be. In. The. Moment. If daily life takes us away from the present moment, then in some ways, training is the antidote. We feel our feet on the mat. Our differences diminish with our single uniform. Our sore muscles, the grip on our partner’s wrist, and the sweat of exertion bring us back into our bodies, right here, right now. But training without zanshin is an empty form. Why throw someone down if our back is turned when they get back up? Why move into the gap without feeling the opening? Why join with our partner’s center only to retreat back intoourselves?

Zanshin is the flame of the unexpected that ignites our training. It is the live sword of our attention. It is the expansion of our consciousness past ourselves and into the world. The partner who attacks more quickly than we expected, the crowded mat during a seminar, the stranger who walks into the dojo, or the glance calling us up for demonstration are all moments to practice zanshin, responding to what is as effortlessly as breathing.

We were humbled once again over the winter, when another piece of calligraphy came in the mail from Kyoto. Hanging to the right of the kamiza, its brushstrokes offer a clear, elegant reminder of why we are here. Aiki.

“Harmonious spirit.” A concept describing the meeting and blending of ki.

However we have reached this door, when we step into the dojo we all come to practice the way of aiki. English translations are numerous, and maybe not one does it justice. Harmonious spirit. Blending energy. Peace. And somewhere in there lies joy too.

We harmonize with our partner and with the movements of our teacher. We harmonize with the ways of the dojo, and the rhythms of the community. We practice blending with the world. Our jobs and our families. Our passions and our circumstances. This pandemic. Before long, we see aiki in the crushing waves on the beach and the sweet wind in the trees, in the churning volcanos and the mountain meadows. And if we are lucky, following the natural path, with awareness in the present, we may get out of the way just long enough to glimpse our true aiki as well.

Deep thanks to the Diagana family and Aikido Kyoto for their gifts and inspiration.

Related Posts:

Kangeiko 2021

by Allison Muir January 2022 “All the principles of heaven and earth are living inside you. Life itself is truth, and this will never change. Everything in heaven and earth breathes. Breath is the thread that ties creation together.” - Morihei Ueshiba Darker, colder...

The Art of the Pool Noodle: Lessons is Flexibility

by Ea Murphy (May 2021) Long ago, I determined that whether or not to go to the dojo, whether or not to train on any particular day was not a decision. It just was. I woke up, had a day, then trained; or woke up, trained, had a day, and then trained again. Early on,...

Conversation with Tacoma Aikikai Community Member, Claire

How long have you been a member of the dojo, and how long have you been training in Aikido? Claire: This dojo is my beginning with Aikido, and I came to it in September of 2019 for the fall Beginner Series. That was my first ever exposure to Aikido. I’ve been mostly...

Conversation with Tacoma Aikikai Community Members Chris, Beth, and Shauna

What made you interested in Aikido? How long have you been a member at the dojo and how long have you been training in Aikido? Chris: I was interested in Aikido probably since I first saw a Steven Seagal movie. As it turns out, he was maybe not as good as I thought he...

Conversation with Tacoma Aikikai Community Member, Rose

Why did you first become interested in Aikido and how long have you been training at Tacoma Aikikai? Rose: I think I first heard of Aikido from The Walking Dead TV show, and I liked the idea of being strong and skilled but causing no more harm than absolutely...

Aikido is Not a Place

by Malory Graham Chief instructor, Seattle Aikikai As the global Covid-19 pandemic continues into another year, we are watching dojos all over the world make the hard decision to close their physical spaces. We closed up our dojo in Seattle, WA in July after operating...

Quarantine, the Revolving Dojo

by Laura Livingston It was the summer months that lured me into waking up at 5:00 am. The traffic outside the window of my old apartment was limited. The silence combined with the intense commitment of the daylight coming forward, creating and altering shadows, seemed...

The Way

by Joshua Knudson “The essence of Aikido is to put oneself in tune with the functioning of the universe, to become one with the universe. Those who have grasped the inner meaning of Aikido possess the universe within themselves.” ~ O-sensei New age spirituality has...

Doing Things Differently: The Pandemic Challenge to Aikido Practice

by Charlie Emlet Most of us, if we have practiced a martial art long enough, have faced times when we could not train as normal. Maybe a training related injury or work/family obligations thwarted our training routine. These situations usually last days or perhawps...

Falling Into Aikido

by Allison Muir How’d I get here? I’m scurrying down the deck stairs in my gi with a Mac-Book Air dangling in one hand and a bokken in the other, praying I have enough battery juice and Wi-Fi bandwidth. Bare feet hit backyard grass absorbing the moisture from this...