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, 23 December 2012

Chapter 65: Summary of the journey thus so far...(part 4)

Well I hope you have enjoyed these instalments so far. Here is the fourth part.

What makes a Senpai, a Senpai?

This may seem like a strange sub title in the middle of a story. But it leads on from where I left off in the previous post, so please bear with me.

I am often asked questions about the relationship between the kyu grade and the dan grade. Not necessarily between the Sensei and the student. No, the non-martial artist usually wants to know what it is like to 'take orders' from the higher grades. I've placed that question in inverted commas because we all know that this is not true. I'm sure that I have already touched on this in a previous post. The learning and teaching in all martial arts is entirely voluntary. With no teacher, there is no club. With no members, be they 6th Dan or white belt, there is no club. We train because we want to learn and grow. End of. No 'taking orders' necessary.

So, now that matter is cleared up, what exactly is a Senpai? I believe the definition of a Senpai is a higher grade who is a mentor of sorts to a lower grade. The Senpai of the club is not necessarily the highest grade on the mat after Sensei! I say this because there are higher grades who don't know how to tailor their training to meet the current needs (i.e training with injuries) of their partner. Not their fault! They just have not learnt this skill yet.

These in my eyes, are not my true Senpai, not to me. They have my respect because they are the higher grade, and yes I will learn from training with them don't get me wrong. No, for me, my Senpai is someone who knows me and I know them, we trust and respect one another. From this, grows a very deep and lasting bond. Its not one you can explain, but an analogy I could use is this. You are struggling to uke or tori a particular technique. The higher grade will either throw you hard or just not breakfall. The Senpai will work with you, drag a crash mat out or walk through the technique. That's the difference. You learn not just the martial art, but trust and respect.

So on with the story....

Was I mad to do this?

So there you have it. I was travelling up to two hours in total to train at a club around 40 miles away just so I could train. With hindsight being the wonderful thing it is, maybe I should have taken up Judo or even Karate instead. But I didn't. Nor did I regret the journey I made every week (except in the snow maybe).

I think after about 2-3 months, I heard that my old club had found somewhere to set up again. Admittedly, it was in a small hall out of town, in the middle of no where, slap bang in the middlish part of a very muddy field. But it was somewhere to train.

I had a quite a BIG decision to make. At the time, I was just settling in at the other place and preparing for my blue belt grading. Should I say goodbye and thank you for giving me a training 'home' so to speak to my new Sensei, which seemed rude at the time or, did I say no, I like where I am to a former Senpai who had helped me so much and now needed help setting up somewhere new with lower grades? Well, in the end I trained at both regularly. Why you may ask? I suppose the reason was that I wanted to give back to my old club, but at the same time still train for myself.

New job, New home, Saying goodbye

Eventually came the time for me to train to a specialist level in my profession. Sadly, this was over 100 miles away. But something I wanted to do. It was difficult leaving friends, family and a town I had grown up in, but it was my dream job, one I felt fulfilled my professional calling.

So I said goodbye, leaving behind two clubs I really felt a part of. It almost felt like I'd lost part of myself. Shortly after I left, one of my former clubs had had to close. So it really felt like a chapter had closed in my life.

I found a club and started training again. Perhaps a little more traditional then I was used to, but I was made to feel very welcome and soon settled in.

Then came I think, the darkest point for me in my aiki journey so far. On returning from honeymoon, I learnt that our Sensei had passed away.

We all had a difficult decision to make. The higher grades wanted to try and keep the club open, but with no coaching experience or insurance, we really couldn't do it. The club sadly folded. So again, for the second time for me, I was clubless.

We had very kindly been invited by another club, who knew about Sensei to join them. I had to admit at this point I very nearly gave Aikido. I felt jinxed, which is utter nonsense of course, but I wanted, after 4 years of training, a dojo to call 'home' if you will. I just did not feel that joining my 5th club in 4 years was a good track record. Perhaps Aikido for me was not meant to be?

About a month after Sensei's passing, we decided to give it a go. It was with some trepidation I will be honest because this club was in a rougher part of town. I remember standing at the grill at the entrance thinking two things. One- is this bullet proof? and second, could I do this all again?

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