About The Following Blog

The following blog has been written purely for those wanting a first hand knowledge of what it is like to step into the dojo for the first time as a complete beginner as a Martial Artist. Through practising a Martial Art, you will gain many things such as self-confidence, self-respect and life-long and good friends. I hope this helps you to see into an amazing world of which you have never seen before and that I have had the privilege of belonging to and knowing.
Although I have not put my name or any name to this blog, it does deserve a dedication- a dedication to those who help people to train, who teach, reassure and most important of all- those who never give up, no matter how many times they hit the ground or a mental brick wall, with themselves or others. But above all- those who are ready to begin their own journey, it begins with one step….

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Chapter 81: Owner or Custodian of a Club/Dojo? ...Does a dojo belong to a particular person?

Are you an Owner or Custodian of a Club/Dojo? Does the Club belong sorely to a particular Sensei or are we as instructors whilst being in charge and run the dojo just custodians? An interesting question perhaps?

Over the last two years, I have pretty much gone from being someone who just turned up, assisted a little with new starters and trained just for me to an assistant instructor with heavy involvement in running  and teaching at the Club. It has been a steep learning curve, one which whilst being hard at times has ultimately been very rewarding. I never thought that one day, 11 years down the line be the person stood on the mat saying to a terrified new beginner 'Right, shoes off, socks off let's get you started'.

But does the Club actually belong to the instructors who teach there? Yes this is my club, I belong here, I help run it, I've helped build it into a good place not only to train but to be part of a community. I feel this to be true because there are always people asking me in the changing room, corridors etc (people who I do not know who they are, not really) asking me how the club is, how training is going. And the answers I give are always positive ones. Especially about our Juniors class.

I was reading an article about the different generations a club has or goes through. It talked about the first generation teacher(s) the person or people who set it up  and establish what the club principles and purposes are and the second generation who then takes up the baton when the first generation is no longer there and builds on this work. It also talked about what changes each generation may make as well.

But as an instructor is this club ours? Do we own it? Perhaps because we're the first to have had the baton passed onto, it still feels a little new. But more recently it feels that whilst we're making the club ours, in some ways maybe we're really only looking after it until the next people come along to pass the baton onto. But isn't that the point of being a club? We work together to make the club work as a whole, we train together, we work towards the future. We as instructors, along with our students, in way are like a stepping stone towards that future for the club and the art as a whole. Each one of us has our own contribution to make our club and the martial art we practise great.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Chapter 80: When saying 'No' does not make you weak.... sometimes you just have to go with the flow

Those of you who visit regularly here know that 4 years ago I was diagnosed with endometriosis after years of pain and illness. Since diagnosis I have been encouraged to try and conceive to help my symptoms, with no success. To cut a very long story short at the beginning of last year I had IVF treatment and right from the start I was not well at all and it ended in Ovarian Hyperstimulation (OHSS) which is a serious complication and I was hospitalised as a result. This last year has therefore been a very long year of both healing and pain.

As a result of the OHSS, it would appear that this has triggered the endometriosis to grow back - big style. So this last year has been trying to find what works for me and frankly failing at it. Due to the pain and fatigue I could not train for Aikido and could do even less for Iaido which means effectively putting gradings and seminars on hold. Oh yes, and the guilt and feeling that my club mates were leaving me behind. So I was in a vicious circle. Pain, fatigue, pain, fatigue.

But there comes a point of where you have to stop looking at what cannot be done, and working at what can. I started teaching kids Aikido again, and they now enjoy the class so much that many of them come 15-20 mins early- just to practise! And we seem to be multiplying in numbers, they bring their friends, their cousins, anyone they know in fact to class. This is great as an Aikido coach, not so great if you're a Mudan in Iaido who really really needs to practise. But we go with the flow right?

So with this in mind as I really needed help other than painkillers, I've gone back to using Prostap, so am effectively now in a medical menopause. It is helping a little, but still struggling with the pain each day.  But hey, I managed 5 burpees at Aikido at the start of March and last week managed 10 (sort of, before landing in a very dignified 'splat'). So what? some would say, but that could not have happened a year ago. So we are healing, and we are accepting that this is where we are and we have to work with that.

When people hear that I'm still in the dojo, they are amazed. But I don't train for anything other than for me at the moment and it's strangely liberating in a way. I can just enjoy Aikido and Iaido for me. I can enjoy bringing other Aikidoca on. It doesn't matter that I should now be 1st Dan working towards 2nd Dan. This is me. Fighting and battling on, because that's what I'm good at.

There will be those who argue what's the point of training if you may not ever grade again? Here's the thing - any martial art is a lifelong learning journey seeking and striving for perfection. We never achieve this as we simply don't live long enough. We also never stop learning. A decision to grade or not is a personal one, and part of  our own journey. For me, if I was to achieve my 1st Dan in Aikido that would be a huge achievement and not just because of ongoing health issues. Aikido has taught me so much about 'going with the flow'. So this me- doing what I do best, 'going with the flow'.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Chapter 79: Student, Kohai, Senpai, Coach, Sensei - The many different roles you fulfil over time in a dojo

My inspiration for this post came from reflecting on how my role at my club has changed, especially over the last year.

Two years ago, I was just a student who assisted with a little bit of administration and made sure that leaflets advertising the club were always at the front desk of the sports centre where we train. My biggest worry/concern each week was merely whether or not the endometriosis would cut me some slack this week to train followed by if the bus for once, would be on time for me to get to class.

Now what is my role? Well, I'm now usually the second highest (or at least the third highest) grade in attendance on the mat each week. That was the first change. And it was a big one. Whereas before I received direction, suddenly I had to direct lower grades. If Sensei was talking to a parent after the Juniors class, it was now suddenly my responsibility as a higher grade to start the warm up and basic drills to prepare the adults class so that we were ready for Sensei to start teaching. As a result of me having to lead, I guess I began to earn the respect of the lower grades. So much so, that I was started to be addressed as 'Senpai'. I have never insisted that I was and am to be addressed as such, just my first name is fine by me. But there are a few lower grades who wish to show me that respect, therefore I have to accept that they wish to demonstrate their respect in this way. I found this quite hard at first. I still do not feel that I have fully earned the title of 'Senpai', it is not something that sits well with me. But as the weeks have gone by, I feel that I am starting to 'grow' into the role of a Senior student. Perhaps this is the natural order of things - who knows?

The next big change was when I qualified as a coach. I skipped quite happily back to my club full of enthusiasm and positivity. But be warned, the one thing that the coaching course did not quite prepare me for was the psychological side of coaching, especially children and disruptive ones at that. But I am learning what makes each of the Junior students 'tick' about their Aikido. Some like just to be shown once and left to practice. Some like to 'walk' or 'mirror' me through a technique, then practice. Others like to have the technical aspects broken down and shown bit by bit first, then left to work on it. Every student is different. One thing that both children and adults have in common is that they like to feel that they are listened to and that their opinions as club members are valued. So I think I am getting the hang of coaching slowly but surely.

The next big change would be for me to have my own club I guess. It has been discussed. But I am not sure if that is the next step for me once I achieve 1st Dan. I still feel that I am growing in my role as a coach, and there will be a transition period of where I 'grow' into feeling comfortable as a 1st Dan. So we shall see. At the moment I am quite enjoying teaching. I might not be the one to win gold medals at the next Championships but I can coach and I do coach well. I think I have finally found my niche in Aikido.