I feel very enriched through the experience that Leah and I had this past week. I got to visit a wide variety of schools with my best friend and partner. We both received top notch instruction from the different schools and we both got a chance to train with an array of different students, some with more experience and some with less. It’s important to note that there are many differences but also a lot of commonality within the art. Throughout we have seen many smiling faces and experienced so much sheer joy practicing the art of Aikido. We were welcomed by everyone we met and brought onto the mat with eagerness and in the spirit of friendship and openness.
I feel that it’s important to mention that the words I’ve written not be taken as a “review” of the dojos we’ve been to. I believe that this would be akin to writing about your parish priest or minister on yelp.com. The Senseis we shared the mat with are contemporaries or senior to my Sensei, Bob Noha. To say one was “better” or “worse” would be disrespectful. Some of the teaching styles I would resonate more or less with, but they are all equally valid.
O Sensei wanted us to not fight, to resolve conflict and to be open to the wonders of the universe. He wanted us to develop ourselves and train in the spirit of loving protection of ourselves and others, even to those who would be our attackers. I am very blessed to participate in an art that holds these values true. I am humbled that through the diversity of different teaching styles, associations, and student bodies, O Sensei’s spirit and the spirit of Aiki is strong and vibrant.
Our week of training ended with the final bow out at Aikido of Cotati. From Tuesday through Saturday we visited 6 dojos in 5 days. On Saturday, we spent the afternoon and evening with my mom, brother, one of my best friends and a friend of my mom’s at her house to visit, introduce Leah to my brother and friend and prepare for our flight back.
Sunday, as we flew back, I read through a couple of chapters of “Women In Aikido”. My first teacher Cress is featured in the book. Cress does not practice Aikido anymore but the one profound thing that she taught me was her interpretation of the japanese phrase that makes up Aikido. Conventionally, Aikido is interpreted as “Ai” harmony, “Ki” energy and “Do” way, or the “Way of Harmonizing Energy.” However, Cress interpreted Ai not as harmony, but as love, so her interpretation, ever so valid, is, “The Way of Loving Energy.” This display of loving energy was evident in every dojo we visited.
I’ll end with a quote from one of the chapters of the book I read on the plane. I was profoundly moved by this experience and do not feel that reading this was accidental. This is what I’d like to set my sights on with my Aikido. I have a long way to go, but believe that the reward is well worth it:
“Today I speak often of love. There really isn’t anything else. Love is how I now often label the energy, the chi or ki. Body awareness is letting love through my body, experiencing it in my toes, my thighs, my heart, my fingertips, my breath, and my cells. Love with no object, not even a subject. Love with no thought of love, no thoughts at all, only experience that each of us can only know for ourselves. It is this that i share with others.” – Diana Daffner