Identity is a curious thing. We think it was created by ourselves and that we control our identity. Do we really? My experiences with the people I love are what have shaped who I am. It is not limited to Aikido, but some of the people I care about most are in Aikido. The people whose opinions and ideas that matter most to me are in Aikido or are connected to Aikido in some way. In short, Aikido has been a major impact in my life. Not just because it is a sport, but because it is a place where I can meet people and learn from people I care about. Others’ identities can become a portion of my identity. It is one of the most important things about Aikido to me.
I started at eight years old, Aikido was not really a major part of my life. It was my parents’ ploy to keep me from watching cartoons my entire life. Of course, it worked because here I am, writing a black belt essay at age fifteen. That’s about seven years where my personal uniqueness has been shaped by Aikido. Either way, one of the first people I remember shaping my identity is Carol Apple (Apple Sensei.) The moment I met her, she was a completely honest person. As I was pretending to be shy, she looked at me and said, “You’re not shy, are you?” Pretty sure that was either the exact or close to the exact quote. She saw through the façade I created to get out of doing whatever my parents wanted me to do. It was irritating. However, in the end it was one of the best things she could have done. Why? Well, I am probably one of the most extroverted people now, and I partially credit her. However, she was not the only person to shape my identity into this.
I do not remember the day I met Lani- one of my best friends in the whole world- or how we became friends. It just spontaneously happened. Either way, the two of us have quite a few accounts we can both tell stories about. These accounts reflect poor decisions, rough times, hopeful moments, and more. Lani has become a sister to me, even though I technically do not have any sisters, or brothers for that matter. Because of Lani, I understand not everyone’s story is the same and each of us have our own story to tell. The rough times Lani has had, and the painful moments I remember, have impacted us both. The two of us share a decent majority of our lives with each other. Lani has been, and will continue to be a huge part of my life. After all, she helped shape who I am.
The third influential person I am going to mention is my other best friend in the whole wide world, and second sister- America. This is not her actual name, but it is what she wanted me to use. America is one of the nicest and pure hearted souls I know. It’s funny, because the way my father phrases it, “Lani is the devil on your shoulder and… [America] is the angel.” This is pretty accurate. Another way of looking at it is America is the Mom, Lani and I are the children. She basically keeps us in check. Yet, Lani and I keep her in check to. During lunch, America will get in this weird zone. She stares off into space and completely stops acknowledging everything. We have to glare at her and say her name to break her strange staring off into space moments. Initially though, I was worried that she was upset or angry or who knows what, at someone or something. That was not the case. Eventually, Lani and I figured out it was her way of relaxing. We still annoy her a bit when she does that, but we do not freak out each and every time about her. Because of America, I learned that not everyone deals with things the same way. I learned how to handle people’s ways of relaxing and thinking, and I meshed this into my identity. I took it and added to my skills, making me a better problem solver.
The fourth person goes by the name Ryan. In short, the two of us get along by constantly making fun of each other. Its mutual and we know when to back off, but that is how we get along. However, it was not always like that. For a period of time, each of us sort of ignored each other. As we came closer to testing for our Nikyu though, we both started to get along. Even if that means we are constantly poking fun at each other. In some ways, that is how he shaped my personality. Outside of Aikido, I probably never would have talked to him. We go to different schools and our friends and personalities are completely different. Because of Aikido, both of us now know each other and have affected each other’s personalities. Both of us are now capable of interacting with each other and others like ourselves. That sounds weird, but by meeting him I learned how to get along with him and people with similar personality types. I taught him what a straightforward, blunt person can be like, and he taught me how to read a quieter and less open person’s emotions. This is something that I have taken and put into my identity.
There are countless other people I could choose for the fifth person I am going to mention, but I am going to choose my uke from previous tests. Her name is Katie, or at least that is what I call her. Countless times she has been there for me and enabled me to test. Countless times has she remained calm under pressure. During whatever situation, even if it is one where you are severely annoyed, Katie always remains calm and collected. I cannot say the same. I think I have gotten better at it, and I know there are some situations that you cannot be calm, but Katie definitely understands that more. I will not reference any specific examples, but I do not need to. Anyone can see that she understands how to stay calm and think through things carefully. It is something that I have picked up on and have begun to make my own. Katie has shaped my identity and who I want to be.
My identity has been, and will continue to be, shaped by those I love. I have discovered the various ways in which people behave, think, and feel. I have learned that other’s strengths can be my strengths. Each and every new person I have met has influenced my life. A majority of the most influential people I have met come from Aikido. Aikido is a major portion of my life and it will continue to be. I have discovered who I am because of Aikido. Aikido is the place where I can be myself, my whole self.