Learning Project Journey

I’ve always been fascinated with martial arts even from a young age. As a little girl my favorite show was Kung Fu, and watching  Kwai Chang Caine use his staff effortlessly to protect himself always fascinated me. Learning to use this simple weapon, has always been at the back of my mind as something I wanted to learn, but never had the opportunity. I thought that I had to acquire black belt status before weapons training could begin; as I never achieved that goal, I felt I couldn’t learn the skills necessary to use this weapon. It wasn’t until I was volunteering with Regina Outdoor Education that everything changed. One of the parents on a field trip was an Aikido professional with his Dan Level 2. He told me about his studio and invited me to try out classes. This is where my Aikido journey began.

But first, this is how my Learning Journey began.

Introduction to My Learning Project

As I’ve studied various different martial arts, I’ve always enjoyed the physical challenges, the spiritual aspect, and comradery martial arts brings. I wanted all of those aspects back in my life and saw learning the staff as my way of finding this from an online perspective. I planned on watching YouTube video’s, reading articles, using Twitter, and to see if there were classes in Regina I could join.

Technology Trails: While Starting Staff Training

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This week was very frustrating as I had modem issues and my computer was offline for days. I realized I needed to learn how to download YouTube video’s, then I’d have them on my computer. If I’d had the video’s downloaded, studying offline would have been easy. I had to learn how to make a video of myself, edit it, and upload the finished product to YouTube, which had its moments of frustration and anxiety, but I figured it out in the end.

Grips, Kicks, and Footwork

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I realized this week that I was learning a martial art, and thoroughly enjoyed the physical aspect of practicing kicks, learning different grips on the staff, and working on my footwork. There’s lots to remember all at the same time, which is overwhelming but also fun. Feedly didn’t have any articles on bow staff training which was frustrating, and Twitter only had articles on martial arts. I realized that my chosen topic is a specialized field and it will be difficult to find information about it. But, the highlight of the week was learning how to download YouTube videos and I used Screencastify to do this.

Kata Confusion

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This week I studied a learning Kata and was quite confused at the beginning of the week. I lack coordination, and this Kata made me focus and try really hard. I made two videos of myself to see if there was any improvement as the week progressed.

It was during this week I met an Aikido instructor on a school field trip while volunteering with Regina Outdoor Education. He invited me to join his class, and I found a focus for my staff training. I really enjoyed how using the Jo (staff) in his class made me feel; I felt as if all my previous martial arts backgrounds came together and I had found harmony.

Aikido Community

 

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With a shift in Jo (staff) styles, I found new videos to watch in YouTube. Finding a teacher, I liked was more difficult than anticipated as most Aikido videos demonstrate rather than teach weapons skills. But, I did manage to find a whole new Aikido community which was exciting. I found an online Aikido Journal, which had articles ranging back to 2002.  Aiki Message Board: The Source for Aikido Information Is an Aikido forum that has over 22,000 practitioners who contribute to the site. After hunting through Twitter, I found several Aikido sites, but my favorite was one dedicated to women, #aikidowomen. Plus, I went to class.

Aikido Adventure

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This week I researched the philosophy of Aikido, as the spiritual aspect of a martial art is equally if not more important than the physical. I found many articles on the subject and was gladdened to learn that my philosophy matches with Aikido. “O’Sensei’s Lectures On the Philosophy of Aikido” “Aikido is the realization of love”. Not only is this a beautiful sentiment, it lines with my personal view of the world.

I also learned how to slow down Aikido videos so I can truly see how the Master moves his body and made a screencastify video to demonstrate this.

Reflections

This has been an extraordinary adventure.

I’ve learned many new technological skills, that have helped me learn, express myself, and teach others.

Learning to use the Jo (staff) has always been a dream, somewhat whimsical, but now it’s a reality. I’m not alone on this journey as the internet is full of like minded people. There is a community I can reach out and talk with. I can discuss and share my frustrations and triumphs which is comforting. I’ve already had someone reach out to me, through Twitter and the martial arts community, and comment about my techniques which completely surprised me.

My EDTEC 300 class has also been a supportive community, where fellow students have commented on my blog posts giving me support and encouragement.

I now have also joined the Aikido community here in Regina.

Three different communities all providing compassion and support; how wonderful! I never realized that this kind of support on so many different levels was possible until now. This learning journey has taught me the comradery, compassion, and caring of people on the internet and how it can enrich lives.

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Aikido Adventure

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My philosophy as a teacher is important, so too is the philosophy of a martial art. There are many different martial arts in the world and it’s their individual philosophies that make each one unique. Learning the spirituality and philosophy of Aikido is important. If I pursue this martial art further, I need to know if it resonates with my beliefs.

I believe that the strongest force in the universe is love and according to “O’Sensei’s Lectures On the Philosophy of Aikido” “Aikido is the realization of love”. Not only is this a beautiful sentiment, it lines with my personal view of the world. According to O’Sensei “The secret of Aikido is to harmonize ourselves with the movement of the universe and bring ourselves into accord with the universe itself.” These are powerful words. We need to find our balance and harmony within ourselves, and only then can we properly discover the world around us.

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In Hal Gall’s article “Aikido Principles and Philosophy” “Aikido signifies “The Way of Harmony with the spirit” and is rightfully recognized as a peaceful and non-aggressive form of martial arts.” Aikido is not an aggressive martial art, in fact the article “About the Art of Aikido” explains “Aikido is a 100% defensive martial art”. I like this.

The article “About the Art of Aikido” explains “the basic movements of Aikido are circular in nature. Most attacks are linear. An Aikido student harmonizes with, rather than confronts the linear attack and converts the energy of that linear attack into a circular energy that ultimately, renders the attacker or attackers helpless.” I have felt this circular energy flow in my Aikido classes and discussed how I felt in my “Kata Confusion” article. To feel this spiraling energy is amazing, and I can see how all the movements in Aikido are circles that interlink. It’s just trying to get my body, mind, and spirit connected which is problematic.

As you watch the video below can you see the circular actions of the teacher? Look really carefully, at hips, wrists, and shoulders. The teacher makes it look effortless, but it’s the spiraling action that gives his movements power.

A class member, Miss Bregg, showed me how to slow down YouTube videos so I can watch them with greater scrutiny; I really appreciate her help. Below is my short demonstration of how to slow down the video. Once you’ve learned this trick you may want to rewatch the first video to look for the spirals and circles.

The video of my new movements is below. You’ll see I’m lacking in spirals, but they will come with practice and confidence. What do you think? How am I doing?

According to the article “About the art of Aikido” “the uniqueness of Aikido makes it possible to experience deep levels of mental relaxation, emotional calmness, acute concentration and peak physical fitness in our daily lives.”

I am looking forward to this Aikido Adventure continuing.

 

 

 

Aikido Community

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Switching to the Aikido Jo has been difficult this week. There are many videos on the internet of Aikido demonstrations, but the Jo/weapons techniques are more specialized. Once I found Jo lessons, many were demonstrations and not what I was looking for. For someone who is as uncoordinated as I am, following along is painfully difficult. I did manage to find a series of videos that had a Kata broken down into small pieces, which was great. The only problem is that it’s annoying having to replay the video every minute or so. Below are the two videos I’ve been working on.

I went to my second Aikido class this weekend, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The class buoyed up my spirits, as some of the techniques used in class were the same as the video. Of course, class had more strikes and blocks to confuse me, but it was good to have teacher and student input. I also enjoyed the partner work, as it’s best to practice with an opponent. Below is a video of my first Aikido strike and block.

In my search on the internet, I found an excellent website discussing the importance of weapons in Aikido. On the “Weapons in Aikido” page. the website emphasizes that weapons improve stances, timing, judging distances and puts both opponents on an equal footing. It also discuses the different types of weapons used in this martial art. According to Phong Thong Dang  and Lynn Seiser  in their book “Aikido Weapons Techniques” they explain that weapons promote greater understanding of Aikido practice, “wooden weapons can enrich all aspects of your practice, helping you to understand both basic and advanced Aikido technical tactics as well as conceptual strategies and skills”.

This week I’ve looked for Aikido online communities and found an online Aikido Journal  they publish weekly articles, and archives are organized monthly and go back as far as 2002. This is an excellent resource to find other like-minded people.

I also found other like-minded people on the Aiki Message Board: The Source for Aikido Information it is somewhat overwhelming. I’ve never visited a message board before, and it looks like a ton of information has been squished into a small space. The board says it’s home to over 22,000 Aikido practitioners from around the world and registration is free. This looks like it’s the main message board for Aikido. I also found Gamefaqs which is also a message board but, I don’t like the tone of the people who have posted here and wouldn’t recommend it.

When I looked for Aikido online communities, I found websites that promoted the Aikido philosophy and also themselves. I assumed an online community was a place we could gather, talk, and learn new ideas. In the article “What Is An Online Community?”  it suggests I do understand what an online community is, but I couldn’t find one.

Then in Twitter I found something exciting. I’d previously tweeted #bowstaff, and had no results, and #martialarts which brought up all martial arts and none in my niche area. However, I did have someone comment on my last weeks posting, from the martial arts community, which was thrilling. When I tweeted #Aikido I found the IAF Aikido (International Aikido Federation). They have posted photos of students from all around the world which is where I found #AikidoWomen. #AikidoWomen celebrates women learning Aikido. How exciting! At last it looks like I’ve found myself an online community.

Photo Credit: Quemando Chirucas Flickr via Compfight cc

Kata Confusion

 

Photo Credit: Strelka Institute photo Flickr via Compfight cc

Oh, my goodness! I’m now in the land of full on martial arts and my head is spinning. This week I’ve been studying a learning Kata. A Kata is a sequence of movements which allows you to practice skills in a predetermined manner. I’m putting my new grips, kicks, and footwork into a pattern that allows me to practice my new skills and see the flow of movement. It all sounds really interesting, but my body and brain sometimes have a tough time communicating in unison. Below is a short movie of my second try at learning this Kata. As you’ll see I didn’t have the iPad at the correct height, but I corrected this mistake in the second video.

This Kata does have some new strikes, footwork, and a different hand grip just to help keep things interesting, or frustrating depending on your perspective.

I’m hoping you’ll see an improvement in my technique and skill level in this second video. Several days really isn’t enough time to truly feel comfortable with this Kata, but it is a start.

Did you notice an improvement? Did you see I felt more self confident with this Kata today?

Here is the video I’ve been following this week. I have enjoyed this series of lessons as they have warms ups, a lesson, and cool down stretches.

I’ve discovered that we have an Aikido school here in Regina and part of this martial art includes staff training. I’ve been missing having a teacher to guide and correct my grips, kicks, and footwork. I’ve been having issues with this week’s Kata on the right side, and I’ve wished I had someone to correct me. I know I’m doing something wrong, but I’m not sure what it is.

The Aikido class isn’t a beginner class, but I went anyway. There were 5 of us in the Sunday weapons class and I was intimidated. My fitness level is poor and being in a class with knowledgeable students was scary.

I had an amazing experience. The teacher was great, and so were the other students; they were all welcoming and very patient. This class wasn’t focused on fitness like my Tae Kwon Do classes, but on technique and skill. My few weeks of online practice which included grips, and footwork held me in good stead. For the first time, I understood the concept of spirals my Tai-Chi Masters emphasized in Edmonton, while using the Jo (staff) in class today. I’d never been able to feel the spiraling energy before as all power comes from the Dantian, (just below the belly button). This was a revelation for me. It felt like all my previous martial arts experiences were being pooled into one. The Aikido class was a completely different approach to martial arts, and I liked it. I also liked the fact I practiced sparing with other students, who helped me in areas of difficulty.

I am going to have to change my focus from Bow staff techniques to Aikido Jo techniques and see what I can find on Youtube.

Lutter Thomas Flickr via Compfight cc/p>

Grips, Kicks, and Footwork

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Learning martial arts is tough yet rewarding. Who’d of thought I love kicking? It’s been so long since my body did martial arts and moving like this it feels like I’m having a welcome home party. I’m rusty, really rusty, but it’s good to get moving and sweating. I’ve been really sweating this week.

For my second week of learning the staff, I have followed the video ‘Combat Bo Staff Class for Beginners – Chevron – Class #2‘. Today was quiet a workout which was great. The warm up exercises included basic kicks, which I’ve loved. I’ve been thinking about my previous martial arts experience where my blood pumped and sweat flowed. My kicks are bad as it’s been several years since I’ve done them, but it felt invigorating to get my body moving again. Here’s a video of my warm-up, and my bad kicks but it was brilliant to do them.

The Combat Bo Staff Class for Beginners – Yellow Chevron – Class 2‘ video teaches new grips: four in total. Who’d of thought there would be so many different ways to hold a staff? When practicing strikes with the new grips, the movements feel different some more powerful than others. These will take practice to master, as my hands have a will all of there own and want to do their own thing.

The footwork seemed easy at first, but when we added different grips and strikes, everything went out of the window. I tend to be uncoordinated at the best of times which is why I like martial arts, (it teaches me coordination) and using new techniques all at once was overwhelming. Direction changes, new strikes, and different grips all at the same time was too much; my brain was lost and my body did not cooperate. It seems impossible. Practice is key. To do anything well takes time, practice and lots of patience.

Here is the video I’ve been following along with this week.

I’ve been searching through Feedly for articles on the staff and techniques, but there hasn’t been anything; this is frustrating. I would have linked interesting articles through my Twitter feed onto my blog page. However, in my search for articles I did find one on Google News about martial arts in general, “Be Prepared Martial Arts Master Teaches Students How to Defend Themselves”. It’s important to remember that martial arts are learned physical skills, but the philosophy emphasizes respect for others. In the article Mr. Palumbo says “be aware, and try to avoid conflict, but be prepared”, which is excellent advice. He also says “fighting back … should always be dictated by a combination of common sense and gut instincts”. He also emphasizes running as fast as possible is usually the best option to stay safe, rather than fight.

Since starting this course I’ve had technical difficulties. The first week, my modem broke down and it took days before a technician came to fix it. I was frustrated, I couldn’t practice; I would open YouTube daily to follow along with the video. Last week, my area of the city had no power and again I couldn’t access the internet. I realized I need to download videos which will allow me to practice no-matter if the modem works or the power is off. Here is a video I’ve made using Screencastify, to demonstrate how to save YouTube video’s using Clip Converter.

Technology Trials: While Starting Staff Training

I really enjoy irony, and with my project this week it’s been upfront and central. I’m taking an online educational technology class, and my internet was down. Therefore, I was without technology in my home for a couple of days; I had many ideas of what I should be doing, and no-way of following through. Frustration, agony, and peace were all strangely intermingled as I wondered what I was to learn from this.

Photo Credit: aliceheiman Flickr via Compfight cc

I’ve learned that I need to download YouTube video’s so I have this content on my computer instead of trusting YouTube, but I still don’t know how to do that.  Using the staff is tough, I’d planned on practicing every day; without a video to follow it was impossible.

Instead, I stretched in the mornings, worked on sit-ups, planks, push-ups, and doing three forms of Tai-Chi. Doing sit-ups, planks, and push-ups have been a shock to my body, but it feels good. I’d forgotten how Tai-Chi puts me mentally in the zone, and how wonderful it feels to move my body this way. Maybe, preparing myself like this is the best way to proceed before I start my staff classes.

Photo Credit: Kuan Ching Tao Flickr via Compfight cc

At the beginning of the week I did do one staff class with “Bo Staff Class for Complete Beginners – Yellow Chevron”. When the instructor tells you to “follow through the video without giving up”, you know his workout is going to be difficult. I tried to keep up and enjoyed the workout. My hand positions with the different strikes feel awkward, I feel unsure and inadequate.

I hadn’t thought through the amount of space needed to practice using the staff and realize my small apartment could be problematic. The staff gives a much wider reach, and space is important; I might have to go the park to practice.

My staff right now is my garden hoe, which is weighted at one end, it’s not the best tool, but it’s OK for now.

I have never made a video of myself before, and this was something brand new for me. Trying to figure out where and how to position the iPad took time and some ingenuity. I made this video during my second review of the “Bow Staff Class for Complete Beginners – Yellow Chevron“.  Once the movie was made I had to figure out how to edit it. I watched “Clip and Trim iMovie 10” although this was great, I had to watch it several times to understand how everything works. I’m really pleased I figured this out. The movie I made shows the level I am at now, which is an excellent base line.

As with all martial arts, I need to practice my staff skills. The hand positions felt awkward and uncomfortable. The teachers of any martial art make things look easy, and it isn’t. To get better I need to practice every day. I have practiced four times with the beginner video this week. I had hoped to practice more but with the internet being down it put a halt to my practice schedule.

This is the video I’ve been using this week to learn basic stances and strikes.

 

 

Introduction to my learning project

Learning to Use the Staff

I have always been interested in martial arts. I’ve studied several different forms of Tai Chi and enjoyed them all. Tai Chi is more physically demanding than most people realize, as the slower the motion, they greater skill and strength needed.

While I lived in Korea, I studied their traditional martial art called Taekkyon. At first, I didn’t think I could really jump and kick like Bruce Lee, but after being in classes 5 nights a week I became really quite good. In fact, I competed in Seoul’s first Women’s National Taekkyon Competition. Although I didn’t win a medal the Grand Master was impressed with my abilities and called my Kwan Chan Nim (Teacher) to his office to congratulate him for being a good teacher.

Taekkyon sparing.

While living in Humboldt Saskatchewan I joined the Tae Kwon Do club. The physical demands of this martial art were difficult, but again I became stronger and stronger the harder I tried.

Winning 2 silver medals, 2013.

I managed to attain my green belt, and as I was preparing for Western Finals Competition my knee gave out. My martial arts career was over.

Now I’m living in Regina, and still love martial arts. I’ve studied the basic 24 movements of Tai Chi with Master Li a year ago but haven’t practiced. My intention with this learning project is to get focused and make my body strong again. I want to practice Tai Chi every morning, as that strengthens my body and mind, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to use the staff. All of my other martial arts classes focused on me using my body to protect myself; I’ve never had any training using a weapon. I’ve always liked the simplicity of the staff, and yet when used with skill it’s a great tool for protection. I plan on looking for articles, watching YouTube videos, asking for help in Twitter, and seeing if I can find classes in Regina. I understand we have only a short time frame to learn this new skill, but this is only the beginning of lots of hard work.