The Art of Winning Blog

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Boys Hitting Girls

Boys Hitting Girls

By Nami Bhasin

For those of you who haven’t yet met me in person, I stand at a staggering 5’ tall and am certainly not the strongest woman you’ll ever meet.  Not surprisingly, I was just a bit afraid of entering the Dojo, where men and women of different shapes, sizes, and skill levels all train together. On my first day, I had hoped beyond hope that my training partners would take a little pity and be gentle with me.

Then I got paired with my very own Goliath (suffice it to say, allnames have been changed to protect the identities of actual people. Also, he isn’t really a giant, but he is very tall).

Goliath was assigned with grabbing my lapel while I found a way to get out of the grab and move to a safe distance. Not once in that 1-hour class did my giant opponent, “take it easy,” with his grabs. Each time he tugged at my Gi, I grew slightly more furious with him. Doesn’t he realize this is my first class? Doesn’t he see that I’m just a little girl?

I spent myself on frustration until somewhere in the middle of class, while I was catching my breath with my back on the mat,when I realized the only thing I was mad at was his insistence on treating me as I might be treated in a real-life scenario. He wasn’t a bullying goon, but he was acting like one on purpose—and it was to help me learn! I soon felt gratitude for my training partner, who saw in me what I did not see in myself- a woman who is strong and capable of defending herself.  There was amindful practicality to Goliath’s toughness, and I saw in him a type of masculinity that was new to me. He was compassionate, but tough. Fair, but practical.

I recently read an article about the push in New York to ban Mixed Martial Arts, and the subsequent backlash by UFC President Dana White, who describes the ban as, “thepussification of America.” Some of MMA’s defenders have castDavid (as in, “…and Goliath”) as the model for today’s young males. The disturbing dissonance here is that David was completely aware of his own body, size, and ability. He leveraged what he had to kill the giant Goliath. In order to fight MMA style (or any other ring sport, for that matter), one must change his body to match that of his opponent. Where David acted mindfully, many fighters are being asked to conform to a specific and narrow definition of masculinity that says, “Men win fights. Period.”

To the men of the Dojo, I offer my humble thanks for practicing martial arts with a purpose.  Since that first class, I’ve been paired with many a Goliath (it turns out a lot of men at the Dojo are quite tall), and I never again prayed for special treatment. Their best shot at me is my best shot at learning how to defend myself.








Sunday, February 23, 2014

5 Things Zippy Likes about being a Ninja

Five Things I like about Being a Ninja
By: Zipporah (Zippy) Abraham Paiss

1. Creative Expression
Life as a ninja is unexpected and wonderful. As a person goes throughout life, they are learning and adapting to the things they love and the individual they want to be. Yet, how we learn is up to us. Creative expression is a way of studying that is fun, makes concepts stick, adapts to each distinctive personality, and applies to our emotions as well as our intellect. Being a ninja has taught me how to reveal emotions and feelings through works of art. Specifically, through a martial art.

2. Cultivating intuition
When someone is hurling themselves at you at full speed and you have half a second to choose your next move, it takes complete mental clarity and focus to be the dividing force between yourself and another. Ninjahood has armed me with a strong shield of self-confidence; I can stand up to an attacker because I believe in my capability to defend myself. I know when and where to move to, and the situations when it is best to run for the nearest phone. 

3. Physical activity
A ninja, by definition, is a person skilled in ninjutsu. Yes, we get to punch, kick, run, hip chuck, and choke our training partners, and through all the huffing and puffing fun, we are training every part of our body. In addition to training the mind, ninjahood keeps you physically fit. There are always days when it’s too cold, hot, wet, etc. to be motivated to exercise, but I don't think of To-Shin Do as work; staying fit just happens to be a benefit.

4. All-inclusive
Contrary to popular belief, a ninja is not limited to an old Japanese man who can jump in the air and kick five times before landing on one toe. In To-Shin Do, anyone can be a ninja. My mother, sister and best friends have all trained/are currently training. I can officially say I lead a “ninja” life for I practice To-Shin-Do principles outside the dojo, my family supports my training and I see myself continuing to train for many years ahead. Being a ninja is a path for life open to anyone and everyone. Ninjahood is not a private club, rather it’s an universal invitation to a better life.

5. Unique occupation
Person: “What do you do in you’re free time?” 
Me: “You know, I use martial arts to expand my understanding of the world, believe in myself and the consequences of my actions, enlarge my own personal potential as well as that of others, and make the world a better place.”

Plenty of people practice sports and participate in clubs. In comparison, demographically, being a ninja is a rare occupation. To-Shin Do doesn’t just foster ninjas; it cultivates better people and an enhanced world as a result. I love being a ninja!

Join the family.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Path to Black: Antonio Dixon

My Path and the Lessons Along the Way

By Antonio Dixon

My first encounter that I remember of the Ninja was ananimated character from my youth named Snake Eyes. The G.I.Joe figurine was a big deal among my friends. Everyone wanted to be him. Why not! He was cooler than the rest of them because there was nothing he couldn’t do. At some point I started making may own ninja weapons such as wooded shuriken and trying mind control on my friends. Although I didn’t knowNinjutsu existed as something I could learn, the path was calling out to me.

Twenty years went by and I checked out some dojos here and there with nothing taking root. I found myself working at an outdoor experiential education center and making friends with two co-workers Ian Sanderson and Randle Charles. They were great teachers and were always looking for the truth on how lifereally works. This is still true today of my friends.

One day during lunch at work Ian had just gotten back froa week-long training in Boulder. He stated talking to me about themartial art he had been doing and invited me to join him in training. I told him I would think about it. Not really sure about the whole thing, I did not go.

A month went by and Ian asked again. This time I said yes. I could always just check it out, right?

To my surprise when I showed up for training I saw three other co-workers training. They were already doing rolls and break falls. These were people I worked closely with and I had no idea that they were a part of what was now starting to look like a secret ninja group that I was invited to join. I was sold before the first lesson.

The trainings that first summer were often intense, long, and consisted of kata and ninja philosophy. At times ourconversations were about the lineage and how this art came to us at that moment. These conversations would take me far into my imagination and at that time I was starting to understanding that this art is infinite and deep with meaningWe found ourselves training in after-hours office spaces, empty homes being renovated and outdoor parks. Anywhere and everywhere was our dojo.

That same summer there was news of a seminar happening in Boulder Colorado with Stephen K. Hayes at the dojo that my friends, and now training partners, were planning to go to. They said that this would be a good way to be introduced to To-Shin Do formally.  I decided to go and in the process I ended upmeeting the owners of the Boulder Quest Center who would later become my teachers. As the seminar was about to begin I stood in line to bow in. It was me at the end of the line with my first time tying on my white belt. Some colored belts werebefore me and then a long line of black belts that never seemed to end. I was nervous and excitedAn-shu came out and with a smile asked everyone to sit down. The person holding the space of the linage for me, my friends, and our secret ninja group in Santa Fe was right in front of me. I felt a direcconnection to something bigger, a connection to the lineage and community ofNinjutsu. An-shu said if you are in seiza please feel free to sit in a way that makes you comfortable.  He continued to say that in our western culture we are not as accustom to sitting in this posture for a long time. I immediately felt understood. The training went on that weekend and I trained with many black belts and never did one of them seem too big in ego, or that they don’t train with white belts, or that they were not willing to help me. This felt good. It crossed my mind if I would ever be like those black belts that helped me and what this path will look like for me.

Since that seminar I have learned that To-Shin Do is a journey ofsmall transformations that have led me to having a full sense of being a well-rounded human. The most noticeable growth I saw in myself is how I receive feedback, which is funny because I work at a place that is always giving and receiving feedback. I thought I was good at this. Being told I was not ready to advance to the next belt was challenging at times because as a long distance student the next time I could test would be 3 months or 6 months away, or sometimes moreThis made me take a close look at my ego and need to feel accomplished. Why do I feel this way? What is the truth about how I see myself? Do I trust how my teacher sees me? How will I know I’m ready without letting my ego in the way? This is where believing in yourself, in what you do, and your teacher(s) is key. Applying the student creed to all aspects of training and life allows me to recognize and overcome self-doubt while working on accurately assessing myself and remaining humbly confidentTo me now any training is a form of advancement, not just getting a belt. It is all about the small transformations that lead to growth and reachingmy goals.

Another way I have grown as a result of training in To-Shin Do is studying the elements. It has given me a bigger picture on how we operate as humans. As I enjoyed experiencing each element in the movements and how it relates in our lives, Ialways found myself saying “I’m kind of Earthy, Watery, etc…” with all the elements. Somewhere in the Wind element it all started to not matter as much if I felt them and I started seeing the qualities of the elements playing out in my training, life, and in others. An example of this is I had an experience where someone was speaking aggressively to me and I become earthy. Not immovable, but confident. Not necessarily letting them talk to me that way, but in control of the situation. I also started feel compassion for this individual. This allowed me to make the right choices on how to defuse the situation. I believe this is a result of my training in To-Shin Do. Prior to my training verbal confrontation often resulted in me feeling like I had no control of what is going on and an overwhelming sea of emotions that where challenging to navigate.

Five years have gone by since I started training in To-Shin Do. I now have the opportunity to share this with others in a To-Shin Do Club that I formed with my studentsThis has given me the opportunity to help others on the path and give back to the lineage. I have been teaching the foundations of To-Shin Do and have found twice as much in the lessons. The beauty of To-Shin Do is that there is an endless amount to learn.

Finally, this has been a long and fulfilling journey and I would like to give a heartfelt thank you to all who have helped me along the way.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

World Politics and To-Shin Do

I've been contemplating the state of the world and how my experience on the mat and with the teaching is so often reflective and reflected. Today, I was thinking about the corruptability of systems and how hosed our economic and justice systems appear to me. It's hard to think about something so big, so I thought about our TSD testing procedure. First let me say I really admire our testing system and today I finally realized why.

First assumption: all quantifiable systems are corruptable. That's why we maintain both qualitative and quantative measures for advancement. If a system is fully quantifiable, you can game the system. Take standardized testing for example. When I took he SAT practice course, it wasn't teaching me the material on the test. It told me how to deduce the answer, even when I had no clue. Don't know the word or any synonyms/antonyms? No worries, just look for a suffix or prefix that's ou do know. Truthfully, it was a. Better life skill than algebra and worked well for me, but it certainly skews the SAT to people who can afford the practice classes so they can properly game the system. It's why it's so hard to tell you what you need to DO to pass your next test, whether for a belt or kihon ranking. I'm more interested in who you are becoming and how that is reflected in what you do. 

Second assumption: systems are important. That may seem odd since they are corruptable but if we didn't have systems, we'd create them. Imagine a society where no one had a name. Would you create a label for them anyway? Of course. So if we try to pretend there are no rules, then we are denying reality. Personally, denying reality is one of my fears and I strive every day to be more clear than the day before. 

So the truth is, there are standards you need to meet for each rank. And you need to change and grow as a human being and that's absolutely subjective. When I look at he world around me, it's hard to believe that To-Shin Do exists. It's a study in emotional intelligence (founded decades before that became a buzz word), in Praise coaching, in the reality of inter and intra personal conflict. It's frankly brilliant. It makes me wonder, what else are we doing right now, how are we changing in this very instant, that in 10 years will finally be mainstream cutting edge? (I do recognize the oxymoron). I'm so grateful to be part of a living art. 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hannya Shingyo

Most Sunday mornings, I'm either dancing or skiing. Both activities are a way for me to rest and rejuvenate and connect even more with my martial path. My martial path has long been a spiritual path as well. It is my laboratory, my sacred space, and my path. 

Today I danced. It was the instructor's birthday and I was looking forward to dancing the sacred as every class with her begins and ends with intention--much like we start with our codes too. I danced my heart out and it was wonderful. As we came into our centers and our space, the words "Hannya Shingyo" followed by "gyatei gyatei para gyatei...Hannya Shingyo" flowed through my mind. I love these moments when mantra present themselves to me, as if the universe is whispering or maybe I'm just so quiet, I can hear my mind. It is at once comforting and intriguing. 

A part of me wanted to quickly dissect the meaning, to know in my brain why I was hearing these words now, but I knew from experience that chasing the words wouldn't get me there, not in that state of mind. So I held the words and the space and I allowed time and myself to simply be. And words from another teaching, this time in English, sang the meaning for me: "this moment, in this space, is the brith of my opportunity to create the reality I experience". 

Every time we step on the mat, every time we release ourselves to the practice, we have the opportunity to get a little brighter, a little bigger, for our song to come into tune. We are so lucky to have this choice. I look forward to training with you this week. Let us all discover more about our path to peace, mindfulness, and release. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Getting from Now to There

As I shared last week, I have a strong vision of where I want to go. I want to build places where people can discover and express their true and highest selves. I want to help them carry their own lights so the world is a brighter place. I want them to be inspired by excellence. 

I am also aware of where I am right now. We are absolutely teaching the best martial art to achieve my goals. I have excellent staff supporting the vision and fantastic students who ask of greatness of themselves. I also have 125 of them and my vision is for 250+. 

Today I felt myself feeling stuck and frustrated. I wasn't sure how to move from the reality of Now to the vision I have for the There in the future. I had some ideas about the next step, but I wasn't sure what would come after that. I wanted to see every step that would lead me to There. 

Then I realized that my next step wasn't to plan every move. My next step was to go to the next milestone. If I know what to do next, then it's time to do it. I can worry about the next step once I get to that milestone. 

Our Code of Mindful Action held the answer all along "I avoid putting off doing that which will benefit me and my world today". What can you do today to help you reach your goals?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Warrior Is...

As part of our commitment to growing the dojo in 2014, the staff has been meeting and brainstorming. We've been talking about new seminars, private lesson packages, and additional areas of business. When talking about growth, personal or professional, it can be easy to lose sight of we intend to be. It's one of the reasons having our creeds is so important to our practice. We need to stay grounded in our values so that we direct our growth in a positive and fruitful manner. 

As a business we have a vision and a mission as well. These are more than words to complete a
business plan. These are grounding principles that give us a criteria for evaluating business decisions. We won't implement a new class, membership structure, seminar or activity unless it is in line with our mission and vision. I hope these words inspire you as much as they do for me. 

The Boulder Quest Center wakes you up to the potential of what is possible--
confidently and consistently helping you transcend cherished limitations to discover your own personal excellence. 

To create and retain Toshi (3rd degree and higher)

9 Attributes of a Warrior
For this, we need your help. You may have noticed the giant post-it's on the dressing room doors. These post-it's ask you to complete the phrase "a warrior is..."  Please help us by providing your insights into your experience of what it means to be a warrior. We will use these lists to distill a list of 9 attributes that describe warriors as a way of defining and describing our BQC culture and values. 

Be ninja!
Mary Aitoshi

Stephen K. Hayes Pro Shop

1501 Lee Hill Road #18|Boulder, Colorado 80304|Phone: 303.440.3647|Email: