Tonight was one of the best aikido sessions that I have had in a long time. Afterwards, though I was quite tired, I had a feeling as if I inhabited every cell in my body. Even now many hours later I am content, and feel filled with strength from the top of my head to the ends of my fingers and toes. What is it that made me feel this way?
I am almost 60. With progressive arthritis and a serious lack of knee cartilage, training gets more difficult and challenging every day. Yet, in spite of this, there was something different about tonight.
I aspire to approach aikido (and my training partner) from the most centered and focused position and stature that I can accomplish. As I face them, I try to empty my mind of what they and I are about to do. Of course, normally we know precisely what we are doing, and our form of training remains rigorously systematized and regimented, so that we all know who is attacking, who is defending, and exactly what comes next at every point. We train with the same people year after year, and have come to know each other with a certain level of intimacy and knowledge of our strengths and various aspects of our personalities. However, often I prefer to imagine my partner as a stranger, an unknown person, and as if neither of us knows the other’s intention: who is going to attack, or how we should proceed. Even though it may be my turn to attack, sometimes while I am reaching for that centered space, my partner interprets my hesitation as a sign that it’s his turn and suddenly he initiates the attack, and I find myself responding quite naturally to a more realistic situation. I like this kind of training very much.
In developing this approach, I occasionally experience a more “Zen-like” state in my mind and body. Perhaps my training tonight allowed me to achieve this…where the world stopped and there was just me and my partner, and a true melding of attack and defense. However, tonight this seemed to express itself almost continuously, through every moment of our engagement together.
I felt like I experienced a kind of timelessness, and that I was able to fully inhabit my training, but more poignantly, that I was able to achieve an expression of my full potential and power. I felt at one moment fully centered, and the next moment explosive, and then as quickly as it came, I returned to that peaceful and comfortably centered state. Yet, throughout this, I remained soft and sensitive to my partners’ ability and to his feelings as both an uke and nage. Though I felt exhausted – at the same time I felt full and balanced with vitality. This left me with a lasting sense of both satisfaction and balance on many levels.
Thinking about it and reflecting on what made tonight’s’ training so positive and fulfilling, I conclude that it was my ability to focus, to apply myself with the full extent of my power, and loose myself in the continuous here & now…responding (without thinking) to my partners movement…feeling and taking them just off their center and following that…all the way through, wherever it went – to each ending.
I feel very grateful to my training partners and instructors – that I have the freedom to train like this, and I ask for their indulgence in allowing us to continue to develop our training with more focus, sensitivity and a fierceness of spirit.
Bob Toabe October 8, 2012 ©
MIT Aikido Clube