Black Belt Q&A with Alan Hodges Sensei

Alan Hodges Sensei is a longtime aikido practitioner and a member of the Aiki Arts Center instructor team. This Q&A with Alan Sensei is part of a series of interviews with the Aiki Arts Center yudansha (black belts).

How did you get started with aikido?

My sister showed me a technique after she took a one-week aikido course in high school. One of the English teachers happened to be a rokudan (6th degree black belt) and taught aikido as a P.E. elective there. I signed up my freshman year and kept with it through graduation. It was great to learn aikido together with my school friends.

How did you get started at the Aiki Arts Center dojo?

I saw a class while shopping for pottery in the sawtooth building, about 15 years after I stopped practicing aikido. I was not sure my body or my schedule could accommodate it any more. I just took it one class at a time. That was about 10 years ago.

What are you working on these days?

Adapting to unexpected attacks with aikido, rather than grappling or striking. At the same time, I am working on grappling and striking. Also, I am working on teaching; how to teach others and how to teach myself.

What themes spiral through your practice?

The contrasts in aikido have a lot to teach us. Consider the contrast between practicing a technique in a certain way, repeatedly, striving for perfect form and using a technique spontaneously in a new and unexpected way during a freestyle. Or the contrast between being uke and nage, one moment being the attacker and the next the defender, each role with its own conventions to follow. Or the contrast within a technique that relies on swift, decisive action at a certain point but relies on consciously doing nothing at a another point. To learn aikido is to find ways to reconcile contrasts like these.

When possible, experiment with multiple ways of performing a technique, multiple styles of aikido, multiple martial arts, multiple teachers and multiple ways of learning. Rather than trying to forge one perfect path, take many paths and see what they have in common.

Click here for a look at Alan Sensei’s work with the jo (short staff).