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Bob Noha Sensei has practiced Aikido for 54 years. He has founded four Aikido dojos and has been Chief Instructor of Aikido of Petaluma for the last 38 hears. Bob was a former instructor to U.S Air Force Military Police and has an extensive cross-training background with experience in Kenpo Karate, Boxing, Judo, Pa Kua, Hsing-I and 49 years of training in T’ai-chi Ch’uan.

Tom Collings’ very heartfelt article advocated ways in which more people, especially younger people, can be attracted to the practice of Aikido.His love and concern for the art’s future came through very clearly.This is a worthy goal and I want to express gratitude for his care regarding the future of the art and admiration for his specific program for achieving the goal.

I would like to offer some additional thoughts on how the art can be made more appealing to another part of the population — the 27% of people, according to a PEW survey, who designate themselves as spiritual, but not religious.One of the important points made in Tom Collings’ article is that branding is crucial to success.

Our dojo has specifically focused on the spiritual, but not religious, part of the population.We have had some success in attracting people in their late twenties to early 50s, both men and women.People in this age group have had some significant life experience and a realization that there is more to life than 9 to 5 and pray for the weekend.At the same time, they also recognize the value of enhanced functionality in work, home, and other important aspects of life, as well as the need for physical activity to promote good health.

Where I think the art has fallen short is in not presenting specific practices to lead people to experience the refined states of spiritual wholeness O-Sensei so eloquently talked about and more importantly modeled.This approach toAikido offers an opportunity for deep spiritual experience in a practice with a physical and functional form.The vast majority of people suffer more from a lack of wholeness and meaning in their lives than from the effects of violent attacks.

The number of police officers who committed suicide outnumbered those killed in the line of duty for the third straight year according to an article in USA Today.This gruesome statistic highlights the great need for practices that promote spiritual, mental, and physical wellbeing even in the most dangerous jobs, let alone for the majority of us who don’t experience the kind of danger police officers do.

I propose that we work to develop a third-tier of practice to complement Tom Collings’ proposed structure of practice.Aikido has the potential to produce the same profound spiritual awakening in people that Zen, Yoga, and many other spiritual traditions offer.To realize that potential it needs to be a specific priority in Aikido classes.

One practice we do is to work with the same technique from the perspective of manifest/physical; hidden/energetic and divine/emptiness of small self.These are three states of consciousness that O-Sensei himself talked about in his lectures and modeled in his Aikido.It does not require one to be at O-Sensei’s level or anywhere near it to have meaningful spiritual experiences.

As Tom Collings so clearly stated, to be taken seriously, you have to deliver on your promise on the benefits the art offers.We can offer several perspectives on the art depending on who we are trying to appeal to.I think the greater number of long-term students are likely to come from people at or near middle-age looking for meaning and wholeness in their lives regardless of their age.If we want to promote the art as one of spiritual wholeness, we need to be able to offer practices that give our students that experience, just as Tom Collings’ article says about self-defense.I think significant progress can be made in the six month timeframe he outlined for self-defense competence.

I share a dojo space with people who practice Kenpo Karate, Escrima, and Kickboxing and have even sat on their promotion boards.We have always operated with mutual respect for the specific aims of our practices.

Respectfully submitted,

Bob Noha

Aikido of Petaluma

This content was originally published here.

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