Saturday, November 16, 2013

The FIRST Newsletter

The Wounded Warriors Way to a Unified Spirit
November, 2013
Mostly in order to invoke some self-discipline about keeping track of what we are doing, and to let as many folks know what has happened, is happening and maybe is gonna happen, I am going to attempt a regular Newsletter [regular being a relative term] approximately monthly, or so. Please feel free to pass this rare literary opus on to anyone you feel might be interested.

Aiki Extensions California conference
Aiki Extensions, Inc. was established in September, 1998 to support and enhance communication among those who apply the practice and principles of aikido in venues outside of conventional dojo settings. AE members have applied Aiki principles in such areas as business, bodywork, psychotherapy, teaching, mediation, and sports. Historically AE has been organized along four “interest tracks”, or general areas in which Aikido principles can be used “off the mat”; business and consulting, bodywork & psychotherapy, youth and education, peace and international relations, of course, many of these overlap. This year a fifth area of interest has been added; military veterans, especially those who have served in combat.
We have been members of AE since 1999. They have a conference once a year, this year it was held at Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA. Tom was invited to do a seminar on his work utilizing Aikido as an essential part of treatment programs for veterans with Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder [CRPTSD]. In addition to the seminar, he met with several Aikidoka who are very interested in the work being done by Keganin No Senshi and our sister organization, Aikido For Veterans and have made a commitment to assist us in gaining funding.

CRPTSD Ward classes
We have re-started teaching Aikido twice a week in the PTSD facility at the local VA hospital. This time around classes are 2:45 to 4:00 Tuesday and Wednesday. As always, attendance can be spotty with 1 to 5 vets and a somewhat varying group, although there is always one or two in each cycle who really get into the practice. I have made a commitment to be there every Tuesday and Wednesday and do a class if even one vet shows up. I am also doing a brief presentation at the morning meeting on the fist day of each new cycle. I’m working on developing something short but through as most vets have no idea what Aikido is and is not.
The ward program has changed from an eight week treatment program to a six week program, The VA, in its usual wisdom, has decided to deal with the heavy increase of vets with CRPTSD, by jamming more bodies through by decreasing the amount of time for each group/cycle, not by increasing the time, resources and support realistically needed.

Last June we were invited to do a presentation at the International Stress and Behavior Society’s US conference in New Orleans. We have been invited to do a presentation at their international conference in St Petersburg, Russia, this coming May. So, in early May, Keganin No Senshi is going international.
This is a group of researchers committed to delving into the neurological, biological basis of stress and trauma. These are hard core scientists, several have said science is their religion. When I did a presentation at the 2013 conference in New Orleans, I wondered why I was invited, I thought maybe comic relief; I mean, every circus needs a clown. Then I began to ask myself why I wanted to do a presentation at this conference, what benefit could derive for what I am trying to do with vets with CRPTSD, and what did I have to offer a group with such a well defined, fairly esoteric field of interest. Then I came upon an article in the New York Times, Oct 14, 2013 that said students are at risk of becoming intellectually brutalized, conditioned to focus on the microscopic at the expense of the holistic. Then the article quoted Dr John Martin “In excavating the cell to look at smaller and smaller parts of it, very few students are able to think of the physiology of the way the body works, how the big systems of the internal cosmos function.” Dr Martin is a, cardiologist, transatlantic academic, clinician, specialist in gene therapies for heart attacks, and a published poet.
So what I hope to offer the group at this conference is a method we have developed for bringing about improvements in veterans with CRPTSD, a condition which research is beginning to show arises from neurological changes resulting from trauma. I hope this presentation gives them a perspective, some insight into one group of humans who we hope will someday benefit from their microscopic labors. In turn, I plan on learning more about the neurological basis of the condition my warriors suffer from so I can adapt my program to better meet their needs. Maybe we can’t all be poets, but we can all contribute to the poetry of life.

We are starting the process of doing a crowdfunding fund raising through Indiegogo. There are many non-profits which are successful in getting money through crowdfunding, but there are a lot that don’t do well at all. We want to do this right, so we are getting help by bringing in some professionals, a videographer and a media/branding/marketing specialist. These are people who have done extensive work with non-profits, businesses and government organizations. This is going to result in our laying out some funds, but if it works, it will help get KNS off the ground financially, which will, in turn, enable us to expand programmatically. Is this a gamble, or an investment? The answer is yes.
Media/branding/marketing; We are working with Holly Mott of Clarity Consulting in developing a social media/marketing capacity. In addition to assisting us with the Indiegogo campaign she will be training us, mostly Fran, to be able to carry this out ourselves. We have already met several times and based on information we gave her and questions she asked, she is preparing a branding/marketing plan specific to KNS.
Videographer; Scott Hancock has done a great deal of work producing videos for civic, government and non-profit groups and political candidates. He is currently doing a video for National Geographic.
We have prepared an initial version of the card, which shows up on the Indegogo intro page, and a script that will come up when you click on the card. The script involves video, stills, pictures, written and spoken “advertising” that hopefully will present the KNS/AFV program in a way people will want to support us financially.
Board role/help; We needed some volunteers to participate in an introductory Aikido class that we want to video to be used in the Indegogo presentation. It will probably take about 2 hours on a weekend. Karen Peterson, 4th degree black belt, has agreed to do a couple of demonstrations for the video and other members of the Board have tentatively volunteered to participate in the demos and help recruit some additional students.
Our assessment is that what makes a crowdfunding project work, and produce enough funds to make it worthwhile, is outreach to as wide a group of supporters as possible. To us this means contacting as many people in the Aikido community, Veterans organizations, Veterans Administration personnel and the general public as possible. This means we have to become extremely skilled in using social media and while we aren’t exactly technophobes, some of us, mostly me, are virtually technical illiterates. Somehow I am going to be drug kicking and screaming into the 20th century.

Actually, this newsletter is our first foray into this arena. Please feel free to comment, give us feedback and to pass the newsletter on to anyone and everyone.

Thank you for wading through my first attempt at a newsletter and for your continuing support. And as always,
Onward, into the fog,

Friday, November 8, 2013

STANDING PINS, and the fear of losing control

I have advocated for the use of no falls, no throws in bringing Aikido to vets. I’ve done this because our “mats” have usually been a bare gym floor, or industrial carpet glued to concrete, many vets have physical injuries restricting movement, it would take-up most of the few weeks I have them for class, it requires more focused attention to tori maintaining uke’s, and their own balance throughout a technique and it really isn’t essential to learning what I believe is the essence of Aikido.

However, based on remarks made by vets during practice, I realize there is an even more important reason for doing standing pins. One of the common aspects of PTSD among combat vets is fear of losing control, of the real risk of bringing serious harm, of destroying in order to retain control and personal safety. Several times vets have remarked that they liked being able to hold their partner off balance and under control without anger, without hurting them, without having to use force, with little or no effort, while remaining calm and relaxed. The sense of empowerment, the ability to control a situation while remaining in command of themselves, for many is exhilarating. And does it give me a sense of exhilaration, knowing I can bring something of such value to these warriors.

So again, I encourage anyone working with vets with CRPTSD, even if you have access to mats, utilize the power of standing pins. And once in while, utilize it in your regular dojo classes