What are the 3 things you should expect as a beginner in Aikido…

Hello, I’m Erik Calderon and I’ve been doing martial arts ever since my dad stuck me in some classes when I was 5 years old.  At 20, I moved to Japan for the sole purpose of studying Aikido. I trained on average 3 to 5 hours per day. I chose Aikido because I like it’s philosophy and I saw it as something I could do for the rest of my life.

While at the dojo, I often saw students in their 70’s and 80’s training on the mat, and they were training with 20 year olds.  That really impressed me. They looked and acted “young.” I thought to myself, wow, I’d like to be like that when I’m 80! So I stuck with it, trained even harder and am grateful everyday.

So the three things you should expect as a beginner to Aikido….

#1 and the hardest to overcome is Frustration, and lots of it!  Everyone I’ve seen start Aikido suffers from serious bouts of frustration.  The techniques are not intuitive, or are they, and we’ve just lost that intuition…

Either way, expect to be frustrated.  Learn to live with that frustration. I think it’s a huge part of the spiritual development of Aikido.  Aikido is about letting go, and we’re so busy trying to control. We want things to work right now, we want to be the end product without going through all the pain and suffering.  We want to be fit and skinny without having to work for it. We want to be strong without having to do 100’s of pushups.

Well, Aikido is not a fast and quick remedy to learning self-defense.  Just think about how long it took you to learn to walk. For most babies, they’ll take their first steps between 9 – 12 months and start walking around 14 – 15 months.  That’s over a year to be able to walk. Aikido is no different. It’ll take you a year just to learn to take your first steps. Wow, that is frustrating!

#2 You better get used to hitting the ground because you will be thrown around in every class.  Falls, falls and lots of falls. You’ll be doing back falls, back rolls, and front rolls. And every time you fall, you’re going to have to get back up again!  That’s a lot of energy. That’s a lot of exercise, that’s a lot of calories.

You know that saying, the bigger they are, the harder they fall!  You’re gonna have to get used to that too. But, definitely all those falls, will make you lose some weight.   While living in Japan, I’d weigh in before and after class, and usually I’d drop 10 pounds (most likely in sweat..)

Of course, that’s the first thing you’ll have to learn when you start Aikido Classes, is how to fall without getting hurt.  It’s an art. It’s also very important for self-defense. According to the CDC, Falls are leading cause of injury and death in older Americans (https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0922-older-adult-falls.html)  So, Aikido is a great art to learn, even when you’re “older.”  

I’ve personally used my art of falling to protect myself many times.  One day I was riding my bike to Memorial Park and it had just rained. I was cruising at about 27 miles per hour and my front tire hit some mud on the road.  My front tire slid straight into to the curb. I flew off my bike onto the concrete sidewalk. I had a split second to think about what I was going to do. I tucked my head, extended my arms and did a front roll and jumped to my feet.  My only injury…the inside of my knee came into contact with a piece of metal on my bike and caused a small scrape. And, that’s not the only time a roll has saved me!

OK, the 3rd thing you can expect as a beginner in Aikido is doing techniques on your knees.  Sitting on your knees, and walking on your knees. Here’s a scene from one of Steven Segals movies when he performs a technique on his knees, it’s a fun watch:

The correct term for sitting on your knees is Seiza, (正座) which literally translates into correct sitting.  In feudal Japan, there really weren’t any chairs, and the correct way to sit at meals and at meetings was in seiza.  And, when in the presence of a shogun, or Lord, you weren’t allowed to walk upright, so you had to knee walk, called shikko (膝行).    You’ll be learning a lot of that too!

When I moved to Japan, even though I’d been doing Aikido for over a year, they still placed me in the beginner class at Honbu Dojo.  The whole hour was usually dedicated to training in Kiza (跪座 / 跪坐) which is the same as seiza except that you are on the balls of your feet.  It’s pretty painful at first, but I’m sure you’ll get used to it after a few years……

So Let’s sum it up, the top three things to expect as a beginner in Aikido, 1. Frustration and lots of it, 2 Falls and lots of them and 3. Doing a lot of stuff on your knees.

It’s not easy getting used to those three things, and I bet it’s the top three reasons people quit doing Aikido when they start.  Many students have complained to me about the frustration and the kneeling, funny thing is that I’ve also had a lot of students come up to me and tell me how learning to fall saved them from injury!
If you’re interested in trying out a class, learning to deal with frustration, falls and practicing techniques on your knees, then stop by and try a class.  We have classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. Visit our website for more information: http://www.shinkikan.com/houston-aikido-martial-arts/aikido-houston-blog/index.php/get-fit/

Truth is found deep within the heart, learning to look for it is the hardest part!

– Erik Sasha Calderon

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