Hitting the Mat

aikido

When my youngest was around 18 months old, he ran at me with a plastic meat cleaver (left over from Halloween) when I told him it was time for a nappy change.  This amused me greatly, I disarmed him gently and placed him on the changing mat with no trouble whatsoever.  However, this did get me thinking.  I am, after all, a 5 ft 3” mother to 2 boys and although I have no problem with them now, they will one day be taller, possibly towering above me. I am not suggesting for a minute that I think they will be inclined to harm me in any way, but you do hear horror stories, and the “what ifs” flooded into my head.  What if they fall into the wrong crowd and despite their upbringing turn into nasty people?  What if they fall into the wrong crowd and need physical help from me and I can’t offer it?  What if someone breaks into the house and threatens them? What if I am attacked in the street and have no help? What if, what if, what if…

Now, I do have a Matt (my fiancé) and he has some experience in all kinds of different martial arts, so I am not alone in this, but he’s not here 24 hours a day and he’s not with me every time I leave the house.  My oldest son at this time was learning Karate and so I decided to give it a go. Walking into the dojo and saying I wanted to learn was somewhat intimidating to say the least.  At the time there was no beginners’ class so I was surrounded by black belts at least half my age and about twice my height (so it seemed). However, I learned a valuable lesson during the short time I studied Karate; being hit in the face (by accident of course) doesn’t hurt as much as you think it will.  I loved the Kata element of Karate, but I didn’t like the sparring (being new I found this really difficult) and eventually decided that Karate wasn’t for me. I did however still want to learn a martial art, so I had a look around at some alternatives.

After being introduced to a whole host of martial arts by Matt, I finally got the courage to tell him that I loved the idea of Aikido.  My main influence in this is Okamoto Sensei (http://www.aikidokyoto.com/en/), who is just amazing to watch, she manages to be so graceful, yet so strong at the same time.  I then watched a documentary of her teaching all levels of students and decided that I wanted to give it a go.  Matt, having studied this previously (including attending a couple of her seminars), sent me along to Azami-Kai Aikido (http://www.azamikai.co.uk/ and https://www.facebook.com/azamikai/) in Edinburgh to try it out.  So for the second time in my life, I walked into a dojo and asked if I could learn their art.  I was petrified, not of them of course they are an amazing bunch of people who are infinitely patient with me, but because I was scared of breakfalling having never done it before, and realised very quickly that this would be most of the hour lesson (and as it turned out, subsequent lessons).

At the end of that first lesson, I knew I was hooked and wanted to learn more and more about this wonderful art.  Now, at 41 years of age I never expected to be very good at this, and after 2 months of attending I’m still learning the basics and will be for months or possibly years to come.  I watch all the experienced Aikidoka take to the mats gracefully, seemingly swooping into breakfalls and gliding back up ready to go again, while I fumble around resembling, at best, an overweight baby rhino. However, I love the challenge and I love to learn and if I remain a white belt for the rest of my life I will be happy just to have had the opportunity to learn not only about this martial art, but also about my own limits and capabilities.

Aikido is going to be a long journey, but one that I hope I will enjoy and practice (and write about) for years to come.

Don’t ever be scared to do something you think you’re not capable of and remember, you are never too old (or too short) to try.

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