Perfect Moments

"No, everything is real," said Wen. "At least, as real as anything else. But this is a perfect moment." He smiled at Susan again. "Against one perfect moment, the centuries beat in vain."

--Terry Pratchett, Thief of Time

"Sensei used to call this 'the dance.' It was a part of every test, to see that you had mastered the basics. And I would like to teach it to you, if you please," said Theresa, the ikkyo mudansha who taught class this last Saturday. I like Theresa very much; she has a sense of life and movement that most people seem to get by without. "Alan, oniga shimasu."

So, Alan joins her at the front of the dojo, and they proceed through a series of attacks and throws that incorporates the basic principles of aikido. Some of it I remember, but there is one attack I don't know, so I'll need to work on it a little, it appears. After the demonstration, Theresa looks to the class, and asks if everything is clear. The progression of attacks, the techniques to use, etc.

So the class splits up into partners, and we go at it. I partner up with Theresa. And she teaches me the attack I didn't recognize, and also gives me a piece of advice: "Brian, make sure you breathe out when you throw. It releases your energy." By this point (an hour and a half into the practice session), I'm nearly out of breath, and sweating like a pig. And I'm supposed to control my breathing at the same time?!? I'm not sure if that's possible.

So Theresa looks at me and says, "Let's begin." Breathe out. The first attack/throw combination is Shomenuchi irriminage. And with Theresa's attack, breathe in; absorb the energy she's using. And Out with the throw. Suddenly, I'm not feeling so exhausted anymore. Other side. In. Out.

Working down the body now. Yokomenuchi shihonage. Again, In. Out. And the dance progresses downwards. I can feel the energy flowing through me.

Katadori ikkyo. Lub dub. My heart is even getting into the timing of attack and throw, as Theresa and I find a rythem.

Munetsuki kotegaeshi. In. Lub. Out. Dub. The sweat starts dropping off my hair. But I don't feel tired; I feel alive.

Ushirorotedori kokyunage. The pace of our dance quickens, with another throw that starts by entering in. And I begin to encroach on a perfect moment.

And, with the last attack, Ushirotekubishime sankyo, I can feel it. We're moving in time, intertwined as almost a single entity. Uke and Nage. Two opposites that cannot exist without each other.

And so we switch positions. This time, I attack, and with each throw, I watch Theresa's technique; the economy of motion that is lacking in mine. And I exist in the moment, utterly alive, even if only for a moment; a perfect moment.

After class, I really am exhausted. But that doesn't change the fact that for a few minutes, I managed to move in sync with another person in a series of attacks and counters. After all, that is all a dance is, in the end.

So, as I go to class this week, I know what to look for; that zone to find. Perhaps I can have yet another perfect moment.

Brian Naberhuis