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The following story is true. It happened when I was eight or nine years old, can't remember exactly. Bobby and I (seems like in those days almost every first name ended in a "y" or "ie") were walking thru the woods, where the high school we graduated from years later now stands, when we came upon a man who promptly performed an act upon himself that doesn't require further elaboration here. We weren't so much scared as taken aback by the suddenness of the encounter. What scared us silly was the Bowie knife that appeared in his hand when he finished and him saying something to the effect "Ok, now it's your turn".
Bobby and I looked at each other and something extraordinary happened. I could hear him counting in my head and was sure that he could hear me too. I knew at the count of three we were gone and sure enough when I hit three in my head we both took off down the trail. I don't know if the man attempted to follow us or not, I never looked back because I wasn't just me anymore. The connection Bobby and I shared in those moments was so complete that we each seemed to be running on four legs. Needless to say we didn't stop until we were safely back on the streets of our neighborhood. When things returned to normal, we sort of just went back to being kids again and we never talked about the incident. Bobby died of an OD a year after graduating high school so I'll never know if he actually shared the same connection I felt with him on that day.
In class I often speak to my students of the importance of forming a connection with uke when practicing. Ki exercises, technique, randori, weapons work -- it doesn't matter. When I am able to lose myself in the moment, be in the question as Mary would say, I am able to connect with my partner in a way that comes close to what I felt that day in the woods so many years ago. That connection is Aikido. Taking that ability to connect out of the dojo and applying it to encounters in daily life is mastery of Aikido. Hmmm, still a long way to travel, can I get any luckier?