Looking for other options, I contacted an aikido school and a sabre school (I’d trained both previously) and asked how they felt about taking on someone recovering from serious injury, who did not have full control of their body and also had a chronic back problem.
While both schools were encouraging, my GP was initially dubious. However, she agreed to look into it and found some credible studies showing that soft martial arts like aikido are very effective for muscle rehabilitation both in place of, and in conjunction with, classic weights and gym work.
So 25 years after I first trained aikido in Tasmania, I walked into Aikido in Sydney.
I found Andrew Sensei and the senior students were happy to help with working around my injuries, and provided a path that would let me grow and improve day to day.
While aikido usually involves taking ukemi or “going to meet the mat”, the instructors and my fellow students were happy to train with me, even though I was initially unable to take any falls at all. This has steadily improved over time.
AikiBody training and the practice of aikido techniques generally has gradually strengthened my core and enabled my body to remember how to move without fear of being hurt, and to rebuild confidence generally. These were all important goals within my ongoing pain management and mental health management.
Improved mental wellbeing has been a big factor in training. The car accident and its consequences —post-trauma stress, restricted mobility, constant pain and eventually depression — seriously compromised my mental health. Aikido provides a break from all this and enables me just to focus on how my body can move without pain or effort for two hours, twice a week. This provides a couple of points in my week where my normal day-to-day stress is reduced to being an outside observer, and not in the driver’s seat.
It is fascinating to learn the theory behind why we do what we do in aikido, from the perspectives of the traditional foundations of aikido as well as the scientific bases of body mechanics and modern combatives.
My doctors have seen the marked difference aikido has made in my life. Not only am I happier and healthier, but also I’ve overcome other issues I faced and sped up my recovery in areas where I was struggling.
words: Ray Banfield
image: Aikido in Sydney