Days after Aikido summer camp, I am walking to the tram stop and it feels as strange as it has from the day we spoke about it at camp. I had only been to five sessions before Aikido summer camp, yet something as simple as walking feels so different. I can feel my center of gravity always below my waist shifting between somewhere above my ankles to somewhere above my knees. My steps are more sure and certain than they have ever been. I can feel that at any moment in my step, I could stop and start moving backwards, or shift my weight to the left or right. I trip once and see that I only fall forward a bit.
This feeling reminds me of a man I spoke to about how different walking felt. He described himself as tall and thin and spoke of a time where gypsies had messed with him frequently. The story had saddened me, because he seemed like a kind, gentle man. But he said his change in walk seemed to have the effect of these gypsies leaving him alone. And I knew from my own steps that I was actually off balance between each step. It must give others that want to prey on people as different of a feeling as it does to me. I used to believe walking with bravado or walking in an angry or predatory way was a way to scare off predatory people. But this change in walk seems to be even more effective.
We were practicing one day and this time we were asked to throw a punch. I remember not being too thrilled with the punching because people’s fists were not actually clenched with a locked wrist. And throwing a punch without a clenched fist in real life breaks your wrist. So while I knew it wasn’t the Aikido way, I went to punch more like I had learned at one point. I knew it turned people off a little bit, but I did it with people with whom I felt more trust. And I did soften soon after, but tried something different. By this point we had added a second attack. So I had an opportunity to surprise my opponent by attacking when he or she didn’t see it coming. Of course, at first, my partner was caught off guard. But then what happened was somewhat magical. I would attack, as I had before and I could see their reaction occur far before I was going to land the punch. And so it would go attack, counter, attack, counter. Like ballroom dancing with a leader and a follower both playing their roles well.
I saw confirmation of the enjoyment of this feeling after we were told to go free form with our attacking and one of the black belts called out the other by name excited like he was just about to jump out of a plane, parachuting or something. It must be so fun at that level. Aikido teaches you to blend with your attacker, to understand them in some way and their motivations. Not to defend or attack them, but to be part of the attack as it is coming, maybe even as its intention is conceived. This concept is hard for me, hard for me to see the humanity in those that have pushed me around in the past. But I get glimpses of the freedom I will feel. Maybe I will see them differently with some sort of forgiveness, compassion or understanding. I don’t know. I only know that the process of watching myself change in this Aikido environment is reason enough and fun enough for me to to look forward to training being a consistent part of my life.
SEANN CLEVENext photogallery: 12th congress of International Aikido Federation (IAF) in Japan
Many people seek for a way how to stand upright
and on their own two feet,
how to move freely,
to be well-balanced and communicate
with others without fear or violence.
Simply, to be more human.
There are many ways leading in this direction -
we offer you aikido.