How the Sea Changed my Aikido

It seems funny to write this.  Not because I don’t feel a fundamental shift but for the fact that it was something so simple.

So, let me give some context.  I’ve never spent a lot of time in water that wasn’t a pool or not fresh water.  I remember swimming in Hawaii and Florida when I was a kid.  It was kinda fun but I didn’t have a lot of interest in getting something esoteric from it.  I think the last time I swam in the sea was in 1980.

So fast forward to now.  I’ve re-entered the atmosphere of my regular life, and have been back to Aikido after a break of about 3 weeks.  I was sick, then took my son to Shasta and then went to Hawaii.  My Aikido feels different.  As a matter of fact a lot of me feels different. For now I will limit this to my Aikido.

When I was in Hawaii, I went snorkeling for the first time.  I’ve never done that before and I have some serious issues with water, especially water that has swells and creatures that can eat me.  But my friend Jim took me out.  He was very good with me and although I was scared, I quickly found that the salt water kept me buoyant, and once I figured out the mask and snorkel, it was easy to relax and swim.  The life that unfolds under 20 feet of water is truly amazing.  I went out 3 times the week I was there.  The first time was really helpful.  I figured out the mask, breathing, and there was hardly any swell.  One of my fears aside from getting eaten was that a wave would come over me, my snorkel would be submerged and I would suck up a bunch of water in my lungs.  But that didn’t happen, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

The second time, we went t a beach and Jim took me out again.  We went maybe a hundred yards out, and then came back in.  I really enjoyed going out there, it was early in the morning and there were hardly any waves.  I went out two other times, though and each time I went, I went farther out and the swell got higher.  But rather than fear, I found myself thoroughly enjoying myself.  In Aikido, we learn to read the energy of our attacker and we blend with the energy.  I found myself doing the same thing, feeling/anticipating the energy of a swell and riding it, while I sat in a spot and watched a school of fish or the interaction with the other citizens down below.  The third time I went out, I was surprised and a bit scared at how far I had swam out and thought it best to turn around and come back.  But it felt really good to be out there, feeling the ocean, being relaxed and present near the beautiful reefs.

This may not be a big deal to most folks.  There are some people who surf, or swim regularly, but it was a big deal to me.  Feeling the swell of the ocean, seeing the illustrious life down below, it made something shift for me in my Aikido.

Now, I’ve been back on the mat for a week.  I can feel that swell still, so do my partners.  As they come to grab my wrist, I start to move into a technique, but the movement is different.  I feel the energy of the ocean, subtle, strong, the ebb and flow.  I copy the swell with my movement.  I feel the connection to my partners when they grab, I keep that connection as if we are both riding a wave.  When I perform a technique, there seems to be new level softness and support I give my partners.  I am more sensitive to their fall.

To say that the ocean influenced me is not quite correct.  I feel that the ocean, or the very minuscule part of the ocean I swam in gave me a bit of herself.  She gave me a bit of her softness, strength and grace that I can carry back home to the Aikido mat.  I can feel that there is shift. I can feel the swell, ebb and flow.  It’s such a beautiful thing.

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4 thoughts on “How the Sea Changed my Aikido

  1. Hi Mark,

    I am not sure if you intended the play on words of your title, but the expression “sea-change” comes from a true master and the significance of his lyrics seem very apropos.

    “Full fathom five thy father lies,
    Of his bones are coral made,
    Those are pearls that were his eyes,
    Nothing of him that doth fade,
    But doth suffer a sea-change,
    into something rich and strange,
    Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell,
    Ding-dong.
    Hark! now I hear them, ding-dong, bell.”

    —Shakespeare’s The Tempest

    • Jim, you are truly a man of depth and bless me with your friendship. Than you for this. I never read the Tempest and it was not a play on it. I’m glad to know that I’m in good company though :). Thanks again!

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