Every night when I leave the house to go to the dojo to practice Aikido my sweetie Will calls out, "Don't get hurt and don't hurt anybody." I'm not much of a danger to anyone, but some people are a danger to me.
One Nage (the thrower or attacker) in particular is rough and strong. A few weeks ago he cracked every bone in my hand doing Nikyo "A technique which works through the wrist to lock the body". We all heard it. Of course he was concerned. The instructor, a black belt student, admonished him to be more gentle. My hand ached for weeks. It still does. This Nage is super compact and dense, like a sack of cement. My feet have taken the brunt of his weight a number of times and they are black and blue. He always manages to step on my feet and, as a beginner, I'm not yet fast enough yet to get out of the way.
Typically, I'm my own worst enemy, taking falls on my shoulder, doing ukemi (a forward or backward roll or flip similar to tumbling) incorrectly and tweaking out my neck, but lately I've been surpassed by him, my new worst enemy. Of course my first instinct is to resist when he pulls me too hard, but I know intellectually that I can be hurt more easily, but my body tries to protect me. Part of the philosophy of Aikido is to blend, to become one with your attacker so you move together in harmony. Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido says, "As soon as you concern yourself with the 'good' and 'bad' of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weaken and defeat you."
Rather than think critical thoughts I have taken action by saying to him, "Easy, Easy" as he begins to move in. Sensei says, "Go slower." And "There's no rush." But he's so concentrated on himself that he forgets he has an uke (the one who receives the attack)Šme.
So I called Mark Mooney, of the Strozzi Institute, a Nidan (2nd level black belt) who offered to talk anytime about my aikido challenges. The first thing he told me to do was to protect myself by making a request before we started. "Please be gentle with me." And to continue to remind him throughout our practice to go easy. He also asked me, "Susan, why are you not taking care of yourself?" Problems are never outside yourself, with the Nage, I know this and I wasn't in blame. I just want to know how to continue. I like this Nage, I just don't trust him. I could ask myself where don't I trust myself and one answer would be to really watch out for myself and do what it takes to be safe. I am working on this. Here it is in my face now an opportunity to put my self-care into action.
The other thing Mark advised was to be a step ahead of my Nage, to anticipate his next move and never let him compromise me. I don't think I have this ability yet, but I am going to do my best to do this, stay close and connected, and to be vigilant in every moment. To be "awake" and look for this opportunity to practice.
But it goes deeper than that. I want to be able to embody the advice of Morihei Ueshiba. "If your heart is large enough to envelop your adversaries, you can see right through them and avoid their attacks. And once you envelop them, you will be able to guide them along the path indicated to you by heaven and earth." At the core taking care of myself is really about the development of heart. A heart that beats both alone in my body, and in rhythm with all beings.
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Susan Harrow is the author of Sell Yourself Without Selling Your Soul. She runs a Media Consultancy where she helps everyone from Fortune 500 CEOs to celebrity chefs, entrepreneurs to authors grow their business through media coaching and the power of PR. For more information please contact Susan.