by Winking Owl

Our dojo has been closed since March. Time for Deep Thoughts...

Aikido classes are resuming, with precautions. We are doing Weapons training, spaced out and wearing masks. My enjoyment of Aikido comes through our interactions, but my partners are so remote.

The shutdown afforded me more time to practice Tai Chi at home. I had been relying a lot on just following along with Sensei and my fellow students. That meant slow progress and frequent frustration. When the virus hit, it was either practice, or lose it.

The Tai Chi Long Form is a sequence of 108 designated movements. Many of them recur over and over, and substantial segments of the sequence recur, some short, some long, and they overlap. I am easily confused. So I made a pictorial chart of the whole sequence. Now I can refresh with a glance, so it’s all much easier.

Besides the 108 Form, I have included Tai Chi Jian in my routine because it is my favourite. I put a little light on the tip of my sword so I could make a photo to trace its path as I swing it around me in our backyard.

Out in our yard, the novel abatement of city noise lets the soothing sounds of nature through. Sitting on our porch I close my eyes and listen to the rain. Against its background hiss from a distance, closer raindrops patter, the nearer the louder and fewer.

I’ve been working on our porch, replacing wood that had rotted. It was good to have extra time at home to do that. Almost finished. The reaching and crouching, balancing and stretching, are like Tai Chi. I didn’t get too tired.

One day I was sitting with my friend at a café patio, and a gust of wind sent our menu sheet twirling past me. I caught it like a sparrow by the tail. Our training makes for Spontaneity. I am happy to be getting back to it.

Wondering how to prepare in our off-kilter world, I came across this: “There is immense value in not having a plan for your life". That would justify my own haphazard approach. It pointed me to a BBC video that said to use Prototyping, not Planning, when working on my Life. So, flexibility overcoming rigidity. That is the Aikido principle to apply right now. Try things.

For the past three weeks I’ve been trying juggling, for fun. At first I could hardly toss up a ball and smoothly catch it with the other hand. So I practiced just that for a while. Today I managed seventeen catches with three balls. Getting back to classes will put a dent in my time for such games. Oh well, every form of learning keeps us sharp, and working together is best.

Ethical people recognize the need for society, an implicit agreement of mutual care and support. It can be written down in part, like the Etiquette for a dojo. But the most important part is unwritten, the do-onto-others part. People who abide by it, fit in. Others, not so much. It takes practice. Aikido is practice. As partners we place ourselves in each other’s care during quite vulnerable moments. Say I’ve had a bad day, and my partner is being obstructive, and I get an urge to use more force, less gentle persuasion. I can recall the fable of the North Wind and the Sun, and just let go.

I need to protect my partners.