Aikido training in Japan

New Years Gaijin: Small Things and Relaxation

Today I went to kyudo. But kyudo didn’t happen. I walked out of the dojo with surprising clarity. Perhaps it was the white sparkling of snow under morning light. So I walked deeper into the park, away from the train station.

Last week I went snowboarding and hit trees twice. Finally my greed and speed caught up with me in the form of large wooden unmoving objects. The details are unneccesary, but I’ve been left with some terribly sore ribs and a right butt cheek I can’t sit on. Last night I practiced the motion of a draw with empty hands, probing to see whether I could make it to kyudo the next day. Since I was a boy I’ve been constantly involved in the kind of physical activity that often produces injuries, and I’ve had my share in a wide arena of pursuits. Surprisingly, my mock drawing of a bow produced no pain. Everything that hurts is just the normal things I have to do in my day of walking, getting up, sitting down, turning, etc. So I decided to have a go with it. Trying to compose an explanatory text to Sensei or living in question whether I could pull the bow or not while idling away in my apartment were much more bothersome than just getting up and finding the truth in front of everyone. I went to sleep, and then I did what I always do in situations where physical feats will be tested the next day: I woke up in black fear throughout the morning. In that state of daze, I told myself I wouldn’t go.

Then Satomi’s alarm went off. I sat up, practiced the draw one more time in the air, and decided to get ready for kyudo.

So I went through the process of getting up, getting ready, and making the transport to the dojo to find it full of high school students. The holiday season in Japan is officially over, but apparently high school students don’t go back until tomorrow. I remember working in a Japanese high school and being completely baffled by the schedule around holiday times. Students will finish regular classes and enter a strange half-day schedule of final exams. Afterward they’ll come back for another two to three weeks, with another altered half-day schedule (what for?). Then after asking my coworkers and confirming the holiday had started, there were still loads of students around school for club activities or some other kind of classes. Finally holiday would start, usually on a random day during the week, and everything will begin as confusing as it ended. I don’t know why. I don’t care. I guess I’m like everyone else here now. I just go where I’m supposed to be when people tell me. You may think this a mundane and disreputable skill, but it’s one that’s taking me a long time to hone. I’m now perfectly comfortable going places I must without any idea as to what I’ll be expected to do. This is a big part of Japanese life and education. Thank you Japan! I’m only a little sarcastic here.

Anyway, I walked out of the dojo and roamed. Free in the wonder of nothing! I walked as innocent as the snow is white, just trudging through boot tracks to wherever. It’s fun. I’ve been away from work for two weeks. I got lucky with my schedule this year, and while some of my peers were called to classrooms as early as last Friday, I’m not due until tomorrow, Tuesday. My last day of freedom, made even more open thanks to my misjudging of kyudo schedules. Winter for me is a time of introspection and reflection. But of course this isn’t just me. We all tend to crawl inside of ourselves when surrounded by dark snow. And if there is any real tradition in the changing of years, it’s looking back at the one we’ve just finished and planning for that which we will soon fall into. I had two long weeks to do this, but it really isn’t until today I’ve been able to look at things like I imagined. My first week was spent locked in my apartment indulging in the recesses of myself with the help of too much coffee and cheap Japanese beer. The second week was spent at my friends’ house in another town and a snowboard trip: a time of excess, sickness, injury, and constant company: not friendly catalysts for honest introspection. The last two days I’ve spent alone with Satomi, watching Japanese variety shows, going to onsen, and eating home cooked meals. Those have undoubtedly been the most enjoyable days of this whole hiatus from work and budo. Now I am clean, warm, healthy; I can see.

So yes! Let’s reflect a bit. I’m a week late for official resolutions, and no doubt you’ve heard more than you expected by now, but what the hell. Everything in it’s right time.

Last spring I knew I wouldn’t be leaving my current situation for a year, so I took advantage of that knowledge and filled my plate gargantuan portions of everything; more than I could really do. I told myself, “Don’t worry that it is too much. Just do everything. Don’t think. Do!”  Well, looking back, I’d say I did a pretty good job of it, and I’m glad I did. I’ve made deep paths down all those I’ve treaded. I’ve had some time to bend over heaving, regaining my breath. Now I sit, and look down the mountain.

I’ve destroyed a lot of goals I had throughout the past year, necessary victims of wise selection. Now, I’d say I still have enough that shouldn’t be able to fit, yet I know it will.

I can do it if I relax.

The last year I bulldozed through it all. A minotaur sprinting to escape his own labyrinth. But I’m not out. It’s going to take more than physical determination. Perhaps I’ve discovered my Mind. All of those unneccessaries I destroyed to make space, where much less physical things than mental barriers. It really is all in the mind. If you can control this one piece of yourself, you can unlock all else. Well, kind of. It’s a pretty important part of existence to say the least.

Our lives are Mind. The quality of Mind determines life. That quality, which is a kind of clarity, depends upon relaxation. That relaxation is affected greatly by our physical habits. If we can know this, we can effectively encourage our physical selves to enhance our ability of Mind. This I believe is one of the great keys of martial arts, and one I have been ignorant of for the past year in a lot of ways. I thought if I just “did”, the equation would work. It did kind of, but I spent a lot of time running around with my head on fire. A lot of tension and fear emerged. If you can relax, that fire extinguishes, and your Mind can see. Relax, mind the little things, and your judging mind can be used for good instead of folly. So this year I’m going to relax and mind the little things; the details.

Generally, first I’m going to do what it is I need to do, but not without relaxation and thought. As much as I can, I’m going to be careful utilizing “no” and “slow” instead of “now!” and “I have to!”.

Next, I’ll work on tweaking the small details of my body. Specifically, all the input that goes in. This means trying green tea in the morning instead of coffee, and reading books at night instead of watching TV shows and drinking beer. We’ll see how it goes. I love beer, interesting TV shows, and coffee more than just about anything else in life, but that’s precisely why they’re going to be tampered with. It doesn’t need to be a strict black and white regimen, but I’ll at least think before opening the beverages and media.

So yeah … that’s my New Year’s stuff.

Last night I told myself, “Maybe I can do kyudo, but definitely no aikido.” Thwarted from kyudo this morning, I slowly tricked myself into forgetting about my realization concerning aikido and damaged ribs, and have been planning to go to aikido tonight. Before publishing this and heading off for the dojo I just practiced one simple ukemi (fall) on my carpet …

NO F$#%&)G WAY!

Wow. It makes sense though. All the key things you do in aikido, especially concerning ukemi, require uninhibited use of your core. Rib injuries now seem to be one of the worst in this field. And I know they aren’t fast to heal.

Maybe tonight I’ll indulge in some forbidden fruits.

Look at that! 10 minutes into the written resolution and he’s already forgotten!

Perhaps it will take a while to shake the “young” and “dumb” off this gaijin.

あけましておめでとうございます!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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4 thoughts on “New Years Gaijin: Small Things and Relaxation

  1. Rick: Then I can't wait for more time! I'm about sick with most of my irrelevant questions. Thanks for the comment!

    Ted: Thanks for the links! Checked them out and will continue to do so in the future.

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