The Art of Winning Blog

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Finding Yourself after an Assault

The NY Times recently printed an article, "Nearly 1 in 5 Women in US Survey Say They Have Been Sexually Assaulted", that gives some pretty staggering stats on sexual assault in the US. Of these women, 20% are raped before age 10, 50% before 18, and 80% before 25. Though men are raped much less often (1 in 75), the vast majority of these occur before the age of 10.

Even more staggering to me, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 5 men report having been beaten by an intimate partner.

People who have been vicitimized experience greater likelihood to poor health decisions, like smoking, and are more likely to suffer from diseases like diabetes, irritable bowel, and headaches.

While these articles give us great access to content, they fail to provide solutions. The field of psychology has a multitude of research on the effects of trauma on the body and somatic psychology does a fantastic job of helping a person become functional, a survivor. If you've been a victim of an assault, there is something you can do recapture the person you want to be.

Yoga and meditation help you reconnect with your inner self. You take control of your most primary system, your breath, and use it guide your inner experience. Endurance activities like running release endorphins and give you intimate knowledge of your strength and capabilities. Classes like glass-blowing or painting help you connect with your creative self and you can re-learn the safety of being vulnerable. This assault doesn't need to define, it's another component of your past and you have control over your relationship with it.

To-Shin Do (r) gives you the opportunity to redefine your relationship with violence and with owning your own power. Self defense is about living your brightest and happiest life. It's about excellent decision making, finding your center, and learning to recognizing danger. Using an elemental model, we explore stability, intelligence, action, and freedom as critical components of self defense. We use breath, postures, voice, and interactions to bring all aspects of ourselves into this present moment. It's about becoming a hero, not just for others, but for yourself.

There are many practices to help you live as a Warrior. Yoga  If the ninja path resonates with you, try a free class. If the ninja path doesn't resonate with you, please find something that does. The world needs you to be your brightest.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sensei Hakim Isler in Boulder this weekend

Hakim Isler (To Shin Do Head Instructor) is the founder of Elite Guard, LLC, a martial art, fitness and security training company. He has been involved in the martial arts for 24 years and the security field for 10 years. Hakim is a veteran of the Iraq war and an ex-member of the Army Special Operations community, where he received Arabic language training, survival training, evasion training, paratrooper training, etc. He holds a 3rd degree black belt (Sandan) in To-Shin Do (modern Ninjutsu), as taught by world-renowned author and Black Belt Hall of Fame member Stephen K. Hayes. Hakim is also a practitioner of American Jiu Jitsu, Gracie Barra Jiu Jitsu and FCS Kali.
Hakim has served as a board member of Rape Crisis Volunteers of Cumberland County. He has served as a continuing education instructor of Defensive tactics and Fayetteville Technical Community College. He is an honors graduate and Certified Protection Specialist (Body Guard) through Executive Security International (ESI), where he completed over 600 study hours and practical training in principles of protection; human behavior; profiles of terrorism; counter surveillance and covert security; electronic security; bomb search and identification; etc. He is also a co-founder of Spirit Quest, a non-profit organization aimed at assisting at-risk youth.

Sign Up for a Private Lesson with Sensei Isler

$50/30 minutes; $90/60 minutes
See the front desk or drop us an email to sign up for Friday or Saturday afternoon training this weekend.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ninja Day in Boulder

December 5 is International Ninja Day. It's the day pirates fear the most. It's the day when the world recognizes that in fact, Eveybody Needs a Ninja.

To celebrate ninja day, we have the following suggestions:
1. Read Ninja Vol 1: Spirit of the Shadow Warrior. Choose an exercise and focus on it all day today.
2. Wear your ninja t-shirt and teach people how to wear their t-shirt like a ninja mask.
3. Show off your cool ninja skills by making a shuriken out of paper and throwing it with your mad skills.
4. Take a class at your local Boulder dojo, the Boulder Quest Center. Classes for beginners are at 4pm and 7pm.
5. Most of all, enjoy International Ninja Day!

Be ninja,
Mary Aitoshi

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Four Rivers of Learning

Part 2: Aitoshi's reflections on teachings by His Holiness the Sakya Trizin at the Vajrakilya Major Empowerment in Vancouver, BC and how it relates to our study of To-Shin Do
River of Empowerment: To ripen the student
An empowerment in Buddhist studies is an intensive practice where you take in a lot of information and it primes you to think about major concepts and your own relation to practice. In the To-Shin Do world, weekend seminars like Fall Festival or an SKH visit to your local dojo can certainly do this. One major advantage of Fall Festival is that it breaks your normal routines. Instead of figuring out how you're going to cook dinner and pay bills, you spend the weekend in a hotel and really get an immersive ninja experience.

River of Teaching: To inform the student
In Buddhist practice, this river refers to the commentaries on the empowerment teachings. This correlates to our historical scrolls. In the  scrolls of the nine families, we know we have battlefield and time tested material that has led to centuries of successes. The teachings in To-Shin Do are directly derived from the scrolls and from modern research into what we need in self defense in the US today.

River of Practice: To implement the studies
The river of practices reaches how to implement the teachings practically. Every time a student enters the dojo, they are jumping into this river. Our To-Shin Do classes are designed to teach students how to learn complex material. We cover striking, ukemi, and kata defenses in every class. There is an additional layer of depth in our complexity because we teach life skills and how to implement heroism, compassion, and action into our daily lives.

River of Instruction: To clear doubts
Testing the teachings happens in the river of instruction. In this river, the student explores all that has been absorbed from the empowerments, teachings, and practices. Our randori, or free-response, is designed to create a venue for this testing. Randori gives the student the opportunity to viscerally experience their progress by physically and mentally challenge them in a stressful situation. It closely approximates the energies of an off-the-mat conflict so a student can confront their doubts and move through them. This powerful experience allows each student to make the practice their own. In To-Shin Do, the art should become you.

To jump into the rivers, please contact us for a free class. If you are already a student, grab your bag and come to class.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ninja Night

Ninja Night is a parents' dream. It's a night when you get alone time to take a bath, eat eggplant, or read a book with no interruptions. The kids run, play, get loud, eat pizza, and watch a short movie.It's a guilt free indulgence for you because the kids will beg to come. Often imitated, never duplicated, Boulder Quest is the place for authentic ninja training.

Friday October 21
5:00-8:00 pm
$25 ($15 for siblings)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Youth Self Defense

On September 16, the BQC will be presenting its first Youth Self Defense class. this class is a long-time coming because I wanted to have youth students to help facilitate it. In February, we had our first crop of Youth Black Belts who are helping to co-create the content for this experience. This evening will be open to the public, no experience is necessary. It's after-school on Friday September 16, and it includes a pizza dinner because we want the kids to have social hang-out time. We expect this event to fill so please register early.

Friday September 16
Boulder Quest Center
1501 Lee Hill Rd #18
(303) 440-3647

Friday, August 26, 2011

Translations, Teachings, and Amazements

I recently travelled to Vancouver, BC for some teachings with HH the Sakya Trizin. Over the next few weeks, I will post some of my thoughts and musings from the trainings. It’s amazing to me how a teaching can elicit thoughts on such a multitude of levels, from marketing to the construction of the human psyche (and the realization that these are perhaps the same). I hope you enjoy these posts and, as always, I’d love your comments.

One of the major disorienting factors of the trip was the foreign nature of it, from geographic location and unusual weather patterns (it was 95F in Vancouver) to the mix of languages (English, Tibetan, Sanskrit, and a smattering of Japanese). This mix of languages had me thinking about the nature of translation. I came up with three types of translations: Literal, Cultural, and Energetic.



Sensei Ni Rei: “teacher to bow”. This is a very technical response that preserves the original grammar and structure. I think of this as the ‘above reproach’ approach where it is so technically accurate it cannot be argued with, but loses some of the meaning in its accuracy.


Sensei Ni Rei: “please bow to the teacher”. This is a very managed approach that strives to keep as much of the original words but redefines in them for the grammar and constructs of the native audience. I think of this as the ‘middle management’ approach where the translator works to keep everyone happy and satisfied.


Sensei Ni Rei: “can I have your attention please?” This is a more free-wheeling approach that strives to capture the intent, not just the meaning. In the dojo, we say Sensei Ni Rei to lead off a class, to alert people that important information is coming, and to encourage focused attention.

How these translations relate to To-Shin Do®

As I contemplated these translation methods, I realized they also apply to teachers. From our first grade math teacher taking a literal approach to addition to our seventh grade history teacher who wants us to take a broader look at the world to our freshman composition teacher who wants us to break-through all barriers, we’ve encountered teachers who capture these personifications. So of course, I thought of my teacher, An-Shu Stephen K. Hayes and I had a profound realization (it’s lucky that you can’t really fall off a cushion). An-Shu is a master of all three of these categories and it’s part of what makes him an amazing teacher. From the different gi/belt he wears in videos depending on what kind of point he is making (literal) to his development of a western teaching method for these ancient teachings (cultural) to his modern adaptations of the classical kata to modern self-defense (energetic), his depth of understanding has created a truly unique and complete martial art practice.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dragon Body Yoga

Join the Boulder Quest Center and martial arts legends An-Shu Stephen and Rumiko Hayes as we delve into Japanese healing and empowerment practices. 

Explore this rare opportunity to train in Dragon Body yoga, a cleansing practice with its roots in the Japanese practice of Ji-Riki Seitai. This intense practice focuses on rebooting the body's energy systems, cleansing stagnant toxins, and energizing the body’s healing capabilities. Dragon Body practice is combined with Elemental Movement exercises designed to empower and energize the energetic self. Dragon Body yoga helps cleanse the body to prepare it for new teachings.

Open to the public--no experience necessary.
Friday, August 12

Please pre-register by calling (303) 440-3647 or emailing the dojo.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Power of Good Choices

This month we studied “Discipline”. This week alone I received three e-mail coupons touting the power of said products to tone, tighten and tan me. While it took discipline to avoid spending my hard earned cash on marketing, I did think more about the marketing aspect in our field- Martial Arts.

Interesting- as I speak with parents in our community, the ones that have enrolled their children in some karate or Martial Arts program, they do so because they believe discipline to be a main benefit. After all, most every karate school ad you read has bullet points of self control, focus and respect being taught.

My question is always the same- how is discipline being taught? How is it different than a well disciplined coach who teaches soccer? How is it different than a boy scout leader teaching discipline to the troop?

Is discipline saying “yes, sir” on the mat? Is discipline “never using your martial art” except in the dojo ? I believe that particular style of “discipline” is actually a behavior, but may not represent completely discipline (knowing how to make the right choices, even if those choices are the difficult ones). It sure is easy to make a marketing claim, but another thing to back it up.

Proudly, To-Shin Do teaches discipline in a scientifically proven manner, with age old ties to the art of human nature. We deliver, based on superior technology we know nobody else has.

Want to be a powerful “Jedi in training”? Great- we can do that- and no, we didn’t go to a weekend seminar and “buy the information” and magically own it in our lives (sadly that does happen in our line of work). Wouldn’t you love to know the:
• 8 Steps to a Noble Life
• 4 Foundations for Mindfulness
• How to exercise confidence, effort, alertness, meditation and wisdom
• How to have a Joyfully Enlightened Mind

Well, my future ninja friends, to be quite honest, we are the only California school to have the “Jedi Secrets”- the art of the ninja. (Aitoshi's note: We are the only school in Colorado too. Aren't you glad to live near a dojo offering one of the most powerful teachings in the world?) Just lucky to be it. Not that learning to say “yes, sir” is bad- we do that, too. But oh, my, there is so much more in store….

So please be clear, for the sake of your family, your hard earned dollars and your valuable time- what do you want for your training? How is the training different than any other school on the corner, any good football coach or (fill in the blank) sport, how can you take what is learned and apply it OUTSIDE the dojo? Are you looking for a sport (because anything that has beautiful choreographed movement is that- beautiful choreographed movement, but certainly not self protection). Simply pin point the benefits you desire for you and your family.

It takes discipline to research the outer most and inner secrets of true martial arts. The very thing you seek is what you need to progress.

No problem, jedi in training. We can help you take that step….

Just be ninja.

Written by Kriss Gakutoshi Hurdle, Newbury Park Martial Arts Center. Reprinted with permission.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Martial Arts and Car Repair

Yesterday I was driving to Longmont and the car felt funny. I checked around and there were no symptoms of any kind, other than it feeling not right. I drove carefully for a few miles, checked the brakes and then went and had a fabulous lunch.

On the way home, I noticed the air conditioner wasn't working (it had worked on the way to Longmont). I looked down and realized the car was about to overheat. Never having had this problem before I had a moment of panic but then I remembered the 5 D's.

I had already Discerned and realized there was a problem. Now I needed to Defend, which meant pull over before I had a bigger problem. Then I Disrupted, which meant turn off the car. I also called Kevin who at least has a small car maintenance skill, where I was working off raw intelligence. Turns out the car cools quickly so I could limp home by turning the car off for 5 minutes, driving a mile and then repeating the wait cycle. It took about 30 minutes to make the 10 minute drive under these circumstances. A $5 bottle of radiator fluid fixed the problem. Now I'm monitoring to see if we have a leak, or if they forgot to top us off at the last oil change. What I love most about the martial training I do is that there's so many stories of avoiding tragedy. Be ninja--where luck is a skill we train for.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Ninja: Patient Person, Pt 2

Recently, this article (published May 2010) generated a comment. I'll admit, I had a moment of panic, wondering what I'd think of my words from a year ago. I was pleased to be proud of what I'd written. It's such an important message and something that often gets lost in an age of instant gratification. So here's the original post and a PS at the bottom that reflects some of my most recent musings on patience.

From His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
Saying that one should be patient and withstand trouble doesn’t mean one should be defeated and overcome. The whole purpose of engaging in the practice of patience is to become stronger in mind, stronger in heart. And you also want to remain calm. If you lose patience and your brain becomes confused with emotion, you will lose the power to analyze and figure out how to overcome the negative force that is opposing you

The term ninja translates as patient person, not assassin or night stalker. The word and the practice are about engaging fully in life, riding the moment, and waiting for the perfect time. It is about knowing that 'good things come to those who wait' and that 'the early bird gets the worm'. With practice, you can learn to tell the difference.

By taking up a physical practice, we are able to see our emotional brain at work. We can see it get stuck, frustrated, and angry. We can also see it prevail. Ultimately, we practice self defense to learn to make our lives brighter, happier, and safer. To do that we need to discern truth clearly.

I believe it is critical to have a practice venue where we can experiment with the success and failure of engaging with truth. Otherwise it's our friends and families who have to practice patience while we try to figure it out.


PS: Sometimes when we talk about patience, we think about this moment, this stress, and this other person who is stressing us out. But the truth is, patience and stress both come from within. No one does anything that makes us have to be patient. Our reaction to others triggers the need to exercise patience. Our desire to achieve a goal causes us to exert patience as perseverance to overcome the obstacles on the path.

In martial arts, sometimes you'll have a frustrating training partner (or more accurately, sometimes you will be frustrated by your experience of your training partner). Attending class every week, twice a week for over 200 weeks takes patience. Keitoshi and I have been steadily training 2x week for over 650 weeks and look what we've accomplished. Patience is the number 1 key to success. It's more important than athletic skill, more important than youth or maturity, more important than liking ninja stuff. Like the tortoise, patience wins the race if what you are striving for is to happier, more capable, and safer.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Four Elements of Conflict Resolution

Recently I had the incredible opportunity to be on a radio show to share my Four Elements of Conflict Resolution. To me, the most important part of our martial art is that it teaches us to be more capable in life. Even though it's only a minority of Americans who experience physical violence, every human knows what it's like to get in a fight (verbal, social, or physical). We've all experienced someone being mad at us. We've all mad at someone else. To-Shin Do(r) teaches us how to successfully deal with these issue. Through our training, we learn to master the various strategies for handling conflict so that we can make good decisions about reaching resolution, in our hearts and with others.

Listen to the Radio Show
Read the Blog Post

Monday, March 21, 2011

Martial Arts Leadership Development

Adventure-based leadership development through martial arts training.

Training for mastery in all forms of conflict is at the heart of To-Shin Do. Skill, strategy, and adaptability are your greatest strengths. More than merely teaching techniques to memorize, we focus on developing the whole person. You learn strategies along with the tactics, so each individual evolves into a fully actualized human being fully prepared for success in life.

Personal development comes from our life skills program – how to take command in times of confusion, confrontation, or discouragement.

We cover everything an effective leader wants to know – powerfully bringing resolution when others may want conflict or contention, making a good first impression to attract allies and friends, managing difficult relationships, and gaining top-notch presentation skills.

You will find our school an up-lifting place to spend time with friends who share your commitment to personal advancement. I challenge you to ask one person today why they train at our Quest Center. You may be amazed at the stories you'll hear.

Your instructors are dedicated to helping you discover your own insights into personal power, resourcefulness, broad vision, peace of mind, and happiness.

You learn how to approach winning as a way of life.

If you are already a student dedicated to the path of the ninja through BBC, join us on Saturday, March  26 at 3pm for our Leadership Team meeting. In this meeting, you will learn how to help others succeed on their paths and also how to deepen your own practice.

Black Belts: If you'd like to be certified as an uke for Brown Belts, please come to the Leadership Team meeting.

Monday, February 28, 2011

More Women are Empowered with Self Defense

When I first opened the Boulder Quest Center in 2005, I was interviewed for Women's Magazine. I was a mix of terrified and exhilarated, and come interview time, all too aware of what I could have said better. Luckily, I have a model for overcoming adversity and becoming more skilled (To-Shin Do in case you missed the reference)! Over the years, I've had a chance to practice with countless customers and advocates, as we all struggle to communicate the benefits of To-Shin Do training. I've worked with my teacher, An-Shu Stephen K. Hayes, and other school owners in the ninja-intelligence gathering of what works and what falls flat. I've worked with coaches through The Coach Connection and won an Emerging Entrepreneur award for my ability to communicate our vision. I've learned to preach to the choir and introduce new people to the path.

Now, nearly 5 years later, I had a chance to sit in the hot seat again. I was being interviewed by the Daily Camera for their 5 Questions segment. I had a great connection with the reporter and I felt that I delivered my points clearly and with the passion I have for changing people's lives for the better. In this article, I focus solely on the empowering benefits for women. Our self defense programs are intelligent, heroic, and adventurous and this article captures it well.

I hope you'll take a few minutes out of day to read and share this story. Plus, if you have any feedback for me, please leave a comment!

(Link doesn't work, copy and paste this one-- )

If you'd like to hire me or any Boulder Quest instructors for your corporate event or a Girls Night Out, please fill out our contact form or give me a call (303) 440-3647.

Be ninja,
Mary Aitoshi

There's always some areas in an article that aren't as precise as I'd like them to be. Since I'm such a stickler for the details, it should be said that To-Shin Do is a modern practice based on the ancient Japanese tradition of ninjutsu. Also, the woman who was quoted in the article was AMY Wright (not Mary). If you a gorgeous and functional bag, check out their stuff (or ask me, I own 3).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Forest Ninja Spring Break Camp

In the age of tablet computing, ubiquitous cell phones, and hand-held consoles, our children often get separated from the natural world and the rhythm of life. Nature-Deficit Disorder is gaining clinical support and is often obvious in the fear our children have of the wilderness. This Spring, the BQC is excited to offer a remedy--a camp for kids 9-13 to connect with and gain confidence in the outdoors. With guides who are experienced wilderness facilitators, ninja, and group leaders, this camp promises to be our best ever. 

Forest Ninja Camp
The deepest teachings and traditions of the Ninja, as well as the Indigenous peoples of these lands, can be found in their relationship with the natural world. When we develop an authentic understanding of nature - and form a relationship of respect and gratitude based on that understanding - we develop the ability to read and harmoniously fit in with her ever-changing flow. When this happens – when we become “one mind” with nature – everything in our environment can become our ally. 
Come join us as we learn about and train in the arts of…
·       Iroquois Natural Living Skills and Philosophy (Onkwe’hon’we:neha / “Ban pen fu kyo!”)
·       Natural Awareness and Movement (Shizen  jikaku , Shinobi tai sabaki)
·       Animal Tracking and other Natural Patterns (Doubutsu tegakari,  Shizen moyou)
·       Natural Camouflage (Intonjutsu, Hensojutsu, Shinobi-iri )
·       Ten Thousand Changes: Preparedness and Proper Relationship with the Natural World 

Taught by Ian Sanderson and Randle Charles 
Ages 9-13 (or permission)
9am-12pm M-F
March 21-25

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Winter Warrior

Wow, what a magical weekend! From the outset, we knew planning a seminar in February was a risky proposition but we also knew that to truly be ninja, we needed to be willing to take on greater challenges. Plus, we like to live lives of adventure and we were certain it would be just what it needed to be.

Some of the magical moments:
1. We didn't have the event-cancelling temperatures that happened in the days before and after the event.
2. We had no serious injuries despite a long hike, wilderness setting, fresh snow, and a fast drop in temps during the demos.
3. Moments where the action stopped and we just got to hang out in a fabulous winter setting. How often do we take advantage of those breaths?
4. Moments when the action was full bore and we got the wrestle in the snow like happy puppies. When is the last time you let yourself feel that free?
5. We deepened our connection with old and new friends. We got to see resiliency in action which is a rare gift between friends.

Do you have more moments that were incredible for oyu? Feel free to share in the comments or on our FB page. To-Shin!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Black Belts, Life Mastery, and Ninja Adventures

On Feb. 6, 2010, seven Boulder residents (and one Denver resident) will be testing for their Black Belts in To Shin Do, an ancient Japanese ninja martial arts form. The seven include one young man and five girls ages 11-14 - all of whom have dedicated more than 4 years to reach this moment in time.The other two candidates are admirable men who've dedicated their training to making the world a brighter place.

Photo/video opportunities:
The Black Belt test is open to the public on Sunday, Feb. 6 from 4:15-5:15 pm at Joder Arabian Ranch, 7497 N. Foothills Hwy, Boulder, CO 80302, weather permitting. Othewise the testing will move indoors to the Boulder Quest Center, 1501 Lee Hill Rd. #18, Boulder, Colorado 80304. 

Martial arts and girls:
The appeal of martial arts for girls and women is noteworthy. At the Boulder Quest Center, 1/3 of the students training in martial arts are women - atypical from the national perception of the Bruce Lee male following.

What inspires girls to study martial arts and what have they gained? I spoke with the girls individually and here are a few highlights. Feeling confident about themselves in any situation - on or off the mat - was a consistent response among the five testing. What a gift to have internalized this feeling at such a young age!

On the physical side, all of the girls have used their martial arts training to avoid being hurt in bike and skateboard accidents. They instinctively rolled, jumped in the air and landed on their feet, or used a "break fall" and walked away with only a scratch. These included in situations such as their bike skidding on ice and going out from under them, or a when a skateboard hit a bump and  went flying and would have landed on their head.

Beyond the physical:
What surprised me were other benefits involving their thinking, organization, and spiritual fortitude. For example, Black Belt tester, Jane Bright, 14, a freshman at Shining Mountain Waldorf School, was quite articulate about the mental side of the training. Jane is also a competitive downhill ski racer, plays basketball, volley ball and soccer:

"If To Shin Do wasn’t one of the things I do I couldn’t manage and enjoy everything else I do. I have learned how to organize myself so that I can have all these things simultaneously. There’s stuff I have learned through To Shin Do that I could not learn through other sports and the lineage – it's very inspiring. To learn the techniques you must embody them in your mind and body. This takes a sense of focus and organization, and the ability to bring everything into one to make it successful. When you can master your own mind, you can master so many more things in the physical world.
Studying through the elements (i.e. belt levels for Earth, Water, Fire, Wind & Void) through the years, the progression is on purpose, everything has a meaning. My potential of my whole being has expanded from To Shin Do." - Jane Bright

Quite a quote for a 14-year! Jane is happy to speak about her experience, as are the other girls who are testing in a little over a week.

To meet the Black Belts, please join us for the public testing or even better, schedule a free class as my guest. (303) 440-3647;

Be ninja!
Stephen K. Hayes Pro Shop

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