Aikido Articles from Members
Dear Sensei Jon,
Just a note of true gratitude and appreciation to you and the CUA Aikido Union, before joining the CUA Sensei Paul Smith and myself sought after an association with the right balance for our Aikido and every other member of The Hull Rising Sun Aikido Club, an association which would offer not only us but also our members a chance to train with other instructors and clubs of the highest standards.
After speaking to various other associations with all the usual political merry go rounds and " my way or the high way" attitudes we finally found the CUA and feel a great step forward has being taken ( not only by us but our club as well) the standard of Aikido practice and instructorship is first class and we also feel safe in the fact that whatever guidance we or the club needs is there for us.
Once again thank you.
Sensei Jason West & Sensei Paul Smith the CUA Rising Sun Club HULL.
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CUA Aikido Union 2007
Well, 1997 was a hell of a year in more ways
that one. I settled back into gainful employment after being a mature student and decided that as my life style was changing, I also needed to loose a few pounds having sat on my bum for three years (plenty of work for the mind, not so much for the body, apart from picking up a glass or two regularly as students do!).
In May 1997 I was looking around Jarrow community centre and noticed a poster advertising a martial art called Aikido. About ten years ago I discussed starting the very same art with a friend during night shift at Westoe colliery, but did nothing about it at that time.
I rang and spoke to a Mr. Stokoe, an Aikido instructor and explained that I was a bit of a large (fat) chap, he put me at ease and said that the art could accommodate people of varying abilities and fitness, I was invited to watch a class, at first I thought that I would never be able to do anything like what I saw, however after watching another lesson I decided to give it a go. This mainly came about because the members of the club made me feel very welcome and did not judge me (meaning they did not show any prejudice of me being overweight).
I started attending regularly and asked how I went about learning which was my right foot and which was my left? This, I have to say still is a challenge to me at times!
Shortly after starting, I ran into a young chap (thug) which I had words with when I had just moved into the area, this chap is now a 2nd Dan in our club and I know that he has changed for the better in his approach and respect towards others, this must of came from practising the art, or it may have been that we first met on an off day for both of us. We both get on really well and I have great respect for what he has accomplished and have had some laughs with him since we started to train together, he's a nice guy.
Anyway back to 1997, in July my adventure in Aikido took a bit of a set back as I was involved in a serious road accident, I was unable to get on to the mat because of my injuries, this gave me time to read more of O-Sensei's writings on how the art was developed.
It was also a time of frustration as I could not get on to the mat, instead I could only sit and watch. I attended a couple of seminars later in the year which gave a good insight to the art and the people who study it.
That was certainly a funny year, the up side is that I found a wonderful art to study with an excellent club and a teacher with a great bunch of people, the down side, I realised that I should have done this about twenty years ago when I was a bit fitter and more supple.
During 1998 I accompanied some of our club to South Wales to attend a summer school of the Shin Gi Tai Aikido society. It was a very long overnight journey, however Sensei Jones and his members made us all very welcome. It was an amazing experience for me, to all come together, no matter what grade with one aim, to practice with other without ego or varying degrees of ability getting in the road of the common goal of practising the techniques of Aikido.
Incidentally, you may be wondering about the title of this short piece, well, I later found out that the rest of the class would lay odds to how long the new guy would last, so you are now probably looking for a lottery win before I pack in. I have some personal goals to conquer, but with a bit of luck and application they will be achieved.
(c) CUA Aikido Union 2007
The first step in a journey however, may be the
most difficult to take. I have been interested in Japan, particularly its martial culture almost all of my life and decided to express this interest through the art of martial art. A bit of research ended with Aikido heading my list. After a few enquires I found a class taking nearby. I won't deny it; walking into the class was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. Everyone looks very similar in a gi or a white suit and for the first night I called everyone John or Dave (only Claire seemed offended) and mentally differentiated by calling people Mr Green Belt etc... For the first few sessions you became pretty bewildered. Its difficult to train when all the techniques are in Japanese and you feel embarrassed in case the person isn't called Dave. You do get used to the terminology. Even names cease to be such a problem.
People wonder why I want to practice Aikido, or how I can manage it, being a girl. The fundamental philosophy of Aikido is that technique, and not strength is used. Aikido is therefore a perfect art for females. Aikido is a non-violent form generally, but is as aggressive as the practitioner wishes it to be (gentle art, Keith!). I have seen first-hand how individual Aikido is. Everyone has their own interpretation of what Aikido is, how it should be applied and what it means to them.
To me, Aikido had become a point from which I can focus, a fresh perspective. Any problems or anxieties seem unimportant when I step onto the mat. I enjoy Aikido spiritual aspect as well as appreciating its mechanics; some people only wish to practice the techniques- it works for them. If the thought of the physical requirements is putting you off, the diversity, which exists in the CUA, ought to be considered. I'm not physically strong, yet so far I've received no injuries (I may have dished out a few, though!).
Try Aikido out. You can put as much physical effort into it as you want. That, as well as the philosophy and expression of Aikido is as individual as you are.
Commitment, Burdens, Distance, Balance, Timing.
Practice starts the moment you get to class Trainees should think and observe proper Mat etiquette always, or as one of my new students put it Matiquette. You should always bow when entering or leaving the practice hall and you should endeavour to get to class before the start. A proper sitting position before the start of class is to be kneeling in theSeiza position with feet crossed.
If you wish to advance in aikido then regular practice is essential. Of course practice times are completely in your control so therefore a certain degree of self discipline is important.
The dedication and commitment is down to you If you do not get the practice times in then the only person to blame is yourself. You cannot learn from books or videos, the only way is to get on a mat observe effectively and put the time in.
Obviously, work and family commitments always come first but, sometimes after an Easter or summer break, or possibly a wedding, holiday, or general break from class it is sometimes found difficult to get back to aikido training. Excuses come in their multitude, "I'm having problems at work," "I'm having problems at home", and I'm strapped for cash, or new girlfriends got possessive, the list is endless.
I found that my Aikido training helped me in the face of adversity. When I was on rock-bottom with depression and other illness, I found Sanctuary in my art, it was then that I realised that I was a true martial artist.
I would go to class with sometimes massive burdens of grief upon my shoulders, especially when my mother died. I felt so guilty when I thought I was enjoying a practice session, but what I really was doing, was engulfing myself in a world were I knew I was safe. Aikido was my stress buster, a shoulder to cry on, my escape from the world, "My Sanctuary"
Distance: Balance Timing :
All three are required basic manoeuvre's to further our career in aikido. If you consider that no attack on the mat from any uki will ever be the same, even if you practised for 50 years you would still not get the same attack exactly as the one before, therefore you must constantly consider your distance at all times whether, it be in the basic format or in the Randori situation.
Without good balance you are at a serious disadvantage before you start, When I teach class I do certain tests when demonstrating techniques, say, half way through Kaitenage (Windmill Throw) I stop and ask Uki to test my balance, he/she will then try to push or pull, or even stand up from the technique. In order to complete the final projection of theKaitenage, I must be on good balance and posture. If I dont pass the test then all is lost, I need to be sure that I can confidently take the weight off my back leg and transmit myself forward into the final throw.
Timing is probably the toughest one of the lot , because if you timings not right then you have got serious problems. Imagine having three attackers on the mat in a Randori situation. From the very start of the onslaught you must put yourself in a position of Authority or you will be quickly overcome and perish.
This requires perfect timing You can say in your mind ,shall I move to the left, or the right ,or will I go down the middle, will I go forward, will I go back ,or will I just simply wait and see what happens, which is when obviously it is to late.
Distance, Balance, Timing are just some of the aspects to consider in our day to day training which as I have said at the start can only be accomplished with total dedication to the Art and that can only be sought from practicing at least twice a week These three main ingredients can not be bought or inherited from any other source
If you think you can get away with doing sporadic training when you feel like it, then you will be wasting your time, money ,and most of all you instructors time.
Looking for a club
There is no other way to learn about Aikidos philosophy and techniques than to get yourself on the mat and train
you wont get it all from books.
When looking for a club dont just look for a school or union but look for an instructor.
Have a look at the clubs and the instructors in the area that you live.
Your main objective is to suss out the character of the instructor and the quality of his or her teachings :
Look for the atmosphere in the Dojo
..that will tell you all!!!
If after reading this you decide to study aikido, choose your club carefully. When you hear of one that may suit you,pay it a visit and watch Aikido being practiced. This way you should soon discover whether it is a reputable club that caters for all levels of student even physically handicapped.
Assess the atmosphere; do the students seem to be enjoying a well-diciplined,interesting,and well-planned lesson?
A word with the instructor and some of the students should give you an idea as to whether you will fit in
cua aikido union
Bills Dream Came True
A grandad fulfilled a martial arts dream weeks before his death from Cancer
Brave Bill won his yellow belt in the ancient art of Aikido in December-just before the disease took hold of his body. Bill was even buried in his Aikido kit after he died aged 77 April 1997 in a hospice in Tyneside.
His widow and daughter heaped praise on the efforts of the nursing staff at the hospice.
Bill himself wrote a heart tugging poem in praise of the staff who cared for him in the last weeks of his life. His family have framed the poem and it now takes pride of place in the North East Hospice.
Bill a former Royal and Merchant seaman, remained super fit until the final months of his life. He caught the martial arts bug for Aikido from his grandson who is a black belt in the art. Bill joined a Tyneside club and was welcomed by the other members of the union. Although Bill was limited in what he could do i.e. rolls and flips were out of the question it still did not stop him from attaining his yellow belt in the art, and it took him only four months. It became the love of his life. He was so proud when he was awarded his rank in such a short time.
It was a great sadness to Bill when he had to give it up when he became to ill but said that the last six months of his life were quality months.
Every year on the anniversary of his passing a lesson is dedicated to bill for his courage.
It was the early hours of the morning on the 30/08/2000 when the geordies began to stir. The meeting place was to be at Sensei Stokoes' strong hold in South Shields at an ungodly 0330hrs (3:30am for those not conversant with the 24hr clock). Aikido-ka from all over the Country were to invade Wales, and it was time for us geordies from the 'CUA Aikido Union' to join them at the 'Shin-Gi-Tai Aikido Societies' summer camp.
With full tanks of fuel and armed with our sandwiches, maps, and of cause our battle dress (dogi's) we set off in convoy to invade the Welsh. The target area was a little fishing village by the name of Bury Port in the south of the Welsh territories. A journey of some 400 miles. Unperturbed we progressed from one motorway to another clocking up the miles, with stops to stretch our legs and check on our progress. Finally arriving at our digs at 1200hrs (midday).
Battle wasn't due to commence until 1400hrs (2pm) so time was taken to eat and drink the odd pint, then off to our rooms to prepare for the session ahead before going to the dojo (an old converted church hall) a little over 100 yards from our digs. As we entered the dojo you could feel the excitement in the air, we had arrived, and we knew it. The Welsh leader Sensei Gwynne Jones 7th dan from our hosts the 'Shin-Gi-Tai Aikido Society Wales' was having a well-earned rest for this session, have already put in a full week before we arrived. So this session was open to guest instructors, and five Sensei including Sensei Stokoe took us through our paces.
Although exhausted from our journey everyone came to life as Sensei Stokoe started the practice. All given a sizzling display of their own style of Aikido, with excellent tuition. The dojo was packed with Aikido-ka of all grades from lower kye to 4th and 5th Dan's all working together to develop our Aikido. An experience that any serious Aikido-ka should not miss. Time passed quickly, and all to soon the session came to an end for the day.
So it was off to the digs for a shower and a meal before joining our hosts at the pub for a few well-earned drinks and a chance to renew old friendships and forge new ones. The place was packed from wall to wall, and everyone had a good night as we all forgot how tired we were.
The next day began in the dojo with all ready to go by 1100hrs (11am) and for us geordies the first chance this year to be face to face with Sensei Jones. The lesson began slowly as we warmed up our tired bodies, but it wasn't long before things heated up. I remember that on one technique Sensei asked us to try and train with some one your own size. I stood there in the middle of the dojo at my full height of 5'6" (yes 5 feet 6 inches) and looked around, I was surrounded by giants, good job my name is David eh!
The Session finished with a good old sweat buster (as most sessions did), with Sensei Jones asking us to practice all the techniques shown that morning one after another before closing the session. After a short rest it was back for the next one, and off we went again. The day's sessions would go on until 2130hrs that night, yes thats right 9:30pm. Just in time to go back to the pub for some light refreshment.
The next day once again started at 1100hrs. This was not only the last day, but for many the most nervous as it was time for the Dan Gradings (black belt). All those taken a grading were down one side of the dojo with all the rest (who would be uke's for the day) down the other side. This was to be a full and exciting day and it wasn't long before those taken their gradings stated to give their demonstration.
Technique after technique was called out and everyone worked hard. First it was open hand techniques, followed by bokken (wooden sword) jo (wooden staff) and tando (knife) techniques. This was then followed with each of those taken a grading performing a randori (free practice) against 4 and sometimes 5 uke's. Uke's fell by the hand full with an impressive demonstration by all, with each gaining a well earned round of applause.
Then it was time to find out how well each of them had done. As expected not all were successful. However, none need be shamed as everyone give their best and it was a pleasure to watch and be an uke to a wonderful group of people, all full of the Aiki spirit. I would like to congratulate them all, successful or not.
I would like especially to congratulate Sensei Jon Stokoe on being awarded his 5th dan (well deserved) and Aiden on his 2nd dan after an outstanding performance, both of the CUA Aikido Union. WELL DONE.
So that was it for another year. But as we nurtured our aching bodies back into the cars for the 400 mile journey home, grateful to the 'Shin-Gi-Tai Aikido Society Wales' and the people of Bury Port for their hospitality we vowed, as Arnie would say, 'we'll be back'.
Absolute power, or so I thought
Holy stone school loomed at me, it was at 3.30pm on a dark winter's night, the kids from school were just
starting to leave, I waited at the Gate in my car for the caretaker to see me in. 14 kids were booked to somehow learned a martial art, we had eight weeks, one hour sessions, to produce a result.
It was a new learning curve for me, normally I don't teach children in fact over the 30 years that I have practised and taught the martial art of Aikido I think that only half a dozen children have been in one of my classes.
Phil Turner, the organiser of this course assured me that all involved were so enthusiastic about this project that it was actually oversubscribed and more people wanted to be on this course than they had ever dreamed of anyway we all got changed, the mats that we had, we set out. the children ran around the mats tumbled and fell, rolled, screamed, shouted and went absolutely crazy.
Of course I had already prepared all of the lessons for the eight weeks in my mind, but things didn't work out the way I thought it would be, In fact after about five minutes I threw the prep work in to my mental bin!!
I knew that I had to make some kind of impact to be able to sustain life and most of all sanity to get through these two months
I decided to take the hard approach to be able to control this lot . It worked my hard looking face (not really) , and fierce hand clap got them all a lined up in a row. Peace reigned but for how long.
Well peace reined about two minutes at the most. It was time To try and create some kind of a game in order to maintain some kind of interest.
That seemed to work I found that if I put everything into a sort of game mode, that may be my saviour, but alas it was not, my little trusts were looking for something more .That something more was Aikido,Aikido,Aikido.
When do we get to do the Aikido, one of them spouted, I had earmarked this one as a potential
Mhhh !!Its going to be hard work getting through this hour!!.
Tell you what let's have a competition, let's see who can balance on one leg, but for the next hour !!!.
I have been studying Aikido now for roughly three months, after embedding certain techniques and movements into my mind, a new one appears. It has been everchanging and I have never lost interest. I have learned all about "ki", and how it can not be explained, improved my movements, helped me focus on normal every day tasks, gave me a feeling of confidence and improved my knowledge.
I'm afraid that I can't express how much I have learnt - due to the huge intake of knowledge. When practicing Aikido I have enjoyed every minute and hoped sessions could have been extended. I have never had the feeling when practicing Aikido anywhere else - all pathways have been opened not closed.
When your legs are tired from seemingly endless
flips, when your arms are red from slapping the mat and your head is dizzy form rolling constantly the last thing you want to have to do is to get up and go through it all again. The role of an uke is not to stand there and willingly get beaten up, it is to provide the Sensei with a means to demonstrate a technique; it is also, probably; the best position from which to learn the very technique that is being shown to the class. Being an Uke places a certain amount of responsibility on you. You must observe the proper etiquette and show the appropriate amount or respect, you must have enough confidence in your abilities to escape a technique, you have to place your total trust in your Sensei, after all the techniques of Aikido can be very dangerous. One of the key elements to being a good uke is to relax; by being relaxed I do not mean the slumped in your chair in front of the television type of relaxed. Being relaxed during the technique is about going with the flow, demonstrating enough Zanshin to read what is happening and where you are being led and about being confident of when and how to escape so as not to injure yourself. It is providing enough resistance to initiate the technique, i.e. a strike, or a grasp and it is about knowing when you are to attack how to attack and where.
Though you are receiving technique after technique after technique, you are in the fortunate position of feeling exactly how these should be executed. On most occasions this provides you with much more understanding of the finer points than by merely watching. Admittedly, on occasion it just makes you wonder how you managed to flip further than you ever thought possible without moving a muscle; and it is at times like these that you understand how powerful Aikido can be. There is also a great amount of honour tide up in being an Uke, a high ranking Sensei will not call someone to Uke who is unable to escape from the techniques as it would be very easy to cause that person serious injury. This could be seen as though the Sensei deliberately injured the Uke, thus staining the Sensei's character. Therefore it shows the Sensei has a certain amount of confidence in your abilities if you are chosen as Uke.
As a final thought for the next time you are Uke. Your Sensei says to you "attack again please" don't think; God, I hope my legs have enough energy left in them to flip me this time. Instead spend the time taking notice of how the technique is being executed, how it feels when properly applied, this way you will learn much more than by just going along for the ride.
CUA Aikido Union 2007