Ei Mei Kan - March - 2008

A Reflection on my Experience of Aikido at University

by Luke Davis

University was the perfect place for me to begin my study of Aikido. I realise now how fortunate we are that university clubs place within easy reach of young and open-minded people an entry point into an art which is still relatively unknown in British culture. With an average student turnaround time of just three years, the renewed energy and spirit that is cultivated and shared each year by those who choose to commit to training is what keeps a university club alive.

There are many research-based sources detailing the numerous and profound benefits of martial arts training. I can only offer observations from individual experience, and while the written word is no substitute for the deeply personal experience of training itself, I would like to address just one of the effects of Aikido training that I believe applies specifically to those with an academic lifestyle.

Like many students, I frequently found myself under a great deal of academic pressure. After having spent a day working hard but achieving little, and with imminent deadlines, I would often ask myself whether I could really afford to give a part of my evening to Aikido training. The fact that I usually chose to train anyway is not surprising — university students are actively encouraged to take part in sporting activities to complement their academic studies.

However, after experimenting with various sporting activities, I began to wonder whether I really was complementing my academic study or just spending time doing something fun and physically challenging. I noticed that competition-based activities shifted my focus towards defeating an opponent rather than towards an understanding of myself, whereas purely physical exercise lacked the mental, spiritual and emotional substance that I needed as part of a healthy training routine.

By way of contrast, the Aikido classes that I attend are conducted in a formal manner, without competition. They encourage a diligent study of the self through techniques and exercises based on natural movements. There is rarely a need to differentiate between physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects of training because one is encouraged to train oneself as an integrated whole. For this reason, I found that Aikido serves to redress the balance that can be disrupted by the predominantly academic pressures of a university lifestyle. Over time, I became aware that I was finishing training in a more natural state — the unnecessary stress that I had created for myself was gone, allowing me to concentrate on my academic work in a more productive way. This is why Aikido was the perfect art to complement my academic study.

On reflection, my experience of Aikido at university is best described by the memories that I have from this valuable time: memories of looking inwards when everything outside was changing, of travelling with friends, of new cultures, and of facing some of my own fears and insecurities and then letting them go. It is because of these experiences that I find myself, at this moment, truly at the beginning of my Aikido journey.


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