Aikido and Water Polo
Spirit and Body on Trial
By Decho Pavlov, participant of the eCommemoration Campus 2020
The children got fat, and now they're getting back in shape.
- Water polo coach
As a martial art there is no way aikido will not survive.
— Aikido instructor, a.k.a. sensei
A Challenge We All Had to Face
We can all recall the three-month lockdown from March to June. Needless to say, a lot of people somehow managed not to have a mental breakdown, others hardly endured. Nevertheless, it was a challenge we all had to face. We put not only our own body on trial, but also our mentality.

Why should this sound that serious? Well, you practically restricted yourself from moving, which is a natural biological process, for a whole three months. This can really stir your mind.

Perhaps the same was also valid for me. As a water polo athlete and an aikidoka I was disappointed I wasn't able to go to practice for three months. However, thanks to the lessons I learnt from my hobbies, I managed to endure this standstill. Maybe now you're going to ask yourself, "What are these lessons though?"
Water Polo: The Sport That Kills All Kinds of Viruses
The labels: green is for parks and outdoor spaces, yellow is, for example, pools and red is for gyms or night clubs.
When it comes to infecting with COVID-19, pools are labelled in the yellow zone. "Our sport is a clean sport. If a child has a cold, that doesn't mean it's a Corona", said the president and head coach of the water polo club "Levski" (Sofia) , Orlin Todorov, with a laugh. The other coach, Sasho Spiroski, nodded silently in agreement.
Orlin Todorov (left) - head coach of water polo club Levski Sofia, used to be a coach of the Bulgarian National team. Sasho Spiroski (right) - currently coach of the team, used to be an athlete as well as coach of the Macedonian national team. (photographs: private)
First Dryland Trainings - Coping With Quarantine
I came back from a water polo game in Belgrade two days before the government announced the lockdown. I was eager to try out some of the things I saw from my idols in this sport. I was dying to throw myself into the pool… but then the message, "All practices are cancelled until further announcements", struck me. But I somehow knew it was better that way. It was the perfect chance for dryland – push-ups, squats, so that I don't entirely lose shape.

I started practising yoga, which turned out to be a really beneficial activity – it develops flexibility and relaxes the mind. But when the lockdown was over at the beginning of June and a message in the team group said, "Practice in pool at 7:15 p.m., don't be late", I immediately leapt at the opportunity.

I was so happy I was going to see my coaches and my teammates again. Although our first practice was not a game but only swimming, everything started to get back to normal – the pool gives health. "Because somebody has a cold, that doesn't mean it's a Corona", states Orlin.
Relaxed Coaches - No Panic
The coaches were afraid about the children because they lost all onrush regarding water polo and compensating these three months might well be a difficult task. They perceived things the way they are and acted on the situation.

Apparently, they took it easy. They did not show any huge emotion or sadness while answering the question "How did water polo help you deal with this 3-month lockdown?". They even added some humor to it: "The children don't go to the pool for three months, they got fat and now they're putting down some kilos."
Lessons
We don't have to take everything that deeply at times. On occasion, we just have to come to terms with the situation and take it straightforwardly, without any prejudice. Yes, you may well get a little fat, but it's ok. Nonetheless, I am happy that this sport has instilled in me firm habits such as persistence, discipline and patience and in this sense water polo has helped me immensely.
How Aikido Is Bound to Survive
A dojo is the place where the teacher (sensei) and his students gather for training. Dojo can also have a more religious meaning as kan - a temple.
Aikido, as a martial art, will always survive; when the pandemic is over, practice will go on. You can always practise aikido even on your own', says Sensei Danail Prangov, chief instructor of the "Shidokan Dojo" in Sofia.
Danail Prangov Sensei, chief instructor of Shidokan Dojo, 6th Dan Aikikai (photograph: private)
In aikido there is a considerable philosophical part, in a sense trying to give reason to the harsh training we go through. Thus, we acquire a strong spirit, a strong will that will never die. Thinking it in that way, aikido is bound to survive.

"The purpose of training is to tighten up the slack, strengthen the body and polish the spirit", once said Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of aikido

But how did aikido help my sensei deal with the lockdown? If I understand him correctly, perhaps it's best to live for the moment without thinking what will happen and what has already happened.
Another Important Lesson
Apparently, calmness and prompt reaction are extremely important when dealing with a crisis. The writing of this article made me realise that at the end of the day this crisis will end in a certain moment and everything will continue to live as if this crisis never existed. But for this moment perhaps, you could take some of the ideas from this article and see if you can find any hope in these difficult times.



"That which does not kill makes us stronger."
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher