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….

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Chapter 65: Summary of my journey so far continued (part 2)....

I hope you enjoyed the previous instalment, here is the next.

The first six months are the hardest

My first six months of training, I think its fair to say were a baptism of fire. I remember my dad warning me that the hardest thing at first would be the etiquette, followed by the post training pain, then exhaustion, then having to give everything after you have given everything you've got.

I didn't struggle with the etiquette very much, it pretty much made sense to me-there were rules, and a hierarchy to follow. No, I think I struggled most with the muscular pain. I was used to some pain after having experienced IBS for a number of years by this stage. What I was not used to was the slow burning, deep joint aching pain that you get as a beginner.

It was at this point that the sempai would step in, haul me to my feet (usually by the scruff of my neck) and encourage me to continue. One pointed out, very kindly, that she had to 'go hard' occasionally, it was no good for us beginners for everyone to be 'nice' to us all the time-we just had to 'toughen up', condition ourselves as it were.

I think my poor parent's water and heating bills increased due to the amount of time I would hog the bathroom for a long hot bath post training! It was at this stage I found the muscle soak bath stuff VERY nice-in those first six months I think I went through about a bottle a week.

Sempai - a friend, ally, mentor all in one!

In the run up to my first and second gradings (white and yellow), I seem to remember that everything about Aikido, and I mean everything went out of the window. At the time, nerves seemed to just make my mind a complete blank.

It might not seem a big deal, but for me it was-everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. To cap it all, one of my sempai gave me a lift home one night after training and casually mentioned that we would also be tested on our Japanese terminology as well as everything else.

At this point, I was sure I was going to fail-hell, I couldn't even manage a backwards ukemi and the foot movements? Forget it!

Again, the sempai stepped in. Encouraged me to practise, got the backwards and side ukemi going, tested me on japanese terminology on the way home. Why, you may ask? I don't know is the honest answer. But one thing I do know is that I won't be sat here writing this blog had they not done that for me.

That is not to say they wouldn't tease me sometimes to try and bring me out of my shell! I seem to recall the very first session that I wore a Gi, we were practising sacrifice techniques. One of them, I remember pinned me to the mat after completing the throw and proceeded to 'tickle-torture' me. Even to this very day whenever I meet up with my now former sempai, I remind them of this, hee hee. (This was about 6 years ago by the way!)

I also discovered my love of crash mats for practising big ukemi about the same time I got my yellow belt. Again many thanks to one of my sempai for throwing me repeatedly into them without complaining how tried their arms got! I adore crash mats, there is just something about them that releases your inner child- usually it has to be said by running across the mat and somersaulting head first into one.


I'm not sure about anyone else, but I always kept a kind of basic diary of training. Nothing complicated, more thoughts, feelings etc about how I was finding training. I remember showing it to my boyfriend (now husband) and he thought it was pretty good and I should do more with it.

I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it exactly, I only kept it as a way of documenting learning points during training. But on having a closer look, and with husband's help, I decided to make it into a blog.
Why? Well, I guess I wanted to try and help other beginners the way my sempai had helped me. I wasn't interested in any financial gain, just a sense of being able to hand knowledge on, abeit in a little bit of a strange way. But I have to say, I am not one for following convention. So, this is how 'So, you want to start Aikido?' was born. Born in an afternoon, developed from a training diary that was a year old.

I realise that it has now grown with me, which is an interesting point. I look at former posts and remember what made me write that particular post. Sometimes my posts develop not necessarily from mat experience or from a particular class but more often they come from conversations that happen in changing rooms, off the mat, and even travelling back home. So I guess whilst its not a blog for beginners per say unless they read from chapter 1, I think it demonstrates how Aikido has developed me as person.

Sempai, Sensei

Just shortly after I became a yellow belt, my sempai decided to open their own club. I went along, to see what they were doing, more out of curiosity really, but also because their club location and training times were more convenient for me with work and study commitments.

I really loved that club. I learnt such a great deal from there. No doubt you're possibly wondering whether it was hard for me to accept my former sempai as my Sensei. Yes and no is the answer to that.
Yes I suppose, a little bit at times, because they did have to be occasionally hard, mainly because we were in a way friends off the mat and they had to maintain discipline. But to be honest, mainly no. They enjoyed teaching, and I enjoyed learning-so it was a good balance really you see. 

Sadly after eighteen months, the hall condemned the mats we were using (they had lots of holes and were really old) and so, the club had to fold. I think its fair to say we felt bereft- we looked everywhere for places to train, but to no avail. It looked like our club had to close permanently.

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