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.


  1. I really loved this! I feel like there is so much to get out of all of this. I am fresh and new at this but I am trully blown away at how it is helping my body. I came into this with injuries that worried me. I am back again after years of not moving... * still newbie* after two weeks my arms have full motion. I have a great Sensi who takes that into account that studied at NY Aikikai as well. Thank you for a wonderful women's prospective. It trully is an art to be studied by all. Thank you!!!

  2. Thanks for your appreciation! It really means a lot to me!

  3. Absolutely fantastic posting! Lots of useful information and inspiration, both of which we all need!Relay appreciate your work. aikido


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