Why would anyone study something like Aikido? It’s an interesting question in a world inundated with martial arts clubs that profess to turn you into a back-alley bruiser or that dazzle you with tall shiny trophies all lined up attractively in their store fronts. It’s certainly a question I am asked every time a potential new student enters the dojo.
Ultimately, this question is answered by our personality type, our emotional state and perhaps our stage of life. Personally, I think that Yoshinkan Aikido has attracted me in phases.
I first came to this art through Karate and this is perhaps why I have always relished the physicality of what we do. I love throwing people to the ground and, oddly, I found that I also love being thrown to the ground. But I also liked the non-aggressive aspect of the art. While I do want to throw people to the ground, I do not actually want to hurt them. When I started, I didn’t really spend much time thinking about this, I just really enjoyed the practice and the integrated complexity of the physical movements. That great feeling you get after a good workout was always a part of why I went to the dojo.
Once I developed a basic skill set, the next phase that attracted me was the searing effectiveness of the techniques. I can vividly recall the first time Kimeda Sensei did just part of a technique on me. It was the pin from Suwariwaza Shomenuchi Ikkajo Osae Ni. That short 5 second interaction left me with no question about the effectiveness of the self-defence aspect of our training.
These two aspects – the physical training itself and the development of self-defence skills – are common to almost all martial arts. But as you continue to train, Aikido continues to serve up more complex and psychologically satisfying reasons to come to the dojo.
Perhaps the next phase for me was the realization that I could not do what I wanted without a healthy, engaged and willing partner. This was an interesting concept. I needed to build up my partner in order to build up myself. It’s maybe only as I’ve gotten older that I have really come to appreciate what a special gift this insight is. Through our interaction with others, we should leave them happier, healthier and mentally and emotionally stronger. When this happens we would say that there has been a “connection” between ourselves and our partner on more than just a physical level. This connection is one the enriches both training partners. Your simple touch should let your partner realize that they are in no position to attack you. At the same time it should help them to realize that they are stronger with you as opposed to against you. If you can achieve this, your partner will actually want to be with you. This is a unique concept for a martial art and one that can richly enhance us as individuals who interact with others in variety spheres on a daily basis.
Chief Instructor, Shindokan Dojo
Aikido Yoshinkai Canada
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