Aikido is As a non-competitive martial Art
Students pursue personal and physical growth and develop their ability to engage in conflict with a solid ethical framework that invites collaboration over conflict, and transformation over victory.
Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969), also known as O-Sensei (Great Teacher), developed Aikido from established battlefield techniques during the 1920’s. He was a dedicated martial artist who early in his life achieved mastery in grappling, sword, staff, and spear and earned widespread acclaim.
He was not satisfied with victory over others and a deep conviction drove him to reconcile the violent aspects of martial arts with his search for harmony and internal peace. In his awakening he realized that martial training was futile when it relied on victory over others and began to develop a different type of martial path.
In Aikido do not resolve to conflict through achieving victory or avoiding defeat. Rather we approach conflict as a given and view it as vehicle for transformation. Aikido is the only martial art that cultivates harmony for the sake of harmony.
While grounded in a study of martial principles, and consisting of a full curriculum of techniques for self defense, O-Sensei established Aikido as a martial path meant for polishing the spirit, and the body. He is often quoted as having said that “the purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, toughen the body, and polish the spirit.”
The moment you set foot in the dojo
Empty Hands — Aikido practice can improve muscular strength, balance, and flexibility. In the course of regular practice students learn how to unify body, mind and intention, fostering a potential for dynamic action and a sense of relaxation and well-being. Aikido techniques generally consist of throws and immobilizing holds practiced as students learn how to redirect and neutralize the force of an attack. The circular movements of Aikido do not rely on strength, making it’s principles accessible to people all sizes and abilities.
Weapons — Training in the use of Bokken (wooden sword) and Jyo (four-foot staff) is integral to understanding the principles of kokyu (connection, also breath), extension, timing, and distance. Welding a weapon we learn to animate an otherwise inanimate object and practice expanding our perception beyond our own body. Due of the increased risk of inattentiveness in this type of training we are also pushed deeper into our ability to cultivate relaxation and focus. Instructor permission is required to begin weapons training. Consistent weapons training is strongly encouraged for serious students.
Ukemi — Historically in Japanese martial practice the art of falling/receiving technique was the responsibility of sempai (senior students). In the modern structure of Aikido practice, pairs of students alternate between the role of nage (do-er) and uke (attacker/receiver of the technique). Taking ukemi (receiving technique) is integral to the learning process, and warrants special consideration. Ukemi practice also provides one of the most truly lifelong benefits of Aikido practice—working within whatever fears we have of being in close contact with other bodies, and potentially falling as a result. By gaining confidence in our ability to safely fall by rolling we establish a sense of freedom and choicefulness in our ability to move from standing, to the ground, and back—a liberating and freeing quality of movement to strive for.
Zazen — Aikido emerged from, and is related to, a number of traditions all of which share a common connection to the practice of seated meditation. Zazen is seemingly simple, sitting still and observing the actions of your mind. While the experience of seated practice can be difficult to describe the practice can be simple and accessible with proper supervision. The desire for personal transformation is useful in relating to this discipline, but not necessary. Seated practice is an important part of training at East Lake Aikido. If you have an interest in learning please ask—community members are invited to join zazen, donations welcome!
East Lake Aikido was founded to preserve and transmit the practice of Aikido, a Japanese Budo, and related disciplines that promote physical and personal growth.
The dojo provides space and opportunity for students to participate in a community of dedicated practitioners in a focused and joyful training environment.
There are many different ways of practicing Aikido. Some styles emphasize a soft, dance-like approach, other schools of aikido teach a more linear emphasis on martial technique, while others focus almost exclusively on the internal aspects of the art.
At East Lake Aikido we strive to balance elements of softness and hardness, unifying internal organization and awareness with clear and precise movement. While at its essence Aikido is martially effective it can be practiced without sacrificing the imperatives of sensitivity, awareness and the cultivation of harmony.
The relationship between weapons and empty-handed techniques, the importance of keeping strong solid connection in taking ukemi (receiving technique), and the intrinsic value of engaging with seated meditation practice are all integral to the learning that we pursue.
The dojo is a space dedicated to the work of self-transformation. We work, have fun and then we rest. While in the dojo everything we do is considered part of our practice and is engaged with a spirit of curiosity and play. We strive to embody lighthearted seriousness and as we practice the space takes on the polish of our efforts.
The relationship between a dojo and its members is one of interdependence. Practice is deeply personal but not possible without collective efforts of all members. In exploring our capacity for action in both physical and psychological projection we share a very genuine part of ourselves with one another.
East Lake Aikido does not discriminate on the basis of identity and is committed to making practice accessible to all who are interested. However, if you want to remain unchanged by the practice this might not be for you, maybe.
Galen began Aikido in 2001, studying briefly at New York Aikikai before moving to Burlington Vermont where he began training with his root teacher Ben Pincus Sensei, 6th Dan (6th degree blackbelt), chief instructor at Aikido of Champlain Valley and Cloud Mountain Living Arts & Aikido. Galen received his 2nd Dan from Donovan Waite Shihan, 7th Dan, of the United States Aikido Federation (USAF) in 2016 at the Twin Cities Aikido Center.
Galen’s practice and teaching are also deeply informed by the three years he spent at Boulder Aikikai in Colorado training and studying with Tres Hofmeister Shihan, 7th Dan, of Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU). It was there that Galen was also introduced by Tres to the Feldenkrais Method of Somatic Education®, which led him to pursue and complete a training program in that discipline as well.
Growing from the physicality and spirit of Ben Sensei’s Aikido, Galen has been strongly influenced by the vision of Aikido articulated and practiced by T.K. Chiba Shihan, 8th Dan, (founder of Birankai), a direct student of O-Sensei. Galen is currently seeking further instruction and training from Robert Savoca Sensei, 6th dan, chief instructor of Brooklyn Aikikai.
For the past 6 years Galen has trained at the Twin Cities Aikido Center where he began teaching in 2013. He feels a deep gratitude to all of his teachers and generous sempai who continue to share their practice and teaching with him, enriching his own.
When not at the dojo—or the clinic where he works as a Psychotherapist and Feldenkrais Practitioner, Galen is learning from his daughter Alma (pictured), and wife Hannah.