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….


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.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Chapter 70: Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back into the saddle girl!

So, after the optimistic last post, the title of this post is quite different by comparison.

I haven't really trained since my last grading, and haven't really trained properly due to the endometriosis pain returning. I was aware of some hip pain after the grading in July, but was inclined to ignore it-I usually ache after training so it wasn't anything new.

To cut an extremely long story short, the general theory is that the endometriosis has returned, and I've exhausted all treatment options for the moment. Yes, I know it sucks- but its the same for any long time chronic illness. There comes a point when you simply have to accept that modern medicine can do no more.

I have been really struggling to walk and driving a manual car hurts, so for some weeks I haven't made it even to training to even watch. Grrr. Even swimming was hurting, never before has swimming failed me but such is the nature of this disease. Just when you think you've got the hang of managing it, it pulls the rug out from underneath your feet.

So as you can imagine I am getting 'cabin fever' or perhaps for want of a better term 'mat fever'. But for the first time in 7 years of training, a few weeks ago, I was starting to question the 'Q' thought. Yes, quitting. So I decided to go back to figure out what to do. As a martial artist, you can't seem to ignore the 'call' of the dojo.

Well, I think I've found my niche. Coaching. I seem to have a knack of explaining something and teaching it too! So I left the session feeling a lot happier. The next session, I was training with someone who I hadn't trained with for a while and found that watching and coaching from the mat side had improved my kata somewhat. So I was quite a happy bunny really.

I also found something which convinced me I'm not doing too badly- I've shared it below:

'On average, every year 10,000 people start/join a martial art. Half of these people will quit in the first 6 months. Of these 5,000 people, only 1,000 will complete a year of training and then quit. 500 of these people will train for two years but only 100 of these people will see their third anniversary of training. Only 10 of these 100 people will make 1st Dan, and only 1 or 2 will achieve 2nd Dan.'

It goes on to say:
'I shall teach go on to teach others what he/she has learned, for martial arts are now part of their life and they shall go on to share this life with others.'

Alright the English doesn't make complete sense but its a beautiful statement nevertheless. So for some weeks although I can't train, and some I can't even breakfall- I can still contribute and train through coaching... its just a different way of learning. Coaching is making me think about not just how a technique is executed but why it is executed in that way. It has allowed me to think about and adapt my Aikido so it works for me without causing too much pain. So although I might be a gimpy 1st Kyu limping about on the side lines- I can still execute a wicked set of techniques. How cool is that?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Chapter 69: Drumroll please...After 4 Years and 7 months...

Ta Da! I have finally, finally achieved my brown belt (1st Kyu).

What made me decide to grade? I don't know really. The subject of me grading to brown was broached a few weeks ago. I normally avoid talking about gradings because I don't like them.At first, I said no, but a little voice said 'why not?' so I said yes instead.

I have been doing Aikido for 7 years now. I never started Aikido to grade, it was just something that the other beginners in the club that had started with me were up for doing so I went along with them. Gradings are supposed to be 'good' for your Aikido I was told. Then after that, we all had our eyes on our yellow belts, then our orange, and so on. I never really thought about why I was grading, I was just told when there would be one and then spend many hours worrying about it until then.

I remember all my gradings, probably because they became such an ordeal for me. I remember nearly being sick in the ladies before my orange belt grading, and how in the month before my green belt grading, nothing went right in training. I was never really athletic at school, I was good at long distance running, discus and table tennis. That was it. So I guess grading became important to me because I wanted to prove I could be good at something physical as well as intellectual. And yes, I know that is not what grading is supposed to be about, but when you're desperate to prove to yourself that you can do something, it becomes slightly obsessive.

I remember talking to a Dan grade at a competition about grading once. I was at green belt, and was thinking about grading to blue, but wasn't sure if I was grading for the right reasons. I wasn't sure that I was 'ready'. He said that gradings shouldn't be a big thing as such, they should just be something that you're ready for. I then asked how you know when you are ready. I always remember his answer. He said  to always remember that gradings are you just demostrating that you are performing at the next level, and he said that if I could do that, and not feel it was a huge ordeal, then I was ready.

So, the grading. Actually, this time was different. I didn't feel nervous at all. Getting changed, as I put on 'good old blue' as I call my blue belt I noticed it was looking a little bit manky to be honest. When I first got it, it was a beautiful periwinkle blue, now it was a brownish shade of blue. Slightly ironic considering what I was about to do. I'm very fond of my blue belt, its seen alot of action. But now it was time to see if I was ready for a change.

I did start feeling slightly sick when the table and chairs were being set up at the side of the mat and told myself that I was being ridiculous. Me, having had emergency surgery and further borderline major surgery last year scared of table and chairs at the side of the mat! This was what I had been working towards and training for, I was ready. No need for nerves.

After that, it was nearly plain sailing. More or less everything came together at the right time, even doing left handed kata. I could almost say I quite enjoyed the grading, which is a first. There were a few things that weren't quite right, but no grading is perfect.

The strange thing is, I don't feel especially excited or estactic about getting my Shokyu. Not like after getting all the others. But this one feels the most right one. Perhaps its  because I graded when I was ready, and not because I felt I should.