Does Aikido work?

There seems to be need to defend aikido. As in :”Why do you train in Aikido. It doesn’t ‘work”?”

It depends on how we define “work”.

The benefits I have received from my training include:

* Spacial awareness
* Safety consciousness
* Enhanced spirituality
* Increased flexibility
* Enhanced physicality (ability to move freely at 60 years of age)
* Awareness of what it mine and what is yours regarding what to change
* Enhanced ability to see my own side of the street
* Enhanced ability to see the good and not so good in others and accept them as they are
* Not to mention, I am more patient, and much less likely to blame others for my responses.

We all train in our own ways and get our own results.


I would say Aikido “works” for me. Does it “work” for you and how does it “work”?



I asked him to take it back but he didn’t.

Ki in daily life is the writing prompt Ron gave me a few days ago. I asked him to take it back but he didn’t.

I am feeling blah around it but I am practicing new behaviors so here we go.

I have noticed lately that I am feeling low. I am not excited to get out of bed. I am having a lot of negative thoughts like:

“I have worked my whole life and this is where I have ended up.”  I need to make more money or have more recognition.” Now the more money would be nice but I don’t need someone telling every second that I am doing a good job.

As I have said before I am turning sixty in a few days. I think the pall that I feel is because something in the back of my mind says 60 is the big one: the one where we really are all done. No more fun…just grown up hard stuff.

That being said…and I am going to keep telling about it until it passes because I know that it is a lie and if I keep telling it will diminish like all untruths…only the truth lasts and I want to live in the truth.

That being said…I feel great. Last night Ron and I went for a bike ride after work. We had a nice healthy dinner and then cleaned up the kitchen.

We played mitts and sticks and then an exciting game of “Ticket to Ride” where we had some healthy fun feuding.  He gets to wear the imaginary engineer hat and scarf because he won yet again.


Work felt long yesterday and I felt lonely for a bit and sad because I think I don’t get to see my family enough.

I noticed all this because I pay attention to my feelings and notice when they arise and how long they last and if they are true or a deliberate manufacturing of self-pity.

Ron and I have a lovely life together. Yet I can wander away from it to torture myself with “what ifs”…”what if we lose the house?, what if I die first?…what if I die last? What if I get dementia?  What if I am a street lady?”

I can let myself get filled with self-centered fear like a helium balloon that breaks the string and flies off to balloon heaven (or hell).


I practice ki in daily life by coming back to what is real. And what is real in each moment is that I am ok. I am so ok.

Then I can see if I am ok in this moment maybe I will be ok in all the moments. One moment at a time.

I come back to now by doing something physical…it may be going for a walk, hopping on my bike for a spin, doing some ki exercises, juggling for a few moments,  vacuuming the floor, sweeping the cobwebs off the lights and my mind. Sometimes I go out to the dojo and do rolls just to remind myself that I can.


I might write down what is bothering me, or I might write a gratitude list and share it with my gratitude group. I might write an email to my sponsor or tell Ron what is going on. I might write my blog. Sometimes I just get on my knees and pray for help. I have many tools to bring me back to the moment where all is well.

I think the challenge of getting older is to stay in the now as much as possible and to appreciate all the gifts that abound around me.

I do not have to give up and sit in my chair like my mother did. I want to grab the rest of this life and live it. I love to be alive and I am happy for the chance to see what my sixties look like on me.



Saviors or abusers.


kim and mir

I used to think that all men were saviors. Then I thought all men were abusers.

When I was a little girl I thought men kept us safe and protected us from the world. After I started training I thought all men hurt women and there was no hope.

Now I know the truth is complicated. Good men exist. Good men do bad things sometimes. Bad men do bad things and maybe good things sometimes.

No man is coming to save me. That is my job. I can learn from all situations. Every single moment can teach me more about survival and thriving.

I spent many years looking for my knight is shining armor. Trust me…he is not sitting on a bar stool.


I starting training in Aikido and found a good man: but better than that I found a good woman who no longer was willing to be saved or be abused.

In aikido I found my own power. It started subtly as I trained with men who were rough around the edges but had good hearts. Men who encouraged me to roll and to wear my white gi pants to fit in; that didn’t care if I looked pretty or got sweaty.

There were men in that dojo that were self-absorbed and sexist …just like there is all over the world.  There were men who did not want to be taught by a woman and who told me that women can’t get strong enough to protect themselves.

I just kept training and teaching. People that did not like our way at our dojo went away. We find that good people stay. We found that men are good and strong and respectful just as women are good and strong and respectful.

As we change, the people that we surround ourselves with change too.  I am responsible for the choices I make. As men and women train together they can receive and give the best from each other.



you were my first.

Hey Grampy:

You were my first. My first death. What a shock it was when I realized you were gone and never coming back. I was fourteen and you were 79. I love you so… still, writing this brings a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. Who will sit on the hillside and count train cars with me? Who will trek up the hill in the woods by the tracks and get Gramma’s greens for her Christmas window boxes? Who will sit in our chair together and read the same stories over and over? Who will love me even when I am not speaking to them because they read the wrong words just to tease me?Who will hold my hand and walk around the farm with me ?




Who will I sit and watch wrestling with? No one can yell at Big Moose Sherlock like you did. Who will sing the soft Irish songs or chuckle at my school troubles and make them better with a joke or a poem?

No one can fill my Grampy hole. You were it for me. After you it was a mess. Thank god you still look out for me. I know you helped me through drunken scrapes when I was lost. I still feel you and know that your love is real. Thanks, Grampy for teaching me about love. I do believe in it and feel it in the world today because of your love for me.

Love Mary Catherine

faced head on, fear slips away.


sweatshirt 2

I was 34. My Mom was 70 and she was dying. I walked down the long white hospital corridor to visit her.  I smelled antiseptic, fresh paint and sickness. I was repulsed. As a single mother of 2 young girls I was in pre nursing at the local community college. I had a moment of clarity. I am impatient with sick people. I could never be a nurse. Pushed by my financial insecurity and my family’s ideas that I should be a nurse and make “good money” I had signed up for nursing.  My moment of clarity came when I was really honest with myself. I wanted to be an Aikido teacher.  This dream was so dear to my heart that I could tell no one. I had only been training for 2 years and was only a brown belt but I knew that this was a physical language that I could speak and teach. I was in heaven when I was on the mat. Teaching aikido wasn’t a good money maker and I knew that this idea wouldn’t make sense to anyone so I decided secretly in my soul that I would quit pre nursing school, work at any job I could find and train as much as I could in aikido.

At the time, this seemed even to me, a foolhardy decision. I was living in a family subsidized house paying only $107.00 month rent in 1987.  And I was had a hard time paying that. I was driving a diaper van part time making $8.00 an hour with no benefits. My ex-husband was pretty sketchy about paying child support and I was attempting to raise my 7 year old and 4 year old daughters on my own. We were on food stamps and my daughters were getting health insurance from the state. I knew telling anyone that I was going to be an Aikido teacher when I grow up was a big mistake. Yet I knew in my heart it was the right choice for me.

I started training because a women’s basketball league that I played in was canceled. I stopped by the mat and watched as several men moved in what seemed like circles around each other and then fell and made a huge slapping noise on the mat. I was fascinated but unsure of what they were doing. The teacher Ron, (now my husband) came over to me and invited me to join class. I demurred. He demonstrated Unbendable Arm to me, which is a simple exercise where you extend your arm out as if you are shooting water out a hose in your imagination through your fingers. He then tried to bend my arm as I visualized the water jetting out my fingers. He could not bend my arm. I was fascinated. He invited me to come class the next night and I did. I was hooked.

The first year was so confusing and painful. I had no idea of what was going on. Ron would demonstrate a technique and then me and 10 guys would stand up, pick partners and attempt to do what Ron just demonstrated.  I did not know how to fall or roll and I did not like anyone touching me. So every moment was uncomfortable and very challenging. I kept coming back anyway. I wanted to be able to move in circles and fly over the mat like I saw that first night. And I didn’t know it yet but I wanted to heal from years of abuse that I was not even aware of yet.

I continued to train 3 or 4 times a week. Luckily the mat was at a community center and my daughters could do their homework, take swim and dance lessons while I was in class.


I started playing basketball and baseball really early. I had 5 older brothers….it was our culture….we ran, we hid, we threw balls and caught them or got hit in the face. One of the first things I remember my father telling me was “keep your eye on the ball” as he pitched a baseball.  I would shoot at the hoop on my brother Dickie’s, 6 foot 4 shoulders when I was just a peanut. Movement is my spiritual practice.

So aikido was a natural for me. Not that I knew it when I started. I just thought Ron was a “fine looking fella”, to quote my mother.


For the 1st year I stumbled about not having a clue. Not one clue. I did not understand the whole concept of being uke. Why would anyone want to fall down?  I could not roll…not at all. It was very scary and pitiful. I used to hide at the end of the line but the guys would push me up and encourage me even though every roll and every fall hurt like hell. I cried after class a lot. Once after a particularly terrifying class I vowed never to come back. Ron saw me scurrying out and he called me over to explain it was only noise when the guys yelled as they attacked me. He said noise can’t hurt you and the guys would never hurt me anyway. I didn’t totally believe him but I really appreciated him taking the time to explain that to me. When I was a kid my father would yell at me and then hit me. I never knew there was a separation.  I really needed aikido training badly.


Before Aikido, there was fear, constant fear, unrecognized fear, paralyzing fear, and unconscious fear. Fear manifested itself in buildings not entered, encounters avoided, and many drinks taken way past the point of where drinking was helpful. Fear prohibited conversation, stifled movement and restricted involvement.

After aikido, fear got different. Fear was noticed, acknowledged, breathed through, talked about and released though training and sometimes through tears.  On the aikido mat fear was met again and again in a safe, supported and controlled environment.

Faced head on, fear slips away.


I starting teaching at anyplace that would have me. I taught kids and more kids. I taught a seminar at an old folks home where the old ladies heckled me, telling me to throw the old guys around. I taught corporate classes, classes for a motorcycle club, seminars at high schools, after school programs, special needs schools and for home schoolers. I taught at women’s shelters and summer camps. Anywhere I could throw down a mat and throw some people around, I would.

Now I am 59. I have been training and teaching for 29 years. I taught Aikido at that same Community College I dropped out of and at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. I have a beautiful dojo right at my house. So I kept training 3 times a week. And here I am waiting for classes to start up again in September….every few days I do some rolls so I know I still remember how. At 59 years old I can fly through the air and land in a nice round roll. I love that and I love the me that aikido has helped me find.


I believe in her dying days my mother helped me see what was really important. Work is one thing and a life’s calling is another. I work a job so I can help support my dojo. My husband and I met on the mat and we have built a life of honest communication and support together. Aikido gives us a language and community.




dirty black footy sock

I left the dirty black footy sock on the ground hoping the gusty March winds would whisk it away.  I did sweep up almost every one of the mouse gnawed crayons along with mini mouse poops that were scattered throughout the chewed pieces of Red Orange, Goldenrod, Pacific Blue and Forest Green wax bits. The cold cement floor looked like the happy confetti of a parade but it really was the sad remains of a storage bin left empty.


I suppose it could seem hopeful: a storage unit left empty, the lock off, door down, with the leavings of a life’s chapter strewn across the barren gray slab.


He came into the office today to sign the vacate notice. He wasn’t past due and he offered to sweep up. He seemed pleasant and soft spoken behind his purple dipped beard and shabby biker’s leathers. His navy skull cap pulled down low over his forehead with a long, thick, dark braid down his broad back, dusty camo pants shoved into worn dark combat boots. He was a working man; his big hands had scraped knuckles, thick calluses: maybe a mechanic or a mason.


She sat out in the battered, red wine colored Jeep Cherokee, twisted toward the back as she shushed another man’s 3 children, small they were, 2 mussed blond heads in mismatched car seats, the third a little bigger, unbelted in the center, clutching his Thomas the Train. I see her trying to quiet the fussy kids so they won’t irritate the new man in the biker’s jacket. I recognize the unease of blending stuff and expectations and families.


As I put the yellow lock on the latch indicating that the unit is ready for a new rental I see the dirty black half sock stuck to the webbing of the security fence. Percy the Engine sits upright on the unit lip edge, smiling, awaiting the return of a tearful toddler who will never come back.




my memories of her are like photographs


My memories of her and I are photographs, really.  I do not need to get the albums out because I remember certain pictures so vividly.  They help me keep in mind why I love her.

The first one was the day after her birth.  She was born the weekend of the Miami riots, and the day Mt. St. Helens blew.  I was stretched out on the bed in our furnished efficiency in Ft Lauderdale. Dressed in a white and pink bunny sleeper, she nestled snuggly in the crook of my arm.  A thin silky cap of dark hair topped her red pruny face.  My hair was in braids, one curl, an escapee, lay on my forehead.  My face was red, sun burnt from a visit to the beach two days before.  I looked tired and happy.  I can remember distinctly how right it felt to hold her soft, lovely self close to me.

The next photograph/memory is of her skating in our driveway in Texas.  She was four years old.  She wore a short maroon cheerleader jumper with a big white A on the front.  Her plastic blue and yellow clamp on skates clattered and scratched as she stumbled around the driveway.  I was sitting on the front steps on the phone with my mother.  She turned her blue eyes huge behind oval glasses.  Brushing a wisp of long blond hair from her sweaty freckled face, she shouted, “Mom, tell Gram I go soooo fast.”

There are other photographs and memories, but for some reason unbeknownst to me those two stand out.

I saw her last Sunday.  Her pants were pushed down to a place on her hips where it seemed  like a miracle was holding them up, her huge, baggy shirt tucked in just so.  New expensive black sneakers, several silver rings and many ear piercings completed the ensemble.

“Mom, do you really like my new hair cut?”

“Yes, honey, I love it.”

How could I not?  Her blond hair was all the same length, clean and its natural color!  Sometimes when I turn and see her I am amazed at her beauty.

When the phone rang Wednesday night I did not have any misgivings.  The voice of her foster mother stated evenly, “She’s gone.”

It was the nineteenth time I had heard those words.

I finished the conversation, asking the right questions, hearing the same old assurances.  I walked back over to the couch and waited for the feelings to come.  They did, but not until 2:05 a.m. when I was starkly awake, my stomach a-twirl.  The coyotes were howling in a surprisingly God forsaken way.  A lone car crawled up the hill, turned around and zoomed back down.   I tried to pray and must have slept.

Today I am sitting with my feelings; my questions.  Where is she?  Who is she with? What is she doing?

It’s weird; sometimes I feel like celebrating her free spirit and other times I just want to put my face in my hands and cry.

I started going to al anon meetings when my daughter was 14. I had been sober in AA for 8 years. Emily started running away from home when she was 12. We tried to do everything to stop her short of tying her to the bedpost. (Don’t think it didn’t cross my mind.)

I knew in my head I was powerless but not in my heart. She was my daughter…my responsibility. People in the rooms would pat my back and tell me to detach with love. I had no idea what they were talking about. She and I were so enmeshed it would have been like cutting out my own heart.

I kept going to meetings. One day I heard a lady say if you can’t detach with love then just detach and if you can’t just detach…..detach with an ax.  That made sense to me somehow.

So I stopped taking her calls and going to see her in various foster homes and special schools for about six months. My husband took her calls and we communicated through him. It was a good move for me. It gave me some space and breathing room. Having a chronic runaway drunk and drugged teenager makes the whole family crazy. My reactions were making me insane.

I started working the steps and keeping the focus on myself. I got a sponsor and spoke at meetings. After six months I was able to go see her and talk to her again. I have been able to stay in love with her since then.

I have had some slips around her…I think it’s normal because she is my daughter.

We have a guarded relationship today. She is still working on her story. I love and accept her. I don’t try to change her. I mind my own business, go to meetings and pray …and so I have a beautiful life. I finally know what detach with love means.


I wrote the first part of this paper when Emily was 16. She finally stopped drinking when she was 29 after giving her children away just as I had done before I got sober. The stark reality of giving children away rang in my heart like a frozen once struck chime. It did the same for her. She now has been sober for 8 years. He oldest son was born on the 15th anniversary of my sobriety. Life is sweet today. Great pain provides a wonderful contrast for simple quiet days.