This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Janet Rosen © 2013, all rights reserved.
The other day, dulled by a little sinus problem, I sat down after dinner with the best of the spaghetti Westerns, "For a Few Dollars More." When it was over, I turned to Stu and said, "How is it that a thirteen year old girl in Brooklyn watched this and, instead of getting a crush ON Clint Eastwood, wanted to BE the guy on the horse, with the poncho, gun and cigarette?" It got me to thinking about how movies have influenced my world views.
My parents, mostly by pretty consistent example, instilled certain values in me early on. But there were also a lot of messages on what it meant to be a human being that I got from long hours watching old Hollywood movies on TV with my dad.
From the Marx Brothers I learned grownups can practice joyful anarchism. Mostly from Myrna Loy and William Powell, but also Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, I learned that marriage is a respectful and affectionate negotiated dance with witty repartee. From Humphrey Bogart, Gary Cooper and countless classic Westerns, I learned that rectitude and doing what has to be done are the hallmarks of an adult.
Later that night my mind started musing over the videos that get posted on Aikiweb and the highly varied responses to each one: just getting the job done, dancing around with ribbons, effective, not having much fun, passive-aggressive, joyful, trashing his uke, etc. It struck me how we each bring our own values to the style of aikido we choose and the role we try to embody on the mat.
I initially trained where I felt a lot like "the Man with No Name": laconic, deadly serious about getting the job done, but without any apparent joy. Interestingly, while I was hooked on something I found in Aikido, the role that seemed so appealing when I was a teenager was totally unsatisfying. Moving along, I've experienced muscling through in the name of kuzushi and big swooping dances in the name of blending - both ultimately rejected - and the joyful anarchism of friendly jiyuwaza, and the negotiated dance of slow training that includes kaeshiwaza - which continue to entrance and pose fascinating challenges. But the day I found "my" role it was something altogether different from anything I learned in the movies.
It was many years ago, while practicing the long form of iriminage (in my current dojo, in accordance with Tohei Sensei nomenclature, kokyunage). It had been casually suggested that rather than having my inside hand on uke's neck or shoulder, I take his head and cradle it. I found myself taking this image to heart and bringing uke down, not in the hard throw being modeled all around me, but firmly and gently. It felt so natural and right that I did it again. And again. And I realized that rather than feeling like a warrior I felt like the nurse I in fact was, taking care of my partner.
My training has changed focus over the years as I learn more and as I age more. But I think it was on that day my Aikido "grew up," leaving aside Hollywood cliches and taking to heart O'Sensei's injunction to train with the spirit of loving protection.
"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.