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To See a Tree: Lessons from the Deadly Table

To See a Tree: Lessons from the Deadly Table

“I was having panic attacks,” Adele explains to the dinner party gathered at the local brewery.  Around that large, high table we appear like ordinary people, but really, we are something of a secret anomaly — eight individuals, all with black belts in Aikido, ranging from second- to fifth-degree. Collectively, we represent around 180 years…

Falling for It

Falling for It

“My ex-wife chose the paint colors,” Trebb explains as we set food and silverware on the dining table. He must have seen me eyeing the odd pastel yellow, blue, and green. Although the yellow leans too close to chalk and not close enough to daffodil, the overall color scheme is as charming as Easter candy…

When I’m Ninety Six

When I’m Ninety Six

As the milk for my morning’s cappuccino was frothing, I tore off yesterday’s page from our daily Zen calendar. Today’s quote was brief: “Practice thirty more years”. Last night I went to the first session of a beginners’ class that Michael was teaching. He called me up before the group to demonstrate a technique, then…

So Glad I Stayed

So Glad I Stayed

“Dude! That is so smooth!” My uke, Tim, makes this declaration while teetering on his toes, one arm so twisted his spine bevels. He looks like a factory-faulty scarecrow. Then, I complete the technique and the scarecrow buckles, ending up belly-down on the mat. Tim laughs the whole way down. We take turns practicing the…

Know Your Limitations

Know Your Limitations

Face down. Prostrate on my belly. With my head turned to one side, one cheek smooshed and spread like a pancake on the griddle. That’s where I was when I confronted a demon. The nage who had just whirled me down to the mat was now trying to master an immobilizing (but not deliberately painful)…

Ai’s Wide Shut

Ai’s Wide Shut

“It’s like we’re psychic,” Holly marvels. “How did you know what I was thinking?” I ask. We repeat the experiment. She shuts her eyes. I grab her wrist and we pause there a moment. Then I focus on her shoulder—specifically the bunched fabric of her gi top. I think about grabbing it with my free…

The Caretaker’s Test

The Caretaker’s Test

The above picture comes from Scott Carlton’s recent 5th kyu test—the first demonstration a person gives to establish their rank as a beginner. The first time they truly come to Aikido’s front door and knock, knock, knock. At first glance, the photo seems like an innocuous and typical first test snapshot, and yet, it actually…