Each friend represents a world in us,
a world possibly not born until they arrive, and
it is only by this meeting that a new world is born
The people who cross our paths, and especially those who linger for a while, touch our lives and help us see possibilities within ourselves to which we would otherwise be blind. They challenge us to be more than we think we can be. Sometimes they do so by pushing buttons that evoke a painful or angry response; other times they illuminate the spark of kindness, of goodness, of love that burns inside all of us. The wealthy driver of that big 4x4 from the leafy suburbs helps us confront our envy; the grubby homeless person offers us an opportunity to demonstrate our compassion and kindness. All of the people we meet have something to share with us – our friends have much to teach us; our enemies even more. How often do we not feel that the person to whom we are attracted fulfils us, makes us complete – that speaks to a quality that we feel is missing inside us. Very often it is the people with whom we differ, or argue, or dislike that have the most to teach us for oftentimes they hold up a mirror to us about those things within us we dislike or despise. So every person that crosses our path, is there for a reason. He or she touches our life and in how we relate to him/her helps to reveal us to ourselves.
So too on the tatami. In the training hall, you will come across many different people. Your partner is an individual who may share some similarities with you but who nonetheless has a different background to you, different physical abilities and even a different motivation for doing aikido. Some will be tall, others short; some will be strong and muscular, others frail or waif-like. For many reasons we may prefer to work with some people – often that is because we feel we know how they will move, so that the movement is "nice" and smooth. We may avoid others because they are "too rough" or "too stiff".
Every uke is precious. Every uke has something to show you about your technique. It is up to you to look for it. Does this uke jump beautifully into a perfect ukemi before you have executed the technique? Well then perhaps there's something to adjust in your timing or your telegraphing to him/her what you are about to do. Do you find that this uke is able to lock out against your technique? Rather than blaming uke for the technique not working, ask instead whether there is something in how you are executing the technique that allows that blocking to occur: Have you interrupted the flow of the technique? Are you too square when the movement is circular? Have you led uke into a place where his/her weight is bearing down on you and you cannot move?
And the main lesson to be learned from that interaction is "How do I choose to respond?" Do I give in to my frustration that my attempts at technique are failing and react with violence? Do I shout at uke for resisting when he should be flowing? Or do I feel where I need to soften, inside me, soften enough to flow around the obstacle and in doing so free myself of what is holding me back. On the physical level that may be uke, inside me it could be my need to prove myself, or my inability to listen to what the other person is telling me.
Every uke is a precious gift, because he or she has willingly come to you to help you refine your technique, and yourself.
Honour that gift in return by being a good uke to them.
See you on the tatami soon,