I’m sure that for many of you it comes as no surprise that I chose a martial art, the main constituents of which are throwing and kicking, for my first activity. After all, who can honestly say that they haven’t looked at my physique and thought ‘that girl is a natural born fighter!’. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that after just an hour in my company most people are intimidated by my rippling muscles and Ox-like strength. Evidence? I’ve never been challenged to a fight. I can only assume y’all know I could take you any day!
Oh no wait…. I’ve confused myself with Muhammad Ali. Oops.
I am, in truth, pretty much the opposite of all these things: small, submissive, spongey and shy. However, being that the idea for this blog is to step outside my comfort zone and challenge myself – I did just that.
Aikido (pronounced Eye-Key-Dough) is a Japanese martial art where you try to use the other person’s energy and inertia in attacking you as the basis of your defence. It is based around 6 key movements which look quite a lot like Tai Chi when practised but look terrifying when put into action. Oh! And there’s a lot of submission holds and wrist bending – like off of wrestling.
I’ll be honest now – when I arrived and saw the cohort for the session I literally turned and left. It’s one thing to try new things, it’s quite another to chose to spend your evening being thrown onto a crash mat repeatedly by skinhead construction workers. I got as far as the car before convincing myself that they likely wouldn’t want to hurt me on my first session – that would be bad for repeat business. So I turned myself around and in I went.
The first part of the session involved practising the 6 basic moves. I completed this task with some difficulty not least because:
- I did not know any of the 6 basic moves
- The instructions for the moves were shouted in Japanese
It’s like if you’ve ever been to an aerobics or step class and you feel like you’re always one move behind and everyone else knows it, except in this case there’s really no chance of you just knowing a move. “Oh! You want me to do Furi kaburi – why didn’t you just say so….”.
Then there was some jumping and tumbling that, thankfully, they didn’t expect me to just pick up. I did have to do several forward rolls though (roley poleys to my Bristol peeps) – the first time I’ve done that in about 22 years.
Next came the practise phase – the black belts practised throwing each other around, the intermediates practised submission holds. Me and my sensei (Gary) practised moving gracefully from one foot to the other without falling over. I struggled, my poor sense of balance leaving me wobbling about like a baby fawn taking its first steps.
Slightly deflated we moved on to some self defence moves. I was paired with the next newest member, 6”5′ Len (a fireman and former cage fighter). “Attack me!” he said. “Ok” I squeaked – because of course Len needed to learn to defend himself against attacks from small meek girls. I punched at him, he caught my hand and forced me to the floor. Then something magical happened, something that I may not get over for quite some time. Len said to me, and I quote, “Blimey! You’re stronger than you look!!”. Stronger than I look. Granted I look like I’d struggle to carry a Yellow Pages so his expectations were probably really low but still… best compliment I’ve had in ages. I grinned. Then I forced Len to the floor, and so things continued until our time was done.
Conclusions? Aikido – more fun than I expected but probably not something I’ll do again. It wasn’t much of a workout (because I was learning rather than doing) and you’d have to really commit lots of time to get good. I didn’t like it enough to want to go regularly.
I have learnt some awesome moves if I ever do get challenged to a fight though. But I won’t…. because you all know if you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize. Oh no wait… confused myself with Muhammad Ali again. Soz.