In 1987 I was in my forty second year and for most of my adult life I had been involved in team and individual sports requiring a high level of physical fitness.
When circuit training in the local Leisure Centre I met a number of people involved in a variety of martial arts, having for some years taken a cursory interest, but nothing more, in self defence. I was at that time employed as a teacher in an Assessment Remand Centre for highly disturbed, delinquent and abused children. The physical and mental stresses were extremely draining. Under these circumstances I was advised that I would benefit from Aikido and so on the first Tuesday in September I attended an Aikido session in Cogan Leisure Centre.
Being a teacher I naturally assumed, that as it was September, a new beginner’s class had formed and we would all commence at the same level. What a shock I had when I realised Aikido was taught on a mixed ability and mixed experience basis under Sensei Harding. Though feeling like a ‘fish-out-of-water’ assurances were given that progress, with perseverance, could be made in time. Shortly afterwards a Gi was obtained and the commitment complete.
So why did my interest and commitment last I now ask myself. The answer lies mainly through the qualities of Sensei Harding: His lessons followed the Old Welsh Baptists three point plan for delivering a sermon – namely, (1) Tell them what you are going to tell them, (2) Tell them, (3) Tell them what you have just told them, (i.e. repetition.)
At college we were always taught the short-comings of demonstrating and encouraged that if you are going to demonstrate, demonstrate well! And few come near Sensei Harding in the art of instruction through demonstration. His awareness in the dojo ensured that erroneous moves were quickly spotted and corrected, his patience in many lessons seemed without end. He stressed and insisted on etiquette and discipline on all occasions in the dojo and out of this grew a very healthy respect for him.
Aikido through the warm-up exercise regime has increased my subtleness and general condition of my body. When coupled with the special breathing exercises I found it usually most beneficial in countering stress. This also has application for and use in daily life and further encourages the growth of internal harmony and harmony with the world generally. It has always been emphasised that our partners have -loaned” us their bodies and that we must exercise great care at all times in practice sessions. One must make certain that neither you nor your opponent utilizes force in the practice of the technique since its improper application can result in injury to your partner. The object of Aikido training is to learn the art of self-defence. However in so doing there is also stress on self-discipline, character, chivalry and the ancient oriental philosophies. If approached correctly, mind, spirit and emotions as well as body can evolve into a more serene entity.
In August 1992 I was able to attend my first full Summer School and the thought of a week’s Aikido was a somewhat daunting prospect. However, by the end of the week I was conscious that a thirst for knowledge had spread from person to person, like a contagion and an excitement had been generated; the sort of feelings that can transform Aikido into something vital and uplifting. This feeling evoked in my mind an assembly I took in school regarding the benefits of being a Christian and going to Church, and which I would henceforth amend replacing Church terms with Aikido, as follows:
Two friends were discussing religion one winter’s evening before a roaring coal fire. One question posed was “Is it necessary to go to Church before I can be a Christian?” The reply was “No it is not necessary but extremely important that you should if you want to experience the vitality of being a Christian.”
“What do you mean by that?” the other one posed.
Without saying a word the other man got up from his chair, picked up a pair of tongs and carefully lifted one of the burning coals out of the fire and placed it on the hob. As they both watched, the coal swiftly lost its heat and glow and just flickered out. The piece of dead coal was now picked up by the tongs and replaced amongst its fellows, where it once again recovered its brightness and heat. I trust my point has been made as to the importance of attending Aikido courses.
Since Summer School I have a found further desire to increase my knowledge and ability in Aikido. I certainly hope to attend a large part of Summer School 1993 and at a later date obtain my Nidan as a direct target. I also hope to further develop a stronger mind and body to live a richer, more meaningful and fuller life.