Of villages, boxing gyms and dojos
My daughter successfully tested for her next level in Aikido yesterday wowing us all with her prowess, strength, sweet laughter and compassion.
Compassion is perhaps a strange way of describing acts of tossing her “Ukais” from one side of the dojo to the other — but was just that as she worried her way through this person’s hurt back and that person’s smaller stature all while performing the complicated forms she has come to master with such grace.
It got me to thinking that my daughter’s art — as it has become since she donned her first Gi at the age of 5 turning 6 — is so many parts herself, but also many parts her Aikido teachers who have patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, taught her the large and small points of placing her body in this or that posture.
The more important lessons though have had to do with taking responsibility for herself and for how she comports herself through the rituals of the culture of Aikido. Along the way she is finding moments of body-mind union — where she loses her self-consciousness to act in a kind of unison. This last is the hardest, and yet as I watched her yesterday, I knew that she was well on her way.
It got me to thinking that her dojo has become her village filled with all the nuances of a community each playing a part in helping her to grow into a young woman. It also got me to thinking that boxing gyms seem to have that same effect on young people. They learn an art — essentially an art of violence, and yet what they learn is not violent at all. What one sees is an inculcation of gentleness, sure not all the time, but the intimacy of learning those arts does give rise to the village life for those kids — seen scampering around, their heads jostled as they imbibe the skills of honing the body and the mind into a kind of harmony.
And its not just kids. Adults can find that subtle part of village life too. A community within a community where you work your butt off — and afterwards just hang around for a while to chit-chat with your friends and cheer on others as they put in the work too.