Reflections on Summer School 2011
Day 2 is over, what to start with and where from? There is a quality of Aikido that I have not seen before. Perhaps I have, but it is only now that I am good enough to appreciate it. I believe the better one becomes the more the finesse one can appreciate.
It is simple yet it is not easy!
Mustard sensei even said “every time I try to cream Uke with my sokumen It doesn’t happen, and when I let the technique come out I throw them really hard”
That statement for me is all I need to know.. that statement should be the working motto of Yohsinkan aikidoka, “let the technique come out”.
Not only that but it is the recipe for and the secret ingredient of a powerful technique.
Although the technique is what we practice all the time we often do not trust it enough to work for us. Not trusting techniques we practice and base our whole martial art around is really a waste of time; we might as well go play tennis.
Sensei will often advise us on the matt and say: let it go! He really means let it go. Let go of the tension, of the muscular rigidity. Yes, I like that word, rigidity, because that is exactly what it is. Rigidity describes exactly what you will get when you use muscle power to implement a technique. Rigidity, is the lack or loss of that smooth flowing motion, that soft, gentle movement that allows the Shuchu ryoku –focussed power- to come out.
When engaging Uke in a shomen-uchi strike, remember it is not the arms that will be moving uke –assuming he is of equal strength, but your whole body movement. That body movement will not come together as a unified action or as a smooth motion unless you ‘let it go’; just move with your lower body, the arms are merely a connection to your body not a separate aikido entity.
The arms will provide you with your best connection to uke and will have the greatest impact on him if they are relaxed -which is not the same as floppy- to help with that relaxed feeling think of extending and sending your energy out.
The concept of ‘Jushin mae’ –Energy forward, is not only applicable to your knees, but to all your extremities, it is a state of being, regardless of what you do in aikido.
Back to the showmen uchi example, from the point of engagement if you were to ignore the arms and just shift your weight forward pushing from the back leg, uke will certainly be moved into the correct position for your next step.
Back to trusting the technique! Sensei demonstrated to me, in a showmen uchi ikkajo ni, after the block and the initial pivot –over 180- when uke is in that seemingly strong position all you need to do is to perform a hiriki shift… that is all. Make the connection with your hands but move from your hips, one committed purposeful movement. This brings me nicely to another point; commitment or decisiveness. This is perhaps my biggest personal eureka moment from this seminar. Commit yourself.
Engage uke in the proper manner, then just move, no fiddling about, no fidgeting, not half moves, no start stop, no tap dancing, none of that. Just simply move to your next step.
This weekend, when I learned to commit and after putting it into practice, I managed a couple of really nice and strong throws. The throw sounded different and felt like nothing. It was a rare moment for me, when ‘commitment’ met with ‘trusting the technique’ in one smooth motion, the final result was exhilarating.
When all of those different component are put together the Uke will not be able to move or to resist, you’ll be in better position and probably control.
I described a few throws I experienced from sensei this seminar to a friend as being hit by a train.. absolutely unstoppable. The body moved as a whole, as one, in a smooth motion. Now I know I’m not the strongest around, but even the strongest on the day were unable to resist the technique. It was beautiful to watch.
So how do you manage to do all that, well simple really, we were given the answer to that …
1- Practice kihon and all basic techniques in wide, low and in big movements
2- Leave your ego at the door.
3- Trust the technique, you can’t trust your technique if your ego comes to training with you, it just doesn’t work. It is far better to stop and say this technique is not working for me today, rather than force the technique with muscle power. Correcting bad habits takes long, so best not to make new ones.
4- Keep practicing correctly, there is a reason some people dedicate a life time to learn yoshinkan aikido, because it takes at least a life time to master it.
Monday, 10 October 2011
No introduction needed
by Sensei David Eayrs
It is very unfortunate that in modern times many students seem completely unaware of the local history of the martial art they are practising. There are many students practising Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK today, who are totally unaware as to the origins of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK. It would be a shame and a dishonour to so easily forget the people who have made it possible for us to be practising Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK today, and yet many students and some senior instructors do not even know the names of the people who were fundamental in establishing Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK.
Unfortunately in a very few cases this lack of knowledge is the result of instructors who wish to deny their own lineage in Yoshinkan Aikido (e.g. a denial of the Instructor who introduced them to Yoshinkan Aikido for a more favourable, popular or higher ranked Instructor), or to exaggerate their lineage in Yoshinkan Aikido (e.g. claiming to have begun Yoshinkan Aikido or trained Yoshinkan Aikido with an Instructor whom they have been taught by, for less hours than implied).
In other cases the lack of knowledge or incorrect knowledge is the result of instructors who themselves have no real knowledge regarding the history of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK and have simply passed on incorrect statements about the history, implying that the statements are correct.
It is a great shame that some people may wish to deny their history or the history of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK for whatever reasons they have. You have the opportunity of changing your future, but you cannot change your past, and therefore I have compiled a short factual history of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK from the memories of someone who was part of it and who was the second person to introduce Yoshinkan Aikido to the UK.
I began the study of Yoshinkan Aikido in late 1962 under the tuition of Francis Ramasamy Sensei who is now 7th Dan Yoshinkan.
Two years prior to this the late Edwin Stratton Sensei left Malaysia to return to the UK after studying Yoshinkan Aikido under the tuition of Thamby Rajah Sensei, the founder and head of The Shudokan Institute of Aikido.
Both Thamby Rajah Sensei and Francis Ramasamy Sensei had studied at Honbu Dojo with the late Kancho Gozo Shioda and were graded to Shodan by Kancho Gozo Shioda.
I understand that on his return to the UK, Stratton Sensei began to teach Yoshinkan Aikido whilst he was still a serving soldier in 1961
I returned to the UK in 1966, leaving the Army in 1967, which is when I opened my first dojo. Shortly after this, following the submission of a film of my techniques to Kancho Gozo Shioda via my Sensei, Francis Ramasamy Sensei, I was awarded the rank of Shodan by Kancho Gozo Shioda with a letter from him congratulating me on my success and my correct Yoshinkan techniques and encouraging me to develop and expand Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK. This of course, was long before the formation of the I.Y.A.F.
At this time I also established a friendship with the late Jim Elkin Sensei, spending several weekends at his home, he like others who practiced a different style of Aikido had never heard of Yoshinkan Aikido, and it was almost looked upon with contempt. Jim Sensei was practicing Tomiki Aikido and I also trained with the Tomiki aikidoka, their main teacher at that time was Sensei Riki Kugure, who knew Kancho Gozo Shioda. Kugure Sensei explained to Jim Sensei what Yoshinkan Aikido was, and from this moment Yoshinkan Aikido became better known in the UK.
As a matter of interest during my many conversations with Takeno Shihan at the recent Yoshinkan Aikido festival (2006), hosted by Sonny Loke Sensei in Malaysia, Takeno Shihan was asking me about the history and development of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK, and when I mentioned my connection with Kugure Sensei he was delighted because it turns out that they are long standing friends.
It was some time after this that Stratton Sensei turned up at my house and introduced himself as the most senior Yoshinkan Sensei in the UK, he told me that he had a mandate from Kancho Gozo Shioda to develop Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK.
Following this meeting, Stratton Sensei and I would meet from time to time, often at training weekends when his and my students would get together both for training and socialising, I might add that those times were great with no “Barrack Room Lawyers”, no politics, just great Yoshinkan Aikido training.
Later when Stratton Sensei brought the young Sensei Jang Eun Yu (4th Dan) to the UK, we received him with open arms, he and his dynamic approach, were a great influence on us, and most weekends he was brought to Portsmouth to teach classes, by his senior student David Thompson Sensei, a man of great talent. Sensei Yu’s first comment, after the first training session, was that he was “very impressed” with the standard of my students and that our “Kihon Dosa was correct and proper”.
Sadly those good times came to an end, and Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK was split apart by unnecessary internal politics, in the main caused by certain individuals who manipulated people and situations, to suit their own agendas, and as is often the case, most of these people no longer practice Yoshinkan Aikido, but leave in their wake bitterness, sadness and a fragmented system.
Yoshinkan Aikido is today, still plagued by politics and has its share of people who delight in writing nonsense, all of which adds up to the continual fragmentation of our Aikido which we all profess to love. It is one of the main reasons why our Aikido is practiced by only a handful of people worldwide. The legacy of the great Kancho Gozo Shioda is constantly over-shadowed by individuals egos.
The fact is that I was awarded Shodan by Kancho Gozo Shioda and began to teach Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK long before many of you were born. We early pioneers of Yoshinkan Aikido had no training aids that are available today such as Videos and DVDs, etc. and contact with Honbu Dojo was not easy as E-mail did not exist at that time. Most instructors had no money to support their teaching of Aikido and yet we soldiered on with only the belief in Yoshinkan Aikido, and the words and teachings from our Sensei’s to support us during these difficult times.
I would ask that you be thankful for those early Sensei who laid down the foundations of Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK, so that you can be practising Yoshinkan Aikido today. I would ask that all Yoshinkan aikidoka concentrate their energy on forming a consolidated Yoshinkan Aikido in the UK.
Above is a picture of visit of Kancho Gozo Shioda to the UK in 1975, that was published in the Yoshinkan year book. I am sitting 3rd from the left, in the second row sitting next to Thompson Sensei, more than half of the students in this picture are Yoshinkan students of mine. Front row is Yu Sensei, Kancho Gozo Shioda and Stratton Sensei.
Source Ken shin kai: http://www.kenshinkai.org.uk/yoshinkanhistoryuk.aspx
So the London marathon is over, thankfully it went on peacefully and without incident. I’m on the train heading home, after a busy weekend in London. I’m in the train on a table with a family of a marathon runner who were most entertaining. They had all traveled to support another family member running the marathon.
While sitting here listening to them chatter, I was reflecting on this morning’s training. Two hours of solid training with the Terminator… no, not Arnie.. but with Roland Thompson, who had become famously known as the Terminator thanks to Robert Twigger’s book, Angry White Pyjamas. The book was set in the early 1990s (93-94) and traces the journey of an Aikido student who had never done any martial arts who went from white belt to black belt by undertaking the dreadful Senshusei course. It was on this course that the author met with famous other yoshinkan instructors, whom he mentioned, some in more detail that others. Shioda Kancho, Takeno sensei, Chida sensei, Payet sensei and Chino sensei. there was another whom he held in special regard, and called him a Bastard!! but that is for another blog.
So, back to the terminator, Like many aikidoka I first read of Roland Thompson in the book which, ascribed to him a certain je ne se quoi, but lets call it an aura, an aura of power. It did that simply by mentioning two pieces of information from Thompson sensei’s days in training under the very impressive Gozo Shioda (1915-1994), head of Yoshinkan Aikido in tokyo. Firstly, that he was -at the time at least – nicknamed the terminator and secondly that he earned this title for being the only person ever known to be able to resist Shioda Kancho’s nikkajo (a type of shoulder lock applied through the wrist). Those who knew Shioda kancho or who have read about his skill as an extraordinary martial artists would understand why this was no small feat.
In March this year, I got a message from a friend at Paul Stephen sensei’s dojo that Roland Thompson Sensei was visiting and that the dojo was arranging an informal training session with him.
I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by.
Arriving at the dojo slightly earlier than expected, I stood their waiting, it wasn’t long before Paul Stephens Sensei arrived with Roland -the Terminator- Thompson beside him.
After a quick introduction and some pleasantries we had a short chat as we walked into the dojo to start the session.
As the session began, Thompson Sensei wanted to address three issues, flow in movement, ma’ai (appropriate martial distance between combatants) and some general concepts.
The flow session was very interesting, addressing an issue commonly seen in Yoshinkan aikido even amongst black belts where people often perform the technique rigidly in a step wise fashion lacking flow! This was addressed by hajime training probably for about 30 min or so, the focus was on maintaining posture and form while moving fast and and pushing ourselves well beyond comfort.
We then looked at ma’ai and how to maintain it with a very interesting method, a simple exercise, a great exercise, training partners face each other in suwari (kneeling position), one begins shikko ho by moving forward while the other moves backwards. The aim is for Uke and Shi’te to work in harmony and to synchronize their moves to maintain the distance as between them, allowing the gap to neither grow nor shrink. It was a very interesting exercise though it could easily double as punishment, it demands a great deal from the legs which does in turn does build strength in the legs and hips. If one manages to focus beyond the discomfort the exercise actually is a very good teaching medium for the concept of ma’ai and working together.
The last third of the session was spent looking at some concepts that culminated in Uchiro Jyuwaza practice, looking at nage exercises starting with a shihonage and two kokyunages one of them form sankajo.
I really enjoyed being throwen by Thompson Sensei, his technique is solid and is very tight, there was no slack and once he locked you the lock remained on until the end of the technique. The throws were hard and Uke was always compromised. Beautiful, just what yoshinkan aikido should be.
I don’t know if Thompson sensei is in the UK much, but it was truly a pleasure training with him, two hours passed by very quickly. We had good training, asked many questions and tried a few new things -at least I have- Having now trained with Thompson sensei, I know that if he is every visiting the UK again to train I’ll be on the mat training with him in a flash.
If you get that opportunity too, don’t miss it, I suspect you’ll be impressed.
Training over, we headed for the pub for a pint and meal, unfortunately I had to take off soon after to catch my train, despite leaving with ample time I got to the train station just in the nick of time only to discover that I have missed my train and more so missed the next train which was not scheduled to depart for another 10 min!! How did that happen? who has ever heard of a train leaving early?
So there I was sitting in a cafe in Paddington station spending two hours waiting for the next train while texting my friend Neil -from Meikyokai Aikido dojo in London – who was having a good time and a beer in the sun. What an annoying end that was to an otherwise great weekend in London.
When I go to a seminar I tend to look for memorabilia, not uncommonly people will make their memorabilia photo’s I tend to make mine lessons learned. Based on that, I have three items with me.
1- I must improvement my movement flow.
2- Must work on maintaining my ma’ai
3- Must book later trains in the future, to get to socialize with friends.
21 April 2013
Roland Thompson sensei is from Roppongi Yoshinkan Aikido dojo
Began Aikido training in 1987 at the Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo.
In 1988 to 1989 graduated from the 25th Tokyo Riot Police course. He taught at the Honbu Dojo 1989-1994 while also being the assistant to Ando Tsuneo and Chida Tsutomu. Thompson Sensei was one of the senior instructors who started the Kokusai Senshusei Course at Honbu. He became know as the terminator for his hard and physically demanding classes which was infamously depicted in the best-selling novel, “Angry White Pajamas,” by Robert Twigger, in which he was also featured.
Due to his dedication and commitment to Yoshinkan Aikido he was personally presented his Shidoin teaching certificate as a licensed instructor in Japan from the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, the legendary Soke Shioda Gozo.
An old Kung Fu proverb states that “it is better to spend five years looking for a good martial arts teacher than spending 20 years in martial arts training with a bad instructor”.
This could not have been truer. When I heard about the seminar I signed up immediately.
I did not know of Threadgill sensei but had heard impressive things about him from impressive martial artists, and as far as references go, they don’t get any better. I was looking forward to meeting him and to what I was promised would be a very interesting seminar.
The level of skill demonstrated was both inspirational and aspirational but what amazed me most, is the underlying clarity and depth of understanding the principles that underpin the technique, the historical backgrounds of the moves and the mechanisms of the techniques. Even more impressive was the ability to explain, demonstrate and deliver the message of true Budo.
The seminar saw a tag team style of instruction, with one leading with a technique explaining the concepts and the principles and after some practice the other would explain how that same principle applied to the other martial art.
In my opinion, that seminar could have been held in any serious dojo in the world and would still have been beneficial and relevant.This was highlighted by the fact that some of the attendees came from very diverse backgrounds, jujitsu, Aikido, Judo and even a couple from Karate. The seminar was lively and buzzing, the energy was abundant and the action constant.
I have trained with mustard sensei many times, so it was easy for me to have my name on the list the moment this seminar was announced, However, I had not met Threadgill sensei before this weekend, but I know that if he permits me, I will most certainly be at every one of his future seminars in the UK, I would be a fool to miss them. I can almost guarantee that you will rarely find such high-caliber instructors, who are as generously giving and yet humble.
Take home message?
Next seminar that either or both instructors lead in the UK make sure you’re on it. You will not regret it.
Since I started with a proverb I will finish with one, the Japanese say: “one time, one opportunity” although the origin of this proverb is not actually in the field of Budo it is often used in the martial art world, to mean seize the opportunity you have, you may not get another, sure enough, these opportunity don’t come knocking every day seize what you can.
I can’t promote this event enough. I believe another on is planner for next year. Don’t miss out.
17th September 2012
Robert Mustard sensei is a nana-dan (7th degree black belt) in Yoshinkain Aikido which he studied for 35 years 10 of which in Japan under the direct guidance of two legendary martial artists, Takeno Takafumi and Chida Tsutomu sensei’s. Mustard sensei’s power and swift execution of his technique is phenomenal, what is more phenomenal is his teaching ability, sense of humour and humility.
Tobi Threadgill sensei In 1985 initiated training under Takamura Yukiyoshi, headmaster Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu. In 1992 he founded the Soryushin Dojo and in 1994 was appointed a branch director of the Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin Kai. In 1999, he was one of three people to be awarded a menkyo kaiden in Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu. Sensei’ Threadgills impressive understanding of body mechanics and demonstration of exquisite skill is well-known to those who train with him. He has an amazingly in-depth understanding of budo, a pleasure to be with on the mat training or off the mat chatting about budo.
Link to 2013 event:
So, this is my first entry after starting my Aikido Exeter blog. I have started an Aikido dojo in Exeter late January of this year in an attempt to take charge of my own training and to spread Yoshinkan Aikido, the dojo is located at 1West street, Exeter. Just up the road from ‘the house that moved‘. Recently I have also managed a website for my dojo –Aikido Yoshinkai Exeter- thanks to a couple of helpful, not to mention techy friends.
What I aim to do is to make this blog a parking spot for my thoughts and reflections on training with anecdotes and occasional analysis. I also hope to use this blog to post news, updates and upcoming training opportunities. Initially, I considered starting my blog by adding my old articles and notes chronologically, but later decided to upload my reflections as they happened.
This blog, along with my website www.aikidoexeter.co.uk, Facebook page and twitter account will in time cover a lot of what we do at the dojo and hopefully contain interesting information and tidbits.
The dojo is up and running now, please feel free to pop in, call us or contact us via any of the means above.
Perhaps Yoshinkan Aikido’s most powerful living practitioner.
The seminar was organised by Paul Stephen sensei 5th dan. Find his dojo at Yoshinkanlondon.co.uk