Initially, I was just searching for martial arts to get involved in to find a way to embody and work through more challenging emotional blockages. I hadn't specifically chosen Aikido and I didn't know anything about it...
What first drew you to Aikido? How long have you been practicing?
Something about Boulder Ki Aikido stood out to me and drew me in among all the different places I searched through in Boulder. I first started in September 2021 during the Adult Aikido Intro Course and I still didn't entirely understand what Aikido was when I showed up for that first class.
For what a huge part of my life Aikido has become, I surprisingly don't remember very much about that first day. I remember feeling very out of shape and I remember feeling intimated that the person I started out with was in much better shape than me. Fortunately, I didn't let either of those things deter me and now I've regularly been practicing Aikido for 9 months.
How has Aikido impacted your life?
Aikido has changed my life for the better. Everyone comes to Aikido for different reasons and everyone gets something different out of it. For me, I truly believe that I'm meant to be doing Aikido, that this lineage was meant to be passed down to me from O'Sensei all the way down through Villacorta-Sensei. I can see a sort of current running through all these teachers, and I feel deeply blessed and fortunate to receive the teachings that I do. I consider it a great honor and a great gift and I try to treat it as such.
I read a lot of Aikido books outside of class, I study in my own time, I mentally move through throws in my head as I'm falling asleep at night. I love going to Aikido seminars, meeting other aikidoka and sensei, and observing other styles of Aikido outside of Ki Aikido.
Aikido has impacted my life in that it's given me a sense of belonging, the feeling that I'm part of something much greater than myself. I have a deep desire to share Aikido with others and help give to others what's been given to me. I want to continue to grow the Aikido community, both at One Dojo and the larger Aikido community.
Aikido has impacted my life in that it's given me a sense of belonging, the feeling that I'm part of something much greater than myself.
What do you love about Aikido?
Aikido is a lot of play. It requires discipline and focus but we also play together. We have a lot of fun throwing each other, it's exercise that doesn't feel like exercise (most of the time). There's simultaneously a seriousness to the practice and also a lightness and a playfulness.
We have four major principles in Ki Aikido, one of which is “relax completely.” I forget this one most often, but it's a lot easier to move and have a good time when you can remember to relax and stay light in your attitude.
Aikido is also described as a co-operative martial art which I'm deeply drawn to. Nage (the person throwing) and uke (the receiver or person being thrown) work together to create this beautiful dance when well executed. It's mesmerizing to watch and deeply fun to participate in. It's especially fun as a white belt to be thrown by the black belts, those are always my favorite classes.
Another thing I love is that at BKA we practice Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido (aka Ki Aikido), which has a lot of meditative aspects like Ki breathing. I appreciate the moments of centering and grounding before we begin to move and throw each other. It tends to unite and settle the energy of the class before we begin throwing each other around. It also tends to orient the class towards Villacorta-Sensei's energy, which is generally both energized and calm at the same time.
What do you like about practicing at BKA with Villacorta-Sensei?
Boulder Ki Aikido, in particular, is an incredibly supportive environment. All the black and brown belts really want to help you and have fun with you and see you do well. There's a lightness that black and brown belts tend to have that I look forward to embodying more of at some point in my journey through Aikido. They've let go of a lot of the tension and frustration that newer and lower ranking aikidoka such as myself tend to carry. I appreciate teachers that can be calm and focused, but playful all at once.
What I appreciate about training under Villacorta-Sensei is the warm and inviting energy he extends to everyone who walks through the doors, regardless of their level or abilities. He puts an energy into One Dojo that creates an incredibly welcoming environment and I think everyone feels that and responds to that when they come into the dojo.
We hosted a seminar and visiting guests were wanting to know how we draw in so many students and I honestly think it's Villacorta-Sensei and the Ki he gives to the community, to all of his students, and to the practice of Aikido itself and all those who came before him. It's magnetic, and if you are fortunate enough to be able to align with that current, it really opens you up to a deeper level of practice.
There's something deeper to the practice than fitness, learning the throws, remembering the names of all the throws and techniques, and advancing in rank. There's a profound almost sort of mythology to the practice of Aikido, especially if you read some of the first hand accounts of people who witnessed or trained with the founder, Morihei Ueshiba (O'Sensei).
It's hard not to fall in love with Aikido once you open yourself up to this aspect of it. For me it's a deep spiritual practice, it challenges me in meaningful and transformative ways and Villacorta-Sensei holds and guides that practice with immeasurable patience, kindness and grace.
Outside of Aikido, what do you do in your spare time, for work or otherwise? What are your other hobbies?
Aside from Aikido, my life is mostly plants, art and jewelry design. I grow herbs and vegetables and also care for my roughly 75 house plants (last time I counted). I went to school for art in Austin, Texas and have my Bachelor of Arts in studio art.
While I was in college I got a job at a bead shop that specialized in vintage beads and jewelry components which drew me into jewelry design. I was really fascinated learning about the history of all the vintage and antique beads, chains, pendants, etc. I had a pretty impressive collection of vintage and antique beads and parts for many years that I initially designed jewelry with until I moved more into metalwork.
In 2016 I did a light metals residency at The Steelyard in Providence, Rhode Island, where I learned various techniques like soldering, hammering, forming, stone-setting and working with precious metals. I currently work primarily as a jewelry designer, though I also do the occasional landscaping odd job. Creating art, whether it's jewelry design, painting or papier-maché, is as necessary to me as breathing.
I don't know how to not always be creating something. For as long as I can remember I've always used art to transmute whatever was going on in my life that was otherwise challenging to deal with, similar to how I experience Aikido. It's all alchemy for me, turning lead into gold on an energetic or psychic level.
Taking any sort of struggle, pain or challenge and creating something beautiful and compelling to put back out into the world. Something that is ultimately me and a true expression of my inner world. I create jewelry, I create art, I grow and nurture things. It's how I move through the world.
In addition to being a jewelry designer, I also work at the dojo with Villacorta-Sensei in an effort to cultivate community. Cultivating community is something I have always migrated towards in any circle I've ever been in. I'm especially drawn to this work in communities centered around art or spiritual practices.
Back in December, 2021, I could see Villacorta-Sensei was juggling a lot and had a lot on his plate and I thought, “I just got here, I just found Aikido, I need this place to have longevity and I need my sensei to teach me.”
I had also read in a book on Aikido that aikidoka should never wait for their sensei to ask them to clean mats or fold hakama, they should always be ready to do these tasks without being asked. I extended that principle to the greater needs of the dojo and offered my time towards more administrative and organizational tasks, which I also have a background in.
What started out as me doing a small administrative task each month has since transformed into a collaborative visionary process between Villacorta-Sensei and I to create a thriving community at One Dojo. It's work that I love and work that I believe in because I know first hand what Aikido can offer you. I want this to be accessible to more people. I want the community to interconnect more deeply.
I truly believe that Ki Aikido is my lineage, but I also love experiencing the Aikikai style of Aikido from time to time and we have two great Aikikai teachers at our dojo! Kei Izawa-Sensei and Evolene-Sensei. I hope that we are able to draw in more practices as well and weave these groups of people together. I'd love to bring in Qi Gong or Tai Chi. I'd love to bring in some meditation classes. I also love organizing and putting on events. The way I see it, the Ki I receive and tune into from practicing Aikido I put back into the dojo. I hope I can inspire more people to do the same. If you ever get inspired to volunteer your time, please reach out to me.
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