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Home > Columns > "The Mirror" > April, 2006 - Hanging Up My Dogi

Hanging Up My Dogi by "The Mirror"


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This is Janet Rosen's last column. She thanks her collaborators for their support, her readers for their interest, and Jun for making it possible.


A few months ago, over on Aikido-L, Dennis Hooker asked: why would anyone stop training?

I've pondered this long and hard. His writings, especially "Polishing the Mirror and Grinding the Stone," have been a source of comfort and inspiration since my initial knee injury six years ago. My own experience, plus my various blind, deaf or armless training partners over the years, have ably demonstrated that aikido is indeed an adaptable art.

So, why will I stop training? There are three reasons: body, mind and heart.

Over the past two to three years my joint laxity has increased and my arthritis worsened to a degree that I am suffering tissue damage way out of proportion to any external trauma. After pulling muscles and rupturing tendons doing minor activities of daily living, I see aikido as very high risk for me. If my training were to adapt now, what would it look like?

Already with markedly reduced ukemi due to knee arthritis, I'd now add no grasping and no being grabbed. This means no tangible connection to my partner and no way for me to really gauge what we are doing. This is at best playing with energy, at worst going through the motions; it's a dance, not a martial art.

It has been suggested that I'm overstating the peril. This is not a judgement call that any other person should be willing to assume on my behalf; it is my body that is damaged and will be further trashed if folks who "hate to see me stop" are wrong. And my mind is sending a clear and overriding message: I believe the training is dangerous to me, I'm afraid of being hurt, and it ain't worth it.

Which leads to the third reason. It used to be "worth it." Now, my heart's not in it. I'm tired of this six years-long struggle to keep returning to training after weeks or months off due to injury. I love the art but I'm plumb worn out. Instead of that familiar aching need to get back to training, the wonderful "waking dreams", what remains is bittersweet acknowledgment that it is time to stop.

During the past two months, friends have commented on my overall positive attitude. If I cannot sew, my student can sew under my direction, and from this misfortune I am gaining a business partner. If I cannot paint, I can draw, and from sketching while my painting student paints, I've started a series of ink drawings of vegetables. The metaphor of life as river rings true for me most vividly in that when obstructions present, you find another channel and keep flowing.

I used to regard pain or injury as a rock in the river of my training. Now trying to train is a rock in the flow of my life, and it is time to find another channel and keep moving forward.

It is remarkable that a 41 year old unathletic person with poor proprioception and no innate talent for movement fell in love with aikido and persevered for ten years. It has been a wonderful gift to me, one my spirit will hold even as my body bows off the mat and hangs up my dogi.


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