IP Hash: 7d59336c
Aikido Has Been Taken From Me.
I began practicing martial arts in Februay, 1985, when I was 20 years old. In 1986, I joined an aikido dojo and practiced there until 1988. But I continued trainijg in Non-Aikido Arts, and kept doing the wrist stretches as part of my personal warmup.
In 2004, one of my NAA classes was hosted by a school that also hosted an Aikido class. I joined the the dojo while remaing in NAA. When the hosting school closed, I followed Sensei to new digs. For 15 years, I trained once or twice a week at two dojos, Sensei's and a Nearby Dojo. While separate, the two dojos were friendly. They shared a pool of instructors, all very skilled and knowledgeable I must say, and members of one dojo could train at the other for free.
I loved Aikido, but it was always a challenge for me. My body remains stubbornly inflexible no matter how much I stretch. So Ukemi waza is a challenge. Also, there was concern about my leaning on people during pins, though there had been some improvement, and Sensei had given me the workaround of squatting at the end of ikkyo instead kneeling.
When I turned 50, everyone in the dojos signed a birthday card for me. I remember blubbering, almost in tears over how much I loved the art and how welcomed I felt.
On a Friday in April, 2019, one of Sensei's black belts threw me so hard, my body stopped moving but my head kept going, and my kneck acted like a door spring. It was sore for the next 18 hours. There had been friction with this individual before, so I decided to leave. But not wanting to cause friction, I emailed Sensei that I was taking a break while I worked on my flexibility. And I have, though it has been glacially slow going. But I had not been honest with Sensei, and told him the truth in an email in September, 2019. One does not lie to one's sensei and waltz back in. So I considered my Aikido career over.
The covid happened.
In April of 2020, Sensei emailed me and asked me if I wanted to renew my membership in the Larger Organization of which both dojos were a part. I thought it over and agreed. We kept in touch over the coming months. When the Organization held Zoom classes, I attended every single one. (I would be twenty minutes late because of an overlap with NAA Zoom classes, and this led to some crazy Saturdays.) In time, the Nearby Dojo reopened while Sesnei's remained closed.
This past March, March 2022, Sensei emailed me. He asked to renew my membership for the third time since 2019 and added in passing he was reaching out to people about reopening his dojo. "You're on the cusp of that, I think," he concluded. I was stunned! I thought it was over, and yet he had all but formally invited me back? I asked him about the mat fee at the Nearby Dojo, and he reminded me membes of his dojo could train there for free. Wait--I was still on his membership rolls!? That meant I could return any time! Overjoyed almost to the point of tears, I began to plan my return.
On a Monday in April, 2022, I eamiled the leaders of the Nearby Dojo, cc to Sensei. I said after 3 years, I wanted to "dip my toe" back in Aikido and that I would have liked to return to their dojo in the near future. It I had received favorable replies, I would have returned that Thursday.
On that Wednesday, Sensei emailed me and said we had to talk. After some confusion over my cell phone number, we spoke on Thursday morning, 8 hours before the clase I had had my eye on. I was informed I would not be allowed to train at the Nearby Dojo. The justification wss that I could injure myself during a fall, or injure an uke during a pin. Sensei said I was "dangerous" to train with, and that neither he nor anyone else wanted to train with me. No one HAD wanted to train with me for years. He wouldn't attribute the decision to one person but said it was a "consensus of the instructors."
His tone was friendly and I was in shock. Several hours later, in a mall parking garage, I said out loud, "I was kicked out!"
There was some validity to the concerns Sensei relayed for the reasons I gave above. But if I was such a liability, why was I allowed to classes and seminars at two dojos for 15 years? Also, the black belt who had injured me injured Sensei in the same manner in October 2021. Sensei told me that and said his neck was still sore. My issue had been forgot. Another black belt had been known to train so hard they would injur themselves. I recall attending a seminar in another country where a lady was carried off the mat in a stretcher. And then there were all the people at seminars with red tape on their gis connoting injured joints. To my knowledge, none of the individuals I mentioned were barred from their dojos. Who is this paragon of safety against whom I have been found wanting?
An alternate explanation is that because I was practicing NAA at the time I joined Sensei's dojo, I was never accepted in the first place. If is the case, then that time I was blubbering over that birthday card, I was making a fool myself to a room full of people who wished I wasn't there. That thought has completely messed me up.
Whatever the case, for many days after that phone conversation, I had trouble getting to sleep. I was nauseated by the sight of Japanese style training weapons. I had headaches and bouts of rage. All those symtoms have improved since then. I can discuss the matter without shouting, and I can watch the videos again. But the feelings I had about Aikido are gone.
I do not know if I will ever return to Aikido. I'm not even sure I should. Although there are throws and locks in the NAA I continue to practice, nothing is like Aikido and I miss it. There is another dojo I could contact one day. But as time passes and I heal, it becomes less of a priority. And there is wisdom in considering my relationship with the Aikido community as an unhealthy relationship that has ended, and I should move on.
Aikido was one of my two loves in the martial arts, and it has been taken from me. Although I continue with NAA, there is a hole in my heart. I do not know what, if anything, can fill it.
Only time will tell.