Do You Remember How to Fall? On Missing Aikido

I started taking Aikido in late 2011.

It’s the flow. I’ve always been attracted to martial arts, but Aikido is so unlike everything else that, like Tai Chi, it’s more of an art.

Part of me suspects I wanted to look and act like a Jedi. Not a bad reason, if you ask me.

So I found a local dojo, took an intro class, and was hooked. We had a great sensei, and the students were overall a good bunch. I kept going through a difficult breakup and terrible work stress.

Then, six months later, I just stopped, and I don’t know why exactly.

I was frustrated with a partner I kept ending up with. Aikido, see, requires trust between you and your partner. If you’re taking a fall — and falling (ukemi) is one valve at the heart of Aikido — you trust your partner to throw you in the right direction, in a literal sense.

But also, I wasn’t good at falling. At all. I needed more and more practice, and my lumpy body just wouldn’t cooperate. A week off after a bad training session turned into a month, and I had been gone so long I was ashamed to go back.

When I attended Viable Paradise, I was uke for Steven Gould as he showed off a few techniques. That was the last time I ever practiced.

No other martial art hooked me like Aikido. It’s, well, not quite pacifist, but as much as possible. (There aren’t even tournaments! They have seminars instead.) There’s an amazing flow to it, and demonstrations are quite beautiful to watch. You have to find your center, because that’s the key to throwing or being thrown. It’s an an intense workout to have your entire body in motion for an hour.

BJJ didn’t do it for me. I’m not well-suited to anything acrobatic. I wasn’t going to attend a McDojo.

I have to know. I have to know if there’s something to it that I still need. A different dojo, maybe, one with friends from other parts of my life. I’m older, with different physical needs, but Aikido could still be a good fit. (And let’s be honest, I need something inside, away from the 90 degree heat and intense humidity we’re suffering through in Florida.)

I don’t even have a judo-gi anymore.

We’ll see. Maybe I do remember how to fall.