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Aikido and the Street, Part 1
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A Difference in Training by Brandon Needham

I have been training in martial arts for over 21 years.  During this time I have been able to train with many different arts, and I have also been subjected to many different teaching styles.  Each teacher had his/her own way of teaching, theories behind the teaching and ways of applying what has been taught.

Without a doubt my current training situation is by far the best, most rigorous and most defense applicable instruction that I have received.  Each person is drawn to martial arts for one reason or another, whether it is for fitness, fun, socializing or self defense.  I fall into the latter category, as I want to learn to defend myself in a realistic setting and not a fantasy land atmosphere.

When I first stepped into the dojo I had a preconceived idea as to what I was going to be doing.  What I got was not what I was expecting.  I was introduced to a methodology and way of doing things I have never previously experienced.  Techniques were presented in basic formats for a beginner level, but as I progressed, it was broken down and explained on a street defense level so that techniques could be applied effectively.

When I was training in Tae Kwon Do, it became apparent that there was only one motive behind my instructor.  That motive was money.  He would rapidly promote students (myself included) so that he could continue to collect testing fees.  I was promoted to a 1st Degree black belt within a year, and I was only 14 years old at the time.  I quickly learned that my belt and training meant nothing.  This was realized when I got into a fight and I tried defending my self and ended up getting the short end of the stick that day.

Judo became an interest of mine because I wanted to learn ground grappling.  This was a mistake that I made because the school I was in taught a sport competition oriented version of judo, and when I stated I wanted more self defense out of it, I was shunned and I soon quit training.

During 2003 I got back into martial arts and began training again with Frank and Heather Ani and Jim Eggleston Sensei’s at Tenchin Budo Kai dojo.  It was immediately apparent to me that I made the right choice in my training with them and the Aikido they teach.  Like I stated previously, it is a street self defense oriented methodology and the training is far beyond anything else I have experienced.

Unlike the other schools, or the ball room dancers, we train with one thing in mind, to survive a fight.  In today’s world, the chances that someone will get into a confrontation are very great.  This increases each and every year.  If a technique does not work, it is noted and we are told to discard that technique and try something that does.

For training and testing purposes we are still required to learn and be able to perform all techniques asked, but when it comes to application, body mechanics and size differences in people, the term “Whatever works” comes into play and that is what we do.

In other schools of Aikido I have trained in, I have seen sloppy instruction, bad technique and even the application of the technique where there is absolutely no pain compliance involved.  No one wants to go out and hurt other people, however if something is not done right in the dojo, or not done with commitment, then it will fail in the street and that is where it counts the most.

I have written many things praising my sensei’s, and our dojo.  Self glorification is not my basis for this.  Brutal honesty is what drives me and keeps me coming back for more at our dojo.  The truth in training, the reality of the techniques and the way things are done as a whole.  These are my reasons for continuing to train and be in attendance. 

Many have come to observe our classes.  Many have also begun training with us.  Only a few have stayed and remain dedicated.  This could be due to our training program.  We are truly not like other schools, because we do not baby or cut anyone any slack when we train. 

The bottom line is would you want to put your life on the line with your current training environment?  I have no problem saying I can defend myself, and it is because of the hard work and dedication of my sensei’s, of whom I owe my loyalty, love and devotion.  Thank you Sensei’s Frank Ani, Heather Ani and Jim Eggleston.  Your dedication and guidance has inspired and continues to inspire me in ways I never thought possible.