Sensei Noha provides an excellent in depth review of the book “Aikido: An Everyday Approach To The Martial Art That Can Transform Your Life & The World”, by Paul Rest.
By Paul Fredrick Rest
Published by Paul Fredrick Rest
Publication Date: April 2016
Review by Robert Noha
Paul Rest’s book offers practices that are straightforward and practical ways to applying Aikido off the mat. The practices are illustrated with entertaining examples from his own life and practice.
Paul Rest has been practicing Aikido for over 20 years and holds the rank of 4th dan. He has trained with many of the top instructors in the US and in seminars with some of the leading teachers from Japan including the current Doshu, Moriteru Ueshiba. He is also a pioneer in Low Impact Aikido, an area of growing interest in the Aikido world. Low Impact Aikido is an opportunity for students to practice the art who are not able to take falls. This will be the subject of a forthcoming book.
The Preface by Hiroshi Ikeda, 7th Dan Shihan provides his perspective after reading the book:
“This small book is a treasure, a generous sharing of uniquely personal , yet universally familiar, experiences encountered on the path of Aikido training.” (Page xiii)
Section I – Mind/Body/Spirit- contains three chapters entitled Mind, Body and Spirit respectively. These chapters provide a unique perspective on these concepts.
Here is an example: “The purpose of paying attention to the mind is to have this become part of the larger dialogue that includes all parts of oneself…So, I always re-mind myself: Let your mind become part of the team. And most of all, hold in yourself that a beginner’s mind is the best mind to have.” (Page 6)
This section focuses on the unity of mind, body and spirit, a core principle of Aikido practice. There are numerous insights from Paul’s many years of training and teaching as well as examples from other people, which illustrate mind, body, spirit unity.
Section II – Aikido and You – Aikido in the World – contains eleven chapters that help us to work with basic activities such as standing walking and turning and how Aikido can help us take these fundamental movements and create opportunities for training.
Here is an example: Standing-“How we are standing reflects who we are in the world…’Grocery Cart Exercise’…When you are in your local supermarket, play a game…Begin by slumping…notice how people around you react…Now stand up…When I have done this exercise and I change from a slouched way of stranding to standing straight…I’ve noticed people are friendly. I can find what I am searching for more easily…Students have reported clerks running up to help them.” (Pages 19 & 22)
The later chapters in this section provide similar practices using different parts of the body such as eyes, hands and fingers and skin.
Here is another supermarket exercise: Hands & Fingers-“What happens when you grip your shopping cart tightly…Now relax your hands and fingers. What has changed…We are no longer thinking one thing and our hands and fingers are doing something different. As one of my Low Impact students said recently, ‘It’s a whole new world.” (Page 54)
These types of exercises may seem simplistic but that is a big part of their value as they can be done in the most ordinary places while performing the most ordinary of tasks. My own experience with them has helped to turn grocery shopping from a task I don’t enjoy to something I look forward to as a chance to train.
Section III-Provides an example of one of Paul’s classes, his thoughts on Low Impact Aikido and a glossary of terms.
Here is the context in which he teaches:
“One of my major quests as I learned Aikido (which continues– as I will always be a student) was learning…I couldn’t demand one part of me change and leave the other parts of myself out in the cold…My body needed to learn the techniques…My mind needed to set forth my intention…My spirit reminded me why I was here…the bigger picture.” (Page 83)…We are changing ourselves and the world–one technique at a time, one class at a time, one breath at a time, and one heartbeat at a time.” (Page 88)
The book concludes with a discussion of Low Impact Aikido:
“Low Impact Aikido is a way those individuals can train who cannot take the rolling and falling that is involved in most classes…An opportunity to step on the mat and experience this exquisite art.” (Page 89)
The book is well worth reading because it offers practices to take the art off the mat that are practical and can be used in our most basic daily life situations, such as the supermarket examples. Working with these practices will enhance daily life activities and also help to improve your Aikido on the mat as well.
It is available on Amazon in both printed and ebook formats.