Living Proof

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Martial artists say the greatest victory is over your own limitations. But when you and your motorcycle clash with an oncoming car, survival will do. Richard Levitt has this Perspective.

About a year ago I was involved in a horrifying motorcycle accident. Some dude — on his phone — suddenly turned left in front of me and I t-boned him at 35 miles per hour. My big bike bucked upward, I got smashed against his car and knocked unconscious. I came-to lying on my back in the intersection.

That landing is what I’m really here to talk about. Because I was largely unhurt. Later, I noticed that my gloves weren’t shredded. My helmet wasn’t smashed up, not even scratched. The only signs of the fall were a few minor abrasions on my thin rain shell. Most accidents like that result in broken arms, hips, and shoulders. Or broken necks and backs. Or worse, of course: We all know those stories. The injuries I sustained were a result of the impact, not the fall.

Forty years of martial arts and yoga saved my life. Body awareness, flexibility, and calm. Based on the little scratches on my jacket, I assume I bounced off the guy’s car, turned in the air, and took a right-side Aikido forward roll. Even unconscious, my body did what I have trained it to do.

My yoga practice goes back to when it was still weird and arcane. We didn’t have any accessories. Just our bodies and the desire to occupy them more mindfully.


As long as I can remember, people have asked me whether I ever use my martial training. They can’t resist: “Heh, heh, heh … d’juh ever fight off ninjas …?” And I would talk about Aikido in terms of merging onto the freeway, getting by on a crowded sidewalk, succeeding in business and relationships.

Well now, I have a story to tell. All the training. All the practice. It turned what could have been the end of the road into just another milestone. To anyone who questions the value of training, I’m living proof.

And in case you’re wondering, yeah, I’m back on a motorcycle. So look for me out there. Seriously. Look carefully.

With a Perspective, I’m Richard Levitt.

Richard Levitt is an East Bay writer and third-degree Aikido blackbelt who teaches and practices martial arts, yoga and problem-solving.