I’m a silly person. I spent a lot of time wanting to write rather than writing. So I’ve decided to start blogging a bit more, and while the primary focus of this blog is religious, I’m going to broaden the topics to cover whatever the fuck I want.
With that said, let’s talk about Aikido; namely, the things I learned in class last week.
Last week in class, we had a couple of new white belts in class, which I love. First, because I love seeing new folks on the mats, and second, because that means we go back to the basics a bit more, and we can hear the same questions, and come to different understandings about the answers, or learn a new way to do something, or correct a bad habit we’ve fallen into. There’s a lot to be said for working with folks you’ve known for a long time, but new folks are a breath of fresh air.
I was working in a three person group with one of the white belts and a black belt when Sensei came to work with us. The white belt asked a question I remember asking to – “What do you do if someone is using this move/aikido against you?”
Sensei’s answer was simple – “Don’t let them use aikido against you. If someone is using aikido against you, you are likely in the wrong.” We don’t learn attacks in Aikdio except what we need to be a good uke. The art of Aikido (which translates as “The way of unifying with Qi” or “The way of harmonious spirit”) has no attacks because we are not interested in attacking. We defend. We protect ourselves. We get out of the way. The first move in many cases is a turn – irimi, we move in, tenkan, we move out. Most of the moves traditionally end with a pin, not a knockout. I once saw an illustration explaining how different fights start and end (two people meet and one kills the other, they meet and one provokes the other and kills him in ‘self-defence’ vice versa, etc.). All the fights ended with one or both people dead or injured, with the goal of Aikido being the result of such a situation being that either the fight does not start or is ended in a non-fatal, ultimately non-injurious way.
The Aikidoka strives not to start a fight, and if they cannot avoid it, to end it safely. Ideally, both people should walk away from the encounter. We blend with an attack rather than fight against it. We stop before things go on, and we get away. But basically – we don’t start shit.
I made such a face that Sensei asked what I was thinking about, and I pulled her aside to share that I was both pissed off and justified.
See, I had an ex who used to tickle me. I’m not…against tickling. It has a time and place. But if I say stop, you need to stop, period. With them, I would say, “No really, stop now.” and even”No seriously fucking stop it”. Yet they would not, and I couldn’t make them stop, as they were bigger than me and had the better hand to hand training. However, eventually on at least one occasion, later in my training, I snapped and wound up getting them with a sankyo, which is…not fun. You don’t want to be in one. I think that fairly clearly states that no, I am not ok, and you really need to stop now.
I always felt bad about that, though. It hurt their hand and wrist, and they complained all night and was very upset, because they need their hands for work, and I generally don’t want to hurt the people I loved. Between that and how upset they were, I sincerely thought I was in the wrong. But. Here’s the thing. I literally cannot put someone into sankyo if they don’t have their hands on me, unless they are trying to lay hands on me. That’s not how it works.
I’d like to pretend that they were really upset that they had ignored my requests to stop and felt like a bag of dicks because of that and how I had to get them to stop, but let’s be real here, they were upset that they got hurt end stop. The fact that my boundaries were crossed was what caused the pain didn’t factor into their thought process. That was not the first or last time my boundaries were crossed like that, but if theirs were crossed it was always a Very Serious Situation.
Moral of the Story: Sometimes the best thing you can do for a person is to pin them until they think about what they’ve done. Also, while they have every right to lose their shit when their boundaries are violated, I can and should have the same reaction. I shouldn’t have to put up with it and one of the few things I regret is that I did. I’ve also learned that historically I have been willing to put up with boundary violations from someone I care about and I’m not into that anymore – it was like being with my ex-husband all over again but without the ‘because I wanted to!’ foot stamp.
The other thing that happened in Aikido is I had a bit of a breakthrough regarding how I feel interacting with people. I’m three years in, but still very skittish.
See, I was ordered into martial arts by Angrboda. And I know a big part of that was to help me get past much of the fear and anxiety I have, particularly around men. I am a survivor of sexual assaults, and I still have anxiety and PTSD. Even though I know that I am safe in the dojo, I still get nervous, especially when I’m the only woman in the class. It’s not rational, but trauma isn’t rational.
And of course, over time, its gotten better. But I still get skittish when folks get too close to me.
One sensei likes to include techniques that can be used in practical situations, and we were practicing a technique to get away if you are pinned to a wall, front or back. My partner was being very polite when he was pinning me from behind – the pin we were working with was one hand on a shoulder, pinning to the wall, a knee up on a leg, and a hand/implied knife in the lower back. I finally looked at him and said “Listen, if I get pinned to a wall like this, no one is stealing my money. They would be right up in my grill.” I kindly did not say that this had happened to me before. Dude didn’t need that info. and once he confirmed I was ok with it, when it was my turn to practice with my face in the wall, he’d get right up in there.
This time, I picked the move up much quicker. I actually do pretty well while learning with a bit of an extra push like that, and the adrenaline seems to make everything a bit sharper. By the end of it, I was able to get out of the pin and atemi (strike, or feint a strike) to the face. I was quite proud of myself, for getting it, for remaining calm even though it was an unpleasant and uncomfortable position to be in again.
My partner’s reaction to it was rather interesting as well. He was willing to do it, but clearly, very uncomfortable because to do that to another person, or to a woman, was clearly not in his nature. He’s intimidating on the mats, and very intense, and it’s a good reminder for me that most dudes are *not* a problem. Its just the ones who are. That whole not being able to tell until its too late thing. But overall, I felt very good about this class as well.