Seven Years, Seven Ways

WHAT AN ODD FEELING. For the first time in over a year, there’s nothing on the immediate horizon I’m training for. My Aikido test is over, the bike is put away for the winter, and the Holiday Hustle on Dec. 1 was the last race on my running calendar until February. My final goal for 2012, the 2,500 combined run/bike miles, I will reach next week with just my regular Saturday and Wednesday group runs. Easy cruise to the finish line, as it were. Not that this is a bad thing; I’ve been looking forward to this downtime to rest and recharge.

Gasshi-uchi 2My Aikido test was for 1st Kyu – the final one before black belt level – and was the longest and most challenging test I’ve ever had, as it should be. For fun and added pressure, I took it at the main dojo instead of my regular club. My instructor recommended I do this. “Pass or fail, you’ll learn far more from [our school’s head Sensei] than you would from me,” he said. I got my revenge by asking him to be my Uke (testing partner). He got his revenge by accepting.

Jumping over partner.
Jumping over partner.

The results won’t be available until next Tuesday, so I won’t know anything until then, and as is traditional with our school, neither I nor anyone else will speculate about it. “Nice test,” we say, and leave it at that, unless we are pointing out something we particularly enjoyed or that we thought a tester did really well. The photos you see here are from the test, taken by a classmate at my request.

Side Step-in Throw

Afterward, we gathered on the mat for a brief toast and sharing of thoughts about the experience, or Aikido in general. As the test capped off both my “year of being 50” and seven years of training, I did some thinking about how this wonderful martial art has changed my life, and I shared the following with everyone there.

Seven Ways in which Aikido has Changed My Life

1. I look more for harmony in all situations.

2. Whenever I get too full of myself, all I have to do is go to class, and it gets fixed right away.

3. When someone makes a mistake, I remember all the ones I make in class, and am more forgiving.

4. When I am teaching or correcting someone at work, I do my best to stay encouraging and positive.

5. In certain situations (working out, at the coffee shop) when someone asks me a question, I sometimes reflexively respond, “Hai!”

6. I made it through Kenshu (*), so now I believe anything’s possible.

7. I learned that with pushups, breakfalls, and most other things in life, you really can do “just one more.”

(*) Kenshu is a 20-month advanced study of Aikido principles and techniques. Think of it as boot camp weekends with wooden weapons. It was among both the hardest, and most rewarding, things I’ve ever done. As it should be.

My Instructor Throws Me

4 thoughts on “Seven Years, Seven Ways

  1. Martial arts isn’t about training for the next test, but about training for life (where there are either no tests, or tests every day depending on how you want to look at it).

    My role model in aikido was “Wyandotte Joe” (Joe Balazic from the Wyandotte dojo). He was in his 50’s when he started aikido and had never done anything athletic previously.

    He just showed up for every cotton picking class and trained hard. He tested when he was supposed to and failed his share of them, but he just kept showing up and working.

    If he is still alive, he’d be in his 80’s now. The last I heard, he was a 3rd Dan.

    Congratulations. I am sure you passed.

    1. Thanks, Rick, both for the words of wisdom and your confidence in my result. I am not at all sure I passed, but as you and my instructor both said, either way I should just keep on training.

      As for life, I am in favor of the latter interpretation. Getting out of bed each day is a test, because it involves risk, and facing the unknown. Who really knows what will happen on any given day? Just ask Mr. Bilbo Baggins. Good movie, BTW.

  2. Ahhh! Those “jumpin’ over partner ukemi …” – brings back memories of my shodan exam back in June 1987, just a year after I finished the 11th Kenshu – well done mate!

    Your Far East Friend “over 50”,


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