Walking is Aikido

I’ve been studying Aikido for more than 12 years now and it has made a real difference in my daily life.   Translated as “The Way of Harmony” the practitioner strives to achieve harmony with others, including potential attackers.  If one can synchronize one’s posture and timing with an attack it is neutralized.

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Yours truly throwing a training partner. The camera failed to capture the Sith Lightning coming from my fingers.

As I deepened my studies I read philosophical books on the art.  Aikido Shugyo is the autobiography of the founder the particular style I study, Gozo Shioda.  It’s been some years but one line remains clear in my mind,  “Walking is Aikido.”

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As with all great philosophy, there is a lot of depth beneath these few simple words.  In essence, the idea is that Aikido is not simply a series of proscribed movements and routines done in the dojo or in a fight.  Real Aikido is a constant discipline and permeates the whole of your life, including the most fundamental aspects like walking and breathing.

Last week I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee to repair a torn medial meniscus.  I suffered the same injury to the other knee eight years before as a result of my training.  This time the injury came not from the mat but from the mosh pit.

Once the anesthesia wore off, I needed to start to walk again.  Needless to say it was no fun.  Bandages and swelling made bending the knee difficult as well as painful and weight bearing was uncomfortable.  It also meant I had to go to the closet and get out my great grandfathers briarwood cane.

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It’s quite an experience to have to re-learn something so basic as walking.  I have to make sure the cane is in the correct hand.  I have to make sure I sync it correctly with my feet.  It is frustrating, painful and really annoying to not be able to walk and move as I want to.  But once I put those feelings aside what I found was an opportunity.  To be conscious, actively conscious of every step.  To pay attention to how I lean to one side or lean forward onto my cane.  If I don’t pay attention, there are consequences… if I move too fast or take steps too quickly my knee hurts and I delay my recovery.  If I don’t correct my body posture I wind up with an aching shoulder or back.

I have had to re-learn how to find harmony with the ground and with my body as I walk.  It has forced me to be more mindful of my mundane actions.  Ultimately I know that in time the pain of the surgery will be worth it because my repaired knee will no longer ache when I drive.  I will be able to get down on my knees again without pain and thus participate again in the Aikido techniques done from a kneeling position.  But I hope I will also be able to continue to walk in a mindful way, even after I put my cane back in the closet.

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