Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Triumph of the spirit: An ode to joy

On Sunday, I visited a friend who is an instructor in iaido. Iaido (pronounced "ee-eye-doe") is the Japanese martial art of drawing the long sword, attacking one's opponent (real or imagined) and replacing the sword in its scabbard.

I hadn't seen Dave in half a year. He has Parkinson's disease, and I was shocked and saddened by how much the illness had progressed in the six months since my last visit. His hand tremors are much more pronounced, and whereas he could control them to some extent in the past, he has now almost completely lost that control.
He walks in a shuffle, supported by a cane.
He is in his early sixties but moves with the stiffness and uncertainty of a much older man.

We met in a school gym where he teaches iaido on Sundays.
He was instructing one of his students, who was practicing kata, or forms, about 30 feet away from us in the middle of the gym floor.
The student, clad in a black gi, walked with a pronounced limp and it looked as if he was wearing a sock on his right foot. His left arm appeared to be in a sling.

Dave beckoned him closer to correct a technical flaw.
It was only as the student approached that I could see that what I thought was a sock was actually a prosthetic leg. His arm was indeed in a sling, not because it was broken but because it was withered and paralyzed.
Yet the focus in this man's eyes unmistakably conveyed the fact that he had conquered his handicaps, which I was told were the result of a motorcycle accident at high speed, and had thoroughly integrated them into his life.
In addition to iaido, I learned that he is an accomplished karateka, or karate practitioner, and is scheduled to compete in kata and free-sparring at a tournament this weekend.

As Dave explained the technical point, he used his cane as a sword. His movements were crisp and precise, and during the execution of his technique, there was no perceptible tremor in his sword hand.

As I said goodbye to Dave and his student and left the gym, I was almost ashamed at the weight I had given to certain health circumstances in my own life, which in the greater scheme of things really aren't roadblocks at all.

The mind sets the tempo and calls the shots.

8 comments:

Matt Kohai said...

I'll try to remember this example as I push on in my aikido lessons, slowly but surely getting older and struggling with something as simple by comparison as bad knees.

Michael said...

It's a good lesson for me, too.

MikeDoe said...

Sometimes we can fight the wrong things.

When I compare myself with someone else it is a way that I show that I am not accepting myself as I am. If I choose someone in a 'worse' position than me then I can pretend that I feel better. If I choose someone in a 'better' position than me then I can feel worse.

If I choose not to compare myself with anyone then all that is left is me.

When I am not 'doing' and when my mind is silent that is when I get to meet me in totality. If I do not like what I see then it is my thoughts that are erroneous and need work. If I LOVE what I see the same may also apply.

When I fully accept who I am and where I am in life then there is no emotional reaction and the silence is not interrupted.

It's all about me ;-)

Michael said...

Mike, the object of my post was to inspire, not compare. It inspired me, and that's why I related the story. If it inspires others, that's great, too. I think the overanalysis is a little excessive. Just my opinion.

MikeDoe said...

You may well be right. It was the mood that I woke up in. I wondered about it after I sent it, but the past is past.

Michael said...

I understand, Mike. And after I sent my response, I was regretful of its harsh tone.

Lone Wolf said...

What an inspiring story. It makes me think of how weak minded I can be, me who is not handicapped or dealing any sort of illness (except maybe being overwieght). This story inspires me to strengthen my will towards living life fully with joy. Thank you for sharing Michael.

Michael said...

Thanks, Lone Wolf. This experience had the same effect on me.