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Forging ahead: aikido I can believe in

by on May 4, 2014

I’ve got a lot of balls in the air these days.

I’ve visited and trained in a lot of world-class aikido clubs, and I see no reason why our little club in Bath can’t rise to that level. To that end, over the past couple of months I’ve been investing myself in moving the club forwards.

For several years I made no real effort to grow the club because I had everything I thought I wanted. We didn’t pay rent, and I always had a uke or two to try out my little experiments on. Why bother trying to grow the club when things were plenty comfortable?

Then this winter our cozy little cocoon got shaken up, and all of a sudden there was a choice: pack up, or double down. I chose the latter.

I got a sweet new logo.

I made some crazy videos.

I paid Facebook for eyeballs.

But in the end, the only people that came through the door were students who I had already taught in another context. The -only- students who have ever joined the club were people I taught in another context.

Obviously, I need to teach more people.

Happily, David at Ship City Crossfit has volunteered his members as victims, and tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn I will be running a group though a 20 minute crash course that will include falls, and, time permitting, one technique. I’m excited.

Another consequence of growing my aikido activities is to integrate them much more fully into the rest of my life. For many years I have compartmentalized aikido. I never did much other than aikido with my “aikido friends,” and I never did any aikido with my “real” friends. It was almost as if I was ashamed of it. Something about being a 30-year old martial artist with long hair living next door to his parents.

But the fact is, I do aikido because I love it, and there’s no reason I can’t share that with my friends. I had a great time teaching Anna a few techniques for the video we did, and guess what? She did too. Aikido is awesome.

If I’m going to invest myself fully in this club I have to believe in it fully. That’s why, at the last minute, after beginning to read Sacred Economics, I decided to try to move the whole endeavor into the “gift economy”. Readers of this blog may not know, but an enormous part of my life is devoted to healing and self-improvement through “paleo” principals. I deeply believe that a paleo economy is a gift economy. We are wired to interact with our community through the exchange of gifts freely given, mediated by feelings of generosity and gratitude. As the Piraha tribesman said: “I store meat in the belly of my brother.”

Is this a rational way to run a business? No. Could I loose my shirt trying to run a club this way? Quite possibly. (Lisa, if you’re reading this, I’m very grateful for your generosity and you have my word that I’m good for the rent no matter what happens.) But the instant I read about gift economies, I knew it was the only way I could run a club.

In examining my passion for aikido, I also examined my larger passion for human movement. I intend to follow this passion as well. In addition to another meetup group, this probably means more parkour-themed ukemi posts.

I don’t know where this journey is leading, but I’m more excited than ever.

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