By Lisa Jensen
Special to The PREVIEW
Students of Aikido of the San Juans recently celebrated Kagami Biraki, a traditional Japanese New Year’s ceremony. This annual tradition is a time for families and friends to gather and, in martial arts dojos, is also a time for personal reflection, dedication to training and a wish for good training with no injuries in the upcoming year. Kagami Biraki is when high ranks are awarded at Hombu Dojo, aikido world headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Typically, someone receiving a rank of sixth dan (sixth-degree black belt) or higher will travel to Japan to accept the award personally from Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba, grandson of aikido’s founder and the current head of aikido worldwide. On a smaller scale and at the local level, Donovan Galabota was recently awarded his purple belt. Donovan is the highest-ranked child student at Aikido of the San Juans and this rank is the equivalent of an intermediate adult student. Donovan has trained with dedication and sincerity since the day he began, and continues to develop leadership qualities along with solid technique. At this year’s local Kagami Biraki, students and some brave parents rang in the new year with 1,000 bokken (wooden sword) cuts. Afterward, everyone took a turn pounding rice into mochi (rice cakes). The round mochi represent a mirror, which symbolizes self reflection. Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba, determined that the true purpose of martial arts training is to better oneself and to seek to protect or help others. He said, “True victory is self victory.” Aikido is often called the art of peace. Practitioners learn to first connect with their training partner and to maintain this connection throughout the technique. The emphasis is on blending with the other person’s energy and redirecting it in such a way that neither person is hurt. The physical practice of aikido reminds us of how we are all connected and inspires us to keep this connection throughout all our endeavors.