When I was 14 I belonged to a local youth organisation and every now and then one of the instructors there would occasionally demonstrate a handful of wrist locks, I was fascinated and eventually asked him to explain what it was he was showing me. This was my introduction to Iwama Aikido, I soon asked to join the Club where he trained, and that was the beginning of my Aikido journey, the Summer of 1996.
As with most young kids, I loved watching martial arts movies, and if your timing was right you would be sure to catch me jumping around the living room pretending to fight my imaginary foes. Once I began training in Aikido my fascination for the arts grew only stronger and I started buying many books on Aikido and watching old Japanese Samurai films, I was hooked.
One of the most prominent experiences that I can recall was my yellow belt grading, for some reason I don’t remember any of the other tests, but this test! the first test will always come back to my mind. I was very nervous and excited at the same time, I wanted to pass so bad that my concentration levels were through the roof and my Sensei had to tell me to relax more than a few times before the test began.
I immediately recognised some mistakes during my demonstration and wondered if I had done enough to pass, when it was finally over, the class were all seated before my Sensei told me I had passed and called me out to collect my new belt, this was one of the best feelings I had experienced.
Another memory that will stay with me forever was training at the Orwell Dojo during an Uchi Deshi, a chance to live and breath Aikido for the Weekend, it was a cold December in 2003 and I was apprehensive arriving on the Friday evening as I didn’t know what to expect, but soon I met the other Aikidoka and we all started to share stories and become friends. The training was intense at times, and I loved every moment of it. It was also this weekend that Sensei Sergeant surprised me by asking me to practice with a live Tanto, in my mind I knew I was being assessed, so I focused and demonstrated my Aikido as I had always done, it must have worked as on this weekend I was awarded my Shodan, and this too was one of the best feelings.
When I was a Teenager I wanted to be able to fight like a Samurai, and defeat my attackers with one swift technique, however after 26 years this ability still eludes me. I have come to realise that I now have two very simple goals, firstly I wish to improve through practice as there is no other way to do it. I recall how my Sensei used to tell me that he did not possess the Aiki secret technique or that piece of information that would transform my abilities, instead the advice was that I just had to keep turning up, and that advice is the best that can be given.
Secondly I wish to enjoy training, and this is also very important. I have built some great friendships over the years, and whenever I step onto the mat, through Aikido I connect with every partner I train with and try to foster the spirit of enthusiasm and energy, this makes my Aikido fun and hopefully my partners find it fun as well.
There are a vast amount of different styles & systems in the world today, all of which offer something for the practitioner. There have been so many discussions in the media about which is the best art, I personally think selecting a martial art should be a personal choice based on one’s beliefs and aspirations. For me Aikido is much more than just physical technique, if you do a little research on the Founder you’ll discover much more about the spiritual side of O’Sensei and his wonderful art.
Aikido is great for building confidence in yourself, and trust in your partner. Aikido is a relationship with your attacker, which sounds like a funny thing to say but without your partners energy there is no technique. You will develop fitness and flexibility slowly, and as your fitness improves so does your ability to train harder and faster. Aikido is the gift that keeps on giving because there will always be more to learn.
You will also develop long lasting friendships through the practice of Aikido, classes tend to be small and so you will get to know the other Aikidoka very well, some of my good times were off the mat at Club social’s or during the break on weekend courses. And one of the best things is this art can be with you for life!
I started training at New Forest Aikido in 1996, and in around 2006 I took a break from Aikido and began experimenting with some other Martial Arts. In my mind I wanted to understand the capabilities that an attacker could possess, for instance speed, power & endurance. I have been awarded a Black Belt in Kickboxing and competed at an Amateur level. Slowly I lost interest in this sport and came back to Aikido because there was still so much to Learn.
In 2012 I moved away from the UK and began a life in Brazil with my wife Karolina, unfortunately there were no Aikido clubs locally so I started training in Brazilian Ju Jitsu, I competed locally and won a Bronze medal and shortly after was awarded a Blue Belt in the art. I enjoyed this training very much as it was very technical and physically demanding.
I moved back to the UK in 2015 with my wife and new son Daniel, and after a 3 year hiatus which was needed to grasp the challenges of fatherhood I began training again with my original Sensei at New Forest Aikido. I continue to remind myself of my Sensei’s sound advice “the answer to Aikido is to just keep turning up”.
All of my Aikido training has been in the UK, however I have attended some memorable weekend courses with some great instructors. Weekend courses are a great opportunity to develop quickly and experience different teaching styles, whilst building new friendships.