Wednesday, January 15, 2014

FINDING THE STRESS “POCKET”


When I do the kokyu ryoku [breath/power] exercise [ Blog entry, 4/8/12, KI, KOKYU and DEALING] I have vets picture their tension [stress+energy=tension] being stored throughout their body in pockets and tubes, and relaxing this energy as they flow their breath down into their abdomen, their hara or center. I started to notice my own tension seemed to be concentrated most strongly in my shoulders and upper arms, but with others it could be focused more in other areas. While I want every class to start with relaxing tension, I want to individualize the process more and help each vet learn to better control that energy, better convert it to potential, positive energy. I want each vet to learn where their tension first or most strongly arises when they face negative situations.

To do this, I have started using a technique I have adapted from an exercise taught by Mark Williams [www.dynamichumansolutions.com] at the first Aikido For Veterans/KNS seminar in Boulder, CO. It is a gross simplification of what Mark taught in that class, which, in turn was a highly simplified version of the Body Dynamics portion of the full soft- and hard-skill mindfulness program he provides to corporations, the military and other organizations.

I start facing a vet at a “comfortable” distance, about 4 feet. [Mark has participants partner for this. Because of potential CRPTSD issues I do the exercise myself.] The vet is standing in a stabile, relaxed position. I explain that each person tends to feel tension in different places. I have them close their eyes and I softly move as close as I can with out touching. I say that when I tell them to open their eyes, I want them to be aware where they feel the tension hit first. I ask them to touch the spot. I then have them do the breath/relaxation exercise three times, focusing each time on flowing the energy in that tension into their center. Most vets will feel the tension drastically ease up and I can usually see their whole body relax, although it can sometimes take several trys.

I’ve also experienced an interesting aspect of how tension can flow improperly during technique. Many beginners, and even many advanced aikidoka, carry a majority of their energy as tension in the arm primarily involved in executing the technique, particularly in the hand. This is especially noticeable in tai no tenkan, when the hand is tightly cocked back, arm and elbow stiff, rather than the hand cupped forward, arm relaxed, elbow lightly bent, as if scooping up water. The tensed hand and arm indicates tension in the back and almost throughout the body, which causes the entire body to be unbalanced. I try to get tori to focus on relaxing their fingertips which helps release the tension all the way up the line and encourages them to flow hara strength in executing the technique. Also, encouraging tori to move smoothly and slowly enables them to be aware of where this hara based energy might become “knotted”, or falter, and the flow of the technique disrupted. [Reversals can only be done when technique energy flow is disrupted or allowed to range outside of tori’s centerline.]

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The SECOND Newsletter

Help us help veterans with CRPTSD nationwide

A program for veterans, developed by a veteran
The mission of Keganin No Senshi Aikido (KNSA) is to enable veterans with Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to become more vital, constructive, integrated members of the community.  KNSA provides kinesthetic therapeutic activities specifically designed for victims of combat. The program is based on the art of Aikido as taught at two Veterans Administration facilities and extensive research conducted for the book, Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Holistic Approach, by KNSA founder, sensei, and veteran himself, Tom Osborn (check out Tom's blog). It is intended to be offered as an adjunct to, and in collaboration with, ongoing counseling programs. The KNSA training program provides initial training and the first level of certification in the KNSA approach and demonstrates how to establish and maintain a successful Aikido program for combat veterans.

The 12-month program includes:
  • the continuation of our local programs
  • six intensive weekend seminars in various locations across the country  with the goal of enabling programs to be started, and successfully operated, by organizations at the local level in as many areas as possible
  • providing ongoing support, resources and training to these programs
Why we're doing this work
We know that many of you are already aware of the need for more and better therapeutic methods to help veterans who are living with Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CRPTSD). We believe that the Keganin No Senshi Aikido method is a powerful tool to help these veterans find balance in themselves, their lives, and their relationships. We are trying to reach more veterans by reaching more of you, Aikido practitioners, allied health professionals, therapists, veterans services organizations and others interested in helping veterans bring the unique values of Aikido to their everyday lives and situations.
  • there is great and growing need for what we are doing
  • over 40% of women and 20% of men returning from Mideast combat are suffering from PTSD 
  • the current suicide rate of veterans may be as high as 22 per day – Suicide Data Report, 2012 Department of Veterans Affairs    
  • that 80% of Viet Nam vets have symptoms of PTSD

We need your help

In early 2014 we're launching a campaign to raise $54,000 - half the annual budget for the Keganin No Senshi Aikido (KNSA) national pilot program. Our goal is to bring Aikido---the healing art of peace---to veterans throughout the United States who are suffering from Combat Related Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. To reach them, we need you, Aikido practitioners as well as supporters of our wounded warriors, who can help us extend the reach of our program by starting Aikido programs for these veterans in your communities.How can you get involved?
  • Make a monetary donation when the campaign launches in early 2014
  • Share word of our cause with everyone you know who may support this work
  • Follow the campaign on Indiegogo and share updates and posts through your social media networks
  • Root for us! We can do this!
  • Read below on other ways we're looking for help

Internship and research opportunities

Internships: We need major help in organizing data and implementing KNSA’s social media communications.  We have a large amount of data on dojos, vet organizations, therapists and other people who have expressed an interest in KNSA or who we would like to take an interest in KNSA, but, as Tom says, “It is scattered all over our computer and, while we think we know what we want to do with it, we have only the vaguest idea how to do it.” Responsibilities include social media management, research, database entry, communications and outreach support. This internship is a great opportunity for someone looking for marketing and communications experience to build their resume.

Qualitative and quantitative research analyst graduate students: We would also be very interested in working with a graduate student[s] interested in researching the effects of Aikido on people with PTSD. One of the reasons for resistance to getting recognition from the VA and other major sources of funding is the lack of objective data. There is a wealth of anecdotal evidence and subjective reports supporting Aikido’s effectiveness, but hard evidence from well structured, scientific research is lacking.
 

Correction from November's newsletter

Notes From Tom: First, a correction to something I wrote in the November newsletter concerning the Veterans Administration. The length of time vets are in the residential PTSD ward I taught in is now and has always been six weeks. I wrote that it used to be eight weeks.

Second, I  generally tend to be critical of the Veterans Administration and consider it a ponderous, obstructionist bureaucracy, extremely resistant to change, slow to move even when change is inevitable, and primarily committed to ensuring its own placid existence. But I want to make it clear that there are some really excellent programs and great individuals who are truly committed to doing their absolute best to serve those who have served, while struggling themselves with the bureaucratic morass.  Vets Services, the PTSD wards, the growing number of women’s programs, those struggling to reduce the over-reliance on medication, are but a few. If you would like to hear more from me on this topic, click here to read a recent blog post.


Final Words

We will be sending more information about the Indiegogo campaign soon.  We hope you will view it and be inspired to support KNSA.  You will, of course, want to reap some of the premiums we will be offering, but mostly we hope you will join us in KNSA’s work to help our wounded warriors achieve the unified spirit they so deserve. All of us, together, can achieve what only a few of us can dream.

A joyous New Year from all of us at Keganin No Senshi Aikido. May you find many times of peaceful strength and vigorous calm throughout the year.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

"THE SHITS" AND BALANCE


A joyous New Year from all of us at Keganin No Senshi Aikido. 
May you find many times of peaceful strength and vigorous calm throughout the year.

In past blogs I have said that the purpose of any Aikido technique is to establish your own centered, balanced energy, accept and blend partners energy/balance with your own and then, by moving your center/self in a proper way, bring you and your partner to a point where you are both safe and secure, just that you are “safest”,i.e., you remain in control of all balance and energy.

The most common and  dominating symptoms of CRPTSD are stress and tension, what I call “The Shits”, resulting from any one, or combination of causes. This is negative energy, internalized, overpowering, and usually held in the upper body and mind. When one’s energy is in this state it is unbalanced. And this also has an unbalancing effect on every aspect of one’s being, the mental, spiritual, psychological and social, as well as the physical. It means that one is consistently moving through life, facing life’s challenges and situations, even the most mundane, off balance. It results in one having to deal from a position, a stance, that is insecure and unstable. It is no wonder that someone in this condition lacks confidence, feels a weak sense of self, sees anything new as threatening, views themself as ineffectual or a threat to those they love.

KNS’ approach to Aikido, stressing a breathing - centering [kokyu ryoku - breath power] process, focuses on first establishing that inner core of a calm, relaxed, centered energy which brings with it a mental, spiritual, psychological, social, and physical balance. One quickly learns and experiences that practicing an Aikido technique from a centered, poised, balanced stance is what enables that technique to accept, blend and control “attack” energy. This kinesthetic learning is quickly internalized and becomes a natural way to move through the world.

In teaching a technique, we first establishing that center; deep breath through the nose, exhale softly through the mouth while relaxing muscles/tension/stress to the center. Then we emphasize blending partners energy into that center, taking their balance, and executing the technique in a smooth, continuos movement that maintains control of partners energy/balance, to that safe, secure point where you are in complete control, and if you merely let go, partner falls.

I’ve said this before and will undoubtedly say it again, over and over, ad infinitum, ad nauseam, the sense of empowerment properly taught Aikido gives to someone with CRPTSD is enormous. The knowledge that they can deal with both inner and outer devils effectively, with out having to bring harm to themselves or to others, is both a relief and a validation of their worth as a human being.

I will also repeat that Aikido is most effective when it is an integral part of a broad spectrum therapeutic program. What I see as a smorgasbord approach. To this end, the fifteen minute “debrief” at the end of each class could be most critical to the healing process. My next project is to develop a basic philosophy, structure and process for an effective, therapeutic debrief. I am open to any and all suggestions and hope to have a first draft as blog in the not-to-distant future.

Check out our website, www.keganinnosenshi.org , and look for our soon to be posted campaign on Indiegogo.
And as always,
                               Onward, into the fog.