Friday, November 6, 2009

The Old Aikidoka

In 1995 in Lewisville Texas I was first introduced to the art of aikido. The dojo was named Aikibudo Dojo, run by the man who is still my teacher, Russell Waddell. It was a very small place for a commercial front. But it was a golden time in my education. The lessons there laid the basis for everything that was to come.

It was in a poor neighborhood. An old man whose name escapes me would come in every night and sit in one of the chairs and watch. He was probably in his 80s. He was close to the end of his earthly life. He appeared to be very poor.

The old man had never trained in his life. He now had such joy watching us, and knew if he were in a young man's body he would be with us in second. Night after night he would take his long walk from the apartments across the street. He appeared and would enjoy the free show of us training. Over time I grew to think of him as a member of the dojo - indeed he was. He came and contributed his presence and his spirit. His mind was eager to learn the art of aikido, even if his body had given up the pursuit long ago.

I feel now the lesson he had to offer is that it is never too late to study the lessons of aikido. Most of us are at some point on the path where pain and health are a genuine factor in our training. Yet night after night we show up trying to find our place, our current level of training we can push ourselves to.

At one point in my career I found myself too injured to train, yet I showed up to the dojo and drew pictures of throws. Now one of my students and friends is having a similarly difficult path. I look into his eyes and see a future for all of us that train - a moment were we cannot. Perhaps this is part of budo too, the pause for injury and healing and the end of ability all together.


  1. I think I am less concerned about healing up and more concerned that the doctor will tell me not to practice any longer. I like my doctor, and would hate to have to tear him limb from limb.

    I often find it quite invigorating when I return to the mat after an injury. I am more in touch with my beginner's mind, and the little things I am able to do during the down time keep my mind in the game. It is important to make yourself take a break, preferably before a break takes you.