Here’s my third and final New Year’s Resolution, following on from No.1 – Make My Blogging More Like My Coaching and No.2 – Write More Poetry. As promised, I’ll follow up my own resolutions with a post about Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail – and what to do about it.
All this digital stuff is great fun, but you can have too much of a good thing. The more time I spend on blogging and related activities, the more I need to balance it out with some physical activity to keep me grounded in the real world. This became particularly clear to me last summer, when my MA research project took over my life and my visits to the gym petered out. So when autumn came round, I took the opportunity to start learning aikido – a martial art I had been curious about for ages.
I was fortunate enough to discover Meridian Aikido, a club within walking distance of my home (eliminating one excuse for missing classes) whose members have been very friendly and helpful. One of the things that attracted me to aikido was its un-macho emphasis on ethical self-defence – using an attacker’s own force and momentum to catch them off-balance and immobilise them without harming them. The spirit of aikido seems very evident in the relaxed, welcoming atmosphere at the Meridian dojo, and I’ve been very impressed with the members’ eagerness to help us learn the ropes. There’s something quite humbling about having a black-belt practitioner patiently spend 15 minutes showing me how to throw him properly, getting up again and again to show me where I’m going wrong.
I’ve been told that it typically takes longer to learn aikido than other martial arts. Having spent a term trying to get to grips with the basics, it certainly seems fiendishly complicated and difficult. But I’ve also had glimpses of something profoundly enjoyable, even exhilarating. A few times when ‘throwing’ someone has felt more like stepping out of the way and letting them fall by themselves. Or feeling the same effortless momentum being thrown off the end of a jo staff.
So my third New Year’s Resolution is to make a habit of aikido practice. Preferably every day. I obviously can’t practise on the mat every day, but I should at least be able to manage some of the warm-up and co-ordination exercises. Fortunately Mrs Wishful Thinking is also learning, so I’ll have a partner for practice. (Unfortunately this means she can now inflict severe pain on me with minimal effort…)
The philosophy of aikido is that it’s not just a fighting discipline but should be integrated into your whole life. My coaching work often involves untangling disagreements and resolving conflict, so I’m really interested to see what I can learn from aikido principles in this area. And because I believe creativity is a full-body sport, I’m hoping aikido will help to keep me in creative flow.
I’m posting this today partly as a way of focusing my attention for my first grading test tonight – for the rank of 6th Kyu (red belt). Wish me luck!