When did you start and what influenced you to start?
In the mid to late nineties I did a stint as a pub and nightclub doorman and soon realised I needed more than just people skills. I had seen an Aikido demonstration about a year before and still had the flier on the fridge. The very first night I went, I arrived as the place was closing up and they were off for a drink. Instead of just giving me a timetable and saying come back then – they invited me with them. My kind of people.
Where have you practiced aikido, and under which sensei’s, Japanese or home grown sensei’s?
I’ve been fortunate that the grounding for what I’ve learned about Aikido comes from MMAC sensei’s, but I’ve also travelled extensively in the UK and abroad, taking classes and weekend courses whenever I could. I think I got a little OCD for a while. I would always pack by dogi if I went on holiday. I still do at least a week away a year and train where ever I can.
I’ve trained under many high ranking Japanese instructors on various courses over the years such Chiba, Yomada, Obata and the late Tamura Sensei and I was fortunate to train many times under Sensei’s Cottier and Smith – both sadly no longer with us – but I learned a great deal from both. Travel is an important part of training. It’s healthy to see how other aikidokas instruct and practice – it reminds you that the art, and the interpretation of it, is just vast.
Who has influenced you?
I think MMAC is a special place – and I don’t mean that just because I teach there and used to be Chairman. It’s a club genuinely for its members, run by its members. Everyone knows what it’s like to be a member of some club or gym where you begrudgingly pay some inflated direct debit but MMAC’s not like that, it’s inexpensive – ridiculously so, considering the grades we have – but the catch is its future relies on its members volunteering. Not everyone has to, and nobody is pressured to, people just do because it’s rewarding to feel part of something rather than just paying for someone else’s profit. No one gets paid for anything they do at the club – not even teaching.
What do you like most in aikido?
Technically it’s a demanding art and that’s addictive to me. People take up a martial art because they want the skills but they stay because they see there’s more to it than just putting people on the floor. The pleasure in teaching is seeing your students discover that too.
Are you trained in any other martial arts?
Like most people I did a little karate and judo as a kid. Growing up there was always someone who had a pair of boxing gloves too, so plenty of sparring in mate’s back gardens. In my twenties I went to various weekend martial art seminars run at local sports centres. I didn’t really care which art it was, I’d have a go. I still train in other arts when I go on multi-style courses.
How would you sell Aikido as opposed to other arts?
You can’t, it’s like the rock, paper, scissors game. No one art is better for all people and all situations. Generally the public can’t tell the difference anyway – that’s not being rude, they just can’t. The only way to see what the different arts are like is to go, watch and join if you can. It’s not just the art itself anyway; it’s the people, the atmosphere. If students don’t like a place, they won’t stay. It amazes me how many in depth discussions you see on media sites about which art is better and which would come out victorious in a cage fight! My advice – don’t get in the cage in the first place.