Tag Archives: lesson

There Has to Be a Lesson In Here Somewhere

It’s August, and already Active.com has come out with an article named “20 Reasons We’re Sick of Summer Running.”

I call BS. No way I’m ready to give up summer yet. And it will be over before we know it, anyway. What’s the rush?

We just got back from up north, where I got in several “firsts” for the year, let alone the summer. One was a 70-mile bike ride that included the entire current length of the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail from Bohemian Road to Glen Arbor and on to Empire. The long boardwalk section over the wetland is finally finished, and it has some great views. Even this photo doesn’t really do it justice.

I also enjoy running on the SBHT, and one morning I set out for a few easy miles as warmup to The Legend 10-mile trail race the following day. But just off the trailhead was a dirt trail heading into the woods on my left. I’d seen it before but always had other plans. Another day, I kept telling myself. Well, it was that day.

The trail led through a beautiful stretch of woods, and after about a half mile it got sandy underfoot. Then the trees parted to reveal Lake Michigan, with the trail ending at a short bluff above a short beach washed over by incoming breakers.

What the heck, I decided.

I took off my shoes and slid down the embankment onto the wet sand. I had the beach all to myself, with no people or signs of habitation in either direction. I saw no footprints except my own. How long had it been since the last person had set foot on this secluded part of the beach?

I ran along firm, loose, wet, and dry sand, over driftwood and fallen branches, and through tall scratchy grass. Running on a beach is really different from other surfaces, with its variable terrain and difficult footing. I’ve heard it’s a great workout for balance and foot strength. Certainly it’s not an easy effort; you have to adjust with every step to remain upright and moving forward.

After about a quarter mile the beach gave way to dense scrub and steep slope. I’d run out of runnable real estate, so I returned to the trail. As I climbed back up onto the bluff, I got this bright idea to take a photo of my footprints in the sand, followed by one with the waves washing them away. It would be a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life. Really original, right?

Back down to the beach I went and dug in my heels. But time after time, the waves were coming in so fast that my footprints were washed away before I could get a good photo. This was about the best I could do.

So I’m sure somewhere in all this there’s a lesson. Perhaps it’s this: not only is life fleeting and ephemeral, even the attempt to tell a story about it is here and gone before it’s fully told.

On the surface, that sounds pretty depressing. No matter what we do, how hard we try to make an impression on the universe, it all vanishes in a flash. How many stories worth hearing were never told, or told with no one to hear them?

But does that make our lives, or our stories futile? I don’t think so. After all, others continue after we’re gone. If we can make their lives better, that’s something that will carry on, at least. And perhaps far more will be remembered about us, and our stories, than we think.

So live your life. Share your stories. And listen to the stories of others. Whether or not anyone else ever hears them, maybe there’s something from them that will enrich your own.

Thanks for reading.

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!