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Aikido: Body and Mind

Writes Kyriaki Mantzakou

Aikido is one of the modern Japanese Martial Arts. It was founded by Morihei Ueshiba (we call him O-Sensei) in the early 20th century. He had extensive training in various traditional Martial Arts before he elaborated in this form. It may contradict our image of Martial Arts, but Aikido is not about fighting with each other. Therefore, there’s no competition. Aikido techniques are used to protect ourselves, but also not to harm the attacker. We aim to train our minds and bodies in this peaceful and respectful environment. Today, Aikido attracts many people worldwide, both men and women, regardless of their age.

Chisato Oda, Captain of Aikido Club
The road of harmony

In general, we all have in mind the meaning of the term “Aikido”, which defines the art which we exercise. This art has two aspects, the one related to the body and the spiritual one. Beyond the spiritual dimension that a martial art may contain, through which it turns into a means of developing healthy people who will be able to control their violent instincts in the society they live in, in its practice, there is also harmony in a physical level, the battle itself.

As a beginner in Aikido, I have been feeling very lucky to have a teacher who can let his students embrace the main principles of this martial art and therefore virtually place themselves in the handling of difficult situations. During our classes in the Mardyke Arena, my thoughts very often go to other activities I have already engaged with, but which did not combine both harmony and visual beauty in their techniques, while at the same time being a tool for actually dangerous situations. The last few months that I have been practicing, I noticed that my body has been exercising its muscle memory when learning the techniques, and simultaneously learning how to avoid injuries.

Kyriaki Mantzakou

The core of Aikido

“My journey in Aikido started a long time ago, about 6 years from now, in Ukraine. In my opinion, this was the most plentiful and useful time I could ever imagine. Aikido itself is a very spiritual martial art. Practicing Aikido had not only built my skills, but also developed the inner part of myself. Discipline and spirit are integral parts of this fabulous martial art.

Another advantage of Aikido would be that it suits any person, no matter their physique. As far as I know, Aikido is the only martial art, that fully relies on usage of a momentum of an attacker against himself. So literally you don’t have to use any force from your side! To sum up, this martial art will certainly attract those who practice spiritual development and prefer not to be the first to start the fight, but the first to end it’’

Andrew Laktionov, current member of Aikido Club

Aikido is principles in practice

The current cohort of Aikido students have very accurately described the way of Aikido above. It is a pleasure to work with them each week and to try to share some of the insights that my teachers shared with me. It’s very much a chain of learning and love! There’s no way that I invented this work or this art, I just try to make it my own.

UCC Aikido Club has existed with various instructors across 20-30 years. It’s main instructor John Meldrum (who still drops in from time to time) was also its greatest leader. He led the club in the sense of “leading by example”, but he also led the club by whom he invited to come and teach us.

He invited Alan Ruddock regularly. Alan was the only Irish person to have trained directly with O-Sensei.  Alan then brought us Henry Kono, who also trained with him at Hombu Dojo in Japan in the 1960’s. Henry was probably the only person to have ever added to what O-Sensei created. He was a joy and a pleasure to be with.

But I thank John mostly, because he showed me that we cannot just stand there (literally as well as metaphorically!) and be in awe of these people who went before us. We must make this way of moving our own to make it effective.

In a moment of frustration with me once, John said in his thick Cork accent “Victory is in de feeeettt Dermot!”. He was pointing at my feet, but I thought he said “defeat”, and instantly understood something about Aikido.

Come and practice with us and you might get it too?