Domo Arigato

“I am going to die.”

That thought went through my mind. I had to be there at midnight. It was only eleven o’clock. I had plenty of time. I was well rested. Sober. I wore my seat belt. I didn’t speed. The sky was clear.

Well, it was.

It started to drizzle slightly. The kind of drizzle that would never cause concern. Except for the hydroplaning. I was in the far left lane of Interstate 95, and my car started to slide complete off of the highway, toward the opposite lane. Luckily, I didn’t hit anyone on the road that night. When my car hit the grass that marked the end of the emergency lane, it began to spin in circles. When my car hit the ditch, it began to roll over.

Spinning, rolling, circles, flipping, spinning, flying through the air, sliding across the road as if it were weightless.

Any other time, when I’m taking ukemi, when I’m spinning, rolling, circling, flying through the air, sliding across tatami mats or grass, making myself weightless – I feel so free. I feel connected to myself, to my partner, I feel completely integrated.

“I have to feel that again.”

“How did she just do that?”

Usually, these are the thoughts I have when I take ukemi. When I take that trip from up to down, from stable attacker to weightless uke.

This of course, was different.

I mean, here I am, flying off the highway, rolling around inside of a car, toward what is about to be my most certain death.

It’s a bit odd to remember those thoughts, those last thoughts that you have before you die, or least when you are sure that you are about to die. The idea that I was about to die came right after “Oh shit.” I remember that. In fact, here were what would have been my last thoughts:

“Oh shit.”

“I am about to die.”

“What about my brother? My mom?”

“Oh shit.”

Then, I had one final thought. It may have been the thought that saved my life. My martial arts training kicked in, took care of me before I even realized what happened, and saved the day. My training wouldn’t let me give up. It put the thought in my head that may have saved my life that night some two years ago:

“Make yourself round and relax.”

One of the best DVD’s I have ever bought was Ellis Amdur’s Ukemi: From the Ground Up, Not only is this DVD the most sound approach I have seen to teaching ukemi, but his instruction, making yourself round and relaxing, probably saved my life. I have been meaning to thank him for his suggestion about how to take ukemi inside a car that was thrown in an kokyunage variation. I have been meaning to thank anyone that was ever kind enough to throw me on the mat, and teach me how to get back up safely. I wanted to thank everyone that taught me that even when it looks bad, to not give up, ever. Thanks. Thank you. When the car landed and finally stopped, I got out. I walked away in one very healthy piece.

The thoughts I had after I thought I thought my last thoughts:

“Holy shit.”

“I can’t wait to see my mom and brother.”

“Thank you. Domo Arigato.”

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