To Wear a Mask or Not.

I’m a front line health worker in a Country and a state that hasn’t been hit too badly by the Covid pandemic. Even before this I have been wearing surgical masks and protective equipment (PPE) for over twelve years now. I’m also a martial arts instructor.

I work with patients who are immune compromised and sometimes I wear a mask and PPE to protect them from me. Other times I’ll wear the equipment to protect myself and my family from them.

Two sides of the same coin.  Different cultures also can have different experiences.  My first trip to Japan over ten years ago I was interested in the people that wore masks on the train and I asked them why.  My first thought was they didn’t want to catch something, but the most common answer was that they themselves were a little sick (Flu) and they did not want to pass it on.  Being Japanese they also apologised.

Coming from an Australian perspective and reading some of the material coming out of the United States I find it interesting that people are refusing to wear a mask citing personal freedoms. I almost feel like quoting Star Trek and the needs of the many versus the needs of the one. Spock and Kirk.

This duality of thought is the very nature of Aikido practice. Sometimes my patients will refuse to wear a mask. They are having trouble breathing so I can understand and I’ll wear one for them. Protecting both myself and them. Other times my patients will demand that I wear a mask before entering a room. Sometimes patients cough and breathe in my face when I’m trying to help them and I wish I was wearing a mask and eye protection.

Mind and body.  Personal freedoms vs social good.  Two sides of the same coin.  If you stand that coin on it’s side and spin it really fast it becomes a sphere in perfect balance.  


How to Make all new Mistakes

Everyday to myself I think I would like to make all new mistakes. Learn from the past and be mindful of the future but not let either take over the present moment.

It is easy to dwell on the past and be afraid to move forward. Especially after big events in your life like a divorce or a relationship breakup.

It is natural to feel angry or sad and is not something that can be avoided. Let these feelings in but don’t let them be in control of you. Give yourself time to respond and recover. Don’t make things worse by reacting and lashing out at the world and those around you. Or closing yourself off to it because you might get hurt. It can become easy to see the demons of the past arise in the new people you meet.

Consider all the things that lead to this moment and ask yourself could it be half your fault? And it is very important to only accept half of the fault. Accepting half the fault in any relationship is also very difficult. We all like to think of ourselves as heros or victims of our own stories but we can also be villains in other people’s own story.

Could the mistakes of the past be repeating themselves. Does the story you tell yourself start to sound like a repeat just with different actors? Then maybe it is half your fault.

Choose to make all new mistakes. Children make mistakes all the time and learn from them. Why is it difficult for an adult to accept fault and be able to laugh at their own failings. To learn from them and grow.


Thirteen Rules for Disciplinants

Ki in Daily life by Koichi Tohei p135-136

  1. Ki training reveals to us the path to oneness with the universal.  To coordinate mind and body and become one with nature itself is the chief purpose of Ki training.
  2. As nature loves and protects all creation and helps all things grow and develop, so we must teach every student with sincerity and without discrimination or partiality.
  3. There is no discord in the absolute truth of the universal, but there is discord in the realm of relative truth.  To contend with others and win brings only a relative victory.  Not to contend and yet win brings absolute victory.  To gain only a relative victory sooner or later leads to inevitable defeat.  While you are practicing to become strong, learn how you can avoid fighting.  By learning to throw your opponent and enjoy it and to be thrown and enjoy that too and by helping one another in learning the correct techniques you will progress very rapidly.
  4. Do not criticise any of the other martial arts or artists.  The mountain does not laugh at the river because it is lowly, nor does the river speak ill of the mountain because it cannot move about.  Everyone has his own characteristics and gains his own position in life.  Speak ill of others and it will surely come back to you.
  5. The martial arts begin and ends with courtesy, not in form alone, be in heart and mind as well.  Respect the teacher who teaches you and do not cease to be grateful especially to the founder who shows the way.  He who neglects this should not be surprised if his students make light of him.
  6. Be warned against conceit.  Conceit not only halts your progress, it causes you to regress.  Nature is boundless, its principles are profound.  What brings conceit?  It is brought on my shallow thinking and a cheaply-bought compromise with your ideals.
  7. Cultivate the calm mind that comes from making the universal a part of the body by concentration your thoughts on the one point in the lower abdomen.  You must know that it is a shame to be narrow-minded.  Do not dispute with others merely to defend your own views.  Right is right, wrong is wrong.  Judge calmly what is right and what is wrong.  If you are convinced that you are wrong, manfully make amends.  If you meet one who is your superior, joyfully accept his teachings.  If any man is in error, quietly explain to him the truth, and strive to make him understand.
  8. Even a one inch worm has a half inch of spirit.  Every man respects his own ego.  Do not, therefore, slight anyone, nor hurt his self respect.  Treat a man with respect, and he will respect you.  Make light of him and he will make light of you.  Respect his personality and listen to his views and he will gladly follow you.
  1. Do not become angry.  If you become angry it shows that your mind has wandered from the one point in the lower abdomen.  Anger is something to be ashamed of in ki training.  Do not become angry on your own account.  Be angry only when the rights of nature or of your country are endangered.   Concentrate on the one point and become angry all over.  Know that he who is easily angered loses courage at important moments.
  2. Spare no effort when you teach.  You advance as your students advance.  Do not be impatient when you teach.  No one can learn everything well at one time.  Perseverance is important in teaching, as is patience, kindness and the ability to put yourself in your students’ place.
  3. Do not be a haughty instructor.  The students grow in knowledge as they obey their teacher.  It is the special characteristic of training in Ki that the teacher also advances by teaching his students.  Training requires an atmosphere of mutual respect between teacher and students.  If you see a haughty man, you see a shallow thinker.
  4. In practicing do not show your strength without some good purpose lest you awaken distance in the minds of those who are watching you.  Do not argue about strength, but teach the right way.  Words alone cannot explain.  Sometimes by being the one to be thrown, you can teach more effectively.  Do not halt your student’s throw at mid point or stop his ki before he can complete a movement or you will give him bad habits.
  5. Do whatever you do with conviction.  We study thoroughly there principles of the universal and practice it and the universal protects us.  We have nothing to be doubtful or to fear.  Real conviction comes from the belief that we are one with the universal.  We must have the courage today with Confucius:  If I have an easy conscience, I dare to face an enemy of the thousand men.

Positive and Negative Ki

Teaching the Art of aikido can be just as difficult as learning it. There are a multitude of variants and techniques with different skill levels required by each variant. None of this really matters. If you are told to do something by one instructor and then told to do something completely different and contradictory by another you should not argue or complain about it but attempt to understand why there might be a difference. There is no right or wrong.

If one Instructor tells you that everything you do is excellent and the next tells you everything you do is wrong, look into yourself and question yourself, not them. What do you think? It is natural to want only compliments and disregard the complaints but are the criticisms helpful and the are the compliments a distraction? Compliments can often go to the head and mess things up just as much as complaints sometimes but complaining is always easier and compliments rarer.

Different instructors will have different ideas about how best to teach you a skill and if there is any doubts or concerns about anything you should consult the senior instructor after class with any questions that may arise. The Important thing is not to argue or complain about this on the mat and attempt to follow as best you can. Letting go of what you think you know is the first step in learning something new.

Five Principles for learning Ki

  1. Be flexible and open minded.
  2. Never tire of training or repeating fundamentals.
  3. Be resourceful in applying Ki in your daily life
  4. Change your subconscious mind
  5. Learn it well enough to teach others

A true student of Aikido wishes to do no harm to anyone and prefers a peaceful resolution to any conflict. Therefore skills developed in sensing trouble and avoiding it are preferred option over using the martial abilities one has developed. You will not be trained in the art of fighting, fighting there is always a winner and a loser, if you harmonise with your aggressor and find balance between yourselves you may just find another friend. Finding Harmony with different Ideas that can seem opposite and contradictory can lead to new and interesting possibilities. Once everyone believed that the world was flat and the centre of the universe, the truth is only relative to your own understanding of it.


Fortitude Valley Aikido Student Guide P15 by Lee Hampson


Mistakes in Practice, Right Attitude and Attaining Perfection.

We should find perfect existence through imperfect existence.  p91 Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (2011) Shunryu Suzuki 

Why is it that when we are running late we feel that everything is against us?  The traffic lights are all red, the boss or the significant other doesn’t see all the good things I’ve done just the bad, all the bills come after something has just broken and needs to be replaced.  The right attitude in this can be very difficult to attain.  Mistakes can often lead to more mistakes and the problem whatever it is can often escalate because of this, because your mind is not clear.

How do you feel thankful for this precious gift of life when it is all going wrong.  This is the most important time to be thankful.  I once heard the Dalai Lama talk about loosing his country.  He was sorry for the loss but not angry at the people that took it.  The next question asked of him was a mother who’s son was special in some way.  She told him that she worries for her son’s future.  The Dalai Lama asked politely if the son could be fixed some how and the woman replied no.  Will the worrying fix the problem if the problem is unfixable?  All parents worry for their children, even in the animal kingdom this is normal if in the correct amount.  

Mistakes will happen, bad things will happen be thankful for them, life is a roller coaster full of ups and downs and twists and turns.  The joy of the roller coaster is the contrast between these events.  There is no perfect way to do something or imperfect way, no good or bad, no time, too much time, no future or past there is only the now.  

When you make a mistake in your life can you learn from it?  Maybe that one mistake has protected you from making a bigger one in the future so you should be thankful.  Many of the greatest discoveries have been made from mistakes.  Medical science is full of them.  The discovery of antibiotics, X-rays, medicines such as warphine are all examples of mistakes that changed the world because someone noticed what others did not.  Perfection is an unattainable goal.

Page 16 Fortitude Valley Aikido Student Guide by Lee Hampson


Clean as a Whistle — Clean Mind  — Monkey Mind

Monkey Mind

If you’re like me you have a busy monkey mind. I can over-think as well as you although now I’m better because I work on myself and I know that a clear mind is paramount to me being who I am.

A distraction as clean as a whistle

Let me explain with an example. I’m working on something like my web site by making it neater Google loves it more and more something about SEO. I’ll be working away and an email will come through with a little sound which is clean as a whistle. This interrupts my train of thought and allows my monkey mind to step in so I go and look at the email. Of course, as soon as I do this I admonish myself, but it’s too late. My monkey mind took over my still mind.

We all do this, whether it’s looking at your phone, working on your computer, listening to the radio, or watching TV, we live in a busy ‘do it now’ world. And we love distractions!

But I know a clear, quiet mind is my basic ‘being’.That sound of an email coming through comes to me as clean as a whistle and it get’s in my way. If we examine that sound for what it is, all we hear is the sound and we react to it, with a thought. Then we do something, like read the email, look at Facebook etc.

You can create a clean mind

We don’t actually need to react like this because with a little practice you can change yourself.

Think about the sound. It’s there and then it’s done, it’s gone. A bird outside, for example. There’s the tweet and then it’s gone until the next tweet happens. You’re reaction to thoughts is the same. You hear a tweet, you become distracted and your thought goes to that distraction rather than what you were thinking about before the sound of the tweet.

Distractions make a monkey mind

I used to be able to have background music playing as I worked on my computer. I find it distracting now because it takes my mind off my current thoughts. When that happens I find the music frustrating. I don’t want frustration, I want that one and only thought and frustration dampens it.

We can’t give up out thoughts, that’s impossible. But what you can do is work towards the way humans were 300,000 years ago. Humans then just existed, they didn’t have all the distractions we have now, they just lived. They followed the days and seasons and had no reason to over-think anything because there was nothing to over-think.

Action Plan for a clean mind

Everyone is after a quick fix, that’s how we got into this mess. Your monkey mind very successfully wants you to grab the next quick fix. Unfortunately, that is not going to happen.

You’re going to have to put something in place to help yourself and I have an idea of what you can do.

Tomorrow morning set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier than you normally get up. At the alarm time, hop out of bed and go to a quiet place and sit. Sit quietly, no phone, just the ambient sounds around you. Now listen. Listen to the sound of that car, the sound of that bird, and whatever other sounds are out there. Do nothing else, except breath and maybe scratch an itch.

Make a habit of this by doing it every day because it’s that simple and it’s a pre-curser to meditation.

After a couple of weeks you’ll find you hear more and you notice your monkey mind is becoming a clean mind.


Sitting on the Fence

Fortitude Valley Aikido a view from the floor
Fortitude Valley Aikido

People quite often say there are two sides to every argument. That sitting on the fence is a bad thing because you are not committed to either side. If the glass is not half full it must therefore be half empty.

Then imagine the view from the inside of that glass. Being small enough to be able to stand on the meniscus of that fluid. The glass at your back, the water looking like an ocean spreading away from you. The half empty glass towering above you and a weird giant figure that looks exactly like you starting down at you.

There is always more than one point of view, with many subtle shades in between. Just because you can not see it or comprehend it does not make you or it right or wrong it is just the limits of your own understanding and creativity.

Adversarial politics and the polarisation of thoughts and people is also not the way. To know yourself is to know the truth of it all. The glass is half full and half empty simultaneously. Both statements are both correct and also incorrect simultaneously. There is no glass or fence it is all just a metaphor to open your mind.

Passionately neutral and doing aikido on a metaphorical fence. Balance is harmony between two equal and opposing forces.

By Lee Hampson

Tips to Prepare for your Aikido Grading.

Picture 1

Are the nerves getting to you as you inch closer to your Aikido grading?

Or are you frustrated that you have not grading sooner?

Just remember that to be asked to grade by your Sensei means you have already passed. At Fortitude Valley Aikido it’s just a demonstration of your progression to your classmates and not a test.

When getting ready for an Aikido grading, it is essential to prepare your mind, body, and circumstances as you polish your techniques. Here are some suggestions that may help.

Try to Get in a Good Mental Space

During your preparation period, you should focus on building your confidence and avoid exploring new variants of cool techniques on YouTube and the internet. Instead, focus on becoming more fluid and comfortable with what you have been shown. In class, you should practice in the same flowing, expansive, and connected spirit that you want to have during the test. Avoid fiddling with things.  Let it happen.  The variants will come with practice and time.

Know how the grading will be conducted so that you know what to expect.  The guide book is on our resources page on the website. Surprises can really throw you off.  You have trained for this, it’s just a demonstration, have fun. Also, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your Sensei, Senpai, or Ukes.  It is also polite to ask your Ukes if they would like to participate in your grading.

Visualize every day on doing the start of your grading brilliantly.  You have already passed, and it is something really special.  You could begin with knee walking to the center of the mat in a calm manner, head up, shoulders back, and breathing freely. Avoid entertaining the habitual pattern of imagining all the ways that you could mess up. Just visualize yourself doing your best. Be in the moment.

Visualisation can be strengthened by attaching emotional triggers, explains NLP experts. They note “with your Aikido exam on the horizon, don’t just visualise passing. Visualise how it will feel. What positive emotions you’ll experience when your Sensei passes you. These will help strengthen your visualisations and equip you for success on your exam day.”

Mistakes are a gift and if you make any it’s alright.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Whatever will happen in the grading, ensure you have it pictured in your mind. You’ll be nervous and fired up, bowing gives you a moment to focus. The little moments can work wonders in terms of a sense of ease throughout the whole thing. Focus on a positive and strong note and allow the rest to come naturally.  Just remember your breath.

Handle Your Circumstances

Only the black belt gradings have a written component like an essay, ensure you have it completed days before the big day.  Don’t make your Sensei ask you for it months later. The same applies to gifts and thank you notes.  Set yourself up to have a calm, early evening the night before your grading. Trim your nails, set your clothes/ clean uniform the night before, and fuel up your car to avoid rushing things during the day of the exam.

Also, ensure you pay the grading fees early enough.  The dojo is a not for profit organisation and the fees go directly to Japan to help the Hombiu Dojo.  The blackbelt gradings get a personalised Japanese Calligraphy scroll hand written by one of the Master Calligraphers.

During the Morning of Your Grading

On the exam day, wake up. Enjoy the moment. Your Sensei had at some point maybe a long time ago done this and felt the same as you. A little nervous, a little excited. Think of what he or she might of looked like 30-40 yrs ago.

Take breakfast right away so that you will have time for the food to settle. Get to the dojo early enough and warm up gradually, particularly if you are nervous. Visualizing on performing well. If there are techniques that you are still worried about,  practice them with a classmate. If you’re expected to demonstrate weapons, ensure you keep them in a place where you can easily get to them during the grading.

Chiropractor Keith Maitland notes that you can incorporate good posture in your daily life to help with your posture during your Aikido exam. He explains “when you maintain proper posture you increase your chances of unbalancing your opponent and using chi rather than force. While many of us think we have good posture, we are actually leaning too far forward or back. By practising your Aikido posture at home you can prepare for your exam and increase your overall strength too.”

Ask one of your ukes to be the weapon master during the grading. Keep in mind that you’re well prepared to help with relaxation.

Some Final Words to Conclude

Know that you’re ready, or otherwise, your Sensei would not have asked you to take the Grading. You are ready as you can be.

You’ve done everything to support yourself in getting ready for your Aikido journey, so, now relax.  Enjoy the moment.

If you’re looking to further your training or get more advice, feel free to

contact us at Fortitude Valley Aikido!

Witten by: Bob George