On an aikido email list, we were asked why we study aikido. This is my response.

Picture a triangle with the three sides as physical, intellectual and spiritual. When I don't exercise all three, what I don't exercise will atrophy and the imbalance will cause me to feel, unhealthy, unhappy and uncentered.

I have studied Aikido for many reasons over my life. At 12 years old (1972) I was 4'8 tall and weighed about 85 pounds. I believe that I was the smallest kid in the school when I discovered Aikido. I've always been competitive, and I've always enjoyed physical combat. I can remember being six years old and taking glee at being able to pin kids much larger than I was. So when I accidentally discovered a martial art (cool!) that explicitely did not rely on size or strength, I was immediately hooked. Glen Kimoto was a wonderful sensei, and while I didn't have any classes from him I spent 3 days a week after school under his tutelage, one day for Science club and two for Aikido. I will say that studying Aikido definitely calmed me down. It wasn't that before I started studying it I'd actually *pick* fights with other kids, but I sure didn't go out of my way to avoid them.

At the end of that school year we moved from San Jose to Felton, and away from a school that had Aikido as an after school sport. The next year my parents signed me up for Aikido through Cabrillo college. I studied under Greg Brodsky (?) and Frank Doran. Greg taught a very meditative style, we would end each class with several minutes of ki breathing or other meditation. I remember getting high off of the ki that was charging around that room. He also taught us a little kiatsu, similar to shiatsu but using ki-flow rather than pressure. It is something I've wanted to learn more of ever since. Frank's style was quite different. He didn't believe in all that "mental masturbation". At the time he was still a police officer in Half Moon bay. While he concentrated on teaching an effective style without meditative hocus-pocus, it was not a hard style. One thing that I greatly enjoyed during both of those classes was the ability to throw people that were literally twice my size. My parents soon tired of spending 3-4 hours a night once or twice a week waiting in the car. We were too far away for them to drop me off and go home until class finished, and there were not nighttime buses to felton until many years later.

For several years I wanted to study aikido, but didn't know of any opportunities. I would however take care to regularly practice my rolls, stretch out, do ki breathing, hapku-undo (spelling?) and whatever I could to practice when I could. My senior year of highschool I took calculus at UCSC and signed up for Aikido through the PE dept. I think that my motivation was that it was fun.

I think that it was my sophomore year at Davis that an Aikido club was started. I had several motivations at that point. At nineteen, Aikido had already been part of my life for a third of it. It was something that I enjoyed, and I was relatively good at. It was also some sacred "fun" time that I was doing something I enjoyed so that I didn't spend all of my time working or studying. I believe that the sensai was named Tom Brown. We were affiliated with a ki-society (? - "soft style") dojo in San Francisco. Nick's dojo reminds me very much of our club in Davis. It has a lot of the same closeness, a friendship among the members that extends beyond the mat. It also has the "uniformity of style" that comes from a school with only one teacher, rather than a school with many blackbelts who studied from many different teachers.

After I graduated, I moved back to Santa Cruz and started studying at North Bay Aikido, under my original sensei, Glen Kimoto. At that point I was studying Aikido because that was what I did. At some point, it was probably time pressures at work that caused me to drop Aikido. Over the next few years, I studied Aikido on-again off-again depending upon work pressures and my need to return to it.

About five years ago, for many reasons I decided to return to martial arts. I also decided that I was going to study something besides Aikido, and after asking around ended up studying Shotokan Karate through Foothill(?) Jr. College at what used to be Cubberly High school. Irv Ploeke (sp?) was a good teacher, the class was fun and great exercise. It was however taught more in the vein of a competitive sport than a martial art. There was little discussion of self-defense applications and practically no discussion of philosophy or anything that might remotely be considered bushido. I soon began to really miss Aikido which led to a very interesting period of my life where I was studying Karate two nights a week and Aikido two nights a week. It was extremely intense from a scheduling point of view, but an experience that I highly reccomend. Studying a hard art does wonders for your ukemi, and studying two different arts gives you great perspective on the relative strengths and weaknesses of both. I ended up dropping the Karate after my second 6 week session. It was during the first of those sessions that I used my Aikido training in a real world situation, where it may not have saved my life but probably saved me from serious injury. In the words of someone who saw the incident "Traffic came to a sudden stop. I looked in my rearview mirror and it looked like your motorcylcle hit oil or something. It went down and sent you flying about as high as that beam (pointing to the ceiling), then you did some incredible roll and hardly got hurt at all".

Shortly thereafter I spent a month studying at as many different dojos as I could get to. Another experience that I highly reccomend. Sometime thereafter (shortly after I met Eric, as a matter of fact) my life got weird, and despite a couple of attempts I haven't studied Aikido regularly since.

Over the years I've discussed the question "why Aikido rather than another martial art?" many times. I find it interesting that this is really the first time I've pondered the question "Why do I study Aikido?". Many answers come to mind: Because it is fun. Because if I don't get some sort of spiritual exercise my "self" gets out of balance. Because it teaches me a way to defend myself without having to hurt someone else. Because I feel more centered when I study it.

But when you get right down to it, because it is part of my life, it's what I do.

Last modified 06/18/98

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