Thursday, September 8, 2011

Re-Learning to Fly

Believe it or not I used to be quite good at this ... moreseo the guy on the right

It was always my intention to get back into Aikido after I had moved out East. For almost four years I had thrown myself hard into the practice – maybe too hard in retrospect – but I loved every second of it it and I continue to cherish the people I practiced with and the lessons I learned.


Then came the move and life got pretty busy for a while. With conflicting schedules, rotating shifts and everything else I never could quite seem to find the time. I did find a good Yoskishan Aikido Dojo just out of town, but it was a little far, and to be honest I've never been comfortable with Yoshinkan's formal style. A friend took me to his Bujinkan ju-jitsu practice once or twice and for a while that looked like it was going to have to be it if I wanted to practice anything. Not that this would have been a bad thing, the Sensei was good and I would be able to practice with my friend … but it wasn't Aikido.


But sometimes things do work out in your favour, and the new job meant no more rotating days or night shifts … and it just so happened to only a few blocks from the Aikikai Dojo. So last night, I finally plucked up enough courage to get back on the tatami for the first time in three years.


I ended up arriving a little early and was waiting out front, ruminating on some old memories when I suddenly and completely blanked. I couldn't remember squat. I couldn't remember if the first move was ikkyo or iriminage, and for the life of me, I could not remember the name of the Sensei who had broken my nose.


This really freaked me out since I had always been quite proud of my relationship with that Sensei. It started when I stepped off the mat to speak to a friendly, middle aged Japanese man who wandered into the dojo one sunny Saturday morning. Turns out he was a Yondan (fourth degree black belt) fresh from Japan. Three years later and he accidentally breaks my nose as I am trying my damndest to skewer him with a jo staff.


And I could not remember his name - nothing, not a syllable.


I put it down to being overtired and nervous about practice and it probably was. Then something did occur to me, it's a phrase that comes up often in books about Aikido or Buddhism that I've read: Beginner's Mind. Put aside ego and everything you've learned before and approach the new class as a new student.
It wasn't a huge revelation; it just seemed like a good idea. So I stopped worrying about which move was sankyo and which one was nikkyo and use the opportunity to approach everything with a fresh pair of eyes.


I tried to "unlearn what I had learned", which can much, much harder than you think.

When it came to doing the techniques, I tried to approach them as if I'd never seen it before in my life and when it came time for me to take falls, I did them as easily as I could. It wasn't perfect and I couldn't always keep my mind from racing ahead, but at least it gave me a sense of direction as I take my first steps back into doing something that has given me so much enjoyment, but without the good friends I'd made along the way.


Going easy was probably as good idea anyway because today I am as sore as balls. I could feel every little fat cell giggling around my middle with every move and every extra pound as it hit the mat. But I think what really killed me this morning was the stretching! I have the hamstrings of an arthritic octogenarian.


As I tried to let it all go, something inside relaxed and sometime about halfway through the warm up, I remembered Sensei's name.  

No comments:

Post a Comment