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.


Positive & Grateful

posted Dec 26, 2018, 6:07 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Dec 28, 2018, 8:16 AM ]

by Shaner Sensei, Eastern Ki Federation Chief Instructor

As we approach the 100th anniversary of Founder (Soshu) Tohei Sensei’s birth (1920), I wanted to share with you a story that I try to remember each day. 

You may recall many times when I have shared that Tohei Sensei always taught us to be “Positive and Grateful” every day.  But maybe I have not shared his thinking, reasoning, and logic per how this is possible and why this is important.

I once asked Tohei Sensei, “Do you pray?”  

He looked at me, bowed his head, and simply said, “Hai”. 

[He knew enough about my inquisitive personality to know that “Hai” alone would never do as a complete answer!  He knew it and I knew it. He was just playing with me and giving me just a little bait knowing full well that I would ask a follow up question about something as important as prayer and in the context of many other conversations about philosophy, spirituality, and training.]

With that typical twinkle in his eye and a knowing smile, he looked up at me (as I took the bait and asked the obvious follow up question).

“How do you pray Sensei?”, I asked.

Then he took me outside to the family shrine taught me same the prayer I used for the dedication and blessing of the Place of Peace, including Ki Irei and Ki Barai

This is the same meditation poem as written (actually carved) on the Shomen of the Tenshingosho meditation dojo at HQ in Japan as well as written (Tohei Sensei’s calligraphy) at the Shomen of Hei-Sei-Ji: The Place of Peace temple at Furman University.

Sensei said, “Every morning I first calm myself deeply (breathing/meditation) and then repeat three times... 

'Shinpo Uchurei Kanno Soku Genjo'.

It is very simple.  You calm yourself deeply.  Very deeply. And when you do, you realize there is no separation.  You are the Universe and the Universe is you.  You are One with the Universe. 

This is natural.  When you calm yourself deeply, then naturally you experience directly the meaning of this poem.  “Blessed Universe (Shinpo Uchurei), in this present moment (Soku Genjo), [I am] feeling/experiencing directly (Kanno) [this connection with the Universe Itself]."

"Why is this important Sensei?”, I followed up. 

(BTW: He always had answers to the “why” questions because he thought about everything logically so he could clearly and concisely communicate his lessons to anyone).

Instead of answering directly, Sensei flipped the roles and responded to me with two questions of his own.

“When you wake up in the morning and experience this connection with the Universe that supports your every breath and very existence, do you feel positive or negative?”

“And, when you wake up in the morning and experience this connection with the Universe that supports your every breath and very existence, do you feel grateful or ungrateful?”  

I answered, “Hai Sensei, I feel both positive and grateful.”  

He chuckled, and said, “Of course, you answer this way because it is a universal principle!  Everybody says they feel “positive” when they experience deep connection.  And just imagine, it is such a wonderful thing that you are able to wake up and live your life for another day!  In the same way, we feel “grateful" to have another day to experience the fullness of our connection to friends, family, co-workers and the Universe Itself”.

He added, “When you pray this way each morning, naturally you start you day feeling both positive and grateful.  If you carry this feeling of appreciation and connection with you all day long, then you stop looking for what is wrong and bad and you start seeking out what is right and good.”

And so we now know both how and why. We can all choose to be positive and grateful each day.

During this Holiday Season, I am especially positive and grateful for the growth and development of EKF students and instructors over the last 15 years.  I am looking toward the next 15 years with a positive mind and a grateful heart.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year,


Supporting One Another: 2018 EKF Intensive Seminar

posted Nov 27, 2018, 4:41 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Nov 27, 2018, 4:52 PM ]

Shokushu 22: Ki Testing
Having no color, no odor, and no shape, the mind is not something that can be grasped by the senses. However, based on the principle that the mind and body are actually one, we can know the state of this ungraspable mind by testing the body, which is available to our senses. 

Ki Tests are not founded on the idea of testing for strength or weakness. The most important factor in Ki Testing is to accurately inform the person of the state of his or her mind. Thus the person performing Ki Tests must truly understand and exhibit oneness of mind and body from the outset, and then perform the test correctly.

During the weekend of November 9-11, four of our yudansha traveled to Greenville, SC to participate in an intensive seminar with our Eastern Ki Federation Chief Instructor, David Shaner Sensei. During this weekend, Shaner Sensei shared how Tohei Sensei developed his clear, logical pedagogy for ki testing, from the early tests to the current ranks of shokyu, chukyu, and jokyu. The primary emphasis was how to assess a student’s stability of mind through ki testing, to help them see this, too.

Aikido is founded on the principle and study of mind-body oneness. Mind leads body. Though we cannot read another’s mind, we can see a person’s physical posture and attitude (姿勢, “shisei”). We can notice their nonverbal cues to understand what is occupying their mind. This is not mystical! It’s simply common sense. And, as instructors, it is our responsibility to be a clear mirror for our students and friends, so they can practice well and deepen their experience and understanding.

However, to see clearly, we must be practicing ourselves. We show up in a calm, relaxed way, without an agenda or intention. We relax our vision and calmly see our partner as part of the whole picture (集中”shuchu”), rather than boring into them with an intense, tunnel vision gaze (執着 “shuchaku”). We give them our full, relaxed attention, to notice little changes. And, we interact in a way that does not disturb our friends or draw their mind, that allows them to see themselves more clearly.

All of this is available if we come with an attitude of supporting, “sasaeru” (支える). We can let go of our desires to be right, to judge, to fix, and simply show up with calmness, love, and care for our friends. We can notice their reactions and feel what they are feeling. We can choose to move with them, and be present to support them. And when we see misalignment, hesitation, or tension, we can move gently and confidently to help our partner see this, too.

These insights were clearest when practicing giving and receiving the kyu-rank ki tests. However, Shaner Sensei also demonstrated that this approach is directly applicable to the other disciplines of Shinshin Toitsudo - our hitori waza exercises, arts, and taigi - as well as our lives outside the dojo. I look forward to continuing to practice these principles with friends in the dojo, and in my work and relationships.

New Year's Training

posted Nov 26, 2018, 10:31 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Dec 26, 2018, 7:23 PM ]

Please join us on Tuesday, January 1, to kick off a new year of training!

For the last three years, our dojo ohana has gathered on January 1st to celebrate our community and our opening to the experience of training. We'd be delighted if you joined us for this burgeoning tradition. Weather permitting, we will begin the day with senshin no gyo, River Misogi. Read more about this special training here. We will return to the dojo for a traditional New Year's blessing, senshin no gyo (Bell Misogi), and weapons training.

In the afternoon, we will gather again for an early dinner and social.

Tentative schedule:
8:00a:                  Meet at dojo
9:00a - 10:00a:    River Misogi (weather dependent; site TBD)
10:00a - 1:00p:    Bell Misogi and Weapons - Ken 1 & 2, cutting practice, suburi
1:00p  -  2:30p:    Break
2:30p  -  6:00p:    Potluck Dinner & Social.

You can stay up to date as we finalize details and RSVP here on Facebook.

Trauma-Informed Ki-Aikido

posted Aug 24, 2018, 9:58 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Aug 25, 2018, 5:05 PM ]

By Laurel Strand-Crawford

Since starting a class in Ki-Aikido foundations for trauma survivors, the question I've been asked most often is, "I would like to join this class, but do I need to be a trauma survivor?" The short answer is that everyone is welcome. My extended answers are always contextualized in the conversation, but I've given this a lot of thought during our late-summer break and I want to take the opportunity to share my inspiration & intention for creating this class.

In simplest terms, the way I have come to see it, this world is a survivor of countless traumatic experiences. The world as we know it, including our individually-experienced bodies of awareness, is made up of multitudinous systems in various stages of trauma resolution. It occurs to me that everyone on the planet right now is connected to some aspect of trauma, and as such can be instrumental to the healing in process.

As someone who has studied trauma for the last 15 years, I've built an awareness of the ways human systems, both individually & collectively experienced, reflect an intricate process of healing. As biological & social systems attempt to resolve traumatic experience, they undergo changes in biochemistry, language, perception, & availability, all which can be profound, intense, and overwhelming for the individual.

In my own experience, the principles of Ki-Aikido assist this process monumentally. As we develop a stronger relationship with the very center of our living experience, we build our capacities to recognize our own stability, to access choices, to affirm our most natural freedom of movement. We practice allowing our mind to settle at the center of experience, welcoming the awareness of sensation & connection, and moving from where we're not being held. The dojo becomes a laboratory for the rest of our lives, helping us develop a new somatic baseline informed by a stable center.

When I first came to the Center for Mind-Body Oneness in 2008, as a trauma survivor several years into active healing work, I found a safe container able to support me in developing my own awareness & stability. I found non-dogmatic tradition, designed with respect for individual exploration & authentic discovery. I found a good teacher dedicated to training in daily life, committed to applying these principles in ways that open doors for each student no matter where they come from.

Learning from this example, I want to share this gift of opening doors. What I am able to offer is my own training in the universal principles we study in Ki-Aikido. As an expression of my own integration process, I offer a trauma-informed access to these principles, knowing that the availability & reflection of this work can make a world of difference in training & daily life.

Trauma-Informed Ki-Aikido begins again on September 6th at 6pm. Wherever you are in the global conversation on trauma & healing, I hope you will consider joining us in this life laboratory.

Ki-Aikido Kids Class Resumes October 5th

posted Jul 30, 2018, 10:17 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Aug 21, 2018, 9:01 AM ]

Register Now!
Ki-Aikido is accessible for any body shape, size, and strength!

Is your child ready for a life-changing adventure in the non-violent Japanese martial art of Ki-Aikido?

Beginning Friday, October 5th, we’re inviting kids ages 8 and up to come train together right here in St. Paul. No experience necessary – we’ll be starting from the beginning!

Through stretching exercises, games, and some basic aikido techniques, this 50-minute class will focus on safety and respecting the body. Students will receive personal instruction from our experienced teachers. Not only that, but we’ll practice relaxation and beginning meditation, which is a great tool for navigating all the stresses that come with growing up. Our goal is to develop coordination, cooperation, and confidence.

What To Expect:

Above all, we strive to give children a positive and safe learning environment.

No matter what age, a person always benefits from being in a healthy, supportive learning environment. We aim to give kids a foundation they can rely on for a lifetime of positive growth. Through this Kids Class, we teach kids how to confidently interact with others by developing coordination, relaxation, and good posture. With an understanding of Japanese dojo etiquette, we learn to practice respect, teamwork, and connection to others.

Ki-Aikido will benefit students of all ages by:
  • Building mental and physical resiliency
  • Channeling energy into positive interaction
  • Settling mind and body through meditation
  • Stimulating brain-body coordination
  • Teaching how to fall without injury
  • Focusing on personal development, not competition
  • Cultivating respect for self and others
  • Experiencing a culture of tending the physical space
  • Developing a sense of joy and confidence

Ki-Aikido gives kids a chance to develop their full potential in a non-competitive community while strengthening their mind and body together with friends. Register today to give your child this experience of connection and joy as we learn and grow together.

Special Introductory First Month Membership Rate

For those who register now, we are offering a special First Month Membership rate of only $50 per child. This includes participation in weekly kids classes for the month of October, plus a new gi (training outfit and white belt).

Can't make it on October 5th? No problem! Register for the first Friday your child will be joining us, and we'll continue your Introductory Membership into November's kid classes to include a total of four classes.

Register on Eventbrite, or contact us in advance so we know you plan to register onsite.

After the Introductory Membership, ongoing monthly membership is by free-will donation – we suggest a range similar to a gym membership, sports league, unlimited yoga pass, or a month’s worth of music lessons, based on what your family can afford. This is the membership structure for all students at the Center for Mind-Body Oneness, regardless of age. The doors stay open because of our financial commitment, and our generosity is inspired by what this community means to us, and the difference that training in Ki-Aikido makes in our lives. We hope you will join us!
Register Now!

Japanese Obon Festival with Minnesota Ki Society

posted Jul 30, 2018, 9:37 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Jul 31, 2018, 8:43 AM ]

This year, the dojo will once again be participating in the Como Conservatory's Japanese Obon Festival. The Como "Lantern Festival"  is one of the largest exhibitions of Japanese culture in the region. The event will feature entertainment, cultural booths, martial arts demonstrations (that's us!) and food from 3:00 - 9:00 pm. At dusk, lanterns are floated on two ponds to commemorate Obon, the Japanese Festival that honors departed ancestors.

Get more information about the festival here on the Como website

This is the premiere event in the Twin Cities for connecting with people interested in Japanese culture. Please join us as we share Ki-Aikido and Ki Principles as part of this fun, family-friendly festival of Japanese culture.

Sign up here to volunteer at our booth
Or get tickets in advance here

We will have a booth at the festival and put on two demonstrations. If you are interested in volunteering to help with the dojo booth or demos, please contact Kirsten ( or 651-785-4650) or sign up here. There are limited free passes for dojo volunteers, and we would be delighted to have company! Here is the schedule for the day:
  • We will begin setting up our booth at about 2:00
  • Gates open to the public at 3:00
  • We will put on demonstrations at 4:00 & 6:00
  • We will take down the booth around 8:00
Sign up here to volunteer at our booth
Or get tickets in advance here

The event takes place in Como Park, just out front of the Conservatory. Parking in the area is limited, so participants and guests are invited to park at an off-site parking lot near Midway Stadium and catch a free shuttle bus to the event.

Get information about parking and the shuttle bus here

New Thursday Morning Meditation

posted Jun 26, 2018, 8:20 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Jun 26, 2018, 8:20 AM ]

Morning Meditation Practice Session
7:00-8:00 AM, Thursdays
Beginning June 28

Want a calm, clear start to your mornings this summer?

Meditation allows us to notice and become familiar with the thoughts and sensations present in our minds and bodies. Through this practice, we tune into our current experience, see what is happening more clearly, and find greater joy and calmness in our lives. 

Please join us for a morning meditation practice session, from 7-8 AM on Thursdays this summer. If you cannot stay the full hour, come for as long as you can, and depart when you need to.

Please note: building doors may not open right at 7. Please arrive by 7 to ensure Kirsten can buzz you in before meditation practice begins.

EKF Summer Camp with Tohei Sensei

posted Jun 26, 2018, 7:42 AM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Jun 26, 2018, 7:50 AM ]

This past week, eight members of the Minnesota Ki Society traveled to Greenville, South Carolina for a four-day seminar with Shinichi Tohei Sensei, who was visiting from Ki Society Headquarters in Japan. Several of us had visited Tohei Sensei at headquarters two years ago, or had been able to train with him on one of his previous visits to the United States, and we were eager not only to have this chance to learn directly from the head of our school, but also to renew the relationship with a teacher we hold in high esteem. It was especially a privilege to support some of our friends in having their first experience training with Tohei Sensei.

At this seminar in Greenville, Tohei Sensei invited us into a deeper understanding of keeping one point, to experience connection with our partners, and to know the relationship of mind and ki. With a focus on basics, we had a chance to practice a little bit of everything – from aikido techniques, to jo and ken, to breathing and ki meditation. Now that we are home again, we are committed to sharing what we learned with each other in upcoming classes this summer. If you’re curious to hear more about it, we’d love to have you join us! You can check out the class schedule on our website calendar.

Everything at the seminar flowed so smoothly, it would be easy to assume it was effortless. Each part moved seamlessly into the next; breaks were timed perfectly; there was a gentle rhythm between explanation and practice; and when instructions were given, they were easy to follow, and everyone understood what to expect. And yet when we pause to consider how many moving parts there were, we can begin to appreciate how critical a role connection played in helping us all have a supportive learning experience together.

Everyone present made a commitment to help make this event happen – from Tohei Sensei’s dedication to making himself available to teach us, to our host instructors who made the visit possible at the highest levels, to those traveling from Texas, Colorado, New York, Wisconsin, Washington, California, Japan, and even Russia to join our group from Minnesota and the local South Carolina folks in growing and developing together. In order for this seminar to happen, it took the dedication of everyone to show up and bring their heart to the mat. The result of all these people coming together with this shared intention was a seminar filled with plus ki, creating an atmosphere where we could all learn joyfully.

In a room more than half-filled with yudansha in their hakama, we were also welcomed by representatives from the local children’s class, who helped us remember that we are supposed to be having fun! Some youthful mudansha in colored belts like my own also traveled from Virginia to be there with us – I was delighted to be their partner several times throughout the seminar. And there were several white-belts – of various ages – who joined us on the mat, in some cases having only been training in aikido a month. Yet here we all were together, finding ways to learn from each other, laughing and building friendships that spanned not only borders, but generations.

Many of us in Eastern Ki Federation have learned to think of our extended Ki-Aikido community as Ohana – a term brought by our Hawai’i aikido friends, reminding us that when we are intentional about tending our relationships to one another, we create an open-hearted sense of family. Our Aikido Ohana deepens and grows every time we come together and train with Plus Ki – whether that involves visiting Tohei Sensei, hosting a guest instructor at a home seminar, or simply showing up week after week at our own dojo, seeing our friends’ familiar faces as weeks turn into years and belts change color.

Community – a healthy sense of belonging together – doesn’t happen by accident. So I want to express my deep gratitude for all the ways, known and unknown, that we each bring sincerity and commitment to our training, whether local or distant, whether instructor or beginner, and whether you’ve been on the mat recently or not. As Tohei Sensei reminds us, Ki is constantly flowing, and the universe is constantly moving and changing. I hope that movement brings our paths together at the dojo again, so we can continue to build our joyful Ohana.

Fryling Sensei Seminar

posted Apr 24, 2018, 4:32 PM by The Center for Mind-Body Oneness   [ updated Apr 24, 2018, 4:32 PM ]

I would love if introductions always went this way: “Who are you, where are you from, and when are you your best self?” It felt natural, in the dojo, to start a seminar this way. But the underlying attention, focus, and purpose of that first step expressed a clarity of intention that could be shared by all, built throughout the day, and carried onward into daily life. 

Pete Seeger's words come back to me: “Any darn fool can make something complex; it takes a genius to make something simple.” In this one-day workshop in Foundations of Mind-Body Coordination, the genius of simplicity came from welcoming all the complexity to join in & settle at one point.

Our explorations began with a “simple” invitation: today we can fundamentally change our relationship to stress. In a room full of people, some with decades of experience in the dojo and some brand new to the mat, this was the first conversation offered. Sit down and talk with someone about what it's like when you are stressed, and what it would be like to bring that “best self” feeling to the stressful situation. From this place of listening & being heard, it seemed everyone's Real Lives were given a broad welcome to come join in the conversation.

Then, we dove into the laboratory, experimenting with a growing variety of simple tasks, noticing what happens when we use our mind one way versus another. The common habit of focusing on the point of stress, in any given situation, is what gets us stuck. “Aikido is an art of lines,” said Fryling Sensei. “When we think in terms of points, we lose sight of purpose & we get small.”

This is the joy & gift of learning together in the dojo. With a friend offering the role of the “stressor,” we are able to see clearly the way our attention affects our experience. One after another, simple exercises show us what happens when we focus the mind on the point of stress, and what is available when body & mind are free to move.

“Tension is collision with nature,” says Fryling Sensei. “We can only hear others' intentions when we're focused & relaxed.” When we feel the lines of intention from our partners, our “stressors,” and make no effort to tense up & fight at the point of stress, we are free to move along the most natural lines of connection.

This is simple access to complex habits; the treasure of training with others in this way is the clarity of feedback, the immediacy of understanding when mind & body are coordinated. One can go to a lecture & hear the words “Stress is a choice.” And although there can be benefits to thinking about these words, there is a limit to what the thinking mind can figure out. But the experiential, living, shared dojo of putting these words into practice brings the choice into tangible, somatic reality. Here we build the power of new habits together, in the complex theater of engagement, with the felt sense of body-mind coordination.. It brings it out of the head and right into the moment, where we can all work together in developing a greater freedom. And that's freedom each person has the power to carry into the world.


Laurel Strand Crawford is a poet who makes her home along the Mississippi river. She teaches the Ki-Aikido Foundations for Trauma Survivors at The Center for Mind-Body Oneness.

1-10 of 12