New City, New Dojo
by Anita Abbasi, 4th kyu
Aikido had been in my life for two years before I moved to Toronto in the fall of 2009. In Montreal, we trained on hardwood floors! My Sensei was borrowing space from Concordia University’s dance studios and he had to modify certain elements, indispensable to Aikido, to work in the allocated space. Ukemi had to be softened, no breakfalls—a very step-by-step demonstration and slow transition into a standing forward roll. Sure, training on floors without mats had its challenges; it imposed its limitations too, but it also encouraged an attentiveness which carried over to wherever I trained next.
When I moved to Toronto, I knew that, along with my other life adjustments, I had to find a dojo. I settled into the big(ger) city as best as I could in a month, then went dojo shopping. Aikido Shugyo Dojo was the third dojo I visited.
I entered the dojo and was charmed immediately by the kamiza. The space itself emanated a positive energy. Donald Sensei, the instructor that day, was welcoming and curious about my previous experience in Aikido. Although he tailored his class to accommodate a student whose 2nd kyu test was approaching, he and the other students demonstrated a patience with and understanding of my level of training. They offered positive reinforcement when I accomplished something and were constructive and direct when I struggled or faltered. What I had learned in Montreal laid the ground work, but it was clear that I still had a lot to learn. At times, it truly felt as though I was starting from scratch and I was even fearful to execute something as rudimentary as a forward roll, despite the tatami!
Then there were times when something would come up and I could not go to class, so I would have to adjust, the same way I adjusted to living in Toronto. I could set aside a few evenings a week to practice, no problem, I just had to follow through. So I did; I resumed Aikido training much more regularly.
Even following the extended absences I took as I searched for my bearings in a new city, my fellow Aikidoka remembered me and did not hesitate to express their pleasure in seeing me again. I felt comforted to be surrounded by such supportive individuals, so committed to the art of Aikido as well as to their dojo. The confidence I had at my previous dojo resurfaced. The tatami was no longer my enemy, but a close ally.
The thought of starting Aikido anew had been daunting. There were moments when I felt discouraged, but I never broke away. I was planting deep roots through my practice at Aikido Shugyo Dojo.