Foundations of Ki-Aikido: A 5th Kyu Intensive

posted Dec 30, 2019, 8:11 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Dec 30, 2019, 9:00 PM ]

Join us for a comprehensive introduction to the foundations of Ki-Aikido. This two-month intensive program will include two full day workshops and six dedicated classes. The program will cover:
  • An overview of Tohei Sensei's complete curriculum
  • The kaisho style of performing Ki Aikido techniques
  • The Shokyu Ki Test
  • The 5th Kyu Ki Aikido arts
There are three levels of participation in the program:
  • Participation
  • Completion
  • Advanced Completion

Participants who keep the agreements for Advanced Completion can expect to be ready to test for Shokyu and 5th Kyu by the end of the program. The full list of program agreements are available here.

Workshop 1
 Saturday, February 8 10:00 – 5:00
  Class February 15 or 16 TBD at first Workshop
  Class Sunday, February 23 2:00 – 4:00
  Class Sunday, March 1 2:00 – 4:00
Workshop 2 Saturday, March 7 10:00 – 5:00
  Class Sunday, March 15 2:00 – 4:00
  Class Sunday, March 22 2:00 – 4:00
  Completion Sunday, March 29 2:00 – 4:00

This program is open to all dojo members, and is focused on supporting new members in preparing for Shokyu & 5th Kyu. There is an application for this program. An online application is available here, and a printed application is available here. Applications are due by Wednesday, January 22.

New Year's Training: January 1, 2020

posted Dec 29, 2019, 10:13 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Dec 29, 2019, 10:13 AM ]

You're warmly invited to join our community as we welcome 2020 with training on New Year's Day.

We'll gather around 7:35 AM at the dojo for tea and light breakfast, followed by a very special morning of training. We will travel to the Mississippi for Senshin no Gyo (river misogi), then return to the dojo for Sokushin no Gyu (bell misogi) and weapons training.

If you have never practiced river misogi before, please read Poppele Sensei's brief blog post.

We will break around 11:30 AM for a potluck lunch and conversation featuring "Renewal of Creative Path" questions 4-8. These questions invite personal exploration into the particular gifts, talents, and vision each of us carry, and lead into releasing expectations and crafting a vibrant, joyful vision for the coming year.

These questions are available here to give you an opportunity to reflect on them before we gather.

We look forward to practicing with you as part of our community, and hearing your insights and inspiration for action in 2020.

RSVP is encouraged. Please contact Kirsten Welge to let her know your plans.

We look forward to kicking off the New Year together with you.

Quotes & Reflections from National Instructor's Seminar

posted Sep 4, 2019, 11:24 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Sep 4, 2019, 11:25 AM ]

Kirsten Welge attended her first National Seminar as a third kyu student in 2014. The 2019 National Seminar was her first opportunity to experience Shinichi Tohei Sensei's Instructor's Class, and fully appreciate the North American Ki Aikido community. Here, Kirsten shares quotes from Tohei Sensei's teaching, together with her reflections.

"Experience. Feel. Master. Sometimes we think too much, explain too much. All we have to do is experience. Feel with the whole body, and learn from this." - Shinichi Tohei Sensei
  • Aikido and ki principles are learned through the body, not thinking or talking. 
  • The best way to teach is to keep one point, then share that experience and feeling with another.
"Let me know the state of my mind. You don't have to get some result first!" - Tohei Sensei
"What is my basic concept? Push? Or keep one point and touch?" - Tohei Sensei
  • Examiners must keep one point precisely and just touch. No pushing. No result in mind. Be aware and responsible for your mind.
    • If the examiner's concept is to push or show the other where they are wrong, that's not it. 
    • When testing, connect as though the other person is sick and asking for help. The intent is to support.
  • How do you show your partner when they are making an error? 
    • Mimic them. Ask, "What do you feel?"
    • Then, show the correct way, so they feel the difference. 
    • Then, ask them to correct the error, and ki test. Ask them, "Is this easier?"
    • Then, ask them, "Can you show your earlier way?" Test. Ask "Is it easy?" No.
    • Leave them with a clear difference in feeling. 
"Keep one point and test." - Tohei Sensei

This is very simple, but can be very difficult to practice. What can help us with this? 
  • Curtis Sensei offered three points: Look at your partner's face. Feel with your body. Show, by moving with your partner.
    • It's not the feeling of, "How do I push my partner?" but "How do I take care of you?"
  • We can practice connecting and feeling shifts in the body or attention by touching our partner on the shoulder with a soft hand. 
    • As they tense different parts of their body, we can feel where ki gets stuck, and share what we feel. 
    • This is how we become familiar with what tension in different areas feels like.

Pre-Aikido Play Dates

posted Sep 4, 2019, 10:24 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Sep 4, 2019, 10:26 AM ]

Ever since we began our Kids Class for ages 8-13 last fall, we often get questions such as, “Can my 5-year-old sign up?” Due to the small size of our school, we simply didn’t have the resources to provide for younger children.

However, we have so appreciated the energy and enthusiasm of your little ones! And so we looked for ways we could say yes

We are excited to be launching a new series specifically for kids ages 4-7, on a trial basis for the month of October. We will meet on alternate Wednesdays (October 2, 16, and 30) from 5-5:30pm. Kids should wear soft clothing with no zippers, strings, or rough decals. Parents will be asked to remain on site, although you will not need to participate in class

Our time together will be spent developing healthy relationships by playing cooperative games. We will be learning Ki-Aikido principles in a developmentally appropriate way, building confidence, cooperation, and community with a focus on fun. As your little one learns how to participate in a dojo community, we will be preparing them for our older Kids Class.

At the end of the month, we will discuss any adjustments that would be helpful and make plans for continuing through the school year. For this mini-series, we suggest a donation of $30-60, depending on your family’s circumstances. After October, families will be encouraged to set up an ongoing monthly membership at a payment level you can afford.

Please contact us to sign your little ones up – we can’t wait to play with you!

Leveling Up: A Reflection on the Kids Class Exhibition

posted Jun 26, 2019, 7:33 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Jun 26, 2019, 8:15 AM ]

Last fall, our dojo embarked on a renewed adventure – we restarted our kids program after a long hiatus with eight brand-new students, ranging from 7 to 13 years old. Led by three students from the adult class, we ended up co-creating a strong and vibrant community of learners, meeting on Friday evenings throughout the year to play together and grow in our understanding of Ki-Aikido.

As we spent the year sharing our experiences, students of all levels were given ample opportunity to get a taste of the essence of this practice. We taught each other through games and exercises, as well as learning and practicing basic techniques. We shared stories each week of how we had (or hadn’t!) embodied these practices in our daily lives. And all of us, week after week, placed ourselves at the feet of our teachers to learn the basics anew. As a capstone event, we had the joy of hosting Ileana Shaner from Greenville, South Carolina, and she led one of our kids classes in April, giving us deeper instruction on backwards rolls and ukemi. What a deep privilege, to learn together in this way!

Our year of training culminated with a Kids Class Exhibition on Friday, June 7th. Thanks to encouragement from our friends at the Boulder Ki Society in Colorado, we were able to use their rubric for ranking kids belt levels, and we hosted a demonstration for the first kids ranks of 10th kyu and 9th kyu. Before the exhibitions, Poppele Sensei let us know that while the content for the test would be Ki Tests and Ki-Aikido arts, the main grading criteria for the test would be how well the students treated each other, themselves, and the space. We expected to award a range of belts across those levels, but we were in for a surprise – all members of our kids class shone brightly that day and exceeded expectations!

It is our pleasure to announce that seven of our eight students were awarded 9th kyu yellow belts, ranging across grades A, B, and C. The eighth student, Emilia, who is entering high school next year, performed so well that after some additional impromptu testing (during which she maintained incredible poise) she was awarded the rank of 5th kyu, the first adult rank in our school. Our younger students mentioned at the celebration afterwards that they were not surprised, and expressed their happiness for her achievement. What a moving demonstration of sending Plus Ki to their friend!

Overall, our exhibition was simply one big celebration of the growth these students have attained this year – not just in their ability to perform techniques, but in the largeness of their hearts and the integrity of their character. It truly is a joy to train together.

Congratulations to all!

Note: to download a full size copy of either photo, right click on the image.

Kids Class Exhibitions and Social: Fri, Jun 7

posted May 28, 2019, 10:33 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated May 28, 2019, 10:45 AM ]

Please join us on Friday, June 7, at 6:00pm for our Kids Class Exhibitions and Spring Celebration. Our youngest students have been preparing for their first exhibition for rank and will demonstrate their readiness for 10th and 9th kyu in Shinshin Toitsu Aikido.

Following the presentation of their yellow belts, we will celebrate with a potluck social. Everyone is invited to come support our dedicated younger students for this special event!

Following the exhibition, our kids program will be on summer break until September. If you have a young person who would be excited to learn Aikido, please plan to join us in the fall!

View this event on 

Seminar Reflection: Ki Development and Music-Making in Daily Life with Ileana Shaner Sensei

posted May 8, 2019, 9:07 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated May 8, 2019, 9:08 AM ]

During the last weekend in April, we had the pleasure of welcoming Ileana Shaner Sensei to lead the Minnesota Ki Society annual seminar, on "Ki Development and Music-Making in Daily Life". Shaner Sensei is a fifth degree black belt, one of the highest ranked women in Ki Society, and a regular instructor of children and adults at the South Carolina Ki Aikido dojo. She also holds Yatra yoga teacher certification, and is a classically trained pianist.

Shaner Sensei masterfully embodied her theme of Ki and music-making throughout the weekend through her teaching, pacing, and the flow of the seminar. We began with hitori waza, our one person exercises. Shaner Sensei emphasized that in every hitori waza, the movement naturally originates from the breath, from the one point in the lower abdomen. This unification of breath and action naturally leads to cleanness of movement. There is living stillness between each beat of count/movement, like rests between notes of a song.

When we move, we can also notice: Are we adding, controlling, or tensing? We can let our movements be free, relaxed, and uninhibited. This was especially evident in udefuri choyaku, where many of us noticed we were adding to our natural movement and over-rotating the trailing arm, while tensing the forward arm and raising the shoulder. This breaks bodily integrity and causes instability. However, when the trailing arm comes to rest in line with the shoulders, and the forward shoulder and arm are relaxed, the body is naturally stable and strong.

Shaner Sensei then invited the kids from our regular Friday classes onto the mat for a special Kid's Class. As she led us through games to practice nonverbal communication and connection, taught backwards rolls, and reviewed an art, several themes of teaching our younger members emerged:

  • Show first to inspire others, then invite them to try it also.
  • Teach from what you know. Shaner Sensei broke down components of a back roll into simple, progressive steps that allowed each kid to master a back roll by the end of the class.
  • Set clear expectations by example.
  • Let learning be fun and joyful!
On Saturday, Shaner Sensei built on Friday’s foundation by reviewing several foundational kyu rank arts, then teaching the first six arts of Taigi 23: Jodori. Before we began practicing the taigi arts, she shared a story of preparing a complex piano recital program for a year, then playing this program for a retirement community. She noted that even as audience members shared the joy and emotion they had felt through her music, she felt dissatisfied with her performance. She resolved to play the program more - and instead of focusing on attaining perfection, she turned her attention to appreciating the incredible music she was able to share. As a result, her experience of the music and her performances changed dramatically.

We can approach our arts and taigi similarly. We can be anxious and focused on our mistakes – “I will never be good enough to do this perfectly!” Or, we can choose to enjoy practicing these beautiful arts with our friends, opening to our breath and movement, learning together how the art moves. As we approached these challenging arts with this positive intention, students from fifth kyu through yudansha participated fully in leading and receiving these techniques with full attention, experimentation, and enjoyment. 

The seminar concluded on Sunday with Shaner Sensei leading a Yatra yoga session, guiding us through feeling our breath, stretching our bodies, and staying with our reactions and emotions as we explored different and unfamiliar postures. The pacing of the yoga, leading into our closing session of Ki breathing, was a perfect coda to our weekend of moving in harmony.

These lessons in rhythm, relaxation, and moving together were intensified while serving as Shaner Sensei's otomo. I rapidly found that trying to think ahead - just as in playing music! - resulted in being off-time and out of place for what she needed. Instead, the more I relaxed and noticed where her attention was, and what her natural rhythm and patterns were, the more I could be at ease and move with her. This experience allowed me to see how many walls I have put up against connection, and how often I think and do instead of relaxing, letting my attention rest on one person, and trusting that I will see what is needed. I am deeply grateful for the gift of Shaner Sensei's patience, kindness, and presence, and the experience of opening to someone I could trust deeply.

Through relaxing and opening to the rhythm of what is happening - in our breathing, our movement, our techniques - we can fully experience this moment. We can delight in our friends' presence and community, appreciate their support, and thoroughly enjoy this practice, without becoming stuck, anxious, and dissatisfied.

As Shaner Sensei shared during our Sunday yoga class: "Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment." -- Thich Nhat Hanh

Thank you for embodying music-making in daily life, Sensei, and guiding our rhythms during the seminar weekend! We look forward to applying what we have learned of relaxation, rhythm, and harmonious connection in our daily lives.

Reflection from the 2019 Shugyo Tassei Kigan Shiki Seminar

posted Feb 26, 2019, 11:13 AM by Jonathan Poppele   [ updated Feb 26, 2019, 11:14 AM ]

by Kirsten Welge

In January this year, four of us from the Minnesota Ki Society had the pleasure of learning from Shaner Sensei at the annual Shugyo Tassei Kigan Shiki seminar in Merrifield, VA. Here are some  of my notes and reflections from the weekend:

During this seminar, Shaner Sensei reviewed more of Tohei Sensei's carefully crafted pedagogy, and taught several taigi to reinforce why Tohei Sensei developed this form of training. Taigi consist of five to ten aikido techniques, performed with a partner in a particular sequence. Taigi are another form of "tsuzuki waza", or continuation exercises, that help us develop sustained connection with a partner. The aim is to maintain unbroken connection with our partner from the beginning bow of the taigi, through the final bow. Through this connection, we support our partner, and are supported by them.

Just as Tohei Sensei designed taigi as tsuzuki waza, he also incorporated elements of this continuation into the ki society pedagogy. The four basic principles to unify mind and body underpin everything we do: 

  1. Keep One Point
  2. Relax Completely
  3. Keep Weight Underside
  4. Extend Ki


The last principle is exactly the same as the first of the Five Principles of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido: Ki is Extending. We must be practicing mind-body oneness to practice aikido.


Similarly, the last "hitori waza", or one person exercise, of our standard aiki taiso is tenkan. When we practice tenkan, we extend our wrist as though inviting a partner to grab our wrist for a technique. Likewise, Taigi 1 begins with the same motion, leading our partner into katatedori tenkan kokyunage. Even in the aiki taiso, we see the connection to our arts: Are we practicing our invitation for a partner to grab hold and do aikido?


Every one of these connections is intentional. Likewise, each of the taigi has a particular focus.


This seminar, Shaner Sensei taught Taigi 2, 4, 10, 11, and 12. He also spoke to Taigi 3, 6, and 8.


Taigi 2: Katatedori Ryotemochi (Two hand grab of one hand)

  • Theme: Fusoku Furi - "No contact, no separation".
  • Uke's hold with two hands is quite strong. Any kind of push or contact felt from nage's movement causes separation. Nage must follow ki principles to perform the arts and taigi correctly.


Taigi 3: Yokomenuchi (Strike to the side of the head)

  • Theme: Seido Itsuchi (or Seido Ichi) - "Unity of Calm and Action"
  • This taigi is explosive. Nage must move decisively on the "i" of "ima" (English: the "n" of "now"), matching uke's ki movement.  Sensei pointed out that there is a sudori in every art, as well as a rubber band-like feeling of expansion and contraction.
  • Other taigi that also feature the "i" of "ima" feeling are 7, 13, and 19.


Taigi 4: Ryokatadori (Two hand grab of shoulders)

  • Theme: "Move from where you're not being held." (From Five Principles of Kaisho)
  • Uke is grabbing the shoulders. If nage moves from the shoulders, s/he is stuck!
  • Nage must move from one point while keeping good posture ("shisei") to lead their partner .


Taigi 8: Ryotedori 
  • Theme: Rhythm of Down, Up, Down
  • All arts in each of these taigi exhibit a clear Down, Up, Down rhythm. Nage and uke should feel this clearly!


Taigi 12: Katatedori Ryotemochi

  • Theme: Move from the Fingertips
  • In each of these taigi, the core point is not to get stuck where uke is holding.
  • The fingertips are connected to one point. Move from the fingertips to move yourself and your partner.


Performing a taigi correctly isn't easy. We must first memorize the order of the arts and develop confidence in performing each art in sequence. Only after the work of memorization is completed can we can train in the deeper meaning of each taigi, and practice balance, rhythm, and largeness with our partner.


I had a personal experience of this gap when demonstrating Taigi 2 with a friend from another dojo. Between anxiety about getting up in front to demonstrate, trying to remember the technique order, and worry about working with an unfamiliar partner: I was entirely in my head, separate from my partner. I was not supporting my partner, or allowing him to support me! As a result, the taigi was rough and bumpy - a solid experience of "wrong way".


I then had the golden opportunity of feeling a clear difference when demonstrating Taigi 8 just a few minutes later.  I love this taigi's arts and flow, and I am familiar with the way it moves. I chose a partner from my home dojo. And this time, I decided to choose a different intention: have fun, and support my partner in enjoying this taigi. And, both of us had a great experience.


 As Tohei Sensei often says, practice means sometimes yes, sometimes no. I am deeply grateful for Shaner Sensei's clear transmission of Tohei Sensei's teachings, and his commitment to our growth. And, I look forward to countless more opportunities to practice!

Shaner Sensei Seminar: April 26-28

posted Jan 30, 2019, 10:32 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Mar 18, 2019, 10:41 AM ]

We are delighted to host Ileana Shaner Sensei, 5th Dan, for our Spring Seminar this April 26-28. The theme of the seminar is "Ki Development and Music-making in Daily Life." Registration is now open for this very special weekend of training.

Shaner Sensei is a pianist, martial artist, and Yoga practitioner and instructor. She has trained Ki Aikido with her husband, David Shaner Sensei, Chief Instructor of the Eastern Ki Federation, for 24 years. She currently holds the rank of Godan (5th dan) in Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, the rank of Joden in the art of Shinshin Toitsudo, and is a Full Lecturer for the Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Kai (Ki Society Headquarters). In 1996, Ileana and her taigi partner, Eric Harrell, won the first International World Cup Taigi competition in Tochigi, Japan. Ileana lives with her husband and three children in Greenville, SC.

Seminar Schedule:

Friday, April 26 (Free)
6:00 – 7:30    Ki & Aikido Class
7:30 – 8:30    Kid’s Class
8:30 – 10:00  Social at the dojo

Saturday, April 27
9:00 – 12:00  Ki & Aikido Class
                    Lunch Break
1:30 – 4:30    Ki & Aikido Class
6:00 – 9:00    Dinner & Social

Sunday, April 28
9:00 – 12:00   Ki & Aikido Class

Download the seminar flyer and registration form here.

Aikido in Daily Life

posted Dec 26, 2018, 6:29 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Dec 26, 2018, 6:29 PM ]

When we talk about Aikido as a martial art, it's easy to think of this as entirely "on the mat" practice, with the rare exciting exception of a real-life "take down the bad guy" scenario.

Yet my teachers and my experience demonstrate that Aikido is something far greater and more powerful.

I began training relatively recently, compared to many others in this art. Over just a few years, I have noticed radical, positive shifts in my daily life as a result of this training. And, the majority of those shifts occurred not from one intense practice on the mat, but from incorporation of these principles drop by drop into my daily life.

For instance:

  • When I slip on ice: Do I feel when I start to lose balance? Is my default to tense up, or to relax and move to regain my center?
  • When I am working at my desk: Do I frequently end the workday with a tension headache? Or, do I notice when I slump, and take a moment to feel my center and let my spine support my head? 
  • When I have a disagreement with my spouse, parent, or coworker: Do I fight to be heard and feel justified in my actions? Or, do I recognize that they are reacting to something they perceive? Can I respond with curiosity, naming the need I hear, and asking if I have heard them well?

All of this is Aikido. Mind leads body. And, a stable, relaxed body can support a stable, free mind.

Our new offering is based in this philosophy: Your life can be your training ground. 

  • We will teach the four basic principles that underpin aikido techniques. These principles are easily learned, whatever your fitness level. If you can walk up the stairs, you can participate.
  • We will offer clear, specific exercises that you can apply day to day between classes. As you practice the principles in your daily life, you'll begin to notice greater awareness and ease of movement.
  • And, we'll meet twice a week for four weeks. This enables you to reinforce the new practices in your mind and muscle memory and feel progress quickly. It's similar to learning a new language or motor skill: repetition helps.

Curious? This is your invitation to try something different in the new year. Join us for four weeks. Learn something that will benefit you for a lifetime.


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