Sensei called out the first technique to be demonstrated on the test. Mike Boeckman listened to the long Japanese phrase. He drew in a slow, collected breath much like a lion targeting its hors d’oeuvres among a distant wildebeest herd. He offered his wrist to the uke who promptly grabbed it in an attack.
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?
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.