The Art of Winning Blog

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Choosing to Face Danger

In 2008, I wrote an article on the holidays and family violence. I put in that article things you could do other than avoid risk. Later, a letter the editor indicated one woman’s distress that I stated it's ok to choose to be in a dangerous situation. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this woman’s discomfort as I’ve been building my Warrior Divas concept. I’ve been thinking about what makes my approach different than other approaches I’ve encountered and I think this argument is at the crux of the matter. I believe that women have the right to choose to put themselves in dangerous situation.

I believe women have the right to be soldiers, doctors, cab drivers, welders, ninja, astronauts, housewives, editors, students, lesbians, designers, adventurers, or homebodies. I believe they should embrace life with all its risks and rewards. I believe I train in martial arts to be a better protector of myself, my family, my community, and my planet. I trust that having a strong personal foundation will help me be a better person. I understand that the more I know about myself, the more risks I take, the more I stretch myself, the more I can help others. I push myself all the time to do more, be more, grow more. I give myself rest time every day so that I can integrate all I’ve learned. I rejoice in spending time by myself, with my husband, and surrounded by friends. I love to teach; I love to learn.

These dualistic pairings of opposites are the epitome of womanhood. They are our strength, our power, our core. To deny our ability to stand tall and face danger is to deny ourselves all the joy life. I think we as women should strive to be more than we were yesterday. I train in To-Shin Do® to discern the difference between fear, intuition, and premonition. I train so that when I need to decide whether or not it’s safe to walk down that alley, I make that choice based on my judgment of the present. I believe that this moment, right now, is my opportunity to create a more capable world. Why would I deny that call?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Best Ninja Gear for the Holidays!

If you are looking for martial arts gear this holiday season, it is important to know you are buying from a reputable retailer. Those of us in martial arts know how difficult this is, especially on the internet. I'm not sure why it's such a pervasive problem but it's too big for me to fix.
What I can do however is share with you the best site for ninja gear! This is my teacher's website and everything listed is top quality. Whether you are shopping for DVDs, books, t-shirts, or training weapons, this is the best place to shop. No other company has gear so tailored to the ninja and so relevant to what we do. If you can't find it in our pro-shop or online, talk to me about whether it's a worthwhile purchase. I am happy to save you the heartache of disappointing goods.
Shop Now!
Mary Aitoshi

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cardinal Rules

Recently, Erich Smith (Chapel Hill Quest) and I were having an exchange on Facebook. I thought his realizations and connections were so cool that they needed to be shared with more people. Erich gave me permission to repost his ideas here. Thanks Erich!

I was inspired today by your fantastic new window posters! I was thinking also about the recent post about the dojo phrases we internalize.

We've accreted several phrases at the CHQC over the years, but the core have always been:

Keep your...
knees bent,
back straight,
eyes open and on the bad guy,
move your feet!

[We repeat these] over and over and over again. Today, I tried to listen to them with fresh ears, and heard something completely new (to me):

knees bent - CHI
back straight (movement with head over hips over feet) - SUI
eyes open and on the bad guy - KA
move your feet - FU

From a certain point of view, each of the elements could be viewed as isolated (for learning's sake) explorations of the dynamics presented in the cardinal rules.

If I had to pick a dojo phrase for void/KU, I'd go with "It's always my turn!"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Can't

We have a lot of folk wisdom in the dojo. "Keep blood in your skin sack". "It's always your turn". "Hard weapons=soft targets". But I think my favorite is the one we aren't allowed to say "I can't". If you say those words on the mat, you'll quickly find yourself doing push-ups but you'll also have an instructor right there to talk to you to phrase what you really mean. It could be that you think "This is really hard" or it could be "I have no idea what you mean". These two statements are very different and making the distinction between them will allow your training to progress. The words "I can't" stop all future growth; you just stop dead and now you start trying to prove how you really can't. You can. Maybe not today or even tomorrow but if you keep trying eventually you'll say "I did it"!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Meditation in Business

I came across a great article today and it struck me how much business has deepened in the past few decades. I think we went through a period of time where personal fulfillment and positive impact on the world took a backseat to the almighty dollar. This article on perseverance and mindset reflects the changes we all need to recognize as valuable to continue the promised transitions of the 21st century.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Your Local Martial Arts Dojo

The Boulder Weekly has a great article this week about the use of the word "local" and it's co-opting by big business. (You can read it here for more background.) Obviously as the owner of a local business, I am a big supporter of community based businesses. But I also shop at chain locations because sometimes local isn't the right answer (I'm totally fine with mass produced toilet paper, airplanes, and telephones).
Here at the Boulder Quest Center, I think we have the perfect balance of global/local. Our dojo is 100% owned and operated in Boulder. However, we license our curriculum and some marketing materials from SKH Quest in Dayton, OH. We get the benefit of our teacher's research, travels to Japan, and expertise in creating the most effective, life-enhancing self defense curriculum on the planet. The idea of a Casey-Ryu Ninjutsu being comparable is literally laughable. Yet when it comes to making decisions about pricing, class schedules, even class offerings (not all To-Shin Do dojos also offer Belly Dance), those decisions lie firmly on Keitoshi's and my shoulders. And if we need support, we have a tight family of expert dojo owners to help us see our possible decisions clearly.
As in our martial path, we are constantly training to be better individuals, better citizens, and better entrepreneurs. Who do you know in our local community who would benefit from authenic empowerment training? Our mission at the Boulder Quest Center is to help individuals live a life choice to unleash their potential. How can we help you achieve your goals? Contact me (Mary Aitoshi) to setup a free intro lesson.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Importance of Walk

Today we studied tracking with instructor Ian Sanderson as part of BQC's Grown-Up Ninja Camp. 50% of tracking is looking at footprints and as we studied the different tracks, we discussed how different animals interact differently with their prints. Some animals will notice if you step in their tracks. Some animals step their back foots into their front prints. Other animals (like the roadrunner) have a symmetrical print.

With all the thoughts of the spiritual and psychological aspects to walking, the next logical line of inquiry was America's Next Top Model. I love ANTM and one of the biggest themes of the show is on the runway walk. It's about how you move and what you communicate with every step. In a paved world where it's hard to leave a mark, the view of our walk becomes so important. The ninja are an excellent example of signature walks. The way we glide silently over terrain is immediately recognizable, if you can manage to spot us. Our walk represents how we interact with our environment and what we communicate to the world. Even the split-toed tabi has a message: a commitment to balance and functionality, even a nod to traditional knowledge. It's fascinating to me that our walk is similiar despite 900 years of martial tradition evolution. I know it's trendy to leave no trace but I think animals instinctively want to make an impression. Even if gliding silently through the shadows, ninja do so to have a quiet, positive impact on the world. What do your tracks look like?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Books for Entrepreneurs

How often do you make recommendations that go nowhere?

The person doesn't take your advice. Your advice gets lost in a myriad of tweets or status updates or Mafia Wars requests. Even worse, the person goes in the opposite direction and thinks they are following your advice. Well that's not what happened to me today! I responded to an inquiry about books that have influenced me as an entrepreneur, but aren't really entrepreneurial books. My book pick made it into the Top 10! Check it out and then tell me about a book that's made a difference in your life.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Aitoshi on Densho blog

I am so excited to be a guest blogger on For those of you who regularly read the Densho, you know what a high quality blog An-Shu maintains. It is a huge honor to be on the blog and share my thoughts on the national forum. My blog "A Feminine Perspective on Fighting" is filled with insights into my martial path. If you've ever wondered why I started on this path or why I continue, check out my story.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Congratulations testers!

Boulder Quest had an awesome graduation tonight. Kim Speek did her demo, one of her requirements for Brown Black. Both Kim and Jenn Zuko Boughn did some free response against armed attackers. Every tester from White belts to Brown Belts did an incredible job. Check out the Boulder Quest group on Facebook and share your pictures with us. Also, please post your answer to the question: What was your favorite part of the test?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Green Martial Arts

Rather than print out color copies of our 12 page Green Guide (which would have been convenient and ironic), I am emailing you a copy. The health of the planet is important to us, especially when we look at the dynamics of planetary health and self defense.

Some facts you might not know about the Boulder Quest Center:
1. We are wind powered.
2. Our carpets are made from recycled tires.
3. Our paints were hand-rolled and low-VOC to lessen impact.
4. We stained the existing concrete rather than pouring new concrete.
5. Our floors and wainscoting are bamboo, which is a sustainable grass.
6. Our cups are compostable corn.
7. We recycle paper and mixed containers. We offer recycling and composting in the public areas.

If you have any suggestions about further ways we can green the dojo, please contact me at

Happy Earth Day!
Mary Aitoshi

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Stalking in the 21st Century

There are six major stalking types found in the United States and it's no longer just celebrities who need to worry about them. As American females our conditioned responses can often lead us astray in effectively countering a stalker. In April's Women's Magazine , I discuss the stalker types and how to effectively protect yourself (without having to engage in hand-to-hand combat). For more information on training in the most effective self defense (To-Shin Do), visit Stephen K. Hayes Quest Network for a list of schools. In the Boulder, CO area, you can train with me at the Boulder Quest Center.
View the article

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I always love to see our students blogging about classes and seminars. It is such a strong testament to our community that folks take the time to share with everyone. I hope you'll check out Boulder Quest's own, Jenn Zuko Boughn sharing her enlightenments from the Stephen K. Hayes seminar. While your there, why not follow her blog too?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Award

Mary Aitoshi has won round trip airfare to NYC to attend the Running the Make Mine a Million $ Business event at the American Express headquarters. Woo-Whoo!

When it comes to the wallet health of female entrepreneurs, the very best organization I've found to support and drive growth is Make Mine a Million $ Business. Founded by powerhouse Nell Merlino, the M3 RACE is a year-long drive for runners to push themselves to new heights and revenues. At the upcoming event, I will learn techniques to clarify my vision, pitch my business, and learn from other entrepreneurs. As a Sam Walton Emerging Entrepreneur, I am already benefiting from the Make Mine a Million $ Business organization. My business coach has done more for my bottom line than four years of struggling to get it right. I don't know where the magic comes from but I've been studying martial arts long enough to recognize when I've found the right path to success. The M3 RACE is motivation and implementation in an excellent package. If you are a woman business owner, I hope you'll join me in the race.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Decrease Fear, Increase Safety with this seminar

Mary Casey, owner and co-founder of Boulder Quest Center, is excited to announce a free women’s event in honor of Rape Crisis Awareness Month. On April 18, 2009, Mary and other teachers at the Boulder Quest Center are hosting Protect Yourself: Ladies Night. This free event is open to women interested in learning how to protect themselves in uncertain times. The workshop will teach scaleable responses for real-world applicability in defeating larger attackers, deescalating potential violence, and getting home safely. 3rd degree black belt Mary Casey leads this powerful seminar drawing on her years as a rape and family violence crisis volunteer, her adventures safely navigating scary locations throughout the world, and her 12 years exploring the secret arts of the ninja. Invite your friends and make this a memorable girl's night out! No martial experience needed -- just the desire to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Protect Yourself :: Ladies Night

Saturday, April 18
3pm to 5pm

Mary Casey, President
Boulder Quest Center
1200 Yarmouth Ave
Boulder, CO 80304
(303) 440-3647

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cool ninja!

Congratulations to Boulder Quest Center red-white belt and City Councilwoman, Angelique Espinoza, for being named "Woman of the Year" by the Boulder Business and Professional Women (BPW).

From the BPW news release:
The 2009 Celebration of Women Event gives Boulder BPW the honor of recognizing the women who serve our community by supporting and inspiring others to promote BPW’s mission politically, professionally and personally. The honorees chosen by this year’s committee encapsulate the level of participation, equity and economic self-sufficiency for working women we hope to advocate for all women in the future. These women are the “super heroines” of our time!

Woman of the Year – Angelique Espinoza A long-time Boulder resident and CU alumna, mother, small business owner, community leader and volunteer, Angelique Espinoza is “walking the walk” through her intimate involvement in the political landscape to instigate change, accountability and responsibility in our city government. A former Boulder BPW Board Member for three years, Angelique has been a true advocate of women’s issues. She faithfully honored her commitment to produce the monthly newsletter, despite being in the middle of her own campaign. Her courageous leap into politics as a City of Boulder Council Member is an inspiration to all.
--end quote--

Please join me in congratulating Angelique on this major honor!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hooray for Awkward Moments

Every martial artist struggles with graceful transitions. Whether we're discussing the transfer of weight between feet or the shift from student to Coach, everyone struggles to maximize grace and minimize awkwardness. Yet the awkwardness holds for us the greatest moments of revelation. Too often, I watch students trying to rush through the awkwardness, pretend it's not there, or make it insignificant to the final result. Despite any negativity about our own shortcomings, we should instead embrace them. Our awkwardness is to be celebrated!

Every day offers opportunities to witness our awkwardness. Did you have a awkward phone call that you know could have gone better? Did you snap at someone who was trying to help but you weren't ready for that help? Did you try to execute a forward throw, only to fall down when you got the results your tried to create?

Awesome! Truly this is a process, a revelationary moment to be viewed with amazement at the depth and complexity of a single moment. This is also a perfect moment for true connection with someone if you can gracefully own your part in the awkwardness, people will gravitate to your authenticity, rather than be intimidated by your attempt at perfection.

My advice for martial artists or anyone looking to improve themselves: Get off the Busy Bus. Too often the mantra of "I'm so busy" has become the answer to the question "How are you?" Stop it. Slow down and watch what you are doing. Some of my biggest breakthroughs have come from slowing down long enough to see what mistake I am making. "Stop, stop. Stay back. And give your brain room to breathe".

Friday, January 23, 2009

Create a Blog Catalog

Many bloggers maintain a list of links of blogs/websites we like plus we have a variety of social networking sites that we check and update. With cool features like (which is a cool service that updates your status at all of your social networking sites), we are starting to see the overabundance of links that we saw in the 90s. You might be too young to remember the days when there were pages on a website just dedicated to links. Then there were web pages just dedicated to links, like poorly designed yellow pages. And they were cool when they began just like blog logs are cool today.

Back in the day, I always wished I knew more about why something was posted. Is it a reciprocal link? Is it another project by the same person? Is it something this person likes or is it totally tubular? Now that I have my own blogs, I thought I'd create a blog catalog that let's you know why I choose to follow these blogs.

Body Wealth: This is my other blog: Wellness for Body, Mind, & Wallet. I explore issues of nutrition, business building, ADHD, social capital, etc. This post was originally posted there so join today!

Stephen K. Hayes Densho: Stephen K. Hayes is my martial arts teacher and one of the wisest people I know. If you are not already subscribed to the Densho, what are you waiting for? Consider this your engraved invitation.

Daily Cross-Swords: Jenn is one of my students and is a fabulous instructor of martial arts and stage combat.

Boulder and the Beautiful: A witty blog by Boulder's very own fashionista: Aimee Heckel.

Life Force International: This is not a blog but a link to nutritional products I sell. This link will take you to an offer for a free bottle. This product has literally changed my life after decades of health challenges. Try a free bottle and see if it helps you. (If you don't like it, no hard feelings. It is not for everyone).

New blogs I've discovered:

Become A Blogging Maniac: The blog from a class I am taking. If blogging scares you, this is a great place to start.

Blueleaf Creative: Leah is awesome and she's one of my fellow Sam Walton Emerging Entrepreneur award winners. She has so many reources, you just have to check her out.

Ah, good--I feel so much better communicating the importance of the links I choose to list in my blogroll. I hope you'll take the time to check out these links as they are all stimulating.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

5 Ways to Feel Empowered

The summer before sixth grade, my family rented a house in Atlantic City, NJ. My friends and I would walk the boardwalk every day (wearing fringe shirts with iron-on unicorns, I might add). I found the crowds a little overwhelming and I got really tired of dodging people, so I stopped. If you weren't watching where you were going, you'd run right into me. I wouldn't try to run into you but it still happened. It was like Empowerment Chicken for pedestrians. My friend got really embarassed when it happened but I felt like I was finally taking a stand for myself. After a few weeks I realized that if I walked a certain way, people naturally dodged me instead. Now I had choice, I could get small and sneaky and navigate through a crowd and no one even knew I was there. Or I could project energy and saunter through the crowd and people would flow around me. Having those options serves me well to this day so here's some other games I play that improved my feelings of worth.

1. The smile game: Next time you have a surly or disaffected cashier, see if you can get that person to smile. Bonus points if they smile because they've connected with you and don't think you're escaped from the funny farm.

2. Call an old friend: It takes courage to call someone you've neglected but just making the effort helps improve your inner landscape.

3. Use the Find Friends tool on Facebook: Nothing like 300+ friends to help you feel great about yourself.

4. Say No: This is a classic technique for connecting with your power. It's so basic that every toddler on the planet discovers it. Embrace the Power of No! For bonus points, don't qualify your no with "I'm sorry but" or "I hope you don't mind". Double bonus points for only saying it 1x.

5. Pedestrain Chicken: As in the story above, try walking down a crowded sidewalk in a straight line without varying your pace or trajectory. It's good, clean fun.

Post a comment and let me know how it went. Keep score and we'll see who wins!
Stephen K. Hayes Pro Shop

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