Event announcement: “Aikido at the Leading Edge” FREE tele-summit

There is a significant international 10-day event in the Aikido world, happening from Friday, May 12th, and happening daily through Sunday, May 21st: “Aikido at the Leading Edge.” It’s open to anyone – Aikido practitioners, or folks just curious about the art and its applications in the world. I’m part of the street team helping to spread the word*, and I hope you’ll participate in some (or all!) of the sessions. I’m pulling together a bunch in info here, so it’s all in one place.

“Aikido at the Leading Edge” is an online video conference event with two to five  (mostly four) 90-minute sessions each day. It features over 40 teachers in keynotes, interviews, panel discussions, and workshops. You can see the complete schedule about halfway down the event page. Don’t worry if you’ve missed some of it – once you sign up you can go back and watch those sessions at any time during the 10-day event, so it’s not too late!

You can pick and choose.

If there are just a couple of subjects of interest, that’s fine. It’s FREE, for heaven’s sake! And if you can’t make the session times you can still watch them afterward, also FREE, during the 10 days of the event. Nothing like this – of this scope – has never happened before, and who knows if it ever will again. There will be Q&A opportunities with the speakers, and breakouts where you’ll discuss and explore in small groups of people from around the world. It’s a natural and fun way to meet with others around the globe.

The 40+ teachers – a who’s who of Aikido:

The tele-summit is being led by Miles Kessler Sensei, a leader in the Aikido community who many of us at Aikido of San Diego have trained with in various seminars, including our Evolutionary Aikido retreats at Joshua Tree. The 40+ teachers are an international who’s who of Aikido from a variety of lineages and perspectives. The line-up includes my own teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei, plus a few teachers in other arts. There are authors, people who bring Aikido principles into business, education, and other areas, some who specialize in embodiment, psychiatrists and psychologists, video and documentary producers, etc. Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Wendy Palmer, Christian Tissier, Robert Frager, Mark Walsh, John Stevens (yes, the one who translated “The Art of Peace,” that little book everyone has), Kayla Feder, Richard Moon, Roy Dean, Teja Bell… You can see the complete list of presenters at the event page, and click each of their photos to see their own websites and bios. (I just discovered that cool feature a moment ago!)

Many of the sessions cover topics of interest to anyone – not just Aikido practitioners – about work, community, relationship, etc., plus some interesting philosophical explorations. I think the workshop on “Stress and Peacemaking” with Paul Linden Sensei could be valuable to anyone.  There will be keynotes, panel discussions, interviews, and workshops. I hope people of all persuasions – not just martial arts people – will join in.

Here’s the list of sessions as of Thursday:

Each session is about 90-minutes long, including the speakers, breakout sessions, and Q&A. I’ve intentionally left off the times, as things may change. Please refer to the event website for the up-to-date schedule.

DAY ONE: Friday, May 12th

Opening Keynote Address – Miles Kessler | “Aikido’s Emerging Paradigm”
Workshop w/ Patrick Cassidy & Miles Kessler | “Evolutionary Aikido”

DAY 2: Saturday, May 13th

Interview – Robert Frager Sensei | “The Ego’s Journey Towards Wholeness Through Aikido”
Interview – John Stevens Sensei | “O Sensei’s Vision For Aikido”

DAY 3: Sunday, May 14th

Panel Discussion: “Spitting Out The Bones – On A Post-Japanese Aikido Culture” | w/ Teja “Fudomyo” Bell, Richard Moon, Patrick Cassidy, & Miles Kessler
Panel Discussion: “The Uke/Nage Relationship: Why We Need Each Other To Evolve” – Dr. Dirk Muller, Judith Elza, Sonja Sauer, Miles Kessler
Interview – Linda Holiday Sensei | “Journey To The Heart Of Aikido”
Workshop: Paul Linden – “Stress and Peacemaking” << If you don’t want to do everything, at least do this one!

DAY 4: Monday, May 15th

Workshop w/ Dominique Cassidy – “Aikido & Meditation”
Interview – Kimberly Richardson Sensei
Panel Discussion: “Aikido And Peace Making” | w/ Aiki Extensions teachers Paul Linden, Question Cooke, Robert Kent, and Bill Leicht
Panel Discussion: “Old School vs. New School: Learning Methods In Aikido” | Josh Gold, Charles Colten, Dr. Fred Phillips, Paul Linden

DAY 5: Tuesday, May 16th

Panel Discussion: “Aikido As A Healing Art” – Susan Chandler, Dr. Dirk Muller, Dr. Dominique Cassidy, Moderated by Paul Linden
Panel Discussion – “The Soul’s Journey In Aikido” | w/ Rev. Koichi Barrish, Patrick Cassidy, Miles Kessler
Panel Discussion – “Why We Need A Dharma Of Aikido” | w/ Teja “Fudomyo” Bell, Eran “Junryu” Vardi, Paula “Rei Kiku” Femenias, & Miles Kessler

DAY 6: Wednesday, May 17th

Workshop w/ Mark Walsh | “Aikido As A Tool For Personal Growth”
Panel Discussion – “Aikido As A Life Path” | Kayla Feder, Mouliko Halen, & Miranda Saarentaus, Vince Salvatore
Interview – Wendy Palmer Sensei | “Self-Reflection Through Aikido”
Panel Discussion – “Aikido And Non-Duality” | Dan Messisco, Bjorn Saw, Patrick Cassidy, Dave Goldberg
Panel Discussion – “Is Aikido A Martial Art?” | Lenny Sly, Roy Dean, Vince Salvatore, Corky Quakenbush

DAY 7: Thursday, May 18th

Interview w/ Christian Tissier Sensei | “An Aikido Life”
Interview – David Shaner Sensei | “The Unlikely Story”
Aiki-Discussion – Blaine Feyen & Miles Kessler | “Is the Uchi Deshi System Still Relevant In Today’s World?”

DAY 8: Friday, May 19th

Workshop w/ Anita Paalvast | “Organizational Change Through Aikido Principles”
Interview – Jan Nevelius Sensei | “Finding Your Own Aikido”
Panel Discussion – “Aikido and Media” | w/ Josh Gold, Roy Dean, Rokas Leonavičius, Bogdan Heretoiu
Interview – Joe Thambu Sensei | “Aikido Past, Present, And Future”

DAY 9: Saturday, May 20th

World Cafe – Miles Kessler & Anita Paalvast | “What Is The Future Of Aikido”
Sensei Round Table | Teachers TBA

DAY 10: Sunday, May 20th

Keynote Address – Richard Strozzi Heckler Sensei | “Aikido in the 21st Century: Self, Society, and Nature”
Tele-Summit Close – Your Turn & Community Sharing | w/ Miles Kessler

How to participate:

The event uses the Zoom teleconference system, which is available (FREE) for Mac, PC, iOS, and Android. It’s easy and works very smoothly. Kessler Sensei and his team have led many international workshops and seminars, and have it down to an art. If you don’t want to be on camera that’s OK. Either shut your camera off or aim it at a bouquet of flowers or something. :-)

You can sign up for “Aikido at the Leading Edge here, FREE. It only requires your first name and email address

I will be participating in as many sessions as I can. Hope I’ll see you there!

*Full disclosure: The links in the article are affiliate links. I may receive some benefit for my helping to get the word out. But that’s not why I’m sharing about this. A similar, but much more modest, effort was a big part of my decision to start practicing Aikido, and continues to influence my understanding of the art today. If you dislike affiliate programs, please use this direct link to Aikido at the Leading Edge, and I won’t get credit. I’d rather you just participate, no matter how you get there.

Before I started training, when I was exploring whether I actually wanted to do Aikido or not, I listened to a podcast by Jeff Davidson where he interviewed Robert Nadeau, David Shaner, Ellis Amdur, George Ledyard, Kevin Blok, Jon Cameron, and I think a couple of others, A pretty wide range of perspectives. I learned of Systema from Ledyard Sensei, and considered going with that instead. I listened to each of the episodes at least a dozen times. They collectively helped me better understand the range of Aikido in the world, and in fact that there is a broader Aikido world. What Nadeau said, especially, really connected with me. When I went to check out dojos the first one I visited, Aikido of San Diego, had a flyer, a seminar with Nadeau coming up, and I stopped looking right then. I’d found my dojo home, and my teacher, and my whole life changed for the better.

So I’m really looking forward to this. There were only 9 episodes of that podcast years ago, and they aren’t available any more. I feel like this project will be like 25-30 new episodes, but more in-depth, on video, and with active participation. I’m gonna be like a kid in a candy store!

Getting Ready for a Retreat

This is the last weekend day before our second big Joshua Tree Evolutionary Aikido Retreat 2016. It starts on Friday, and I need to be out the door and on the road by 8 a.m.

Getting ready to head off to a retreat, or any trip, really, can be an experience which focuses attention and helps set priorities in order. Time is very limited. I can’t afford to make two trips to the store. Clothes that don’t make it into the laundry by Thursday evening aren’t going. If it doesn’t have to be done, it’s not going to get done. I’m constantly questioning myself. “Is this the most important thing I could be doing right now?” “Could I just drop this and still be OK?”

So what has to be done?

  • My body has to be in the best condition possible. Do PT exercises. Foam roll. Eat well. Get plenty of sleep.
  • I have to be sure my car is safe to drive. New tires, check. Must get the oil changed and fluids topped off.
  • The animals have to be cared for. Leave clear instructions for Michael. Leave the barn and feed in good shape.
  • Michael has to be happy. Put away my mess from packing, and leave the house in decent shape.
  • I have some special dietary requirements. Buy protein bars and bananas. Boil a dozen eggs.
  • I need gis and clothing and stuff. Do laundry. Pack. Double-check lists.
  • I can’t abandon the rest of life. Take care of personal training clients. Write. Train.

I do not have to read that fascinating article I just saw. I don’t have to help a random person identify a weed. The pile of papers on my desk does not have to be sorted right now. That project I’ve been meaning to get around to isn’t urgent.

It’s kind of like life. We always have a limited time. It’s just having a clear deadline that puts things into sharp focus.

Time to get to it!

If you are preparing to go to a seminar or retreat you might also enjoy the posts here:  How To Go To Aikido Seminars, Camps, and Retreats.

This one in particular might be helpful. It includes an extensive to-do and packing list for road trips to Aikido events: Going to the Aiki Summer Retreat 2013!


Looking Ahead to 2016

Wow… As usual it’s been too long between posts. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of (and usually jot down) at least one or two subjects to write on. Alas. 2015 didn’t include much space for writing. This year – 2016 – will be a year of writing, a year of training, a year of working, and a year of doing.

This post is what has been rattling around in my mind as we’ve wrapped up the old year and moved into the new one. It’s probably of no significance to anyone other than myself, but if you’re inclined to do so, grab a cup of tea and come along for the ride.

Looking back at the past two years – 2014 and 2015 – it’s been easy to feel like I didn’t accomplish much. But now I see they were a time for preparation. For laying groundwork.

In 2014 Michael and I – well, mostly our very skillful contractor, Randy Metevier – renovated our 1960s house. I did most of the planning, purchasing, and scheduling, and some of the work, including refinishing the kitchen cabinets, painting a full-room mural, and planting a new garden area. Everything from the plaster inward was redone, right down to the wood paneling, the 30-year-old salmon-orange carpeting, and the poorly-designed room layouts that we couldn’t use well, and didn’t really enjoy. Now our house supports us, instead of being a constant source of irritation.

In 2014 I trained for almost the whole year, along with my friend and dojomate, David, in preparation for our shodan exams. We worked hard, had fun, and learned a lot about Aikido and ourselves. I continued assisting in the kids’ classes at the dojo, and training almost daily. Here and there I also worked on a couple of books, which are waiting for me to get back to them. That year I studied for, and earned my certification as a Group Fitness Instructor – physically active, sociable work to balance out my sedentary, solitary writing. I worked on building that business, creating the branding, all the online assets, networking and advertising… the usual startup work. I also did tons of learning, reading, listening, and some writing, immersing myself in the fitness profession.

In February 2015 our dojo produced the first Joshua Tree Evolutionary Aikido Retreat, a major international, live-in, 4-day event 3 hours from San Diego. It went beautifully, and we’re offering it again this year. I couldn’t make it to the O Sensei Revisited retreat at Occidental, but did get to the Aiki Retreat in Feather River. I continued training almost daily, and assisting in the children’s programs. During 2015 I also had the opportunity to lead occasional adult classes at the dojo, which I  enjoyed, and look forward to continuing in 2016.

In addition to Aikido, in January 2015 (after I had my shodan exam safely behind me) I also started training with a strength coach. Deadlifts, presses, rows, squats, chin-ups… It’s been fun and interesting, and I feel more solid and confident, especially when falling and rolling.

Over the summer of 2015 I led large group fitness classes (mostly for seniors), and discovered that while it is important and rewarding work with great people, it is also not a viable way to earn a living. One notch above volunteer work, pay-wise. I also was reminded that I don’t do mornings. No more 8 a.m. classes for me! An important lesson. Thankfully they were short-term gigs, filling in for instructors who were away for the summer months, so that spared me the awkwardness of quitting. In the fall I turned my focus to working with small groups and individuals. I studied more, and more intensively, this time to be a Certified Personal Trainer. I rebranded the business (FitCoachLinda.com), reworked all the assets, more networking and advertising… I established relationships with facilities where I can train clients and hold workshops. I learned more, read more, and listened more, too. I’m loving audiobooks, because I can easily “read” a book several times through over the course of a year.

While I was in the right mindset to work on websites I also totally redid this one (see my earlier post), so things are easier to find and read, and it will be more useful and enjoyable to more people.

During 2015 I got bogged down in some health issues, too – all resolved, happily.

A particularly stressed-out day had me holding my breath periodically, and that triggered supraventricular tachicardia, where one’s heart rate can shoot up suddenly with very little provocation. Turns out I can hit 230 beats per minute just walking from my desk to the kitchen! I’ll write more about that another time, but the bottom line is that it’s relatively harmless, just disconcerting, and is well controlled by a mild drug (beta blocker) that costs $2.89 for a two-month supply. But it was an exciting few months of urgent care visits, cardiologists, heart monitors, conducting fitness classes in this state, and a few times sitting out classes wondering if I’d ever be able to train again – that was the worst part.

That little cardiac adventure, plus some feedback from a mentor (“Hey, you’re not breathing! I can’t believe I never noticed that before!”) during one of my earlier shodan exam run-throughs led me to the discovery that I just don’t breathe sometimes. Not-breathing is bad thing, as it turns out. Long story short – pulmonoligist, sleep testing, and finally an APAP machine (like CPAP, but not continuous – it adjusts), plus being mindful of staying relaxed and breathing freely during waking hours, which is harder than you might think. I thought I had been sleeping OK before, but now I feel sharper, think more clearly and creatively, am more productive, and have more energy during the day. Still not a morning person, though!

And as if that weren’t enough, I also managed to get flattened by a case of giardiasis – the sickness caused by the microscopic parasite giardia. I recommend that you not try this yourself. It’s miserable, can kill you, and can leave you permanently messed up. And no, I don’t know how I got it, in spite of going over the preceding 45 days of activities and foods with the very nice lady, Peaches, from the County Health Department. Could be anything from eating salad bars in the Sierras to the fresh cilantro dressing I’d recently discovered at the market. The worst part was the fatigue, which lasted well past actually being “over” the infection. I’m sure you’ve seen very elderly people who doze off during meals or conversations. Yeah, that. If I were moving I could keep moving (for a while). If I sat still I was out like a light. I had no energy. I would sleep 10 hours, teach two hours of classes, nap for 4 hours, train at the dojo, and crash again for the night. Absolutely exhausted. That can linger for months or even years. I’m delighted to report that I got away with just a couple of months, and seem to be fine now. Miserable stuff.

So back to the good stuff…

At the end of 2015 I pulled together the last details required to begin taking on personal training clients. I determined rates and billing policies, created contracts and exercise programming forms, and designed systems for tracking clients’ progress. I planned a client training schedule that flows right around all the classes at the dojo, leaves useful spans of uninterrupted time for writing, and does not include being anywhere before noon.

Finally a solid foundation is in place, and I am ready to get down to the actual work of both training clients and writing books. *whew*

So what lies ahead? My long-term intention is to split my time about equally between writing and training clients. At the moment I do not have a full book of clients, so I’ll have a chance to do more writing in the early part of the year. The first two books will be for beginning Aikido students – adults, and children. In just a couple of weeks I’ll be participating in the San Diego Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar – its 10th year, my 7th – and am looking forward to seeing many friends there. As we only have one retired old backyard donkey now, Clementine, I’ll be selling my F350 truck and horsetrailer ASAP, and clearing out almost all my horse tack and supplies. We’re doing the Joshua Tree Evolutionary Aikido Retreat again in February, and I’ll be helping some with organizing that. Finances permitting, I hope to be able to travel to several seminars this year. (If you know anyone in the San Diego area looking for a supportive, friendly, professional personal trainer at a gym right next door to a great Aikido dojo, send ’em my way!)

That about covers it. Time to settle in, dig down, and get to work!

Thanks for hanging out with me all this time. I hope you have a brilliant year.


The More of You – A Weekend with Nadeau

Once again I’ve had the good fortune to participate in a seminar with Robert Nadeau Shihan, a direct student of O Sensei, and a 7th dan who’s been teaching since the 1960s. Nadeau is my teacher’s teacher, and the head of our division of the California Aikido Association. Just two months ago I saw him at the Aiki Retreat in Quincy, California, and now this past weekend (21-23 August, 2015) he came to teach at Aikido of San Diego, where I train.

Nadeau Shihan was a strong influence in my choosing to train in Aikido in the first place, and is one of my favorite teachers. He is a character, and a force of nature. People either love him or … well, they don’t. He’s a “rock star” in my eyes, and I don’t feel that way about many people.

So in the weeks leading up to the seminar when I’d try to encourage friends to get registered it felt odd that I really had trouble putting into words what I find so valuable about his teaching. “He’s somebody who… His seminars are really awesome… Oh, heck. Just sign up!”

The seminar was, as I’d anticipated, an enjoyable, eye-opening experience. Each time I train with him I’m listening from a new place, and get something different from the work.

Something I found myself considering this time around was how he came to be such an influential teacher. His students include many of the authors whose books I was reading before I first walked into the dojo, and then early in my training – the late George Leonard (my first Aikido role model, and part of the reason I’ve started a new career in fitness), Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Wendy Palmer (whose books introduced me to embodiment), Dan Millman, and of course my own teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei. What does Nadeau do that results in him having so many well known and successful students? How is he influencing people such that they flourish in their pursuits, and go on to be influential teachers, writers, and leaders in their own rights?

I think I stumbled onto my answer, or at least part of it, in the echos of an expression Nadeau Shihan uses often: “the more of you.” He encourages students to feel, find, and express who they are. He has no agenda. He could not care less if I teach fitness, write books, or become a plumber. His teachings guide students toward their own paths, not toward some “ideal” or “right” path determined by others. When the student is free to discover their true nature, and encouraged in being fully that which they are, their chances of being successful and making a difference in the world are far greater.

It’s an interesting way of being to explore in my own work. How can I help my clients find their path to health and fitness. Another path, some expert’s path, my path – those won’t work nearly so well, and certainly not for long. It’s an approach I’ve been taking all along, but without quite realizing it, and certainly without being able to clearly discuss it. Now that it’s at the level of consciousness I can explore and develop it further.

How might I describe the value of participating in a seminar with Robert Nadeau in the future? “He helps you to see who you are, and to be that more fully.” That’s got to be worth a weekend of anyone’s time.

Road Trip – Off to Camp!

Boy, it’s been a while, again… Not for lack of things to write about. On the contrary, things I’ve wanted to say have been pouncing on me several times a day right along, I’ve just been busy with other things – getting my business (Fit Coach Linda) up and running, teaching fitness classes, studying for an additional certification, and since the start of the year also doing strength training with an awesome personal trainer (Kyle Boggeman, of San Diego Strength and Conditioning). 

Of course I have been training at the dojo (Aikido of San Diego, with Dave Goldberg Sensei) almost daily, as usual, helping in the children’s programs, and playing with friends during open mat sessions. I’ve even been leading a few classes here and there, which has been a lot of fun.

But the thing I’m most excited about this morning is that I’m leaving for camp in just a couple of days! The Aiki Summer Retreat, in Quincy, CA, in the Sierra Mountains of Northern California. This will be my 3rd time going to the Retreat (once at Menlo, twice at this location), and I’m really looking forward to hanging out with friends I haven’t seen in ages, and training with some great instructors. And on the way there and back I get to visit my inlaws, who are delightful people, and whom I haven’t seen in since the last time, 2 years ago.

As for writing, once again I am recommitting to posting more regularly – both here and on my blog at Fit Coach Linda. I’ve been doing tons of writing in my head every day (ha!), and a lot for upcoming books or blog posts, just not polishing it and getting it out there. 

Meanwhile, off to teach a senior fitness class this morning, pick up a few things for my adventure on the way home, do some work this afternoon, and then to the gym and the dojo. Woohoo!

San Diego Bridge Friendship Seminar 2015

Here we are on Day 2. No, you didn’t miss a post from Day 1, there was just no time to write yesterday. The opening session with Frank Doran, Hiroshi Ikeda, and Christian Tissier Senseis made for a great evening. I feel so fortunate to get to train with these three shihan-level instructors right here in San Diego, and am grateful to Jiai Aikido for hosting the Aikido Bridge Friendship Seminar every year. This is the 6th year I’ve participated – every year since I started training.

I managed to get home, get my chores and laundry done, and eat a bowl of cold clam chowder (I was really tired and lazy, plus I actually enjoy it cold – with a can of salmon dumped into it), and collapse into bed just in time to get 4 hours of sleep.

Up at 5:30 this morning for the first full day of training – 6 hours on the mat. Same schedule for Saturday and Sunday, and then a 2-½ hour session on Monday morning. 22-½ hours of classes in all. Whee!

Last year I went to very few seminars because I was busy with projects at home, and missed most of the Bridge seminar because I’d been sick, so it’s been both exciting and comfortably familiar to be training with everyone again. A few of the regulars couldn’t be here this year, and of course there are lots of new folks. A very good turnout, and Saturday should probably have even more people.

Many friends have congratulated me on my promotion to shodan (black belt), and on my hakama – the flowing skirt-like chaps worn by more senior students. One partner joked that I was supposed to have grasped the technique just demonstrated, because I was wearing those black pants. It’s actually kind of scary – and this is something I thought of after my exam – that the uniform a brand new shodan wears is the same as that of a high-level teacher who’s been practicing for decades. I feel like I should have training wheels, a “student driver” sign taped to my backside, or a green ribbon in my hair (an indication of a newly trained, or “green” horse) – something to indicate that “Hey, I just got this thing last month. I still don’t have any idea what I’m doing yet!”

But I do recognize that I’m catching on more quickly. I’m more able to drop my existing understanding of techniques to actually try to see and experience what the teacher in front of me is showing. I’m more patient with myself, too. In past years I’ve sort of wanted to come home with a basket of new bits of knowledge. Now just the process of learning is fun, and while I do hope to play with some things in coming weeks and months, I don’t feel so desperate to remember the details of every point I hear.

A few random highlights for me, so far:

  • The first session this morning was mostly suwari-waza – techniques done on our knees. I’m really glad I’d been practicing that lately. Still, my leg muscles are sore!
  • The instructor of that class (I’ll have to get his name…) was so enthusiastic and fun. I’ve seen this from a lot of teachers, especially Ikeda Sensei, but this teacher especially embodied the enchantment and discovery that Aikido training offers. Sort of a twinkling-eyed “isn’t it cool that this stuff works” sense to him.
  • Lots of details of a few techniques today, seen from different perspectives. A lot of it eludes me, but there are subtleties I can see from time to time.
  • Francis Takahashi Sensei is at the seminar, and I’ve gotten to spend a bit of time talking with him, with is always a privilege and a pleasure.
  • George Ledyard Sensei is here, and I got to train with him briefly during Ikeda Sensei’s class, which really helped me understand what was being demonstrated.
  • I got to punch Wilko Vriesman Sensei as part of a demonstration. He made a grand show of staggering backward halfway across the mat. Lots of fun comments on that after class.

I’d best get stuff ready for tomorrow, take a hot bath, and get to bed. As it is, 7 hours of sleep is the best I can do tonight.

Good bye, 2014. Hello, 2015.

In looking back at 2014 I see it involved a lot of completions – clearing out the old, and making room for new things – and beginnings – laying the foundations for future work. Time to head into 2015 and take advantage of all that groundwork.

Thankfully, Michael and I, and our immediate families, all stayed mostly healthy, happy, and sound all year. *whew* Plus we celebrated out 25th anniversary.

Most of the first half of the year was consumed with managing a whole-house renovation. There are still bits and pieces to be completed, but for the most part we now have a home that is much more pleasant and functional, and supports us better in our respective activities.

Throughout that time I was dealing with our donkey Eeyore’s worsening arthritis. I tried to keep him comfortable, and he had his good days, but was trending in a bad direction. Eventually, in July, we elected to give him the easy way out. Now Clementine is on her own. She was doing well, but now seems to be having trouble with tendinitis or something in her front legs. Having the vet out, again, tomorrow, to see if there’s anything we can do to help her heal and get off pain meds. Right now she’s not very happy, and I’m hoping she doesn’t follow the same trajectory as Eeyore did.

[I’m including a lot of links here because if any of this sounds like fun to to you I hope you will come out and play, too! Each link will open in a new tab, so you won’t lose your place here.]

Because of other priorities and limited finances (career transitions can be hard on one’s bank account, after all) I didn’t get to as many seminars as I would have liked. But I did participate, as usual, in the Bridge Seminar in San Diego and the O Sensei Revisited Retreat with Robert Nadeau Shihan and his senior students/instructors. Both of those are really worthwhile events, and I’m glad I was able to make it to them. Also, finally, after years of wishing, I took the train to Seattle (2 days each way!) and participated in George Ledyard Sensei’s Randori Intensive at Aikido Eastside. It was a blast. Highly recommended!

I hope to be able to do all three of those seminars again this year. Definitely the San Diego Bridge Seminar, which is in just a couple of weeks. And this year there’s a new retreat that I’m really looking forward to – the Joshua Tree Evolutionary Aikido Retreat with my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei (Aikido of San Diego), Patrick Cassidy Sensei (Aikido Montreux, Switzerland), and Miles Kessler Sensei (Integral Dojo, Tel-Aviv, Israel). It’s going to be a pretty spectacular event, at a historic retreat center in the Mojave Desert in February. The Aiki Summer Retreat is reported to be happening again this year, and I hope to make it to that as well.

After the house project was done I got busy studying, and passed the test for my ACE certification as a Group Fitness Instructor, then went right on to get certified to teach SilverSneakers Classic, Circuit, and Yoga classes for seniors, and began the process for offering their FLEX Community Fitness classes.

At the same time, I clarified the concept, created branding and marketing materials, and launched my company, Fit Coach Linda. Its mission is to support people in getting moving, and living active, healthy, happy lives through better connection with their own bodies, with nature, and with others. Right now I’m designing programs and materials, and arranging for venues. I should have had that up and running for New Year’s. Alas, too much to do at once. I’ll have to catch people as their resolution motivation is waning, and they realize that a supportive group environment and accountability is more likely to lead to success than determination alone. If you want to be a part of this, you can follow my Fit Coach Linda Blog  for info and inspiration for living a more active life, and also “Like” the Fit Coach Linda page on Facebook.

As always, I enjoyed training all year at Aikido of San Diego. In December I passed my shodan (blackbelt) exam. I’m looking forward to “just training” this year, and deepening my understanding and application of Aikido. The Joshua Tree Retreat will be a huge part of that, I’m sure. I didn’t meditate as much as I would have liked in 2014 – must incorporate that into my regular practice this year, too.

Between the renovations, donkeys, studying, and training, I didn’t get as much writing done as I should have. However, I was able to make tons of progress on two books (Aikido-specific, for students, to be published in the next few months), and some progress on a third (non-fiction/self-help, maybe later in 2015). Writing – actually publishing books via my other company, Shugyo Press – is my “day job,” along with the programs I’ll be teaching for Fit Coach Linda, so I need to be diligent about actually getting that work done this year.

But before any of that, today is the first day of New Year. I’ll be celebrating by heading to the gym to work with my personal trainer, Kyle, of San Diego Strength and Conditioning. A very nice guy who knows what he’s doing, and his facility is right next to the dojo. Perfect. Part of my own strategy to make 2015 an even better year.

An Intense Intensive

I have just returned from George Ledyard Sensei’s 4-Day Randori Intensive at Aikido Eastside in Bellevue, Washington, near Seattle.


For my non-Aikido friends, randori is a multiple attacker scenario, usually one of you, three of them. It can be intimidating and exhausting training (and a lot of fun). Four days of it… Whoa.

I first heard of this seminar shortly after I started training in Aikido. At the time it had been offered for 20 years! It sounded amazing. Four full days of weapons and randori work. One of the intended audiences for the seminar is people preparing for dan (black belt) exams. The word “Intensive” isn’t just in the title to sound cool on the flyer.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to go? A learning experience and rite of passage rolled into one. I always thought it would be fun to take the train up, too! 1,500 miles. See a whole lot of the country on the way.

For the first few years I didn’t have the required rank (or skill, obviously) to go. When I first met Ledyard Sensei in person I mentioned that to him – that I was looking forward to the time I would be able to participate in this seminar.

Then last year, when I did qualify to go, budget and timing interfered. Also, knowing more about weapons I became concerned about that aspect. My training is based on Saito Sensei’s weapons, and theirs comes from Saotome Sensei. I don’t know their forms at all – not even some of the terminology. I thought I would be lost and in the way. Underfoot, you know.

So with that combination of factors in the mix I didn’t go. I gave up the whole idea of going. I figured I’d do a different seminar with Ledyard Sensei one day, but none really called to me the way this one had.

Life went on… My teacher asked me to test for shodan (first black belt) this coming December (2014), so I’ve been training extra diligently. I’m not working regular hours now, as I lay the foundation for a major career change. Meanwhile, Michael and I undertook some home renovations, and I happened to put all the purchases on my formerly-unused Amtrak mileage credit card to keep them separate.

Then this spring I saw the event listing for the upcoming 2014 seminar: “4-Day Randori Intensive with George Ledyard at Aikido Eastside.” Wait, what? Randori only! No weapons! The 25th year it’s been offered. “The 2014 seminar will be specifically geared to ASU Yudanhsa Test preparation and is intended for teachers preparing students for testing and test candidates and ukes. However, it is open to students from any organization.”

Holy crap!

I had time. I had a free train trip. I had enough rank/experience. I had a yudansha exam coming up. OMG! It was perfect! How could I not go?

But being, ahem, “between careers” means money no longer grows on trees. Staying in a hotel and renting a car would have been a problem. I asked a friend who trains there if she knew of anyone who would let me crash on their couch, maybe in exchange for my paying their registration. Bless her heart (and her husband, too), she invited me to stay with them.

I registered for the seminar back in May, and made the train reservations (2 days each direction). Then I got my gis mended, ordered a shinai (more on that in a moment), and packed everything I might need for an adventure on rails and at the dojo. Finally I was really going to go! 

I was pretty nervous, I’ll admit. Being on unfamiliar turf is always challenging. I tried to keep an open mind, remembering to enjoy and learn from whatever we did, but my hopes were so high there was a lot of potential for disappointment.

I was not disappointed in any way.

I knew the group would be small. It’s limited for maximum personal attention. But you know how sometimes the first day of a weekend seminar is even smaller because people can’t get Friday off work? Yeah… For the first morning we had four participants on the mat. Me, three sandans (if I recall correctly), and Ledyard Sensei, a rokudan instructor with 25 years experience teaching this particular seminar (and way more than that, overall). That’s some serious hands-on personal attention. There was no hiding in the back row here! As the weekend went on, more people arrived, but there was still constant attention to each student, with immediate and specific feedback, corrections, and coaching.

We worked on (among other things, and in no particular order) strategies for starting randori, direct techniques (dropping people where you wanted to), managing the relative positions of the attackers, using one attacker against the others (throwing them at each other, and using them as barriers or shields), seeing the lines of attack, judging (and creating) spacing and timing, executing techniques quickly (so as not to get bogged down with any one person), and getting out of trouble. We also worked on good (useful) ukemi for randori and with shinai, and safety in training at speed in groups.

Something completely new to me, but it’s on their tests, was randori with shinai. Three attackers wielding padded bamboo sticks. The techniques are like our bokken work (sword-like), but with shinai you can actually aim to clobber someone and not do any damage if they fail to get out of the way. That means the attackers don’t need to hold back when they come after you. We did several exercises in dealing with attackers coming from different directions, and I got to see a few full-speed shinai randori with people who were preparing for their exams.

On Saturday afternoon one of the dojo members took her shodan exam, too. I was lucky to be there to see it. It was a very impressive test!

I meant to do daily blog posts after the seminar each evening, but I was too mentally and physically exhausted, plus we had to get dinner, and needed to be up early the next morning, so that didn’t work out.

On the train ride home I alternated staring out the window with writing notes from everything I’d learned. It’s actually kind of hard to write on a train – too many distractions and too much being jostled about. But I wrote a bunch anyway. Assuming I can read my handwriting later I have a big chunk of a hardbound journal filled with notes, sketches, and ideas to play with and refer back to in coming months and years.


Something that has been particularly touching for me is everyone who made it possible for me to participate in this event. This was not just some random thing I thought it would be a hoot to do on a lark – it was a long time dream and goal to be there. I try to be a pretty independent, self-reliant person, but I simply could not have done this without a lot of support.

I’m so grateful to my friend and her husband for making it possible for me to be there. I’ve been on that side of hosting people during seminars, and while it can be fun it’s still a major disruption to deal with a house guest when you’re already quite busy enough as it is. They and their cats were awesome hosts, and I really enjoyed my time with them. I hope I can repay their gracious hospitality someday.

Much appreciation to my husband, Michael, for making it possible for me to be away from home. He took over care of feeding of our donkey, an assortment of cats, and a friendly raccoon who expects dinner each night, not to mention keeping our acre of thirsty trees happy during hot weather. Plus he did a bunch extra yard work while I was away! Oh, and got me to the train station at oh-dark-hundred, and then picked me up again in the wee hours when I came home.

I so appreciate everyone at the Intensive. Some folks had participated many times before, and are teachers in their own right. I was the newbie in the bunch, and the lowest-ranked, but they never let me feel like an outsider. They made me feel right at home at the dojo, and were generous and gracious in their coaching on the mat. But no taking it easy on the new kid – they were determined that I should do my best, and worked with me with warmth, compassion, and high expectations. And for that I humbly thank them. :-)

Most importantly, many thanks to George Ledyard Sensei for his attentive, demanding, thoughtful teaching, for leading such a great community of aikidoka. Oh, and for some pretty funny stories over lunches, too. I hope to have many more opportunities to train with him.


Whether you have heard of this seminar for years and just haven’t gotten around to going, or are learning of it for the first time here, go. Put it on your 2015 calendar now, and just go. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Every aspect of the event exceeded my already high hopes. It was challenging, technical, fun, useful, supportive, demanding, friendly, detailed, clear, funny, and intense. It definitely lives up to its name.

Photos from the 2014 Randori Intensive on Facebook:


On the Road Again!

I’m off to a seminar in the morning. This time I’ll be taking the train from San Diego to Seattle (39 hours each way!) to participate in George Ledyard Sensei’s 2014 Labor Day Weekend Randori Intensive at Aikido Eastside. Funny… My last train trip was also to train with Ledyard Sensei. Cool!

I’m just ridiculously excited about it! I’ve been wanting to do both this seminar, and a long train trip, for years. Now I get to do both. Plus I get to meet and hang out with another of my fellow writers on The Mirror team from AikiWeb, Katherine Derbyshire, plus a bunch of other folks. Woohoo!

I will be posting a lot for the next week or so. Some of it won’t be directly about Aikido – lots of photos, random observations, etc.. Follow along!


Inner Peace, World Peace

I really enjoyed today’s seminar with Richard Moon Sensei and Dave Goldberg Sensei at Aikido of San Diego. The subject was “Aikido is Medicine for a Sick World.” We may not have solved all the world’s woes, but generated some good insights, and maybe made a few connections and shifts within ourselves. Afterward, at lunch, we decided it was a good training for mind, body, and spirit.

In related news, I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed and under a lot of pressure with everything I need to get done before leaving for Seattle at oh-dark-hundred on Tuesday morning. I’m determined to have all my preparations done by Monday afternoon before class. Months ago I had a long, complicated nightmare about missing the train, in spite of last-minute scrambling to throw everything together. I’m determined not to live it out in real life. LOL I’ve been feeling pretty stressed about it, actually – sure I’ll forget something critical, or run into some problem that will screw up my trip. Now, after an intense 4 hours of working on dealing with pressure, blending with multiple attackers, and moving into the open spaces, I’m feeling a lot calmer and more capable of seeing and managing the big picture instead of staring in panic at ever little detail (attack). I can see the whole system, and it’s something I can handle just fine. It’s not world peace (yet), but it’s my peace, and it’s a start.