One Year and a Bit On…Or, Aikido in the time of Pandemic…

Just over a year ago, I wrote a short article about the reason why I took up aikido and my experiences during my first year of training.

Georgina’s previous article

To recap, the reason I began to learn aikido was because it was either that, or sit on the bench, knitting. I only went to the dojo because my daughter needed a lift to training: I could knit, or train.

That was February 2018. I am still training.  At the time of typing, we are in strange and uncertain times as the country copes with the COVID-19 pandemic. In terms of training of course, there is none, other than what can be done on a solo basis, at home. So, I’m currently knitting……

Prior to COVID, the past year had been a bit of an upheaval in that there were a few personal issues to be dealt with. Consequently, I did not train as much as I would have liked and this has been compounded of course by COVID-19, nobody’s fault, not even the Romans……

As a result, I don’t feel that I have made tremendous progress. I’m not stating this for any kind of compliment fishing, rather it’s a statement of how I see things.

This could easily sound very negative. Believe me it isn’t. I could’ve given up. But I haven’t. Many times I have questioned why I continue to go to training. I can’t give you a definitive answer. Aikido is addictive in a good way. It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but it is rewarding to push yourself in something that, for me, is a million miles from my comfort zone.

I was never one for PE at school, but now I have an obvious focus (as if general health and well-being weren’t enough), I am more mindful of keeping active and flexible and that is no bad thing.

During COVID, despite having a packed diary (not), I have discovered that there are many videos out there which can help with training: some good, some not so good. Recently some practitioners have produced videos of ideas for solo training. There are also some very good articles and blogs to be read and there are, of course, Facebook groups. Connecting with like- minded people is always good, for tips, support and encouragement at any time, but especially at this time. It is, of course, no substitute for the usual manner of training, but it is useful and much better than nothing at all. It is surprising just how many people in the world are aikidoka.

One constant is the ongoing support and friendship of the members of Plymouth School of Aikido. The patience shown to this older beginner has not altered and all will say that they felt exactly the same kind of “wading through treacle” when they began training.  This week saw a brief return to “training”: it was in a field, socially distanced and weapons only. But to see members of the aikido family was a joy. It was also a reminder of the mental benefits of training. When you are trying very hard to remember your jo kata, everything else (almost) disappears from your mind. This is true of training in “normal” times. Learning physical techniques and constant repetition of techniques is very meditative, in that day to day life fades into the background. Over time, it builds a certain mental “toughness”, an ability to focus which is a good thing to cultivate and use in daily life. I recently read an article which suggests that training is very much self care, not only physically, but psychologically and can go a long way to control those “internal assailants” we all face such as self doubt, fear and anger among many.

Plymouth School of Aikido 2019
Plymouth School of Aikido 2019

I did manage to achieve orange belt/4th kyu at grading just before Christmas. The grade is something you “grow into”, in that 4th kyu is my level; I just have to work to improve at this level, which, guess what, takes practice, which is currently on hold, but I’m chuffed to bits to wear the orange belt.

It is not clear at this point when “normal” training will resume, but when it does, I will be nervous, definitely rusty, worried that I will have forgotten everything, but hopefully something will have stuck in my memory somewhere. It will also be good to see everyone and, despite all of the misgivings, realise that I have missed my weekly dose of aikido. I am in no rush to ascend the grading ladder: as long as I am moving forward (except in a backward roll…..), I will be happy and I will continue to train.

Georgina Clarke

Summer 2020

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