Flashback & Glimpse Into The Future

The following is an excerpt from “An Open Secret” – A Student’s Handbook for Learning Aikido Techniques of Self-Defense and the Aiki way:


While seated on the floor in total stillness, I am filled with a sense of tranquility. An ikebana arrangement sits graceful against the rich wood paneled backdrop of the shomen. A portrait of the founder (O’Sensei), appearing simultaneously serene and stern, seems to be focused solely on me.

Glancing just off center at the display of weaponry, I realize the simplicity of the room is very deceiving. These surroundings have hundreds of years of tradition, and obvious and hidden meanings are everywhere.

This appointed time and place to demonstrate what I have learned after years of study for my dan exam has been years in coming. I contemplate the task at hand, and then clear my mind of all thought. There is only breath. My breath — life’s breath — one breath.

Breathe … blink … breathe.

The sweltering air has grown heavy with humidity, and I realize that I am in a different time and place. It’s mid-summer, and I’m in feudal Japan in 1629.

I’m standing on one side of a rope and plank bridge spanning a treacherous river below. As I begin crossing over the single person-wide path, I see a man standing on the opposite end of the bridge who is also beginning to cross over.

We have instant recognition. We are aite (opponents), and are both in samurai dress with daisho (katana and wakizashi). Sunlight glints off the highly polished steel blades of my swords. Each receiving 1,000 blessings from the kami, they were forged and honed while the smithy made the offerings.

The drama unfolds as we both continue our paths across the bridge. Neither of us can or will yield by turning back, and therefore only one will cross alive. There is only one way for matched warriors to achieve victory:  The first to take the space!

Breathe … blink.

The air feels cool on my skin as my mind returns to the present. The noisy chatter of over fifty students engulfs the room, and they go silent as the panel of Shihan enter. The quiet is broken by the calling of my name for the examination. The next hour is a replay of that fateful moment in 1629, but this time without any bloodshed.

Long afterwards I sit alone on the floor again in deep contemplation. My thoughts first focus on the tasks I just completed, and then journey on to what is beginning anew.

Leave a Reply