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.