Sunday, April 8, 2012

KI, KOKYU and DEALING

During warm-ups at the beginning of class, my Sensei, Todd Martin, has often equated fuku shiki kokyu or deep breathing with relaxing energy so that it can flow to our hara or center. When I think of this dynamic in relation to what Ann Frederick, Peter A. Levine say in their book “WAKING THE TIGER”[1997 North Atlantic Books], I realize this can be an enormously powerful technique for enabling Vets with CRPTSD to refocus their internally negative energy; anger, fear, shame, etc. into a source of neutral energy focused in their center/abdomen, with out having to identify or focus on that negativity.

I think this last is very important as one of the frequent effects of therapies which cause someone to identify or focus on this negativity, or the cause of the negativity, is to actually bring about a re-experience, along with all the trauma and its subsequent emotional turmoil.

What I do at the very beginning of class is do several deep breaths utilizing the five areas of inhalation. I then repeat this but having everyone picture their body as full of little pockets and tubules of energy, stressing that stored energy is neutral, potential, neither negative or positive until it is used. [My example is if you plug a light into a socket it illuminates, if you stick a knife in you will get zapped.] We then do a full inhalation, extending the arms as high as possible. Then exhaling as slowly as possible relax the muscles, tendons, ligaments, starting with the fingertips, the hands, wrists, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, hair and scalp muscles, the ears and jaw muscles, and so on. As the muscles relax, all those little pockets and tubules relax their energy and allow it to flow downward to be gathered and stored in the abdominal “battery”. If I watch students carefully, I can actually see this process of relaxation move downward.

Then, when we are doing a technique, and someone tenses up, goes off balance, or tries to “muscle” a technique or fight an attack, I can have them pause, relax, and recenter their energy, and they dramatically experience this relaxed, positive energy enabling them to use the technique to gently and safely to control the attack. When I think about what I want the Vets to learn, this way of converting negative, self-destructive PTSD energy in to a constructive force in their lives, this is what I want. I believe that this is what Aikido has given me that helped me deal with who I was, and who I could have become, post-Nam.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

FLOWING ENERGY & SCHEDULING

I’ve been doing classes for three weeks now. There have only been one or two guys attending. The problem seems to be the times. A lot of the guys work and have families so making a 5:00 class is very difficult, 3:30 is impossible for most.

I would like to schedule three classes a week, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, at 6:00. I don’t know if a staff counselor can make those times, but, if I can do a little fund raising; I could pay a stipend for a counselor and an assistant sensei [I have a woman from out dojo with excellent Aikido who would love to do it and this might attract women Vets], get some basic insurance coverage and cover some travel costs, copying and a web site, about $30,000. However, I gotta get off my butt and do it!

The Vet Center wants to stop classes for about a week to see if there is some way around the scheduling. They want to keep the classes going as they see some progress with the guys who do come and want to make it easier for more to attend.

Actually, having only 1 or 2 in class has enabled me to gain clarity on what is needed and how to deliver it better. Stressing breathing, releasing energy [ki] from the whole body moving it to “center” and using it constructively seems to be helping, even after only a few weeks. I emphasize that energy, in and of itself, is neutral, neither positive or negative. One of the consequences of trauma, particularly CRPTSD, is that this energy gets turned against us, negatively. “Releasing” it, and flowing it to center allows it to be used positively. The Vets, and the counselors, seem to like both the imagery [of flowing the energy] and the functionality.

I have to apologize. I’ve just done a mediocre job of condensing one of the most important chapters in the book. I promise to try and explain it better as I go on.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

GETTING STARTED

The director of the Vet’s program at the VA PTSD ward where I had done my first class suggested that I contact the Veterans Support Center in Springfield, MA. As before, I started at there by walking in cold and asking if they would like me to do an Aikido class for the Vets. This time I was determined to start a class on a different footing. I wanted it to be an integral part of their regular programming, I wanted there to be a counselor regularly attending each class with definite responsibilities;
to observe vets reactions during class,
to be able to deal with any issues which might arise as they occurred, either by stopping the class and dealing or taking a vet outside if they were having issues,
to conduct a “debriefing” after each class, 15 minutes or so
to insure communications with the Vets regular counselors;
what a Vet might be doing in class
if there were any indications of effects that Aikido might be having on a Vet
and if there was anything we could do in class to reenforce what the counselor was doing
I wanted daily feedback from the counselor and regular meetings with the staff, at least monthly.

This time I when I called I talked to the Director of the Center. She had me come in the next day and after doing my song and dance for her, she explained that they didn’t have a lot of space, just a 15x20 foot room with rug on concrete, and staff was pretty stretched out. But she asked me to come to a staff meeting the next Wednesday. I left some of my printed information [which I will have available on the web site, when I ever get it up and running].
Again, I did my soft shoe routine for the staff, with a little demo of irimi tencan. They liked the idea, and particularly liked the close tie-ins with counseling staff, but had to work out scheduling the room and a counselor to work with me. They would do this at their next staff meeting.

The next day the Director called me, said they would like to have classes on Tuesday from 5 to 6, and Thursday from 3:30 to 4:30, with a 15 minute “debrief” period after each class and the same counselor would attend both classes. She knew the staggered time could be difficult, but if things went well, the next time they addressed their overall schedule they would work out a more consistant schedule.

No hassels! No beauracratic bull shit! Three weeks from my first call to starting classes. Much different than the rig-a-ma-roll they put me through at the “big house”.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

OH MY GOD - HE'S BACK!

3/25/12
It has been 15 months since I last taught my aikido class for Vets with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and posted my last blog. But it hasn’t been a wasted year and a half. I have written a book based on that blog, and the comments from many Aikidoka, a considerable amount of research and thought and the opportunity to reflect back on the person I was when I got out of Viet Nam and how Aikido enabled me to deal with trauma I didn’t even know I had. The book is titled “COMBAT RELATED POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER - A HOLISTIC APPROACH.” It is being published by Levellers Press and should be out sometime in late April. I have also done presentations at two psychology/social work conferences, one in Florida and one in Michigan, and have another coming up in Connecticut in April.
The research has been both rewarding and depressing:
there will be over 300,000 people coming out of the current mid-east mess who have, or will have at sometime in their lives, Combat Related PTSD [CRPTSD]
there will be more combat veterans die from suicide than from combat related injury
50% of women involved in the mid-east war will suffer CRPTSD, a majority will involve abuse and rape from their “comrades in arms”
And on and on ad infinitum ad nauseam.
What has been rewarding is finding a growing support for the kinesthetic, movement based treatment Aikido can offer a victim of CRPTSD, and that O Sensei’s belief that Aikido can be a way of peace, and further, a way to bring peace to those whose reward for serving their country [they have been told] is an eternal hell.
All this has led to the creation of a web site [to be announced here soon] and most exciting, my starting a new Aikido program for Veterans at the Veterans Support Center in Springfield, MA. The Support Center is a part of the VA, BUT, not in any way associated with the VA hospital and the PTSD ward there. This is something I will try to go into in a later blog, along with how the issues of comfort zones and how critical energy [ki] is in enabling one to deal with PTSD. To recall Mary Malmros’ comments, it can help you renew your “dealotrons”. I will also go into how and why I started this round of classes differently, the relationship I established with the Center and how classes are conducted.
I want my efforts, and this blog to be a way of encouraging and supporting others in offering Aikido for Vets with CRPTSD, so I guess those last comment are what you’d call a cliff hanger.