Sharing the thoughts of our black belts

Below is an article written by Sean Keogh. It is a reflection on his training in Aikido so far and written following his achievement of Shodan.

What Aikido Means to Me

When I started training in martial arts in a very haphazard way when I was young in the UK it was for one reason only, and that was self-defence. I was born in a rough area and to be honest the training came in pretty useful! Then there was a break of many years and I came to Australia and to aikido. The big difference for me now is that my inspiration to train is not primarily related to keeping my front teeth and avoiding black eyes, but to something more fundamental, something much more along the lines of developing my spirit and focus, even though I think aikido is the most effective system of self-defence I have seen (when I see Ryan sensei do it anyway!)

For me, aikido is most beautifully crystalized in the phrase DoChuSei, or quietness in turmoil, a term I first heard when I started my aikido training and a philosophy which I do my best to use inside and outside the dojo – initially I found that my attitude and approach to my job as an emergency doctor, which is often in a fraught and chaotic environment, helped me in the dojo but now I am finding what I am learning in the dojo is also helping me in my work – not so much that I feel better prepared if a crazy patient tries to bash me (though I do) but because I really do find aikido centres me and brings me calm, something I am noticing especially over the last few months. I also value the humility I see, especially in the more experienced practitioners up to and very much including Ryan sensei, which is a great example to us all.

I genuinely believe our young dojo is special and is more than the sum of its parts – I think we all know this. It has an element of ‘family’ both in the community sense and also in the literal sense, which I think is a great strength. Everyone supports each other and we all have a good idea of each other’s strengths and weaknesses and will go the extra mile, at every level, and this atmosphere is precious. I especially love watching the kids class and seeing the enthusiasm in my own son’s face every time he trains, even though he wakes me on Saturday mornings at 5am to demonstrate his kamae!

Which brings me to another key aspect of the way I think of aikido – I think the phrase of describing an activity as a journey rather than a destination is often overused, but not, as I see it, in the case of aikido. Over recent months I now think less about getting this belt or that belt, or reaching this grade or that grade (though I do believe grading is essential and we still need to work hard at it) but I think more about what I can extract and learn from training and how I can help others to do the same where I am able to.

I think aikido is a true example of the more you learn, the more you realise you actually don’t know very much, and it is easy to be discouraged at times but this must be resisted. Even though I do not believe I have ever done any aikido technique, even a basic one, anywhere close to perfectly I don’t really believe this is the point of aikido – I suspect that aikido is not so much about locks and throws rather it is all about something I have yet to fully grasp. I will not be giving up as long as my body can take it and I am forever grateful to those at the dojo that have helped me on this journey so far.

Here is to many more happy training sessions


Sean Keogh

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