Aikido – Day 23
I feel a certain synergy with Superman at the moment. Not in terms of being a superhero, taking on dastardly villains, or saving the world but from the point of view of having an alter-ego. Superman’s is Clark Kent, mine is more Clara Kent, who rocks up at various sports clubs and fitness classes and waggles about a bit. Like Clark, Clara has an outfit to change into – mine is my SofaDodger T-shirt and usually my flattering Lycra cycling shorts. Clark whizzes into a telephone box and comes out immaculately – Clara has to sniff the T-Shirt, apply a good amount of deodorant, ensure leg hair is minimal and that toenail varnish isn’t overly chipped.
Last night, though, I didn’t feel like playing along. I felt rubbish, the sun was shining and all I really wanted to do was catch up with my friend in the garden, having a cold drink. I made the fatal mistake of watching Aikido on YouTube and I wasn’t looking forward to the first of my martial arts challenges. This, I guess, is where commitment and dedication start mentally prodding you. I bade farewell to the garden and went down to Camelford Leisure Centre to join Sensei Jack at TBBA Aikido Cornwall for a session. When I got there, Sensei Jack obviously knew that I was pondering about superheroes because he gave me a cape to wear. It was supposed to be a martial arts jacket, but it must have been for a child because it came up like a waistcoat on me. The rest of the class gave me a warm welcome.
Sensei Jack explained that Aikido derives from the Japanese for peaceful and that 95% of moves were actually defensive not offensive. I watched in awe as they glided and parried attacks, then swiftly and deftly turned them into offensive moves. This seemed not to be about attacking somebody and giving them a good beating, but more about taking control of an aggressor and giving a weighted response, fitting of the situation.
My first attempt was to parry a blow to the head by using footwork to shield and turn. I was assigned a carousel of babysitters in varying coloured belts, who were paired with me throughout the exercises. We moved on each time to different moves, which were demonstrated and then practised after in pairs. Sensei Jack, with his swishy black uniform, was reminiscent of Keanu Reeves in The Matrix. He made it look so easy. Thankfully, I was in good hands, as each of my babysitters helped me coordinate the move to the point where I completed each one, albeit to an extremely low level.
We then progressed to taking down an assailant. Through fluid movement, I watched as an aggressor (one of the poor babysitters had to be thrown around in turn as a demonstration) was either unarmed or neutralised. This was absolutely the best bit: given that I was new, I was allowed to be the neutraliser not the neutralised, so I got to practise a range of take-down moves without having to be flung about myself. My babysitters obligingly prostrated their defeat by rolling around the floor after I had neutralised them – either by a headlock or a move which had the potential to break a wrist. I was feeling quite powerful and maybe I did have super-human strength? These tall, well-built, men were no match for me!
The session went by in a flash. After reluctantly giving back my cape, I was genuinely buzzing as I drove home. A great instructor, a great group of guys, and an insight into a martial art. It’s something I would certainly encourage my children to attempt when they are older, as a means of looking after themselves.
When I got home, I was keen to show Paul what power I possessed and attempted to neutralise him as he was making a cup of tea. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the memo and just stood still and batted me away. He didn’t understand he had to approach in a certain way and move his hand where I told him before I could inflict the barrage of moves I had just learnt. He laughed, put his foot behind mine and (gently) pushed me to the floor. Either he was packing kryptonite or the powers had faded. I definitely should have kept the cape!
Sofa Dodger; One Woman's Quest to Try 100 Different Sports and Fitness Classes in a Year is available on Amazon, please click here