About six months ago, I answered a random call out from Hikari Aikido Dojo SA to ‘come and have a look’. I never intended it to be anything more than that a look. I was just curious. But before stepping onto the mats, I was given a book to read about the whole story of Aikido from its origins, and I quickly realised that the philosophies lined up well with my own. Which was no big surprise. I’ve always had a healthy respect for Asian religions and philosophies which have evolved over thousands of years.
I’d wanted to give martial arts a go since I was kid but had no idea how different the various styles really are. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had tried any one of them sooner. I imagine most martial arts have a lot to offer beyond fighting, but I chose Aikido and it certainly suits me.
The word Aikido means ‘the way of harmony’, referring to a meeting of spiritual and physical energy. The founder, Morihei Ueshiba created a method in which to defeat aggression with non-resistance. In other words, to gracefully turn that which works against us into an advantage. It’s not easy. It requires incredible concentration and practise. But there is a genuine sense of satisfaction that comes with improving, one complex technique at a time. It's great for developing a focus on balance and core strength. And I’ve found that training requires a sense of calmness and patience at all times, which can only be a good thing when applied to other elements of life.
The most important lesson I’ve learnt from Aikido is that my purely competitive view of sport is only one way of looking at things. I always played sport to win, but what happens after you get too old? Winning is not sustainable when your body gets tired and younger opposition players keep coming through to challenge you. Sustainability is the key because I, for one, never want to fall idle.
Aikido is unique in that it involves no competitive element. Everyone is there to improve their own techniques while helping each other improve. Like they say, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” I can’t think of a greater quality than shared growth to keep people coming back. The world desperately needs to negate the constant presence of competition in every part of our lives. Person against person. Business against business. State against state. Country against country.
So, if you get a chance, step outside your comfort zone and try a martial art like Aikido. You don’t have to be a natural born fighter. That’s really not what it’s about. All you need is the will to learn and the patience to overcome your own weaknesses, which are different for everybody. Any pain you might encounter will only last for a few seconds, but you’ll feel better for the rest of the week. And before you know it, you could be helping someone else improve themselves.