Clouds and Water in the Locker Room

The Japanese term ‘usini’ translates to ‘clouds and water.’

Usually it is related to students entering Buddhist monasteries and taking vows. In that sense, it means being homeless, without money, and having complete trust that the monastery will support them.

This term is also very appropriate for life after age 60 or thereabouts. We seldom stop to think of life stages and what subtleties accompany them. For me at age 65, stepping into a dojo, knowing that I haven’t been in one for many years, brought this concept into sharp focus.

It never occurred to me that, along with my body rebelling against all of the rolling and throwing, there would be an emotional impact. It kicked in instantly. Let’s call it “ego.” My ego was engaged (and also rolling and throwing me) from ‘minute one’.

The last time I belonged to a dojo I was a brown belt in the final stages of preparing for a black belt test that summer. Here, in my new dojo, I am not only a ‘senior citizen’ — I am a white belt, standing last in line during the warm-ups. The majority of the other students are 30 to 40 years younger – and others younger still. I (at least the part of “I” that is “ego”) didn’t like it.

In addition, even though I have been fairly athletic for most of my life, the conversations in the locker room were like dealing with a foreign language. From another planet.

My life experience is not currently (actually has never been) centered on the latest Mixed Martial Arts (MMA for short) matches on TV last night, who’s going to go out with me and how much we’re going to drink, my ability to (or interest in) inflicting pain, or any speculation about whose ass I am going to kick if given the opportunity.

But I was here of my own choosing– and I was paying good money to enter this “alternative universe!”

I was also experiencing usini. I had to trust that the dojo would support my efforts, tolerate my idiosyncrasies, and just not accept that they should expect (and I should do) less because I am “the old guy.”


One Response to “Clouds and Water in the Locker Room”

  1. Very good, very timely! Just had an assessment with a trainer, and now I have all these muscles I had forgotten about to stretch and strengthen. And I thought I was in pretty good shape…. of course my yoga helps me, I just breathe and say ‘its all good’.
    Keep writing

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