All posts by Gary Ellison

Beginner’s Point of View – How’s it going so far? (Blog #6)

I’m coming to the end of the beginner’s blog… I think! Not because I’ve suddenly stopped being a beginner (the journey is long I think) but because I’ve probably covered all the pearls of wisdom stuck in this little head that I’ve experienced so far. Hopefully there are things that have given you enough of an idea how and what to expect when trying Aikido. Hopefully it will have pricked your curiosity to try this martial art. I think it is brilliant and I am hooked but you’ll never know unless you try it.

Personally, I would love to train more frequently but life gets in the way. I manage one day a week at the Komyokan dojo which I am hoping to improve but at the moment it’s all I can schedule with work, family life and other things that must be important!

I admit sometimes it is so easy to just sit at home and think “ah I’ve had a busy day, maybe I’ll give it a miss tonight” but then every time I finish training I’m so glad I turned up.

Do I sometimes ache after training? … Oh yes – in places I didn’t know could ache.

Do I sometimes feel incompetent & an idiot? … oh frequently. Sometime I have long nights of it. 😉

But having a good sensei is so important. Good ones understand you’re a beginner, have the patience to let you develop in your own time and most of all, which I find essential, provide support & constant encouragement. Beginners need to know when they are doing well more frequently than anyone else.

So there you have it… stop reading this and get along to your local Aikido dojo today!

Aikido needs you as much as you need it 😊

Beginner’s Point of View – So many Words (Blog #5)

One of things that I still struggle with, which might very well be my age, is learning the range of terms in Aikido. This is compounded during training by having to then associate them with the things I’m actually doing.

This blog isn’t about providing a whole list of terms for you remember. You can find loads of them on the web but it will hopefully provide you some ideas and tips, that certainly helped me.  Depending on your learn style this may be useful or not 😊.

The first thing you’ll probably experience as a beginner is a very long set of Japanese words every time you get taught a technique. Initially this will be confusing but I can assure you you’re not supposed memorise them off by heart at the start… so don’t worry. However, first tip… there is a structure to the order of the words spoken and generally it goes like this…

Stance , Attack, Technique, Direction

Tip 2: Break it down – don’t try to learn it all at once. As I progress (slowly) I find focusing on part of the total description works better for me. For example, when sensei is demonstrating I’ll try to second guess part the total technique either the stance or the attack or the technique or the direction part only. Then, the next time I will try name two bits …and so on. Slowly building up to naming the full movement during demonstration.

Tip 3: If you have the time, do some homework off the mat. As I’ve said, there is loads of information/videos on “The Google”, plus links for beginners such as here, books you can buy, online flash cards and in this dojo we’re very lucky as sensei has made some cracking videos which certainly helps noobs like me.

Tip 4: Like everything, there is no substitute for determination and repetition. The more you try, and want to try, the better you will become.

Next blog. How’s it going so far?

Beginner’s Point of View – When to use it? (Blog #4)

Ever been in a fight? Not the playground type? A proper one? Highly unlikely for the vast majority of people. The chances of it happening to you are very, very slim. However, if you have, you will know the unpredictable, unstructured, fast nature of one.

So, as a beginner will Aikido, or any martial art for that matter, mean you’re suddenly Bruce Lee’ing your way out… absolutely not. In fact, my personal opinion, it is highly likely to be more detrimental to odds of success than if you flailed about like a demented windmill.

This is not because Aikido isn’t a very capable martial art but it’s you or me, the beginner, we’re not skilled yet. If you have to think about what your going to do or you try to direct the conflict into a direction so as to apply an Aikido move…. then unfortunately it’s unlikely the outcome will be in your favour… Only very competent trained individuals are likely to instinctively respond to the random nature of a street fight.

So, if it is no good in a fight for a beginner, what’s the point training in Aikido?

Well, here’s my thinking.

First, remember Aikido is a defensive martial art. The intention is not to instigate a conflict but to safely extricate yourself from one.

As you train, unknowingly your awareness is improving, your responses are getting faster and you’re developing abilities to control your breathing, body and mind. As these develop subconsciously, they are laying the foundation to being able to control yourself in threatening situations, both physical and verbal through the application of skills and technique.

So finally, when to use Aikido… as a beginner, use it to help your daily “normal” life. Let it help you manage day-to-day stressful situations and conflicts by developing a confidence and calmness that this martial art brings. Use the exercises to improve your coordination and responsiveness. Use it to avoid conflict but if not possible, to reduce the impact of conflict. Ultimately at this stage of skill development avoid over self-confidence in your abilities and walk away. 😊

Next Blog – So many words!

Beginner’s Point of View – Why Aikido? (Blog #3)

This blog is a tricky one as I don’t have the experience or the knowledge to talk authoritatively about Aikido… beginner right! I’ll leave that to the Sensei to explain when you try it 😉… and I’ve already explained in Blog #1 the things I enjoy from it but it did get me thinking “why?”. 

Why not another martial art, like MMA, Karate… or something completely different… yoga, swimming, gym, running (which I firmly believe you should only do if you’re chasing or being chased by something 😊) so here’s my opinion of Aikido. Please bear in mind that this is only my opinion and if you have different views that’s fine too but I think….

1)      Expertly done this is lovely to watch. It looks like a well-coordinated dance, more Art than Martial. Expert proponents can make this look unbelievably contrived… but I assure you its not. Even a beginner learns the fundamental martial principles that, if done properly, are highly effective. If you have time watch this – “Aikido, The Samurai Spirit

2)      It’s a really, really “clever” martial art. It’s protective rather than confrontational formulated around very sound use of force, mechanics, balance, and timing. I find this fascinating for two reasons 1) I like the use of applied scientific logic wrapped up in a martial art and 2) When I do get it right (rarely by the way… but it’s getting better… got a 7 out of 10 the other week😊) it’s so gratifying.  This means that really anyone (any age or ability) has a chance to do it.

3)      The tradition is essential. People are so busy nowadays that they have little time to stop and take stock and I include myself in that. Aikido has formality, direction and structure that hasn’t changed too much for a long time. This is good right? Its somewhere where history is being maintained and practiced. It occurs to me that if we travel too fast in our lives we’re more likely to trip (deep I know! 😊). This is a place to slow down, re-evaluate or take a break from this fast, demanding world.

Next Blog – When to use it?