You think you know the life of an accountant.
An existence reigned by spreadsheets, data and tax returns. Balancing figures, living in spreadsheets, eating beside their calculators and doing tax returns in their sleep. In reality, though, there’s no such thing as an ordinary accountant – as Ian Cherry, chief executive of his own firm A.I. Cherry Accounting, knows well. In fact, Cherry leads what some might call a double life.
By day, Cherry is a hardworking accountant. By night, he embarks on a long and arduous journey all the way to the top floor of his firm’s building, and assumes his second identity. Here, Cherry becomes a martial arts specialist: an Aikido master. The Japanese martial art focuses on unifying life energy and creating harmony within oneself.
Just like all great action heroes, Cherry comes from humble beginnings. Cherry worked hard from age 11 onwards, determined not to let anything get in the way of his bright future.
“I came from a fairly working class background,” he says. “Nobody in my family had been to school beyond the age of 14, but I passed the 11+ and went to a grammar school. Once I’d finished there, I continued my education and went on to take a degree in business studies at university.”
It was at university that Cherry first considered a career in accountancy. Psychometric testing revealed that his most suited pathway would be either journalism or accountancy. Being more of a numbers man than a letters enthusiast, Cherry decided to pursue a career as an accountant.
In the 1970s, there wasn’t a great selection of jobs that paid while you trained. Cherry couldn’t afford to not have a source of income and kept looking for a suitable paid training opportunity. In 1978, he managed to get a training contract with Spicer and Pegler Chartered Accountants, which provided him with enough money to get by and enough knowledge to kickstart his career.
The same year, Cherry’s second identity emerged. Not earning enough money to stay in London, he moved back to his hometown of Preston. “A friend of mine had a stall on Preston market,” he explains. “One of the people he sold to was a gentleman called Mr. Mucha, who ran the local Aikido club. We got talking to him and both went along to our first class the same day.”
That decision changed Cherry’s life. The Japanese martial art has been a staple part of his daily routine ever since. More than just a hobby, he’s found that practicing the martial art has helped him to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
“Aikido is a physical activity. I spend most of my days using my brain, whereas in Aikido I use my body,” he explains. “You’re getting yourself into a harmony of both mind and body with martial arts. It’s a release from the lack of physicality in my day job!”
Gradually, Aikido became a larger part of Cherry’s life, until it quite literally got on top of him – or at least, his accountancy firm. Passionate about not only practicing the martial art, but also teaching it, Cherry decided to open a dojo on the top floor of his firm’s building.
“All we had was a storeroom on the top floor, and the space is just big enough for a studio,” he explains. “This is how martial arts was originally taught. You would train at the house of the teacher. It’s quite intimate and no one can hide.”
Although Cherry’s roles of chief executive and Aikido teacher are entirely different, he doesn’t find it a struggle to manage them both. Cherry doesn’t view his roles as separate. Rather than viewing Aikido as a job, he sees it much like others view running clubs: exercise with a kick of fun.
“If you have a sedentary job, it’s really important that you do something else in your life that is physical,” he says. “I like to try and exercise every day if I can, just to get that balance. If you can get the mind and body working in harmony, it makes you a better person.”
There’s one key accountancy skill that Cherry’s 30 years of martial arts expertise has taught him. Accounting can be a hectic and stressful career, and through Aikido Cherry has learned the power of relaxation.
“You can’t be physically stiff and have the fluidity of movement to develop a martial art,” he explains. “With martial arts you learn to relax by just taking the physicality of what you do in your spare time into your full-time work.”
A job in accounting can strain the brain. By practicing a martial art – or taking up a sport, yoga or another form of physical exercise – you can achieve a better mental and physical balance in your life. A little bit of relaxation will bring you a long way towards a happier existence.
Sophie Jardine is an editorial assistant at Flibl. She writes, researches and reports stories about finance and technology.