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So apparenty there was this girl who trained at our dojo before, and left briefly before I started, leaving a gap of women among all the lovely boys there to play. And it's funny in a way, she's gone but left such an impact. A tangible contribution. Like walking through a room and leaving just a trail of perfume?
The stories left of her courage and her heart are more than enough for me. But for the others... Shortly after I started, several others did too. Younger girls. Often I feel that there is a secret expectation that I'll be there for them and guide them because we share a gender and so maybe see with similar glasses. Even though technically, we're not that different. Just in age. For them, though, are the stories enough? Can they last and follow a trace of perfume in the air? Will others?
If I leave and this is true, what else will keep them? Who can speak into their world as moments of interaction at aikido class start sucking in every other part of their lives? Can they be strong, and alone? Or can't I leave?
I need to go though. Soon, perhaps in a year. There's not much I can do apart from place another in their world to offer guidance. But will she stay, and will she last? And can I still leave knowing that I'll leave all this?
I was sitting in class when I started thinking about the way that someone's personality comes out through their training - how a twist of the body, a tilt of the shoulders can tell you so much about how they approach the challange and the pressure, how they adapt and how they deal with it all. We recognise people through anything, to the point where I'm sure that if all the lights were out we could still identify the silhouettes dancing around us.
So that brings me to deeper waters.
I remember watching the film 'Jarhead', especially the part where all the men have their heads shaven, then stand in a crowd and begin to piece themselves back together. So similar, all ideas about how to present yourself, or perceive others, seems to just fly out the window.
Like it is in the dojo. Sitting there in a line, dressed all in white. No colours. No shapes, no textures. Just the black and white - mixing briefly in flight but always settling back again. But the thing is, while the uniformity blinds you (in a way), it also lets us paint our personality onto our appearance honestly. One doesn't begin to see what another wants them to see. The differences we see are instead borne from those tiny moments of frustration and joy, the journey, the path we explore on our aikido journey. What we begin to see in people, and between people, is an honest core of them. The one that gets drowned out by power games and mind games and identity games that thrive outside the doors of the dojo.
I'm coming close to the end of my university course, in about 7 1/2 weeks I'll be a primary school teacher. I've never as much appreciated how polished the game needs to be! Glance at a detailed page to memorize activity sequences and dialogue points for the hour, learn an easy explanation of the scientific reasoning of the content on the process you've had to present, and don't forget to always keep control of facial expressions - 'those' comments are sure to actually be made!!
Enter student at the aikido dojo.
Learn to learn, learn to question again, learn to give in and admit you're so just not in control. Let others guide you and practice humility with a childlike faith in the wisdom around you. Be soft, flow, give in, breath and enjoy just trying again and again and again.
These are the two faces, the two faces behind the single mask. I think both are there always, both should be nurtured to keep one from getting anorexic enough to unbalance the whole of you. The learner and the teacher, fused. Turn to one side and your mentors stand there, ready to guide you. Turn to the other and you are guiding someone else.
Changing into my gi is the heart of this long moment for me, of putting one to bed and bringing the other out to light. A transition and celebration that brings a sense of ease, peace.
If aikido is the art of peace, there must be a root of violence and disharmony that informs it. To have love, and choose to do so, one must also have the backdrop of apathy and self-promotion that highlights our deficits unless we give ourselves to something greater than ourselves. Yet when we become aware of this choice (and even the active support of the smallest philosophy is certainly a choice), the introspective element gained also sheds light on our motivation and expression. What, then, becomes vital to our sense of self once the bare-boned nature of our true nature emerges?
Something may be a good thing; it may not be the right thing.
Something may be against our will; it may be the nature of our will that perpetuates it.
And something may seem to be a logical progression or state when we grope in the dark for answers, trying for survival; but once we have the illumination of self-reflection it is no longer appropriate or can be condoned.
Once we have started learning along the aikido path, can we ever again be justified to overcome another by any means? If we choose to respond with what we've learned of aikido, have our choices matured to the point where protection of the other person is an unspoken requirement? ...More
After a day to ponder yesterday's seminar and grading, I'm still at a loss when I try to consider how predictable I thought the day would be. I thought it would be quite straightforward - 2 or 3 hours of seminar, 1 or two hours of grading. I thought all the techniques would be tidy and only vary with the quality of execution, I thought the pressure would be greater than before since I'd 'been there, seen it all' during my 6th Kyu test in October last year. Perhaps this is part of the naivety that leads to the '5th Kyu Shihan' syndrome that I've read so much about.
That's probably what I'm most frightened about, in terms of the longevity of practice needed to become more competent in Aikido. One day I might gradually start becoming blind because of growing complacency. That, I believe, is the beginning of the end; how can you keep learning if your mind is closed and can no longer see?
I remember vague patches, like not understanding kotegaesh from gakku hanmi. Like starting the list of techniques with suwari waza ikkyo. WHY is that the flavour of the month?? Yesterday someone said something to explain it, that "Ikkyo is the beginning of all techniques". Before, "All techniques are the same". So. It's quite a good indication of all techniques then - like ikkyo, all my techniques are in their infancy. And I never knew being uke was such hard work! ...More
I'm not exactly tiny, I'm not exactly a feather, but lately I've been pondering how, as a younger gal, I can twist aikido to my needs. I'm blessed with a dojo full of friendly, burly guys to practice on! A few thoughts from my headspace atm:
Common obstacles from opponents:
To combat strength, craft larger spirals. A tighter embrace, a broader swoop.
To combat weight, move deeper. Blend and crest together to utilise the force of gravity and momentum.
To combat length, pivot. Stretch. Hips make a great pulley. Their comfort zone lies much higher than yours, lower your center and your playing zone to maximise control.
Does this sound on the right track? Maybe I'll see something entirely different about it all in the next season.
I was at the dojo tonight, and I just sat there in the darkness while the others changed. It was like... as the lights went down I could see myself all those months ago, preparing for 6th kyu. I remembered the frustration and the joy, the pain and the ecstacy that I felt back then. I thought of my now-self in parallel, and realised that all those emotions and sensations are still there. There, but different. Like a spiral, the same but different.
I have come full circle again, and I will again, and again. And next year, I will look back and marvel at the depth every new turn has brought since this moment.
The following entry is a piece I created after our grading in October, 2010, thought I'd bring this up to date before our grading this coming Saturday!
Currently I'm pondering how to emotionally tenkan a conflict around. I've found that it's much easier to find my center in the whirlwind of life if I can keep in mind what I learn in class as a life metaphor, and there are alot of them. It's a cross between dancing, wrestling and a passionate embrace for me. It sharpens focus, it reveales the barest of intentions. All conflict can be resolved, I'm learning, and hurting others is only one way, not the only way, to do so. Also, because it's impossible to advocate peace without knowing the depth of violence, it's becoming a way for me to express and redirect this blazing fire I have inside of me in a healthy, beautiful way.
One person meets another in opposition. Potential reactions:
I allow myself to be hit. I am hurt. The other person is proved dominant. I lose, and my lack of acknowledgement and involvement detracts from the esteem they sense from me. They lose too, and continue; unopposed, but without fulfillment.
I react but without the intention to fully commit. I am dishonest by giving the appearance without the substance. I also dishonour my opponent, both leave the incident dissatisfied. I may or may not come out of it dominant.
I block my opponent with force, like a brick wall. I have a greater chance of dominance, but dishonour my opponent by negating their contribution. I may be victorius, the other will be dissatisfied and disempowered.
I allow my opponent to carry through with their attack, but blend and redirect it. Control is achieved, pain is optional. Both parties are permitted to offer their best contribution to the incident, so both are honoured and have a substantial chance of being satisfied with how the incident proceeds.
The deception of aikido, as I see it right now, seems to stem from the point that not only is the discipline a matter of reacting and defending, but a matter of (passively?) accepting and actively manipulating the circumstances of an attack to reveal perfect control. Control here is shown to include pain as an option rather than a requirement is showing dominance. Aikido, then, can never be considered a traditional self-defence, although it's true that tradition plays an important role, and defence is most certainly achieved through the process of controlling the situation. Neither can it be simply passed off as a martial art, for while it's certainly a precise art, and is potentially lethally martial, aikido isn't involved with the practitioner's focus of competition and reputation for beng an untouchable badass that's so common elsewhere, in so many walks of life outside.
What, after all, is therefore involved in the pursuit of learning aikido? And how can we as practitioners acknowledge the journey involved in learning this discipline? ...More