Ichi go Ichi e

by Reiko Rizzuto

Recently, a friend of mine died, suddenly and at a young age. In times of tragedy and sorrow, you look for lessons to get you through. Lessons like, life is shorter than you think, so make the most of it.

What aikido offers me in such a moment is an opportunity: to be new. To start fresh, to let go. It may seem like a contradiction. After all, don’t we strive to follow the instructor’s demonstration exactly, to do it over and over? What could be more of ‘the same’ than tens of thousands of ikkyos?

But every time I step on the mat, I have the opportunity to be different. To drop a little more, to get closer, to enter deeper. Lift your hand, turn your palm…these simple adjustments can change everything. And as my practice deepens, I am offered the chance to do nothing – not to think, not to plan – and still to find myself where I need to be. Far from being exact and correct, aikido offers me the chance to be present. To meet my partner where she is, to experience her attack as distinctive – and in my response, to make my own life anew: Who I am. What I can do.

There is a saying in Japanese that describes the gift of aikido perfectly: Ichi go Ichi e. It translates loosely into “one time, one meeting.” When I was living in Japan, the Buddhist priest who used the phrase described it this way:

Each time we encounter another person in our lives, it may be the last time, and it may be very important, something may happen in that moment to change both of our lives. It may be something we have done before, but this one time between us cannot be replaced. Each time, this is our time: just once, you and me.