Still life in an Aikido Dojo
At 44 years old, there was a fair chance a mid-life crisis was imminent, but there was no way I was going to squeeze into lycra and purchase an overpriced bicycle. No, I was looking for a lifestyle change that offered more than what hours in the gym, or sessions in a yoga studio, or some high maintenance diet could. I had no idea that Aikido offered all that these things did and much, much more.
In the four years I’ve been training (I am still so much a beginner and likely will be forever – I’m ok with that), every aspect of my life has changed. As I start to scare 50, I’m fitter than I’ve ever been, and more flexible. I dropped 10 kilos without trying, or even intending to. Stress and conflict resolution are becoming second nature. I’m referring here to everyday encounters with work mates, family and even (perhaps especially) strangers in peak hour traffic. To clarify, I’m not talking about a vulgar punch-up or yelling match – every situation has the potential to be resolved in a peaceful, calm, harmonious manner. I’ve had a taste of philosophy and meditation, learnt about diet and nutrition, experienced the best massage system on the planet, and encountered techniques to manage anxiety and depression. Oh, and there’s the cool, flowing, dynamic martial arts moves in there as well.
If it has a downside, Aikido is very, very addictive. There’ll never be enough lessons in a week. Fortunately, you can take home what you’ve learnt and practice every day. This last point became abundantly clear when I damaged my spine some time ago in an accident outside the dojo – there are very, very few injuries in an Aikido dojo. While I was healing I couldn’t train on the mat (I could barely walk), but I was able to use the posture correction, breathing and meditation techniques during the months of recovery. Not only did this help me to maintain a positive outlook through a difficult, painful time, there is no doubt in my mind that I recovered more quickly than I would have otherwise. When I finally returned, my body took to the training as if I’d hardly been gone.
So, would I recommend Aikido? Of course, I would. To everyone. Regardless of age (I know people who started in their sixties and are still going strong 10 years later), fitness level or reason for being there. Some people just want the fitness, some the philosophy and some, like me, the whole wonderful holistic package.
But here’s the thing about Aikido – there is no short path. It takes work and commitment. This might be a bit confronting for members of a society that demand instant gratification, but if you accept that Aikido is very much about the journey, your reward comes to you the very moment you first set foot on the mat to train… and it just keeps on coming.