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The Practice of Freedom
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Drawing on the poetic wisdom of the Tao Te Ching, American sensei Wendy Palmer translates the powerful teachings of aikido for use in everyday life--all without practicing the vigorous exercises of the martial art, itself. With poignant reflections on her own life, including her Conscious Embodiment work and teaching inmates in a woman's federal prison, she describes how we can lose our sense of freedom, vitality, and integrity when under the duress of life's "attacks." She explores a process that responds to the question How? How do we transform our negativity into budo, or love, and how do we move from reactivity to freedom? The Practice of Freedom is invaluable not only for students of aikido and other movement and martial arts, but also for those who seek to live with confidence and self-reliance, to establish clear and compassionate boundaries, and to deepen their capacities for loving and honest relationships.
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About the Author

Wendy Palmer, a fifth-degree black belt and cofounder of Aikido of Tamalpais, in Mill Valley, California, has been teaching aikido since 1974. In 1980, she developed Conscious Embodiment, which uses aikido principles as a way to study boundaries, relationships, and leadership. She directed the Prison Integrated Health Programme from 1990 to 1997. This is a volunteer project that provides classes in behavioural medicine at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California, and serves as a model for health promotion programmes in prisons the throughout the United States. She is the author of The Intuitive Body. Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice and teaches Conscious Embodiment in its companion video.

Reviews

Palmer, aikido instructor and author of The Intuitive Body, has constructed a passable if unremarkable synopsis of personal reflections, favorite spiritual authors and principles of this unique martial art. At its best, the book is informed by Palmer's own life experiences, which include teaching aikido principles and mind/body exercises to federal prison inmates inspiring some fine musings on freedom. Unfortunately, Palmer seldom renders her personal story in any detail, often employing an impressionistic and elliptical style that lacks vividness and leaves the reader fumbling to establish a sense of narrative connection. Palmer's intended audience seems to be neither aikido practitioners, who might prefer more specific examples, nor the uninitiated, who will miss the significance of many terms and allusions. The book's most surprising feature is its lack of substantive references to aikido practice, aside from a few quotations from O-Sensei (aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba) and some very general allusions to aikido concepts such as blending and centeredness. Instead of focusing on a psychological-spiritual explication of aikido itself, as found in Richard Heckler (In Search of the Warrior Spirit) or C. M. Shifflett (Ki in Aikido), most of the book's material is a generic pastiche of Taoist, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and New Age teachings on suffering, compassion and freedom. This content is solid enough, and Palmer's dedication and love for her students and her art is obvious. But given the existing breadth of books on spirituality and aikido, there is little here that makes a distinctive contribution. (Jan.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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