As I said in December, I decided to do a happiness project, which entails that I do something unusual, strange or, outright silly every month that I would normally not do. For the month of May, I decided to attend a Martial Art class, an Aikido class to be specific.

Marshall Art Photo 4

I have to say, I have never done anything like this in my life. I used to do gymnastics as a kid and long distance running as an adult. I went to class, being completely green; I was unfamiliar with the surrounding, culture and training of Martial Art.

I arrived in my usual running outfit. I was wearing a black T-shirt with long, black running pants and running shoes. I felt slightly out of place with everyone else wearing white, with a variety of belt colours. I also felt a little awkward having to exercise bare foot. The instructor was super nice, though. Although he talked a lot, he was always on topic. It reassured me that he knew his art very well.

Marshall Art Photo 2

I followed my coworker and his son and imitated what they were doing. Joe and his son, Jacob, felt right at home. They moved around naturally and knew what to do. Jacob, being the most senior in terms of his belt level, even had to talk back and forth with the instructor in Japanese in a very ceremonious fashion at the beginning and end of the class. I was impressed. The young man really moved around naturally as if he was born to do this art. I just tried to do my best. I fixed my eyes on my peers and did what they did. It was not easy.

My biggest surprise was that the moves were really complex. In the movies, the actors make the moves look so easy. A couple of defensive punches and throws, and the enemy is always disarmed. I have to say that it does not work this easily in real life. There were many intricate steps, choreographed movements, rhythmic flow and meticulous timing to make a sequence of actions come together. I have to say, I was a real novice. I forgot steps and arm swings at times and I was confused most of the time. More than my muscles, I felt mentally exhausted at the end.

What did I learn? There is a reason this is called art. It is art at the highest level. Martial Art engages the mind, body and spirit at their maximal level. It also has a cultural touch and highly respectful ceremonial aspect that movie goers rarely see. It is beautiful at the art level. As exhausted and confused a novice may feel, it is easy to appreciate the intricate beauty and its spiritual challenge.

Marshall Art Photo 1

Thank you, Joe and Jacob for inviting me. I will visit you again one day to watch you receive you black belt.

For the month of June, I will do a past life regression experiment.

M. J. Mandoki