Take a Stand

What do I stand for? What do you stand for? Do I stand for what’s meaningful to me? Where do I draw my ‘line in the sand’ when it’s on? Do I live with integrity? As Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true.”

After I first got Shodan, 1st-degree black belt in Aikido, Sensei told me, “Don’t be an asshole. You gotta help out.” That was my ‘Come to Jesus’ moment, my reckoning.

I got it: It’s not all about me. Sensei granted me his best. It’s my job, my duty to give something back to others. It’s just karma.

A couple of years later, Sensei gave me an Aikido class to teach. He said to me, “Your Aikido get better when you teach.” Again, Sensei was absolutely right. Standing for students getting Aikido techniques more quickly than I did, in some sense reinvented me, my purpose. Deconstructing technique, so that the beginner could learn it, opened my soul to the power of simplicity. Sensei was the Master of Simplicity. He was a Master of the Basics.

Literally, where we stand derives from mastering the basics. That demands dedication, hard work, and what Sensei instructed: Repetition. Sensei had us do technique over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. I literally practiced throws thousands of times, at least. Sensei said, “Everything natural.” Sensei wanted my Aikido to be like breathing. Paradoxically, I’d have to practice a throw thousands of times to get in the vicinity of natural.

Aikido is taking a stand in the face of attack. Everything natural. Wait out the attack. Keep my center down. Shoulders down. Move my body into the attack. Move my feet. “It’s only one time.” Breathe. Match up with the attack. Never force the technique. Apply the technique to myself. Again, everything natural.

Sensei taught me to stand for creating my greater than version, and creating others’ greater than versions, too.

In his heart of hearts, Sensei Dan believed that the world would be a better place when you trained in Aikido. I think for the most part he was right. Not everyone wants to or will dedicate to train.

O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba said, “The way of the warrior is give life to all things, to reconcile the world, and to foster the completion of everyone’s journey.” O-Sensei took his stand for the greater world, for peace. That’s the purpose of everyone’s journey.

Even back in the day, Sensei Dan taught me: It’s about helping others to create their greater than versions. In doing so, I reinvent my greater than version, too. The same goes for all of us.

Mine was the arduous journey for that frightened boy growing up at home, believing I wasn’t enough, hating on myself. Yeah, those voices in my head were really my Dad’s. In the aftermath, I just wanted to be something other than what I was: weak and unworthy. At least that’s what I thought I was. Just saying.

When I first started training Aikido, I had to prove that I wasn’t weak. Wisely, Sensei got me. He got what I really needed. He saw the power within me that I didn’t. Sensei’s greatest gift for me was the freedom to be me. I was free to invent my greater than version, whatever that might look like. Bottom line: I was okay. I was a good man. Sensei inspired me to become the greater man.

So being a strong man, wasn’t about being some badass. No. A strong good man was being my authentic self. Now that’s something worth training for.

Washington Irving said, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not a mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition and of unspeakable love.”

I believe that a man’s distinct power lies in the power of his tears, his compassion for others and really his compassion for himself. When you possess compassion and kindness, you can have true global influence. Just saying.

I stand for the power in a man’s tears, in being as authentic as I can be. I stand for kindness for others and for myself. I’m grateful for my strengths and forgive myself for not being strong at everything I do.

When I’m okay with me, then I can be okay with others, be okay with the world. Then I can do my best to make a profound difference in some way. Perhaps in doing so, I leave the world a little greater than when I came into it. At least, that’s my hope. It ain’t over, yet.


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