Mark’s Story

When did you start Aikido and why?

I started Aikido in 1987 aged 21.  In fact I didn’t start Aikido I started Tai Chi – all will become clear.  In my childhood and early teens I did a lot of Judo.  I enjoyed the sport and the challenge of testing my skills against other opponents in matches.  I started entering competitions but one experience ruined my outlook of the sport.  I watched the son of a coach from another club loose a match, he swore at the referee and was very disrespectful.  This I realised was a result of the huge amount of pressure he had been under to win.  After this I no longer saw Judo as a Martial Art I wanted to be a part off.

After a few years of pretty much doing nothing I decided to go back to Martial Arts and I was interested in Tai Chi.  I went to my first lesson with a guy from the Philippines called master Te.  He was very good, but it was expensive and I was pretty much in a class of old people.

So I finished the class started downstairs and I see a guy – in a skirt? – surrounded by about four people.  All of a sudden they are all attacking him and he’s bouncing them round the mat.  I was watching my first teacher Max Moss and I was hooked, I wanted to be able to do that!

 

What Are Some of Your Main Memories of Aikido

My job has taken be around Europe and occasionally to the USA.  Wherever I travel, if there is an aikido club nearby I try and get in contact before I go and train at least once when I am travelling.  I have seen many different teachers and it’s really interesting to see how they teach and their organisations run.  I have never had a bad experience at another club, the people are always friendly and there’s usually a beer involved after the session.

In the Czech Republic in the early 90s I travelled across Prague by tram I spoke no Czech and there wasn’t google maps.  I made my way through a dodgy housing estate to what I hoped was a sports centre.  I found the club, no one spoke any English so we communicated in my limited German.  On the mat I didn’t understand anything the teacher said – apart from the technique names which were in Japanese!  Great session and great Czech beer.

At one time I was spending 13 weeks a year in Germany – I missed training and I couldn’t find a dojo.  Then I drove past a building and saw ‘Iwama Ryu’ written on it.  I stopped the car and rang the doorbell.  I met the teacher and his wife.  The dojo was 20 minutes from where I was working.  Before long I was training two times a week.  We would sit and drink tea after the class and discuss life in general.  This is where I learnt that yodelling was a genuine subject taught in Bavarian Schools!  These were times away from work that I enjoyed and helped me to relax.

 

What are Your Personal Goals in Aikido

I want to continue to develop my Aikido, I don’t think there’s ever a point where you can stop developing, but you can stop yourself developing.  I also want to help others develop their aikido and progress – aikido has so much to offer and I feel I have benefitted from it in so many ways that I want to help other people on their aikido journey where I can.

 

Why do You Think Iwama Ryu Aikido is so Unique

I have travelled quite a lot and I have tried many different styles of aikido.  It’s not really fair to compare Iwama Ryu with other styles of aikido to say whether they are better or worse.  Training in a different style for a seminar or a short period of time doesn’t give you a chance to fully appreciate another kind of aikido.  What I have found however, is that having done Iwama Ryu I find it is relatively easy to adapt to other styles, but often experience the reverse when I try and show someone from another style Iwama Ryu.

 

What can Aikido offer people, in your opinion

Aikido can benefit people in so many ways.  Personally I have gained in confidence and it has given me a different outlook on life and dealing with people and stress.  I have made friends in aikido who I can depend on and who will hopefully be friends for life.  I miss going to the pub or sports centre bar after aikido classes – it probably wasn’t very healthy - but it was great to socialise with like-minded people.

 

How long have you been training

I have been training since I was 21 and I am now approaching 55 – I will let you do the maths!  During that time I have pretty much had one teacher, I have attended seminars when I can, trained in many places abroad and run several classes and clubs over the years.  For those of you yet to run a class or a club I would recommend it.  It has its challenges but is rewarding and helps to develop your aikido.

 

Where have you travelled

I have been really lucky with my job.  Apart from normal holidays abroad it has taken me round Europe and a number of times to the USA.  In Europe I have travelled to France, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Malta and Spain.  It sounds exciting but there were points where I was freezing my backside off in a MilitaryTent in the middle of the night in Germany in temperatures of -10 that were less than enjoyable!