By Brooke Cannon Grass Valley Aikikai
I moved to the west coast over a year ago to work with goats. I was way up in the mountains in a secluded area hoping that I might have found my home there. But as life would have it, I was led to the little town of Grass Valley where I’ve been living now since last April.
I still feel quite new to the community here in Grass Valley. I dove right in though, with joining an Aikido class in September. I thought it would just be learning a martial art! What a surprise it was to me, that it’s a little community all on it’s own. An awesome mixture of some women close to my age, kids ranging from 7 to 12, older adults with hearts as big as Texas, and the kick ass 20 somethings that make everything look easy.
Our dojo just had some young ones test for their orange belt two days ago – two young men and two young ladies. After our Sensei told us to be serious and not to laugh or smile, I watched as their little faces put on a “warrior face”. “Pretend as if you’re going into battle,” she said. I have to say it was hard for me not to smile while watching those young people try so hard to show their parents, who were sitting in the corner watching them, what they know. I was even feeling proud!
It was pretty humbling for me as well. I’m still in the toddler stage when it comes to Aikido. So, when I was asked to be an uke (the “bad guy”, the attacker), I jumped up and prayed that I wouldn’t be too ignorant or clumsy. I only messed up once (that I know of), at which time Sensei was very gracious and quick thinking to switch me out.
At one point during a technique, I was facing one of the little warriors, he had to look me in the eye. I don’t know if he was reflecting back to me what he saw, but I was truly impressed with his “warrior face”. All at once I could see the warrior spirit in him, that I’m sure everyone has. Honestly, it almost brought me to tears. I can’t really say why. I guess I’d just seen him as a goofy, sweet, young man. I don’t mean that as an insult – (to those of you who might read this that may know who I’m speaking about).
Afterward, when the parents and kids were excitedly chatting, I walked up to the oldest young man who just finished testing. It was he who I had messed with during his test, but he looked at me and thanked me for being such a good uke, and he genuinely meant it. I told him I was sorry for messing up, but I could tell that he wasn’t phased at all by it. He was gracious without even thinking about it. That’s the kind of people I get to see three days a week. They keep helping me with the little things, like patience. They graciously correct and guide me through the simplest movements. Especially Sensei, who has probably repeated the meaning of “aihanmi” to me, a thousand times by now (yes, that’s tricky to spell, so I did have to look it up).
Practicing Aikido is fulfilling my own warrior spirit in a way. I feel like I have one that needs to be expressed. Maybe most people do. I’m learning new things about myself through this experience, even deeper than I’d imagined. I have to admit, I’m grateful.