We have a great, big, congratulations to our very own Jessica Hilliam for opening her own school at the community center on Granville Island in downtown Vancouver!
Lucky Dog Dojo
False Creek Community Centre
1318 Cartwright Street
Granville Island (next to the water park)
Weekly classes on Saturdays from 1:30-3:00pm
$125/6 sessions (first period starts Sep 16, next one is Oct 28)
falsecreekcc.ca for more info and payment online when available (still showing Spring/Summer 2017 right now)
Jess Hilliam, Sensei
She is doing fantastic and will be an excellent instructor! We highly encourage everyone to sign up with her!
Now, for the sad news... As some of you already know, Denman Fitness is set to close their doors soon due to the hotel being closed and sold for condos. As a result, we will also be closing for the time being. Our last class will be on Thursday, August 31. But, we plan on joining Jess on her new adventures with Lucky Dog Dojo. Join us there!
Please feel free to contact any of the three of us with any questions you may have.
What is different about our Aikido?
by Heather Gawlick
I've been pondering the question of who we are as Aikidoka. I've been asked a lot over the years who we are and how we fit in the Aikido world.
It's a fair question.
We aren't Aikikai, Ki Society, or pure Tomiki style. We don't belong to those groups. But, I don't believe we are on the fringes, either.
Those of us who studied under the Karl Geis umbrella while he was alive became a part of a different group with its own merits. I learned before the Internet took off, so information about other Aikido dojos was limited and I really didn't know anything about what other styles there were. Now, thanks to YouTube and other resources, I'm starting to open my eyes and mind a bit more.
The katas as I originally learned them look almost identical to what I see other Tomiki groups doing. It is very clear that is where we got our roots. Over the years since I started, we have slowed the techniques down, softened them, and rounded out the edges a bit. But, they are still clearly Tomiki techniques.
One thing that is very different from the other Tomiki groups is we don't do the competitions they are famous for. Karl told me he objected to the competitions because when you are trying to score points, that becomes the focus and it changes things. Karl wanted to keep the self-defense aspects of our Aikido as the focus, which makes it too dangerous to do as a sport with competitions. When everything you do results in broken bones, no one is going to want to keep coming to class.
Instead of competitions, Karl had us focus on randori, or free-style practice. The goal is to find the off-balance points and the places where one partner is in a terminal position. Randori done this way involves going so slowly the competition fades away and in its place is a focus on learning where your bodies can end up - spinal lock, arm bar, throw... It is practiced in the spirit of learning, playing, and safety - not winning. It is a tool for understanding that kata are your basic dance moves and they can be joined in an infinite number of combinations to make a full ballet.
Later, Karl created a set of kata to take the basic moves and chain them together. I see it as a way to bridge the gap between the scripted set of moves that makes up a kata and the anarchy that is randori. Some teachers have replaced the Tomiki kata with these chains containing the old techniques. I like to use all three sets of tools. They each teach a different lesson as a student progresses in their understanding of Aikido.
I think all the masters of Aikido have left their mark on this beautiful and graceful art, each one taking what Ueshiba invented and leaving a piece of themselves imbedded in their interpretation of how the body moves. Ueshiba passed his Aikido to Tomiki. Tomiki passed his Aikido to Karl Geis. Karl Geis passed his Aikido to me. I've picked up a few ideas of my own over the years and have passed them on to my students. I hope my students will pass their ideas on down to the next generation.
When dealing with an art that involves movement of the body, there is no perfect technique. Each time it is executed, there is a little bit of a change. If there wasn't, it would be a dead art.
Karl Geis has left quite a legacy for all of us who studied under him. I'll always be grateful to Karl and all my teachers over the years for everything they have taught me. I'm honored to walk in their footsteps. I'll do my best to pass the legacy and love we call Aikido on to others.
Where does the name Shinju Dojo come from?
by Heather Gawlick
Ah, yes. The famous question. Well, there's a story behind that...
When I first opened the dojo, I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was the day to go down and get my business license, but I still had not come up with a proper name for the school.
I was competing with the Teenage Mutant Ninjas who actually had a school near me and I wanted something a little less boring than "Albuquerque Aikido," although that would have put me at the top of the Yellow Pages listing.
So, back I went to my little used Japanese language traveler's dictionary. (This was 1999 and the Internet was just starting to take off. People still used paper books for reference.)
I was looking for something like Zen, tranquility, peace... All I kept finding were words that were way too complicated for me to figure out how to pronounce or words that either sounded like Spanish, or had the same spelling. There are a lot of people living in Albuquerque who are very fluent in Spanish. I had to be careful about that. I was getting frustrated.
Finally, I came across "shinju," meaning "pearl." Well, at least it wasn't offensive and met the criteria. I like pearls. Every girl does. So there it was. Pearl Dojo.
I got my business license, set up the web site, printed business cards, got a location, and off I went on my merry little way.
One day, years later I was at one of my favorite hangouts - the used bookstore. In big, bold letters sat a book with the name "Shinju." Of course I had to read it.
To my horror, I discovered a new meaning for the word shinju. Apparently, the Japanese use it to mean double suicide. Like Romeo and Juliette, but with more drama and a very negative connotation. Oh no!
Could this be the reason I was having a hard time getting students?... Please tell me it isn't true!
So, I started scouring the Internet hoping to find some new meaning.
A-ha! There it was! I found kanji (Japanese characters) translating shinju to mean self-defense. I was rescued. Whew, that was close!
New business cards were purchased. A new logo designed, featuring the kanji to make sure all Japanese people would know I didn't mean joining my dojo would require suicidal or homicidal acts. T-shirts were made up.
One day at work, a lady stopped me in the hall and commented on my t-shirt with kanji. She said she was Japanese and thought it was "interesting." My heart stopped as I asked her to translate it for me. She said, "protect yourself." Whew! I finally had it right.
I was all set to go.
Ten years or so later, another instructor was visiting from out of town. His wife is Japanese and teaches it to us dumb English speakers. Being a very nice lady, she politely asked why we would choose shinju as the name of our dojo.
"Ummmmm... It means self-defense?..."
She looked at me funny.
"Ummmmm... I also heard it means pearl?..."
"Ah, yes," she said. "That makes much more sense! You don't have the bar over the 'u.' Because, with the bar over the 'u,' it means..."
"Yeah, I know. Double suicide."
I told her the story and asked her about the self-defense kanji. As it turns out, that kanji doesn't mean self-defense in the martial arts sort of way, more like in a political/hostile sort of way. Not at all what I was hoping for.
So, back to pearl we go. New logo has been set up. New web site configured. New business cards are on the way.
My husband says maybe a new name in English would be simpler. I know he's right. (Yes, dear, I admitted you're right. In print. In public. Stop gloating already!)
But, then we wouldn't have the funny story to go with our name. What can I say? It's grown on me and I'm not ready to give it up.
A friend of ours reminded us that our pearl is the love we share for one another in the dojo and that is the real gem. He's right, too.
Someday, maybe I can get my other friend to tell you about how his dojo got the name "Frog School..."
Heather and Roy Gawlick love Aikido and have a passion for sharing it with others. They hope you'll catch the Aikido bug, too!
Shinju Dojo Aikido Martial Arts School in Longview / Kelso, Washington