Teacher Highlight - Neil Lofgren / Aikido
This was my family's 4th year at Peace Village, and it continues to be a highlight of our summer. Each year, my kids look forward to the wonderful classes and activities, and I look forward to sharing Aikido with so many new and returning campers.
My daughter, Sage, was especially excited this year to graduate from the Turtles and become a "real camper", so she could be one of the big kids and choose her own Village Fair classes. Her older brother, Lyle, an experienced camper now, was planning out his fair classes in advance to make sure he got a chance at all of his top choices. Both of them love the music and crafts, playing with good friends and making new ones. What I love is that they are having so much fun that they don't even notice that they're actually learning huge life lessons about inner balance, interpersonal relationships, ecology, media literacy, peaceful conflict resolution, and more.
For me, Aikido is a natural part of this experience, and a perfect fit for the mission of Peace Village. I admit, it may seem strange that a "martial art" can be associated with peace, but peace has been a core component of Aikido since it was created nearly 100 years ago. The name, Aikido, can be translated as “The Way of Harmony”, and it is a peaceful approach to more ancient Japanese Budo traditions. It teaches fluid movements based on balance and positioning, blending with an opponent’s energy to redirect and render it harmless. The founder, Morihei Ueshiba, called it The Art of Peace, and said, "To injure an opponent is to injure yourself. To control aggression without inflicting injury is the Art of Peace.... True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature."
I love teaching Aikido at Peace village because it is a unique opportunity to introduce this art to a large group of kids and counselors over the course of a single week, and to do so in the context of the Peace Village motto: Peace Within, Peace Among, Peace Around. This year, I focused mostly on peace within and among. First practicing exercises to promote inner peace through balance, breathing, and coordination. Then using animal movements to learn ways to fall and roll without getting hurt. And finally working with other students to explore relative balance and positioning, avoiding collisions and either redirecting an attack or else letting it pass by.
Each year at Peace Village is a new learning experience for my kids and for me as well. I've been studying Aikido now for 27 years and teaching it for close to 20, and I still learn new insights each time I step on the mat. Feel free to drop by my dojo in Hood River or send me an email with questions. Details and contact information can be found at www.gorgebudo.com.
Peace to you
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