All Summer One Sport: Aikido

Awkward Aikido with Walter

Aikido [īˈkēdō] was my first martial art of the summer. These sports always made me a little nervous. I thought, “How does that not hurt”, as my fellow Aikidoka participants bodies were getting slammed on the mat. Nonetheless, I headed over to Southland Leisure Centre to meet with Dan Jones, chief instructor from Aikido Tanren Juku.

I first saw Aikido when I was touring different facilities during All Sport One Day. The first thing that stuck out to me were the pants that the instructors were wearing, they looked like oversized black capris. I wondered, “How can you comfortably move around and train while wearing those?” I would soon find out that these pants were just one fascinating aspect of this ever-growing sport.

When I think of sport, I often think of competition. In most sports this is the case, you train and train, then get the chance to compete against an opponent. In Aikido, this is not the case. The goal of Aikido is not to slam your opponent down on the mat breaking their bones, but to have the ability to defend yourself. The moves that I learned were all defensive in nature, with the goal being either to escape, or subdue the attacker until help arrives.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived was the environment inside the Juku (studio). As soon as you walked in, you felt at ease, the stress of the day immediately dissipated. This sense of peace was not an unintentional by-product of the studio. Each member bows, as they enter and exit the studio. Shoes are removed, to keep the mats clean and to help ground you while navigating through class.

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When we started I was a little worried when I saw everyone with their shoes off, as I didn’t put deodorant on my feet. Everyone that I met while I was there was super friendly and introduced themselves right away (they probably sensed how nervous I was). I was then invited onto the mat - after I bowed of course.

While I was not sure what I was going to be doing exactly, but my mind was open. We first began by stretching, followed by a quick demonstration of the technique we were going to learn. I was going to learn how to defend myself from someone trying to punch me. Rather than my usual scream and run, I would now grab their arm, flip them over onto the ground then make them surrender. I was doubtful in my abilities to say the least.

How was I (someone who had never done this) supposed to flip a man twice my size in a matter of seconds? Dan assured me that I could do it,  and that I just had to be confident, then everything else would fall into place. I am still not sure how it happened, but just as Dan had said, there I was tossing this man around like he was a Gaelic football.

“The way of blending with energy.” This is how Dan Jones describes Aikido. At first, this didn’t make sense to me, but it became clear fifteen minutes into the lesson. I had to account for my opponent’s energy and apply a counteractive action in return. One important skill I learned was how to think two steps ahead of my opponent, for them to subconsciously do what I wanted them to do, without them realising it.

While I left the Juku physically drained, my mind/heart have never been so full. Everyone at Aikido Tanren Juku could not have been more welcoming and assuring. I finally understood what Dan was talking about when he said Aikido is more than a sport, it’s a way of life. If you would like more information, click here.


Check out some of my other recent All Summer One Sport adventures:

1) Sledge Hockey (Para Ice Hockey)

2) Pickleball

3) Flying Trapeze


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Walter Woodroffe-Brown