Tag Archives: demonstration

Father’s Day: Letting Things (and Rings) Go

My Father’s Day weekend, while perhaps not as memorable as last year’s, was a full one nonetheless. On a day where the emphasis seems to be so heavy on “buy stuff for Dad,” I was instead given several opportunities to reflect on letting things go, one in particular a better gift than any “thing” I could have received.

Saturday began with a 10-mile run followed by a 50-mile bike ride, as I began serious training for my big running event of the year. (Details to follow, but basically I need to get in a lot of long, slow legwork.) With a beautiful, cool morning and smooth roads, it was the kind of ride I’d been looking forward to all winter.

A stop in Plymouth, MI. Gotta keep fueled, you know!

A stop for cherry walnut bread in Plymouth, MI. Gotta keep fueled, you know!

My route took me through Lathrup Village, where I grew up. The neighborhood looked much the same; I’d time warped back to 1970 for all I could tell. Riding by my old house, I was struck again by my lack of nostalgia for it. I’d lived there for fifteen years, but now it was just another house. I’d felt the same way last month when my mother moved out of her house in Dexter Township, where my parents had moved in 1987. It too now belongs to someone else, and I’m fine with that. It isn’t the house that matters in the end, it’s what happened there, and we’ll always have the memories.

On Sunday I was part of an Aikido demonstration at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival. It was the final class taught by our club’s departing instructor, so it was a “letting go” experience for both him and his students. But there was no sadness; the class was energetic and cheerful, with a sizable audience watching, many of them joining us when invited to do so. I hope at least a few of them will start Aikido and discover how much fun and fulfilling it can be.

Aikido retreat

I rode my bike to the class, dogi tucked in my panniers and buki bag strapped across the frame. I tucked my wallet, phone, cameras, and wedding ring (no jewelry allowed in an Aikido class) into my small traveling backpack. Then back at home, getting ready to go to dinner, I opened my backpack – and the ring was not there.

After a careful search of the backpack and my bike bags failed to turn it up, I figured it had fallen out on the Power Center lawn when I’d pulled my cameras out to take photos before class. So I went back there and searched a while for it, without success. Perhaps one of the spectators had found it, or it was just too well hidden in the grass. One moment of carelessness had lost a ring I’d worn for 30 years of marriage (to date).

Aikido has taught me that when a situation occurs that I cannot control, I need to find a way to fit with it. So I had to “fit with” the possibility that I would never see my ring again. Intellectually, this is not so hard; it was just a thing, after all, a plain gold band that can be easily replaced. My 30-year marriage is what really counts, and that remains as strong as ever, unaffected by whether or not I had the symbol that represents it. But emotionally, I was struggling with a sense of melancholy over its loss, and I was annoyed that I hadn’t put the ring somewhere more secure.

Still, I went to dinner Sunday night determined not to let the missing ring bother me, and I succeeded (mostly). And I took some time to reflect, too. I wanted to create balance in the situation – create some yang, as it were, to balance the yin event. So I decided to start on some life changes I’ve been thinking about for a while. Whether or not I got my ring back, I would create a gain.

What are these changes? And have I found my ring yet? All will be revealed shortly. Watch this space.

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A Farewell and an Invitation

Some sad news and some happy news out of my Rec & Ed Aikido club.

First, the sad news. After over ten years teaching the Rec & Ed club, our instructor is leaving Ann Arbor to teach elementary school in Vermont. I was fortunate to spend seven of those years as his student, and I can say truthfully that I enjoyed every one of his classes I attended. He made studying Aikido fun, and we will miss him.

One of last week's Rec & Ed classes.

One of last week’s Rec & Ed classes.

But there is happy news as well, as he will open our school’s first dojo in Vermont, giving more people an opportunity to train and grow in Aikido. And with one of our senior students taking over as Rec & Ed instructor, the tradition of excellent Aikido at our club will continue. As our school’s founder Kushida-sensei was fond of saying, every end is also a beginning.

So our instructor taught his final Rec & Ed class last night, and afterward the students of appropriate age took him to a nearby pub to celebrate. After many good stories and a couple of beers, our guest of honor gave us some advice from the heart – really honest and profound stuff. For several reasons, I won’t go into detail on it, but I will say that he advised us again – all of us senior students brown belt or higher – never to get complacent about our training. “Once you start thinking you’re good at Aikido,” he told us, “you’re guaranteed to get worse.”

I'm guessing there's some room for improvement in my form...

I’m guessing there’s some room for improvement in my form.

Getting the ego out of the way was a subject he often spoke about in class and provided an excellent example of, both on the mat and off. And, naturally, I had to open my mouth and provide myself an opportunity to learn a lesson. I asked Sensei a question that had been nagging at me a while.

“Hypothetically speaking,” I said, not wanting to finger anyone, “suppose after a class a junior student came up to me and pointed out a mistake in my technique. What is the proper way to respond?” A junior correcting a senior student is not forbidden, but it is generally considered bad form and not to be encouraged.

“Just say, ‘thank you’,” Sensei said.

I had said exactly that at the time, so I felt pretty pleased with myself. Then the most senior student in our club, a black belt, put down his drink and pointed at me. “You did that to me once,” he said.

When the laughter finally subsided, Sensei’s the loudest of all, he looked at me with a big smile on his face. “So, Jeff-san,” he said, “how does that foot taste?”

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A rare treat - throwing my instructor.

A rare treat – I throw my instructor.

P.S. If you’d like to meet my soon-to-depart instructor, watch Aikido in action, and learn a little about it, come to our demo at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival on Sunday, June 16. From 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. our club will be on the lawn at the Power Center putting on a demonstration of Aikido and inviting people to join us for a free beginning class. Hope a few of you can come!