Frank raised his sword and cut at my forehead. I got out of the way, unscathed, feet whispering against the carpet. I cut his wrist. We did it again. I got this, I thought, catching my reflection in the mirror. Feels pretty good to me.
“Here…” Sensei appeared at my side. “Drop under your sword – don’t lift it.”
We went over that concept a few times, him holding my shoulders so it would work only when I did it right, me holding the wooden sword between his wrist so I could feel as well as see what he was doing.
My brain hurt.
It was like embroidery with floss silk when your hands are winter-dry and you fray the delicate strands, and the more you try, the worse it gets.
He analyzed it some more. “You need to fall into your cut,” he said. “It won’t work unless you harness gravity. You want your body weight behind that cut, and you can’t go down faster than you can fall – SO FALL.” He didn’t shout. He merely emphasized, and I knew what he meant, because we’ve been working on falling into our cuts for a while now.
Gravity. Something to control.
Falling. Something to fear – especially with a sword in your hand. And let me tell you, at a gravitational acceleration of 9.8 meteres per second squared, a wooden sword feels pretty damn threatening.
The carpet didn’t look like something I wanted to meet my face. I swallowed. Instead of the faint residue of incense I smelled but sweat and fear.
“Here. Put your hand on my chest,” he said. I did. “I will fall.” He did – I braced to keep him from yielding to gravity. “Now as you feel the fall, you take a little step. Like this, see?”
“Now you do it.” He pressed his hand under my clavicle. Sword hanging by my side, I leaned.
I leaned some more.
“That’s what you want,” he said, “when you make your cut. Now I’ll let go and you’ll take a little step.”
Make that a big step. But, okay. A step in the right direction.
“Now we’ll do it with the sword,” he said. He stopped in mid-cut. “Hold my sword.” I grabbed the smooth wood of his bokken, feeling pressure. We’ve done this before.
“This… it looks different when you do it,” I said. “It looks like you’re not falling!”
“But I am falling,” he said. “You’re keeping me from falling forward.”
“No way,” I said.
“Move your hand two inches.”
He jolted forward. I braced, keeping his sword up. Keeping him up.
He was falling.
Sensei regained his footing with a dainty step. “See?” he said.
“But…” I struggled for words. “When I do it, I feel like I’m really falling. When you do it, it looks so controlled!”
He fixed me with a look. “It is controlled.”
So… controlling gravity. Falling in slow motion.
“Now both of you do it,” he said.
Frank and I looked at one another. We were doing this, no matter what.
We both have health insurance, I thought. What’s the worst thing that can happen? How will I evern learn without taking a risk?
His sword whooshed by.
I fell out of the way, allowing my sword to caress his wrist.
We risked, we fell, we lived.
Next lesson: teleportation.