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I have always known the world from this petite point of view, from this five-foot frame that puts me mostly neck- or sometimes chest-level with those whom I am facing. When I need to react quickly to an attack, I focus on people's torsos and not their eyes, anticipating how the body draws back for a punch, or how the hips shift to gear up for a kick. Used to this perspective, I do not usually notice how tiny I am until I see pictures of myself lined up with other people. Sometimes, I overcompensate by lifting my arms too high for an ikkyo, or reaching up too far when attacking with a shomenuchi. I do this unconsciously, but Sensei keeps me in check, lectures me about being sure to bring my training partner down to my level.
I guess I've chosen the perfect art, founded by a man who was roughly my height. In aikido, the taller person adjusts in order to do an effective technique, and the shorter person stays in his or her comfort zone. I've heard my fair share of short jokes, and I've gotten used to sassing back, "Try living off rice and salt or rationed sardines for your growing years and see how tall you grow to be." Yes, I feel dwarfed in what seems like a dojo—and often a world—filled with giants. Yes, when someone runs at me full-forced during jiyu-waza, I fight a brief moment of panic at the idea of being steam-rolled into the mat. Yes, it's a challenge when you've got less muscles and tiny hands and wrists. But just because you are short, it doesn't mean that you're not confident. And just because you are small, it doesn't mean that you can't be strong. We all have our uphill battles, things to overcome to get our aikido "just right." The sooner we embrace the challenges, the faster we can start working on conquering them. Besides—the weather is great down here.