The Warrior's Path

A great course about budo and the history of martial arts held at Dharma Gate Buddhist College in Budapest. The presenters were Szabó Balázs, Szemerei Márton and Abe Tetsushi Sensei.

Knitting for Friends

This winter I am a lot into knitting and doing hand crafted things. Stay tuned for more posts about knit items I made for my friends. I always include the free patterns, too!

Guest Posts

You are a martial artist and you have a story to tell? You have a beauty tip you want to share with everyone? Why not tell it here, on Beauty and Aikido? Any guest post is always welcome. If you want to feature on my blog just leave me a message and I will post your story.

Kawaii Makeup and Fashion

I love and follow the Asian fashion, skin care and beauty trends. If you are also a big fan of Asian beauty and style, stay tuned for my reviews, tutorials and hauls!

Presenting Aikido Dojos

This is a series of posts where I am presenting different aikido dojos from all over the world. If you want to feature too, do not hesitate to leave me a message.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Blogging Year 2011- Conclusions


Dear Readers

This has been my first year of blogging and as the end of the year approaches, I decided to draw a line and evaluate my posts. As this is a fairly young but rather ambitious project of mine, I am looking forward with a lot of positivity to 2012 and hope to create even more valuable posts that will engage you, my dear readers. I also hope to get more feedback for the posts I am writing in 2012.


I have cathegorized my post in two groups: Most Read Posts and Post with Most Feedback.

1. Most Read Posts


I got most of the views for the Inspiring Quotes by Steven Segal post. I guess everyone needs some inpiration from time to time and if it comes from role models as Steven Segal, then it is even more interesting.

Then a Beauty post follows closely about some swatches I made from my one and only Dior Pallet I really price a lot.

Third is another Beauty related post, with the Cosmetic Calculator. I hope it helped you all be safe about the cosmetics products you use.




I decided to include this post also as forth, again a Beauty related one. I was showing you how Half Moon Nails are done with some O.P.I nail poishes. 




 2. Posts with Most Feedback

 In another cathegory I would like to review the post with the largest amount of engagement through commenting. I know that this is not much, but for me each and every comment from you meant a lot.
First in line is my post about a Haul that I put together after shoping with Joy Magazine Cupons:

Second in line is an interview with Anne Marie, that got also rather popular and got four comments. But it is not the number but the quality of the comments that made me so happy. So see the whole story click here. I hope this was as inspirational for all the aikidoka out there as it is for me.


Another post where readers felt like commenting was the "Waiting for Winter" nails, that you complimented as being cute. Thanks!


 Last but not least, this Review about some Yves Rocher products has engaged you also to comment. Hope you found the review useful!


This all being said, I wish you a Happy New Year and hope to have you as a visitor on my blog in 2012 also!
 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Interview with Karen de Paola Sensei



1.  What was your first impression after the first class of aikido that you have taken?

I started aikido in a dance studio with other dance students trying out aikido classes.  This was in 1977 so it is difficult to recall my first impression.  I was 19 years old, in college, and aikido was something to do and try out while I was learning ballet and jazz.  However, I do remember the point that I decided to train in aikido whole-heartedly.  I attended testing at New York Aikikai and witnessed women doing aikido together.  The flow of the movement attracted me and in particular I found the ukemi to be very beautiful.  It was amazing to me how a person could fall and not get hurt.  I never really gave any thought to the self-defense aspect of aikido or the philosophy behind aikido until later in my training.  Probably because I was dancing at the time, I was more interested with how bodies were moving together.  The aesthetics of the art appealed to me (and still does).
2.  Did you practice any other martial art or sports before aikido? 
Growing up I was active but I did not participate in many group sports.  I started taking ballet and jazz classes prior to training in aikido and for a number of years I danced and did aikido.  As the years went by, if I wasn’t doing aikido then I usually went to dance classes.  I am now supplementing my aikido with taking yoga classes to help strengthen my body.  I find as I get older my legs, among other things, are getting weaker.  I found this out after a knee injury and now have recurring problems with my right hip and leg.  We need to keep working on our bodies (and minds) as we age and become even more aware of our every move.

3.  In my daily life I naturally talk about aikido as one of my free time activities. A lot of people get interested in and come to train with me. Is it the same with you?
Aikido became a lifestyle for me. My friendships developed from the people I met through aikido.  Any travel I did was related to aikido.  I still have friendships with people I have known for over 30 years.  Eventually I met my husband at a dojo where I was training and our family life seems to revolve around aikido.
For the past 5 years my husband and I have had our own dojo (Skylands Aikikai in Randolph, NJ) where we offer classes in aikido and iaido.  Initially, I had been asked to come into a company to train the two owners and some of their employees.  Less than a year later, we were offered the opportunity to have our own school in a space adjacent to the company’s offices and warehouse.  So aikido is no longer just a “free time activity” for me but now encompasses my work life, family life as well as something I do in my free time.  I feel very fortunate that I have this opportunity and I am enjoying the process of developing our dojo. 
4.  After I train, I feel really relieved and almost as a new person. Aikido refreshes me in body and spirit. I have been giving it a thought but cannot tell exactly what it is that aikido does to people to give them this amount of positive energy. What is your opinion, what could be the explanation? Are we just ''good'' adrenaline junkies, or is it more?
I would say it is definitely more than just “good” adrenaline junkies.  I am glad you have been feeling relieved and refreshed but training can also be frustrating and draining at times for people but they persevere nonetheless for other reasons.  Aikido is a coming together of all different types of people with their own interpretations of what the practice of aikido should be.  Sometimes everyone enjoys working together and sometimes not.  My main teacher, Yamada Sensei, is known to say people come to the dojo for different reasons (not everyone wants to be like Steven Seagal).  Another very important teacher of mine, Sugano Sensei, was asked (I believe in an interview) something like what is the most important thing an aikidoist should know.  I remember his answer as being “know why you go to the dojo to train.”  
I like that you feel aikido refreshes you in body and spirit as it is in keeping with the basic philosophy of aikido, which is the training of the spirit.  As a "way" (“do”), aikido is said to help develop one’s physical, mental and spiritual potential.  “Do” is a Japanese cultural concept that as a Westerner I can only try to imagine and realize.  
As to your point about aikido training giving people positive energy, perhaps this is “ki” developing --- both on an individual and group/universal level.  Hopefully, with training, peoples’ frustrations with aikido and life will lessen and they can experience joy on the mat and in the rest of their daily lives.



5.  What is more important? How much you practice or with whom you practice? 

As an instructor I try to impress on the students to focus on quality and consistency rather than quantity.  Nowadays our lives are so busy and stressful with work and family.  Then you have the added stress of our commutes as we try to make our way from one place to the next.  With the limited time we have, I think it is important to be able to come to the dojo knowing it is NOT another place to be stressed out, but rather a place to breathe, move your body and learn a beautiful art.  It is not a place to be judgmental about yourself or others.  You have no control over who else will be in class to train with, so I think you need to make the best of it. Ideally, you should be able to train with everyone.  In reality, the newer you are at aikido, the harder it is to train with other beginners.  Our dojo is still relatively new, our members are less experienced but they keep training with each other and they get noticeably better.  Hopefully my theory of quality and consistency, no matter whom you are training with, pays off for our members.


6.  Do you think one needs talent to be a good aikidoka, or just motivation and willingness?

Good question.  Motivation and willingness, along with a positive attitude, are very important for training in aikido (as well as doing anything else in life).  The word “disciplined” comes to mind as well. My definition of disciplined in this case is doing something even when you don’t have the motivation or willpower to do so.  As I answered in one of your previous questions, quality and consistency are important.  That means going to the dojo to train some days even when you don’t feel like it.  Many of us know that we usually feel better after we train.  If aikido is to develop our minds, bodies and spirits, then we need to train even when we don’t feel like it.

As to “talent”, I think we all can become talented the more we train. Of course you have people who start out in aikido as “naturally talented” but it has been my experience that some of the more “naturally talented” people don’t always stick it out with aikido. Because some things in aikido come easily to them they don’t see a challenge and may get bored early on in their training.  But that is not the point of training in aikido.  You need to keep evolving through your practice. 


 7.  Is practice enough to be a good aikidoka, or should one do his/her research also (videos, books, articles, internet, etc.). If you think these are important, which ones would you suggest?

When I first started training in aikido there were a few books to read but no Internet or videos.  If you wanted to learn about aikido, you had to go to the dojo to train and attend seminars to see how other teachers approached aikido.  I remember early on trying to read the book “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere” by Westbrook and Ratti (which I do recommend) but because I was so new to aikido, it was difficult for me to comprehend the complexity of this book.

I also had (and still do) the book “Aikido” by Kisshomaru Ueshiba (O’Sensei’s son).  I highly recommend any and all books written by K. Ueshiba, especially “The Spirit of Aikido”.   I am so impressed that these books were written in a time when visual and physical access to aikido was extremely limited.  They are written with a real sophistication, not watered-down in the least.  For example, in the beginning of the book “Aikido”, there is a written description of kamae (as well as photos and diagrams).  K. Ueshiba describes hamni as an oblique posture and then says about the triangular form:  “Remember, an equilateral tetrahedron is the most stable form, and one which changes into a sphere when turned or spun.” Wow!  I still don’t really get this and it continues to blow my mind. He assumes the reader knows what an equilateral tetrahedron is and what it is capable of doing.

Now that we have so much at our disposal (especially with the internet), I highly recommend people take advantage of the many opportunities to learn more about aikido.  The beauty of it is you can do so at minimal cost.  Of course we need to be discerning and decide for ourselves what is of value in helping us try to understand more about aikido. 

8.  Did aikido help you with anything in your daily life?

This is an Interesting and difficult question. It requires me to somehow separate who I am every day from aikido.  On a purely physical level, it helps me in my daily life by increasing my awareness of how I move in space and what is going on around me.  This even includes driving where I need to be aware of what is in front, behind and next to me (I am an okay driver, not great). Also, there have been instances where I have fallen but did not get hurt.  I remember running to the train and slipping on ice where I tucked my leg and broke my fall with a slap on the ice (similar to sliding into first base in baseball).  I didn’t hit my head and the only thing that hurt was my hand.  Another time I was running in heels to meet a friend in an office building where I was working and one of my heels got stuck in the groove at the top of a long moving escalator.  As I felt my body being propelled forward I had the sense to drop my center and fall to my knees.  It was the better option rather than fly down the stairs headfirst.  I just had imprints of the escalator stairs on one of my shins and knees for a while along with some bruises. 

I think aikido has also helped me with different and difficult situations I have encountered – including law school and working as a lawyer, along with personal issues many of us are faced with in the course of a lifetime.  Perseverance and resiliency may or may not be a by-product of aikido but maybe it helps to strengthen such in an individual. 

9.  How is it received when you tell people that you practice aikido?

It varies from “Oh, I won’t mess with you then” to questions and genuine interest about aikido.  I keep discussions about aikido to a minimum with people unless they are really interested in knowing more about it.  I don’t feel the need to try to enlighten them about the virtues of aikido.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Seasonal Skincare: Winter Trio

Moisturize
Most important of all in winter is to moisturize your skin. In this season your skin needs extra moisturizing. 



Protect
Keep your hands protected! In winter the cutting cold wind contributes to drying your skin. I notice this especially on my hands. So when the first cold autumn winds strike in, I pull my gloves out of the closet: Let winter strike in!

SPF

SPF in Winter? I don't need it. Well you might be wrong. In winter sun-rays are warm and tricky, because they can damage your skin just as much as in summer. I am not the adept of 50 PA++++ creams in winter, but I always make sure to have a minimal SPF protection. My most used cream in winter is the ultra moisturizing Neutrogena  SPF 15 because it provides both these two important things your skin needs in winter, also: ultra moisturizing effect and SPF.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Women Aikidoka: Karen de Paola


- by Karen de Paola

I started aikido in 1977 when I was 19 years old because at that time my then boyfriend's brother-in-law, Rick Stickles, started classes in his wife's ballet studio where I was taking dance classes.  I had no idea what aikido was or looked like.  Back then there weren't even any video cameras, never mind "youtube".  It was the blind leading the blind as a bunch of dancers tried to imagine what it was we were suppose to do together.  Due to our proximity to NYC and Rick being Yamada Sensei's student, we were permitted to take classes at NY Aikikai.  When I saw women testing at NY Aikikai, I knew I wanted to do aikido whole-heartedly.  I loved the flowing movement.  I began daily training both at the ballet studio and NY Aikikai and structured my college classes so I could do so.  Back then things were a lot less expensive and people had a lot more time on their hands.  The late 70s into the 80s were an interesting time period for people to explore numerous esoteric exploits.

I include as my main early teachers Y. Yamada, R. Stickles and Bruce Bookman.  There were also numerous teachers teaching at NY Aikikai and I attended seminars and summer camps that included teachers such as Kanai Sensei from New England Aikikai, Chiba Sensei (even prior to him coming to the U.S. to teach on a permanent basis), Saito Sensei and many more.  Compared to today, there were less people training so many of the teachers were brought together more easily than it would be today.  Looking back I realize it was a magical time and how lucky I was to have the experience.  

Over the years I would call different dojos home but always consider NY Aikikai my home base.  For 13 years I trained and taught classes at Aikido Centers of New Jersey under Greg O'Connor.  Greg and I had trained with R. Stickles and stayed friends when eventually he established his own schools.  He always encouraged me to teach and would refer students wanting private lessons to me.  Eventually, in November of 2006 (5 years ago) one of these students, Tom Carlucci, brought me into his company where I taught the owners and some of the employees aikido.  I consider Tom and his partner, Dave De Ring, my benefactors in making it possible for my husband, Alex Vieira, and me to open up our own school.  It was not my intent to have our own school but the opportunity presented itself and it has taken my aikido in a direction that makes complete sense to me now.  It is time for me to use my best efforts in passing aikido along to anyone who wants to train at our school.  

I must tell you it was not all smooth going over the decades and based on some of the things that happened over the years, it was not always easy to keep my training going.  In fact there was a period of time when I thought I was finished with aikido.  Relationships with people in aikido changed (as they do with anything) and life and career took me elsewhere.  At 30 I went to law school so the study and practice of law took a great deal of my time.  I did go back to dance for a period of time and then back to aikido.  Now at age 53, I have the dojo with my husband and my 11 year old daughter Isabella trains in aikido.  I teach adults and children and have a few private students.  From time-to-time, I am asked to do a seminar at another school.

I have been lucky to have aikido be my "work" and major part of my family life.  (I met my husband while training at Aikido Centers of NJ.)  My daughter has been to numerous dojos and summer camps (which she looks forward to every year).  Periodically she will ask me when we are going to go on a vacation that does not include aikido. :-)


On the top I have put together a playlist of videos with Karen Sensei. I hope you found this biography useful and inspiring. It is an introduction to the interview with her that I will soon be publishing  on this blog. Stay tuned for it!




Saturday, December 10, 2011

Giveway

My blog will be 1 year old on January 15th! Would you be interested in a GIVEWAY? I think it would be a nice way to celebrate that my blog turned one.

Picture source http://mitsuko-m-chan.deviantart.com

I would for sure include skincare items, jewelry and make-up but am wondering how to pair it with aikido. Any ideas? Or should I make two separate packages to be given away?
Thanks for letting me know what you think!

スーパーかわいい Su-pa- kawaii!

I totally like kawaii stuff and am not afraid to wear them. 
In Europe it is not that common and accepted if one wears cute, childish stuff as it is in Asia, but I keep ignoring this. http://www.emocutez.com  

In fact one of my super secret plans is to make an online shop of kawaii stuff and jewelry for the Hungarian market some day and maybe also aikido equipment, books. Until then, I am trying out my online selling skills on different websites as you already saw in some previous posts.

So what about some kawaiiness in this post, right here right now!

Beauty and Aikido © 

Kawaii iPhone 4 Case with bunny rabbit ears and tail HERE




And much more cuteness coming up on my current online shop.

Coming up:



http://www.emocutez.comDo you owe kawaii items? 
What do you think of the jewelry I showed you above? http://www.emocutez.com

Friday, December 9, 2011

Aikido Journey- Conclusions after the Training Camp

Beauty and Aikido ©

As one of the purposes of this blog is to show you  and document the journey I am going through with aikido, I decided to go for this post. Even thought it is hard to admit it, during almost every training camp, I tend to lose confidence in myself.  So here is a post for everyone who ever lost confidence in practicing aikido for various reasons:

Busted body parts during free fall (I thought I knew how to do that already- feeling)
No technique name rings a bell
Requested to do all the techniques you know from shomenuchi and you blank out
Forgetting the jo katas
Bad body coordination (which one was the left again?)
etc. etc. etc.

Most of the problems come from comparing yourself to others...which is something one theoretically should not do, but cannot avoid doing. 

The duality of the following thought amuses me the most. Could be that both of these occur at the same time, as in my case:

1. You are taking your practice and yourself too seriously
2. You are not taking it seriously enough

What I mean by that is that I train as many times as I can, and I do get involved with aikido outside the dojo also, but at the same time, I cannot set my mind to seriously focusing on it. There are so many other distractions that stop me from concentrating.

So what should one do at this stage? What I did was Googleing for how others felt about this on forums and blogs. I really liked the following idea.

Anyone attempting to master anything goes through 4 phases: 

1. Unconscious incompetence
2. Conscious incompetence
3. Unconscious competence
4. Conscious competence 

This explanations sound like a great excuse...

So that's that... But did I ever attempt to really master aikido? I think I do it just for the fun of it and sometimes hit the wall of remorse when I see how seriously others take it and how quickly they leave me behind.


The Voice of Aikido

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