Duke City Dojo Members,
The COVID-19 pandemic is no doubt affecting all of our lives well beyond the temporary closure of the dojo. Schools, the University of New Mexico, and many businesses are closed. Many of us are caring for relatives and friends with compromised immune systems, and of course there is a lot of misinformation propagated through social media and other means that increases our anxiety. Charlie and I are doing our best to secure the financial health of the dojo, but that is secondary to what we all should be doing. For the past few weeks I’ve been talking in my classes about taking aikido off the mat. Below are some thoughts on doing so in these trying times.
Before we can help others, we must help ourselves. One of the key aspects of aikido is remaining calm in the maelstrom around us. Indeed the term randori literally means to “take chaos.” I think a more accurate translation is to “control the chaos.” How do we do this? First, reduce the chaos around you. Turn off the 24-hour COVID-19 news. Be judicious in your social media time and skeptical about all you read regarding the current situation. Personally I only accept information related to the virus if I can trace it directly, i.e., not through a Facebook post, to the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, or New Mexico Department of Health. Of course, check any information before you repost or repeat it. Get outside. Take a walk, go for a run or a ride, just get out. This does wonders for you physically and emotionally. The weather is turning quite nice and with Albuquerque at 5500 ft elevation, we receive lots of UV light. Ultraviolet light is one means of sanitizing substances. If it works for you, spend a little time meditating. Most formal house of worship are closed but if that is or isn’t your spiritual way, take a few minutes to sit quietly in prayer or self-reflection. If you are familiar with formal mediation practices, use them, otherwise just concentrate on your breath and reflect on how well off you are, and you ARE well off. Even in this time of pandemic you are physically, financially, and with a lack of want, better off than 99% of the people that EVER LIVED!
You still need to deal with the outside world. It may be as simple as getting groceries but you’ll encounter people more anxious than you. Exert a calm demeanor to friends and strangers alike. Reassure those you know that this too will pass, and it will. I’m not an epidemiologist, but I was a statistician. ALL PANDEMICS PASS! If they didn’t we wouldn’t be here today. To paraphrase something I read in the Washington Post recently, the Corona virus may not have been preventable, but it was predictable. Viruses are common all over the earth and because they have relatively short life-cycles, they evolve rapidly. That is why the influenza vaccine must be reformulated most years. That does not mean we are all doomed, it means we have survived many epidemics and pandemics in the past, and we will survive this one. I can’t predict when COVID-19 will peak but it has raised everyone’s awareness of the need to wash our hands and keep our distance. Those are very simple steps that will protect you. There is no reason to fight over a six-pack of toilet paper or a case of bottled water. Society is not going to collapse. Even in China and Italy, the previous and current epicenters of the outbreak, there was no lack of food or water distribution. Relax.
Some of you may be fully engaged with close family or friends that need your help and that should be your highest priority. If not and you know of someone that has a compromised immune system or in some other way needs assistance, offer it to them. Let them know you are available to pick things up at the grocery store or pharmacy. If you are aware of a student from a foreign country or from a distant part of this country with limited means to return home, offer to have them a place to stay and a helping hand. Practice Your Aikido! You can still do aikido. Do weapons on your own or make time to meet someone from the dojo in a park for bukiwaza practice. Go online and look for videos of O Sensei, Morihiro Saito Shihan or other great teachers and study what they demonstrate. This will pass and when it does it will be wonderful to look back and examine how aikido helped us deal in a time of uncertainty.