Training with The Terminator!

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.

Oh well…

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.

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About Aikido Yoshinkai Exeter

I run a small dojo of Yoshinkan Aikido in Exeter, Devon in the UK. The dojo started in Exeter in Jan 2013. There are a couple of Dojos in Exeter that train in Aikido, but we are the only Yoshinkan Aikido dojo in the area. The name of the dojo is Aikido Yoshinkai Exeter, and my instructor in Robert Mustard sensei. My experience in Martial Arts is exclusive to Yoshinkan Aikido in which I have trained for over 8 years now. I have traveled near and far to train and to date I continue to do so. I have had the honour of training with a few remarkable martial artists. I have also trained with Joe Thambu shihan (7th Dan) on many seminars over the past 7 years for whom I hold great admiration for his skill. In the UK we are fortunate to have instructors visiting regularly, Payet shihan (7th Dan), Ando shihan (7th Dan) and Takeno shihan (9th dan). Our club is closely linked with other Yoshinkan Dojo's in the UK and maintain friendly relations with them. email: twitter: @aikidoexeter

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