Noon, August 20th: Sayu-nage


For new visitors, this is primarily a working site, letting students know what we covered in case they have to miss a class. We are an intentionally small school … combining Zen and Aikido training into a single curriculum. You are free to look around. If you are absolutely new to Aikido, check out the About Aikido page.

Note that we only accept new students four times a year and we will not be accepting any new students until the winter session starting in mid-November. Aikido is a great martial art … combining Zen and Aikido is the ultimate. If you can’t wait until November to start your training in Aikido (with us), here are several Aikido schools that you may want to check out.

Always happy to answer any of your questions, see the Contact page. You can also e-mail me to request a spot on the waiting list for the winter session. Jim


It looks like Dru will need a few more days, Casey, Chris and Anitra and I carried on. Get well, Dru.

Aikido Warm-ups

Moving on, we covered the following new warm-ups … (You can find a video of warm-ups here):

  • 8-Way Exercise
  • Left-Right Exercise
  • Left-Right Exercise with Stepping

Aikido Instruction

We moved on to our next throw (You can find a video of our ten basic throws here):

  • Sayu-nage (Left-Right Throw).

Zen Instruction

We worked on some zazen and class-ending etiquette

  • 3 Bells to start zazen
  • 1 Bell to finish
  • Bow (to break the zazen posture), stand, stack zafus, line up, bow out, clear mat and mop … all in silence.

Next Class

The next class will be Monday, August 25th and will cover a new throw … Tenchi-nage (Heaven and Earth throw). Starting with week 3, we will be videoing classes for student review.

Evening, August 19th: Sayu-nage


For new visitors, this is primarily a working site, letting students know what we covered in case they have to miss a class. We are an intentionally small school … combining Zen and Aikido training into a single curriculum. You are free to look around. If you are absolutely new to Aikido, check out the About Aikido page.

Note that we only accept new students four times a year and we will not be accepting any new students until the winter session starting in mid-November. Aikido is a great martial art … combining Zen and Aikido is the ultimate. If you can’t wait until November to start your Zen and Aikido training with us, here are several Aikido schools that you may want to look into.

Always happy to answer any of your questions, see the Contact page. Also, consider e-mailing me to put your name on the waiting list for the upcoming winter session Jim


Welcome to the last of the new students for the fall session – Rosie and Dave and a returning student Paul V. So now, both our noon and evening Zen and Aikido classes are set … and onward!

Aikido Warm-ups

With Rosie and Dave in their first class, we dropped back a bit and reviewed the following … (You can find a video of warm-ups here):

  • Rolling Back and Forth
  • Wrist Stretches
  • Raising and Cutting
  • Front and rear exercise

Aikido Instruction

We then reviewed our first throw Ude-nage A and covered our 3rd throw Sayu-nage (You can find a video of our ten basic throws here):

  • Ude-nage A (Arm Throw, Cutting like a sword).
  • Sayu-nage (Left-Right Throw)

Zen Instruction

Last, we reviewed basic sitting:

  • Three Pillars of Zazen

Next Class

The next class will be Thursday, August 21st and will be reviewing our first 3 Aikido throws – Ude-nage, Shiho-nage and Sayu-nage. Zen instruction will focus on posture and breathing.

Noon, August 18th … Welcome to Casey and Simon


For new visitors, this is primarily a working site, letting students know what we covered in case they have to miss a class. We are an intentionally small school … combining Zen and Aikido training into a single curriculum. You are free to look around. If you are absolutely new to Aikido, check out the About Aikido page.

Note that we only accept new students four times a year and we will not be accepting any new students until the Winter session starting in mid-November. Aikido is a great martial art … combining Zen and Aikido is the ultimate. If you can’t wait until November to start your training in Aikido with us, here are several Albuquerque Aikido schools that you may want to look into.

Always happy to answer any of your questions, see the Contact page. Jim


Neither Chris nor Dru could make the noon class, but it worked out. We had two new students … Casey and Simon and Nitra dropped in from the evening class and so we had a very productive workout.

Aikido Warm-ups

With Simon and Casey in their first class, we covered the following … (You can find a video of warm-ups here):

  • Rolling Back and Forth
  • Wrist Stretches
  • Raising and Cutting

Aikido Instruction

We then covered the first two throws (You can find a video of our ten basic throws here):

  • Ude-nage A (Arm Throw, Cutting like a sword).
  • Shiho-nage (4 Way Throw)

Zen Instruction

We started up with more zazen instruction:

  • Three Pillars of Zazen

Next Class

The next class will be Wednesday, August 20th and will cover a new throw … Sayu-nage (Left-right throw).

Last class to enroll for the fall session

Here at Both Hands Clapping, we teach classes in 13 week blocks. This includes all of our classes:

  • Zen And Aikido
  • Aikido Weapons
  • Advanced Aikido

We do this because we are very, very dedicated to teaching spontaneous, dynamic Aikido.For the first 9 weeks of each 13 week session, all students receive and practice about a dozen throws for the attack being studied. (In this fall session, we are studying two hands grabbing one arm.) Starting with week 10, we begin 3 weeks of freestyle practice. Here, defenses are unscripted and students will get a chance to really understand and practice dynamic Aikido. They will draw upon their Zen training … moving to the place of inner silence and responding appropriately to each attack – one after another after another after another. A great workout for both the body and a chance to really understand the workings of the mind.

To that end, we only accept new students in the first 3 classes of each new session. That is, it would be unreasonable to have a student start at week 8 and then be expected to do freestyle practice at week 10. So, as the fall session started last week, the last day to sign up for the noon class will be Monday, the 18th. The last day to sign up for the evening class will be Tuesday, the 19th. For more info, follow this link.

As a note, the winter session will be starting in mid-November.

I am happy to answer any last minute questions and you may want to subscribe to our weekly newsletter and class notices. See our Contact page – Jim

Zazen Reminders


For new visitors, this is primarily a working site, designed to keep students informed of the current state of training. We are an intentionally small school … combining Zen and Aikido training into a single curriculum. You are free to look around. If you are absolutely new to Aikido, check out the About Aikido page.

Note that we only accept new students four times a year and, coincidentally, we are accepting new students for a couple more days. If any of this interests you, now is the time to act. Last, I am always happy to answer any questions. Jim

The cutoff for new noon-time students is Monday (the 18th) and for new evening students is Tuesday (the 19th). The next ‘window’ for new students will be mid-November. For more info, follow this link.


We’ve covered this in class, I thought I’d take a moment to post it formally. I like to think that there are three pillars to good zazen:

  • A stable, comfortable base
  • An elongated torso
  • An energized center

A stable, comfortable base.

Always, always, always make sure you have a stable, comfortable base to do your zazen. Play around with this a while if you have to, but make sure you can rock side to side and front to back without feeling like you’re going to tip over. A good indicator for you will be how firmly your lower legs and knees are touching the mat. If you don’t feel rock solid, if your keens are up, if you get very sore in a short time, these things must be taken care of first. There are a couple things to try:

  • A taller zafu (meditation cushion)
  • Pad or pads under the lower legs, knees
  • Sitting in seiza, with a cushion between your legs
  • Sitting in a regular chair.

And find that combination that allows you to build up to sitting pain-free for 30 minutes. Now there may be some discomfort that last couple minutes, (the body is not well-designed to sit that still for that long) but no serious pan!

An elongated torso.

Natural breathing is so, so vital to zazen, and you will never fully experience it slouched over. Play with the image of holding up the ceiling with your head, tipping your chin down slightly.This lifts your upper carriage, makes plenty of room for your diaphragm and lower belly to freely move up and down, in and out. Your eyes are soft and looking out about 6 feet (when seated on the floor). Never close the eyes. The torso will probably be tipped forward ever so slightly. This is natural.

An energized center (hands and arms).

I call it the 3 energies. 1.) Energy in your hands as you make a nicely rounded, almost delicate mudra, held up off your lap. The thumbs are touching lightly, where a piece of paper between them could be pulled out, but would not fall out. 2.) Energy in your forearms as you keep your thumbs from rolling back to your abdomen. 3.) Energy in your elbows as they are held slightly away from the body, but not thrown out dramatically. (As if holding eggs in your armpits.)

Final Thoughts

Zazen (seated Zen meditation) is the main tool in a formal Zen practice … with other tools being chanting, work practice and the tea ceremony. And formal Zen practice is a pivotal part of our Zen and Aikido classes. While ‘thinking’ is fine for learning Aikido throws, it is ‘not fine’ when it comes time to freestyle practice. And understanding the nature of ‘thinking’ is the primary goal of Zen practice.

Evening, Zen and Aikido August 14th: Shiho-nage


For new visitors, this is primarily a working site, designed to keep students informed of the current state of training. We are an intentionally small school … combining Zen and Aikido training into a single curriculum. You are free to look around. If you are absolutely new to Aikido, check out the About Aikido page.

Note that we only accept new students four times a year and, coincidentally, we are accepting new students for a couple more days. If any of this interests you, now is the time to act. Last, I am always happy to answer any questions. Jim

The cutoff for new evening students is next Tuesday (the 19th). The next ‘window’ for new students will be mid-November. For more info, follow this link.


Welcome to Paul R and Lochlin F.

Aikido Warm-ups

For those of you who will be catching up, we covered the following new warm-ups (You can find a video of warm-ups here):

  • Front and Rear Exercise

Aikido Instruction

We then reviewed our fist throw (You can find a video of basic throws here):

  • Ude-nage A (Arm Throw, Cutting like a sword).

And we completed our second throw:

  • Shiho-nage (4 Way Throw)

Zen Instruction

We finished up with more zazen instruction: Returning to your breath.

Next Class

The next class will be Monday, August 18th (the last day for new students).

Noon, Zen and Aikido, August 13th: Shiho-nage


For new visitors, this is primarily a working site, designed to keep students informed of the current state of training. We are an intentionally small school … combining Zen and Aikido training in a single curriculum. You are free to look around. If you are absolutely new to Aikido, check out the About Aikido page.

We only accept new students four times a year and coincidentally, we are accepting new students for a couple more days. If any of this interests you, now is the time to act. Last, I am always happy to answer any questions. Jim

The cutoff for new noon students is next Monday (the 18th). The next ‘window’ for new students will be mid-November. For more info, follow this link.


Aikido Warm-ups

For those of you who will be catching up, we covered the following new warm-ups (You can find a video of warm-ups here):

  • Front and Rear Exercise
  • 8 way exercise

Aikido Instruction

We then reviewed our fist throw (You can find a video of basic throws here):

  • Ude-nage A (Arm Throw, Cutting like a sword).

And we completed our second throw:

  • Shiho-nage (4 Way Throw)

Zen Instruction

We finished up with more zazen instruction: Returning to your breath.

Next Class

The next class will be Monday, August 18th (the last day for new students).

Evening, August 12th: Initial Aikido, Zen Instruction


For new visitors, our site is primarily a working site, designed to keep students informed of the current state of training. We are an intentionally small school and only accept new students 4 times a year and so our internal communications end up being much more important than recruitment. You are free to poke around. If you are absolutely new to Aikido, check out the About Aikido page. Last, I am always happy to answer any questions. Jim


A quick thanks to our new students – Cecil, Anitra, Rich, Forrest, Derek … and our returning students – Mial, Dale, Ken, Paul and Rick to the Tuesday-Thursday Zen and Aikido class. As a note, we will be accepting students in the evening class through Tuesday of next week (the 19th). If you are interested in learning the beautiful, powerful, graceful martial art called Aikido, if you are interested in learning and practicing zazen (seated Zen meditation), if you are interested in learning the world’s premiere ‘multi-attacker’ self-defense, then now is the time to make it in to Both Hands Clapping.There will be no new students accepted after next Tuesday. (The next ‘window’ for new students will be mid-November.) For more info, follow this link.

Aikido Warm-ups

For those of you who will be catching up, we covered the following warm-ups (You can find a video of warm-ups here):

  • Rolling back and forth.
  • Wrist stretch – compressing
  • Wrist stretch – compressing and rotate in
  • Wrist stretch – compressing and rotate out
  • Wrist stretch – stretching
  • Wrist stretch – stretching and rotating in
  • Arm Swinging
  • Raising and cutting

Aikido Instruction

We then moved on to our fist throw (You can find a video of basic throws here):

  • Ude-nage A (Arm Throw, Cutting like a sword).

And we got stated on our second throw:

  • Shiho-nage (4 Way Throw)

Zen Instruction

We finished up with an introduction to zazen, where we covered the ‘three pillars’ of zazen:

  • Stable base.
  • Elongated torso.
  • Energized hands and arms.

Next Class

The next class will be Thursday August 14th.

Noon, August 11th: Initial Instruction


For new visitors, our site is primarily a working site, designed to keep students informed of the current state of training. We are an intentionally small school and only accept new students 4 times a year and so our internal communications end up being much more important than recruitment. You are free to poke around. If you are absolutely new to Aikido, check out the About Aikido page. Last, I am always happy to answer any questions. Jim


A quick thanks to Dru and Chris in the first noon Zen and Aikido class. As a note, we will be accepting students in the noon class through Monday of next week (the 18th). If you are interested in learning the beautiful, powerful, graceful martial art called Aikido, if you are interested in learning and practicing zazen (seated Zen meditation), if you were interested in learning the world’s premiere ‘multi-attacker’ self-defense, then now is the time to make it in to Both Hands Clapping.There will be no new students accepted after next Monday. For more info, follow this link.

Warm-up Instruction

For those of you who will be catching up, we covered the following warm-ups (You can find a video of warm-ups here):

  • Rolling back and forth.
  • Wrist stretch – compressing
  • Wrist stretch – compressing and rotate in
  • Wrist stretch – compressing and rotate out
  • Wrist stretch – stretching
  • Wrist stretch – stretching and rotating in
  • Arm Swinging
  • Raising and cutting

Throws

We then moved on to our fist throw (You can find a video of basic throws here):

  • Ude-nage A (Arm Throw, Cutting).

And we got stated on our second throw:

  • Shiho-nage (4 Way Throw)

Zazen Instruction

We finished up with an introduction to zazen, where we covered the ‘three pillars’ of zazen:

  • Stable base.
  • Elongated torso.
  • Energized hands and arms.

Next Class

The next class will be Wednesday August 13th.

Decisive, Appropriate and Natural – Zen and the Martial Arts

In ethology (the study of natural movements in animals), there is this idea of taxis (pronounced taksis). Taxis describes movements by an animal directly toward or directly away from a stimulus. Toward a stimulus is positive taxis, away is negative taxis. I think we naturally understand this idea of taxis and really, we see it nearly every day. For example, negative taxis describes a person going "anywhere away from here!", and positive taxis describes a person going "to that great new restaurant that they just heard about!" In negative taxis, where you end up is not really so important as long as it is not where you started, in positive taxis, where you end up is everything.

In Zen and the self-defenses and all the martial arts, we can readily see this same sense of "stimulus" and "movement". For example, Zen often holds up the idea of suffering and shows us how we can escape it. (Negative taxis.) Likewise, it also holds up the idea of waking up, and shows us how we can attain that. (Positive taxis.) In the martial arts we can be moving away from fear and helplessness and insecurity or we can be moving toward self-confidence, understanding, skill, etc. Moving away, moving toward ...

For me, one of the great attractors of both Zen instruction and the martial arts traditions is that they are so often filled with "positive taxis". That is, in both disciplines it seems that some teacher is always pointing, urging us on, moving, moving. But not just moving 'anywhere but here', but moving toward something specific, something positive. And after many years of Zen practice and Aikido training and many, many sanzen (personal encounters with a Roshi) and many demonstrations by Aikido masters, I've come to see three qualities that are consistently held up for us to aspire to. These are: decisiveness, appropriateness, naturalness.

Decisiveness, appropriateness, naturalness ... and so that we're all on the same page, by decisiveness, let's mean "displaying little or no hesitation". By appropriateness let's mean "fitting the occasion" and by naturalness let's mean "free of pretense". And for a quick sense of where these three qualities came from, let's take a quick peek into the sanzen room. (During a Zen retreat, the sanzen room is where a Zen student will meet with his Roshi - where the Roshi will check the student's understanding of some problem he's working on.) When posed a question, the student must respond immediately. Any hesitation and "out you go". But a quick response that is inappropriate will get you booted as well. And lastly, a decisive, appropriate response that is "all about you" is yet another reason to have Roshi reaching for his bell (requesting you leave). It's clear that Roshi wants decisiveness, appropriateness and naturalness - and what are his parting words as he sends you on your way? "MORE ZAZEN!"

"MORE ZAZEN!" Can more zazen ... more of our butts on a cushion ... really deliver decisiveness, appropriateness and genuineness? Hmmmm. Roshi seems to think so. Can Aikido ... blending with several attackers and using their own energy against them ... also deliver decisiveness, appropriateness and genuineness? Hmmmm. The Aikido masters seem to think so. How about you?

Let's begin by taking a closer look at each of these qualities.

Zazen and the martial arts and decisiveness:

Decisiveness: "displaying little or no hesitation." In self-defense training, the question would probably be, how can you not be decisive, but in zazen, can we really be decisive while 'just sitting?' Can we "display no hesitation" without moving? Doesn't decisiveness naturally require action? And in a martial arts situation, doesn't the fact that the Aikidoist executed a technique show decisiveness?

And the answers are ... Yes. Yes. No. No.

So, let's first agree on the source of our decisiveness in this moment. And that source is our complete acceptance of the moment just as it is (warts and all). For example, in walking to sanzen, so many, many students are remarkably "decisive" when they have an answer for Roshi and are remarkably "indecisive" when they do not. But don't they see that (especially as Zen students) they should be equally decisive in both having an answer and in not having an answer? Don't they see that the source of their decisiveness isn't in their answer, it's in the acceptance of the moment. And a martial artist in a self-defense situation who throws one, two three attackers ... doesn't that show decisiveness. Maybe yes, maybe no ... look closely, can't you see the brain wheels turning. Can't you see that slight hesitation between attack and throw. All action is not decisive.

Zazen and decisiveness: The zazen posture and zendo etiquette constantly require the active acceptance of this moment, again, warts and all. Is your base relaxed and solid? Is your torso elongated? Is your chin down and head high? Are your elbows away from your body? Are your hands up off your lap and rotated forward? Are they forming a delicate but energetic mudra that is lightly touching your belly? Are you actively quiet - no clearing your throat, no sighing, no sniffing, no yawning? Are you actively still - no shifting, no scratching, no stretching? In short, are you actively accepting all that goes into your zazen posture in a zendo setting? This is decisiveness in zazen.

The martial arts and (in)decisiveness: Three attackers approach and you wonder "how did I ever agree to this?" OK, now "how do I get out of this" and "never do it again?" Moving to the left, the first attacker thrown - "two more and I am out of this pickle." And you turn to face the second attacker and are startled to see the strike has already landed. Luckily the attack is slowed down as you feel a light bop on the head. You throw the second attacker, but the third is more of the same ... startled and throw. The bottom line, you can't be decisiveness until you can fully accept this moment, until you can fully embrace this moment (warts and all).

Zazen and the martial arts and appropriateness:

Appropriateness: "fitting the occasion."

Zazen and appropriateness. So what is appropriateness in zazen? "Fitting the occasion" ... there's the key. Are we responding appropriately to the bells and clackers, bows, tea and chanting and the movements of our fellow sitters? Are we ahead of the bell, late to the bow? Do we forget to put our tea cup away? When walking, have we fallen out of step with the person ahead?

The martial arts and appropriateness: So what is appropriateness in the martial arts, in self-defense? We previously mentioned "fitting the occasion" ... in a self-defense situation, we may say instead "fitting the attack." The foundation of such an effective art like Aikido is the richness of the number of throws available (thousands by some counts). The purpose of so many throws is that each one is applied to a single, unique attack. In a sense, because the number of attacks is 'near' infinite, then the number of defenses should be 'near infinite.' Anyways, in the martial arts, appropriateness is the proper fit of the defense to the attack.

So, in order to act "fitting the occasion" or to respond "fitting the attack", we must have a true sense of awareness of what's going on around us. In decisiveness we looked inside, for appropriateness we must extend our awareness outside of ourselves. And the source for this awareness, the source for this quality of appropriateness ... is gratitude. Through gratitude we connect naturally to all that makes up this moment, all that is around us. We are grateful for the zafu (cushion), the zabutan, the tan, the zendo, the world the universe, the cosmos. In the martial arts, we are grateful to our attackers and the challenges and the lessons they will teach us. We are then in turn grateful for those that have come before us, our parents, our parents' parents, our teachers, our teachers' teachers. We are grateful for the warmth, the coolness, the sound of the birds, the sounds of the city. We are grateful for our fellow sitters and their support and energy and their stillness and quietness. We are equally grateful when they are not so still and when they are not so quiet. For this is a moment that is emerging continuously, and for that we are grateful.

Formal Zen practice is more than sitting with eyes half closed. It is a dance of bells and clackers and bows and tea and chanting and walking. And when we respond appropriately it is a beautiful dance. Martial arts training is also more than just moving and throwing, it is the perfect match of attack and defense. And when we are filled with gratitude and we defend appropriately is also is a beautiful dance.

Zazen and the martial arts and naturalness:

Naturalness: "free from pretense." Acting genuinely, with ease, effortless, without thinking, just doing. We've all experienced all of these at one time or another throughout our lives. And inevitably we ask why can't we act this way all the time? How is it that I am at one time so self-conscious and at another time so free from thoughts?

It's no secret, the source of naturalness is non-attachment. That is, how can we be 'doing' naturally when we are attached to this idea of who is 'doing'? How can we be 'acting' genuinely, when we are attached to the idea of how we are 'acting'? How can something indeed be effortless when we are attached to the outcome of effortlessness?

Zazen and naturalness: In zazen, we always come back to the breath. We watch the breath, we lose track of the breath and we come back to the breath and we lose track of it once again. When watching the breath, we are constantly confronted with the dilemma of whether we are simply watching or whether we are watching and controlling. So I'm watching my breath, "Am I breathing naturally?" Who is this "I"? If I'm not breathing naturally and I'm controlling the breath, who is that "I"? If I'm not controlling, who is this "I" that just determined that "I" was in fact only watching and not controlling. And so the dialog goes. And occasionally the dialog bores us or wears us out and for a moment there is something unique, something quiet. And we are slightly, almost imperceptibly, forever changed. And that's why we do zazen.

The martial arts and naturalness: In a self-defense situation, we always come back to seeing clearly and moving freely. An attack will occur and we will naturally plot a response. And that plotting has made as late to respond. And so we soften our gaze and focus on moving freely. A throw and another throw and then we start evaluating, which leads to planning and scheming and that planning and scheming has made us late to respond. And so we soften our gaze and focus on moving freely. Again and again. And then that perfect throw. And we are slightly, almost imperceptibly, forever changed. And that's why we study the martial arts.

We've all experience natural, genuine, selfless, spontaneous action. It is not the domain of the enlightened. The idea of non-attachment as source of natural, genuine, selfless action is also not the domain of the enlightened. But there is a domain of the enlightened, and there is a path ...

Final Thoughts:

Zazen is work. Zazen is hard work. The martial arts are hard work ... a seamless self-defense is hard work, Aikido is hard work. In Zen practice there is a chant called Kozen Daito which finished with ... "Work had. Work hard." Strive for decisiveness. Strive for appropriateness. Strive for naturalness. There's another line ins Kozen Daito "but if he single-mindedly applies himself to the study of his own affairs, he is the very one who has a daily interview with me and knows how to be grateful for his life." On balance, decisiveness, appropriateness and genuineness are not realization, but they can, in fact, be the seeds of a realization, your realization.