Aikido – “is uke(受け) the victim?”
Every Wednesday in Encinitas Aikido, I teach a class called “Aikido for Adults – Applied Spiritual Practice.” Nearly every week we have someone new trying out aikido because they heard wonderful things about its philosophy. It has always been in my heart to share aikido not as a way to strengthen the ego, but as a way to strip away our pretence, our fears, and our desires, so we may uncover our most natural, most powerful, most authentic self.
Aikido is not easy. It might look graceful and smooth but the learning process itself involves the complete commitment of all of you – your entire being. Many spiritual seekers practice aikido to occasionally feel the “magic” of a true aiki-moment, some are drawn to the insight into one’s own spiritual development, others come to seek out and break their own barriers to freedom. There are many seekers, but not as many followers. Aikido is not easy, it is especially not easy when one has to give up an untruth she/he has carried for so long.
Yesterday, a new student asked innocently, “is uke the victim?”
She walked in for the first time yesterday 1o minutes before class telling me about all of her injuries and why she will never be able to do an ukemi (aikido falls and rolls). She too had a whiplash like I did from a car accident. She also shares a similar experience of a bike accident. I can feel the tension and the fear she carries all too well. Due to the nature of this particular class, I told her the most important thing is to respect her body and accept where she is as long as she takes away the spiritual practice of aikido to apply in her own life.
During class, we worked on neck and shoulder exercises as a way to find union with the breath as movement and movement as breath. The energy in the dojo was slow, tender and calming. Then we moved into a relatively complicated technique. The energy in the dojo shifted to a playful yet thoughtful nature. Our new student giggled as she found such simple joy in a “back break-fall” as she was able to quickly regain balance on her feet again after falling. Later, towards the end of class, we explored a few rounds of fast paced high intensity hajime training. Suddenly the stress level increased in the dojo and my loud voice caused the new student to retract more into her fear. During the last round of hajime training, the new student asked innocently, “is uke the victim?”
I was surprised to receive such a question. I know the Japanese terminology so well that I never even thought of a different perspective. Uke (受け) literally means the one who receives. To me, receiving is like being given a gift. I hadn’t thought of uke as a victim. Yet I could see the validity of her question.
At the end of class, as we calmed down to a normal breathing pace, I gathered the students around in a circle to address the question. Being guided, I began by telling them a children’s parable called “Little Soul and the Sun” by Neale Donald Walsch. One day, the little soul wanted to go to earth and learn about forgiveness. But he couldn’t do it alone. He had to find a friend who would help him to learn forgiveness. So another brave soul volunteered to share the journey to be born on earth and help the little soul to learn forgiveness. It was such a gift that the brave soul would even consider to share this journey and become so dense and dark in order to help the little soul learn forgiveness. The little soul was overjoyed and felt very thankful to have this opportunity to forget who he really was so he could truly learn about forgiveness.
I never answered her question directly. But I saw the awe in her eyes as she tried to hold back the tears.
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