I’ll be back on the mat tomorrow.
I took several months off from Aikido last year. I didn’t think it would be permanent at first, just a short break while I handled an enormous project at work with a hard deadline. Well, that project slogged on for several months, then led into a sequel project (with a slightly softer deadline, but other mitigating circumstances)…
And then I got sick.
I was training for a 5K during this time (just so I could keep active somehow), but my fitness took a huge nosedive while I shook off a nasty sinus infection following a bad cold. When I was able to start running again in late December, I was starting almost from scratch.
Still, I hung onto my gis — one I received when I joined my dojo last year, another I ordered but didn’t get to use — because some part of me knew I’d be back.
Finally, after realizing how much I missed it, I restarted my membership at the dojo last week. I’ve been going over the techniques I tested on last year, doing some stretches to prepare for the rigorous workout, but I’ve backslid considerably.
There’s an interesting forum thread on AikiWeb about how breaks affect one’s practice. Many people can slip back into it following months, or even years. My own experience affirms this; when I joined my current dojo last July, although I needed time to re-adjust after a years-long break, some of the muscle memory was still there.
I’m going to eat an enormous slice of humble pie tomorrow (or possibly next week) when I return to the dojo. It won’t be because of the sensei, who is understanding of his students’ lives, nor the other students, some of whom have really missed seeing me there. Rather, I have to confront myself. I have to be comfortable with backsliding, with being rusty, with being 10 pounds heavier, with being a few months behind students I trained with last year.
I also have to think hard about why I took a break in the first place. One thing that kept me from going back to my first dojo, back in 2012, was my hurt pride. I took a short break to deal with my anxiety, but I couldn’t swallow my pride and admit what I was going through to my sensei or the other students. Gina-sensei, your guidance back then meant the world to me, but I don’t think my actions reflected that.
I definitely felt some injured pride when I took my most recent break. One thing that helped was my friendship with David and Alicia, whom I know both from the dojo and through church, who encouraged me to return. Another was seeing the practice of two writers I know, Steve Kopka and Steven Gould, who are both accomplished aikidoka. Gould and I practiced briefly at Viable Paradise, and I still remember him complimenting my ukemi.
And there is the knowledge that yes, I still love it.
Be vulnerable. Embrace failure. But show up.