My name is Paul Coonan and I've been doing Kokikai Aikido for 23 years. I moved up to Ballina when I was 20 to go to Lismore University. I was so excited to go and surf the awesome right hand point at nearby Lennox Head. When I finally got there to surf it I was in for a bit of a surprise because we were greeted by a pack of local surfers that told us to F*?k off and go home. We went out anyway as we live a beautiful free country here and those guys didn't own the surf break. We paddled out and had to deal with everyone bad vibing us and dropping in. One beefy dude took it a step further when I pushed him off the back of the wave when he dropped in on me. I ended up in a scrappy fight in the water, punches, grabs, kicks, his surfboard used as a weapon and I ended up getting held under by a huge wave as I was getting bitten and poked in the eye. Welcome to your new home mate!
When I ended up going in to shore, I was left a little shaken to find that my new home in friendly Northern NSW was actully a dangerous place full of heavy locals. I thought they would all be hippies but I had to steel myself for a new reality. If I wanted to keep surfing I was going to have to learn to defend myself too. I think the best place to learn how to fight in the water would be to join the local water polo club, but as there wasn't one, the next best place was the Lismore Police Youth Club. I wondered through the building on my first visit and poked my head into one of the rooms. There was a long haired very serious guy looking straight at me and he asked me if I was looking for Aikido! I said yes, even though I didn't know what it was. That was the beginning of over two decades of training.
I found Aikido to be very addictive from the start. I wanted to learn to fight and the heavy local dude from Lennox was in the back of my mind. I learnt a myriad of ways to twist his wrist, avoid getting hit and throw him to the ground. I was waiting to meet that guy again and have to go into battle, but I didn't see him for ages and when I finally did see him I was getting so well versed with the aikido philosophy that I just avoided the potential rematch. Pretty soon I wasn't worried about that guy any more and I was just trucking along with my aikido training because I loved it. Now I'm a fourth Dan black belt teaching at Avalon Beach. I teach the kids how to look after each other and as well as giving them self defense skills I try and help make them become good little people. I have been teaching adults for over 20 years. I get them prepared for when they meet their challenge in life like when I had to fight that surfer. But most of all we just have a lot of fun together.
I would recommend giving aikido a go if you are looking for a martial art or some kind of physical activity to keep you fit and also learn all kinds of things about yourself, other people and life. Aikido is a martial art with a peaceful philosophy. It seems paradoxical to be a martial artist and to learn about peace, but that's kind of what you learn when you study aikido. You are more concerned about improving yourself than beating other people. You learn to throw people around and while you are doing it you learn to look after them so you don't hurt them. Aikido is truly an art and unlike a sport, there is no competition to win a gold medal. My old teacher used to say to me, 'training is for life and life is for training'. I'm still training all these years later and still just as confused and enthralled at what I learn on the mats. Every day I leave the mats with a big head thinking I'm a master and at the same time bewildered and humbled like a new beginner. I'm still hooked.
Please come along and join a class.