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19th of November 2018

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Resilience: The Art of Taking Falls - The Good Men Project

—In Sunday morning Aikido practice, Sensei Bobby coached us on how to correctly take falls on the Dojo mat. I had to relearn how to take falls to correct my bad habits over the years. We concentrated our practice on forward rolls: Roll forward off either the right or left side of your body with that leading arm. Start standing. Roll. End up standing the same way you started. Simple.

To start a forward roll, face forward with your shoulders squared. Sensei demonstrated how to roll over your head moving forward, instead of turning and looking to your side. Your body follows your head in the forward roll. Keep your feet under you. Stand up. Keep repeating.

Taking falls correctly prevents injury, allowing the person throwing to throw solidly. Taking falls is also the lesson in resilience.

Aikido technique consists of two parts: uke and nage. The nage is the one who throws. The uke is the one who attacks and takes the fall. This is O-Sensei’s design. Like Yin and Yang: There’s no uke without nage; there is no nage without uke. Sensei Dan said that my Aikido gets better the more I take falls.

Both Bobby and I literally have taken thousands of falls in our 30 years or so of training Aikido. We have probably taken a couple thousand a piece for Sensei Dan when he has demonstrated in class. Taking falls for Sensei gifted me insight into his mastery of Aikido.

Regardless of what technique Sensei performed, I got his timing, his distance, his speed, and his power. He threw strong, although never to hurt. It was always one time. So, it was me going very hard into the mat. As uke, after being thrown to the mat, I got straight up quickly. I got ready for what was next.

The Aikido design: You give a true solid attack; you take the fall without resistance; you get up from the fall; you get ready for what’s next. That’s the Art of Taking Falls. In many ways, falling down becomes a part of life. The Art of Taking Falls is resilience.

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Seven years ago, I got laid off from the job I loved. I fell down hard. I was scared. Yet, I got up. Nine months later, I found a job I believed to be a cause, a chance to make a difference in the world. The company’s execution and intentions somehow betrayed the noble cause, at least for me. I lost joy and purpose in what I did. I got weak, lost weight, and was depressed. I stopped Aikido, cut myself off from dear friends. Those were all hard falls.

After the falls, I kept getting up. I worked with my therapist Lance to begin to reconcile my unresolved childhood fears growing up. Dear friend Chuck helped me find the new job I love working with decent talented people back on satellites. I reconnected with the people I loved. I rededicated my Aikido training with Sensei Bobby. I practiced meditation every morning. I again wrote movie reviews on IMDB, which you can read here on GMP. I discovered my love for writing. I even signed up for Match dot com. I got back up and healed me as well.

I got up. My friend Ken, a bestselling author, inspired me to self-publish. He said, “You’re an author.” I self-published my book on Amazon. I wanted to make a difference for others, who might have gone through darker times, as I did. He was proud, and I was proud of me.

While working with Lance, I got that I constantly fell and got up when I was the little boy at home. I fell hard many times when Dad yelled at me or witnessing my parents fight unfairly. Yet, I got back up. I was more resilient than I knew. I discovered 8-year-old Jon was so brave. He had a good heart—and I still do. That gives me faith.

Taking your falls in life is your lesson in resilience, of having faith within yourself. So master your Art of Taking Falls. I do. I just train, as Sensei would say. We shall all take our falls in life. We can also arise as greater from them.—

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