John Garmston’s Story

When did you start Aikido and why?

From 1981 to date 5th Dan Aikikai

I was practicing Kung Fu in 1981, a style called Lau Gar, I was (and still am) a fan of Bruce Lee, I liked the fluidity of Kung Fu as opposed to karate and I was happy with my training, it involved fitness, sparring and techniques. All I wanted at the time.

I joined the fire brigade in the September of 1981 and whilst at training school in Reigate (I was probably at my fittest at that time in my life) myself and a fellow recruit would go out running in the evenings, whilst others would go to the pub and my friend would help me with my sparring on the lawns of the training school.

I knew he had some skills, but didn’t at that time know what they were, anyway one night a few guys came to watch us and mentioned that “that kung fu stuff doesn’t really work though, does it?

My friend (David Young, AKA Chunga) said;

Oh yes martial arts can help you, and he invited me to attack him, I did a half hearted attack, and he told me to attack him properly with full power.

I really went for him and found myself on the grass, locked in a pin.

What struck me is that I didn’t feel anything, I was thrown into a highfall, that I had no training to receive and I was not hurt at all (except perhaps my ego)! I asked him what he had used and he told me it was Aikido, I was sold and have studied this wonderful art ever since and from that very first technique I strive to achieve the effortless use of movement(this year will be 40 years of study, I’m making some progress)

 What are some of your main memories of Aikido?

I’ve met so many people from different walks of life and countries, Some of my most enjoyable experiences have been travelling to Aikido seminars with friends, both in the UK and abroad, training all day, partying in the night and catching up, (beware who you share a bedroom  with when travelling, snoring can bugger up your sleep)

My goal was to one day visit Japan, I achieved that goal recently and I would recommend it to anyone regardless if they practice aikido or not, it is a fascinating, exhilarating country.

 What are your personal goals in Aikido?

Quite simply to strive for effortless technique, that might sound a bit crass, but after 40 years, I’m getting glimpses of it.

 Why do you think Iwama Aikido is so unique?

For me I was looking for an Aikido that coupled weapons with empty handed forms and a distinct understanding of the connection between them

I have found this with iwama Aikido

 What can Aikido offer people in your opinion?

People talk a lot about “mindfulness” “meditation” for me Aikido is both these things, it has been a part of my life for many years, through all my up’s and downs I have continued to train, it has been my place/my time on the mat, studying, experiencing your partners movement, with the aim to practice without thought but through feeling,

Aikido can offer you a solid base, but not a crutch;

You will need to train/practice/experience pain, disappointment and so much joy when you start to get it.

 How long have you been training?

As of 2020 I have been training for 40 years, I mostly teach these days, but still travel as much as I can to train under teachers both here and abroad

 Where have you travelled?

I travel most years throughout the UK to train, in addition there has been;

Greece

Japan

Spain

Denmark

Holland