For Charlotte Norris-Brown

[This post was written by Rachel Kling, a senior student at Vermont Aikido.]

For Charlotte Norris-Brown, my excellent Sempai, friend, mentor, and inspiration, and the one who kicks my butt and makes me reflect on myself!

Get on the mat for God’s sake!

“It’s too cold. I’m tired. It’s been a long day/week. My house is a mess. I need time to myself.  I just don’t have the energy.  I just can’t deal with people today.” And on and on and on. Meantime, at least at Vermont Aikido, our chief instructor of thirty-five years treks (he doesn’t have a car) through sleet and snow, sub-zero weather and torrential rain, missing a class only in the most extreme circumstances. I have been at Vermont Aikido eight years and I believe he has missed one class.

What is really going on here? I have gone years at a time five days a week, counting the minutes of my day until it was time to go to aikido. Living my life in anticipation of the next tenkan. Excited to see the fellow Aikidoka of our dojo. I jumped out of bed on Sunday morning, racing to the dojo to meet someone for before class practice.

Lately, sometimes it is simply a fight to get to class. I have dedicated most of adult life to this Art, and even as the excuses pile up lately, I consider it the central pursuit of my life. I am a proud Aikidoka and always will be.

However of late I have had a hard time getting on the mat. I started graduate school, and I work. For God’s sake I’ll never get this paper in on time if I go to Aikido! I’ll starve if I don’t pick up that extra Sunday morning shift!

What has happened to my commitment? Am I being lured away by school and work?  Or is something else at work here? Sometimes I wonder if it is not the work of school and a vocation that makes it hard, but the fact that Aikido is hard. Being on the mat with your fellow Aikidoka requires commitment. It requires that you give of yourself, unreservedly for an hour and a half. It requires focus and concentration. Sometimes I just don’t want to make the effort!

I forget that I am always inspired when I leave class, if nothing else by the joy it brings me to interact with my excellent dojo members. I forget that at the end of class I am always just a little bit closer to understanding the secrets of the universe, that I have manifested my potential just a little bit more. I forget that I am wiser, and my spirit is that much more open. And with all this giving, all of this focus and concentration that takes so much work, I forget I am being deeply nourished by the love and generosity of the others also making this excellent effort.

I also forget that the effort itself is what refines my spirit, and makes me a better person.  When I am sluggish, and lazy, and have every excuse in the book, I must remind myself, I am nourished, I am loved, I am a finer person when I practice!