Conferences > Extending Aikido Off the Mat: 2nd Annual Aiki Extensions Conference
May 20-21, 2000; Contributed by Vaughn Brandt
The Second Annual Aiki Extensions (AE) Conference combined the intellectual dialogue and stimulating presentations one would expect to find at a professional conference with the top quality training and Aikido practice that one typically encounters at a good seminar. The mix of dialogue with movement was a wonder to take part in as this eclectic group of aikidoka shared both ideas and techniques. The mind/body split was indeed effectively bridged at this unique gathering Aikido teachers and practitioners who take the principles of aikido off the mat and into their professional work.
The conference was held in Columbus, Ohio on May 20 th and 21 st. Paul Linden hosted the gathering in the spacious accommodations of the Aikido of Columbus dojo, which is also the site of the Columbus Center for Movement Studies. Don Levine, the founder AE, also played a key role in planning and organizing the event.
While the presentations and discussions were all held on the mat, the format of the conference was anything but traditional. The conference consisted of presentations, dialogues, and then of course, Aikido training. The wondrous part of it all, though, was the subtle blurring together that took place between these three formats.
The presentations included:
The presenters introduced their projects to extend Aikido off the mat by combining spoken word presentations, handouts, and flipcharts with hands-on demonstrations of how various Aiki Principles relate to the work they are doing. As the various presenters would discuss their projects and/or ideas they would frequently call someone up from the audience and perform some Aikido technique or exercise in order to physically elucidate the points they were making.
The dialogue sessions included:
The dialogue sessions were a less formal and highly interactive format of discussion and movements. These were usually held with everyone gathered around in a circle and were moderated by one person, who generally kept the group on the topic while also encouraging participation and demonstrations from everyone. During many of the dialogue sessions, we required whenever (if even remotely) possible that the participants who wanted to contribute an idea or concept to step up and into the circle to both physically and verbally describe or demonstrate their thoughts. This provided for lots of interaction and required the participants to literally, “practice what they were preaching!” It was good fun to make that bridge between ideas and movement in order to communicate. Interestingly, it also seemed that when movements were included in the verbal debate the participants were more connected and harmonious in their processing of the dialogue – which was indeed a testimony to the power of the group’s mission.
And then there was the training! For this part of the conference, participants changed into traditional Aikido gi and hakama to practice the art. Because AE is a unique amalgamation of aikidoka from many different organizations, we practiced in a round-robin style, with each person taking a turn teaching a favorite technique. This proved to be great fun as we finally got a chance work up a healthy sweat and really move around and take some rolls. The training had a rather unique feeling because of diversity of the styles and the very egalitarian method of teaching and practicing.
All in all, the conference proved to be a real success for this relatively new organization. Figuring out exactly who we are as a group and how we can most effectively communicate what we have to offer the world still remain paramount in our future directions, but the conference definitely brought us up to the next level of understanding those rather large questions.
On a more personal note, it was truly inspiring for me to meet and interact with such an accomplished group people. The crowd who is attracted to AE and those who were able to attend the conference were as diverse and refined as the techniques of Aikido themselves. For anyone who has looked at what they do in their professional role and asked themselves the question, “Why isn’t this more like the model of Aikido?” I would highly recommend getting on board and affiliating with this group of people.
As we all move into the 21 st Century, the remnants of Cartesian Dualism and the old mind/body split still need to be overcome, and what better way to do so than by taking the lessons of Aikido off the mat and into the rest of the world? However, this is no simple task, and getting together to refresh and recharge with like-minded people is an invaluable experience that helped me immensely to recommit myself to that path.
Vaughn Brandt is a student of Aikido of Madison, in Madison Wisconsin, where he trains under John Stone and Robin Cooper. He works in the Wisconsin inpatient mental health institutes and secure treatment facilities in the field of client rights. In his professional role, he emphasizes problem-solving negotiations and harmonious approaches to dispute resolution and staff training.
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