Aikido lessons in Isshin Aikido Dojo in February

Hello everyone!

On Thursday, we will have class as usual.

Next week, I’ll be abroad and there will be some changes in the classes.

After next week, we return to classes as usual.
On Tuesday next week, no children’s class. Arnon will lead the adult class.

On Thursday next week, children’s class will be at 18: 30. The adult class will be at the usual time. Harel Avrutsky will teach both classes. He is coming from a long way away and an amazing teacher with beautiful Aikido, so I hope everyone makes a special effort to come to class next Thursday. Also, I would like the children to make an effort to bring their uniform (gi) next Thursday.

Harel Avrutsky trained for many years under Ze’ev Erlich and helped teach the children’s class regularly. He received his third dan from Mishimoto Shihan. Today he has his own dojo, Shobu Dojo, in Hod Hasharon. You can see the Facebook page of his dojo this link.

Thank you and see you on Thursday and then on Tuesday in two weeks!


On vacation until Oct 10. No classes

The dojo is on vacation until October 8. Aikido classes will return for children and adults will resume on the 8th of October. For children, as usual, at 16:00. For adults, as usual, at 20:00.

See you then, and may each of you have a great new year, a good write-up in the good book, and a happy Sukkoth festival!

Here’s a random Aikido pic from the web for everyone to enjoy:

Random Aikido pic

Aikido class schedule for the holidays at Isshin Dojo

To everyone training or thinking of training:

We are starting the year and the holidays are already here.  Following is a list of dates for classes over the next 6 weeks until everything returns to normal:

  • Tue, 1/9, Class as normal
  • Thu, 3/9, Class as normal
  • Tue, 8/9, Class as normal
  • Thu, 10/9, Class as normal
  • Tue, 15/9, 2nd Rosh Hashana, No children’s class, adult class as normal
  • Thu, 17/9, No adult class, children’s class as normal
  • Tue, 21/9, Yom Kippur Eve, No class
  • Thu, 24/9, Travelling, No class
  • Tue, 29/9, Travelling, No class
  • Thu, 1/10, Travelling, No class
  • Tue, 6/10, Class as normal
  • Thu, 8/10, Class as normal

So, there are 2 1/2 weeks of normal classes, and then a 2 1/2 week break, and then we go back to a normal schedule for a long time.

Looking forward to getting started!




(The following essay was submitted as part of my sandan exam)

Looking at this world
Only a coward complains of what he sees
As for me
Let me stand courageously
In the face of God’s rage.
  — Morihei Ueishiba

In most Aikido glossaries, metsuke is described as ‘soft gaze’ or an ‘open gaze’ or ‘mountain eyes.’ In those glossaries, the idea is of a gaze that is the same as looking out towards mountains that are very far away. The idea of such a gaze is shared by a number of martial traditions and is listed as one of the basic principles of the Daito-Ryu Jiujitsu out of which Moreihi Ueshiba developed the Aikido. The essential martial principle is that if my gaze is focused one any one thing, then I may miss important details where I’m not looking. By focusing on nothing, I make it possible for me to see everything.

An everyday example of metsuke comes when driving. When driving, I do not allow any specific thing to capture our gaze. This would be dangerous. When I look at something, I instinctively drive towards it. Instead, I look at everything around me, prepared that something unexpected may happen:  prepared to respond to anything that does. In Aikido, similarly, “if you look at the punching arm, it will hit you” and “keep your gaze where you can see all your partners weapons — his arms and his legs — simultaneously.” I avoid focusing on any one thing because my gaze will drag me in the wrong direction. I want to see everything because in this way I can be prepared for the unexpected.

The idea of “see everything, focus on nothing” is an example of the larger Aikido principle of the connection of two extremes. You can see this principle at work behind many common Aikido ideas. There is obviously the Aikido technique of tenshi nage. There is the paired principles of centered and zanshin. I am fully in my own center, but also extended away towards the infinite. Aikido encourages us to resolve these extremes not by balancing between them but by encompassing them simultaneously. However, balance does play a role. It is our internal balance that allows us to reach towards two extremes simultaneously. The different extremes feed into each other through my own internal balance. If I am centered in myself, connected to the ground, clear about my direction and with full extension, metsuke follows naturally.

Perhaps it’s possible to think of metsuke also in terms of the metaphorical meaning of gaze and not only the literal meaning. Can I bring a mountain gaze as I “look at” the things I need to do today? Can I bring a soft focus as I try to “see” and understand a problem that I’m working on? It may be helpful to introduce a concept that I learned through meditation training: one strives to see each thought without getting lost in any particular thought. As each thought comes, accept its coming. When it is time to let it go, allow it to leave. This is similar to metsuke, but it is not the same. Rather than see everything together, I see each thing in its turn. This principle is familiar in Aikido in going from attacker to attacker in randori. In both sorts of gaze, I am not trapped in the immediate problem, but metsuke refers to a stepping back from my problems to see the big picture while the alternative refers to stepping in to my problems in order to go past and on to the next. The gaze of metsuke has a feeling of stasis — there is no movement in being everywhere at once — while the gaze of randori has a feeling of flow. Again, to understand an aikido principle, I must be willing to encompass extremes.

One of the applications of these ideas, a place where they can become concrete, is in reference to my own training. When I look at my own Aikido, there are many things to work on. I must be soft and powerful. I must flow with balance. I must know the kihon and be ready for variations. I must be with my partner and also in my own center. The principle of metsuke is that I do not see these as separate ideas. I do not work on any one thing, neglecting the others. Rather, I gaze at my own practice with a soft focus that sees all aspects at once. Sometimes, I may find this difficult. Perhaps it is easier to put my focus momentarily on one thing: for instance, the feeling of connection. As soon as I’m ready, I can allow my attention to shift to something else: for instance, the extension of my arms. Thus, I move through the technique — and from technique to technique and from practice to practice — allowing my focus to shift constantly among the many things that make up my Aikido. I wonder if, as my internal gaze becomes more free to shift and flow, this does not also become a form of metsuke.

Children’s classes in Matsatake dojo during the summer

Ze’ev let me know that he is continuing to teach children’s classes in Matsatake dojo through the end of July. Classes are at 18:00 on Tuesdays. Please feel free to come.

Continue reading “Children’s classes in Matsatake dojo during the summer”