Aikido

“I know you won’t want to go here but can we go here?”

My girlfriend stares at me strongly for a moment before laughing at her feisty, vague question and the confused look on face. “What?” I chuckle.

She points at a store a block away that I can barely see. “It’s a New Age-y bookstore-y place.”

“We can go there, that’s fine.”

“I just think you won’t like it.”

“No, let’s check it out, could be cool.”

She gives me an eye roll, knowing well that I view the majority of New Age as a bunch of snake-oil, gypsy-con bullshit, whereas she sees it as pretty harmless. “So listen,” she smiles, “the last time I went there, this woman told me I’d meet somebody.”

“Oh yeah?”

“This was before we met each other. She said I’d meet a Capricorn.”

I’m a Capricorn. “This was a lady who works there?”

“No, just a stranger who was in the store. She said that to me, and that the guy and I would be really good for each other.”

“I like this lady.”

“Me too.”

We enter the store riding the high of that lovely story, but I instantly come down. Books on 2012. Maharishi worship art. $35 CD’s of wind chime music.

“Yep,” I nod and politely smile to her. She does the same back to me. This is our thing for acknowledging something in our public surroundings that we disapprove of.

She heads over to a rack of shiny stones and I follow. She picks up a tiny one. It’s a jagged bit of dirty rock that’s vaguely pretty and shiny in only few places. She looks at the price tag on it, which reads $45. “Yep.”

“Yep.” I glance off toward the book shelves and a section tag catches my eye. ‘Martial Arts’. I’m over there before she or I even notices I’m gone, flipping to a random page in an Aikido book.

‘When I began piano lessons at the age of seven, standard equipment on the piano was the music, the metronome, me — and five pennies. Each practice segment had to be done correctly five times. On playing a measure correctly, one penny was moved to the other side of the piano. On playing it correctly a second time, the second penny moved to the left and so on through five correct renditions. If I stumbled or made an error, the pennies went back to the right and the process began all over again.’

“You found something,” she smiled.

“I found something.” I found a new love. Aikido Exercises For Teaching And Training, this is the moment that I fall for you.

I scan the rest of the books in the section, curious as to whether there are other books I’m meant to fall in love with on this glorious day, but alas there are none worth a damn. The section can hardly even be called a section. It’s comprised of three barely-filled shelves, mostly padded with dumb oversized books on mask-making or whatever. This book, the one in my hands, is the worth-a-damn book.

I check the price. $19.95. Fuck that shit. I write the title down in my notepad. We give the rest of the sections the once over, but nothing interests of us in the least. We’ve already come here for the reason we were supposed to come here. I order the book when I get home, for about $5 with shipping.

That was last week. It came two days ago and I’m 50 pages in.

Previously, my only knowledge of Aikido was through Steven Seagal. I’m a big fan of his, and consider his first six movies to be classics within the genre. What I gathered from his fighting style was that Aikido was about using an opponents momentum against him, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. I had no idea it was part of a much larger outlook that can be applied to any situation one faces.

I’ve always been a fan of economy of motion, and Aikido is all about that– guiding energy, rather than forcing it. This is something I’ve been doing for years with guitar. If you want to play a fast melody cleanly, you can’t muscle your way through it. Locking up your wrist and elbow won’t give you anything but a short burst of ugly, unreliable speed that creates no good muscle memory. The key is to guide the pick with small controlled movements and a tension-free body, letting the pick flow, not battering both the string and it.

Since starting this book, I’m looking at everything a lot differently now, and trying to apply Aikido to as much as I can. I think a lot of frustration in life comes from trying to muscle through things. Aikido teaches that nothing in life, not even combat requires that. I find that very inspiring.

I looked up Aikido classes in NYC, and there’s a great place called NY Aikikai. I’d love to start taking classes, but at $150 a month, the rates are more than I can afford at the moment. Learning the philosophy and applying it to my own life is completely free though, and priceless. I will do that to the best of my ability.

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4 Responses to Aikido

  1. Very good. I suppose you’ve met up with Yamada Sensei? He’s the head of the NY Aikikai (if I’m wrong then I apologize).

    Perhaps they have a sign up special for the financially challenged? Yamada Sensei is a true treasure for those who want to learn Aikido – I’ve heard many great stories of him and would like to train with him but I am 2,000 miles away at the moment.

    • codyclarke says:

      It’s not so much that I can’t afford the monthly fee as I can’t afford the time necessary for the $150 to be well used. As I understand, the $150 covers as many classes as you’d like to take in a mont. Ideally I’d like to be taking three to four classes a week, but that’s impossible for me right now. When my life is less busy, I’d definitely like to commit to it.

      I have yet to meet with Yamada Sensei or visit the center. I plan to do so soon, as well as post my experience here afterward. What great stories of him have you heard?

      • Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (http://www.aikido-yamada.eu/yamada_sensei.html)

        He’s the last of a generation of students who trained directly with the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei. So that means whatever you’re learning from him, in some way you’re learning from the founder himself, which is a treasure.

        Both of my sensei here in this side of the US have met and trained with Yamada on numerous occasions. I apologize but it seems I may have lied; not too many stories (actually only a couple of mentions) but the few that were mentioned were good ones: ie how he trained with them, his personality, etc.

        He’s definitely worth the effort to meet at least once.

      • codyclarke says:

        No worries on the white lie, s’all good! He sounds awesome. I’ll definitely try and meet him soon.

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