Friday, August 20, 2010

Lesson 18: Homecomings are Full

I have just returned this week from 12 days spent back in my hometown in the States, and know that my homecomings have been full.

As for my return to the U.S.:

A family full of information to tell about each others' lives; in all that has happened, what currently is, and of future plans.

So many friends full with genuine histories; each with their own individual effect on my life.

Full of fellow brothers' on the martial quest. It's just too bad in two nights there's not enough time to practice and talk about every martial arts' technique and style on the planet.

Full of community members where my hand cannot rest from waving to familiar faces when in town.

And full of love for a girl I can't imagine a single moment or my future without ...

and yet, I flew so quickly across the world again, for another homecoming here in Kurobe, Japan.

While approaching the dojo for the first time in a few weeks, my heartbeat hastened, and I couldn't subdue a grin growing across my face. When I entered the gym, I saw two of my most favorite people in Aikido, if not the whole of Japan (Ueno, the #2 in the class who is a woman who may be forty, one of the sweetest women I've ever met, and yet I would never try to mess with her, and then Hosogoshi, the #3 who is the guy I hiked through Tateyama and Tsurugi-dake with). Not only was I excited to be there, but I felt their genuine mutual feelings and it made it all the better. This group of Aikidoka, have certainly become family. I started to feel all the corniest of ideals found in Aikido. I felt that love is the only force in the world, and every time I join hands with my partner who I will throw or be thrown by makes me the luckiest person in the world. Or how about rainbows arcing in the wake of every Aikidoka's path, accompanied by unicorns! OK, I didn't really feel that, but it's funny what feelings good people can manifest in others.

On a practical note, during my hiatus, I had a lightbulb go off in my head concerning all of Aikido circular movements, but more specifically, in the tenkan (turning?) excercise we start class with. By sweeping my rear leg around, instead of just shooting it straight back, my movement looks like a smooth beautiful Aikido movement, but more importantly, facilitates the emphasis on turning my hips, which is undoubtedly of the utmost importance. I was so proud of this revelation, that I practiced it endlessly in the days before practice in hopes of impressing my fellow Aikidoka.

Well, when the tenkan warm up started, I placed myself near Ueno and offered to be her partner. As soon as I began revealing my newfound secret awesome Aikido revelation, she stopped our practice ...

...and told me to put more weight forward and get my hands in front of me more.

I'd be surprised that appraisal for my progress was replaced by further critique, except that my focus in Aikido for the past 8 months has been investing in loss, making mistakes, and being thrown. In my head I said, "Of course!", and am actually extremely grateful for the manner of Japanese instruction I receive. Affirmation of my technique is much more powerful in the physical cues of my superiors than in fluffy comments of praise. Besides, I'm a big boy now. If I felt self-conscious because of a lack of compliments in martial arts, then perhaps I should just buy a Grandmaster Certificate from Ashida Kim or something.

My homecoming to the States was far too short to indulge completely, and I'm still being thrown in Japan ... both are signs of a full life.


  1. japanese speaking unicorns???

  2. It was great to see you, even though time to practice together was short.

    -Rainbows and Unicorns-- and mushrooms?


    Eat mat, Gaijin!

  3. JC: Japanese speaking unicorns? I think the Japanese are more surprised to see me speaking Japanese than a unicorn.

    DR: Too short for sure! But for now I must study Bushido in the dojo and the woods with my mamachari.