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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….

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Chapter 73: Training goes up a level...and down a level

Wisely or unwisely I have started training for my 1st Dan. Perhaps this is wise you may think as it is the next step after achieving 1st Kyu. But in my case I am not so sure.

The problem at the moment is training seems to be aggravating the endometriosis. I noticed at the beginning of the year that I seemed to be bleeding and in pain after training, and no, it was not at the point in the month when I expected it.  I started to keep a diary of when it happened, and it seemed to be worse following ukemi. And yes, I did ask my Doctor but they didn't know why-suggesting it maybe adhesions and the endometriosis returning.

So I now am not doing any large ukemi, and at the most am doing sit down backwards ukemi, but even this is giving me some problems with the pain. I am still working on kata and techniques for 1st Dan, but some weeks this is extremely painful.

I am currently waiting for my 4th surgery, which is also my third in 2 years. Hopefully following this, I should have less pain and I can go back to training properly for 1st Dan. There are some weeks I do think that I am slightly insane for carrying on training, but I don't really have a choice. Exercise does, to some extent help with the pain. In all honesty, I am not even sure if this next round of surgery will reduce my pain levels enough for me to achieve 1st Dan so I am continuing on, in the hope that one day I can grade.

Anyway, onto the point of this post. I knew training for 1st Dan would be hard physically, but never thought I would feel emotionally and mentally drained as well. Each week, I get some thing akin to what a Dan grade should be able to do, and at the same time I can't get a technique right that I was perfectly able to do the previous week. This week was especially difficult. Last week was bleeding week but I trained anyway. This week is usually my tired week. And yes, come training night I was shattered. What didn't help was that I had a cold and my bus isn't running properly due to roadworks so had to walk nearly 1.5 miles to the dojo from work. So I was already wanting to curl up and sleep when I got there. Then there was the pain. I was doing 1-17 with the tanto, and my hips really didn't like this kata this week! Oh well, I slept really well anyway despite my cold so there are some benefits to chronic illness causing exhaustion.

My question is not why is training for 1st Dan so hard, but why is it that you can do one thing right one week and then just not get it together the next week?

Chapter 72: What is the difference between a Sensei and a Senpai?

Yet another strange random blog post. What is the difference between a Sensei and a Senpai? A good question I think. This is something I have been pondering over the last few weeks following a few training sessions.

What started this train of thought was that one night at the beginner's class I was addressed by my name and then 'Sensei'. Perhaps I should explain that at this class I am the highest grade after Sensei, so I guess it seemed sensible by my classmate to address me as such, especially as I was helping to teach.

But my first thought was 'Arrgh-No! I am not a Sensei'. I then explained that I wasn't a Sensei, but since I knew this person liked to follow etiquette I suggested Senpai instead.

Again, this happened at another class the following week with another classmate (who is a lower grade than me) who was very insistent that they address me as 'Sensei'. Their point was that because I was taking the first part of the class as Sensei was talking to a parent (we had just finished the kids class before hand) I was teaching and therefore was 'Sensei' not 'Senpai'.

I would just like to say that I try and encourage people to use my first name only on the mat. If they are insistent on following etiquette, I try and encourage them to use 'Senpai' but only in place of 'Sensei'.

I'm not sure what to think to be honest. I try and help lower grades where ever I can, and indeed at a grading this week I had someone come and personally thank me for the help I had given them. But I am not sure if this makes me Senpai, or just a helpful higher grade.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Chapter 71: Kohai to Senpai...How does this transition change your Aikido?

Well it just proves how busy life gets when you realise that you haven't posted for 6 months!

I think alot of my time has been spent on me to be honest. I'm training nearly every week but not for the full session yet and only doing light Ukemi. I am not being a wimp, honest! I am just following Doctor's orders regarding the certain rest period during my cycle.

The decision I made in December to carry on training for my Shodan and not quit has changed me as a martial artist in some respects. The pain from the endometriosis has changed me. There are two of me on the tantami at anytime, one is the part of my mind which knows which pain and how I can push through and the other is the part which screams 'enough!'. It is a strange mindset to be in-to be aware of pain but not aware of it.

The hip and pelvic pain means that I cannot move through each technique as quickly as needed.  But Aikido is not about speed necessarily, but about application. Yes, you need some speed or the technique just will not work but equally just speed on its own isn't enough.

So how is this linked to the blog title?

Well, rather than being a lower grade, yes I know its strange a brown belt being a lower grade but my club has four Dan grades against two Kyu grades so I've never felt like a higher grade you see. Which suited me just fine. Recently a large number of red belts joined us, so I'm not a Kohai anymore. As I can't always train, I coach instead. I now take the warm up as well. So I guess I am now more Senpai than Kohai, leading by example.

But what is a Senpai? And more for that matter a Kohai? What do these terms mean? If you look up the definitions of Senpai and Kohai they loosely translate as 'Senior' and 'Junior' student. So if we were to take the definitions literally, Dan grades are Senpai, Kyu grades are Kohai. Right? Not strictly true in my experience. My first Senpai was a brown belt, and I owe them alot for encouraging me to continue training when I felt like giving up. It was their voice I heard when considering to continue or not back in December.

This delicate relationship is a difficult one to explain. How many people who are non-martial artists have asked you about this relationship, taking 'orders' as it were from the higher grades? This really is not true. At least not with a good Senpai. Senpai are supposed to teach and guide their Kohai, Kohai are supposed to respect their Senpai and learn everything they can. When both truely respect and learn from one another, a life long bond establishes. I am still in contact with my first Senpai even now after not training with them for four years. And yes, even though we are now the same grade, there is no way I would stand ahead in line if we ever trained together again. I respect them too much for that. This is not a 'Yes Sir, No Sir, Three bags full Sir' situation, and just following etiquette rules, I truely do not feel I should stand ahead of them.That is what respect is.

So yes, being a higher grade has changed my Aikido. I am constantly aware of how I behave on the mat towards those of both a lower and higher grade then me. I take time to work each technique with each person regardless of grade. I cannot say if my Aikido is harder or softer or even improved for that matter, it is just more of the fact that I am more aware of my Aikido and how it flows and works.