by Simon Holt

My Aikido journey started in 2013 when I moved to Cornwall and was looking for something to get me out of the house. The uncle of my partner at the time had a small Ki Aikido club in Mounthawk and I attended with no expectation, and no real idea of what Aikido was (if any one ever played the Tekken computer game I likened it to Paul’s counter moves!). Having done a few years of Karate and a bit of school boy boxing training in my younger days, I wasn’t expecting what happened…. I was pretty much instantly hooked!! I loved the movement, the technicality and especially the weapons training. Soon after starting, the little club I was attending, folded due to lack of attendees.

So Phil, the sensei and I set about finding another Dojo to attend. Enter Kokoro Kai! We attended keiko and it was like a second epiphany for me, the difference between Iwama and Ki Aikido was night and day, I went home tired but happy and only realised how hard it had been when I struggled to put my socks on the following day! Which brings me to the point of this article…. Should I go to seminars? I would wholeheartedly say yes you should for some very good reasons:

When you attend a seminar you find out if your Aikido is true. When training in your own Dojo we subconsciously choose an uke to suit a technique, or we exploit known weakness in our partners. I mean no disrespect by that, simply that through familiarity we know each others limitations and will naturally exploit them. When attending a seminar, my approach is to train with the highest grades possible and test myself, the seminar is for me, it is not a social gathering, it is for me to look into myself and seek the truth of my technique.

A full weekend of Aikido is demanding for anyone no matter their grade or fitness, if it isn’t, and you’ve come off the tatami "fresh as a daisy" after 24 hours of Aikido in three days, then you haven’t been training hard enough.

By attending seminars and courses you will gain an appreciation for the standard of your Sensei and your Dojo. I have trained in many Dojo’s since leaving Cornwall and I can tell you without doubt our standards at Kokoro Kai are of the highest. I am confident enough in that to hold my head high whereever I train, and whatever seminar I attend, I say this without ego just as a statement of fact. I am very grateful to Sensei and the Dojo for instilling the virtue of kihon practice in me.

I’ve attended two seminars with Saito Hitohira Sensei, in Rennes and Paris. My first seminar experience was in Rennes hosted by Dento Iwama Ryu Aikido France lead by Olivier Eberhardt, a brilliant Aikidoka and an even nicer guy.

I was san kyu grade at the time and was rather overawed by all the hakamas around me and the high dan grades that were present. But, I made a point of training right in front of the kamaiza and under Sensei’s nose, this tactic proved effective as I had the pleasure of being instructed directly by Sensei on a number of occasions over the weekend. Sensei was never going to come and find me in a room of 250 people. So you have to make yourself available to him (it’s easier for him to shout at you then 😊). I trained with people who’s ability far exceeded my own and honestly I was never comfortable for the whole weekend, but I found out a hell of a lot about myself and my Dojo. By the end of the final day I was one technique away from death and have never been so happy to here yamay in my life. I was so spent I could hardly straighten up after bowing out. But I did it, I didn’t think I could and another lesson was learned.

My advice for what it’s worth, go to courses, go to seminars, push yourself and enjoy the fruits of your labour you will be pleasantly surprised by what you find if you do what your Sensei has taught you.