-Guest post by Gary Fox
I saw this piece as a computer-painted image about 3-4 years ago on a website called Deviant-Art. When I finally decided to get the tattoo I had searched for the user who produced the art to gain their consent to have it tattooed but I was not able to find the user or the piece on that website, I'm still looking for him/her. As for the piece, there was something about it that caught my eye. I had been training for a few years already when I stumbled upon it and the theme correlated with my life so much so that I printed it out and hung it from my wall. It reminded me of how challenging the art of Aikido is, to take years of naturally acquired psycho-motor functioning that is gained from growing up and playing, pushing, pulling, shoving, fighting and then learning to just "let it all go" is one of the most challenging and ongoing internal conflicts that I face. It's almost as if I was reborn when the concept of blending with energy finally clicked. This piece spoke of the just how ominous some of these negative energies that we face in life can be and the oni reminds me of how much of a struggle it is to overcome myself at times.
A few years back I finally had the opportunity to test the art in a real situation. Shortly after receiving my Ikkyū (brown belt), my little brother (Nikyū or green belt for us) and I were jumped at a concert by 8 guys in the middle of a mosh pit. I had never been in a fight before so I was scared at first but as soon as that first punch was thrown it became a game to me, all of the sudden it was randori with 8 attackers who had no training haha. After dealing with a few of my attackers and being pushed down by somebody in the crowd I looked up and saw my little brother getting wailed on by 5 guys who had a good hold on his sweater. I jumped over there and somehow managed to get 4 of them off of him. He went down with one guy on top of him and I just rolled my forearm across his forehead and the guy peeled right off. We just so happened to end up next to my friend Jace who picked up my brother who was a little dazed from being kicked in the face. After seeing that my brother was being taken care of I turned around and dropped in to hanmei (ready stance) waiting for the next attacker but they had all disappeared. I don't know why, maybe because I wasn't striking anybody and in between all the commotion they forgot that I was the one they jumped initially. We were essentially able to dog-pile all of them and diffuse the fight without performing atemi (strike), name a single martial art that can do the same. It was at that moment that I thought to myself "Holy shit, this is the real deal!" I came out unscathed somehow and my little brother got away with a busted lip, but we were kept out of the hospital and that's what mattered to me.
So earlier this summer after staring at this picture on my wall for about 3 years I decided to find an artist who could make this mine. About an hour away from my home an artist named Joshua Newman out of Fresno, Ca caught my eye after a referral from my cousin who has work done by him and after looking at some of his work on Instagram. I contacted him and got him the original photo and after about a week he had a sketch ready for me. It took me 3 sessions and 16 hours to finish it and I love it. It's helped me. These past few years have been a struggle for me, going through a complete lifestyle change, recently single from a long-term relationship and starting a undergraduate RN program with my ex would have broken me if it weren't for Aiki. It's given me the tools to blend and adapt with whatever struggles life throws at me. Hopefully with more time and practice I will learn a grace about it, just as those before me. So now everyday that I wake up and look at this piece of the mirror I am reminded that the training never ends, you cannot put a number to something that is infinite. Masakatsu agatsu.