I’m not going to mention his name, because I’m not sure he’d want that.
He’d been training a long time, and not just Aikido. So long, in fact, that his instructor, a senior American practitioner, once referred to him as sempai.
The day he came I was teaching. We were cubs back then, that day, rolling and tumbling on the mat. Not him, though, as he watched us training, off to the side. He was a wolf.
So one day he’s teaching bokken and I was there. I was impatient then, and sure of myself, when he walked over to demonstrate.
It’s hard to describe what happened. I doubt he even remembers it. But I do.
I held my bokken before me, the way I was taught, the blade extending outward, my wrist slightly turned. I projected from my center. It was, I remember thinking, a solid and impenetrable barrier. With time enough and patience, I could almost keep the world at bay.
The cut was immediate, decisive. So quickly did the blade drop, that I had no time to think, to even breathe. As the moment passed, and my breath returned, I felt the tip of his sword resting lightly against my trachea.
Nowadays when I teach bokken, I demonstrate the movements, again the way I was taught. Sometimes, though, I’ll stop, and think back to that day.
“You have to understand,” I tell them, “this happens very fast…”
And then I’ll wait, and look, and see if they understand. And sometimes, as I watch them, I’ll see my younger self: eager to train, quick to answer, and confident.