About The Following Blog

The following blog has been written purely for those wanting a first hand knowledge of what it is like to step into the dojo for the first time as a complete beginner as a Martial Artist. Through practising a Martial Art, you will gain many things such as self-confidence, self-respect and life-long and good friends. I hope this helps you to see into an amazing world of which you have never seen before and that I have had the privilege of belonging to and knowing.
Although I have not put my name or any name to this blog, it does deserve a dedication- a dedication to those who help people to train, who teach, reassure and most important of all- those who never give up, no matter how many times they hit the ground or a mental brick wall, with themselves or others. But above all- those who are ready to begin their own journey, it begins with one step….

Saturday, 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.