I was wondering what made you all look into the wonderful art that was Aikido. Also, why did you stick with it, rather than finding another budo?
A long story this is.
I guess it begins around the 6th grade when I found a magazine/book which showed a bunch of pictures on how to do kung fu. I was fascinated with it. About the same time I wound up at my uncle's house for a week or so and they had a lot of books on Psychic stuff. These 2 events led to my reading everything I could on Philosophy, Ki, Chi, the martial arts and a huge desire to study the martial arts.
However, there were 2 things my parents were dead set against: one was little league and the other was martial arts. I recollect my father being royally pissed at my interest in studying it (reading about it was ok as that was cheaper than lessons). He aquiesed for a month but that was it. And it was.
I never really thought about punching, kicking or whatever for a number of years until a basketball game. In that game, I was unhappy which made someone else unhappy leading to an event that I lost on points. This led me to think "why the hell not", so I began thinking about the martial arts again. Coincidentally this happened right after I finished college so the parental yoke was completely lifted.
As was my wont, I went out and read everything I could. I didn't know much about Aikido but fortunately I stumbled across George Leonard's "The Ultimate Athlete". He said the right things and I was on my way. It also helped that the dojo was literally a 1/2 mile from where I worked and 2 miles from where I lived. I later got the first number down to 100 yards and the second to 1/2 mile.
As to why I stuck with it, I don't know. I actually mostly walked away from it for 3 1/2 years and don't really know why I came back. Both appear to have been good decisions though.
For myself I had a spectators interest in martial Arts from an early age but never had the confidence to believe I could do it myself. I did go once to a karate class with a friend when I was about 10 but never followed it up!! Now I am almost 30 (December this yr!) and had for some time needed to get into some form of exercise. I had always liked Seagal's films, although I knew the moves are carefully choreographed etc. but had never thought about doing Aikido myself until this year just after Christmas. I had come to the conclusion that yes I needed exercise, but I also needed something to learn at the same time. After all, how mind numbing is the normal gym workout? Especially when you are probably the most unfit guy there!!! So, I looked up Aikido on the web, found Aikido FAQ, read lots and lots and lots of info and searched on the British Aikido Boards web site for a dojo near me. Somehow I managed to get drawn to a Yoshinkan dojo about 7 miles from home, got in touch and ended up going along to see what it was all about!!! Now i am hooked, going twice a week and have bought about 8 books on the subject, loined the List and practically done Aikido FAQ and Aikiweb to death in my thirst for knowledge, stories, and general info on the Art.
I can't comment on what makes me stay as I have yet to get over the beginners enthusiasm. However, I am going to make a real effort not to fall by the wayside!! After all, even now my Sensei and Club mates have invested a lot of time and effort to teach me the little I know so far, and I feel it would be rude or ignorant to just disappear into the sunset after such a short time!! Besides which Aikido seems to fit well into my whole life and at present can't see myself doing without it!!
sorry to ramble!!!
At 8 years old my mother gave me a choice between gymnastics or Tae Kwon Do. Well, I choose Tae Kwon Do. I trained in the style for about three years getting to my brown belt. But I left the school and went into competitive baton twirling.
As I got older, I always wanted to get back to the martial arts. I first heard of aikido when I got into college. My friend said that it was kind of spiritual and that they wore these long black skirts. Well, with that description I did not exactly jump in and join a class. I tried out a Goju-Ryu Karate class on campus a couple of times but I did not get hooked.
Before I found the school I started in, I had done some research on which martial arts would be best. I have had the traditional punch, block, and kick style so I was not really interest in karate. I looked into Kung Fu, but it did not just jive. I bought some books on aikido and they just clicked. So when I noticed that my health club started offering aikido under the direction a local martial arts school, I decided to try it out. I approached the sensei who instructed, and he was real open and easy going. He had a good philosophical approach that included a good balance between self-defense and self-awareness.
Well, needless to say I have been practicing aikido for a year now and do not plan to quit.
What made me start?
Well, there were several factors which collided all at once for me... I searched far and wide for a martial art to challenge me physically as well as mentally. I had looked into Taekwondo and Karate and didn't like what I was seeing there. I also had one little problem... I had shattered my right ankle twice and had it rebuilt once already, so a kicking art was out of the question (anyone with a keen eye would see my scar and target that joint).
In my post-surgery time, I had many hours to fill. I read all I could find on martial arts... everything from Pencak Silat to Iaido to Judo. In the midst of my reading, a friend at work who knew of my quest recommended that I watch "Hard To Kill". That was it. I had to learn more about this apparently devestating self defense system. Lo and behold, no kicking!!! And no offensive manuevers to speak of, mostly defensive. I fell in love.
Unfortunately, my ankle reconstruction surgery was a failure, and I continued to "break" my ligaments and cartilege for the next 8 years. Because the joint was so weak and I had repeated injury to it, I was always hesitant to begin anything that I could not finish.
My ankle was rebuilt again 15 months ago. 9 months ago, I began taking Yoseikan Aikido from a 3rd dan who was an acquaintance from my church. In fact, my drive to learn Aikido and his 25 years of experience were the beginning of the "Huffman Aikido Club".
I failed to mention that in my down time when I couldn't practice (9 years), I studied all I could... especially "Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere." I am still an avid Seagal nut and would love to get the chance to learn from him one day, and my ankle (thank God) is stronger now than it was 15 years ago before the first break. I especially love swordplay, am studying Iaido on a personal level, and could talk forever about Aikido and how it has helped mold my adult years from frantic and undirected into peaceful meaningfulness. I am a yellow belt Aikidoka, I am extatic that I can even walk, much less be a belted martial artist, and I take it very seriously.
Wow, this is a long story.
I am not sure why, but I've always been interested in martial arts. Maybe I watched too much "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"(though perhaps not...it didn't make me want to become a teenager, nor a turtle...I always was a pretty selective little kid), but for some reason I liked to grace and power of it. When you knew a martial art, I thought as a wee lad, you could better follow your own destiny, without other people interfering. I think a miserable experience with Boy's Club(ie, bullying, etc) also fueled the fires.
So, around age 6, I convinced my mom to let me take some form of karate at the local YMCA. That lasted for about 4 or 5 months, IIRC, when I was promoted to Blue Belt. Shortly thereafter, however, my family moved to Minnesota.
After several years here, I wanted to resume martial arts. Near our house was a dojo(in a loose sense of the word)- it was part of a statewide chain, named oddly enough, "National Karate". The name was a complete misnomer- it was neither national, nor was it karate. Instead, it was a highly modified, really expensive form of Tae Kwon Doe, though extremely Americanized. The focus was mainly on sparring(with lots of expensive pads...notice a pattern here?), and forms(long series of techniques performed solo...kata perhaps is the japanese word for it- I'm just starting to pick up the vocabulary)). There was little explained about the significance of the forms, and the sparring was rarely developed to an art. It was little better than school yard fights with a standardized set of techniques- not brutal, necessarily, but without any science/art to it. We weren't taught very well to look for and exploit open areas, nor were we taught very many attacks or defenses. It did teach discipline, and I gained a great deal of flexibility and even a smidgen of combat effectiveness. It wasn't a negative experience, but it wasn't inspiring, either. It was also very costly, so my mom was glad when I quit about 4 years ago.
So for four years, I puttered around, remembering how much I enjoyed martial arts, and wishing I could find something to replace them. At one point, about a year ago, I tried Aiki-Ju-Jutsu for about a month, and I enjoyed it fairly well, but it was a bit over my budget($40 dollars a month was my budget. It was exactly that, leaving me no spending money). I kept looking into martial arts- a friend recommended Kali, and there is a studio near my house, but that was even more expensive. Finally, while driving to a resturaunt, I saw the Twin Cities Aikido Center out of the car window. It was conveniently near my mom's office, but still I didn't really look into it that much- just sort of stored in in the back of my mind. Well, when summer was nearly upon us, I started to feel the need for an interesting activity, and remembered seeing this Aikido dojo. I frankly had no idea what aikido was- I'd heard somewhere that it was about "using your opponents momentem against them", so I was intrigued. I stopped in, grabbed a brocure, and read it. That was part of what hooked me(Note to future dojo founders- ALWAYS HAVE GOOD BROCURES!!!!) Then I went and watched some classes, and I was even more intrigued- here was this beautifully graceful martial art, with a non-maiming/majorly injuring/violence in general mentality(at this time, I'd been a tad concerned, as the only way I really knew how to effectively defend myself would be to attack vital areas- neck, kidneys, groin, etc, which can cause pretty lasting damage), for a very good price($20/month for students like me!!!), and it was within biking distance. I took a few classes to see what it was like, and became totally hooked. The cooperative nature of the class and teaching style, I think, are what did it. You are never wanting for personal attention- if your partner doesn't know how to execute the technique, and you don't know how to, you just as the sensei. Usually, as a beginner, you get paired with a much more experienced partner, and learn quite a bit. Also, you never feel left behind, or patronized. Perhaps its just this dojo, perhaps the aikido mentality lends itself to this sort of wonderful cooperation, but it works, and its an excellent teaching device.
I think, though, that a more important question than the one this thread asks is "Why will/have you continue(d) in aikido?" I think that the main reason I will continue is that it is unlike any sport/physical activity I've done before. Its not like the pretty much mindless physical workout that so many people do. Its very different from "National Karate". Its a very graceful, and beautiful martial art. Its almost like dance in many ways, and to an outside observer, even more so. I particularly like its emphasis on nonviolence, or non-hurtful violence(we need an english word for this), and "outsofting" your opponents rather than out-muscleing them. You don't need to be a 7 foot tall, 350 pound, all muscle gym-jockey to do aikido. You can be, as many of the aikidoka at my dojo are, an unassuming average height, average build person of pretty much any age. Aikido, though I've only been doing it for a short period, is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling activities I've engaged in- thats why I started, and thats why I think I'll continue.
Sorry, that was a bit long,
my early days
Once again, the Seagal movies helped another American find his way into the dojo 8). Also, I was quite bored and really wanted to partake in some kind of group activity. But, before I joined the Aikido Club at my college, I did a little research. The page entitled "What is Aikido" on the Aikido Club's home page was fabulous. I thought to myself, if people really do have this array of attitudes and philosophies in the college I attend, I'm a gonna find 'em!!!! Lo and behold, the next class wasn't going to be for a few days as indicated on the club's schedule. I did some internet searches, and found this little gem of a website (aikiweb).
I read some of the posts like the spiritual, language, and training ones. Nothing captivated me more than the sections on the Founder's teachings. After reading just a few of those, I realized this is not just a sport or martial art, this the way FOR ME, the path I was born to walk. I can remember hoping there would be others in the dojo who felt this way, and not just a bunch of "Nico" (Seagal Sensei's character in one of his movies) wannabes looking to kick some ass in a bar fight.
As it turned out, many of the sempai (everyone but me and a friend who began on the same day) truly had a passion for teaching. Tobin Sempai would never let me do shihonage w/ one hand, no matter how many times I told him of the picture I'd seen of O'Sensei throwing uke one-handed 8). Donald Sempai would quickly metamorphasize into a brick wall if I didn't direct the energy properly. If I screwed up the technique, throwing him was not a challenge, it was an absolute impossibility 8). One Sempai there was several years younger than I, and, after about a month of struggling with mae ukemi, ushiro ukemi, shikko, and even the "static" warm-ups, I finally threw up my ego and asked him if he'd show me the skilz. In about 20 minutes I could do it all, and my confidence was to hit a new plateau thanks to Roberto Sempai 8).
Ok I'm lulling myself to sleep, so the least I can do is spare you all another 3 paragraphs. ONEGAISHIMASU!!!.
Wow... this post got longer than I thought... thought I'd bring it up to the top of the list so I could see some more replies.
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