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The shomen displays the characters of "ai-ki-do," and I study it every day I sit in seiza during line-up, waiting for Sensei to bow us in. There is the "ai," like a little house with a teepee roof, the point meeting at the very tip, like merging energy. The roof curves delicately down, flaring out at the ends with slight pressure on the brush, the different personalities of two separate energies. Under the roof are the square walls of the house: solid, contained, united.
The lower-left corner of the "ki" character explodes like a flower's pistil, contained energy topped by a right-angle bracket that trails off towards the heavens like incense smoke. First solid and then steam, the ebb and flow of "life force."
The "do" is a man on a path. I cannot see what's behind or ahead of him, only know that he travels, the road beneath his feet straight and open, extending off to the white horizon of distant unknowns in his journey to find "the way."
There is a smoothness in these strokes, a flow that I try to mirror as I train. When practicing with yudansha, I can feel their energy--persistent steadiness to draw out uke's attack, explosive strength during the climactic take-down, then measured control for the pin. As I work my way through not-yet-familiar techniques, I know where I am cutting off my own energy, during a turn or when changing hands into the correct hold, like a calligraphy brush that has been cut off from its supply of ink. Day after day, I will continue to hone these skills, practicing my strokes, making them smooth and even, releasing and controlling energy where it counts, until I can coax the art to come out of my movements.