With such terrific spring weather here in southeast Michigan this week, I’ve gotten outside to run or ride every evening after work. It’s felt like forever since I’ve been able to just toss on the gear and go, without worrying about being warm enough or bringing a headlamp.
While I was out on the bike this week, a brief lecture by my Monday Aikido class instructor kept popping into my head. He’d spoken about the need to balance our study of Aikido so that we practice both leading a technique (Shite) and receiving, or following, the technique (Uke). “With our Western attitude,” he’d said, “we can focus too much on being Shite. We like feeling that we’re in control.”
But if the two people performing an Aikido technique both try to be Shite at the same time, the technique cannot succeed. One person must agree to be Uke, and follow Shite’s lead properly, for the technique to be executed safely and harmoniously. “It would probably be useful for us to study Uke even more,” he concluded, “to bring our training into better balance.”
Carrying the idea into everyday life, he pointed out there are many events in our lives that we cannot control. “We can fight that and try to be Shite,” my instructor had said, “or we can be Uke, and let ourselves be led down the road. Perhaps it will take us somewhere interesting.”
The next evening, after a long day at work, I got on the bike and headed out to nowhere in particular. I’d felt mostly like Uke during the day, working on the priorities of the moment, and I was ready to be in control for a change. I turned onto a couple of roads I’d never taken before, and checked out the progress being made on the Border-to-Border Trail in Dexter. It felt wonderful to cruise along at my own speed, make on-the-spot decisions about which route to take, and choose when I was ready to head home. I was finally being Shite, I remember thinking.
Or was I?
After that moment of satisfaction, I suddenly realized the bigger picture. Yes, I had chosen which roads to ride on – but I had followed those roads instead of plowing through someone’s yard. I was choosing my speed, yet I was fitting with the condition of the roads, the mechanics of the bike, and the strength in my legs that evening. I’d decided when to head home, but I’d wanted to return before dark, and I had no control over the sun. In short, there was a lot of Uke mixed in with that little bit of Shite.
And that wasn’t a bad thing at all.