I felt dismayed. In the midst of preparing for my first aikido test—consisting of 10 techniques—I made the mistake of asking one of the black belts what you had to do for the shodan (1st degree black belt) test. Before the next class, he approached me with a sly grin and handed me a ream of papers. As I scanned them, my heart sank. 292 techniques, around 10 solo and paired jo and a dozen bokkenkata (choreographed forms done with wooden staff and sword). And after all that, in a rite of passage called randori, a mob is sent rushing at you and you’re expected to somehow survive.
Surrounded by snow drifts with an icy river trickling nearby, the assembly under the pavilion swung their swords and gasped for breath. Was the outdoor practice too vigorous? Was hypothermia setting in? None of the above. Actually, we were deliberately hyperventilating. Why?
DSBK weathered many a storm in 2020. In the end, we find that the practice we’ve invested on the mat being flexible, responsive, and connected translates directly into surviving wildfires, pandemics, and other catastrophes as an organization.
Our annual report demonstrates how we persevered throughout this very strange year.
“Turn off your mind Relax and float downstream It is not dying It is not dying”
I was 13 and the sound coming through my AM radio was like nothing I’d ever heard. Some Indian drone instrument crescendoed to an in-your-face repeating drum riff pounding like a cart with a missing wheel careening down a cobblestone hill chased by a flock of electric seagulls. Strange snatches of orchestral dream music, backwards guitars, buzz saws, and ‘what-the-hell-is-that-sound-anyway?’ came randomly into the mix, then vanished away, until finally fading into the strains of an untuned piano in an English music hall.
We are living in a time of great change. Change comes with uncertainty. For many people, uncertainty creates anxiety. We can’t eliminate these factors from life, so how do we accept change, uncertainty, and anxiety with grace?
Ahhh. There’s nothing like a good sword-slinger movie set in a historic and/or fanciful Asian world. Any Kurosawa film belongs on the list. My favorites include Seven Samurai, Red Beard, and After the Rain. I also love Hero, The Twilight Samurai, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers. And then there’s my very long list of to-be-watched films! Shinobi: Heart Under Blade, the Rurouni Kenshin series, The Blind Swordsman: Zatoichi to name a few.
In my last post I discussed two Japanese words–awase and musubi— are slightly different concepts of connecting with a partner’s energy. I focused on musubi, which means “knot.” As uke (attacker, receiver of the technique), I can feel when my attack gets tied to what nage (thrower) is doing, either by a slight loss of balance that causes a bit of a lean onto nage or by joint locks.