I arrived for class a little early the other day, and as I neared the building I noticed Aiki-Doh!-ka standing in an open area adjacent to the door. He was knee deep in snow, well trampled here and there as if a giant flounder had been flopping around. Trailing from his hand was a length of rope that disappeared under the snow.
I was intrigued.
I wandered over, and as I got closer I could see that he was red-faced and panting, a look of frustrated determination painted on his face, a face that sported a large, angry welt in the shape of a —
“Hi!” he piped up when he saw me approaching.
“Hi yourself. What’re you up to?” I replied.
Aiki-Doh!ka grinned at me and hauled on his rope as if he was long-liner from down east, wrapping the rope from hand to elbow, and around various other parts of his body as he drew in his ‘catch’. He looked like a marker buoy on which someone had cast a tattered net. It gave me time to examine his face and puzzle out the shape of the mark on his forehead. Why, it looked just like a—
At that moment the object on the end of the rope broke the surface and smote him mightily on the knee.
It was a horseshoe.
Now I was sure about the ‘tatoo’ on his brow, and had a pretty good idea as to how it came to be there, but I needed verification.
I asked him again what he was doing, and he insisted on a demonstration. I moved back a few paces and held my gym bag in front of my groin.
Aiki-Doh!-ka leapt straight up, spinning like the Tasmanian Devil, and released the horseshoe as he hit the ground. It careened wildly towards a bike rack, a target that I could only hope was intentional, and ricocheted away with a loud clang. Immediately, A-D jerked the rope smartly, making the horseshoe whistle back towards us at an alarming rate. I ducked and was happy to see that he did too. It rocketed over our heads and Aiki-Doh!-ka chased after it, gathering in the line by wrapping it around himself, bringing the horseshoe (did I mention it was made from iron?) closer and closer in shorter, rapidly accelerating arcs.
I wanted to close my eyes, but I couldn’t. It was like watching a python coil around it’s prey; it was only a matter of time before—
He took it straight on the forehead, partially overlaying the previous welt. Perhaps that’s good luck in some places, but I was beginning to be concerned for my friend.
“Aiki-Doh!-ka, what on earth are you doing!”
“I saw it in a Jackie Chan movie,” he said, rubbing his forehead briskly with one hand and looking at the horseshoe in consternation, “he ties a horseshoe to a rope and defeats all his attackers with it. It’s really cool! He moves like quicksilver!”
“Yeah, I’ve seen it. Speaking of quicksilver, I’ve got some Mercurochrome in my bag, maybe we should have a look at your head…”
He agreed with some reluctance, explaining to me on the way to the locker room that he wanted to be a stunt man in martial arts movies, and he thought that the horseshoe thing would be a good gimmick for auditions. I helped him get disentangled from his ‘gimmick’, and got him patched up well enough for class, vowing to get to the bottom of his scheme later on. I’ll keep you posted…
I just got back from training, and before I hit the couch for a nap I want to get a few lines out about life in the dojo this week.
We rent space in a community centre (this means we have to put out the mats before class and stow them away afterwards; see my story “The Room” on the Reflexions page.) and have classes M T W Th evenings, and Saturday mornings. Tuesday evening and Saturday morning have the biggest draw, and the change rooms are often very crowded, triggering memories of playing Twister and offering lots of opportunities to practice evasions. It’s a wonder we don’t end up wearing the wrong belts (or tied together, as my friend Rob quipped).
Since my partner and I are preparing for our shodan test, we are often given a corner of the mat to ourselves and the assistance of one of our black belts to put us through our paces and guide us through our test.
I should take a moment to say that our club has great depth in the deep end of the pool; our sensei is godan, there are two yudan, two sandan and eight nidan. And about six or more shodan. They all have a deep knowledge of technique and the ability to communicate it in a very clear way. Now, that may not be so remarkable, but this is:
They are all, without exception, very generous and often give up their time on the mat to help the juniors. You never have to look very far for help in our dojo, and for that I’m very grateful and proud.
Anyway, as I reflect on the last couple of weeks that have been focused on our shinsa, I am becoming more and more aware of the ‘mind’ of aikido that I need to continue to move forward. Well actually, that’s the point - keep moving forward, let go of the past, just be…present. Accept that I need not be defined by how class went yesterday (crappy, sometimes), or even the last throw (ouch!). I only need to stay in the present moment and choose who I want to be …now.
This is incredibly liberating, as frustration and worry fall away like snow sliding off the roof. I’m finally starting to relax and really feel my techniques.
I’m going to end on that note, ‘cuz what I really feel is the need for that nap I mentioned earlier…
More shinsa last night. Sensei wondered if I was gathering material for another book (sigh!).
After class we took Aiki-Doh!-ka out (after a brief stop at the E. R.) and practiced elbow power #3 for a while. Aiki-Doh!ka revealed that he was considering getting a tatoo to celebrate his love of aikido. We pointed out that he already has an aikido tatoo. Well, two really; hidari and migi are emblazoned on his feet. Sadly, on the wrong feet - the tatooist didn’t speak Japanese and Aiki-Doh!-ka didn’t notice because his eyes were squeezed shut in terror.
“So what are you thinking of for a tatoo?” we asked.
“‘Give me Nikajo, or give me death!’” he replied.
“Wow, that’s kind of extreme, don’t you think?”
“I think it may help me finally figure out how to do nikajo properly.”
We sat and nursed our beers for a while, and then offered a few alternatives that might be less…fatalistic.
“How ’bout ‘Ken o Fume’ ,” we suggested, hoping to steer him onto a more noble path.
“No way,” he replied, “but I was considering ‘Lord Nage’…or maybe ‘King of Kokyu’.”
And so on it went, until we ran out of beer. We tried to convince Aiki-Doh!ka to pick a tatoo that reflected a higher path, but to no avail. Please help! What would you recommend? Better yet, what would you tell him to avoid?
As I sat down (was that the chair creaking, or my back?) and gathered my thoughts to write this post, I found myself feeling very close to Aiki-Doh!ka. I’ve been doing a lot of shinsa lately in preparation for my shodan test, and like Aiki-Doh!-ka, I’ve been ’zigging’ when I should be ‘zagging’, folding my toes over a lot, and my breath throws have had more ‘gasp and pant’ than ‘breath’. He told me not to worry about it, it will pass (hopefully before my test!) and to just keep spending time on the mat.
I began to wonder if I might feel better knowing there are other ‘Aiki-Doh!-kas’ out there, so I’m asking you for your ‘Aiki-Doh!-ka’ stories (you can use fictitious names if you’re sensitive).
Have you ever tripped on the mat, lost control of your bokken at a critcal moment, or accidently rolled into Sensei? Have your pants fallen down during a test? Does nikajo always sound like ikkajo, much to the consternation of your partner?
I’d feel a lot better if I knew I wasn’t the only one these kinds of things happen to, so please, ‘fess up and let’s have a few chuckles together.
Now, where did I put that anti-inflammatory creme…
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