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The Aikido Diary

"The true Budo is accepting the spirit of the universe, maintaining the peace of the world,
producing correctly, protecting and cultivating all beings in nature."
- Morihei Ueshiba

by Colette Morya

I met Carlos Chancellor at a dinner a few weeks ago. A very impressive person, his business card announces that he is a Jungian-Archetypal Therapist and a Somatic Movement Educator. Speaking with him that evening I learned that he is also a second grade black belt in Aikido, and the main instructor of the Tamashī to Kokoro Dojo here in Colonia San Antonio.

The next day I did some research about Aikido. I was immediately attracted to its philosophy of avoiding conflict. In a video, I saw aikidoists flying through the air. To me it seemed like a beautifully balanced dance. I read about the moral and spiritual aspects of Aikido, the great importance given to the development of harmony and inner peace. Then, I contacted Sensei (Master) Carlos and asked to be his student. Much to my delight, he agreed.

I'm not a big person; I'm a woman, and I've been attacked, several times. On the first day of training when it was explained to me that in Aikido the fight is based on the use of the opponent's force to turn it against him, it made sense to me. I thought I needed a lot of physical strength to be able to defend myself against an attack. But here I was to learn to use the strength of the other against him. I understood this as transmuting energy through self-control.

That first day of training I had my doubts. I was nervous. I was surrounded by men. Sensei Carlos with absolute serious formality and tangible power was imposing. I felt very clumsy.

The first exercise seemed simple enough to the naked eye, but, at least to someone with my level of coordination, proved difficult. I felt discouraged. Then, watching Sensei Carlos launching my fellow students Francisco and Rowan so easily through the air, I glimpsed the long, long road it would be to acquire that capacity.

At the end of the training, Sensei Carlos gave me some advice that modified my defeatist thinking, "Training Aikido, day by day, we are all on the road to perfection. Here we come to learn from our mistakes. Failing is the best way to learn."

The next training day I had to practice the Mae Ukemi fall. I felt out of balance in my attempts. I fell tense and wrong. I flashbacked to my childhood, remembering that I had never been able to do a somersault or cartwheel. (Writing this now I realize that no one ever showed me how.) Sensei Carlos again came to my rescue. He recommended that I not focus on the point of contact with the ground; that I simply let myself flow through the movement. Francisco also supported me with his patience and advice.

Following all that, something happened to me. For a moment I managed to disconnect from my mind and let myself go without thinking. With that I achieved a more harmonious fall. I was proud of myself. After 20 attempts I got one mostly correct. A real breakthrough, no?

The next training day, Monday, was the day to train with weapons, with the bokken, a wooden sword. After the ritual of paying respect to the weapon, I learned to unsheath it and hold it correctly. For me this was something fabulous, a fusion and absolute concentration that I can't explain.

Then, we practiced a basic cutting movement. I really enjoyed that. It's very elegant. At the end of the weapon training Sensei told me that he noticed a certain ease in me when it came to the handling of the sword. He told me that I could take the sword home so that I could practice during the week. I was more excited than I could show. I felt like a little girl.

As I mentioned, I was assaulted on a couple of occasions and even once managed to escape an attempted kidnapping. Because of these experiences, I now have a habit of being very attentive when I walk along a lonely street or some unknown place that could be dangerous. It is a bit paranoid, but it is a consequence of my experience.

That night, after practicing with the sword, on the way home along an empty street, I had to pass a man with an untrustworthy look. My conditioned response would be one of fight or flight, my body would produce Adrenalin. With the sword under my arm, for the first time in a long time, I didn't feel fear. On the contrary, I felt power. I really liked that feeling of confidence.

Learning a martial art for me is necessary for protection. I travel alone and I don't want to be attacked again. Now I am learning to defend myself. Aikido is my thing.

I'll write more soon, about Aikido itself as well as my ongoing journey. Stay tuned.

Onegaeshi masu, Sensei Carlos. (Thank you for what will happen.)

Tamashī to Kokoro Dojo
Ave. Rosales 11, col. San Antonio



Colette Morya, writer and nomad, is editor of the new Lokkal Community section of San Miguel Sunday.

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