Uncategorized about seo, choosing an SEO company
Web shop owners can tell you that well organized web shop leaves good impact on visitors, so designing a nice online place for shopping is important. Many SEO companies also design websites, so ask what SEO services exactly include. It is good when the same company who arranged designing a web shop can also do the search engine optimization. Besides that, entrepreneurs will need a business strategy that includes a plan for content marketing.
When it comes to content marketing, we usually think of blogs, so entrepreneurs tend to use blogs in order to reach their clients or those who are potential clients. For reaching this goal, a web shop owner will need to produce good content on a blog. But each person who wants success in online marketing will have to admit that instead of rewriting content it is better to ask All Systems Go Marketing, a San Diego SEO company, to include original articles in their SEO services. Make sure you are producing original content that is interesting, useful and SEO friendly because that is the content that your readers want to get. When we say that it has to be SEO friendly, it means that search engines are recognizing it instead of ignoring it.
Who Needs SEO Services And What Do They Offer
What is actually this SEO everybody are talking about? It is useful to get the idea about the term if you are considering to take one of the SEO services. So, for the beginners, let us say in short that it is mixture of activities and techniques that are putting your website higher on search engines. You are probably using one of the search engines every day – maybe it is Google or some other search engine, they all work almost the same and they all allow you to be visible there when someone types the name of your website or the products you and your company are making.
But, as you know, the competition also wants their products to be mentioned on search engines, so how can you be more visible than your competition? By implementing the good SEO. It has two types of SEO activities. The one is called on-page and, as the word tells you, it combines the efforts done on the website itself. The other activity is called off-page SEO and it combines link building with social networking.
Is The Off-Page Optimization Part Of SEO Services San Diego?
The search engine optimization includes two types of strategies – the one is focused on the website and the other is oriented on activities done away from the website. The first one is called on-page and it is necessary that you are a SEO expert for doing it properly. On-page is the main part of effective SEO services. But people may ask whether the off-page SEO is actually search engine optimization or is it rather something different. Link building can be sometimes understood as content marketing. It can be done via blogs or on social networks like Facebook.
The question is can the off-page optimization be included in basic SEO services. The answer is that it should be included into every search engine optimization. Modern SEO is developing and some things are being added to more complex SEO, but the basic package should always include link building. Of course, the greatness of link building may differ from package to package, but the basic one will satisfy the beginners. Forums, blogs, social networks and similar platforms are to be used for off-page SEO. A user can do that alone after the SEO team makes the complete optimization because when the foundations are settled, user can easily continue with the activity.
Exercise child fitness, fighting obesity, kids
strength training can even help children achieve non-physical benefits like being able to set and work toward goals, developing an understanding and respect for rules, overcoming failure and developing good work patterns and attitudes. At Lift for Life Gym in St. Louis, Missouri, 92 of children participating in strength training programs graduate from high school, as opposed to 67 percent of nonparticipants citywide.
Faigenbaum takes it one step further, suggesting that successful strength training can build self-esteem. “The psychological effects are huge,” he says. Faigenbaum sees kids developing better social skills, and parents report their kids act up less frequently, have more respect for others and work harder in school.
Many of the ailments that plague adults, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity, have their roots in early childhood. By starting a strength training program early, many of these maladies can be avoided. “The new buzzword in physical fitness is `lifetime fitness,’” says Faigenbaum. This means beginning a fitness program early and making it a habit for life. Strength training should be one piece of the total fitness package, which should also include aerobic exercise, stretching and a well-balanced diet.
The only requirement to beginning a strength training program is that the child have the emotional maturity to accept and follow directions. Children as young as ages 6 or 7 have benefited from strength training, and even younger kids could do milder exercises like sit-ups and push-ups. As a guideline, children who are able to play an organized sport, such as Little League, are ready to begin a strength training program.
Experts also say that, prior to puberty, females have the same potential for strength development as males of comparable size. When boys begin to outgrow girls in weight and height, they will develop greater muscle mass and, therefore, will be able to lift heavier weights. If beginning a program in preadolescence, there is no need for boys and girls to train differently. As they age, proper adjustments should be made to weight intensity.
It is very important that all children receive proper instruction on exercise technique (form) and training procedures (warm-up and cool-down, for example). See sidebar for more information.
General Guidelines for Strength Training
* Stay well-hydrated.
* Get plenty of rest.
* Eat well.
* Stretch as often as possible (ideally before, during and after workouts).
* Use a spotter for heavier-weight exercises like bench presses and squats.
* Give muscles at least two days to recover.
Although strength training machines are available in smaller sizes for children, most traditional weights and machines can be adapted to fit a child’s smaller frame. The most basic decision to make about equipment is whether to use free weights or machines. The decision may depend on personal preferences or on the availability of equipment in the home or local gym.
Free weights are often cheaper and more adaptable to smaller body types, but movements are less controlled, so strict emphasis must be placed on proper form. Machines tend to be more expensive and less adaptable to size (unless child-size machines are used), but they offer more controlled movements. In addition to free weights or machines, you will need a bench (if working with free weights) and good athletic shoes with traction. A weight belt and gloves are also recommended.
Experts differ on their preferences for training various body parts. Some people prefer to work a specific body part per day, either because of time restrictions or because they only want to focus on one body part at a time. Then there’s the total body workout, in which the entire body is trained in one lengthy session once or twice per week. The majority of people fall somewhere in the middle, working several muscle groups in one workout. An example of this would be to work back, biceps and abdominals one day, chest, shoulders and triceps another, and legs and abdominals on a third day. Regardless of the method, the most important thing to remember is that muscles need at least 48 hours to recover. Never work the same muscle group two days in a row.
Weight, Sets and Repetitions
Faigenbaum and his colleagues at the South Shore YMCA recently conducted a study of boys and girls ages 5 through 11 which shows not only that strength training can improve muscular strength and endurance in children, but also that high repetition/ moderate load training is significantly more successful than low repetition/heavy load training. For the adult population, it is generally considered more beneficial to increase muscular endurance through high repetition training. To increase muscular strength, however, heavier weights and fewer repetitions are thought to be more successful. This study suggests that high repetition/moderate load training may be just as effective in enhancing both the muscular strength and muscular endurance of children. Figure 1 shows the muscular increase in chest press and leg extension strength achieved for each study group.
When beginning a program for a child, start with the lowest weight available and concentrate on proper technique and safety. It will be obvious whether the child is struggling with the weight or handling it easily. A good recommendation is to perform one to three sets of 6 to 15 repetitions, using a weight that is challenging but still allows for good form. A weight that cannot be lifted for six repetitions is too heavy. When the weight is still being lifted without difficulty on the final repetition, it is time to increase the weight. The kids in Faigenbaum’s classes complete a log which reminds them which exercises they’re performing, as well as weight and repetition levels. It’s also a great way for them to track their success and progress.
The most common strength training injuries are sprains and strains, which can be avoided with proper warm-ups and cool-downs and by stretching as often as possible. The program at South Shore YMCA begins with a warm-up game of hot potato, which is similar to musical chairs, played by passing a medicine ball from child to child. The group then completes some floor stretching before hitting the weight machines.
In the past, there have been concerns of permanent damage to bones and joints among children involved in all sporting activities. Children’s growth plates are particularly vulnerable to blows, sudden wrenchings and other severe stresses. Little or no evidence exists of any negative effect on bone growth as a result of training. In fact, the opposite is true. Children most susceptible to bone plate disturbances are those with poor muscle development. Resistance training will increase bone density and lessen the chances of growth plate damage from other activities.
Many experts believe strength training is actually safer than some team sports, including basketball and football. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) contends that strength training can be safe and effective for children, provided it is properly designed and supervised. Other national organizations that concur include the American Academy of Pediatric Medicine and the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. According to Faigenbaum, “safety is our foremost concern” and maintaining close supervision at all times is important, adding that they haven’t had a single injury during the program’s 8-year history.
Where to Get Help
Information is available from television, books, organizations (see sidebar), videos, computer software and individuals like personal trainers and exercise physicians. Most sources can provide detailed information on designing a workout, including specific exercises which will be safe and effective, or direct you to someone in your area who specializes in training children. Local gyms and YMCAs are also excellent sources of advice and/or programs. A couple of good books to consider are The Weightlifting Encyclopedia by Arthur Drechsler and Strength and Power for Young Athletes by Avery D. Faigenbaum, Ed.D., CSCS and Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D.
How to Be Successful
Success is determined by many factors, especially feasibility. To institute a valid program requires time, equipment and expertise. The best solution for families who would like their children to begin a program may include a group class like the KidsWorkout program in Quincy. “We need to make it affordable,” says LaRosaLoud. Fees at a local YMCA are often much less than the hourly fees paid to a personal trainer. These classes provide training, supervision and equipment.
Faigenbaum insists that the instructors are key to a successful program. Kids need explicit directions and demonstrations as well as constant encouragement and respect. Most of all, children need to know that strength training is just one part of healthy living and, therefore, they should be encouraged to enjoy many other activities.
For kids, success is easier to measure. “They see themselves getting stronger,” Faigenbaum says, explaining that tangibles will fuel continued success.
Competing blind athletics, special olympics stories
Andy stands at the starting line, poised to take off the first second he can. While his teammates all listen for the loud “bang!” of the starting gun, Andy instead watches for the smoke to come wafting out of it because he is profoundly deaf. As soon as he sees that glimpse of gray smoke, he’s off. In his three years on the track team, Andy has broken two high school records. “He has a stack of ribbons in his room,” says Crista Barker, his mother, “and in every race he was in, he finished in the top four. Usually the top two.”
Andy never let his deafness deter him from something he wanted to do, including running track and cross-country. “I was the only deaf person on the team,” he signs, “but we were all equals. The coach let me do everything everyone else did.” Andy’s interpreter would attend all his practices and games with him to sign all the rules and directions the coaches would give. Deafness simply wasn’t going to hold him back from playing the sports he enjoyed. “In fact,” he adds, “when I was on the wrestling team, my deafness was an advantage. There were always three matches going on at the same time, and I couldn’t hear the screams and whistles of the crowd that distracted the other players.”
Andy now attends the Indiana School for the Deaf in Indianapolis, where he plays on the basketball team and recently took scuba diving lessons. Is it better to have all your teammates deaf also? “It is easier to communicate,” admits Andy, “but playing on either team is great fun!”
Keep on Running
What’s it like to run around a track that you can barely even see? Marla Runyan cannot read a stopwatch or watch her own races on television without sitting right up against the screen, but she is still aiming for the next Olympics track and field trials. Runyan suffers from a degenerative (progressively worsening) health condition in her retina called Stargardt’s disease. She is legally blind, and when she runs, even though she wears special contacts, she still can barely see the track or the other runners except as blurs of color. Her vision problems started when she was only 9 years old. By the time she was 14, she could no longer see the soccer ball she was trying to kick, so she switched over to track and field. Soon, she achieved a new school record for the high jump. Though she has been running only a short time, she came in tenth in the 1996 Olympic heptathlon trials, setting a new national record for the 800-meter race, and did well in the 1999 Pan American Games.
Charlie Huebner, executive director of the United States Association for Blind Athletes, says, “Not all young blind kids are being told they can dream about something, so Maria is a good role model. If you have high expectations,” he adds, “anything is possible.”
No Stopping Now
All over the world, there are people with all kinds of mental and physical disabilities who aren’t going to let that slow them down for a moment. Just past March, Jean Driscoll of Champaign, Illinois, became first athlete to win eight Boston Marathons. Her time came in at 2 hours and 52 seconds, but Jean wasn’t running for those two hours she was pushing her wheelchair.
Dennis Oehler has become one of the fastest runners in the world, covering 100 meters in 11.73 seconds. Dennis does it with an artificial, carbon fiber right leg. He lost his leg in a car accident in 1984 and was devastated for some time until he went to the Paralympics, a worldwide competition for those missing a limb or paralyzed. When he saw the athletes there, he realized something about himself. “I thought it was a group of able-bodied runners showing others how to do it; then I saw they had the exact same thing as I did,” says Oehler. “That changed my life.”
Rolling Down the Track
The first National Wheelchair Games were held on Long Island in 1957 and have continued every year since, drawing thousands of competitors from around the world. Some of the most common events are the short-, mid-, and long-distance races, ranging from 100 to 10,000 meters. All the participants in these races are either missing one or both legs or their lower bodies are paralyzed to different degrees. These participants often have very strong upper bodies. They train throughout the year to make those muscles even stronger so they can push their wheelchairs fast! Can you imagine racing 100 meters in just 14.45 seconds–pushing a wheelchair? Though these wheelchairs are made especially light for racing, it is still an exhausting event!
Keeping fit and exercising is important to everyone, and, as these athletes have shown, having a disability is no excuse not to participate. Not everyone is going to be a star athlete, but everyone can keep on moving and staying healthy!
* Assign students to research accounts of other athletes who have managed to remain fit despite their disability. What obstacles did they have to overcome? What special equipment, competitive rules, or precautions were needed?
* Students might like to interview students in their own school or community who participate in the Special Olympics. Find out what their motivation is to participate and what special challenges they face. Interviewers also could talk to the coaches, family members, and friends who devote countless hours to preparation for these events. Have them share their findings with the class.
* Organize students to help promote a Special Olympics event in your school. Some students may want to help teachers of adaptive physical education classes and work with potential Special Olympians as a community service activity.
Exercise keeping in shape, staying healthy
Worth the Weight
Q: I’ve read lots of articles that recommend weight lifting for runners. What are your recommendations?
B.H., AVON LAKE, OHIO
A: I do a lot of total-body strength conditioning, even during my racing season. The program I follow was developed for me by Phil and Jim Wharton, who wrote The Wharton Strength Book. Their book is easy to follow, and the exercises they recommend don’t require a lot of equipment. They explain how many sets to do and how much weight to lift.
The most important muscles to work on are your stabilizer muscles, which include your hips, glutes, lower back, and inner and outer thighs. You also need to strengthen your lower abdominals. If these muscles are strong, you’ll maintain good running form even when you become tired. As you draw closer to your big competitions, back off on the frequency and weight load of your strength workouts.
–Jen Rhines, winner of three consecutive NCAA outdoor track titles in the 5000 from 1994 to 1996
Q: I’m a 54-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease. I’ve run for 10 years and finished several marathons. Parkinson’s has affected my right side in such a way that my right foot lands flat My left foot lands normally. Is there anything I can do to correct this?
D.J., NEWPORT NEWS, VA.
A: Parkinson’s is a neurological disease that results in muscle rigidity and slow movements. Tremors are usually present as well. Physical activities that involve smooch, rhythmic movements–such as running–can help people stricken with Parkinson’s to maintain mobility.
For a runner with Parkinson’s, stretching is mandatory and should be done regularly. As for correcting your foot landing, I suggest you see a podiatrist or other qualified professional for a computerized gait analysis. The results of this consultation and test will determine if a supportive device such as an orthotic might normalize your running gait.
You should also see a physical therapist about exercises you can do to correct your foot-strike imbalance. Changes in your running pattern are inevitable, but running will help. I commend you for continuing with it and wish you the best.
–Randy Schapiro, M.D., neurologist at the Fairview University Medical Center in Minneapolis, Minn.
Down to the Bone
Q. I’m a 58-year-old man and have been running 30 to 40 miles a week for 26 years. I’m a vegetarian and don’t eat any dairy products. Recently I had a bone-density scan and was told I had osteoporosis of my spine and hips. I thought running increased bone density. Why do I have this condition?
A.G., GATLINBURG, TENN.
Unfortunately osteoporosis (a significant reduction in bone mass) can even occur in runners, and the exact causes of this disease are hard to pinpoint. The good news is that your years of consistent running have probably spared you from even more bone-density loss.
I recommend that your family physician, internist, or endocrinologist examine you to discover possible causes of your osteoporosis, such as thyroid or parathyroid disease. Your doctor can start with simple blood tests to determine the levels of your thyroid and parathyroid hormones and the calcium and phosphorous in your blood. Urine tests can detect a high level of excreted calcium.
If no specific cause is discovered, I’d recommend that you keep running in order to stimulate your bones to absorb more calcium, and supplement your diet with calcium, vitamin D, and a prescription drug called alendronate (Fosamax), which has shown to be effective in building bone mass.
–Warren A. Scott, M.D., sports medicine specialist in private practice in Soquel, Calif., competitive runner since 1969, and member of RW’s Science Advisory Board
After completing the Chicago Marathon in October, I’m finding it hard to break out of the 11:30 pace that i ran to finish in just under 5 hours. I ran much faster in shorter races before the marathon, but lately I haven’t been able to motivate myself to speed up. What do you suggest?
W.H., PRIMGHAR, IOWA
I’ve confronted the same motivational crisis after my marathons, and find that two tricks work particularly wen. First, I take a break. Fora couple of weeks, or maybe even a month, I relax and relish the fact that I’ve finished a marathon. I mn when I feel like it, and go to the gym to maintain my fitness.
Second, I set a new goal. By the time I’ve finished the “relaxation phase” of my marathon recovery, I’m usually eager to start training again for another race. Perhaps you’d like to set a marathon PR. Or maybe it’s time to focus on shorter distances. Look at a calendar, find a race, and figure out what you need to do over the next few months to reach your goal. Start a training log, as it provides tangible, daily proof of your progress and will help motivate you.
Running partners can also be great motivators. Try to find someone with similar abilities and goals; he or she will help you return to your speedier, pre-marathon training pace. If you’re still faltering, register for a few local races and bring along family, friends, and co-workers. These races will motivate you to train by giving you small, measurable goals to achieve.
Take advantage of every running resource around you–clubs, online logs, training programs–and you’ll likely find the motivation you seek.
Exercise flexibility issues, good health
Especially critical to Rogers and Klaus’ success and safety is core strength and flexibility–both key, often neglected elements of fitness. Having a strong core–the erector muscles of your lower back and the rectus abdominis, obliques and transverse abdominis of your stomach–will help you avoid nagging back injuries that can not only make for a painful golf swing, but can also knock your training off-track. A firmed-up midsection will help you handle heavier weight with exercises such as squats and standing shoulder presses, which translates to more muscle gain. Lastly, increased flexibility will reduce injuries and muscle soreness and give you greater range of motion.
On days when he doesn’t jump out of a plane several times, Klaus usually lifts weights for an hour to an hour and a half. Because his work recruits even the smallest and most out-of-the-way muscles, Klaus performs a variety of exercises for each area of the body to ensure a comprehensive workout.
While most guys focus on their “beach muscles,” Klaus concentrates mostly on his core, performing crunches and back extensions (he also includes lat pull-downs and rows to strengthen his upper back). This not only provides him with stability during free fall, but also builds those boxer’s abs that most women prefer to beach muscles anyhow.
Rogers does a rather brutal daily abs workout utilizing a Swiss ball. His typical routine includes crunches, crunch twists, trunk rotations, reverse crunches and flail sit-ups. Generally, he does sets of 40 repetitions, but occasionally he’ll throw in a five-minute sit-up “sprint” (this shocks the muscles and stimulates development). To round things out, Rogers does some light upper-body work with dumbbells, often using the Swiss ball as a seat or bench in order to target stabilizer muscles.
CARDIO & STRETCHING
Klaus also goes for a short run (two or three miles) once or twice a week and stretches extensively every day. “Lifting weights makes my muscles strong, but the stretching allows me to use them,” he says. “There’s no way I could perform some of the tricks I do without getting injured if I didn’t have the flexibility.” For guys who lift weights regularly, Klaus says full-body stretching will enable them to get the most out of their newly developed strength.
Rogers took up yoga several years ago, and it has been his primary fitness activity ever since. “I haven’t found any other kind of exercise that gives you so many benefits,” he says. He cites increased strength, flexibility, balance, concentration, relaxation and general body awareness as benefits he’s drawn from yoga that have helped him as a camera flyer and with all of his physical activities. Rogers does his yoga workouts at home with a video called Power Yoga, instructed by California-based fitness guru Bryan Kest. Rogers performs the 45-minute routine four times a week.
Wherever you are in your fitness program, you’ll benefit by paying attention to core strength and flexibility. So adopt some of the Yahoo! team’s training into your own regimen; for example, try taking a yoga class once a week, and include a variety of ab exercises with a Swiss ball two or three times a week. Even if you have no plans to step out of a perfectly good airplane, you’ll know you could.
Combining elements of skydiving, snowboarding and high-velocity camera work, the spectacular and very extreme sport of skysurfing involves a pair of athletes at 15,000 feet recording a live video that is scored by judges stationed on the ground. The skysurfer, in this case Stefan Klaus, performs a series of tricks on a specially designed “skyboard” during free fall, while his camera flyer, Brian Rogers, follows him with a helmet-mounted camera.
Klaus’ role as skysurfer, which requires him to maneuver a 59-inch board at 120 mph–a rate of speed called “terminal velocity”–and perform hundreds of spins at a rate of up to three per second, emphasizes strength, balance and quick reflexes. Meanwhile, Rogers must contort his body in a variety of ways, and slow down and accelerate his fall in step with his partner’s changing moves, providing interesting angles without losing focus (a major point deduction). Agility and stability are paramount.
Skysurfing may sound like a sport invented by overcaffeinated Fox executives, but it’s genuine–executing the one-minute routines is an intense effort and calls on a broad range of physical and mental attributes.
“Skysurfing is very physical,” says Klaus, who was born and raised in Switzerland and spent much of his childhood pursuing extreme vertical challenges in the Alps. “Being in good shape is important. Even though it’s only one minute when you’re actually doing something, that minute is incredibly intense, because you’re concentrating the whole time. You’re burning adrenaline, and you’re spinning and doing all these tricks.” On an average training day, Rogers, a native of South Carolina, says he and Klaus will do eight to 10 jumps, leaping aboard the next plane within two minutes of landing in the drop zone. How does he feel at day’s end? “Totally spent.”
The sport requires a variety of mental skills, too. Above all, naturally, a skysurfer needs to have some serious nad. Beyond that, good old-fashioned discipline and a capacity for extreme focus and concentration are mandatory. But the most striking mental quality you see in skysurfers like Klaus and Rogers, who won the X-games skysurfing gold medal last year, is an inexpressible passion for flying–a passion much like a surfer’s mystical love of wave riding. Everything else–the guts, the focus and the discipline–is critical, but secondary.
Searching for the right words, Rogers says, “What can I say? It’s flying! I love flying. It’s an incredible rush of adrenaline.”
Martial Arts aikido types, interesting practices
O Sensei took the aggressive killing and maiming techniques of his many martial arts and transformed them into gentle, defensive responses to physical attacks. Rather than executing forceful strikes, O Sensei smoothed out these techniques into graceful and even elegant flowing movements which blend with the energy of an attacker. Instead of meeting aggression with equal or greater force, an Aikido practitioner responds to conflict with equanimity and calm repose, gets off the line of an attack, joins with the energy and momentum of her opponent, and then softly diffuses the attack by harmlessly pinning the attacker or leading him into a gentle roll. Instead of hurting an opponent, an Aikido practitioner protects the opponent, resolving any potential conflict without inflicting pain and thereby paving the way towards reconciliation and peace.
O Sensei hoped that people who practiced Aikido would be “part of the infinite growth towards perfection,” and that its practice would lead to the “ever-increasing glory of God.” This is not mere rhetoric, for Aikido, like Lurianic Kabbalah, is predicated on improving the world through individual concrete actions. The difference is that while Lurianic Kabbalah can be practiced by isolated individuals and potentially have no impact on the community, Aikido is based solely in the realm of social and interpersonal activity. Unlike kabbalistic study, which often encourages self-immersion, in Aikido, if there is no uke (opponent/partner) there is no nage (thrower/defender). And unlike Lurianic Kabbalah, Aikido can be practiced in every social encounter, no matter how brief or superficial. In fact, as Mitsugi Saotome, a disciple of O Sensei and head of the Associated Schools of Ueshiba, explains, the point of Aikido is to effect tikkun olam in ourselves and in our society:
The real purpose of Aikido is to strengthen the quality of your life. If you are strong, with powerful technique on the mat, but cannot learn to communicate with others in daily life, your training is meaningless. If you always escape from stress, you cannot develop a strong and noble spirit. As you refine your reaction to stress and pressure on the mat, you refine your reaction to the stresses of life in your relationships with others. On the mat you cannot escape from the attacks of your partner. You must learn to face them with confidence and control. Through this training you will find the strength and confidence to control the conflict that you face every day. [Such training will teach you to transcend your own aggressive instincts, to refine your reactions so that you may more accurately mirror the spirit of God. (Aikido and the Harmony of Nature)
The Jewish tradition also translates individual action into spiritual development through the practice of mitzvot. One early rabbinic midrash states:
Rav declared, “What does the Holy One, praised be God, care whether we slaughter an animal at the throat or the nape of the neck (for to be kosher, an animal must be slaughtered at the throat to ensure a quick and relatively painless death)? Rather, the purpose of the mitzvot is to refine the spirit of human beings.” (Beresheet Rabbah 44:1)
In light of this midrash, the category of commandments known as mitzvot bein adam le’chavero, (commandments between a human being and their fellow person) takes on new meaning as a collection of individually and socially transformative practices. Yet too often the transformative value of mitzvot has occurred alongside of, instead of being integrated with, the practice of Lurianic Kabbalah. It is only as I have practiced Aikido that I have come to understand that such mitzvot as the giving of tzedakah (charity), bikur cholim (visiting the sick), ha’chnasat orchim (hospitality to strangers), nichum aveilim (comforting mourners), and other acts of gemilut hasadim (acts of lovingkindness) are the Jewish counterparts to Aikido techniques. For not only do they impact society, but they can and should lead to spiritual growth in the practitioner. For example, years spent giving will transform the giver into someone who is more generous in spirit and personality throughout all parts of his or her life.
On its own, Lurianic Kabbalah seemed too ethereal to me, too focused on the repair of the spiritual foundations of the cosmos rather than on the repair of our daily interactions in this world. My practice of Aikido has enlivened my love and appreciation for Lurianic Kabbalah precisely because it is embedded in the world of social interactions. It is all too easy to study Kabbalah in the safety of one’s own room. It is far harder to bring about tikkun olam while living and interacting in the rough-and-tumble world of daily contact with family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances, fellow drivers on the road, and total strangers. Rather than isolating ourselves at meditational retreats, our objective should be to live a life of kabbalistic Aikido in our homes, at our jobs, in our cars, and on the streets of our everyday lives precisely where the need is the greatest and the circumstances most challenging.
Ironically, I learned this lesson in an Aikido dojo. Perhaps the most spiritual kabbalistic moment I ever experienced was during my black belt examination, fending off multiple attackers in the practice called randoori.
The Ki to Life
Randoori (freestyle) practice is an advanced form of Aikido training which is the closest to combat–or everyday life–that is practiced in the dojo. In randoori, a defender is attacked by multiple assailants from any direction at any speed. I would like nothing more than to claim that I am proficient and skilled in randoori, but I am unfortunately far from it. Mastering multiple freestyle attacks remains my greatest ongoing personal challenge in Aikido, and in life in general.
Freestyle training sessions are difficult not because they demand tremendous physical energy; in fact, the opposite is true. Randoori is a psychological challenge because the key to learning to successfully confront multiple attackers is to enter into a state of calm so deep that your thoughts and movements flow freely and easily, even while under the greatest stress. You should not even have to consciously decide which technique to execute-it should happen naturally and spontaneously. In such a state, a defender is able to perceive the dynamic energy of the attackers and to visualize the outcome long before there is any physical contact. The defender is always grounded and centered, even while in motion.
It is not easy to achieve this state of mind because it runs contrary to human nature. It is far more natural for human beings (myself especially), when confronted with overwhelming odds and strength, to freeze in panic, shrink within ourselves, to “hunker down” and rely on sheer brute strength to see us through. At such moments, we tend to see the world through tunnel vision, focusing on only the closest, most immediate threats to our safety. Randoori is so challenging that even the most accomplished Aikidoists are prone to look like Frankenstein ineptly wrestling with a pack of nimble wolves. This is why randoori requires years of practice, so that the mind, body, and spirit are functioning in harmony when they are most needed–which is all the time.
Just once, at the conclusion of my black belt exam, I achieved this state of flow. After having survived twenty-five minutes of demonstrating an exhausting variety of defensive responses to individual opponents attacking both free-handed and with weapons (sword, staff, knife), I kneeled at the far end of the mat facing several fresh partners. Despite the sweat which rained from body, I closed my eyes and attempted to slow my racing breath. Finally, I rose and bowed to my attackers, giving them the signal to begin. They came rushing in, far faster than I was prepared for, and almost without thinking, I dropped to my knees directly in front of my first attacker, destabilizing him enough to completely throw off his balance and attack. When I rose to my feet again, although I knew my attackers were moving very quickly, my perception of time had changed. I discovered I had the space to rake a few steps, the leisure to feign a strike to an attacker, the opportunity to pivot and lead an attacker into a fall. Yet dur ing these chaotic moments I was more deeply attuned to my breath than to my attackers. The sound and rhythm of my breathing filled my ears more than the cries and grunts of my opponents.
Having spent a fraction of a second too long throwing one of my attackers, two of the other opponents converged upon me, seizing my arms at the same time in an attempt to immobilize me. I knew that they were far stronger than I was, and that if I did not do something, the other attackers would descend upon me in a moment. In a fraction of a second of panic, I discovered that I could not dislodge them with my strength alone. In that moment, my panic subsided and I gave up my ego. I did not even try to struggle with them. I ceased caring whether or not I would emerge successfully from this situation; I stopped caring whether my teachers would promote me or what my friends who were watching would say if I failed. I let go of my sense of self and, for the briefest moment in time, I was happy to not care. I centered myself and exhaled deeply, whirling around, shaking all of the tension and anxiety out of my body like a dog shaking off water after a swim.
I could have said “abracadabra” and the effect would not have been any less magical–my attackers flew off me as though we were magnets whose polarities had suddenly been reversed. In that moment of shock and amazement, my trance ended. I found myself gasping for breath and drenched in sweat. My test was over and suddenly, everyone in the room was clapping. My randoori demonstration had not lasted more than two minutes, but afterwards I found myself longing to re-experience that briefest moment of complete emptiness again, when all I felt was ki.
Ki is the Japanese word used to describe the special, unique energy that all people are capable of projecting and directing. Ki is the energy of our bodies, the heat we exude, and the palpable yet invisible essence of who we are and how we are feeling at any given moment. Ki is also the animating energy of the cosmos, the background radiation of the universe which suffuses all time and space. The closest equivalent term in Hebrew might be ruah, the breath and spirit of life, or perhaps shefa, the kabbalistic term which denotes the flow of divine plenum in the universe. It is the animating force within all living creatures and a function of the divine presence. Aikido is all about ki training. In fact, the Japanese word Aikido can be translated as “the way of harmonizing with universal energy.” Aikido training teaches us to be aware of and sensitive to ki/ruah and enables us to not only sense it in other people, but to access it within ourselves. When controlled and directed, ki/ruah can send a partner flying across the room with the gentlest push from a finger, but just as importantly, ki/ruah can also be sent and projected to other people in a conversation, providing a non-physical, yet tangible reassurance of our concern, respect, and love for them. Ki/ruah is the force that can either repel us from each other, or bind us closer to each other and to God.
Randoori practice is designed to discourage us from relying solely on the physical input of our five senses and to encourage us instead to rely on our ability to perceive and direct other people’s ki/ruah directly. During a freestyle attack, a defender’s five senses are secondary to his ability to spiritually expand his circle of perception and work within this powerful, responsive energy field. It’s a practice that allows us to truly actualize the Ari’s vision of the goal of Kabbalab–releasing the hidden sparks of the Divine trapped within the stress and strain of ordinary daily life.
Uplifting the Sparks
When I first began training in Aikido, people of higher ranks used to chide me for trying to use my physical strength in a technique, saying, “Use your ki!” But no matter how hard I tried, I simply ended up using my muscles, I was convinced that this mystical, elusive ki was beyond my grasp, a power too rarefied and hidden for me to be able to comprehend, much less utilize. It was only when I began to despair and actually stopped trying so hard that I began to catch glimpses of this mysterious, powerful energy, first in other people’s techniques and then, slowly, even in my own. When, in the midst of Aikido training, I have been truly able to relax and let my mind go blank, I often experience a sense of connectedness to my training partner and others around me. In this kabbalistic state of bittul hayesh, or nullification of the self, I have felt united with all life and the world around me. It must have been just such an experience, on a far grander scale, that led O Sensei to comment in a moment of cosmic co nnection and insight, “I am the universe.” Because of his profound sensitivity and awareness of ki, O Sensei recognized the indivisibility of the ki that we as human beings are able to experience and the ki of the cosmos. The rare occasions when I have been able to experience this kind of connection have been holy moments, for I have felt as if I were a conduit of divine energy, of shefa, helping to lift up the divine sparks of the shattered sefirot, the emanations of the One.
According to Lurianic Kabbalab, the task of human beings is to search out and find the shards of the fused broken vessels that hold remnants of the sell rot, and to engage in spiritual, religious, and physical acts which will help release these divine sparks. Despite the original cosmic catastrophe which led to the shattering of the sefirot, human beings are capable of repairing this spiritual structure and restoring harmony to the world. The sparks hidden within the klippot, the husks, will then return to their divine source, further strengthening the connection between the world of humanity and God’s unknowable and infinite essence. This process of tikkun olam can uplift the realm of creation and repair our broken world.
Despite my intellectual fascination with Lurianic Kabbalah, I have learned that a spiritual path is irrelevant unless acted upon in this world and concretized through acts of tikkun olam. In turn, I have found that tikkun olam means going beyond simple acts like tzedakah, charity. To truly bring God’s presence into this world, we must train ourselves to recognize and be prepared to nurture the divine spark in all human beings, even when they are hostile and belligerent. The challenge of the Kabbalah of Aikido is to see the tzelem elohim (the image of God) in all people, even when they may be antagonistic, and to choose to protect them even when they may be attacking us. In this way can we release and raise up the divine light which is hidden inside people even when they are showing their least divine face to the world.
Aikido could be just another way to hurt people and inflict pain–unless it is practiced in accordance with O Sensei’s vision of universal harmony and cosmic peace. When performed with true kavanah, that is, proper intention and devotion, acts of tikkun olam and Aikido can help to release the divine sparks and bring the effervescence of God ever closer to our profane world.