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Exactly one year ago on this day March 3rd, on a similarly overcast, lightly-sprinkling evening when early nightfall had robbed the last brightness from the sun, I wandered along the grounds of a school, looking for some sign of people practicing aikido. My dojo shares the wrestling gym of a private high school, also on the same land as a different private elementary school, with a small gated entry that's easy to miss. I always kid over the irony of working as a Technical Writer for a GPS company, providing instructions for people to navigate on the road, but forever getting lost myself. "Always find your way," our tagline boasts, but of course, with me driving to an unfamiliar locale, it usually takes a couple of tries. This hidden dojo, without any signs up to indicate the various turns people should be making once on the school parking lot, was no exception. A running joke is that finding it requires the equivalent commitment of seeking those old-men-on-the-mountain martial arts masters to commence your training.
After finally driving to the correct parking lot, facing the wrong gate, and placing several calls, I got Sensei to find me and lead me into the brightly lit dojo from the evening darkness. He was saying something when we crossed the threshold, but I had already focused my full attention on the scene before me: people in white gi jackets and black hakamas practicing together, grabbing wrists, rolling, and pinning, this artistic dance that I had not seen for a very long time. I took in the smell of the place, the foam-rubber zebra mats, the clean, soapy bodies, the scent of individuals rising with body heat into the air. The spirit of the place, the sounds of ki-ai's and rustling clothing, rushed forward to encompass me like fog that seeped into my pores.
Sensei introduced me to the head Sempai to work with me for that first session. I re-learned tai-no-henko, trying to get it right. I did sit-falls and forward rolls. I coaxed my body to remember these long-forgotten movements, once so familiar, still sitting dormant in my muscle memory. For five years since I quit aikido, I got sidetracked in life's journey, even a little lost. Reentering the art, I found my way again, and on that night, I came home.