Aikido

This week, I’m thinking a lot about energy and how it can be used and redirected, and I’m thinking that maybe I need to learn the martial art Aikido. The premise of Aikido is that your attacker’s energy can be taken in and redirected so as to protect both you and the attacker. If every human interaction is an exchange of energy, and human energy needs to be safely and productively handled (particularly in the work place) then Aikido is the ultimate physical manifestation of understanding how to make the best and kindest use of personal energy. (I’m sure there are many other physical practices and schools of thought and faith that address the issue, but I like the idea of Aikido very much right now, as an embodiment of the best human values. )

I’m aware of Aikido because my mother’s friend Agnes studied it when she was a young mother and showed me a couple techniques in her doorway, on a fall or spring day, when I was about eight. She kept asking me to “attack” her and I kept running at her and she would very gently but firmly take my arm and twist like a bullfighter out of the way and I would find myself on the other side of her body and the door, on the outside. It seemed very magical. At the time I was learning Judo and I was more attracted to the possibility of hurting an attacker (appropriate for an eight year old).

I’m currently fascinated by how knowledge, history and life themes can converge in surprising ways. It’s surprising how my child self and my adult self are meeting through this memory of Aikido and my current preoccupation with the fruitful and kind harvesting of energy. In turn, this makes me think of my mother, one of the first people to talk to me about energy, and how while I knew she was right–there definitely was energy–for most of my life I felt uncomfortable talking and thinking about it openly. The concept was just a bit too groovy.

My mom is on my mental scene in a second way. Here’s one of her oft repeated nuggets: No learning is pointless or useless. All knowledge acquired will be used again, eventually. This came up repeatedly between us during my teen years and twenties, whenever I complained that I was being forced to master skills I considered uninteresting or too specific. And here I am, middle aged, putting pieces of my decades of learning together like a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe this is what wisdom looks like, becoming more than the sum total of your experiences.

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