Budo from Aikido Does Not Always Happen on the Mat
Reesa Abrams – Aikido of Santa Cruz – U.S.A. – 5th Kyu
Some people take martial arts for the exercise and the training in how to handle aggressive behavior.
Masakatsu Agatsu – True Victory is Self-Victory.
When I face a difficulty now because of my studies in aikido I look at why this is so difficult for me and why I am having these issues with blame or disagreement. Before I started practicing Aikido, it was always the other person’s fault.
Mary Heiny Sensei and my spouse worked with me to forgive my father before he died. I had been angry at him most of my life. I had justifications: he physically and emotionally abused me. However my spouse and Mary Sensei pointed out to me that he was dying and I was carrying anger, which was a physical poison in my body. My dad would die and I was still poisoning myself. After talking with them I got on a plane and went to visit him in person. I told him that he was forgiven and I worked hard to mean it. After that I called him daily for 6 months until he passed. Later I was told that I was the last person who talked with him before he went into the coma that signaled his end. The last words we exchanged were, “I love you”. What I got in touch with were all the positive parts of our relationship and all the gifts he had given me. The negative parts still occurred but they were not the drivers of my life.
Falling Down and Getting Up
When I first started aikido I was not really aware of my body and had little control over it after a coma. During that time I was learning to fall and take front and back rolls, first from the floor and later from standing. What I told Linda Holiday Sensei during that time was that I wanted to make sure my body learned what it needed to take a fall safely, because I did not want to be one of those seniors who fall and break their hip and never walk again.
Since then I have taken two pretty serious falls. Both happened when I walking my 85 pound standard poodle. On each occasion I had no warning and just found myself falling. The first time I fell was on the street – luckily there were no cars, and the second fall was in the dog park. Both times I got up without even a bruise. My training had paid off and everyone around me was amazed because to them I am an old lady.
I was on the mat in aikido non-stop from 1996-2005. After that I had a job that interfered with my ability to get to class. I retook the beginner classes over and over again. Sometimes I would attempt to do a General Class, but my body could not do it. I could have told people that I did not want to take ukemi, but that just felt wrong to me Instead, I started doing what I call ‘bench budo’. I would show up for a class of interest and sit on the bench and take notes. Over time as my mind cleared from the environmental poisoning that I had suffered from, the notes changed from basic notes to a kind of poetry
Here’s an example of notes taken whilst my teacher’s teacher: Motomichi Anno Sensei was visiting.
If a technique is not going well deal with the issues in your heart
If you want to learn a technique study the heart
Practice, Practice, Practice
Get a good understanding of the principle
Learn to express that in your body
Have a loving heart
Desire is in the way
LOVE is a difficult practice
Everyone is the child of the universal spirit
As we grow that gets covered over
The natural light is covered
What covers it over?
Aikido practice diminishes ego
Then we can come again to the original universal radiant light
For us it is difficult to change our point of focus
What is needed?
Often Heart energy is too small
Make it LARGE
Also try to look good
You are not working hard enough when you look bad
Move from your Center forward
Focus on changing
How important is it to understand?
What really changes?
What we really do is inner change.
I found that my fellow students, who were practicing in a more conventional way, really appreciated, being able to take the time to read these notes in a quiet place and then have the opportunity to meditate upon it. I take great joy in not only being able to continue my own learning in this way, but in being able to serve my dojo community at the same time. Also it is amazing to sit on the bench watching my sensei at Santa Cruz work together as partners when they are doing their own budo. I learn so much from their modeling.
Whilst I cannot train on the mat anymore, I do try to practice aikido in my daily life all the time. It’s amazing how many opportunities I get to stop, center, breathe, decide upon my next action, act, forgive myself, and to move on.
In this way, I can spend the rest of my life studying ‘Masakatsu Agatsu’.