2008 training begins

The Tuesday night classes return tomorrow after a three week break over the Christmas holidays. I hope that the period of abstinence from practice has fuelled the body, mind and heart for more earnest practice for 2008.

A break from training is a double edged sword – it can be both beneficial and detrimental. I often find that the break allows me to consolidate in my mind what I have been seeing or practicing on the mat but haven’t had time to sit back and absorb properly. On returning to the dojo I have renewed vigour and my aikido feels more natural and balanced. Also, I find that the motivation to get back into it sometimes dwindles and I need a kick start of a few good sessions to get back into the training mindset.

As always, moments like these are good opportunities to train your mind and heart; the loss of motivation is just a test of your determination and commitment to training.

What is the point of practicing aikido for a few months or even one or two years? Yes, you may get a black belt but you will soon lose any benefit gained after only a short time off the mat. The lessons learnt in aikido are not for ever. The benefit of aikido is in the practicing and as soon as you cease to train you lose that.

I was very lucky and grateful to receive a great Christmas present this year. It is a training manual written by one of the foremost exponents of karate and is arguably responsible for bringing karate to the mainstream of Japan from the islands, Gichin Funakoshi.

I must admit I know very little about karate. My only direct experience was a few weeks as a teenager in a karate club in the Midlands. The most profound memory being given the opportunity to have a bit of fun with some padded mits. I managed to pop my friend in the face with a punch. The punch did little harm but he was close to a concrete pillar and as his head flew back he cracked the back of his skull on the wall. Let me just say that there was quite a lot of blood to clear up. I didn’t realise it at the time but this has put me off punching and kicking martial arts for a long time.

Any way back to Funakoshi. What amazed me about this book was the amount of emphasis that was put on personal, moral development over fighting skills. This was completely opposite to my (and possibly the popular) view of karate as very macho and competitive.

The personal development aspect is exactly what encouraged me to start aikido in the first place. I wanted a physical martial art but I also wanted something with a decent philosophy that fitted with my own. On reading this book I found that Gichin Funakoshi’s outlook on life was actually incredibly similar to Ueshiba, O Sensei. Even their life stories are not that different.

I hope to make some comparisons between my understanding of aikido philosophy and this man’s karate-do in the coming weeks. So keep an eye out for those.

In the meantime, practice on Tuesday nights are now going to focus on syllabus for a few weeks as we look to get our yellow belts up to orange and bring the newly qualified beginners up to yellow. As always everyone is welcome to come along. There will be plenty of opportunity for quality practice and you might even find you learn something new!