When did you start Aikido and why?
I started February 2016 and aged 31. The reason I started is very simple. My life in Cambridge those days was very simple, even boring so I decided to change that. Having that idea in mind I search on the internet for things to do and, I do not remember very well how, I stumbled upon Cambridge Aikido club website. I’ve always been interested in martial arts (who has not watched or heard any of Bruce Lee’s moves) but never had the courage to try any, I guess I’ve always been afraid of going home with a black eye or something broken. In any case I knew a little about Aikido so decided to try it. I contacted Sensei John, the dojocho, via email then started a six-week beginner’s course. I have to say that I am the only one that continues his Aikido journey from that course and I think I am sadly the last or one of the last students that a beginner’s course held by Cambridge Aikido has produced.That is why and when I started Aikido but for me a more important question is why/what makes you keep training?
What are some of your main memories in Aikido?
In my short experience with The Art I have some, mainly on the mat. One that comes to my mind and that I am pretty sure I will never forget involves Tony Sargeant Sensei. He came to Cambridge to teach a regular class, I think it was one of the first times I saw him. He was explaining a technique and suddenly he called me up. Sensei Sargeant was explaining Katate dori Nikkyo so I was there in front of him waiting for him to offer his hand. One of the first thoughts that came into my mind was “Jesus, such a big wrist, I can barely close my hand” and the second one was how gentle he was with his movements despite his size (he is a very big guy, at least compared to me). So the time came to where he asked me to attack him again, still katate dori but ki no nagare this time. I went to grab his wrist with all my intentions and at the very moment I thought I had him I was facing the mat with the Nikkyo applied and while kneeling I felt Sensei Sargeant did not move at all and that he put me in that position with little effort. In that class I started to understand, I think, what Aikido is at least the technical aspect of it..
What are your personal goals in Aikido?
Keep learning Aikido and keep enjoying it, I know this is stating the obvious. At the early stage of my Aikido career/path what I really want is to understand the mechanics of the techniques and why something works in a way but it does not in a slightly different way and I am sure this desire of understanding will be with me for a long time if not for life. The day I got my Shodan I was really happy and proud of having accomplished something important but that was a milestone in my path nothing more, my Aikido will not end there and as long as I enjoy practicing and learning Aikido people will still see me on the mats.
Another of my goals is to become a really good uke. I have the feeling this role in Aikido is not taken into much consideration sometimes and I think it is a very important one when it comes to understand Aikido. How many times have I wonder while seating watching the teacher showing a technique how it is done? and, how many times some of those questions were answered while being thrown? To me it makes a whole difference feeling the technique.
In a more long term goal I think I would like to teach more often now that I am official certified to teach and pass the knowledge I gain in seminars and in class to the best of my abilities. From what I have heard from people who has started and those who have been teaching longer it is a very enriching experience and you can learn as much as being a student. This is something I need to explore more
Why do you think Iwama Aikido is so unique?
I believe all martial arts and their styles are unique, they all have something that the others do not. Iwama style has a weapons system that complements tai jutsu techniques. Iwama has a sense of always being grounded and centre and sometimes it seems this style is very slow but you just need to do a search on internet to see how many great teachers this style has and how fast they are. But I think the most important is that this style is the closest to O Sensei’s teachings having been passed down through Morihiro Saito Sensei and that it maintains the pure essence of Aikido.
What can Aikido offer people, in your opinion?
A long life study from which you can apply many thing to your daily life. For instance I have come to realise how tense I have been most of my life specially in the shoulders, I do not know why the shoulders. Now for example when going for a walk, cooking, cycling,… I am more aware of my body and feel easily when I am tense so I can tell to myself to take a second and relax whereas before that tension felt something normal. It can offer long lasting friendship through out training at your dojo and seminars. Some teachers say that it can give you the tools to look inside you, to see what really matters beyond the material world we live in but to be honest with you I do not think I will ever be in that position/state of mind.
How long have you been training?
Six years (Feb 2022). In this time I have trained between two and three days a week going to as many seminars as I could.
Where have you travelled?
Mainly England and Spain. I have been to Switzerland for 6-day summer camps under Lewis Bernaldo de Quiros Sensei.