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.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview with Sharon Dominguez

Source: Sharon's Private Pictures

1. You studied natural medicine (Inochemy, Life Medicine, Medicine of Ki, Taoist Tian Der healing). Could you tell us more about the principles you were studying? Are you practicing any still?

Wow, you do your homework. I have a practice in natural medicine called Kototama Life Medicine founded by Masahilo M Nakazono.  I see patients who come for all sorts of imbalances of the body, mind, and spirit.  My goal is to help people balance themselves. Good health is true happiness. I was initially trained as an acupuncturist, but these days, I almost never use needles, unless I deem necessary. I use my hands, rice grains, meditations, exercises, coach lifestyle changes, supplementation, diet, etc. The principles are based on the laws of nature as pertained to the Kototama, the sounds that make up the total existence of life. It is an esoteric, highly specialized form of Eastern Medicine which is one of the powerful, yet subtle methods I have ever come across.  I treat everything for structural, internal or behavioral, whatever the sickness, it can't hurt.

 2.  Please tell us about the principles Ki Element Therapy which you are a founder of.
Ki Element Therapy is the synthesis between the principles of Eastern Medicine and putting the body in physiological alignment through directing the flow of energy. By bringing the body into proper alignment, it optimizes the body's capabilities to create and thrive. In conjunction with Kototama Life Medicine, it allows the body to heal and enhance one's full expression of life.
Source: Sharon's Private Pictures

3. Do you have any remarkable story on your path of getting godan and how do you see the future of this path?
 I have too many remarkable stories to recount. I have experienced wondrous and other-worldly phenomena. I've been blessed. That would be a post onto itself.  Miracles aside, I feel as though one of the greatest stories of aikido in general is the friends and connections I made worldwide. There are people I love all around the world thanks to being a student at the NY Aikikai and traveling with the senseis. It is an international passport. Have hakama, will travel. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that probably the most remarkable story would be meeting my husband of 13 years through aikido. Knowing me, that is a minor miracle! I also met my best friend at the NY Aikikai over 26 years ago. 

4.    Ever considered quitting aikido?
 Never! It's been a long one-sided love affair, where I need the art, but aikido doesn't necessarily need me. I trained through two pregnancies, injuries, pain, and heartbreak. I've done foolish things in my youth, including training with my knee so swollen that my friends had to walk me to the mat and I let adrenalin take over. I once took an entire class with a dislocated toe, not even realizing until Donovan popped back in. I've had flus, colds, migraines, hangovers, you name it. Quitting Aikido would be like taking away oxygen. It is also my tool to counteract my a-holish tendencies. I guess you can say it neutralizes my demons and elevates my life-giving properties. I guess one day when I am ancient and they are wheeling me onto the mat, I will have to rethink my position. 
Source: Sharon's Private Pictures

5.    Do you practice any kind of meditation? If yes what type of meditation?
Since I was a kid who came across a flyer of Swami Muktananda in 3rd grade, I've been drawn to meditation. I have practiced so many types of meditation from different religions, styles and philosophies from Kototama sounds to Kabbalah to Sufism. I've embarked on a spiritual quest now for almost 40 years. In the end, I sit, nothing formal.  I still do Yi Chuan from time to time. I also consider my aikido study to be meditation in movement. I am mindful of the moment as often as my consciousness allows it. There is always room for improvement. Conscious contact is a goal.

6.    What other martial arts have you tried?
 I studied and taught Yi Chuan since 1996. It is a profound art based largely on meditative postures. My sifu, Jesse Quinones also encompassed tai chi, shaolin, qi gong, wing chun and bagua into his teaching methods. These days, I practice on my own, but not as regularly as I used to. Sifu doesn't teach anymore, but he coaches me from the sidelines aka phone conversations. I see him from time to time. 

7.     What does teaching aikido mean to you?
Teaching aikido Is important to me for a multitude of reasons. Firstly and selfishly, it is an opportunity for me to access and articulate ideas about energy, technique, even metaphors for life. I elevate my consciousness, get out of my comfort zone, take risks, be generous.  I have become keen watching other people's training; their awareness, their approach. If I could alter or enhance the process of just one person per class, I am ahead of the game.  It is also a way for me to give back all the knowledge I acquired through my years with the senseis and my collective training experience. It is a source for inspiration.  Developmentally, the synthesis between training and teaching has been the most valuable tool for my own process. I think I get more from the energy in the room than they get from me
Source: Sharon's Private Pictures

8. You are a writer. What do you write about? Can you please mention the titles of some of your works?
I am half-way through a young adult adventure, fantasy romp. It has been so satisfying to create this way!  That and my wedding ceremonies is the most fun I've had in years. My previous writing was as a ghost writer for Nakazono's book on natural therapy for professionals. He had a way of making technical information trippy. I also wrote Yamada Sensei's articles for Black Belt magazine in both English and Spanish. Dry stuff, really. But, I always enjoyed Yamada Sensei's take on things. He doesn't like to reveal his metaphysical side, to say the least, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have one. I also write my wedding ceremonies from scratch and personalize it for each couple. Obviously, the same goes for funerals and eulogies.

9.    Do you blog also? If yes about what and where?
 I blog at NY Ceremonials. I muse about love and life, baseball. I tweet @shadoknows when I remember to. 

10. You mentioned you worked for a prominent jewelry line. What is its name and are you still working there?
The name of the business is David Webb. It is a high end manufacturing and retail operation. My mother was David Webb's partner and luckily I apprenticed there as a designer when I was 16-18. Got hired in my 20s. I became a stone specialist and the design and marketing director. The business was sold two years ago and I moved on and never looked back. 

Source: Sharon's Private Pictures
11. People in important positions have to work a lot of overtime. How did you manage to combine work life and aikido practice?
That's the age old question. Time management. I won't lie, sacrifices were made. There was a time when I was single that I traveled for Aikido almost constantly and when I wasn't, I was at the dojo training. I was in love with the art, the senseis, my friends. We had an active social community at NY Aikikai and I spent many a day and night partaking of it. I never slept. Ultimately, it was not sustainable and I had to make some difficult decisions about prioritizing my career and putting the fantasy of Aikido in its proper perspective especially since I was not about to become a professional as I once thought I might. Now, as a wife, mother, writer, minister, healthcare practitioner, aikido has a more balanced place in my life. No more dojo rat! I'm an elder statesman now. Lol. I train, I teach, I go home. 

12. What motivates you to keep training? Do you have any goals set?
 I get blue when I don't train regularly. As I said before, the daily practice neutralizes and tames my dark side. It's the analgesic that rids me of life's pain. Just ask my loved ones. It is the antidote to my reactive nature, learning to apply principles which would improve the quality of my daily life. Aikido is one of the only things I have stuck with and stayed loyal to. I haven't needed to motivate myself per se. Of course, I know that the fact that this is an ongoing study, mastery is a long, persistent path. I still have so much to learn. You can really stick your teeth into such a substantial study. Budo be it.  Sugano Sensei used to say that it is not quantity of practice, but quality.  As long as I want to transform and awaken myself, which I still do, Aikido is going to be my chosen tool. Oh, and I get to burn calories,see friends, rid myself of the desire to harm, harmonize. No goals, just practice whenever I can and strive to improve my understanding of the art and my conscious contact with all that is. Oh and kick some butt while you're at it. 

13. What would you advise to people who have just started aikido?
For newbies, give it three months before you can even see what is happening. Avoid the feeling of frustration. Aim high, but don't expect. It will only impede your progress. This is a looooong practice that time and sincerity of self-rewards you with freedom from self and ego. It gives you gifts of accomplishments and miracles to boot. It can change your life if you let it. Be patient and always self-correct.  Listen to teachers who take the time to show you, following those who have what you want. Be open. Learn from everyone. Know that a challenging practice is often the foothills of change. Try to keep the focus on yourself and strive not to change or judge others and their process unless they are harming you. Walk away from a nasty exchange, from danger. That is a form of neutralizing. Who needs it? Be humble. Let go of pride. Mostly, have fun, train with good spirit; respect those above and below you equally. In the beginning, focus on ukemi. It is the best vehicle for understanding the art. Don't be an asshole. Don't beat yourself up, or others. There will be hard days when you can't tell your right foot from your left. And remember, how often do you get to play in an adult playground, fly through the air, roll about? Oh, and when you get your second gi, you will know you are hooked. 
Source: Sharon's Private Pictures

14. What do you think about gender in aikido? Does it make any difference in technique and mindset?
Ah, the gender card! About 20-something years ago, I asked Jane Ozeki, the senior female student at the NY Aikikai how she approached gender issues. She said she never went there. She just trained. That approach resonates with me. I don't like the term "women seminars" when women are teaching. I worked to put fear in its place, challenging myself to take what's given to me, to protect myself by being proficient. Men might not understand that vulnerability and what we, as women have to deal with. Harmonizing with aggression is a tough one, a real lesson in challenging your comfort zone. When I came up, NY Aikikai was a tough place. I was taking a beating. We were young and I felt ferocious. Fear was a default setting and rising above it, the aim. It paid off.  Now that I am older, my ukemi no longer at its peak, I let go of that, looked for something more profound.  I just want to train, teach, do my best within the confines of my limitations because we all, men, women alike have to overcome something. That said, is there gender bias? Of course. But, it's systemic to the planet, not just aikido. Why engage? I might get angered but I don't act on it...unless I step it up a notch or two. However, the women teaching at the NY Aikikai are NOT tokens. They are formidable artists, better than most. They are sincere students with incredibly high standards. As for the female mindset, I suppose we are called upon to deepen our understanding of the principles in order to have any success. Perhaps it makes some women's practice more nuanced and substantial. Sugano Sensei used to joke that the little women were the best. We certainly can't power our way through, although I certainly tried. Now, I resort to trickery.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Eyeliner Look and Cute Earrings

Beauty and Aikido ©

This is just a random post about an eyeliner look I am trying out and want to perfect until the yearly Christmas Party or company is always organizing. Been through all the possible phases: Eyeliner+nude lips, eyeliner+red lips and now I am at the porcelain doll imitation look which is really appealing eyeliner+nude lips with a dash of red in the middle. I also have my dress already...I think. I won't disclose any pictures of that, yet, so you need to stay tuned until Christmas if interested. I was looking for a little black dress that would put into evidence my neck and shoulders. I pretty much found something, but am not yet sure if it is the one. Might still be looking for other dresses. I also bought some cute and interesting earrings.

Beauty and Aikido ©

Never had one of those magnet earrings. Now I wore them for a couple of hours but they are really painful and the ear cuff is really uncomfy also. Well yeah...I guess I am making too much of a fuss about it, but I hate having uncomfortable clothes or jewelry. But this cute ice-cream earring is much easier to wear.

Beauty and Aikido ©

Stay tuned, because as announced, I will be posting the interview with Sharon Dminguez really soon. Until then go check out the bio she herself has composed for Beauty and Aikido. Also for my daily aikdo training notes, please head to my Tumblr. I have made a habit of putting down some notes after each training and a lot of people really like these notes. Hope you will like them also!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

4th Kyu Preparation - Salami Slice Approach III

I did not take an exam on the summer training camp as I was not yet too well prepared. Sensei asked me yesterday if I was to take the exam on the winter training camp. Well to be honest, I have no idea if I should go ahead and shoot for 4th kyu next month already... But to be on the safe side, I am continuing the series of posts with the salami slice approach. Please become the follower of my blog if you are interested in the updates about my preparation for the 4th kyu exam by hitting Join this site in GFC on the left.

Today on our plate the slightly confusing names of three different techniques: Uchi Kaiten Nage, Soto Kaiten Nage, Ude Kime Nage. This post will help me and you guys to better understand how the techniques function.

Uchi Kaiten Nage is when you step inside and turn underneath the arm of the uke. Let us watch this execution in the video and fix this techniques. You also might want to try exercising with your mind's eye to fix both the movement and the name of the technique. The best in that is in your mind you can basically practice anywhere: during a break at work, on the bus, while waiting in a line, etc.

Soto Kaiten Nage is similar, but notice the step on the side and the cutting from the outside. You are not splicing underneath the arm of the opponent but you just turn your hand over the uke's wrist and then execute the trow.

Ude Kime Nage is an arm lock trow that I also need to know well for the 4th kyu. As it ends with Nage it is a bit confusing and I felt like it had some sort of connection with the Kaiten Nage family so I included it here in this post. Still need to practice basic tenkan, weapon katas and gain more confidence before I can actually pass this exam.

Stay tuned for the remaining salami slices. To get to the firs post from this series and find out what I mean by the salami slice go here. To see the second slice click here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

OOTD Video

I started doing some videos again. I actually have a nail polish and day cream review coming up for which I have the raw material already and which I will have to format. Until then hang on with me for another edition of the OOTD. I have a great number of red clothing items at the moment as people have been complementing me a lot when I am wearing I just went ahead and paired the striped tee with a cute skirt and vintage masculine looking shoes. Hope you like the result!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Women in Aikido: Sharon Dominguez

-by Sharon Dominguez

Source: Sharon's Private Pictures

I am a born and bred New Yorker, a rare breed indeed. I met Masahilo M Nakazono in August, 1984. He was a Kototama Sensei, a Doctor of Eastern Medicine and former Aikido Sensei, having studied under O'Sensei. He was teaching a seminar on the Kototama and the principles of natural medicine. I knew immediately that he was my teacher and this was the path I wanted to travel.  In 1985, I started to formally study natural medicine as a profession from Nakazono Sensei and his son, Jei. It was then that I was introduced to Aikido. We worked with boken and jo. We also routinely practiced the basics; ikkyo through yonkyo, kotegaeshi and iriminage. We also practiced rolling. In 1988, I joined the New York Aikikai. In early 1991, I became the official driver of Yamada Sensei, Sugano Sensei and Donovan Waite. I traveled with them extensively for 10 years. I continued to travel with Sugano Sensei up until a year before he died. I was also Yamada Sensei's personal secretary for 10 years. I am a member of the board of the NY Aikikai. I taught at NYU from 1996-2000. I am currently teaching at the New York Aikikai and Aikido of Park Slope. I hold the rank of Godan. The last seminar I taught at was in San Francisco with Christian Tissier, Bruce Bookman, Jimmy Friedman and Claire Keller. 

I have a practice in Kototama Life Medicine, I'm a writer, and I am also a non-denominational minister who performs weddings and other important rituals. I am married to Javier, a san-dan who I met in Aikido in 1998 when he was visiting from Peru.  We have two kids: Mateo, 12 and Mirei, 10. Mirei does Aikido, Mateo wants to be ballet dancer. I am also the former design director of a prominent precious jewelry line, having been in fashion since I was a teenager. I feel very fortunate to have had unprecedented access to the Senseis. I am forever grateful for all that they taught me and it is my hope that I can share their knowledge and understanding to as many people as possible.

Thank you so much Sharon for the biography that you shared with us. My lovely followers, please stay tuned for the interview with Sharon Dominguez!

The Voice of Aikido


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