In Writer and Director Taika Waititi’s Thor: Love and Thunder, Natalie Portman plays the Mighty Thor and Dr. Jane Foster. Jane is dying of Stage 4 cancer. When she wields the Mjolnir hammer as the Mighty Thor, she kills herself, keeping her body from fighting off the cancer. Jane sacrifices her life to save the great love of her life Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth. After the climactic battle, Jane lies dying in Thor’s arms. She gently places her hand on Thor’s heart. She says, “Keep your heart open.” She dies. I cried in the movie theater.
In Aikido, Ishibashi Sensei says, “Everything quiet. Open up.” That’s not just for the 250-pound man coming to punch my face. In my own trials and tribulations, my disappointments, I’ve learned that I get up whenever I fall, whenever I fail. The safest place to be is under the attack, in the danger, under what I fear most.
I open myself to the attack. I don’t resist it. If I defend, I can be defeated. I enter the attack and die with honor. In the center of the danger, I choose who I am, what I do. Keep my heart open. Everything quiet. I find my peace within. It’s only me against me. O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba said, “True victory is victory over oneself.”
I grew up in an abusive home. Dad scared me to my soul. I never knew what I did or didn’t do that made Dad so angry at me. I got that I would never be good enough for Dad. That I would never be good enough, period. Consequently, I spent a good part of my adult life trying to prove that I was good enough, that I was enough. Unfortunately, being more of anything will never be enough. I closed my heart.
Over 30 years ago, I started Aikido training with the late Mizukami Sensei. When I was 12 years old, my late Mom forced me to take Aikido. I was the short, fat, and geeky kid who wasn’t good at any sports. I loved Aikido. I was actually good at it. I quit after 2 years when I attended Iolani School, the prestigious college prep school that my parents paid a lot of money at that time for me to attend. I thought that I needed to focus all my attention on that.
I graduated from Iolani. I got my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering at the University of Hawaii. I moved up to Los Angeles for my career in satellite systems engineering. One day, my friend Charlie asked if I wanted to check out an Aikido class in West Los Angeles. That’s how I met the late Mizukami Sensei.
Mizukami Sensei taught me Aikido. He taught me what it is to be a good man. Sensei became the father who made me the greater man, the greater person. Although Sensei and Dad were both Old School 2nd generation Japanese American Nisei, where Dad wanted me to be like him, Sensei created the space to be me, to invent the greater-than versions of myself. Sensei said, “Just train. It’s not like you have to get somewhere.” For the first time in my life, I was free to just be me. I opened my heart.
I’m Godan (5th-degree black belt), because of the late Mizukami Sensei. Although he’s no longer here on Planet Earth, Sensei still stands by my side. He was the great love of my life.
I’m on the journey to fall madly and deeply in love, too. I give this my best shot. I’m not as good at that as I am at Aikido. Just saying. I’m 5’3”. I’m not handsome. I’m not rich. Still, if Sensei were here, he would remind me: Just train. It’s not like I have to get somewhere.
I’m in love with someone. I said, “I love you.” She loves me, but isn’t in love with me. That’s just what is. I forgive myself for being in love. I keep letting go of being in love, too. Don’t make myself wrong for that. I forgive myself for being imperfectly human, too. I forgive, just because. I let go of the past, of being right that I don’t deserve love. I work on me, not her. O-Sensei said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” I overcome me. The world isn’t all about me. That’s just life. It’s time to let go. Just saying.
In the bigger picture, I work on being the greater-than version of me. I love myself for who I am and forgive myself for who I’m not. I open my heart and see the beauty in others, see the wonder in the world. I practice that over, and over, and over, and over again. I keep my heart open. Amen. Amen.
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