I just took my shodan test last Saturday, and I thought I'd write up
my experiences with it and leading up to it.
However, first off, I wish to thank each and every single one of you
who congratulated me on my passing the test. You've all been part of
my aikido training, and you've all helped me get to where I am
today. Thank you all.
The Background and the Setting
From last summer until earlier this year, I'd been what you might
call a "ronin" in the Bay Area. I would travel from dojo to dojo,
seminar to seminar, without having any particular dojo to call
"home." In time, however, I found myself starting to train quite
regularly at Aikido of Tamalpais.
From early on in the year, there were a handful of shodan candidates
who were working very hard on their upcoming shodan tests in June at
Tamalpais. For months before the test, whoever was teaching would
ask, night after night, for each candidate to come up and
demonstrate a handful of techniques, perform jiyuwaza, and then
undergo one or two runs of randori. The atmosphere in the dojo was
great; so many people were going up for tests that everyone was
working with them during class and learning with them when they got
corrections. It was kind of like riding this big wave of "test
energy" in the dojo. This, along with a heart to heart conversation
I had with a friend up at Tam, made me want to test for shodan.
In addition, during late March of this year, I found myself coming
to a decision that I would join Tamalpais and ask to be considered
as a candidate for shodan testing. The teachers there were
wonderful, the training was lively, fun, and challenging, and the
students were friendly -- all in all, I really liked the dojo.
Unfortunately, my main instructor at Tamalpais, Wendy Palmer sensei,
was away in South Africa until early April. I resolved myself to ask
Wendy sensei to see whether I could join her dojo and be considered
a candidate as soon as she came back.
It was an interesting week when I finally asked to join Tamalpais.
On Tuesday of that week, I asked Wendy sensei if I could join Tam;
she was very happy to hear this, and of course said yes. When I
talked to her about being considered a candidate for testing, she
said although she would be able to support my candidacy as she had
seen my training for about a year at that time, she said would
discuss this matter with George Leonard sensei, as they both had to
agree on any decision made as far as the dojo went. George sensei
told me he would like to see me in his classes for the next few
weeks to see where I was in my training. So, on April 7th, I
officially joined Aikido of Tamalpais and took off my hakama (as was
the dojo policy at the time for mudansha).
That Saturday (April 11th), Tamalpais had a Shinto ritual with two
Shinto priests who came to purify the dojo. On this date, Wendy
sensei and George sensei announced that Tamalpais had been accepted
into the ASU (Aikido Schools of Ueshiba) association with Saotome
sensei. This was great news to me; I had been training in an ASU
dojo previously, and I was acquainted with their weapons system. In
addition, I got to put my hakama back on (as was the association
The following Monday (April 13th), we held a farewell party that
evening for Richard Heckler sensei who was leaving Aikido of
Tamalpais after having cofounded the dojo and having taught there
for over 20 years.
I kept training at Tam with both instructors for a few weeks until
one night when George sensei told me that I should fill out a shodan
candidacy form and put it up on the wall. I had been accepted as a
candidate for testing for shodan.
From the beginning of my aikido training, I've never been very
interested in the tests themselves. During the first year or so of
my aikido training, I tested four times within a nine month span of
time to raise me from a non-ranked white belt to a brown belt (2nd
kyu). Each time, people kept telling me, "It was about time you
I didn't like tests, probably due to the feeling that I didn't want
to know that I didn't know or couldn't adequately perform certain
things. Some people call me a perfectionist, especially on the mat,
and I was beginning to think about that.
Each year, I pick a certain trait or quality I want to work on
during my training. I would think about this trait when going into
class, while training, and reflect upon it after training. The first
I chose was "openness." The second, "connection." The third was
"self." (Incidentally, this was during the year I left my first
dojo.) The one I had chosen this year was "acceptance."
In a way, I actually started to want to see myself not be able to
perform things well. I wanted to experience that zone of "healthy
discomfort" in which I was doing things that I could not just easily
do. So, I started to train for my shodan testing not with this sense
of apprehension for the upcoming testing event, but with a sense of
excitement about the training itself. I sometimes told people who
asked about the test, "I'm actually really looking forward to the
training itself. The test itself will come, no matter what. It's the
training itself that's going to make the big difference."
The training for shodan testing was short for me -- just a little
over two months; some of the other candidates had had the test in
mind for even more than six months. During both April and May, I
trained about five days a week as well as any seminars that came my
way. In that time period from mid-April until the shodan test, I
went to 19 days' worth of seminars as well as training about four
times a week at Tam.
The great thing about the test training at Tam is that the
candidates all receive a lot of attention. Wendy sensei would also
ask the candidates each night if they had any particular technique
they'd like to see her vesion of. Also every night, each canditate
would be pulled up to perform a handful of techniques, demonstrate
jiyuwaza, then be sent into randori with three attackers. Although I
didn't have much problems with jiyuwaza itself (as I'm pretty good
with the flowing stuff), I did have trouble with some of the
techniques (eg the series from yokomenuchi, ushiro ryotedori, and
katadori) and randori, especially with the change of dojo and the
fact that I really dislike the minutiae of technique oriented aikido
(as opposed to principle oriented aikido).
I was challenged, all right. From going over the basic techniques
such as ikkyo from yokomenuchi and katadori to learning the basics
of randori, I found myself really having to accept what I didn't
know but also (and especially) to accept that which I did well. The
former allowed me to focus on things I needed to work on, while the
latter provided me with a recognition of my own strengths; I've
always had trouble with complimenting myself for things I do well,
and it's been tough to recognize my "positive" side of things. Now I
feel that inasmuch as an art such as aikido will inevitably point
out one's failings, you shouldn't forget to recognize one's
So I went and worked on certain techniques. I went and asked one or
two people after each class to just go through "the series" (ikkyo
through yonkyo) with me without comment. I went through walking
drills for randori, and asked many of the yudansha for their
approach and interpretation of randori.
Overall I felt training for the test was great. It really pushed me
as far as being in a challenging learning environment, and I feel
that such training is a necessary component to a shodan exam. I can
now appreciate some of the aspects of drilling techniques as another
way of learning about oneself.
The test fell on June 20th which is considered to be the longest day
of the year by some. That date was also the Saturday on which a
week-long aikido retreat at Dominican College in San Rafael was to
end. Rather than spending my last week before the test in a mad rush
to cram everything I didn't know, I decided to stay on-campus for
the entire retreat, not attend any classes as Tam (which was about
ten minutes away from the camp), and just do aikido. About the only
things I worked on during camp were the five kumitachi and six
kumijo for ASU with my weapons partner, Monica. We went over them a
few times each day, just so we knew each other's movements and
I think perhaps the best thing that happened to me at camp was
training with and getting totally pounded for an hour by Ikeda
sensei (7th dan, Boulder Aikikai) during training during Nadeau
sensei's class. This experience really let me put things into
perspective. If I could readily survive an hour of ikkyo and nikkyo
with a shihan who was, indeed, pushing me to and past my edge, a 25
minute test wasn't going to kill me.
There were six of us being tested for shodan: me, Justin, Andrea,
Brian, Tom, and Joe. Four of us were in our twenties to early
thirties, so that made for a spirited group of tests.
After the hour long class at the San Rafael camp in the morning, I
ate brunch on-campus then got to the dojo early. During the camp, I
had aggravated my right shoulder slightly so I took 600 mg of
ibuprofen to counteract its inflammation about an hour and a half
before the test. (I'd been doing that for a few days prior too,
during camp, a few times a day as advised by a doctor-friend of mine
at Tam. Whether the ibuprofen worked, or it was mostly
psychosomatic, but the shoulder is feeling much better tonight.)
To be honest, I really don't remember the test very well. Much of it
is a blur, kind of like the scenery you'd see if you ride on the
bullet train. Some of the quickly passing scenes somehow stuck in my
mind, but I can only mostly remember the "general gist" of the
faraway scenery of how I was feeling through the test. (I'm hoping
to get a copy of a video tape of the test which, with the new
hardware that I now have in my home computer, I'm hoping to digitize
and put some portions up on the web for download.)
One thing that I did do, especially during the ikkyo through yonkyo
series at the beginning of the test as well as other times when I
had my uke in a pin was to take a deep exhalation outward while
pinning. I've seen a whole lot of yudansha tests (I think about 60
or so when I counted once) in various schools and organizations, and
the comment I most thought to myself for the person testing was,
"Slow down!" With this in mind, I made it a point to use my
breathing to slow things down when I could. I'm pretty sure this
made a difference physically as well. Point here: you can create
"pauses" in your test during times like the pins in which you can
breathe. Breathing is good.
When I was practicing the kumitachi and kumijo before the test, I
made sure to practice slowly and methodically, although I could have
very easily have done them all much more intensely and quickly.
Whenever I was uchitachi in the kumitachi in the test, for instance,
I made it a point to settle for a second before initiating the
attack. During the kumitachi and kumijo during the test, I tried to
show each movement for what they were and not make it into a
meaningless mishmash of flailing sticks. At the conclusion of each
weapons exchange, I made sure to settle back down into "center."
The one thing that worried me as far as techniques went were the
koshinage. I realized that I didn't practice any of them for the
test as the day approached, so I went and started to use
visualization exercises in the days before the test to figure out
which koshinage I wanted to demonstrate. Chuck Gordon, you should be
proud to know that I performed one of the koshinage you taught at
San Antonio (the one from ryokatadori). To tell you how "in the
moment" I was, I have no idea who my uke was during koshinage.
I found dealing with some of the bigger uke pretty tough. Jeff from
Aikido of Berkeley is over six feet tall, very muscular (used to do
competetive rowing in college), fairly flexible, and quite skilled
in aikido -- in other words, a good uke. This made for some
not-very-effective kotegaeshi on him, but I now know what I can work
on in the days ahead. Imagine that -- learning something during your
shodan test. (Facetious comment, of course. I learned tremendous
amounts during the test, as this review probably shows.)
I don't really remember how my knife techniques went, but I seem to
remember using the "standard" techniques like gokyo, rokkyo, and
shihonage quite often. I think I had to improvise once when I messed
up and I seem to remember having to use the knife for a second to
back uke up to reestablish maai after one of my take aways; I'll
have to check the video tape to see how it looked.
Randori started out a bit differently than I expected, with George
Leonard sensei asking for me to start out in seiza, sitting away
from the three uke, with my eyes closed. We'd done this once during
his class, but never expected it during the test. When he called out
the first uke's name, I was to turn around and start the randori.
All in all, it went about as well as I though it would; I got caught
up near the end, but I don't think anyone had a clean and perfect
randori. I guess we all still could use some more practice in this.
Kokyudosa was kokyudosa. by that time, I was quite wiped, and I just
let my body perform the movements without much "mind" involved. Kind
of like just taking a natural "breath," huh?
I started my aikido training back a little less than four years ago.
I spent a little under three of those four years as a brown belt, so
it'll be an interesting shift for me to start wearing the black
There were seven tests all together that day with me right in the
middle at fourth. Although we started at 2pm, the tests took about
25 minutes each and the last test ended at around 5pm. Monica gave
me a Bu Jin black belt (one of those really wide ones) that she
bought from Ikeda sensei at Summer Camp; it'll be interesting
wearing a totally crisp belt, and I'll have to see how it feels to
have a different sized belt underneath my hakama obi.
Andrea, one of the new shodan students, held a party at her house
that night at 7pm. Almost all of the candidates and many of the uke
were present as well as Wendy sensei and George sensei. We had a
nice potluck dinner, danced a bit, and had some good conversations.
I ended up staying over at a friend's house in San Rafael so I
didn't have to drive all the way home.
All in all, it was a pretty good day.
PS: I wish to thank all of my uke who came up for me during my test:
Justin, Jeff, Monica, Chris, Suzanne, Jim, and Patricia. Also, my
thanks goes out to my friends who came out to see my test, including
Janet, Michael, Seth, Mark, Dorian, Wayne, and Erik. Lastly, special
thanks from my heart goes out to Ti for being there for me.
THE NORFOLK AND NORWICH SHIN-GI-TAI AIKIKAI
BEGINNERíS INTRODUCTION HANDBOOK
What is Aikido?
Aikido was created by Morihei Ueshiba (known as O Sensei) in Japan between about
1920 and 1940. The name "Aikido", meaning "way of harmony with inner energy" was
Given to the art by him in 1942. Master Ueshiba (pronounced "oo-eh-shiba") was
Born in 1883 in a Japan which had not fully emerged into the modern world and
Where many of the martial arts were still taught by masters in the old
Tradition. In his early manhood he mastered several martial arts including
Swordsmanship and various forms of unarmed self-defence. At the same time he
Developed into a deeply religious person and envisaged a new system of 'budo'
(lit: the way of the warrior) which would provide a basis for both physical and
Spiritual development. This he named 'Aikido': the way (do) of harmonising (ai)
the spirit (ki). By 'ki' is meant the creative life-spirit of the universe:
Oneís own life-energy.
Although Aikido is a relatively new innovation in the realm of martial arts its
Origins are in the unarmed combat systems used by the samurai and date back to
The 12th century. From a technical point of view Aikido can be seen derive
Heavily from daito-ryu aiki-jujitsu (which itself derives many of itís
Techniques from empty-handed sword strokes), kenjutsu, jojutsu and sojitsu. In
Purely physical terms Aikido is a martial art that incorporates throws, locks,
Chokes, immobilisations and atemi (carefully positioned strikes to vital areas
Of the body). In contrast to many other martial arts Aikido places little
Emphasis on blocking, punching and kicking opponents but instead relies heavily
On body movement (taisabaki) which allows us to evade the attacker and harmonise
With his/her energy thus controlling him or her.
The history of Aikido
The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Japan on 14th December
1883. After witnessing a terrible, politically motivated attack on his father by
a group of thugs he devoted himself to the study of budo - the martial arts.
Over many years of hard, dedicated study he attained mastery in a number of
Different budo arts including jujitsu, kenjutsu and sojitsu. After many years he
Was considered by many to have abilities unrivalled by anyone. In spite of his
Unsurpassed knowledge and experience in budo he grew increasingly disillusioned
With the ego driven competitiveness and aggressiveness of the martial arts. He
Began to focus more on the spiritual aspects of budo. By melding his martial
Training with his philosophical ideologies Aikido was formed. O-Sensei continued
To teach Aikido even into his old age, and was still giving demonstrations at
Age 86, shortly before his death. Because of his outstanding contributions to
Japan and other countries through his teachings the Japanese government honoured
him posthumously by declaring him a Sacred National Treasure of Japan.
The principles of Aikido
Aikido is a weapon less system designed soley for self-defence. It is essentially
non-violent and, as conceived by its creator, non-competitive. Force is never
Opposed by force. By means of circular movement the attacker's force is diverted
And exploited to one's advantage despite the aggressor's strength, weight or
Size. A variety of techniques may be applied to the attacker's joints; but
Although these can be extremely painful and induce immediate submission, they
Are not aimed at causing injury. Thus it is perhaps the most subtle and graceful
Of the various martial arts. Through development of posture, movement,
Coordination, and internal energy (ki), it leads to improved physical health and
Greater awareness. Aikido training is cooperative, not competitive: techniques
Are learned through practice with a partner, not an opponent. As such, Aikido is
Suitable for people of all ages and sizes: the only requirements for starting
Are some loose clothing (e.g. T-shirt and running trousers) and willingness to
Try it out.
A way to defend yourself against various forms of attack.
Improve fitness, flexibility and general health.
Improve your self-confidence.
Increase stamina and speed of response.
Enjoy non-competitive training in a friendly atmosphere.
Who can practice Aikido?
Since Aikido techniques do not call for physical strength or aggressive spirit,
People off all ages or physical make-up practise it, by women just as
Well as by men. ANYONE! Any age, any sex, any height, any weight. Since Aikido
Relies solely on body movement and not strength, and then the techniques can be
Learned by anyone. Aikido offers a versatile and effective method of
Self-defence which may recommend itself to those for whom the more aggressive or
Competitive martial arts have less appeal.
What will I learn?
Aikido techniques are characterised by flowing movements. The fractioned will
Learn how to move off the line of an attack, blend with a strike and re-direct
Its force, often finishing with a throw, locks or pin. Defences against a great
Many forms of attack are taught and a study of both sword and stick arts are an
Integral part of the training.
Where Can I learn Aikido?
Shin-Gi-Tai style Aikido is taught at the Norman Centre Bignold Road Norwich and at The Ishinryu Dojo at Caston Watton Norfolk. The Instructors/Teachers are: Sensei Steve Fyffe (3rd Dan) and Sensei Liz Freeman (2nd Dan). Both are fully qualified Teachers in their field.
Contact Numbers: The Norman Centre (01603) 408140
The Ishinryu Dojo: (01953) 483795
Steve: (01603) 401846
Please contact the above numbers for details of training times: and any other questions you may have.
Do you have competitions in Aikido?
Unlike other arts Aikido has very little in the way of competition. The founder
felt that any notion of competition with itís intrinsic ideas of conflict,
Winners and losers (and their egos) would be incompatible with the non-partisan
Ideals of Aikido. And whilst this is not the only point of view on the subject
It is probably the one most Aikido clubs adhere to. Another reason that Aikido
Does not (on the whole) have competitions is due to the extremely dangerous
Nature of some of the techniques that would be employed in even a controlled
The benefits of Aikido Practice
Since Aikido is based on full and natural body movement, it exercises every limb
And joint of the body. Flexibility, muscle tone, coordination and quick
Reactions are all developed. It does not demand unnatural bodybuilding
Preparation, but is an absorbing way to keep fit along natural lines and within
a framework of aesthetic movement.
As we get older we lose the flexibility of out joints at an alarming rate.
Aikido is an excellent way of restoring and preserving a supple healthy body.
Moreover, there should be enough expenditure of energy in an Aikido practice to
Stimulate the heart and give it plenty of exercise.
Aikido is essentially a method of self-defence so that through regular practice
One will acquire a sound basis of agile movement and speed of reaction which
Should prove useful if the occasion ever demanded it in real life.
Can I practice another martial art whilst still practising Aikido?
Yes you can train in other martial arts at the same time but you also have to be
Careful that you donít spread yourself too thin. As mentioned before attaining
Proficiency in Aikido can be time consuming. Whilst people can train as often or
As little as they want a minimum of two practices a week is recommended. To
Train in other martial arts would therefore entail practising four or five times
a week, which may be too much for anyone other than the really dedicated. There
Is also fairly strong consensus among some instructors that one should pursue a
Given style at least until dan grade level. Without such a solid base in one
Martial art it may become easy to get confused thus hindering youíre advancement
In both of your chosen arts.
Where Can I find out more about Aikido?
There are many ways of finding out more about Aikido. The Internet is a good way although; you may find yourself becoming confused owing to the thousands of websites on the subject. If you would like to find my website type my name and follow that with aikido.
Steve fyffe aikido
Type the above in to your search engine and you should find the correct comunigate website relating to the Norfolk and Norwich Shin-Gi-Tai Aikikai.
There are also many books on the subject consult your local Library for information.
Of all the martial arts Aikido is perhaps the most associated with the spiritual
aspects of budo (martial ways), this a most likely due to the fact that in his
Later years the founder became increasingly religious becoming more devoted to
Buddhism and Shinto and this became manifest through his emphasis on harmony,
peace and the resolution of conflict by non-violent meansí i.e. talking. This is
Still seen in modern day Aikido though different schools of Aikido place varying
Degrees of emphasis it. Despite its connotations with peace harmony etc. Aikido
Can, when applied correctly, be a truly devastating form of self-defence.
Aikido, like all other martial arts, promotes the ideals of self-growth,
Improvement and respect for not only yourself but also everything else around you.
In common with other Oriental philosophies (and indeed with modern science)
Aikido teaches that there is no real separation between that which is body and
That which is mind. In subjecting our bodies to the precise discipline of Aikido
We may eventually influence our minds for the good: creating an inner calm and
Balance that may be carried into our daily lives, helping us to become better
And more effective people.
"True budo is the way of great harmony and great love for all beings" wrote
Ueshiba. That he meant Aikido to be much more than a method of self-defence is
Conveyed in his words: "I want considerate people to listen to the voice of
Aikido. It is not for correcting others; it is for correcting your own mind".
IN NEED OF SELF DEFENCE
CONFIDENCE AND FITNESS
PRACTICE AIKIDO AND
NOTICE THE DIFFERENCE
Invasion of the Welsh
It was the early hours of the morning on the 30/08/2000 when the geordies began to stir. The meeting place was to be at Sensei Stokoe's strong hold in South Shields, at an ungodly 0330hrs (3:30am for those not conversant with the 24hr clock). Aikido-ka from all over the Country were to invade Wales, and it was time for us geordies from the 'CUA Aikido Union' to join them at the 'Shin-Gi-Tai Aikido Societies' summer camp.
With full tanks of fuel and armed with our sandwiches, maps, and of cause our battle dress (dogi) we set off in convoy to invade the Welsh. The target area was a little fishing village by the name of Bury Port in the south of the Welsh territories - a journey of some 400 miles. Unperturbed we progressed from one motorway to another clocking up the miles, with stops to stretch our legs and check on our progress. Finally arriving at our digs at 1200hrs (midday).
Battle wasn't due to commence until 1400hrs (2pm) so time was taken to eat and drink the odd pint, then off to our rooms to prepare for the session ahead before going to the dojo (an old converted church hall) a little over 100 yards from our digs. As we entered the dojo you could feel the excitement in the air, we had arrived, and we knew it. The Welsh leader Sensei Gwynne Jones (7th dan) from our hosts the 'Shin-Gi-Tai Aikido Society Wales' was having a well-earned rest for this session, having already put in a full week before we arrived. So this session was open to guest instructors, and five Sensei, including Sensei Stokoe took us through our paces.
Although exhausted from our journey everyone came to life as Sensei Stokoe started the practice. All the Sensei gave a sizzling display of their own style of Aikido, with excellent tuition. The dojo was packed with Aikido-ka of all grades from lower kyu to 4th and 5th Dan's all working together to develop our Aikido. An experience that any serious Aikido-ka should not miss. Time passed quickly, and all to soon the session came to an end for the day.
So it was off to the digs for a shower and a meal before joining our hosts at the pub for a few well-earned drinks, and a chance to renew old friendships and forge new ones. The place was packed from wall to wall, and everyone had a good night as we all forgot how tired we were.
The next day began in the dojo with all ready to go by 1100hrs (11am) and for us geordies the first chance this year to be face to face with Sensei Jones. The lesson began slowly as we warmed up our tired bodies, but it wasn't long before things heated up. I remember that on one technique Sensei asked us to try and train with some one your own size. I stood there in the middle of the dojo at my full height of 5'6" (yes 5 feet 6 inches) and looked around, I was surrounded by giants, good job my name is David eh!
The Session finished with a good old sweat buster (as most sessions did), with Sensei Jones asking us to practice all the techniques shown that morning one after another before closing the session. After a short rest it was back for the next one, and off we went again. The day's sessions would go on until 2130hrs that night, yes that's right, 9:30pm. Just in time to go back to the pub for some light refreshment.
The following day once again started at 1100hrs. This was not only the last day, but for many the most nervous as it was time for the Dan Gradings (black belt). All those taken a grading were down one side of the dojo with all the rest (who would be uke for the day) down the other side. This was to be a full and exciting day and it wasn't long before those taken their gradings stated to give their demonstration.
Technique after technique was called out and everyone worked hard. First it was open hand techniques, followed by bokken (wooden sword), jo (wooden staff), and tando (knife) techniques. This was then followed with each of those taken a grading performing a randori (free practice) against 4 and sometimes 5 uke's. Uke fell by the hand-full with an impressive demonstration by all, with each gaining a well earned round of applause.
Then it was time to find out how well each of them had done. As expected not all were successful. However, none need be shamed as everyone give their best and it was a pleasure to watch and be an uke to a wonderful group of people, all full of the Aiki spirit. I would like to congratulate them all, successful or not.
I would like especially to congratulate Sensei Jon Stokoe on being awarded his 5th dan (well deserved) and Aiden on his 2nd dan after an outstanding performance, both of the CUA Aikido Union. WELL DONE.
So that was it for another year. But as we nurtured our aching bodies back into the cars for the 400 mile journey home, grateful to the 'Shin-Gi-Tai Aikido Society Wales' and the people of Bury Port for their hospitality we vowed, as Arnie would say, 'we'll be back'.
Dave Nergaard Snr coach to CUA
CUA Aikido Union
What Odds the Big Guy Now?
Well, 1997 was a hell of a year in more ways that one. I settled back into gainful employment after being a mature student and decided that as my life style was changing, I also needed to loose a few pounds having sat on my bum for three years (plenty of work for the mind, not so much for the body, apart from picking up a glass or two regularly as students do!).
In May 1997 I was looking around Jarrow community centre and noticed a poster advertising a martial art called Aikido. About ten years ago I discussed starting the very same art with a friend during night shift at Westoe colliery, but did nothing about it at that time.
I rang and spoke to a Mr. Stokoe, an Aikido instructor and explained that I was a bit of a large (fat) chap, he put me at ease and said that the art could accommodate people of varying abilities and fitness, I was invited to watch a class, at first I thought that I would never be able to do anything like what I saw, however after watching another lesson I decided to give it a go. This mainly came about because the members of the club made me feel very welcome and did not judge me (meaning they did not show any prejudice of me being overweight).
I started attending regularly and asked how I went about learning which was my right foot and which was my left? This, I have to say still is a challenge to me at times!
Shortly after starting, I ran into a young chap (thug) which I had words with when I had just moved into the area, this chap is now a 2nd Dan in our club and I know that he has changed for the better in his approach and respect towards others, this must of came from practising the art, or it may have been that we first met on an off day for both of us. We both get on really well and I have great respect for what he has accomplished and have had some laughs with him since we started to train together, he's a nice guy.
Anyway back to 1997, in July my adventure in Aikido took a bit of a set back as I was involved in a serious road accident, I was unable to get on to the mat because of my injuries, this gave me time to read more of O-Sensei's writings on how the art was developed.
It was also a time of frustration as I could not get on to the mat, instead I could only sit and watch. I attended a couple of seminars later in the year which gave a good insight to the art and the people who study it.
That was certainly a funny year, the up side is that I found a wonderful art to study with an excellent club and a teacher with a great bunch of people, the down side, I realised that I should have done this about twenty years ago when I was a bit fitter and more supple. During 1998 I accompanied some of our club to South Wales to attend a summer school of the Shin Gi Tai Aikido society. It was a very long overnight journey, however Sensei Jones and his members made us all very welcome. It was an amazing experience for me, to all come together, no matter what grade with one aim, to practice with other without ego or varying degrees of ability getting in the road of the common goal of practising the techniques of Aikido.
Incidentally, you may be wondering about the title of this short piece, well, I later found out that the rest of the class would lay odds to how long the new guy would last, so you are now probably looking for a lottery win before I pack in. I have some personal goals to conquer, but with a bit of luck and application they will be achieved.
CUA Aikido Union