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It is my body leaves my love, not I;
My body moves away, but not my mind;
For back to her my struggling fancies fly
Like silken banners borne against the wind.
Imagine my surprise when I log back into AikiWeb years after my last blog entry to find over 2.2 million views to my blog. I still think the AikiWeb counter is broken somehow. I also see some veterans who have not posted for a while admitting that they have not been able to train for a long time. I can relate to all these sentiments—how much it hurts to say goodbye, how you know you can't or won't do aikido again for a while—as last year I also had to leave my dojo. I hung on to my membership for a while, even when I was no longer practicing, the frequency of my training getting less and less due to unpredictable and late-night work schedules. But my main reason for quitting lies on a more personal level, as I have to fix something broken in my body before I can focus on training again.
I stay in shape by going to the ill-attended gym at work. Gym workouts are such solitary affairs, everyone too lost in their own rhythms, routines, and workout music to form a sense of camaraderie. Instead of feeling and feeding off the energy of a training partner, you focus on only your own movements and improvements, or lack thereof. No ki-ai's ring out into the still night, no epiphany from Sensei's words of wisdom, just rote repetition to burn fat and build muscles. When I take out the earbuds and the music drifts away, I hear only the silence of the room and the soft humming of the fluorescent lights before turning them out and making my quiet commute home, encompassed in my lonely little world.
There is a shame I harbor that pains me to put into words, how close I was to Shodan and how I just walked away from it all. How I drifted slowly from low to no attendance and never officially came back to say goodbye to my Sempai and Kohai and especially to Sensei, who in teaching the aikido art was able to physically articulate all these nebulous feelings in my soul. So that I would not have to face the things that hurt me, I tuck away the gi and hakama and belt. I stay away from AikiWeb to soften the sting of reading about, and remembering, joy that I could no longer harness. I dream of buoyant stemi's and of the sensation of feeling confident and strong, only to jolt awake, pushing the images from my mind.
The winds are changing from winter into spring. The bland scent of stale air becomes diffused with smells of new growth and the flavors that hang in the breeze of warmer weather. I do a lot of walking, and thinking. I sense new humidity, my skin prickling in anticipation. Vignettes flash through my thoughts like the spaces between a wooden fence, at once hidden and clarifying. I smell the musk of human sweat in a hot dojo, the scent of wood and varnish as bokken and jo clash against each other. I feel the soft give of tatami mats beneath my bare feet, now bound too often in winter socks and running shoes. I remember the resistance and then blending of a training partner I had worked with in close proximity. I taste salt on my lips and miss the dull pain of bruises and sore muscles after a hard but euphoric training session. Without the constancy of training and feeding my body what it craves, I lose focus, drop my train of thought, often finding myself lost in reverie. I pause in my walk and look over my shoulder to confirm the voices are just in my head, those that whisper my name like the rattle of the last winter leaves skipping across pavement, calling me back to a place I had chosen to leave behind me. Maybe one day, I will come back.
For now, I turn forward and continue resolutely on my walk. There is resistance in the heartstrings that bind me to that part of my past. I pull and pull in my desire to put distance between us. The strands thin out, stretched like cobwebs, but though parts of them are tattered and flapping, they still hang on and seduce my struggling fancies back to them like gravity, like silken banners borne hopelessly against the wind.