For new visitors, this is primarily a working site to let students know what we covered if they have to miss a class. If you scroll through the posts, you will see that they are all class summaries, most of which include a video …

Zen and Aikido Classes Starting November 10th, 11th

Combining formal Zen practice with training in the modern, multiple attacker self-defense art of Aikido.


What would you do if you were suddenly faced with someone grabbing your jacket? Now what would you do if you were confronted by two attackers? Learn to calmly face 2, 3 or more attackers. You can! It's all part of the beauty, power and grace that is Aikido.

Aikido is considered by many to be the highest form of all the martial arts (effective self-defense without the need for strength and speed) - but only, only if you can silence that inner voice and react spontaneously to the host of attackers before you. Easily said, hard to do ... but right 'up the alley' of a Zen student - and that's why all of our Aikido classes combine zazen (seated Zen meditation) with traditional Aikido training.

Join us for a new Zen and Aikido session starting the week of November 10th. The session lasts 13 weeks, with 2 classes per week. And for this upcoming 13 week session, there will be both a noon class and an evening class.

Noon Class: Mondays and Wednesdays 11:30 - 12:50. First class Monday, November 10th
Evening Class: Tuesdays and Thursdays 6:00 - 7:20. First class Tuesday, November 11th

Studying the Attack: Shoulder Grabs

Traditional Aikido instruction focuses on about a dozen well-defined attacks. In this session, we will be studying the attack often called "kata-tori", where the attacker grabs the defender's gi at the shoulder. There are numerous reasons to study this attack.

  • As a street attack, this type of lapel grab may be part of a mugging by a group ... or a single attacker may grab the lapel in order to intimidate, punch or choke.
  • From a pure Aikido training standpoint, this attack is very important, as it is allows students to train in anticipating an attack and moving decisively in a way that takes the attacker off balance and places the defender in a position to make an effective throw or pin. In Aikido, this is the notion 'leading the attacker' - 'leading the attacker's energy' in a way that they had not anticipated.

Of course, the leading that you practice and experience in this 13 week session is readily translated to the other striking and punching types of attacks and defenses that are covered in follow-on sessions. But most importantly, your Zen practice along with the 13 week sessions allow every student (beginning and advanced) to begin high-intensity randori (freestyle practice) almost from the start of their aikido training.

So, is Zen and Aikido training for you?

  • Have you always been attracted to the martial arts - looking for a challenging pursuit of mastery, yet something beyond kicking and punching?
  • Have you previously studied Aikido (or another martial art) and felt that something wasn't right?
  • Do you want to learn a self-defense geared to multiple attackers?
  • Are you interested in learning one of the world’s premier self-defenses, taught as it should be taught ... complete with emphasis and practice on helping you silence those pesky thoughts and relax completely in the face of several attackers?
  • Are you simply looking to get (back) into shape – a great workout - where the quiet mind and self-defense are a nice bonus?
  • Zen students, do you want to add an exciting new dimension to your Zen practice?

Aikido is suitable for both men and women and mature teens. I have seen a regular Aikido student in his 80's, so keep an open mind, and if you have an interest but are not sure, drop me a line.

What you will learn in this 13 weeks …

After completing this session, you will be able to demonstrate:
  • The traditional Aikido warmup set studied world-wide (wrist stretches, shoulder stretches, footwork and balance drills)
  • How to fall and roll safely - both forward and backward, including high-falls onto a soft mat
  • 10 traditional defenses to the shoulder grab
  • How to calmly face 2 and 3 attackers in a freestyle environment
  • How to sit zazen (seated Zen mediation) for 20 minutes

What does it cost?

Standard enrollment: $50 / month (for the 3 months, or a one-time payment of $140)
Discounted enrollment*: $35 / month (for the 3 months, or a one-time payment of $100)

* Discounts apply to military and law enforcement (and their families), students, additional family members, retirees and currently active Albuquerque Zen Center members.

How to get signed up?

You can reserve a spot in either class by sending me a quick e-mail (see the link at the end of this post) with a short description of your martial arts and/or Zen background (or neither as appropriate), which class you are interested in (noon or evening) and a sentence or two about what you hope to get out of the class.

Of course, you are welcome to just show up for the first class. This might be a little dicey for the evening class, as we do expect it to fill up early. Last, be aware that new students will be accepted only during the first 2 weeks of the session.


Be sure to check out our 'About BHC' page and don't hesitate to leave a comment or question which may benefit all viewers ... or e-mail me directly.

You can subscribe here to receive notices of all upcoming classes.

Maybe just a bit more info?

Happy to oblige ... drop me an e-mail and I can send you a copy of our Student Manual.

My e-mail

Tuesday Evening, October 7th: Free Practice


Introduced rolling 'flat' in preparation for breakfalls.

Aikido Instruction and Practice

Free practice
We have one week of free practice as a natural transition into our 3 weeks of randori (free style attacks). Free practice is a collaborative training session, with small groups (3 or 4 students) that get together, agree on a few techniques to practice, and the try to maximize the number of throws.

In any self-defense situation, you must feel free to do what techniques make sense at the time. There will be no one there to help you. In randori, again, you must feel free to do what techniques seem right at the time. Again, there will be no one there to tell you which throw to make. So, free practice is the start of taking responsibility for your training, taking responsibility for maximizing your practice time, getting the most throws that you want to practice.

Zen Instruction and Practice

3 Bells, 20 minutes zazen, 1 Bell - Timekeeper: Lochlin

Special thanks to …

Ken, Paul M, Rick, Simon, Lochlin, Rich, Paul V, Paul R and Cecil

Monday Noon, October 6th: Free Practice – Irimi-nage, Sayu-nage


Started with the last skill - breakfalls (always onto a soft mat). Learning breakfalls is very important in the Both Hands Clapping curriculum.

First, it teaches you to relax, relax, relax.

Second, it is a vital throwing skill should you go to an Aikido seminar and your partner wants to do breakfalls. You should know how to throw him / her safely.

Last it is a handy 'life' skill. Invariably, outside the dojo, we will take a tumble, and it's nice to some instincts on landing safely. (You can't always roll out of every fall.)

Aikido Instruction and Practice

Week 9 is always an independent practice in groups of 3 or 4. In preparation for weeks 10, 11 and 12 which is freestyle practice (randori), students get to focus on some of the techniques that they may have questions about.

Irrespective of what some Aikido instructors may want you to believe, Aikido is something you must teach yourself, something that you have to take personal responsibility. No one has the same combination of height, weight, strength, flexibility and life experience as you. Here is your chance to figure a few things out.

In a self-defense, martial art situation there will be no one to turn to. From the very beginning of your training at BHC, you will be required to take care of things for yourself.

Zen Practice and Instruction

3 Bells, 20 minutes zazen, 1 Bell - Timekeeper: Jim

Special thanks to …


Thursday Evening, October 2nd: Review Kote-kaeshi, Nikyo


Warm-up instruction is complete, rolling instruction is complete.

Aikido Instruction and Practice

In any 13 week session, we can only cover a few variations on any given technique. So for certain attacks we will focus on one variation, for another attack we may focus on a different variation. It will then be up to you to mix and match variations as your skill level grows, as your experience increases. Ultimately, in an self-defense martial arts encounter, there are no rules. But it is up to you to come to this realization about Aikido techniques.

Two common variations might be thought of as 'front side' and 'back side'. We showed a back side variation for ikkyo in this class

Kote-kaeshi (wrist turnout)
Don't forget that the footwork for the throw is identical to irimi-nage. That is why they are considered sister techniques. Remember to control the elbow as your partner is headed toward the ground.

Ikkyo (1st option)
We have been practicing the 'car crash' version of this technique. Realize that it is only when you become perfectly comfortable with close quarters, bumping and turning that you can fully appreciate what it means to evade your partner completely.

Zen Instruction and Practice

3 Bells, 20 minutes zazen, 1 Bell - Timekeeper: Ken

You all know the one constant of Aikido - relax! But what does it mean to relax. In Aikido, we are asked to relax in the midst of moving and throwing. What does that mean? Through zazen you should really investigate relaxation. When you understand relaxation - when relaxation is in your bones, then Aikido becomes trivial.

Special thanks to …

Paul R, Mial, Dale, Ken, Simon, Rich, Cecil, Rick

Wednesday Noon, October 1st: Review Kote-kaeshi, Irimi-nage, Ikkyo, Nikyo


Warm-up instruction is complete, rolling instruction is complete.

Aikido Instruction and Practice

Aikido instruction (for the basic 10 techniques is now complete).

Kote-kaeshi (wrist turnout)
In a martial arts, self-defense scenario we are sometimes confronted with multiple attackers, sometimes a single attacker. For single attackers, immobilizing and pinning the attacker is often the goal. But we can't pin an attacker if we don't control them as they fall. Make sure to control your partner's elbow after the initial throw.

Irimi-nage entering throw)
In self-defense situations, chaos reigns and there is no way of knowing where you will end up with respect to the attacker as you move and turn. Irimi-nage and kote-kaeshi are 'sister techniques' in the sense that both involve the same initial movement.

Ikkyo (1st option)
Ikkyo is another pinning technique, ideal for single attacker situations, or during freestyle practice where you may need to take a breather.

Nikyo (2nd option)
Nikyo and ikkyo are also sister techniques.

Zen Instruction and Practice

3 Bells, 20 minutes zazen, 1 Bell - Timekeeper: Casey

Thanks to Donovan for joining us in zazen.

Special thanks to …

Chris, Casey, Donovan

Tuesday Evening, September 30th: Review Kokyu-nage, Nikyo, Irimi-nage


Warm-up instruction is complete, rolling instruction is complete.

Aikido Instruction and Practice

Instruction is complete (or as complete as it will be for this session).

Kokyu-nage (timing throw)
When breaking this throw down, try to keep it no more than 3 'counts'. Keep your feet under you, finish in the same stance that you started. For the attacker, it is best to turn toward the side of the neck that the defender is controlling and roll over that shoulder.

Nikyo (2nd option)
Relax, relax. Again, a nice '3 count' throw. We did not cover the pin tonight, but remember that this is a '3 palms' pin.

Irimi-nage (entering throw)
Keep your feet alive and quiet. As an attacker, beginners tend to make big, stomping steps. Work to make them smaller and lighter.

Zen Instruction and Practice

3 Bells, 20 minutes of zazen, 1 Bell - Timekeeper: Rick

One of the main reasons we integrate zazen into our Aikido instruction is to learn to relax. Return to this moment, this breath, your posture, the dojo - and examine for yourself what it means to relax. There is an answer to relaxation within a zazen practice.

Special thanks to …

Mial, Dale, Ken, Simon, Rick, Paul V, Paul R, Paul M, Rich, Dave

Monday Noon, September 29th: Review Ikkyo, Nikyo, Kokyu-nage, Irimi-nage


Full warm-up set, including small forward rolls, backward rolls

Aikido Instruction and Practice

This is week 8, a review week. Good martial arts practice, good self-defense training is about instruction and practice ... again and again and again.

Remember to the pin, 5 points - controlling the wrist and elbow, knee in the ribs and on the toes.

Think of Nikyo as the 2nd option on a decision tree. The first option occurs when we have our partner bent over with a straight elbow. Nikyo is the 2nd option, when we may have our partner bent over, but with a bent elbow.

A great throw when we find ourselves alongside the attacker, with his / her head on our 'back' shoulder.

A great throw when we find ourselves alongside the attacker, with his / her head on our 'front' shoulder.

Zen Instruction and Practice

3 Bells, 20 minutes zazen, 1 Bell: Timekeeper - Casey. Sometimes it is helpful to think of zazen as 'plugging holes.' A hole occurs when our attention is being grabbed by something the we see or think. One easy thing to do before starting zazen is to make sure that the number of distracters are at a minimum. Before sitting down, take a quick look around - close all doors, pick up anything laying on the mat, etc.

Special thanks to …


Wednesday Noon, September 24th: Kokyu-nage, Ikkyo


Finished rolling instruction

Aikido Instruction and Practice

Aikido as a martial art, Aikido as a self-defense is built on a multitude of responses that the defender will use depending on each attack. For our basic Aikido instruction, we will always teach 10 basic throws.

Kokyu-nage (timing throw, back shoulder throw)
Aikido is truly the ultimate 'multiple-attacker' self defense. In the course of dealing with many attackers, as a defender you will find yourself turning and advancing to where you will constantly find yourself in unexpected positions with respect to the attacker. A great martial art, Aikido provides a practiced response for nearly every situation. This particular throw is ideal if you find your attacker's head close to your 'rear shoulder.'

Ikkyo (1st option)
The response to any self-defense situation can be 'modeled' as a decision tree. Very often you will start down one path and adjust as your attacker adjusts, or adjust as you learn more information about your attacker's intentions. For many throws, ikkyo can be thought of as the top of one of those decision trees. It is naturally followed by a 2nd option, 3rd option, etc.

Zen Instruction and Practice

3 Bells, 20 minutes zazen, 1 Bell: Timekeeper: Donovan

Decisiveness is a valuable lesson from sitting zazen. What is the root of decisiveness? Acceptance! If you can't fully accept this exact moment at this exact time, how can you ever be decisive?

And how do we practice acceptance in zazen? We accept that we will not move, we will not clear our throats, we will not sigh, breathe heavily, sniff or scratch. And of course, the acceptance of all this will inevitably generate an internal dialogue. Embrace the moment, embrace the dialogue, return to this moment

Special thanks …

Chris and Donovan

Evening Tuesday September 23rd: Ude-nage, Shiho-nage, Sayu-nage


Continued rolling instruction

Aikido Instruction and Practice

Weeks 7 and 8 are review weeks for the 10 techniques we have covered. Week 9 will be independent review, groups of 3 will work together on the list of 10 techniques. Weeks 10, 11, 12 will be what this class is all about: freestyle practice.

There is a martial arts truism that goes something like: "Your best self-defense is your mind." A perhaps more appropriate would be something more like: "Your best self-defense is the understanding of how your mind works (sometimes called 'essence of mind'.) You won't come to any realization of your essence of mind through freestyle practice, but you may come to the point where you want to understand the workings of your mind.

Ude-nage A (arm throw, cutting like a sword)
Remember ... this is not about bending from your waist, it is a strong pivot of your hips! In martial arts, in any self-defense scheme, in all sports, power is generate about a stable base and powerful hip action.

Shiho-nage (4 way throw)
If your partner is doing this pretty well, as the attacking partner, you can add additional resistance.

Sayu-nage (left-right throw)
Again, a sequence of 4 distinct steps. Eventually the time of each step and the time between steps will be shortened dramatically - but 'show me the steps!'

Zen Instruction and Practice

3 Bells, 20 minutes zazen, 1 Bell

Return to your breathing, return to your posture, return to this moment.

Special thanks …

Paul V, Paul M, Lochlin, Simon, Mial, Ken, Rich

To note

I will be out on Thursday. Mial will continue with the review of techniques. See you next Tuesday.