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….

Friday, 13 December 2013

Chapter 70: Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back into the saddle girl!

So, after the optimistic last post, the title of this post is quite different by comparison.

I haven't really trained since my last grading, and haven't really trained properly due to the endometriosis pain returning. I was aware of some hip pain after the grading in July, but was inclined to ignore it-I usually ache after training so it wasn't anything new.

To cut an extremely long story short, the general theory is that the endometriosis has returned, and I've exhausted all treatment options for the moment. Yes, I know it sucks- but its the same for any long time chronic illness. There comes a point when you simply have to accept that modern medicine can do no more.

I have been really struggling to walk and driving a manual car hurts, so for some weeks I haven't made it even to training to even watch. Grrr. Even swimming was hurting, never before has swimming failed me but such is the nature of this disease. Just when you think you've got the hang of managing it, it pulls the rug out from underneath your feet.

So as you can imagine I am getting 'cabin fever' or perhaps for want of a better term 'mat fever'. But for the first time in 7 years of training, a few weeks ago, I was starting to question the 'Q' thought. Yes, quitting. So I decided to go back to figure out what to do. As a martial artist, you can't seem to ignore the 'call' of the dojo.

Well, I think I've found my niche. Coaching. I seem to have a knack of explaining something and teaching it too! So I left the session feeling a lot happier. The next session, I was training with someone who I hadn't trained with for a while and found that watching and coaching from the mat side had improved my kata somewhat. So I was quite a happy bunny really.

I also found something which convinced me I'm not doing too badly- I've shared it below:

'On average, every year 10,000 people start/join a martial art. Half of these people will quit in the first 6 months. Of these 5,000 people, only 1,000 will complete a year of training and then quit. 500 of these people will train for two years but only 100 of these people will see their third anniversary of training. Only 10 of these 100 people will make 1st Dan, and only 1 or 2 will achieve 2nd Dan.'

It goes on to say:
'I shall teach go on to teach others what he/she has learned, for martial arts are now part of their life and they shall go on to share this life with others.'

Alright the English doesn't make complete sense but its a beautiful statement nevertheless. So for some weeks although I can't train, and some I can't even breakfall- I can still contribute and train through coaching... its just a different way of learning. Coaching is making me think about not just how a technique is executed but why it is executed in that way. It has allowed me to think about and adapt my Aikido so it works for me without causing too much pain. So although I might be a gimpy 1st Kyu limping about on the side lines- I can still execute a wicked set of techniques. How cool is that?

Friday, 12 July 2013

Chapter 69: Drumroll please...After 4 Years and 7 months...

Ta Da! I have finally, finally achieved my brown belt (1st Kyu).

What made me decide to grade? I don't know really. The subject of me grading to brown was broached a few weeks ago. I normally avoid talking about gradings because I don't like them.At first, I said no, but a little voice said 'why not?' so I said yes instead.

I have been doing Aikido for 7 years now. I never started Aikido to grade, it was just something that the other beginners in the club that had started with me were up for doing so I went along with them. Gradings are supposed to be 'good' for your Aikido I was told. Then after that, we all had our eyes on our yellow belts, then our orange, and so on. I never really thought about why I was grading, I was just told when there would be one and then spend many hours worrying about it until then.

I remember all my gradings, probably because they became such an ordeal for me. I remember nearly being sick in the ladies before my orange belt grading, and how in the month before my green belt grading, nothing went right in training. I was never really athletic at school, I was good at long distance running, discus and table tennis. That was it. So I guess grading became important to me because I wanted to prove I could be good at something physical as well as intellectual. And yes, I know that is not what grading is supposed to be about, but when you're desperate to prove to yourself that you can do something, it becomes slightly obsessive.

I remember talking to a Dan grade at a competition about grading once. I was at green belt, and was thinking about grading to blue, but wasn't sure if I was grading for the right reasons. I wasn't sure that I was 'ready'. He said that gradings shouldn't be a big thing as such, they should just be something that you're ready for. I then asked how you know when you are ready. I always remember his answer. He said  to always remember that gradings are you just demostrating that you are performing at the next level, and he said that if I could do that, and not feel it was a huge ordeal, then I was ready.

So, the grading. Actually, this time was different. I didn't feel nervous at all. Getting changed, as I put on 'good old blue' as I call my blue belt I noticed it was looking a little bit manky to be honest. When I first got it, it was a beautiful periwinkle blue, now it was a brownish shade of blue. Slightly ironic considering what I was about to do. I'm very fond of my blue belt, its seen alot of action. But now it was time to see if I was ready for a change.

I did start feeling slightly sick when the table and chairs were being set up at the side of the mat and told myself that I was being ridiculous. Me, having had emergency surgery and further borderline major surgery last year scared of table and chairs at the side of the mat! This was what I had been working towards and training for, I was ready. No need for nerves.

After that, it was nearly plain sailing. More or less everything came together at the right time, even doing left handed kata. I could almost say I quite enjoyed the grading, which is a first. There were a few things that weren't quite right, but no grading is perfect.

The strange thing is, I don't feel especially excited or estactic about getting my Shokyu. Not like after getting all the others. But this one feels the most right one. Perhaps its  because I graded when I was ready, and not because I felt I should.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Chapter 68: The art of patience and balance

Rather a contrast to the title of the last blog post don't you think?

So, the topic of this post is mostly patience with a mixture of balance thrown in for good measure.
As a child, I was often told that patience is a virtue. I suppose I was quite stubborn as a child, and patience did not come naturally to me. It still doesn't even now, as an adult. Don't get me wrong, I am prepared to put time and effort into something, so long as I'm making progress, I just don't like the feeling of 'treading water' so to speak.

No, this is not a post about my grading to brown belt, more of what the last year has taught me about what I want and in some ways more importantly, need from my training. I have always said that I never started Aikido to get the much converted Dan grade, I just wanted to learn. But this last year has taught me how much I had forgotten the reasons why I turned up each week.

When I became ill through Endometriosis last year, and I couldn't train in the way I had become accustomed too, or even some weeks not train at all because of the pain I had, I began to despair of ever training properly or even grading again.

So why not just quit? It could be argued that I had good reason! But I didn't. Not because I was too stubborn to admit I was struggling after surgery still, but because the enforced rest period had changed my mind set. I found that the weeks when I couldn't breakfall or manage randori, I really began to enjoy the basics of Aikido again. Because of the chronic hip pain I had as a result of the Endometriosis, I found that I had some VERY bad habits but by working on these essential basics after surgery I had a chance of ironing them out. It felt like I was achieving something. There was a point to training again.

I felt a big difference this week. As part of our fitness drills we were doing 20 backwards ukemi into burpees. This time last year, I collapsed in a heap after 4. This time, I managed 12, only because my blood pressure was dropping too much, not because of the pain. But this is where the 'balance' comes in. I find that if I do too much, my body 'punishes' me so to speak the next day, but by pushing the boundaries little by little each week I am becoming me again. I am not necessarily  focusing on grading soon, I just want to enjoy being me again, enjoying my Aikido.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Chapter 67: And...Breathe and try not to scream with frustration

This post is in recognition of this Month (March 2013) being Endometriosis Awareness Month.
Around 1.5 million women in the UK alone have this condition, including me! So please do read the following, there is an Aikido link, I promise....

But before I get ahead of myself, I think I should at least try and explain what exactly endometriosis is.
I think the best way of explaining it is this. All us ladies of child-bearing age have a menstrual cycle. This, as I'm sure many husbands, fathers, boyfriends and partners will agree turns the most agreeable, sweet natured woman into a hormonal screaming banshee for about a week every month. As we all know, if a woman is not pregnant, the uterus (womb) lining breaks down and she bleeds. The cycle then starts again, with the womb lining being built up again in preparation for the next month. With endometriosis, the womb lining grows outside the womb, and is found around the uterus, its ligaments, tubes and ovaries. It can also spread to grow on the bladder and bowel and rarely the lungs. As its womb lining, every month when the bleeding occurs, the endometriosis bleeds too. As there is nowhere for the blood to go, it becomes trapped, causing pain. This blood then sticks to other organs in the pelvis causing further problems.

So onto the actual post, or reason why I'm posting anyway.

Grrrr...there is a saying 'never count your chickens before they are hatched'. How true this is.

Although I had been feeling alot better since the laporoscopy, the endometriosis pain had been creeping up on me again. I was so glad not to be in constant pain (the endometriosis I had was growing in a few places where there are alot of nerves) that I dismissed it at first, enjoying my first run of good health for a least 3 years. That was pretty stupid of me as it turns out. So I'm now back where I was a few months ago now.

Since my diagnosis, I'm finding that many people haven't actually heard of Endometriosis, and those who have, sadly are under the impression that it is 'just bad period pain'. The most annoying thing about endometriosis is that you have good days and bad days with it. Some days I have just too much pain and feel too tired and wiped out to do very much, and other days, I have too much energy. Its just the way it is. But I do wish that my 'energy days' could happen more on training days. I might have a shot at being able to train for my 1st Kyu.

I am not sure how many people there are who practise martial arts who have a chronic long term medical condition, but I am finding with Aikido at least, there is still training I can do, despite the pain and fatigue. Okay, so I can't do randori every session, but I can do basic foot and hand movements and still keep some flexibility by stretching to warm up and cool down. Oh, and breathing helps too with pain relief. I think that the adaptability of Aikido is one of my most favourite things about this art, I'm not sure that many other martial arts would be as quite so adaptable for people such as myself.

So at the minute, its very basic training for me. Little or no breakfalls, with emphasis on basic movement. This might drive some people crazy, but for me, its working. The most important thing is that by doing this, training slowly and going back to basic movement, means that I'm ironing out old and bad habits.

Thank you for reading. I know that the first half was perhaps too personal and hard to read. But its important that people know how debilitating this disease can be. And awareness starts with people being willing to talk and share experience.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Chapter 66: New year, New Aikilass :D

Okay, I know I am about a month late with the 'New Year' bit for the title. But it seems fitting some how.

I am now 12 weeks post op from my laporoscopy and feel pretty good actually, considering how ill I was 6 months ago. I wish I could say that I am now completely asymptomatic, but unfortunately I still get easily tired and still have certain monthly 'lady' issues. But for the benefit of any male readers I will stop right there.

I guess since I have had the endometriosis 'growing' for so long, I am bound to still have a few problems, but these are easily managed with good pain meds and rest. Yes, rest. I do rest now. Being ill has taught that I'm not superwoman! And nor should I try to be. I should do what I can, when I can.

This is the philosophy I'm currently applying to training. I'm now training for about 4 hours a week, but am careful not to overdo it at each session. The Senpai and Sensi are keeping a close eye on me, never fear! I sometimes find that because I seem to have a high pain and tiredness threshold, I can easily overdo it and these guys aren't afraid to tell me 'enough now'. This is a big help for me, enough though it may seem to an outsider that they are being overcautious, they are just looking after me.

Because of this, I can now Uke for others for about 30-45 minutes. Two weeks ago, I only managed 15 minutes before collapsing in a heap. A diginifed heap, but a heap none the less. This week I managed about 30 minutes. Without breaks. So you see, I am slowly getting better all the time.

I don't think I would have recovered so quickly and so well, (to the amazement of my GP) without my Aikido training. Any martial arts training condition you in certain ways. Aikido is good for you getting to know you. Thats how I know I'm recovering well. My Aikido now feels good, and strong, and I feel that it is improving all the time now I'm not in so much pain. I now feel that I've got the strenght and energy to try for my next grade. And I haven't felt like that for a long time.