Where to start? I started this blog this year in an effort to describe my transition from aikido to Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin Ryu. In this time I have met some fantastic martial artists, some genuinely good people and I have been given access to opportunities in both arts that make me excited for the future.
Let’s start with the high-lights.
Meeting and training under Robbie smith. First of all, I became interested in TSYR after I had been reading about a push towards internal strength in aikido circles in the States. Following this line of inquiry allowed me to stumble upon Toby Threadgill (TSYR) and more importantly, Robbie Smith (my TSYR instructor). Not only is Robbie an exceptional martial artist he is also an incredibly decent guy.
Meeting Toby Threadgill. During my year training with the NZ TSYR group, I was told many stories and anecdotes about Toby Threadgill and how important it was to feel what he can do in person. I had that opportunity recently in a seminar he instructed. That experience reinforced for me that I had made a wise decision studying TSYR.
Building up a budo body. I have mentioned in earlier blogs that the internal strength exercises and the principles of movement in TSYR have started to condition my body by strengthening my posture and body alignment. These benefits have flowed over into my aikido technique as well.
My aikido sensei lifting his game. Clyde has been at the aikido game for years but has only just recently started travelling to other clubs and training with other instructors more often, just like in his good ol’ days. He is re-establishing old ties and this can only be good for our aikido club. His whole family even planned a holiday to Australia to train with an instructor there.
Gaining my nidan. Very recently (in the last week) I gained my 2nd degree black belt. I list this as a highlight mainly because Clyde invited me to take this test as I had started teaching aikido at the school that I work at. He told me that aikido is about giving back and he saw this as part of my growth and it deserved a grading attempt. Due to Clyde’s recent networking I had the honour of testing in front of a 5th dan from a mainline aikikai dojo.
Now for the challenges. For those of you reading this, I feel it important to discuss the obstacles or issues that have arisen since I took on TSYR training while still practising aikido.
Splitting my time between family, work and martial arts. Easily the biggest challenge I faced this year. It is ongoing. There were times when time or money did not permit me to train as often or as hard as I would have liked.
Gaining my nidan. Although I listed this as a highlight, I also felt it was one of my worst gradings. I felt rusty and under-prepared. I did pass, but I was not as sharp as I had been in past gradings. Splitting my time between aikido and TSYR (and family commitments) had taken its toll on how polished my techniques were. Looking back on the video footage of my shodan and earlier I can see I have certainly improved from those days. However, I am more critical of myself now and it did affect my attitude toward the end of the grading. I have learned plenty of lessons from that grading.
Confusing myself. As I began to internalise some of the TSYR techniques, I found some of the footwork or sword work creeping into aikido and vice versa. A very frustrating experience, I can tell you. It is slowly working itself out though.
Those are the main highs and lows I can think of right now. It has been an exciting and rewarding experience thus far and I look forward to 2012 eagerly.
Have a great Christmas and keep safe over New Year’s.