When did You Start Aikido and why?
I started Aikido originally back in 1981. I had always enjoyed martial art films and particularly the tv series Kung Fu starring David Carradine, he never wanted to cause any trouble but was always able to deal with it without anger, such a cool guy. I started to look around but couldn’t find a martial art that didn’t involve fighting. It was after a search in the library (the days before the internet) that I came across a book on Aikido, I can’t remember which one it was but it looked as though it could be right for me, no strength needed. After much searching I found a club in Ferndown teaching Tomiki Aikido, I had no idea at that stage that there were many different styles. I managed to talk a friend into coming along and together we trained for a couple of years, we both got to 3rd KYU or green belt as it was known then. The only strange thing was that the higher grades did things with sticks which we were not allowed to do but I didn’t care. It was great fun throwing people around and being thrown. The club normally didn’t train in the summer holidays and unfortunately that summer my friend had a knee operation, subsequently we both never went back, what a mistake. However, getting towards forty and like many having a midlife crisis I decided I needed to go back to things that i had left behind in my youth, buy a motorbike again, no, too dangerous, what about Aikido, yes that will get me fit again. So early in the year of 1998 I walked onto Sensei McGlones mat at Poole Aikido.
What are some of your main memories in Aikido?
I think my earliest memory of Aikido was back in 1981, when having mastered a kind of high fall i would always avoid this guy called Lou, he was very hard and a kotegaeshi high fall was a bit bumpy for me, I met him about ten years ago and although he had also stopped training we both had gone back to it later in our years. Shortly after restarting my Aikido journey at Poole, I recall a seminar was being held on the weekend, I of course went along to the Friday class quite unaware that this guest teacher was going to take our normal class. I should have realised when I entered the Dojo that there seemed to be a rather lot of people there and all wearing hakamas, where were all the lower grades? should i sneak off? surely no one would notice, no i stayed and although well out of my depth i enjoyed a great training session being helped by many many high grades. I think most of my other memories would involve the many people who i have met and trained with over the past 22 years. Whether it be a gesture from Hitohiro Sensei when he had just seen me do a technique which met with his approval on a course in Bath or my one true Aikido moment when my friend Ken flew off a kotegaeshi I had just done on him. Ken was a big man and wasn’t prone to do high falls, so I said to him “very good Ken but you don’t have to do your own high fall for me” he replied he didn’t and that he couldn’t explain what had just happened. Of course I quickly tried it again but alas I couldn’t replicate it but it’s that magic that keeps me going today.
What are your personal goals in Aikido?
My aim in Aikido is to continue along the path sometimes up, and sometimes down, sometimes i’ll come back to a point where i think i was here before so maybe i took a wrong turn but i know i have to keep training physically and mentally on and off the mat to find the true meaning of being at one with everything around us.
Why do you think Iwama aikido is so unique?
Iwama Aikido is unique in many ways, whether it’s because of the direct line from O’Sensei’s teachings to Saito Sensei to our Sensei or maybe it’s because we use a wooden Ken or Jo to help us understand how to move our bodies and not let our minds panic. At the beginning of learning we do not give people the false sense of throwing someone artificially, we are taught to deal with a strong grip and how to overcome that with correct movement and calmness of the mind. It’s not about winning or losing it’s about learning together and progressing in this Aikido journey.
What can Aikido offer people, in your opinion?
Aikido offers so many things to so many people, whether it’s getting fit, meeting new people, learning a martial art to be able to defend yourself, improve self confidence, deal with conflict, staying calm and making a rational decision in a crisis, the spiritual side of the art or just to become a better person. Aikido gives you a feeling inside that you will carry around with you to connect your mind with your body.
How long have you been training?
I suppose including my early years I must have been training in Aikido for 24 years.
Where have you travelled?
Although I have not travelled abroad to seminars I have been to a lot in the UK including some uchideshi’s in Cambridge with Sensei Tony Sargeant and many weapon courses taken by Sensei Paul McGlone. I have seen many teachers from many countries including Daniel Toutain, Ulf Evanas, Miles Kessler, Matthew Hill, Hitohiro Saito Sensei, Sensei Witt, Hoa Newens, Pat Hendricks and Sensei Lewis Q.