Growing up through aikido

Growing up through aikido

We all initially came to aikido for a reason, whether it be to learn about self-defence, find inner peace or try something completely new.  As a 14 year old high school student, my initial reason was nowhere as inspiring:  I just wanted to do a physical activity that wouldn’t be too tiring.  This is where my training at Te Atatu with Liam sensei and aikido journey started.

I originally saw aikido as no more than a physical activity which I had to attend every week and which consisted in playing games and executing sequences of movements in pairs.  Back then, I had the same feeling when coming to training as when having to go to class at school or having to complete a chore at home.  However, I kept coming back, probably since I had a sensei who managed to motivate me to come back every week.

This small routine continued until one training session, where we had a relieving teacher who kept mentioning the presence of spirals.  This was my first meeting with Danny-sensei and, at the time, left me with a feeling of great confusion.  I could see that we had some spiral-like movements, but seeing spirals nearly everywhere in every movement left me with more questions than answers.  With this newly-found curiosity and my father deciding to pick up aikido once more, I finally decided to join the adult’s class taught by Henry sensei.

After training for a while, I started to realise a couple of things:  firstly, coming to training didn’t feel as much of a chore as it used to, and secondly — and perhaps more importantly — I realised that I could use principles I learnt during training in my everyday life.  As I continued with my training, I realised that the more I trained, the more I could see room for improvement, which pushed me to come back for more.

It was at this point that I faced a rather important decision in my life:  did I want to continue studying now that high school was over?  To me, this question sounded almost the same as: once you reach black belt level, will you continue training?  Although I was nowhere near that level at the time, I had to ask myself: did I simply want a black belt or was I looking for something more?  If I really wanted a black belt, I suppose I could have gone and bought one, it would have saved me the trouble of having to train for one!  In the end, my answer was the same for both questions:  continue learning about it since it interests you!

All of us had an initial reason for starting aikido but not all of us still train because of that very same reason.  We all share some sort of curiosity, a thirst of knowledge or understanding of aikido which brings us all back on the mat together.  I don’t think we all go back on the mat only to catch up with each other, we could go to a local pub for that.  We all have, and surely will get completely confused at some point during our training, until we once more find a way of understanding what is happening and what we are doing.  Just as we change and evolve in our daily lives and in our training, so does our aikido.  It is all these aspects which I believe make aikido something more than just an average martial art.

Finally, whether you organise large events or motivate lazy students, I would like to extend a special thank you to all sensei who teach us and allow for aikido to stay alive and be passed on.  I would like to finish by thanking each and every one of you who teach me, train with me or simply check to see how I am doing.  No matter what level you are, you bring something to aikido and I am grateful for that.

Sylvain Béchet

Roban for shodan, December 2017