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….

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Chapter 43: I've finally bitten the bullet and graded...whats next?

Well thats it...grading done and dusted. I finally managed to get a grip and try for my blue belt. The strange thing was that for a fornight I was a whole mixture of emotions-first excited, then nervous and then both excited and nervous at the same time.
The nerves this time didn't kick in till about one hour before, like I said this was a new thing for me. But I think it was because I had decided that whether I passed or failed this grading-the world wouldn't stop spinning on its axis.
It wasn't too bad. It started off a little badly as my Ukemi weren't as good as they could of been and I will be honest, had I not waited nearly a year to grade this time-I might have given up there and then. I just felt like crying in frustration really.
But the kata and technical side of the grading wasn't bad, I think it went as well as what it could have done. Apart from the fact that I had a huge mental block during counters, but I wasn't the only one to fluff that side of things up. But the one thing that I felt went well was the free practice-I really enjoyed it. There is nothing like a total of about eight minutes of free play to completely relax you at a grading- as well as tire you out.
I think with hindsight, this has benn the first grading that I have really enjoyed. All my other gradings up till now have been rather nerve racking, this one however...I'm still not sure what happened to make the nerves disappear. I think that perhaps I realised that the only person I was doing this for was me, and so I had nothing to prove to anyone except myself that I could do this. I did however have to prove that I was ready for this grade to the grading panel but somehow the whole thing didn't bother me.
So did I pass or did I fail? The truth is I don't know yet- we will find out in three weeks time.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Chapter 42: To grade or Not to Grade...That is the Question

Hmmm...I seem to be in an interesting pickle at the moment. I have an opportunity now that I've accumulated enough hours to try for my next belt, which is blue belt. Trouble is, the grading is at another club. Not that is a big problem with any of my instructors where or who I grade with...I think the problem lies within.
Any one who is a regular reader of this blog will know that my reluctance to grade is not an entirely new development-I always get the 'heebe-geebes' near grading time, but this time it feels different.
The really stupid thing is that had the grading date been a competition date instead, I would have been the first one to sign up. The thing is is that I have never ever liked exams at School, College or Uni (alright no one does) even though I usually got good marks (apart from my driving test-which is different story since it took me five times to pass it). So why am I an absolute complete coward when it comes to gradings? Perhaps the issue lies with the fact that I'm still having issues with Ukemi (especially the forward roll) but they are improving, albeit slowly but I should (hopefully 'touch wood') be fine by the time the grading date rolls round. Ever heard of a green belt who is terrified of falling? Well, now you have-Me!
I know that for some Aikidoccas gradings are the one thing that they strive for-some people personally feel that they are failures if they don't achieve their First Dan within a certain time frame. For me, Aiki was never about getting the coveted Black Belt-it was more about learning a little self-defence and self-confidence boost. The question I now have to ask myself is-what is it exactly that I want from my Aikido? A Black Belt eventually or not? Because if I don't conquer this fear, I will never progress. But at the same time the coloured belts system for rank in the Dojo is very much a Western idea, in Japan there are no or very few gradings- the story of the Black Belt comes from the idea that your belt is a source of Ki built up through training and that to wash or clean your belt removes all Ki and for this reason very few martial artists will wash their belts-it's considered bad luck. Thus as belts were not washed, the build up of dirt on the belt showed how long a student had been training, hence if their belt was extremely black with dirt, they were very experienced and highly skilled- 'black belts' as they became known. The truth of the matter is that after a while in Western Society, a Dan grade's belt will eventually become white again- hence they come full circle, right back to white. An interesting concept really, that someone does not necessarily have to grade to prove that they are a good Aikidocca. So, why exactly am I reluctant to do this?

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Chapter 41: In which I attempt my first competition

For a while now I've wanted to compete in Aikido, not necessarily a big flash tournament but something at club level. Unfortunately, I've never really had the chance...until now.
As a club we had decided to go and watch an international championship and up until two months ago, it hadn't actually registered that we as a club could actually compete. So, yes, with a good 'lets have a go' attitiude, I decide to enter for Embu-the basic 1-17 Kata techniques. I decided not to attempt Tanto-Randori this time as I really didn't feel that I would actually survive the first bout and would probarly end up coming home in a match box.
The actual competition was awesome-the atmosphere was electric, it just crackled with excitement. There was some very good Aikido exhibited there, from all countries, not just the UK.
On the second day, we found that everyone has been entered into an event called 'Kongo'. My understanding was that it was developed by the Japanese to put some 'fun' into competition. Every competitor, regardless of nationality is spilt into equal teams of seven (or in our case being a small competition-six) people and there are several events in which you must compete together as a team. I really enjoyed the Kongo event, it really brought all competitors together in the spirit of Aikido. The Kongo team that I was in managed to secure third place, and thus I came home with a bronze medal! My first one!

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Chapter 40: Training with injuries...To carry on or not to carry on training, that is the question....

This is a question that is often asked amongst martial artists-should I carry on despite the pain of an injury or rest? A question that I feel is difficult to answer. I say this as I have just recovered from an injury to my right knee.
When I was about 12 I strained both my knees quite badly after a PE lesson at school. I was off sport and dancing for about three weeks, dosed up to the eyeballs on ibuprofen. Since then, having 'noc-knees' (meaning my knees turn in) I find that my knees can strain quite quickly.
I admit that this injury was entirely my own fault. I decided to go on a walking holiday in the Lake District on my week off from work. Unfortunately, I pulled my right knee when out one day-and boy, did it let me know that it wasn't happy.
Anyway, my first thought was 'not again'. I knew that the only way to recover was to take some anti-inflammatory pills and wear a support for a couple of days. Not really a problem you might think but I was hoping to go back to Aiki that week.
So, what to do? I tend to find that if I take anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen before Aiki, I can't feel any joint locks-something that isn't such a great idea as you might think as you can end up with another injury since you can't 'feel' the right time to tap out. I decided to go and wear a support but not take any ibuprofen for about 4 hours before going. Before you think I am absolutely crazy, there is method in my madness-I will explain.
When someone says 'pain is your friend', they are right. Pain is our body's way of making us rest and stop when something isn't right i.e. a sprained ankle so that the body has time to heal and you don't do anything more stupid like breaking said sprained ankle. So, I decided to tap into this. By taking a baseline dose of ibuprofen, this prevents most of the pain and helps the sprain/strain heal more quickly. However by not taking the dose before Aiki this gave me a 'threshold' to work to-meaning I could still go to Aiki but would know when my knee had had enough, and so prevent me from doing any further damage.
However, I knew that it wouldn't be Aiki that would finish the knee off-it would be my dance class. As I am an Irish dancer and have been dancing for about 13 years now, my knees are not exactly in the best of shape as in Irish Dancing the jumps and kicks we do mean we land with our knees straight-not great for preserving the knee joint or helping knee injuries heal. So with great trepidation, I started warming up and found my right knee began to stiffen up. But the strange thing was by keeping to basic dance maneuvers with no jumping or kicking my knee began to slacken off and the next day when I woke there was little or no pain.
When I've strained my knees before in the past, I will be honest-I've rested up and found it took a week to heal. This time, it took less then that-maybe about 5 days and I'm not sure why. I suppose you could say that by carrying on carefully I didn't let the injury 'beat' me and caused no further damage.
So, to carry on or not to carry on training? I think this depends on the injury. Some injuries need time to heal whilst others can be trained through carefully. But just in case, my knee support is staying in the bottom of my aiki bag...

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Chapter 39: I'm going to be very honest with myself...It would seem my short break from Aiki has made me more crazy then before!

Yes, it would seem I am now an official 'Aikiaddict'. Seriously. After only one month returning to training and seven weeks post-op, I decided to enrol for summer school again. Apparently, I should have taken six weeks off training not three so that my muscles could 'knit' back together- but I was told three! (Honest). So you guess I was a little nervous about going as I was still healing but I'd 'survived' two club sessions a week for a month so was ready and rearing to go.
This year was fantastic. It really was. There was a huge variety of different aspects of Aikido covered so we covered a fair bit over the two days that I was there.
But it came to me that I definitely an 'Aikiaddict' when I sign up for two days of pain. It would seem that there are two aspects to the pain associated with martial arts- mental and physical pain. I've found summer school to be both. It's an absolute out of this world experience as you can train with many different people and learn different techniques and skills not covered at club level but at the same time you have to fight physical and mental exhaustion. After the first day, you tend to be a bit sore and stiff. By lunchtime of the second day, you feel that you may never breakfall again. And I will be very very honest here- there are times when you don't want to get back on that mat, but you know you have to as the moment you stop you stiffen up, so it's far less painful to keep going.
Funnily enough, I was less sore this year. But I don't think this anything to do with me being 'tougher'- last year I experimented with Deep Heat and found it useful. This year I was prepared- I used Deep Heat before and after each day and found it really helped. So, why did I do it? Well, I really enjoyed last year and wanted to meet up with everyone I had trained with-but I also wanted to see if I could do it again and 'survive' the pain.
My advice is if you get the chance at training at a summer camp or any camp for that matter, do it. You won't regret it. At the time you may feel that you never ever want to do anything like that again, but you will recover...and find that the physical and mental pain that you endured during that time was worth it.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Chapter 38: Finally, I'm back after a three week break-it feels as though I've never left...

Hee hee...I'm officially back on the mat, including breakfalling! It feels really great, the three weeks I was off was an absolute nightmare-I honestly felt like climbing the walls sometimes and can't really explain why.
I was a little nervous about going back, especially after the op as I'm still healing. But I was so desperate to get back (very sad I know)that I wasn't going to let the fact that I only had a month to gain back my mat fitness before Summer School this year stop me from at least trying.
Our new dojo is great. We're sharing the dojo with a local jodo club so as a result we have proper competition mats (as comfy as concrete to breakfall on) and lots of space to train.
I've really missed Aikido-I don't just mean that I missed the training, I've also missed the social aspect as well and meeting up with everyone on our first session back was like a reunion almost. It really struck me how close we are as a club despite all the different grades that we have.
I've also recently started training at another Aikido club (with my Instructor's blessing of course)so that I can widen my training experience. I felt a little like a thief in the night at first, like I was betraying my club-even though I had my Instructor's blessing. But I've come to realise the only way to progress in a martial art like Aikido is to train with as many different people as possible.
With training at two different clubs I've come to ask myself-what makes a club a club? Some I suppose would say the dojo and the facilities it offers, but I like a response from a First Dan that I know- what makes a club a club is its members. The place you train is important, you need somewhere-our temporary closure has illustrated that, but you don't need Olympic standard facilities to train-just a few mats but, more importantly, members. Without members there is no club. All members are as valuable as each other; a white belt is as important as a Dan Grade as it is the white belts who bring in fresh blood to keep the club alive-but the Dan Grade is needed to pass on much valued experience.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Chapter 37: Arrgh! A three week break and am about ready to start climbing the walls...

I recently logged on to my blog and realised that I've not posted for a little while. I usually try to only post when something happens or something strikes me to talk about Aikido.
What is really driving me mad at the moment is that fact that I'm off dancing for two weeks and Aikido for three weeks following a minor op. How did I manage fit these activities in around study and work? Like I say, I feel as though I very slowly going mad. What makes it worse is that the club is having a short break at the moment. At the time I thought this was great, you know, have the three weeks off and no catching up to do but now I'm not too sure-at least if there were classes I could go watch.
Oh well, at least I have my dance class to look forward to this week, having had the two week break but I miss the Dojo. Really miss it and I have one more week to wait! Sigh...I wonder if any other people feel as though they're going mad when they can't get out to train?
The thing that worries me the most is why do I miss it? I mean, surely I would welcome a break from bruises and pain for a little while? Nope, obviously not-and its kinda sad, I know. The one consolation I have is that I only have to wait one more week, one more to start training again. One more week!

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Chapter 36: Tori using Tanto for this could prove interesting...

At our last session, we were told to try something different...Tori was to defend themselves using 10 different techniques from the Randori kata but using the tanto. Hmmm...Okay, this could prove interesting-I'm not used to defending with a Tanto, only against it-so here goes.
After 20 minutes, of 'Yeah, no, yeah- that might work', we were asked to show what we had come up with to the rest of class. I like this idea, it gets you used to an 'audience' as it were, so its less nerve racking at gradings when all your fellow club members are watching. It was quite interesting how we each interpreted the techniques differently-but if you think about it, if Aikido is developed from Samurai techniques, then you would always have a weapon in your hand whilst executing a technique and therefore in the middle of battle you would constantly change technique to keep yourself alive as everyone knows all the techniques that you know. A frightening observation was everyone's anatomical knowledge of where the vulnerable points of the human body were to hit with a knife-the kidneys, intestines and jugular. But as martial artists, I suppose that knowledge comes as part and parcel of your training, even in a 'peaceful' art like Aikido.
Towards the end, I chose to work on counters for my next belt as I hadn't worked on these for quite a while and was quite rusty. An interesting method of learning was suggested by a Dan grade who basically told me to shut my eyes, attack and then counter. I kinda wondered what the point can I counter? But I soon saw his point-you don't see the technique to counter with,you 'feel' it-in fact practising counters was easier with shutting the eyes then just doing them normally, you can feel the right times when to move and counter. An interesting experience and one I would recommend trying.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Chapter 35: Oh dear....It would seem I've acquired some S and M characteristics from Aikido....Or is it a form of 'self-discipline'?

A strange title to a blog post, wouldn't you agree? Again, we had another session from the same coach that has sparked a serious train of thought about my own perceptions about what Aikido actually is and what it involves. I also feel that my entire way of thinking about the principles of Aikido has been turned on its head.
We started off where we finished last week...concentrating on maintaining eye contact throughout training with Uke or Tori, keeping posture, and returning after doing a technique to posture. This time, we also has to work on commitment and purpose in our techniques, as well as the Ukemi from each technique. A lot to think about before you've even bowed to your partner!
We ended up (being a small class that evening) working with each other at some point. My second partner (an orange belt) ended up sparking a train of discussion about the breakfall from number 17, her question-how do you know where to breakfall? Surely its not over your own arm? Er...yes, I reply, how else can you breakfall? Not like that! she replies. So, to try and help her I call over an instructor and we get talking. I realise that since having achieved my green belt, my attitude to training has changed. I noticed this when the instructor was trying to explain to her that the breakfall was indeed over her arm and I saw what he was trying to explain, there are some techniques that you will not have a 'nice' breakfall from ('nice' meaning both your hands free). However, my partner begins to panic at this and points out although she can do a Kota breakfall supported she can't do this one. I and the instructor try to explain that its very similar, but she doesn't agree-she's afraid of falling badly and injuring herself-a very valid fear. I assure her if she wants to try I will NOT let go, controlling the landing so she won't get injured. At this point, the instructor chuckles to himself and points out the responsibility lays mainly with Uke to prevent injury and NOT Tori. But I pointed out the whole idea of Aikido is that you do the technique and Uke should be able to get up and walk away uninjured. He replies 'Bless you- you're living in a dream world, you have a little shrine dedicated to the prinicples of Aikido'. Huh-maybe I do, but I think I'm right. If I did not help her by controlling her landing to a certain point whilst she is learning the breakfall-she will hurt herself and I will feel really guilty about it. So dream-shrine or not, thats the way I see The Tori-Uke relationship, but maybe I'm wrong. But I kinda forgive him when he added that even with Tori looking after you, accidents still happened.
My last partner for the evening is a yellow belt. At this point the coach wants us to start demonstrating as Uke and Tori that we both have purpose in our techniques. Okey-dokey, lets have a go, I think. But my partner is not maintaining eye contact, so its hard to do the technique properly. So I'm afraid I pulled rank a little, and said I would not breakfall unless he keeps eye contact and puts me down. He agrees that may help. Halfway through he tells me he can't do this, he doesn't have the discipline. So, I ask him, 'You're doing A-Levels-right? Well, it took self-discipline to get yourself there, so you DO have self-discipline'. 'Oh yeah, I guess I do' he says, and from then on his technique improves.
Another aspect of the evening showed how much my attitude to pain in training had changed when the instructor was demonstrating to my yellow belt partner how the wrist lock in technique 13 worked and pointed out that he shouldn't be afraid to apply the locks as even the early techniques in Kata generally cause some discomfort to Uke. He then added after a while, you seem to enjoy the pain-and I realise that I too am beginning to enjoy pushing myself through the pain a little more each time. Oh dear, it would seem I've become a little S and M like.
The point I guess I trying to make is that after you've been training a while-you seem to change. Your body changes...muscle becomes toned and fitness levels increase. Your mind also begin to be able to focus more clearly and get to know yourself- your limitations and inner demons. And to keep all this up, you need to go regularly and train hard- a form of self-discipline imposed by the conditioning of training perhaps?

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Chapter 34: An interesting session sparks a train of self-discipline an inbulit characteristic or is developed as part of training?

The aspect of self-discipline has always interested me. Is it something that is already a part of you, like a personality trait-some people may have the capacity to develop self-discipline more readily or is it something that can be developed through training, either mentally or physically?
This train of thought started after a recent Aikido session. The instructor handed the class over to one of the brown belt coaches. I always enjoy these sessions, not that I'm saying being taught all the time by the same person is boring- its just nice to experience a different train of thought about the aspects of Aikido.
The coach started by explaining a recent observation that she had seen at competitions and gradings-as a club we had become too 'soft', there was no purpose to our technique which was inhibiting our progress in our Aikido.
So we started by beginning with Tandaqondo (the hand and foot exercises) and then were asked to practice it again with a partner-just to see how our technique changed. I have to admit it was very strange-I was 'striking' a real person! In a way, it made it easier to do, but the theory is that the exercises should be practised as if you are striking someone anyway. That done- we were asked to practice the Kata techniques of 1-17 and regardless of being Uke or Tori, we had to come back into posture after every completing technique. I will be very honest here- none of us did it after every technique, quite frightening how sloppy things can become if you let them slip.
After this we were asked to pair up with a different partner and do a different Kata if we wanted but this time maintain eye contact and posture at all times. We were also asked to count each time our partner lost eye contact with us. Apparently, I lost eye contact about twice in total. Not bad really- but I suppose you could argue you should NEVER lose eye contact, but I think that is a matter of opinion really-in a club were there is limited mat space you need to keep one eye on your partner and one eye out for flying bodies in your direction!
At the end we were asked how we thought it had effected our aikido. A blue belt observed that it give us more self-discipline. Interesting point-Shouldn't a martial art encourage you to practice self-discipline on and off the mat whilst you are in the dojo? The Coach had one closing remark- if you practised coming back into posture and maintained eye contact in everything you did with Aikido, gradings would be a breeze.
Once I got home- I began to ponder, what is self-discipline? As well as being an Aikidocca, I'm also an Irish dancer. I have danced since I was about nine years old, so have been dancing quite a while. Irish Dance requires a fair bit of self-discipline- we start in a set starting position, and finish in a set finishing position, and bow to the audience. We are also not allowed to talk to one another on the floor as this encourages us to talk when we are during a performance-which is not professional, therefore it is discouraged in class.
When I first moved into the Senior group of the dance school, we had a bar installed in the classroom. We then shown exercises to do which would help to improve our flexibility and encouraged to use it before each class. The strange thing was out of a class of maybe 12 girls, only 2 or 3 (myself included) would use it. The point is- was that an exercise of developing self-discipline in us as dancers?
As a martial artist you realise that it requires a lot of self-discipline to develop further in a martial art. But the point is what exactly is self-discipline? Is it a frame of mind you develop through training to develop further or is it more a form of self-determination and will to suceed? I like to think that self-discipline is something that you develop as a part and parcel of training be it in dance, martial arts or music. It seems to be a way in which you can conduct yourself to self-improvement, but at the same time know yourself, when to push that little bit further but also know your own limitiations, and I think Aikido is a great way of exploring your inner self-its almost looking in a mirror really.

Sunday, 30 March 2008

Chapter 33: A two week vacation and strangely....I've finally got my endurance and fitness back!

We recently started back as a club after a two week break for Easter. I normally dread these breaks as I find my fitness generally takes a nose dive but this time I can honestly say I was glad of the break as after a recent kidney infection I developed Flu a week later and so wasn't exactly in fit shape. However, although I missed Aiki like mad over the last two weeks, I'm now feeling much much better.
I was kind of dreading the first session back mainly because I wasn't sure how I would hold up but was determined to keep up come what may, even if it killed me. I was also dreading it because as usual at this time of year it was quite a cold night, which usually means that I take about half an hour to warm up. But I went along anyway.
I knew it was a cold night when one of the first Dans (who is quite hardy-never seems to feel pain or the cold) comes in and turns the heating on, yes-he turned the heating on! Ha! it seemed I wasn't the only one feeling cold that night!
The instructor then turns up and suggests that if we're cold, we should run around to get warm. I wasn't so sure- I didn't feel like I could survive the session, never mind tiring myself out BEFORE the session had even begun. But hey, at that point I was too cold to care.
So I start running round once, twice, three, four times-I don't know how many times I lapped around that mat...I only know it was much easier than what I was expecting. I eventually stop and realise my heart rate was only slightly raised and I was only slightly out of puff. Not bad I thinks, for a two week break anyway.
The session then started with running around. Again, I had no problem keeping up. A great improvement considering two weeks ago I was lagging behind everyone else. We then worked through various techniques. At one point, my partner (a blue belt)and I decide to work on some kneeling techniques. I have a slight problem with the second technique, I can't seem to get the timing right but I realise how much I missed my Aikido when there is a mock howl of anguish from my instructor as yes, I did the technique wrong yet AGAIN and He says 'what did I say about that technique again? After all that work we did on it?'and I think 'I've really really missed this'. I could He wasn't really cross, more amused really.
This carried on until we finished up with Hikitat. Normally Hikitat finishes me off but this time I managed two rounds before I broke a slight sweat. Yes! I realise that I'm finally feeling fit again.
That however, was without factoring in what I call PAA or Post-Aiki-Ache in the morning. But you know, I only had that 'nice' Aikido ache- the ache that feels like you've progressed a little further in Aikido.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Chapter 32: Can you train without participating in Ukemis?

Recently I read and commented on a post on an American Uchi Deshi's blog about 'Just show up'. Its strange how the kama of meditating on these things have an effect on you soon after.
After commenting on that post I developed a kidney infection a few days later. Now I find its my turn to ponder 'Do I show up?'. I will be honest, I hurt too much to train (obviously), its to be expected. But at the same time, its the last Aiki session we will have as a club for two weeks due to Easter, I show up even if its just to watch or cry off? How can you practice safe Aikido if you can't breakfall?
I decide to phone and speak to my instructor. I explained the problem, I wanted to train but couldn't, could I still come? It turns out it wasn't a problem, we could do a session based on movement and I didn't have to breakfall. Yay!
So, I showed up. I decided to work with a lower grade and did some work on basic movement without ukemi. And I have to say, although I had been in a lot of pain all week, I didn't feel any pain during the session at all-in fact, I felt better for turning up rather than moping at home...strange really.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Chapter 31: I have a late New Year resolution...I really have to stop doubting myself about my Aikido

I didn't make any New Year resolutions this year, because I didn't have any really. I have decided (rather late in the year) to make one. I have decided to will really try to quell the little voice in my head that appears at every Aiki session when we try something big, you know, the one that says 'why are you here? you're waaayyy out of your depth! you can't do this, who are you kidding?
I decided this after an Aiki course this weekend. There was an afternoon course this weekend about competition in Aikido with a grading afterwards so me and two others from the club decide to go down. It was quite good really, we got to meet up with a few other people that we knew from other clubs and got to have a go at some Aiki-jujitsu. I managed to learn a really cool choke hold that a 16-17 stone guy couldn't get out of! Hee Hee! I can't wait to try the 'floor wrestling', I have a few takedowns now in my arsenal, so hopefully I won't get squashed this time!
Afterwards came the grading and we decided to watch since there were some high Dan grades grading. It was quite a privilege and really cool to watch as you can imagine.
I decided to make my resolution about no more self-doubt after watching two blue belts (who were going to grade up to brown)go through their Kata at the beginning and I have to say, they were good, very good. I suddenly realised that the little voice popped up again, you know...the one that makes you feel very inadequate about your own abilities. It was then that I realised that if I was to succeed any further in Aikido...then I would have to start leaving my self-doubt at the door of the dojo. So, no more letting the little voice in my subconscious mind becoming part of my conscious mind...It really is a self-esteem killer.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Chapter 30: Help!...I want my white belt back!

I'm not kidding...I really do want my white belt back! I realised that green belt would be extremely tough, I just didn't twig that the training steps up AFTER Christmas.
The last session started off well. We lined up me, a Dan grade, blue belt and a yellow belt ( all guys apart from me) and we got told run up and down the mat until told to stop. Okay, thinks I, pace myself as I'm with three guys here, should be fine. Then we were told to go faster! Faster? I can't go any faster! But okay, body don't fail me now! Then finally, after what seemed like 100 laps of the mat...we were told to do five more laps (each one faster than the last) and THEN we could stop.
We then stretched off, which wasn't too bad as the preparations for a dance show I was doing were going well, so I wasn't too stiff. Next were 10 sit ups. This wasn't too bad for some reason...but maybe it was because I was ignoring my skeletal muscle system begining to scream at me.
So warm-up finished and we paired off to work on grasps. Okay, scratch that, it was more like, hey, you've done these before, figure them out. But I've slept since then! I wanted to cry. But alright I'll do as I'm told.
Just when I was nicely tired, you know, not too tired but had a reasonable workout...we were told to pair off and do some what I call 'floor wrestling'. This involves kneeling either face to face or back to back and trying to pin the other person on the floor. (no hair pulling, kicking, punching or biting allowed).
Now, when there are only two women in a class of four men...testosterone takes over BIG style (no offence, but floor wrestling does get a bit competitive). As the other female student can't kneel for too long due to a knee injury...that left me to the mercy of three guys. I say mercy as I'm not too good at floor wrestling, and usually end up getting squashed! But in a strange way...I really enjoy it (apart from the friction burns from the Gi of course). Its good clean fun...but I can imagine the conversation at work on Monday morning. So, what did you get up to at the weekend? Me? I was wrestling with guys....Queue strange looks and the usual following question, Why do you enjoy Aikido again? Hmmm....maybe because I can't get this much fun elsewhere and keep fit without too much embrassment?

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Chapter 29: Two bruised feet, 1 Cut foot and 1 bruised wrist....I'm back!

I've just completed my first aiki session back after Christmas, which means I've had a month off training. To new beginners, I suppose this sort of break will be a relief and in a way, you would be right, it was quite blissful, its the first time I've had no bruises for six months. But strangely enough, I've really missed my bruises! Yep, this is crazy, I know...but I've felt really empty and unfulfilled, like part of me is missing because I haven't been at aiki.
The first session back is always the hardest I think, you get quite lazy when you're given a short break. I've had enough on with exams and such like, so my brain certainly hasn't been unoccupied...but I suppose my 'spirit' so to speak has.
In a way, I'm glad of the break, as I've started on medication to stop my Raynaud's being so bad (its gets a bit silly when you are stood on the mat, your feet and hands are blue, and the backs of your heels are purple). The only trouble is is that they drop my blood pressure (its the way they work-I won't bore you) and they seem to work...just one problem, breakfalling with lower blood pressure! I was kinda dreading my first breakfall, but it wasn't too bad, I just felt slightly dizzy. But don't worry, I told my instructors so they know why I can't immediately jump up after a big breakfall.
For the first night back, we did weapons. Guess who managed to cut their foot, yes you've guessed it...Me! Then during a game of tails (where you tuck a large cloth in the back of your belt and try and grab someone else's as they're trying to grab yours-its harder than it looks, but good for developing hip movement) my foot got stamped on! Ow! I have a very large purply pink bruise to now add to my collection of injuries.
However, nearly 72 hours later I still ache! But it feels sooo good, I finally feel like I'm back home after a long holiday....