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This was written by request for Sensei Ken Robson upon completing my 3rd Dan test. I thought it was a crap idea until I started writing.
‘No matter what it is, there is nothing that cannot be done. If one manifests the determination, he can move heaven and earth if he pleases. But because man is pluckless, he cannot set his mind to it. Moving heaven and earth without putting forth effort is simply a matter of concentration'
In this paper I intend to discuss Aikido in terms of many different criteria. Aikido has become the hub of my wheel (as per the instructions of Soke Stratton) and has shown me a discipline that has empowered me in my daily life. Technique has made thought patterns in my head that have proven their worth physically and mentally, in dealing with an ever more vulgar society. Bushido has taught me a great deal about how to conduct myself on and off the mat.
I remember watching my first class in castle hall in August 1997. I was a school leaver and going through a great deal of changes. I remember taking my first class there and meeting Soke Stratton. I remember making a decision to train with commitment from the start. Aikido had a worth that was obvious to me consciously. Physically and mentally it would make me a better person. There was also worth that was attractive to me subconsciously. The root of Aikido was benevolence, and humility. That is how I want to live my life. I have a long way to go.
The practice of Aikido, in the Shudokan, is based largely on discipline and repetition. Through this conditioning we cultivate our bodies and minds. Over time this affects our whole being. On every level, from thick wrists to callused feet, from picnics to facing adversity and doing what is necessary, Aikido has affected me.
‘When someone is giving you his opinion, you should receive it with deep gratitude even though it is worthless.' (Hagakure)
As a professional doorman, working life can throw some very specific challenges at you, as well as various other (usually breakable) projectiles. Bridging the gap between the mat and the door has been a very personal challenge. I think this is the case for all martial artists, and martial arts. Besides combat, the way with which you conduct yourself can always sway a situation. Conduct yourself without Ego, and with humility, etiquette, and awareness and you can verbally overcome most problems without physical intervention. I can't think of a more ‘Aiki' way to do things. "Always have the courage of your conviction" was a phrase I heard many times from Soke Stratton. This is invaluable advice to doormen. The principles of technique even would come second to this.
There is a comradery that can only be found on the mat, and after in the bar. The ‘Shudokan family' has always been just that to me. A loyalty has developed to the Shudokan that exceeds the norm for a club or sporting organisation. I have found long lasting friends and experienced occasions that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
‘I shall be guilty of gross injustice to historical truth if my words give one a very low opinion of the status of women under Bushido. I do not hesitate to state the she was not treated as mans equal; but, until we learn to discriminate between differences and inequalities, there will always be misunderstanding on the subject" (Bushido -- Soul of Japan)
The 21st century man faces some unusual challenges. After the last century the male role model is a confused and dangerous talking point. Most avoid the subject because generally people get defensive and reactionary when addressing issues like chauvinism and gender conduct. The result of this is that our own etiquette has been all but forgotten. This is a dire situation. Chivalry was an important part of the male upbringing, which has been swept aside with sexism and bigotry. As a result of this dilution you have a society with a reduced number of balanced men and a growing number of emasculated and over-masculated men.
‘Chivalry is a flower no less indigenous to the soil of Japan than it's emblem, the cherry blossom…. So the light of chivalry, which was a child of feudalism still illuminates our moral path…..' (Bushido -- Soul of Japan)
So in this confusing time we can look to bushido as a guide so we might treat all others with respect and courtesy. I owe this knowledge and constant search to Aikido.
It is my honest opinion that the children of Barnstaple have benefited massively from our junior class. Many of the students that we have had have come a very long way and found, in training, a safe place to be. They have come to us and found companionship, fun, and discipline under one roof.
To the best of my ability then I have put Aikido at the centre of my life, and it has taken me all around the world, it has broadened my mind, it has brought lifelong friends together, and it has probably saved my self and others from harm. I will endeavour to improve.