Interested in Vermont Aikido?

If you’ve been interested in getting on the mat and experiencing Aikido, we offer an affordable and convenient introductory program. For $60 you’ll get four introductory classes on Tuesday nights, as well as a free uniform! Taught by Sensei Aaron Ward, the Tuesday night class runs from 6:00 – 7:15 and is intended for new students – though often attended by senior students as well. Come check out the dojo and see if Aikido is something you’d enjoy. We look forward to seeing you!

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My Observations From The Santa Cruz Seminar of 2014

(This post was written by Aaron Ward Sensei, chief instructor at Vermont Aikido.)

There are things that, after years of training in Aikido, I see in a different light; things that in the past I may have overlooked entirely. These may be something as straightforward as the running of a seminar. Without a doubt, this year’s Santa Cruz seminar was one of the best organized and executed seminars that I have had the good fortune to attend. That in itself was a great accomplishment for the Santa Cruz dojo, but it’s not what I want to write about. What I would like to write about is the concept of giri, which loosely translates to “duty,” “responsibility” and “obligation.” For all too many people in the West, terms like duty, responsibility and obligation mean only one thing: a burden that has to be grudgingly undertaken. Something that we have to endure.

The value of giri is not what we have to do, but what we get to do or are allowed to do. The realization that every task reflects on you, your sensei, and your dojo. Knowing that a job is only done well if it is done with the proper spirit. My observation of the 2014 Santa Cruz seminar showed a dojo with members that live the reality of giri, undergoing their tasks in a wholehearted and joyous manner.

O-Sensei said, “Always practice the art of peace in a vibrant and joyful manner.” The truest form of Aikido is based in giri.  A great deal of credit has to be given to the students of Aikido Santa Cruz, but my experience is that giri flows downhill: the people who have the deepest understanding of giri get this understanding from their sensei. Just as a student’s good basics can be attributed to their sensei, so can their understanding of giri. So Linda Holiday Sensei deserves a great deal of credit for the success of the seminar along with her students. Their giri led to a seminar that has left a lasting impression on me, not just as a person but the way I practice and study Aikido.

 

An Introduction to Vermont Aikido

[This post was written by the chief instructor of Vermont Aikido, Aaron Ward.)

I was asked to write the first post for the dojo’s new blog, and I thought that there is no place better to start then a brief history of Vermont Aikido. Like most dojos, in the early years Vermont Aikido was more of an idea than an actual dojo. Upon his return from Japan in 1971, Terry Dobson Sensei began teaching Aikido classes. The location and membership varied greatly in the early years. Dobson Sensei would often hold class in a field near UVM, with a picture of O-Sensei propped up against a muddy boot for a Shomen.

At this time Dobson Sensei was traveling between Vermont and New York City. In New York Dobson Sensei lived with Ken Nisson Sensei, and at first neither knew that the other practiced Aikido. When they discovered that each practiced Aikido, they started teaching together, founding both Vermont Aikido and the Bond St. Dojo in the space of about two years. Vermont Aikido found a home at the Burlington YMCA.

But by the beginning of the 80’s Terry Dobson Sensei had moved to California, and Nisson Sensei had moved back to New York City and the Bond St. Dojo. Hue Young became the chief instructor of Vermont Aikido, and it is important to mention a number of people who were instrumental to the continued success of the dojo at this time: Leslie Russek, who facilitated testing in the dojo through ASU; and Ed Pincus, who offered the use of his home for seminars, allowing the dojo to invite instructors from out of town.

When the dojo had to move from the YMCA Hue Young led the effort to find a new space. In time, Vermont Aikido moved to its present location on North Winooski Ave. During the mid 80’s Dobson Sensei returned from California, resuming his teaching at Vermont Aikido. By 1992 Hue Young decided to leave Vermont Aikido. As the dojo was preparing for his departure, Terry Dobson passed away while on a trip to California. This left the dojo without a clear direction, and was the beginning of my leadership history with the dojo. I began leading not because I desired to lead, but the reality was that there was no one left. If I was to continue my Aikido training I had to lead the dojo. In 1995 the dojo approached Ken Nisson to return as chief instructor, which he accepted. Nisson Sensei held this position until 2001, when he moved to Modesto, California, becoming the chief instructor of the Modesto dojo. Upon Ken Nisson’s departure I became the chief instructor of Vermont Aikido.

A dojo’s real history is not names or dates, but the people who train on the mat day-in-day-out. A dojo only exists becuse of the sacrifices made by its members. I find reassurance in the fact that, after more than 40 years, there is still a Vermont Aikido and, more importantly, people who still believe in it.