The Home Court Advantage (Basketball, Family & Aikido)

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“It’s difficult to be ‘away.’ Being away is being not at home, not where your heart is, not where your peace and power reside. Being home is being who you are and who you need to be, being anchored when you go out the front door, being flexible when put upon, being bold when necessary, being kind always, knowing with certainty that your home team is there rooting for you.”—By Jerry Zimmerman

Squibs & Blurbs

By Jerry Zimmerman

That old “home court advantage.”

That old “home court advantage.”

Jerry Zimmerman

TEANECK New Jersey—(Weekly Hubris)—7/4/2016—I’m at home.

I’ve just finished watching the end of a harrowing, thrilling, surprising and, ultimately, disappointing major sports event—the NBA Basketball Championship Series. It contained some of the best basketball I’ve ever seen, and some of the worst (the disappointment comes from being a Warrior fan).

But this isn’t about basketball. It’s about the mystery of the “Home Court Advantage.”

For those of you not so enamored of watching modern sports and who don’t know, this “advantage” has to do with playing on your home court or home field, with the concomitant exploding roar of thousands of screaming supporters lifting the home team’s spirit, energy and, often, skill level, to the highest of levels. The result (all things being moderately, or even, sometimes, not at all equal) is that the home team usually has a better chance of winning the game than the visiting team.

While watching these games, I was amazed at how you could palpably feel the “big lift” of all the athletes playing on their home court, even though it was usually just me, a fan base of one, in my own living room, watching far, far away from the real arena. (Distance and electronics were no impediment to the tsunami of emotion roiling across the country from California to knock me on my butt in New Jersey.)

Soon after, while standing in my bathroom shaving, I realized that having a “home court advantage” is what we all need in life.

The advantage I’m talking about is the knowledge and feeling of being at home, of being cheered on, of hearing the raucous noise of love. However, an athlete doesn’t have the choice of playing only home games; he or she must play away games, too. Well, that’s sports, just a game. In the serious work of life, wouldn’t we all always rather choose to have our fans, our love or loves, with us in wherever we are and whatever we do? 

Yet, how would we manage to travel around with such a large and unruly tribe of raving fans?

We can’t.

However, we can keep inside us the deep-seated love from our real, off-court fans—our family, friends and mentors—and tap into that reserve of support over and over again, wherever we go as we take to the fields of our daily lives.

It’s difficult to be “away.” Being away is being not at home, not where your heart is, not where your peace and power reside. Being home is being who you are and who you need to be, being anchored when you go out the front door, being flexible when put upon, being bold when necessary, being kind always, knowing with certainty that your home team is there rooting for you.

Both a feeling and a place, home is where we long to be. Your first home is created by others. If you can swing it, make sure you are born into a family that knows what love is and that loves you unconditionally. A family that has all the normal ups and downs, yelling and laughing, hugging and fighting, but also an unshakeable baseline of valuing who you are and loving you for that.

If you missed the jackpot in the family lottery, you must find your fans out there in the world, people who love you and whom you love back. Find those who value you and are on your team so that you always play with the stands packed with your own bellowing fans. That’s the home court you want to play on. 

There are other ways, other paths in life that can lead back to discovering your “home.” For me, one of my most important paths is Aikido.

Aikido is a Japanese martial art, an effective and powerful self-defense system, unique in having the goal of trying to cause no harm to one’s opponent or attacker. I’ve written about Aikido many times before here, so suffice it to say that Aikido has helped expand the foundations of my “home.”

As I have grown older in the art and just plain older, my understanding of Aikido and its goals has changed and grown, deepening and enlarging my life. To me, now, the over-arching  philosophy of Aikido is to become more self-aware, more present.

All this training has developed my fairly reliable core.  My center, my ki, my energy, my hara . . . whatever word is used to describe this experience feels like home to me, the safe place in the universe where I can take a breath, feel the firm ground beneath my feet, and choose what the next best action is.

One of the many reasons Aikido feels like home is because my dojo is filled with people I love being with. I am not alone. My original home was built by family and friends—all those who have held my hand, looked into my eyes and treated me with a love that lasts a lifetime. My newer, enlarged home has been shaped and added to by teachers, mentors, and fellow travelers—those who have taught me, challenged me, and supported me, all with real love.

It recently struck me that the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, had always described his art in a clear and simple way that I had somehow, while hearing it often, seemed to pass lightly over.

He said, “Aikido is love”

It always seemed to be this lovely thought, a kind of “if only we all could get together” sort of thing. But I now see it as the tangible and concrete base for all the training and struggling on the mat in the dojo; learning how to face disruptive attacks, how to stand one’s ground calmly, how not to get easily lost in conflict, how to make decisions concerning the humans in front of you.

My training has been to purposely try to come back to myself, over and over again, amidst confusion, fear, ego, pride, embarrassment—you name it. Just trying again and again to come back.

But come back to where? I began to come back to parts of my body, maybe to my hands or the bottoms of my feet, and then maybe to the center of my belly and then, sometimes, in a quicksilver flash, back to the center of me. 

And what is this so-called center of me?

It is where I live. it is home. 

It is what Morihei Ueshiba calls love.

It is the ultimate home-court advantage.

About Jerry Zimmerman

Jerry Zimmerman was born and bred in Pennsylvania, artified and expanded at the Syracuse School of Art, citified and globalized in New York City . . . and is now mesmerized and budo-ized in lovely Teaneck, New Jersey. In love with art and artists, color, line, form, fun, and Dada, Jerry is a looong-time freelance illustrator, an art teacher in New York’s finest art schools, and a full-time Aikido Sensei in his own martial arts school. With his feet probably and it-is-to-be-hoped on the ground, and his head possibly and oft-times in the wind, he is amused by the images he finds floating through his mind and hands. Author Photo: David Zimand

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