We all need a hobby, I’ve been doing Aikido for about seven years now, it’s something I was introduced to by a colleague. Since that day, I’ve trained in a number of different dojos and environments, some of which were inside, outside, on mats that were soft and mats that were hard, even on ice. Whether it be in a school, a sports centre or the elements themselves, despite their differences the pursuit is always in the name of self-mastery. Taking people who may lack physical intelligence and cultivating it, or providing an opportunity to those blessed with an abundance of talent and receiving the direction needed to overcome conceit.
When you move so far outside of your comfort zone, everything else seems easy by comparison.
It was by choice and remains as one of the most powerful transformational periods of my life. That fine line between obsession and discipline is often quite hard to discern, especially if you don’t get a glimpse of the wider context. A good teacher always provides the opportunity for reflection via access to different perspectives.
Years passed and I joined a new dojo. The martial art was the same but the approach was different. The instructor was female for a start, which is something that I’ve come to appreciate in my career and extra-curricular activities. Advancement through the ranking system was, again, regulated, and followed a syllabus which was adhered to internationally by various affiliates. We’d go abroad and train with people from different countries, gleaning insight into how the same pursuit could be approached in so many different ways. Standardisation is notoriously difficult to achieve when conflicting interests begin to emerge. On one hand, the traditional art must be kept alive and, on the other, it needs to change with the times and advance in accordance with the findings of modern research. If not, it becomes an adherence to ceremony rather than the pursuit of a dynamic art.
Herein lies the problem, and also a solution. I was recently invited to attend an instructor training course in Nottingham with a view to starting down the path of qualifying for greater responsibility on the mats. All sorts of things were coming to light in terms of health and safety, social management of members, the delivery, in a pedagogical context, of techniques and how, in general, to improve the student experience. It’s a world apart from what I’m used to in the lecture theatre and the insights it has provided are nothing short of earth shattering.
Taking care of juniors
For starters, in younger people (I’m 32), the growth plates in the skeleton do not set until around the age of 25. For that reason alone, locks should not be done on juniors, or rather they should not be attempting to perform locks on each other. There is the potential for damage which doesn’t become manifest until much later in life, during when it could appear as compromised growth in an arm/elbow/knee etc… – The focus should be on the experience and cultivating abilities such as hand/eye coordination, adherence to form and having fun. The concept of a junior blackbelt is frowned upon in many circles as it’s scientifically impossible for someone of a younger age to have full awareness, in terms of proprioception, of how their body moves. Growth spurts ensure that skeletal symmetry is rarely consistent and that, due to the lack of high impact adult training, exposure to what the art offers at a more accomplished end of the spectrum remains out of reach.
I’m looking forward to what the future holds as the art continues to evolve and, happily, for what seems to be a rare occurence for me, I’m in the right place at the right time. I realise this isn’t in keeping with most of the content on my blog but it remains as an important part of my identitfy/life at this time. Virtual Reality and martial arts seem a world apart but they’re both exciting, interesting and complicated states of affair.
See you soon.