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….

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Chapter 28: Happy Birthday to 'So, You Want To Start Aikido?'

I realised the other day that my blog is very nearly a year old, so I guess its 'Happy Birthday' to 'So, You Want To Start Aikido?' and perhaps I should make a special post or something. I'm afraid that I've really only just realised that I'm not really a beginner anymore :( . I suppose that as I've progressed in my Aikido, my blog has progressed too. But I've decided to keep the title the same and I will explain why a little later.
I guess I've never really explained why I started Aikido and not fully why I wrote this blog or for the reason behind the title. The title stems from the fact that I'm an Irish dancer and I can't sing a note! (Honest). I started writing this blog purely to help others, as others have helped me. I didn't put a name to this blog, as I wished to remain nameless as I didn't want beginners to compare themselves to me.
Although I'm not a beginner anymore, I can assure you that I still feel it at times! I've decided to write this as a progressive blog, so that people who want to start a martial art for the first time, can see, first hand, how a martial art may help you develop as a person, perhaps in a spiritual, physical or health manner.
I started Aikido for self-defence reasons as around two or three years ago, there was alot of attacks and rapes on women in my local town. To be honest, I was scared stiff that it would happen to me, so I started looking for a martial art that I could do for self-defence purposes. My dad, who did judo as a child, encouraged me to look at all options, but after several disappointing searches I was still self-defenceless. Everything I looked at seemed to require suppleness or immediate toughness, but I didn't have either! Why wasn't there a martial art for women like me? You know, women who couldn't do 1 full-weight press up without collapsing and wasn't Cat woman?
Eventually, someone suggested Aikido might be for me. But much to my frustration, I couldn't find a club! Eventually, I was successful. So on Wednesday, 4th January 2006, I stepped into a dojo for the first time. It was from here that I started.
I'm afraid that I have a slight confession to make. I started writing my blog about a year into my training as I was struggling with several aspects of my training (take rolls for example) and hoped to help others and perhaps gain help from others who like me quite frankly felt like a fish out of water at first, and didn't know my fist from my elbow. So, technically in many Aikidocca's eyes, I wasn't a beginner anymore. Maybe I wasn't. But I have struggled with my Aikido. Quite frankly, if I wasn't such a stubborn woman, I would have quite happily brawled my eyes out at every session for the first month of my training. So yes, although this perhaps isn't a beginner's blog anymore, please, please don't forget... I'd neither even seen a Gi up close or the inside of a dojo before until my first session. My blog is purely designed as a story of a journey... you have to start at chapter 1 I'm afraid as my posts are not 'one off' posts, they form part of a story, my story. Its the story of a young lass (I was 19, 5 months and 26 days old, hence the name 'Aikilass') who was the target for the school bully (which geeky kid of the class who isn't? But enough of the sob story) who stepped into a dojo for the very first time and was scared witless for the first 6 months of her training and is now a green belt. But I still haven't forgotten my first tentative steps...the ways of learning what respect for others really meant...overcoming my fears of pain, ...and to some extent, my fear of breakfalls.
I know I'm not a beginner anymore. But my blog is remaining that same. It's a documentary of my journey...and perhaps similar others or to yours eventually, if you want to start a martial art like me. But I hope that if any beginner is reading this, or anyone really, they start at Chapter 1. The beginning. After all, isn't that where we all start? Just remember, that even the highest ranking Dan Grade in the world had to start at white belt long ago....

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Chapter 27: Aarrgh! I hate it when my Aiki training kicks in...

Oh dear, it would seem that my training is becoming innate in my brain. I found this on my work's Christmas night out. I don't usually join work colleagues for drinks after a meal as a rule because I don't drink. But my arm was twisted and I agreed to join them for just one.
As it was freezing, we went to a small newly renovated bar around the corner from the restaurant where we were. When we got there, there was an ambulance outside and there was blood in the doorway. At that point, I just thought oh great, this is a really good omen. The bar was packed, but everyone (apart from me and someone else) decided to pile in.
Now, I don't know if this is related to Aiki, but I hate crowds and confined spaces, so bars are a general no-go area for me. So, I thought well, alright-its freezing cold, I'll go in just this once.
It seemed okay at first, the bar seemed to empty relatively quickly as people went off to clubs and other bars. However, the rest of my work colleagues decided it was time to move on after half an hour, so off we went. Only it wasn't as easy as that.
On the way out, a guy who from the look of him was a little tipsy and somewhere around 35 takes a fancy to me and tries to grab me. I'm 21! For goodness sake, go bother someone else closer to your age. Good grief! As I've said before...Why, why, WHY do I attract the utter weridos? Anyway, I move out of his way. Unsocuku is generally good for dodging people. But this didn't work. He tries to grab me again. At this point, I'm seriously getting worried as the rest of his mates are surrounding him. So I realise I have two choices as I really, really don't like the look of this guy. I can either:

A. IF he grabs me do some technique and only if he grabs me
B. Set my 'circle' back even further from his

I settle on option B. I put my hands up to stop him from grabbing my wrists as he was trying to grab hold of my arms and I looked him in the eye. Thankfully, he backed off with an apology.
I breathe a sigh of relief and leave. But him and his mates follow us out and come after us. Two of them had their arms around two of my female work colleagues. At this point, I again get a little concerned as another one them approaches me. I just thought why do my work colleagues have to encourage these guys? Oh man, I wish these guys would leave us alone. He tries to get me to come with him to see one of his mates. Now, I may have been the last in line when common sense was given out, but I'm not so stupid as to go off with some random guy. So I simply say 'No thank you' and walk away. Now at this point, the first guy who tried to grab me apologised! He apologised! So I just said 'Okay, no problem' as I really really want to get rid of these guys. Then they wander off. At last!
The thing that worried me was how quickly my aiki training kicked in. Good, you might say...but strangely I don't. I'm really conscious that I might have had to do something had that guy grabbed me and then hurt him. I know some people may think oh, he was only being friendly, what's the big deal? Well the big deal is, I don't like utter complete random strangers trying to grab me.
So, if you don't know anything about martial arts I will try and explain about the theory of Aikido and its use in self-defence.
The idea of judging whether someone is a threat or not comes back to this 'circle' idea. Imagine there is a circle around and above you, say about a foot in diameter away from your body. That is your 'circle'. If anyone (like that guy) enters your 'circle', you have two choices. You can either retract your 'circle' (as I did) or you can deal with the 'threat'. However, just because someone tries to grab you, you have to realise potential threat from threat and threat from danger. With this guy, yes, I will be honest-I felt threatened, but he was only a potential threat. So, I retracted my 'circle' from him to restore the balance. However, he did enter my 'circle' again, so technically, he is now a threat. But again, I chose to retract, as I felt to floor or wrist lock this guy really wasn't beneficial to anyone, it would have only made the situation worse. However, had he grabbed me, he would have been a threat.
So, why the big deal? Well, I guess I trying to point out that as an Aikidocca in a situation like that you have a number of choices as I've said above. But I believe, as I think I've said before in this blog, DON'T go looking for trouble. Just because I could have taken that guy didn't mean that I should have done- its more about reading the situation.
However, I realise that some martial artists would floored the first guy to prove a point. But for me, there is no reason to do that and that is the philosophy of Aikido- If you do use Aikdio, do the Uke (attacker) no harm. They should be able to get up and walk away after you have applied the technique. I believe I achieved that that night- I gave the guy a chance to back off. But I won't deny, it was a very scary I hope not to be repeated.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Chapter 26: My SanKyu grading.. the hardest (and strangest) grading yet...

Well, I have to say that the grading date for my green belt came around very quickly, too quickly really. As usual for this time of year I had no circulation in my hands or feet until about half way through the grading, it was soooo cold.
The first thing that really threw me was the order in which we did everything. First we were told to backwards breakfall until told to stop. Okay... off I went. Then the same with side breakfalls. That was extremely tiring. It was a little unusual considering we usually line up and pair off to do ukemi. But I wasn't complaining. Keeps you warm if you keep going then if you're stood still in a line waiting.
Then came kneeling techniques. Kneeling? I was expecting the standing techniques! Oh well. I was a little grateful to do these first considering that after 2 hours I would too tried to do a really good job of these.
Next came tanto and ninandorri. This didn't really bother me considering I was really cold and the energetic stuff would get the blood going. Finally, the standing stuff. But by this time, I was really tired so I didn't do as well as I knew I could. But I passed! I'm now a green belt!

Note: Someone has asked me to clarify Ninandorri...So, here goes. I may have spelt it wrong, so apologies for that. Basically Ninandorri is 'Two on One', a teamwork exercise. Three people stand in a triangle, the Tori (Defender) as the point. The idea is that the two Ukes (Attackers), the two other points of the triangle attack Tori at the same time. The best way of tackling this as Tori is to pick which attacker you will defend against first, and execute the technique. But...remember to watch the other Uke coming in. I said that Ninadorri is a team work exercise. It is practised in clubs as such, the principle for the Uke is to help Tori demonstrate the breaking of balance in the technique, helping Tori 'show off' their technique, breakfall and then get back up again as fast as possible. Ninandorri is not just practised at club level, it is also practised at competitions.
Please feel free to ask any questions or comment on anything.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Chapter 25: No Aiki session...queue Adrenline surges!

There's something weird that's happened to me since starting Aiki nearly two years ago and I'm not just talking about the developing muscle tone, increasing awareness or anything like that (although that has happened). I find that if an Aikido session is cancelled, or I can't train one evening, I get really really restless, like I'm a squirrel on caffeine or something.
I noticed it the last time a session had to be cancelled, it was hailing outside and all I wanted to do was to go on a 10 mile run! I mean, I'm the girl that has Raynaud's for pete's sake! I hate the cold! But seriously, I could have done it in that weather...I don't know what's happened to me.
I blame Summer School for these pent up energy 'surges'. Sorry but I do. I mean, for three day straight after Summer School had finished, I woke up at 6:30am and yes, I wanted to go for a run. Seriously weird.
Now, I don't know if any other martial artists have this problem but if I can't go out when a session is cancelled, I generally try and tap into the adrenaline and do some uni work. The last time I managed to work though the function of the Thyroid gland and the Adrenal gland. Not bad for three hours of work really. Okay, I know that's geeky but it works. It stops me going insane anyway.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Chapter 24: Should you train with glasses, contact lenses, or neither if you're short-sighted?

There is one thing that has been at the back of my mind since summer school (well apart from it was really really cool!) is that I'm sure many people who do martial arts need to wear glasses, so do they wear glasses or contacts when training? I saw a couple of people wearing glasses off the mat and wearing them at the end of the session so I've often wondered since then if there is any benefit to not wearing either glasses or contacts when you train.
When I first started aikido, I wore glasses as I couldn't stand the thought of 'poking' my eyes around trying to get contacts in. But I found that when breakfalling or doing tanto work it was not uncommon for my glasses to 'fly' across the dojo. Since I only had the one pair, I opted for contact lenses and found it was slightly easier. However, I sometimes wonder whether I should occasionally not wear either in training, stupid idea perhaps?
Given that I first started Aikido for self-defence, I suppose if (heaven forbid) I was grabbed in the street, the glasses would be the first thing to go, and I'm not sure how I would cope without my glasses seeing as I can't see (no pun intended-honest) anything without them as I'm very badly short-sighted. But I guess another argument is if I've trained well, surely I should have some form of 'awareness' and be able to defend myself. But I don't know. Sometimes I find aiki hard enough work actually being able to see the instructors never mind trying to see them without my glasses. Perhaps I should try it one day...

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Chapter 23: The next grading looms on the horizon....

As a club, the time has come for our next grading. It has been six months since I last graded, and it really doesn't seem like five minutes since I got my orange belt. You would have thought by now that I was used to gradings, after all, I have passed three in the past 21 months. But the next belt I've come to realise is much darker and harder...getting my green belt. The truth be told, I really am not ready.
Okay, I know I go through this phase every time there is a grading, but this time the next belt up is the start of the senior grades, yep thats right, not junior, senior. So you're expected to know alot more stuff, especially the big breakfalls. The truth is, I don't! I STILL cannot roll exactly right nor do the sumi breakfall completely right (though I am working on it) To be frank, this next stage really really scares me! I mean, after green there is only two belts to black and that is a scary thought that one day, me-yes me could be a Dan grade.
So, rather than try and beat myself up (I can do that at the grading-just pick a Dan grade as a grading partner) I've come to reflect on my own little aiki journey so far.
21 months ago, I stepped into a dojo for the first time and was quite literally petrified. One first Kyu who I train with can't believe it took nearly three sessions before I would really speak to anyone- sorry guys, but Dan grades and higher grades in Gis whilst you're stood next to them dressed in street clothes are very scary the first time you meet face to face. From there, I overcame my fear over backward breakfalls, although I still haven't broken though the fear of forward rolls as yet, but I will do so...eventually, in like 20 years time.
I've passed three gradings white, yellow and orange-though I really didn't think I was ready. Perhaps because physical sports have never been my 'thing'. In fact, I took home one school report when I was about 15 and my parents laughed at the PE grade. At my school we were given a grade (A-F) and an 'effort' grade (1-5, with 1 being excellent, 5 being very poor). I got As and Bs for most subjects apart from PE, where I got an E. My effort grade was a 1. Yes, a 1. So in other words, sorry you really are the pits at PE but can't fault you for trying- at least thats how my parents interpreted it.
Anyway, although I can't do some things in Aikido yet- I guess I've come far, especially from the terrifed student at my first few taking myself to summer school and doing it by myself for three whole days. So, if you like, I've gone from someone rather gwaky to someone whose a fighter. I suppose what's left now is a leap of faith on that grading date...

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Chapter 22: Being a lightweight...Advantage or Disadvantage in Aikido?

This topic has always been a point of interest for me since day one of stepping in the dojo, does having a light build bring advantages or disadvantages? For me, being approximately 8 stone 6lbs (give or take) I have experienced both.
I found that that as an advantage I can bounce quite well from a heavy breakfall (I always managed to 'bounce' whenever I fell downstairs as a child) but I find many people disagree. The general consensus appears to be that if you have a fair bit of muscle hitting the floor it is less so hard on your body.
However, being a lightweight does have one major disadvantage in that you find if thrown at high speed you can 'fly'. Yes, thats right, quite literally fly off the mat. Thankfully I've never come off the mat, although there were a couple of close calls at summer school.
So, I guess being a lightweight is good, but I wouldn't mind being a stone heavier, particulary during Hikitat. (Although 'flying' is fun, you still face gravity...splat!)

Friday, 31 August 2007

Chapter 21: An example of the effect of eighteen months of Aikido training...I sign up for three days of summer school

A few months ago, I decided I would sign up for three days at the BAA summer school. This is testimony to the effect that Aikido has had on me...eighteen months ago I would not have even thought of reading the leaflet advertising summer school, much less actually doing it. But wisely or unwisely I did.
I spent the week before being very excited but at the same time really nervous. I really did not know what to expect,(well apart from the pain of doing Aikido for three days straight of course)and the truth was, I was scared witless. Yep, really scared, no word of a lie and I didn't know what I was scared about!
On the way there on the first day I was so nervous, I honestly thought I was going to partake of breakfast again in the car on the way there, I felt extremely nauseous.
Due to my worry of being late, I turn up half an hour early. To quell nerves, I decide to go and look at the judo hall where it was going to be. Big mistake! one look of the thin mats we were going to breakfall on, and I felt like running for the hills.
But once other people began to turn up, I felt better. Everyone seemed as nervous as one another. On the lining up for grade order, I noticed I am one of a few women there. I was quite surprised at this as my experience of Aikido (although limited) was that it was a martial art that was dominated by women. Not here it seems. But on the plus side, no long queues for the ladies over the next few days, bonus!
One of the first things we did in the morning was to get stuck in with the warm-up. All I can say is I'm glad at the club where I trained is very fitness-orientated and that I did the 5km Race For Life for Cancer Research recently as there is no way on this planet I would have survived the initial warm-ups!
I found there was very little difference between the way in which the sessions were planned in comparison to a club session but the discipline and etiquette expected was far higher. But as the club where I train is quite informal, it was a little shock to the system at first! But I got used to it.
I can honestly say that this was the best thing I have experienced about Aikido so far. The privilege of being taught by high ranking Dan grades and the opportunity to work with so many different Aikkidoccas was beyond this world.
Although I was black and blue, having around 20 bruises at the end of the three days, extremely sore and stiff and felt like I could never break fall again, I would do it all again tommorrow (Yes, I'm a nut-case, I know). But the experience I have gained and the things I have learnt were well worth not being able to move for about two days straight!

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Chapter 20: The Process Of Learning To Take Your Uke's Balance...Suddenly The Penny Drops About Aikido

One of my favourite parts of Tomiki Aikido is Hikkitat. I like it because it is usually during Hikkitat I usually find the purpose to a technique (and as an added bonus you get a really good workout).
At a recent session, one instructor was trying to illustrate how moving off your attacker's centre and taking their balance was a fudamental concept to Aikido. So, to illustrate this we started Hikkitat.
An interesting part to Hikkitat is trying to illustrate to someone who hasn't come across Hikkitat the actual principle behind it. The thing about Hikkitat is that as you effectively 'chase' your partner around the mat, there will be that magical point where as Tori you feel your Uke's point of balance being broken and.. down they go. Success! To be honest, until you feel that 'magic' moment of the point of balance being taken, you won't really understand the true priciple behind Hikkitat.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Chapter 19: Prevention Of Injury...The Responsibility Of Tori Or Uke?

At a recent aiki session we covered the concept of safety when practising as the attacker. The idea being that the person acting as the Uke is more or less entirely responsible for their own safety. I slightly disagreed with a Sengpai that Tori should only have around 5% responsibility for the prevention of injury to Uke, I see it as more like 10% but that's neither here or there.
The point is, injuries do and will occur in Aikido. Firstly, lapses in concentration can cause injury, secondly, resisting a technique and thirdly through Uke's stupidity. Yes, stupidity. Not often, but it does happen I've seen it. In fact, I seen all three of these reasons. One was when I saw a student go into a roll and dislocate their shoulder. Just a freak accident caused through a tiny tiny lapse in concentration really. Another time, I seen students breakfalling with injured backs. And yes before you ask, to date I have had two, no three injuries so far. The first was my own fault, I panicked when someone did Somenati and ended up with slight whiplash. The second, I cracked my shoulder when someone took me far too quickly into a technique, but strangely enough fixed my RSI so I ain't complaining and the third has been a cracked toe nail.
Yep, everyone has a list of injuries as long as their arm. When I was asked at the session if I thought as a beginner that a martial art would be injury free, I could truthfully answer no. I honestly didn't. The fact is my Dad used to do Judo, and had warned me of the injuries that would occur. And I thought, yep, cheers Dad, you're not selling me starting a martial art.
Anyway, I knew my Dad was right. That's why it took me about six months to start a martial art, I was frightened of what might happen. A hard thing to admit and I still am I suppose, given that I've been doing Aikido for 18 months and STILL cannot roll (probably to some fear complex) But Hay Ho.
So, injury. Yes, I entirely agree that I'm responsible for my own safety for injury prevention. But, I have to add, just because someone stiffens half-way through a technique, does that mean as Tori you continue with the technique knowing full well (especially if you are a higher grade then the person you are working with) that it may cause injury? Or do you stop? Where exactly should the line of responsibility of injury prevention be drawn? Personally, I think you should take care of your Uke but also take care of yourself and not lay blame at anyone's door should you be injured. Rest, and get back to training, not easy...but if you don't get back on the mat, you never will. I would never have got back on that mat after the shoulder and neck injuries if I hadn't have quelled the little voice of fear inside my head and just got on with training. And I'm glad I did.

Note: An interesting idea was brought up during Hikkitat at a recent session. If you find that as Tori you have an Uke that resists during Hikkitat it is YOUR responsibility to do another technique. Interesting concept really, given that it is primarily the responsibility of Uke for their own safety but I guess that as Hikkitat can get quite dangerous given that you and your Uke are fighting for technique this is a sensible idea to have.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Chapter 18: The Feeling Of Pain....An Essential Part Of Training?

I recently attended an aiki session where we had someone who was already an orange belt in Karate/Kickboxing start their first session in aiki. The immediate thing that struck me was how this student flinched when myself and another Sengpai started discussing the usual pre-session talk on different bruises obtained from the previous session. I tend bruise real easily, particularly on the wrists so this has become a natural part of life for me that at some point or another during the week I have several aiki-related bruises. Its no biggy, I see it as part of the package of training in a martial art.
But seeing this other student flinch made me wonder... how painful should a contact sport like a marital art be? In Aikido, the application of the different wrist locks make it impossible for you not to escape feeling some pain at one point during a session. To prevent injury obviously, you tap twice on the mat or body in submission when the pain appears. But I often wonder should this be done as the pain is felt or when it becomes unbearable?. To be honest, I do a mixture of the two and I will explain why.
Around two years ago, before I started Aikido I developed RSI in my right wrist so therefore wrist pain is something that I am used to. So, where to draw the line when dealing with pain in training?
I like to think that although pain is part of training in Aikido, it is important to LISTEN to your body, if it hurts, tap out. If injured, rest. You know, common sense things really.
A useful book recommended to me by a fellow student was 'Angry White Pyjamas' by Robert Twigger. I really enjoyed this book. It give an insight into what it is like to push yourself beyond your limits and the experience of pain alongside this. After all, isn't that what a martial art helps you to achieve, obtaining a new physical and spiritual level for yourself?

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Chapter 17: Counters, Decision Time!

After several weeks of working on counters with several bruises and one cracked toe nail, I finally make my decision on counters. Yep, I really really like them.
Of late, there has only been small classes down at the club where I train so there has be more time to work with these things.
So, after one session of trying (unsuccessfully on most occasions) to counter techniques in free play, I really enjoyed working on counters (apart from leaving the mat at several points during the evening of course).
I don't know what it is about counters that I like, its kinda of the rhythm of the flow of the technique if you know what I mean. But yes, I know that they don't really work particularly in kata, but that still doesn't displace their magic they weave when they are done in full flow in freeplay...

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Chapter 16: Counters...another aspect of Aikido just like marmite, you either love 'em or hate 'em

Having recently obtained the level of 4th Kyu (Orange belt) I learned that for green I also needed counters as well as Hikkitat. Okay, thinks I lets have a go.
I quickly found that counters as THE worst thing to learn (apart from rolling) and whlist some people like them, others hate them with a passion.
However, counters do have their uses both inside and outside of the dojo. Inside, they are obviously employed as a technique in Hikkitat but outside they may also be used as a form of defence should an attacker also have knowledge of martial art (or so I'm told).
At the moment I'm reserving judgement as to whether I like them or hate them but there's no doubt that a knowledge of counters are useful in certain situations.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Chapter 15: Putting the 'Martial' back into Aikido...queue technqiues frenzy

I was a little dubious when one session one of the Senpagi's decided it was time to put the 'martial' back into our Aikido. I will be honest, I really, really had no idea what he meant. I mean, I'm not violent!, I don't like hurting folk (honest). Anyway, at the session he brings out punch pads. Okay.. now what?
Turns out we were to work on punches. Yay! I had had a really lousily day at work and it felt real good to get some frustration out of my system. Once we'd done that, we worked on shomenouti strikes (strike to top of head) right and left handed. Only were told 'strike like you really mean it', okay...but I thought Aikido was not about aggression. But then I realised what they were getting at...its easier to do techniques when Uke strikes well and is reasonably compliant then to just edge forward, arm out nervously. It was a kinda revelation for me to realise that you could have some hardness in technique but without being aggressive.

Chapter 14: fast can you go?

Ninandori for me was always about worrying whether I can breakfall correctly and quickly enough to actually get back up after every technique (harder than actually the technique if you ask me). So, imagine my sheer panic when I realised for one two hour session we would be learning and doing Ninandori. Eek!
I actually like Ninandori in a strange sort of way, its a bit like the 'Fast and the Furious' cut down into thirty seconds depending on who the Tori is at the time. But I didn't have a clue how to survive...I mean, two on one is hardly fair right?
We started off quite gently working on how to shorten techniques and showed them to the rest of the club. Then we partnered off for Ninandori....
It was really really great. In the end, against a dan and 1st Kyu I managed 16 techniques in thrity seconds a personal best for me. Now, its their turn...tatanmi at break neck speed here I come!

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Chapter 13: The dreaded date for grading had arrived...

Its hard to believe that this time last year I was panicking about my first grading to White belt and now I was to grade for Orange... eek!
The only thing that I was looking forward to was having some circulation in my hands and feet as my last grading was in October and it was freezing!
So I turned up nice and early, purly to quell the butterflies zooming around at supersonic speed in my stomach to find the three grading examiners had decided on wearing Hakkanmas for the evening. Now don't get me wrong I like Hakkanmas, but the fact is a scary black belt becomes a really really scary black belt once they put on a Hakkanma.
Anyway, to cut to the chase so to speak, I did it! I graded to Orange, Yipee! I was aching all over, dripping like tap with sweat and covered in brusies, but I don't care, I did it!

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Chapter 12: The role of the Uke...a mixture of compliance and resistance- a bit like being slightly stubborn but flexible

The thing you find when you progress in a martial art is the difficulty in learning how to be a good Uke. You can't be too resistant but you can't be too compliant- you get nowhere. This is always difficult (at least it was for me when I became a yellow belt)- How do you Uke for a lower grade without being too hard or too soft? The answer I guess is to find a balance, think of being as one with Tori (or vice versa) while maintaining the centre.
It is Uke's role to help Tori demonstrate the breaking of balance (but obviously not making it too easy for Tori)- ie: you learn to flex and 'fly'. Once you learn that the mat becomes your lifelong friend...foam is quite tasty once you get used to it, trust me.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Chapter 11: Gradings...A test of skill and sanity, Help!

I have to admit, I don't like gradings much. I'm not sure why but in the run up to gradings everything goes to pot- techniques, breakfalls, you name it. However, once I have done a grading I usually feel a lot better. Hopefully , the next grading for me will be to orange belt. Its strange how a year ago I was fussing about my very first Aikido grading to white and now I'm seriously thinking of grading to orange (or not, if I can think of a way of running far far away.
Before you ask, nope the forward ukemi still isn't quite right but I can do Kote breakfalls! Yes! Yes! Yes! (Yeah okay, I'm a little too excited about being able to do that and yeah, I can't roll but I can somersault, so I'm a bit weird in that way. Oh well, who said life was simple?)
So on with the nest grading. (Gulp) I know, I know, there is nothing to be afraid of, and the weather is quite warm now so my circulation should be okay ( At least I won't be struggling with Waki with no circulation, no fun at all, trust me). Somehow I never know how I manage to do gradings-my nerves are in tatters the day before. But if I didn't get up there and bite the bullet, I never would.
The advice I would give to a beginner is just relax and enjoy it (says she) but there is nothing to be afraid of (just a few people watching that's all) Trust me- I'm an Aikiddocca!

Monday, 2 April 2007

Chapter 10: I've just, myself and I as an Aikidocca are all as one...spooky

You begin to realise that you may have become slightly obsessed with a martial art when you begin to no longer feel pain, or flinch when people sneak up on you and make you jump (which frequently happens in my workplace).
I used to think that maybe the Aikidocca inside of me would only come alive in the dojo and then lay dormant til the next session. How wrong I was.
I started to realise that my training was beginning to 'kick in' as it were when I longer flinched at sudden loud noises. Aikido training also comes in handy when you are on the train and a completely and utter stranger (who may be drunk) sits down opposite or worst, next to you and catters on. This frequently seems to happen to me... I must have the sort of face that's kinda honest and friendly (or else look like a complete mug) that makes people approach me. Now as a woman, this is quite frankly scary.. I mean, there are hundreds of other seats, why pick me? Anyway.. back to the scary stranger. The important thing I learnt from Aikido is not to panic or engage conversation - just ignore them...and hope they go away.
Oh yeah, teenage kids living around me seem to think that its great fun to walk around in large gangs and try and be scary by shouting in people's faces. Well, since I've started Aikido this no longer works.. I just stand my ground and glare and they back off. Quite interesting really.
You also find with starting a martial art that people (especially work colleagues) give you some stick or respect, depending on who they are. For example, I usually get 'You don't look like you do a martial art' and 'I would never picture you doing that kinda thing'. (What I usually do is grin real wide... and just ignore them, especially when they start saying 'Better not get on the wrong side of you' etc. and all the rest of it)But yes.. the stick does get a little irritating, but the fact is is that people are fascinated when they meet a martial artist, it has a air of mystery to it. So I'm now a woman of many mysteries at work, great- beats being the youngest anyway.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Chapter 9: Tanto: You either hate it or love it....a bit like marmite really

I remember the first time I did tanto, I was placed against an extremely scary looking Senpagi and told to have a go. Well, I don't know about you, but I took one look at my opponent and wanted to run away (real fast). But if anything, I'm not a quitter, so I stuck it out and found I really really enjoyed it.
First of all there are two forms of tanto in Tomiki Aikido. The first is Gekarigaygo and the other Hikitatigaygo. The first is free play without resistance and the second free play with resistance (basically think 'rag doll' and you get the basic idea).
I really enjoy both forms of tanto. It is great exercise and really good from a defence point of perspective. But I do find that some higher grades really don't like tanto at all whereas I love it, but maybe I'm just weird in that way.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Chapter 8: Different grasps for techniques...suddenly a technique in Aikido becomes a method of self-defence

When I first started to work using different attacks and grasps like cuts to the head, straight punch etc., I wasn't really sure how to apply any Aikido techniques to any form of self-defence, so these exercises are brilliant for encouraging you to sort of overcome the initial fear with all beginners... that you don't want to hurt someone, you just don't want to be the one hurt, yeah?
But the real handy thing about practising techniques from different grasps is that they also show how you can adapt your technique for different situations. Take technique five (Ushorio-ate) of Aikido (a personal favourite of mine-really easy technique to apply), this technique can be used for different attacks, say, for example, bottle attacks.
So there you have it... a versatile form of self defence, not entirely fool-proof, but as with any form of self defence, it just makes you feel as though you can do something, should you get grabbed in the street (as what frequently happens in my home town, particularly to women). But in case anyone is wondering, no, I don't feel invincible... just safe walking and traveling to and from A to Z.
However, I feel I have to say to any women reading this... that just because you may be able to defend yourself, doesn't mean that you are invincible or you will never be attacked at 1am coming home alone from a club or pub, play it safe and get a taxi home. I have spoken to many women and it always frightens me that because they live in a small town, they don't think anyone will try and jump them in the early hours of the morning when they are walking home alone. So basically, what I'm trying to say is, don't get paranoid...go out enjoy yourself but keep yourself and your mates safe.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Chapter 7: I am offically weird

After one year of aikido, you may think, yep, she's getting there, knows stuff yardy yardy yar. But I STILL cannot roll (well, I sort of can roll... in a 'roll' sense of fashion)
So, I decide enough is enough. I decided to try Shigaei (roll into side breakfall) as I kinda figured if I landed one my side...I may as well try doing a breakfall which involves landing on the side with the bizziare idea that I might actually roll.
Well, I didn't roll... but I did manage to achieve Shigaei. Yeah, okay I can't roll but I can do Shigaei... doesn't make sense, but there you are. Yippee! I can actually do Shigaei, even if I can't roll. Roll on the next grading I say (Hehe-pun not intended, honest)

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Chapter 6: Two clubs....How or how not to choose?

After practising for a year, I wanted more out of my Aikido, you know... better fitness, improved technique etc. As the club I first trained at was out of town and not having a car, imagine my relief when I found a club virtually on my doorstep. I have to say I didn't really know what to do... how would Sensi take my training at two different places?
It was then that I realised that it wasn't out of disrespect to Sensi that I wanted to achieve more.. it was more of that I wanted to explore my Aikido further, push the boundaries of my physical abiltites.
I then rather timidly approached Sensi at the end of a session to ask his permission (I didn't want to offend him, I just wanted to ask him his opinion) and to my relief, he seemed to think it was a good idea.
Just one little thing... how to fit in three different sessions in one week? I eventually decided to train one nigh at one and one night at the other. Seems to work quite well, I'm getting an extra half hour a week and a good variety of teaching and training.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Chapter 5: Combat With Weapons... Eeek!

Up until now, I haven't really mentioned anything about weapons...sort of the orgins of the techniques involved in Aikido, so to speak. There are three main weapons used in Aikido, Tanto (knife), Jo (staff) and Bockun (sword).
The first weapon I really used was the Jo. I love the Jo Kata,it is quite relaxing in some ways (except the time I got klonked on the knuckle..THAT ONE HURT!). The best part of weapons is allowing you experience the orgins of techniques as well as self-defence in knife work. Weapons also teach you spacial awareness and distance in techniques (Brillant if you can trip over your own shadow like me)
But I should say that just because you use weapons in the dojo, it does NOT mean that you can use them against other people. They are purly a training tool and should be used as such with the up most respect and only used in the Dojo.

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Chapter 4: That was the easy part…. Now comes the big Ukemis!

Okay, Aikido is pretty amazing, but it does get really tough. After my first grading came my nemesis: the forward ukemi. Anyone who already practises Aikido will know how horrible these are for beginners- its not a proper roll! At least- not in the sense of the word ‘roll’. You imagine that you’re a wheel, and you take off, rolling along an extended arm, down the spine and onto the opposite hip- easy! Not!
I did not get rolls. I kept going over on my side. Unfortunately, I needed them for my next belt, so in the run-up to my next grading, I was basically a rag-doll, throwing myself at anything (and being thrown) into these things.
Then came the ‘night’. The night I was to grade. I was scared no scratch that, petrified. I wanted to run away but I couldn’t- I had come to far to let one little ukemi get the better of me.
It was also a cold night, my circulation cut out waiting to go up onto the tatanmi- I couldn’t feel my feet or my hands or anything (part from fear of course). However, despite having no circulation, a stomach of butterflies and a feeling of wanting to run far far away, I did my roll well, sort of anyway. But I did get my belt! I was now an official coloured belt-break out the champagne!

Chapter 3: The first grading…the be all or end all of my sanity

I did have doubts about my suitability for this art, particularly in the run –up to my first grading. I mean, all my techniques went to complete pot; all the terminology and principles of Aikido just disappeared. You know, I felt a bit like David being fed to the lions, that it was an impossible feat, me actually doing my first grading! In front of the whole club! But I got up there (heaven knows how- I was shaking like a leaf) and I did it! I actually graded! I was a bit sorry to go home really.
One of the most amazing things about Aikido is the way it can take one scrawny person and change them into something that’s well, interesting, like they can take on the whole world, at least that’s how I felt after my first grading to white belt-a bit like walking on air out of the dojo.

Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Chapter 2: Okay………whose idea was this?

I did eventually find a club Aikido from the local newspaper. So, one dark and quiet night in January 2006, I set off in a taxi (as I don’t have my licence yet). However, getting to the roundabout before the club, I suddenly thought ‘Whoa, what am I doing? Turn back, TURN BACK!’. Too late, the driver had taken the turning and in no time at all, I was stood staring at a brick building. Yep, this was it.
After wandering up a maze of corridors, I eventually reached the hall where the club was held. Okay, this was it. But I couldn’t bring myself to go in. I had two choices: I could either go right in or turn around and runaway but just as I decided that running away was the best option, the Sensei spotted me and I thought, drat! He has seen me; there was no escaping now. So I went in….

Chapter 1: Why on earth as an educated, reasonably sensible (and sane) woman did I decide to do this?

Okay, first of all, I never really pictured myself as a Martial Artist. I mean, I hate pain and I really really don’t like hurting people (honest). So why on earth did I decide to become an Aikidodocha?
Well, it sort of comes from wanting to be able to defend myself should anything happen in the street, I mean there are lots of complete idiots carrying knives and whatever else they can fit into their pockets wandering around.
I tried lots of places really, but there were no Martial Arts that offered what I wanted. I just wanted to get away from an attack, not knock the seven bells out of someone. So, I decided (after endless trawls on the Net) to choose Aikido. There was just one problem, living in a little-known town; I couldn’t find anywhere that did it. Never mind, thinks I, I will forget all about it and just do a course in self-defence….