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Thursday, 7 August - link

A Welcome Respite from the Turmoil of Life is the Turmoil of Aikido

Howard has been insisting for years that I study Aikido. Aikido is a non-violent martial art, a way to respond to aggression. After my first day of study, I realized I was learning to invite my attacker to meet the floor. Introducing my attacker to the ground. Then as the days wound on, I realized I was learning to dance with someone who might be charging at me. As my practice progresses, I suspect I will learn to watch and understand physical gestures and respond accordingly, with the goal of eventual tranquility between all parties.

This, I think, is why Howard wanted me to start this practice. Because he'd seen me approach people in untoward ways (eager to ask a question, I'd grab someone's arm, for example). Basically, I had a lot of energy flying in many directions. So Howard suspected that the practice of learning to "blend" energy with someone else, practiced repeatedly, would train my energy to be more suited to that of my surroundings.

Back in June I did a web search for "Oakland Aikido." I discovered East Bay Aikido, an Aikido dojo, a practice center, an ai-ki-kai, within ten minutes walking distance of my house. The walk took me through a park, up hill on the way there, downhill on the way back. These small details framed the dojo in a wonderful light.

My first day at the dojo, back in early June, we practiced meeting the mat with our partners, and then we gathered for a chance to breathe and share sentences at the end of the session. I explained how I had found the place, and how lucky I felt for the location. A woman approached me and said that I was twice lucky then, since she had searched through many dojos before arriving here, where the practice was strong but gentle, and there are few injuries.

I've since discovered that much of the light there radiates from Tom Gambell, the sensei, chief teacher. He's attracted to him a wide range of senior and junior students who tend to share his lighthearted but dedicated temperment.

So now I find myself donning a uniform and striding off to join them twice a week, tuesday and thursday mornings. Usually my exercise efforts last about two weeks before some kind of dread sets in. I start justifying work over exertion. Or I'd rather stay up late play games. This Aikido feels good because I am exercising, tumbling rollong around, climbing up off the ground again and again. There's a sense of play to it, for myself and with my partners. I get human contact, grasping all manner of wrists and shoulders, learning to balance with a dozen different actors. I walk to my practice, through a park and up a quiet street. I'm using my body, in conjunction with other folks, in a calming sort of way. Three months in and I'm very much grateful.

AikiWeb gives good context. Small video clips of Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba in action. This site is easily overloaded. If it doesn't work, come back an hour later to see a tiny old man in large pants spinning people around at choppy old-movie speed.
Posted on 7 August 2003 : 11:21 (TrackBack)
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Justin's Links, by Justin Hall.