Category: Sensei’s Corner

Kids’ Corner – Be Proud Of Yourself

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By , March 19, 2013 12:17 am

“Don’t wait until you’ve reached your goal to be proud of yourself. Be proud of every step you take toward reaching that goal.”

I saw this quote recently and it made me think of how we started this new year of training by learning about some of the basic Aikido principles. During the month of January we talked about a different principle each class and then in Febru- ary you were asked to focus on just one (or more) principle that you’d really strive to put into practice. Now, for March, I want you to be proud of the effort you put into your training.

Everything you do is a choice you make and it either helps or hinders your progress. You never stop learning and growing so it’s important to always strive to do your best. But we’re not perfect. Even adults have to work on things to improve themselves. When you make a choice that is helpful it feels good, you see progress being made, and you’re encouraged to keep it up. When you make a choice that does not help the situation you have an opportunity to learn from it. Sometimes you have to deal with the consequences by apologizing or making amends when it was a hurtful choice, or enjoying the success and being proud when it was a helpful choice; but either way you can grow and learn. Don’t get bogged down by the negative things that go on in your life; learn from them and move on. And be proud for being able to do that.

Also, be proud of yourself when you make good and helpful choices. Some things you work towards (goals) are short term. Once you’ve achieved the skill you’ve got it (like learn- ing to tie your shoes or riding a bike). Other goals are ongo- ing and require you to constantly put forth effort in order to see improvement (like learning to be patient and kind to oth- ers or learning Aikido techniques). But remember to take pride in all the steps you make towards reaching your goals. It will encourage you and keep you focused on what’s ahead.

I’m proud of you for sticking with Aikido and for coming to class every week. I hope you’re able to see how much pro- gress you’ve made from when you first started. If you’ve just started training with us you’ll be making progress every time you come to class. Be proud of yourself!

Teresa Mastison Sensei

Sensei’s Corner – Character

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By , March 19, 2013 12:15 am

This quote reminds me that in the end all I have is my integrity and character. How I am treated is a direct correlation to how I treat others. My life is what it is because of the choices I make…even when no one is looking. I can not deny it. If I do I am not being honest with myself. My choices directly (and indi- rectly) affect me as well as those around me. I have to remind myself of this fact every once in awhile because I get so self- absorbed in whatever is going on that I forget it’s not all about me.

At this point I remember my Aikido training and try to put into practice whatever principle is applicable to the situation…even when no one is looking. It’s funny how after ~25 years of train- ing I’ve never had to actually use a technique to defend myself, but on a daily basis I use Aikido principles to help guide my choices. I’m thinking that is what O’Sensei was hoping would happen when he formed this “Way”. A discipline that would allow one to learn self-defense skills, but at the same time pro- vide a channel for perpetual self-improvement.

How fortunate we are to have this most utilitarian art to study. It’ll provide us with skills necessary to protect ourselves as well as give us ways to better our lives on a daily basis. I hope that your training is giving you challenges and insights that are help- ing you become the person you were meant to be. Strive to em- body the essence of Aikido and do what is right…even when no one is looking.

Teresa Mastison Sensei

Kids’ Corner – Welcome

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By , January 21, 2013 1:13 am

Welcome to all our new students! I’m so glad to have you join us on the mats. I hope you find your time with us enjoyable and that you learn a few things about keeping yourself safe as well as some skills that will help you protect yourself if the need ever arises.

In our classes we learn a lot more than just techniques that will allow you to defend yourself, we also learn about ways to potentially avoid the problem altogether. O’Sensei (the founder of Aikido) believed that Aikido could be a way to promote peace in our world. With this in mind he incorporated many of his philosophies into what he was teaching.

I will be sharing some of O’Sensei’s ideas in every class for the month of January and I’d like you to talk about them with your parents. Talking about these ideas with others helps you have a broader view of your training. There’s more to Aikido than practicing techniques and tumbling. Make it a habit to think about Aikido when you’re not at the dojo or on the mat. Think about the ideas I share with you this month and try to use them to make your world a better place.

The first philosophy we’ll be discussing is the actual meaning of Aikido. The definition of Aikido is the way of blending with energy. Aikido is based on the principle of blending (moving with energy as opposed to against it) and we blend in one way or another in all the techniques we practice. But, we can also learn to blend with nonphysical energy. Other people can “attack” with their looks, words, and actions that don‘t involve you. Blending with this kind of energy is very difficult. Sometimes it’s harder to deal with hurt feelings or sadness than it is a punch to the stomach, but it’s a reality and we must practice ways to deal with it. Discuss with your parents ways you can “blend” with others who hurt you through nonphysical ways. We’ll be talking about it in class too.

Thinking about it and having a plan for what to do when it happens helps to empower you. It gives you confidence that you can handle it.

I’m looking forward to a great new year with all of you and am excited to watch you each make progress.

Teresa Mastison Sensei

Stress and Pressure

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By , January 21, 2013 1:11 am

“A lump of coal does not become a diamond by just sitting there. It has to be put under pressure and stress and great force to end up a precious gem.”

I read these words recently and it helped me put things into perspective.

As I reflect on the past and make plans for the future I can easily get caught up in the things that I did not accomplish, goals I did not reach, or slip into despair because things haven’t turned out the way I had planned. It really doesn’t do any good to dwell on the past in this way. It’s over. You can only go forward and spending time in the past is only helpful if you strive to learn from what has already happened…but then you must move on.

As the quote suggests a lump of coal does not become a diamond just by sitting there. It undergoes a tremendous amount of stress and pressure before it begins to change into something more precious. This is how I’m choosing to view where I am now. I’d be lieing if I said I’m not disappointed in myself for falling short of achieving some goal or not following through on some things, but I have to remember that beating myself up for my shortcomings is not going to help. What will help is to think of the events, people, or situations that were difficult or unpleasant as the stress and pressure needed to change me into a precious gem. Staying focused on the negatives will only hinder my ability to make progress. So, I must acknowledge that there is room for improvement, but then I must make plans for ways I can improve, incorporate what I’ve experienced, and move forward.

In Aikido we talk about how the only person you have control over is yourself. We can not control others, but we can control our reac- tions. We can’t control the past or future either, but we can be engaged and as positive as possible in the present. What we do in the present can’t change the past, but it has potential to affect the future. Our life is like randori, you can only effectively deal with one attacker at a time, and as soon as that one is down you are alert and ready for the next one. Sometimes the attacker goes down easily, sometimes they don‘t. During the randori do you stop and dwell on why that attacker didn’t go down or do you move onto the next at- tacker because they are right ontop of you? I’m choosing to look at life like that. Things don’t always go as you planned, but you must move on to the next challenge, obstacle, event or whatever that is coming your way. There will be times when it’s useful to reflect on past events and to try to learn from them, but be mindful not to stay there too long.

Happy New Year to you all! May 2013 be a year filled with love, laughter, and progress in all that you do.

Teresa Mastison Sensei

Kids’ Corner – Can you help?

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By , December 6, 2012 12:11 am

Your Aikido training offers a wide range of skills and attitudes that can be practicied and honed (made sharper) all throughout the year. Being aware is a cornerstone of your training, but it can mean even more during the holiday months. Being aware of your surroundings is important in order to keep yourself safe, but being aware of others can mean a lot to those you help. You have to extend your awareness to beyond yourself and that can lead to some wonderful feelings both for you and the ones you help.

During this holiday season look for ways you can help others. You can help by doing something nice or helpful; being extra courteous by letting others go first or ahead of you; sharing what you have with others or letting someone have something of yours; buying a gift for a charity drive; giving food to a food bank. The list is endless. Be creative. Brainstorm with your family to come up with some unique ways to help others this holiday season. When we help others we often times get rewarded by feeling good inside and realizing just how fortunate and blessed we are ourselves.

I wish you all a very special time with family and friends this holiday season. May the good will that is emphasized during this time last all year long.

I look forward to our training time together in 2013!

Teresa Mastison Sensei


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By , December 6, 2012 12:10 am

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
- Aristotle

I found this quote and thought it really highlights the core of our training. Although there are many tangible results of training in Aikido (self-defense, exercise, tumbling, learning about another culture/language…) there are just as many intangible results. During class you are constantly reminded to extend ki (energy), lower your center, blend with the energy that comes your way, etc…and if you have been training for awhile you’ve probably already seen some of these habits seeping into your personal life outside the dojo. Have you ever found yourself bowing as you enter a store, taking a few deep breaths before/during a stressful time, having to move out of someone’s way to avoid a collision, etc. These few examples help to demonstrate that what you do on the mat and in your mind can have an effect in other areas of your life.

I like to use the phrase “practice makes permanent” to emphasize the importance of training with a good attitude and with purpose. Like the quote implies, what you do repeatedly is what you’re really going to do when that skill set is needed. You simply can not do something well when called upon to do it if you have not put in the required amount of practice to gain the necessary skill.

Therefore, train with intent and purpose. Make your training count because whether you want it to or not you will acquire habits. Make sure they’re ones that will serve you and not hinder you. Strive for excellence by repeatedly training with an open mind, a good attitude, and positive ki.

I wish you all the very best this holiday season and thank you for being a part of Aikido of Phoenix. Your hard work and the dedication you show to your training is heartwarming and very much appreciated. May peace and happiness be in your families now and forever.

All my best,

Teresa Mastison Sensei

Kids’ Corner – Protectors of the Weak and Helpers to All

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By , November 7, 2012 11:56 pm

General translation: The Samurai is the first to suffer anxiety for human society, and he is the last to seek any personal pleasure.

During this month of Thanksgiving I’d like to suggest that you think about this philosophy. The Samurai were protectors of others and held themselves to the highest standards of honor and integrity. They followed a code of ethics that directed their behaviors and lives so that they were models for all to see. The seven pleats of the hakkama (skirt-like pants) each represent one of these virtues:

  • Jin – benevolence, compassion, generosity Gi – honor
  • Rei – proper behavior, courtesy, respect Chi – wisdom
  • Shin – sincerity
  • Chu – loyalty
  • Koh – peity (devoted)

All these virtues are pointing in the same direction; that a warrior should live an honorable and sincere life. We should do the same thing. Every day we should strive to be compassionate, generous, honorable, respectful, sincere, loyal…the best that we can be. We should strive to have these virtues direct our behaviors towards ourselves and others.

O‘Sensei said that Aikidoka are the guardians of the children of Earth and that we are the protectors of the weak and the helpers of all people.

During this month of Thanksgiving focus on others and find ways to be “protectors of the weak and helpers of all”. Think of everything and everyone you have in your life for which you can be thankful. Look for opportunities to help others. Find ways to make others smile. Be a warrior, a Samurai, an Aikidoka and be a force of goodness in this world. Be an example for others to follow. It’s a tall order and some days you‘ll do better than others, but I’m convinced that it’s worth the effort to try again and again.

I am so grateful to have all of you as students. Thank you for training with me and sharing with me your energy and smiles.

Teresa Mastison Sensei

Kids’ Corner – Train One More Day

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By , October 10, 2012 6:20 pm

Depending on which dojo you attend you get one or two days of practice a week. That’s a rather small amount of time when you think of the skills being learned. But I am still pleased to see that progress is made because students focus on the task at hand when they are on the mat. It pays off in the form of getting better.

Let’s see if we can help ourselves get even better. I’d like to see what would happen if students trained an extra day (or more) on their own. Using the imaginary partners we talked about in class and as was discussed in last month’s newsletter students can practice the techniques they did in class at home. Reviewing the the techniques by walking through the motions with an imaginary partner, writing out the steps of the techniques or drawing a picture of the techniques will really help the mind remember.

I am asking you to try this for the month of October. Choose a day other than the day or days you come to Aikido and practice what was done during class. Just pick one thing you remember doing and practice it for at least 5 minutes. Go slowly so you can picture your partner as you go through the motions. If you choose to write and/or draw think about the motions as you put it down on paper. Spend about 5-10 minutes on this some time during the week or weekend. If you can do this more than one extra day that would be great. If you want you can spend 5-10 minutes practicing each day you’re not on the mat. I can only imagine how quickly your body will remember the technique the next time we do it in class.

As with most things the only way you will get better at something is through practice. Let me know how your practicing at home is going and remember if you have any questions all you have to do is ask. I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.

Good luck with your extra practice!

Teresa Mastison Sensei

Plan B

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By , October 10, 2012 6:18 pm

Always have a plan B. Aikido training can help develop this mindset. When you train keep your eyes and mind open to potential openings within the techniques that if it were a real situation could give you opportunities to expedite your escape.

When you train in the traditional manner there is a learning curve that requires you to start slow and build speed as you gain confidence in the technique. While you are learning how the technique works and how the body moves take advantage of seeing where your uke is as well and if there are openings or exposures that could possibly allow for you to add a strike or some other element. This is the “real” part of Aikido. It needs to be effective. In order to be effective it needs to be flexible because every situation is going to be different. You need to be able to make adjustments to fit the circumstances. If you train with that in mind, you will allow yourself the freedom to see what is available to you as you execute the technique. The only way this is going to be developed is if you train with this in mind.

This is an important part of your training. It’s what makes it more than just a hobby as it has potential to effect all areas of your life. You are learning skills that could save your life or avoid a confrontation in the first place. But, don’t go overboard with it either. As with everything…chudo needs to be applied. Chudo is the principle of “the middle path”; not too much, not too little.

Train with intensity and pay attention to the opportunities that are presented in the technique‘s motion, but not to the point that your technique suffers. It’s an ongoing struggle to balance the focus of these two aspects, but with time you will be able to focus on the technique and naturally see opportunities as you execute the motions.

Training in this way allows you to be flexible when the time comes. You won’t get hung up on a technique but let it flow naturally. And if something happens to affect the technique you’ll be able to adapt and make it work. Your plan B is to go with the flow, don‘t stop a technique, complete the motion. By training your mind and body to be fluid and flexible you’ll be more effective and successful when unexpected things happen.

Good luck with your training!

Teresa Mastison Sensei

Bitter or Better

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By , September 13, 2012 10:51 pm

“Every test in our life makes us bitter or better, every problem comes to break us or make us. The choice is ours whether we become victim or victor.”
-random post on Facebook

I’m not one to pass along things posted on facebook or twitter, but this one struck a chord with me so much so that I felt the need to share it. This quote reminds me that before I judge someone else on the decisions they make that I consider the fact that I may not know what their full story is. I may have no idea what they are going through, what difficulties they are up against or what evils they may be facing.

We each have a choice in how we react to what happens to us, but we can not impose our beliefs onto others nor judge them because they do not react they way we would. Each person handles the tests in their life to the best of their abilities. Everyone has their own breaking points. Each time we are faced with a difficulty we have to decide how we are going to handle it and sometimes we handle it better than others. This is true of everyone. This just reminds me that compassion is a big part of Aikido and what O’Sensei was hoping to encourage through the sharing of this art.

I want to use my Aikido training to help me better understand that the others I encounter may be experiencing more than what I can see. I hope remembering this quote can help me be more compassionate and more willing to help and less inclined to judge.

I can also use this quote to motivate myself to pull myself up by the bootstraps and get going on whatever is in front of me. I am in charge of how I react and essentially that can determine how others react to me. I have a lot more control than I think. Sometimes you just need to hear it in a certain way before it hits home. This quote does it for me at this point in my life.

Just some food for thought. Thanks for listening.

Teresa Mastison Sensei

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