Falling Down Is on Me

Image shows a close-up of a young man with two black eyes, a cut lip, and a cut on the bridge of his nose. He looks like he was recently in a boxing match or other such fight. He is wearing a black knit cap.

In Sunday Aikido Class, I walked along the edge of the Dojo mat to lay my weapons for practice, i.e., jo (wooden staff) and bokuto (wooden sword). I didn’t see the folded-up scooter next to the mat until too late. I fell down hard. Falling down, I laid my right forearm flat on the floor. I landed with most of my body weight on my left shoulder. That was going to leave a mark. I had a big bruise for several days.

Jackson Sensei saw me fall. He helped me up. He shoved the scooter to the side. He asked, “Are you all right?” I said, “Yeah.” I injured my shoulder. Immediately, I thought that I couldn’t practice Aikido. I know that sounds weird. That’s just budo (Japanese martial arts). I massaged my shoulder and loosened it up. Although it hurt, the pain was manageable. In nearly 35 years of Aikido training, I had experienced worse. I let go of my anger. Let go of my fear inside. Falling down was all on me. That was my fault.

I put on my gi and hakama (Japanese skirt) and walked onto the Dojo mat. I soon forgot about my injury. I let it go. I practiced ryote kokyunage (breath throw from a two-handed attack) with Pilli Sensei. I just trained. I had fun. I got over it. I got over myself, too.

After class, the student who laid her scooter next to the Dojo mat said, “I’m so sorry about that.” I said, “No worries. That was on me. I was just being stupid.” Well, that was nearly true. Still, falling down was all on me. I wasn’t present at the time. I didn’t see the scooter lying on the floor. That was my responsibility. I’m responsible in the aftermath, too. In the bigger picture, I get over it. I heal me. Let it go. Move on. Just saying.

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba said, “True victory is victory over oneself.” I’m always my GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) opponent. I work on myself, not on others. Whatever happens to me, that’s on me. It’s always on me. I have nothing to do with what goes on inside someone else. I have a say in what goes on inside me.

In my own trials and tribulations, I’m responsible for whatever happens to me. It’s always on me. Just saying.

In Aikido practice, I get smacked in the face when I waited too long for the attacker’s punch. I get a bloody lip. That’s on me. Not on the attacker. I take that glancing blow and throw the attacker in iriminage (clothesline technique to the head). I’m not always going to get away scot-free. It’s one time.

When I was a little boy, Dad terrified me to my soul. Whatever I did or didn’t do only made him so very angry at me. I lived in a no-win scenario. I wasn’t the son that Dad wanted. I wasn’t good enough for him. I wasn’t good enough for anyone, including me. The voice in my head said, “I’m no good.” That was Dad’s voice.

Over the years, his voice had become mine. Dad got that voice from his dad, who abused him far worse than he abused me. The sad legacy of abusive fathers. I held on to that voice inside for most of my adult life. No, that wasn’t on Dad. That was all on me. I let it go. I heal me.

The late Mizukami Sensei taught me Aikido for 25 years. Sensei became the father who taught me what it is to be a good man. He said, “Just train. It’s not like you have to get somewhere.” He generated the space to be me and invent the greater-than versions of myself. I had nothing to prove. I was free to just be me.

I’m Godan (5th-degree black belt) because of the late Mizukami Sensei. He made me the greater man, the greater person. Nothing but mad love and respect for Sensei. Although Sensei is no longer on Planet Earth, he still stands beside me. He’s my rock.

I work with my therapist Lance Miller to heal my childhood trauma and depression. I just train, too. I heal and forgive me. It’s always on me. I don’t forgive Dad for his cruelty and unkindness toward Mom, my sister Carol, and me. I forgave Dad for being afraid, for not knowing how to be a father or husband. I forgive Dad for being imperfectly human. I forgive myself for not being strong enough to stand up to him and protect Mom. I forgive myself for being imperfectly human, too.

I put my head down. Put in the work. I work on myself, not on others. Just train. In the bigger picture, shit happens in life. No one’s to blame. I’m responsible for the aftermath. That’s always on me. I love myself for who I am and forgive myself for who I’m not. Just saying.


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Photo credit: Altin Ferreira on Unsplash

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