I began my journey on the Aikido path in 1974, I was a small, shy and skinny eighteen year old in the first year of a five year technician’s apprenticeship.
Kung Fu had just begun its run on TV with David Carradine playing the roll of Kwai Chang Kaine. As those of my generation and era know, this series hit our TV screens about the same time that Bruce Lee’s movies astounded us at cinemas with this “new” method of fighting.
The Kung Fu TV series inspired me to learn something to defend myself, but so new was this new form of self defence, no clubs that I knew of existed – not even karate. All I had to choose from in my town were boxing, or judo. Therefore, knowing that judo had oriental origins I scoured the local newspaper and found a judo club. I went to check it out, and discovered in order to join I would have to enrol on a waiting list, which at that time was three months long!!!
It is said that rather than one finds Aikido, Aikido finds you. I believe this is what happened in my instance. I went into work and told my story to my fellow apprentices and colleagues and one of them said:
“So, you want to learn a martial art? My lodger teaches a martial art in Maidenhead at the same venue you went to enquire about judo. Interested?”
Now why, when I was in the training hall, did I not see any advertisements for it? I cannot explain. However I replied “Of course, what is it?”
He said “A little known art, it’s called ‘Aikido’, ever heard of it?”
Of course I had not, but in any case I went again to check it out and, upon turning up was made welcome by the Sensei and invited to watch the class of about eight students, the highest grade of which was a 4th kyu (orange belt).
I was amazed by the grace of movement, the effortless way in which the Sensei threw or pinned his attackers and enthralled by some of the philosophical aspects of the art explained by the Sensei: “It is not our intent to hurt our attacker, to break his bones, use strength – we simply redirect his attack and help him on his way”.
Needless to say, I was hooked and thenceforth attended every training class – come rain, snow, sleet, freezing fog or the hottest, humid day. Aikido was a drug and I could not get enough of it.
The style we learned was based upon ‘Ki Aikido’ as devised by Sensei Koichi Tohei, one of O Sensei’s earliest students. A very flowing style from which I developed good uke technique and beautiful rolling ukemi from the most powerful of throws. It was truly really good fun – I loved it.
Sadly, a couple of years into my training I had to take a sabbatical owing to a clash with my evening class at college for my City & Guilds professional qualification. Coinciding with this, my Sensei decided his path in Aikido was taking a new direction and he passed on the running of the club to his senior students. Alas, following this I became disillusioned, uninspired and combined with maturing in my chosen profession I left UK to work overseas. My sabbatical ended up being fifteen years away from Aikido during which time I tried Shotokan Karate, Wing Chu kung fu and the use of nunchaku (rice flails).
I re-entered a dojo in Reading in 1991 and decided to start from the beginning again as a total novice. It was in a style of Aikido called the Iwama style, not so flowing and more basic with a big emphasis on bokken and jo weapons training. Once again, our Sensei passed on the running of the club to his senior student to follow his desire to become a police officer (would I ever find a Sensei I could look up to, emulate?).
In 1992 I found him, Sensei Tony Sargeant. Although he lived in Cambridge, it did not deter me and fellow students from commuting there as often as possible to train in the dojo he had built in his expansive garden. This was emphasised through attending intensive training weekend courses, living in and sleeping on the mat in the dojo.
In 1996 once again my professional career interrupted my progress, and as a 2nd kyu (blue belt) I moved to Hong Kong with my young family to live and work. Before departing UK, I asked Sensei Sargeant about what to do about my training and he said to continue personal development studying the weapons syllabus. Luckily enough I had a beaten old VHS of Morihiro Saito Sensei’s Aiki ken and Aiki jo and, every weekend would commit to a couple of hours personal training.
In addition, I would train at the Hong Kong Aikido club, but my work commitments would not permit me to train as much as I wished. The style of Aikido was from the Aikikai Hombu and, although I enjoyed it I was always worried it would mess with the Iwama style I had become so fond of and therefore chose not to grade there. In 2002 I returned to UK, still as a 2nd kyu.
I resumed my training at Reading Zenshin Aikido Club, a club founded early 2002 by two of my closest friends, Senseis John Garmston and Peter Haggar. I graded for my Shodan (1st level black belt) under Sensei Sargeant in 2004, and became a qualified coach the same year.
I remained with this excellent club, progressing to Sandan (3rd degree black belt) in 2010, and was given the opportunity to teach classes to assist further the club’s development and evolution. I also discovered that through teaching, my own Aikido began to flourish.
However, I realised that in order to progress further along my personal Aikido path, I would have to form my own club and pass on my knowledge to other aspiring Aikidoka (students).
Which now brings me to the present day…
I sincerely hope that you can enjoy your Aikido as much as I have over the years, and I would be honoured to assist and guide any aspiring students on their own Aikido path.