picking my jaw up off the floor.

On a certain low level I don't actually trust people, so psychologically I'm not caught off-guard very often. Every now and again I am, faced with a person who does the completely unexpected, and man, you can just knock me over with a feather when it happens. Like today, it's usually something wonderful. And I can't believe it, immediately. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, for someone to tell me it was just a cruel joke.

Back in January I went to see Ondre, a remarkably gifted intuitive healer that one of my second cousins studies with. Ondre sort of...sees things, in you. I don't really know how he perceives it on his end. Apparently he typically mentions maybe 10% of what he sees, because most of it wouldn't make sense to you. I watched and listened to him carefully for the entire three hours, to see if he was cold-calling people, and he wasn't. Besides which, I could feel the energy he was creating in the room, some kind of matrix of connections between all the people. He called me up with a woman--he usually talks to people more than one at a time, saying that if people's energies match he can link them together to heal each other.

So he touched my shoulder, and said that I had trouble understanding women, had had a variety of troubles with women, and had been mistreated by women in the past.


I'm starting to get some more perspective on how my relationship with Mona was just all kinds of bad. Ugh. Just...so much control and insecurity and a codependence even more mean-spirited than the codependent relationship before that. Bleah. I'm glad I'm free, and we just have a sort of peaceable truce.

I wonder what it's like to trust people, and if it's really worth it.

After I'd been training in aikido for a month or two, we were all out at Juan's, the local Mexican joint, and I mentioned to Amy-sensei, a karate teacher of over twenty years and an aikido student of seven or so, how wonderful aikido was for its gentleness, compassion, and spirituality. She said I absolutely had to read Angry White Pyjamas, which I'm finally reading, and man, it's a trip. So, aikido has several different flavors, all started by various students of the founder (Morihei Ueshiba, who we call "O-Sensei" for "Great Teacher"). The different approaches vary according to who started them and when they broke off from O-Sensei to do their own thing. The primary style I train in, Iwama, is pretty mellow and spiritual, from the latter part of O-Sensei's life. The largest style, Aikikai, is more or less the "mainstream" aikido, and is sort of a close sibling to Iwama--ranks in both go through the Hombu dojo in Tokyo, so a black belt in an Iwama dojo is still a black belt in an Aikikai dojo, and indeed especially around the Bay Area people seem to go back and forth without a whole lot of concern.

Now, before World War 2, O-Sensei was a lot more, um, brutal. Somewhere in there, Gozo Shioda split off and formed Yoshinkan Aikido, the subject of the book. The little I've seen of Yoshinkan has been video clips of masters who are very skillful but not the least bit compassionate or gentle, including Robert Mustard, who appears as a teacher in the book. The book's author and narrator is a poet from Oxford, living in Tokyo, feeling like his life is going nowhere, who decides with his roommate to take the Tokyo Riot Police course at the Yoshinkan dojo, where they take you up to black belt in a year (in Iwama/Aikikai, three years would be pretty fast, and it's typically more in the 4-8 year range). It's sort of like Marine boot camp, only with less regard for your well-being. It's a different perspective, certainly: where I know and love aikido for being a spiritual path that can transform both physical and non-physical conflict, Yoshinkan Aikido is apparently just a very advanced and elegant form of brutality. It's maddening, in a way, but educational.

One of the wondrous things for me about aikido is that because the techniques are natural expressions of deeper, non-physical principles, the way each of us practices becomes a form of self-expression. I think this happens pretty early on, and if you watch us for some amount of time you can discern a certain amount of personal style, regardless of skill level--Big Jeff, Sempai Jeff, Caroline, Kelly, and I all do techniques fairly differently (even when we do them correctly). It's easier to feel when receiving the technique directly rather than watching, but it's there. My impression so far is that Yoshinkan either jettisoned or never had that free-flowing expressiveness, which I think is really sad.

It's been an intense couple of weeks. Maybe I need a vacation, or an afternoon bowling or something. I'm tired of fighting, but so often I feel like the world doesn't leave me any other options, and the only thing I can do is push back, just to be myself and hold steady. I know there's another way; I guess the bright side is that I know that my being unable to find a solution beyond conflict means I need to train in aikido more.

It's the practice that matters, not what it gets me or how I feel about it.