In Facebook’s Tom Versus Time, the GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) NFL Quarterback Tom Brady asked, “What are you willing to do and what are you willing to give up to be the best that you can be?”
I work on myself. I don’t work on others. Through my own trials and tribulations, I’ve found that what I must give up, more than what I must do, makes a profound difference. A lot of times, I kind of know what I need to do, to become the greater-than version of myself. So, I just do it. Just train. What I must keep giving up takes a whole lot more from me. Just saying.
In Aikido class, we practiced ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo, and yonkyo techniques (all wrist locks) for the uke (the attacker) grabbing the wrist of the nage (the one receiving attack). As the nage, I stand straight and tall. I don’t look at the attacker. I look at the world in front of me. I apply the technique to myself, whether that’s ikkyo or sankyo. The attack and the attacker are irrelevant. It’s only me against me.
As the uke, I also apply the technique to myself. I put my arm and body into position for ikkyo or sankyo. I move into the danger, into what I fear. It’s about what I must give up. I give up my fear within me. As I took the falls to the Aikido mat, Ishibashi Sensei said to me, “Don’t jam your toes.”
My fear in taking those falls is that I might injure my knees. I have old knee injuries from 30 years of Aikido and structural imperfections including my flat feet. I’ve healed in working with my acupuncturist, Dr. Pan, my chiropractors, the late Victor Shibata and Ali Oshinomi, and by reinventing my Aikido falling technique for the last couple of years with Ishibashi Sensei.
When I take the falls for the ikkyo technique, I fall forward making contact with my chest, first, then with my legs. I fear that I’ll slam my knees on the fall. So, I instinctively jam my toes to the Aikido mat, instead of landing on the top of my feet flat to the mat. Sensei reminded me not to jam my toes, to land on my chest, land on the top of the quads of my legs. My knees would be safe. I know in my mind what I must do.
In the bigger picture, I train in giving up my fear within, letting go of my fear. No, I don’t always do it properly. Still, I keep giving up my fear, little by little. Take my baby steps. I keep giving up my fear by going into my fear, taking my falls.
As with most of my fear within me, it sources from the past. Working with my therapist Lance revealed that my fear originated from thinking that I’m not good enough, that I suck. Growing up at home, I lived in constant fear of Dad. I feared that I would never be good enough for him. I feared that I never would be enough. Period. That destructive self-sentence sustained throughout most of my adulthood.
Fortunately, as a younger man, I trained in Aikido. I trained with the late Mizukami Sensei and Ishibashi Sensei. They generated the space for me to be me, to be enough, to just train. I didn’t have to get somewhere or try to be someone else. I had the generous space to release my fear within, to keep giving that up, invent the greater-than versions of myself.
In my rigorous training and therapy, I got that my fear and suffering were never really about Dad. It’s only me against me. That I overcome myself. Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” I work on myself. I don’t work on others. I don’t blame others. I don’t blame Dad.
The late Mizukami Sensei said, “Take a glancing blow if you have to. You’re going to get away scot-free.” I took the glancing blows of my less than ideal childhood. I train to love myself for who I am and to forgive myself for who I’m not. Sensei would always say, “Make it work.” Over the 25 years of training with him, I got that Sensei also meant, “Make your life work.” I make my life work. Just train.
I just train. I keep giving up my fear within me. No, that fear within may never completely disappear. Yet, it’s not about the outcome but the journey to free myself. Just saying.
I believe that we all have that fear within ourselves, whether that’s the aftermath of past fear or the fear of just not living up to expectations, either those of others or us. That fear within us may never go away. Yet, we can keep giving up our fear within over, and over, and over, and over again. Practice. Just train.
Life is about the journey. It’s not like you have to get somewhere. It’s about you being free to be yourself. Free to be enough. Just saying. Amen.
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