My happy place: Aikido dojo

By Bronwyn Sell

Justin Lewis, theatre producer, director and writer.

Justin Lewis in his happiest place. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Justin Lewis in his happiest place. Photo / Kellie Blizard

My aikido dojo in central Auckland is where I train most days. When I came back to New Zealand after drama school in 1994 I wanted something that would keep alive the discipline of ongoing training and develop a deeper understanding of my body. Eighteen years later aikido is part of my daily life; it's fun and endlessly fascinating.

Aikido translates as "the way of harmony" and is about training mind, body and spirit to work together. Training is fun; a good technique brings pleasure and laughter. Flying through the air on the receiving end of a well-applied technique brings a sense of ease and joy. The physical exercises free the body to move more naturally and more powerfully; the mental training generates calm even in the midst of stressful situations: a feeling of peace.

In aikido the training is non-competitive and doesn't rely on physical strength so men and women of all ages do it. My instructor is 73 years old and still trains every day.

After training I'm always energised and glad I went. It's like a moving meditation - there's no time for worrying about things, yet often I find the next step to resolving what is troubling me becomes clear.

Mostly, it's just really pleasurable to train with other people - to throw them and be thrown by them opens me up to new ways of moving and approaching life.

Each year we have kangeiko (winter training) where we train every morning in the coldest part of the year. The first time I did this I couldn't conceive of leaving my warm bed every morning in the middle of winter. But a week later I had completed it and years later it's become normal.

The dojo is where I go to train in aikido but the real value is taking this out into my daily life. The principles can apply to business and life: how to deal positively with conflict, when to enter positively, when to get out of the way and let the energy go past, how to respond to the moment and find a good outcome for both parties.

* Justin Lewis is the co-creator of the Indian Ink Theatre Company's hit play Krishnan's Dairy, above, and its critically acclaimed follow-up, Guru of Chai. Both will be performed this month at Q Theatre, 305 Queen St: Guru of Chai from July 10 to 21 and Krishnan's Dairy from July 25 to August 4.

- Herald on Sunday

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