When I started and why
Like so many people I had always intended to practice a martial art and (again like so many others) failed to do anything much about it.
Eventually, in 2002 and aged 31, I saw a poster advertising aikido and thought I would give it a go. I was already interested in Japan and I had some vague ideas that aikido was non-aggressive, somehow used the attacker’s energy against them, involved lots of circular movements, etc.
I wasn’t hugely keen to start with and didn’t train very much, but I did at least keep attending classes, and I’m still at it 18 years later.
What are my main memories?
There are so many special memories from regular classes and seminars with top teachers, but what really keeps me going is seeing others (and sometimes myself) develop and improve.
Training is difficult and can even be disheartening at times but it is usually an enjoyable, friendly experience. When people, especially perhaps those who have the most obvious weaknesses, start to overcome and correct themselves it always seems so much more than just getting better at some martial art techniques.
What are my personal goals?
During the last year or so I have started to teach regularly. This provides a whole new level of challenge and responsibility which I am keen to explore.
There are many aspects to aikido that seem particularly important to me now – breathing, stability, harmonious movement, etc.
I always thought that I understood the concept of using aikido in daily life but it is only recently that this is becoming more obvious – that you can’t really do one without the other. I am often surprised at how keen I am to train now and how ‘obsessed’ I have become with the art.
When things are frustrating or feel stuck I return to the old saying that there are two important things in a martial art (and anything else for that matter) –
The first is to start and the second is to continue.
I do wish I started earlier but it is up to me to make the most of my time from now on.
Why is Iwama aikido unique?
I don’t know very much about aikido as a whole, and next to nothing about other martial arts.
However I am sure that the two equal elements of weapons and unarmed techniques make Iwama style something special.
There is something about the precision, directness and centredness that you can see in Iwama teachers that inspires me and gives me confidence in my own aikido – I can sense that it really is a complete and rigorous martial art and way of life.
What can aikido offer people?
If you really work at it aikido will improve you in so many ways.
It is hard to describe. I still feel like I continue to train in an attempt to understand what it is that I am training for.
This is partly what makes aikido a lifelong, endless path.
How long have I been training?
About 18 years. Some periods I have only practiced once or twice a week and I have had months off due to injury, children, work, etc. but more recently I have trained up to 5 times a week and I usually do some kind of aikido every day.
Where have I travelled?
I’ve been to seminars all over England but have not yet been able to go further afield or for long periods of time.
In 2009 however I practiced for a week in Kefalonia under Sensei Sargeant.
Perhaps in the future I will be able to travel more and attend uchi deshi.