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Susan Dalton 07-20-2007 09:22 AM

Airport Aikido
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"Complete your technique," Sensei says. "Even if it sucks. Even if you want to quit and start over again. Don't. Keep going. Stay with it. Relax, breathe, move."

I'm working with John. He's big, strong, not too soft. Iriminage, shihonage, they're fun with John. Why didn't I wait to pick him then? Kaitenage isn't working. I speed up. Our bodies clang. His head drops maybe an inch, way too high for me to get the yoke on the back of the neck. I'm still stuck. Here comes Sensei.

"Soft," he says. "Soft. Give him nothing to fight against."

"But Sensei," I start. He looks at me. I hear myself and stop. "Sumimasen."

"Gambatte Kudasai."

"Hai, Sensei. Gambarimasu."


I don't have time to go to Nashville. Work is stacked up. It'll be piled higher when I get back. I spent spring break on jury duty-it put me that much more behind. My husband's back is messed up, and my daughter's scheduled to pitch the game I'll have to miss. My mother-in-law's platelet counts are down and she's going back in for a transfusion. That $150 ticket which seemed like such a deal for my college means a four hour layover in Atlanta. Back when I was flying, I'd never walk through a big airport like Atlanta's without seeing people I know. Tonight I know nobody. I don't want to eat by myself. I don't want to watch all these folks on cell phones. I don't want to…Gambarimasu, I tell myself. Breathe. Open up. Move.

Up and down A concourse I walk, then B, then C, then B again, and back to A. Head up, back straight, I breathe, allow my posture to reshape my mood. I let go the meanness, the whining. People smile at me. I smile back. Or maybe I was smiling first.


There's nowhere I want to eat. That little spot looks OK but when I get my food, I see it's not. Yuck. There's no place to sit, and I feel so awkward and conspicuous eating alone, and… Gambarimasu. I straighten, ask a young woman if I can join her. She looks surprised but says all right. Soon we're talking about her fifteen month old. She's telling me how she's never left the baby overnight before but had to for this job interview she's going to in Virginia. Ah, I have lots of baby stories. We laugh. I was really nervous, she says. She didn't imagine she'd be laughing tonight. We talk about interviewing, guess possible questions.

"Thank you so much," she says. She never talks to people in airports but this has been really fun and she feels much better.

"Hai," I say, then giggle. "Sorry. Somehow this has something to do with my martial arts class."


The gate area is crowded and the plane is delayed. The man beside me is on his cell, chewing someone out, loud enough for all to be impressed. Good grief, I think, that's the way it always is; the jerks plop down beside me. No matter where I go, they find me. They…Gambarimasu. I leave the only available chair in the waiting area and move to stand close to the window. The man across from me starts doing wrist exercises.

"Excuse me," I say. "Do you do aikido?"

"What?" he says. "Yes. How did you know?"

I do the kotegaishi wrist stretch, then nikkyo. We laugh.

"I didn't even know I was doing them," he says. "They're good stress relief. I guess I always do them in airports."

"Yes," I say. "An airport is a great place to practice."

© 2007 Susan Dalton

"The Mirror" is a collaborative column written by a group of women who describe themselves as:
We comprise mothers, spouses, scientists, artists, teachers, healers, and yes, of course, writers. We range in age from 30s through 50s, we are kyu ranked and yudansha and from various parts of the United States and styles of aikido. What we have in common is a love for budo that keeps it an integral part of our busy lives, both curiosity about and a commonsense approach to life and aikido, and an inveterate tendency to write about these explorations.

Mary Eastland 08-17-2007 08:00 PM

Re: Airport Aikido
Thanks Susan...I love this reminder.
The only resistance I can feel is my own.
Relax and accept.

Marc Kupper 08-29-2007 05:55 PM

Re: Airport Aikido
Susan - thank you, I really enjoyed this and am happy I took a couple of minutes to swing by. ~Marc

Susan Dalton 05-06-2009 07:06 AM

Re: Airport Aikido
Thanks, Mary, thanks Marc. For me, it's stop whining, relax and accept.

Ron Tisdale 05-06-2009 08:02 AM

Re: Airport Aikido
I whine too much. Thanks for the reminder!


Susan Dalton 05-07-2009 09:30 AM

Re: Airport Aikido
Thanks for reading, Ron. Some of these things I write, I think people are going to say, what does that have to do with anything?

Ron Tisdale 05-07-2009 10:01 AM

Re: Airport Aikido
Not at all.

It's funny how interconnected things some of the most surprising ways, something will pop up and you say...hey! I resemble that! :eek:


Mike Collins 05-08-2009 01:02 AM

Re: Airport Aikido
Thanks for a story that can and should happen with us all. It's too damned easy to forget what matters.

Susan Dalton 05-10-2009 03:55 PM

Re: Airport Aikido
Thanks, Mike, thanks, Ron. What's that quote about O Sensei saying he lost his balance all the time; he just caught himself and found it again really quickly? I guess that's what I'm trying to do with my whining attitude--catch it, fix it, catch it, fix it.

Shadowfax 06-11-2009 09:16 AM

Re: Airport Aikido
Been using this train of though at work every time I begin to get stressed out and worked up.(I have a high energy job) It sure does work. Nice post thanks for sharing your experiences.

Susan Dalton 06-12-2009 05:32 AM

Re: Airport Aikido
Thanks, Cherie. Yes, it does work, when I remember to stop my internal griping and make it work. That's the hard part!

Lan Powers 06-12-2009 09:35 AM

Re: Airport Aikido
Thank you for this .....goin to the airport in a few hours and ijustknowtheidiotwiillsitbymeandbeloudandhavetoomuchbodyodorandscreamingkidsand. .......

Susan Dalton 06-13-2009 05:36 AM

Re: Airport Aikido
Ooh, I forgot the body odor. Thanks for reading, Lan.

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