By Dunken Francis.

At as social gathering the other day, someone asked me the question “Why do you practice Aikido?”

As usual I fell back on my standard response “I started very young and I guess it has become a habit” but since then I have found myself going over that conversation in my mind and wondering if the answer I gave was entirely true.

It’s true, I was lucky enough to have moved to the end of the road where the famous “Hut Dojo” was located, so from the age of about ten I had arguably one of the best Aikido masters in the country (The legendary H W Foster sensei) on my doorstep, but what has kept me practicing, training and in more recent times teaching, day after day, week after week?

The more I thought about this, the more reasons I came up with –  So I made a list:

  1. It keeps me fit.  Yes, obvious I know, but on those days when “I really don’t feel like training” (and be honest, we all have those days sometimes..) it’s that internal voice that says “You’ll be in front of a computer all day tomorrow – get up off your butt!”  About 7 years ago I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.  My Aikido training keeps me fit, flexible and even though it is sometimes a challenge, I am managing this “chronic disease” far better than if I wasn’t training regularly.
  2. It makes me a better person.  Yes, I could write a book on this subject, but as this is a blog post I’ll keep it concise.  Aikido regularly puts me in situations both as uke, tori and sensei whereby I have to dig deep and challenge not only myself but my attitude to others, how I handle various situations and my overall perception of the world around me.
  3. I keeps my self discipline sharp.  I use these word intentionally.  To me, a huge part of following the Budo Way is the fact that unless you train regularly, every week, without fail, your training isn’t genuine.  Martial Arts cannot simply be a “hobby” that you muck about with occasionally if you are in the mood.  It is a Way, a path to follow, a chance to become more than you are.  Every great martial artist that has ever existed had a highly developed sense of self discipline.  I always imagine self discipline as a sword – I try my best to keep it sharp by making sure I train regularly, by constantly looking for new meaning and ideas in my Aiki and by trying to help others become the best they can be.  Without this my discipline, and I, become dull.
  4. It is my family. Over the years I have met and trained with many people in many countries and I have made lifelong friends.  Hand on heart, many of my martial arts friends I consider family – in fact one Eagle Claw master in the UK I always refer to as “Brother” because the bond through training and the level of sharing, support and honesty involved in a lifetime of studying a martial art runs to the very core of being.
The more observant among you will have noticed I haven’t mentioned Self Defense, and i did this on purpose.  It’s true that when I started back in 1974 I was a kid the same as any other, wanting to be Bruce Lee and learn how not to get bullied at school.  By about 2nd kyu I think I started to realize that if I wanted a “quick route to self defense” I had better get a gun license. 
Next time someone ask me the question “Why do you practice Aikido?” I think I will answer “Because I am dedicated”.  Actually, that’s not quite correct “Because I am devoted – I love it!”.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, and I hope it makes you want to find out more about Aikido