AWA Member Alex Maldonado at World Combat Games

Dear AWA Members and Friends,

We’re excited to announce that our very own Alex Maldonado Sensei of Caguas Dojo in Puerto Rico, will be representing the AWA at the IAF World Combat Games in Riyadh next month.

Demonstrations will take place on Oct 24th & Oct 25th, both from 4am to 6am CST both days. For more information please follow the link below.

World Combat Games

And, hope to see you on the mats soon.
Andrew M. Sato
Chief Instructor ~ AWA
[email protected]

Who’s Your Teacher

When asked by someone who is your teacher, we most automatically answer so and so is my “fit in area of study”. For me Toyoda sensei, then Yamada sensei. I was once told “everyone needs a teacher” for many years I took that to understand my Aikido path. As of late my perspective has changed. For anyone who is open to receive, learn and grow, life lessons from teachers of all forms abounds….

It is not just about learning a particular skill. When one thinks it is to learn a new skill or improve in an endeavor that is narrow thinking. We must all keep learning so we grow and do not stagnate in life. That is where the thought of a teacher can really be different.

Most of us remember our first teachers were our parents, teaching right from wrong, how to be safe outside, habits of hygiene and to maybe how to save some money. Then came our academic teachers proving us skills in math, science, history, athletics, etc. Along with academic schooling came religion of some sorts, then on the job training at your place of employment. So many teachers to learn so many skills from. Also, let us not forget the piano, dance, or soccer lessons from those teachers.

All of them gave us so much of their time and effort so we could master the many skills we now have as adults. Does that mean we are done learning? I have come to understand life is vast and never ending like the powerful river flowing from somewhere vague and going somewhere vague, but never ending. So should be our view of a teacher too. If one is open to learning or improving, everyone and many incidents can provide deep teaching moments to grow from. Even then that moment of learning may not reveal itself to someone until much later. It may be years before you realize the life lesson and then understand who the teacher was.

So yes, we all have a main teacher we identify with but sometimes the most valuable real-life lessons come from ordinary interactions by someone you do not label as a “teacher”. Do not let those opportunities pass any more than missing a formal class hour.

Andrew M. Sato August 2023
Chief Instructor ~ AWA

KATA – The Form From The Best Effort

In martial arts, specifically for us, Aikido. “It is a misunderstanding to feel the best way to express oneself is just to do whatever you want. This is not an expression of your Aikido or life. If one has too many possibilities to express his/her Aikido one will behave superficially. We follow forms, the strong people will express themselves strongly and kind people will express themselves kindly. The differences between each of you becomes easy to see because we train in the same form. As we repeat it over and over again, we can understand each other’s ways eventually. This is the advantage to the rules and rituals in the dojo. It can help us understand each other and accept the plus/minus of our character.

Our form starts with intention, as we train that behavior becomes a habit. As training prolongs it becomes a practice turning into second nature. “You become who you are in training”. If we make best efforts accomplishment is the reward. Becoming better than someone else only leads to a sense of inadequacy, jealousy or if we feel we are not better. We must become better than we were the day before, that is what is important. In everything we do, just try your best.

From Doshu – each Aikido devotee, after a long time period of practice, shall consider how they can offer their power and knowledge cultivated by Aikido practice to the betterment of our society.”

Andrew M. Sato May 2023
Chief Instructor ~ AWA

Do not take it personally

How many times have we heard or been told that and yet when a situation or words are thrust upon us, we do take it personally. When this happens, we internalize the actions of another person’s aggression to the point of feeling offended, upset or angered by it. This is allowing something or someone outside of ourselves to control and/or affect how we feel or react. Becoming angered, flustered, or off centered creates that opening an opponent seeks so they can attack and/or defeat us. One of the main goals of long-term training is the development of a strong unmovable center. It helps us meet all things; positive and negative with a calm, equal mind, not easily rattled. Having a good center enhances your ability to act mindfully and not mindlessly react to an attack or disturbance. We cannot stop the world or others from aggressive attacks, physical or verbal, how we confront them and handle them is what matters. Our training is no different, yet different than the athlete who wishes to develop physical stamina for a race. The result of training our mind and spirit along with the body develops not only our physical stamina but mental esteem and compassion. Training develops strong self-esteem providing mental fortification needed against attacks and gives us confidence to face life’s obstacles. We can believe in our self-worth and abilities when attacked, even if at the end the defense is overrun from the attack. So back to “don’t take it personally”. If we fail or are defeated in something, do we fall apart? Just as training helps us build our confidence to defend, so too it creates our ability to have come back with compassion, the flip side of esteem I feel. When defeated or lost to grief we must come back from it and this is where compassion comes into play, it helps us understand, deal, and repair from situations that handed us defeat.

Aikido is the art of compassion. We are human beings, like our attacker, and by design we humans are fallible. We should understand and realize that every person is suffering and because of this, we give them compassion instead of destroying them. The goal of Aikido is to develop mindfulness in action. Being mindful gives us compassion, we can then understand an attack is not personal but a way another suffering person incites us to create an opening to attack. O’Sensei said, “In our techniques we enter completely, blend totally and firmly control an attack. A calm mind of inner strength is stable; confusion and uncertainty arise when this is disturbed. As we train to harmonize, we diminish those external influences and that is how we can learn to “not take things so personally”.

Andrew M Sato March 2023
Chief Instructor ~ AWA