I didn’t know what to expect the first time I stepped into the Takemusu Dojo in Geneva. Only one thing was certain: I wanted to practice Aïkido. Aïkido, or nothing seemed to be my leitmotiv!
I remember clearly the first five people I practiced with: Olivier, Nadia, Catherine, Vincent and Mihai. They all gave me guidance for my first steps on the mats. Everybody was wearing a white belt at that time, except Olivier, who led the practice. Over time, I have seen the color of their belts turn to black! I feel grateful that they showed me the way and are still there to guide me. They are great examples for me because I have always gained abundant motivation and inspiration from witnessing their evolution.
I recall my state of mind when I entered the Dojo that day: lost, stressed, scattered, and emotionally broken by a personal painful situation I had to face. I also remember the kind of person I was at that moment…
Time, practice, corrections, rigor, discovery, and discipline… All of these elements in my training enabled me to “cross the fire” while standing up, which is something I first thought was impossible…
Very quickly, I began to feel good in this new environment. I found my place, even if it took me a long time to understand the “codes”. I felt more sensitive to the people and environment that surrounded me. I knew what was expected from me and what I was ready to give. Errors will continue to happen… and that’s the way Aikido is! Learning from these mistakes enabled me to step forward and become more aware of the realities that I sometimes forgot. How I feel and use the corrections I am given change with the passage of time, and I appreciate what it brings me, either on the mats, outside, or in my daily life. I have a new state of mind and the capability to see obstacles in a much more positive way!
Time also helped me make a significant decision: to immerse myself sincerely, with my whole heart, in Aikido!
This is what I consider today to be the most important decision of my life. It is not always easy to follow, but it helps me to move forward on a daily basis. We used to say that when someone is able to do something once, he can do it twice!
I know now that I am able to commit, and I also realized that I had never really committed before. A real, deep, and sincere commitment, with my whole heart. Free from the idea that everything needs to be perfect in order to consider the commitment “real”. Despite feeling tired, ill, or upset… I will respect my commitment to the goal that I will do my best every time.
Aikido swept away my negative habits and broke some certainties and beliefs… And that was just the beginning! This martial art, coming from a country I only knew thanks to the travel stories I have been told, empowered me to go on with my life and add a much deeper dimension, which actually remains a big mystery for me: Love.
Loving oneself first is a mandatory notion that allows us to accept ourselves exactly as we are before welcoming change… Love we can feel for other people cannot truly exist without loving ourselves first!
On my way, I encountered a person who said: “Marie, I love your name because we can find the word “aimer” (to love) in “Marie””. This sentence still echoes in my mind…
I have heard my Sensei say many times that, thanks to Aikido, “everyone succeeds in finding the sense of his own life, his main purpose, what he is really made for, and the big reason why we are here”. All of the pieces composing the puzzle of my life are beginning to come together and form a picture, which is not very clear yet. I don’t know what will become of this, but I let it be. I have lost this compelling and useless need to control everything and everybody, and have embraced the idea of emptiness instead. I have lost the habit of focusing and complaining about the past, and have begun to build my present and future!
I discovered these past three years that I could love unconditionally, just for the well being it gives my body, spirit, and heart, without having to wait for “something”. I am able to love the people who surround me, the situations I encounter, the places I visit, and whatever occupation I get. I can simply love the moment and seize it. I can love and express this love as much as I am able.
I discovered that focusing on what is positive and opening my mind to what is imperceptible, enabled me to let the clouds and pain go, instead of hanging on to them… As a result, there was a richness of every second, not only on the mats, but also for many other situations. I was unaware that I was able to reset my mind in this way, but a deep will to do it seemed to be the first step to start up the engine. This is also a mental exercise that develops (or revives) an ability we have a natural tendency to forget in our society: Intuition.
Aikido helped me reconnect with my intuition. I now follow my intuition no matter what happens, and even if the people who surround me try to pull me in the opposite direction. I discover my inner resources and can measure everyday how far this intuition guides me on my path. I learned that following my inner voice could prevent me from stepping into chaotic, negative, or dangerous situations.
Aikido also taught me how to express my disagreement in a calm, clear, and quiet manner. It became apparent that I should remain true to myself rather than following the movement to avoid making waves…
I discovered that with consistent effort over time, I could modify a situation, a relationship, or my vision of life… and keep it simple and fluid on a daily basis. Additionally, I could feel at peace while refusing something that doesn’t match my expectations or needs, even if it makes some people disappointed.
Fluidity also expresses itself in my body. In the beginning, I felt as stiff as a 100 year old oak that only a simple gust of wind could have uprooted. I was working with strength and the mats were my favorite place to express anger. My falls were heavy and I got slightly hurt several times. I took those hits because I was unable to anticipate and concentrate properly.
Time taught me how to modify my approach, my state of mind, and to feel better about what was happening around and inside of me. Although it cannot precisely be compared to a highway, the way is very long, sometimes difficult to follow, and full of pitfalls! I was even tempted to give up several times… Deciding to persevere was a difficult choice each time. Nevertheless, these difficult choices helped me grow a little bit more. Hearing Mary Heiny Sensei during the Summer Retreat say, with her voice full of emotion: “Never ever give up!” reinforced this will to step forward.
I have met many people and learned many things along this wonderful path. Through a process of self-questioning, I acknowledge my mistakes and judgments, and keep my mind alert. I feel the growth day by day and I am able to “run up the hills”.
It is because of Aikido that I have met new people, experienced new cultures and customs, and have partaken in extraordinary events. I especially had the opportunity to meet Anno Motomichi Sensei in person and practice under his direction during the Summer Retreat in California. This was a memorable moment and I can affirm that the strength of character and the mind power Anno Sensei irradiated encouraged me to give the best of myself at that precise moment. I was compelled to draw upon some unsuspected resources to push my mental and physical boundaries.
I met other aïkidoists in this part of the world I wasn’t familiar with.
In addition to experiencing Aikido’s uniqueness and meeting with well-known Senseis and aïkidoists, I had the opportunity to reconnect with my habit of travelling, searching for adventure, and discovering others. It is strange to notice that Aikido even succeeded in reconnecting me with the first job I studied for: Travel Agent!
With the help and advice of my Sensei, I returned to California alone, not only for my job but also to practice Aïkido and discover a little bit more about California. I began to think about the turn I wanted to take in my life and what I wanted to put my energy and skills into. I built deep relationships while travelling and crossed paths with people coming from all over the world and with whom I had shared a lot of ideas, discussions, trips, lunches… and much more sometimes! This adventure enriched me immensely!
All these experiences and moments wouldn’t have been possible without my Sensei: Jean-Pierre KUNZI.
I am grateful for his teachings and for all those moments, outside the training, when he gave me his help, support, advice, and simply listened to me. All these precious moments helped me to move forward and “cross the fire” in a significant way.
I also admire my Sensei’s commitment towards Aikido and all that his presence brings to our dojo.
Thanks to his connections within the Aikido world, I have been welcomed as a very special guest in some dojos in California. I also have the opportunity, thanks to my Sensei, to practice regularly under the direction of another Sensei: Juerg STEINER.
I continue to discover on a daily basis, either in the dojo or outside, just how much the practice of Aikido has transformed me. I have begun to understand why I always felt attracted to this martial art. This is the only certainty I kept from my former mindset that has not been questioned by the practice itself. Without knowing the reasons, I knew I wanted to practice Aikido and nothing else.
Practicing regularly gives me the feeling of receiving much more than I give, which gives me the desire to share!
All these moments experienced on this path that I’ve chosen, are precious to me and I hope I will be able to contribute to the development of Aikido. Without it I wouldn’t be the person I am nowadays. It is also my wish that all aikidoists will find this light that will guide their lives and give it color and brilliance!