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 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.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Chapter 78: Ten Years on, How the Time Flies....

So here we are - at my 10th Anniversary of starting Aikido tomorrow. My first Aikido lesson was 4th January 2006. How time flies.

What have I learnt from Aikido? How has it changed me? How has it developed me as a person? Over the last 10 years I have lost count of the number of people who exclaim in disbelief 'Martial arts - You!' Proof that you really shouldn't judge a book by its cover and that still quiet waters really do run deep.

So here are 10 things I have learnt from Aikido and martial arts in general:

  1. The most scariest looking person on the mat is usually the nicest, gentlest person you will ever know and they are likely to become a friend for life.
  2. Once you get your Gi and pass your first grading you really feel part of the club.
  3. Your club mates very quickly become your second family, and most of your mobile texts and Facebook posts revolve around Aikido or whichever martial art you practice.
  4. If you relax things really do hurt alot less! Yes, really!
  5. You become very fit over time, but only have to have a couple of weeks away from training to feel like you're back at square one when you do return.
  6. Whenever there is someone new, you look at them and wonder 'Was I that scared too?'
  7. You develop muscle mass which is not accommodated by most clothing stores.
  8.  You can differentiate between what sort of pain is a 'Its ok, keep going but be careful' pain and that which is 'Ow! Stop Right now!' pain.
  9. The best Christmas/Birthday presents are usually in the form of first aid such as muscle balms, and ice spray.
  10. Nothing short of Armageddon stops you from coming to training. Even if you're injured you come to 'watch' and still end up on the mat helping some of the junior grades since they needed help and you weren't doing anything anyway. 

So how has Aikido developed me as a person? Let's see:

  1. I am now more confident at asserting myself around people
  2. I am physically stronger and fitter than I was- I can nearly touch my toes!
  3. I am quite good at explaining complex concepts to people - Well, Aikido can get complicated!
  4. I have good awareness, well not so much about not tripping up over things - more about certain situations and how people will react.
  5. I can 'scare' people with just one look. That can be quite fun at times.
So there you have it. 10 years on, I'm a 1st Kyu and Assistant Coach. Not bad for someone who wanted to run away before she had even got through the Dojo door!

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Chapter 77: It's funny how things come full circle...

I was talking to two old friends today, friends who I have trained with a long time. Although we haven't trained together for a while as we've moved away to different places for work we have stayed in contact.

One of these friends was my first Senpai. I have known her for 9 years now, and my other friend for 7 years. What brought our friendship together was our Aikido training. My other friend I trained with just after we got our 3rd Kyu, and we trained together for our 2nd Kyu.

The title of this blog post is things coming full circle. Nine years on, I am now a 1st Kyu the same level as my old Senpai was when I first started Aikido. Like her, I am the Assistant Coach at the club.

What started this blog post was that we now have two new adult beginners, and also someone who has just joined us after getting their 1st Kyu. It's strange how the same things I was told and helped with by my friend, I am now telling them and helping them too. And yes, this includes the pre-requisite haul to the feet when it looks like they might be about to give up on me. I have flashbacks about what helped me, and am trying to incorporate that into my coaching. Although I'm finding being a coach quite tiring at times, its also very rewarding. I like being able to give back to the art that I've gotten so much out of.

It still feels strange to be the second highest grade some weeks. Some weeks I'm the third highest grade. I'm slowly getting used to the idea of being a Senpai, but it does feel strange to be on the other side 9 years later. It seems strange to think how that nervous beginner has grown into a 1st Kyu and Assistant Coach. Full circle, see?