Few words after summer school

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 CLEVE