I started Aikido in 1987 aged 21. In fact I didn’t start Aikido I started Tai Chi – all will become clear. In my childhood and early teens I did a lot of Judo. I enjoyed the sport and the challenge of testing my skills against other opponents in matches. I started entering competitions but one experience ruined my outlook of the sport. I watched the son of a coach from another club loose a match, he swore at the referee and was very disrespectful. This I realised was a result of the huge amount of pressure he had been under to win. After this I no longer saw Judo as a Martial Art I wanted to be a part off.
After a few years of pretty much doing nothing I decided to go back to Martial Arts and I was interested in Tai Chi. I went to my first lesson with a guy from the Philippines called master Te. He was very good, but it was expensive and I was pretty much in a class of old people.
So I finished the class started downstairs and I see a guy – in a skirt? – surrounded by about four people. All of a sudden they are all attacking him and he’s bouncing them round the mat. I was watching my first teacher Max Moss and I was hooked, I wanted to be able to do that!
My job has taken be around Europe and occasionally to the USA. Wherever I travel, if there is an aikido club nearby I try and get in contact before I go and train at least once when I am travelling. I have seen many different teachers and it’s really interesting to see how they teach and their organisations run. I have never had a bad experience at another club, the people are always friendly and there’s usually a beer involved after the session.
In the Czech Republic in the early 90s I travelled across Prague by tram I spoke no Czech and there wasn’t google maps. I made my way through a dodgy housing estate to what I hoped was a sports centre. I found the club, no one spoke any English so we communicated in my limited German. On the mat I didn’t understand anything the teacher said – apart from the technique names which were in Japanese! Great session and great Czech beer.
At one time I was spending 13 weeks a year in Germany – I missed training and I couldn’t find a dojo. Then I drove past a building and saw ‘Iwama Ryu’ written on it. I stopped the car and rang the doorbell. I met the teacher and his wife. The dojo was 20 minutes from where I was working. Before long I was training two times a week. We would sit and drink tea after the class and discuss life in general. This is where I learnt that yodelling was a genuine subject taught in Bavarian Schools! These were times away from work that I enjoyed and helped me to relax.
I want to continue to develop my Aikido, I don’t think there’s ever a point where you can stop developing, but you can stop yourself developing. I also want to help others develop their aikido and progress – aikido has so much to offer and I feel I have benefitted from it in so many ways that I want to help other people on their aikido journey where I can.
I have travelled quite a lot and I have tried many different styles of aikido. It’s not really fair to compare Iwama Ryu with other styles of aikido to say whether they are better or worse. Training in a different style for a seminar or a short period of time doesn’t give you a chance to fully appreciate another kind of aikido. What I have found however, is that having done Iwama Ryu I find it is relatively easy to adapt to other styles, but often experience the reverse when I try and show someone from another style Iwama Ryu.
Aikido can benefit people in so many ways. Personally I have gained in confidence and it has given me a different outlook on life and dealing with people and stress. I have made friends in aikido who I can depend on and who will hopefully be friends for life. I miss going to the pub or sports centre bar after aikido classes – it probably wasn’t very healthy – but it was great to socialise with like-minded people.
I have been training since I was 21 and I am now approaching 55 – I will let you do the maths! During that time I have pretty much had one teacher, I have attended seminars when I can, trained in many places abroad and run several classes and clubs over the years. For those of you yet to run a class or a club I would recommend it. It has its challenges but is rewarding and helps to develop your aikido.
I have been really lucky with my job. Apart from normal holidays abroad it has taken me round Europe and a number of times to the USA. In Europe I have travelled to France, Germany, Denmark, Greece, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Malta and Spain. It sounds exciting but there were points where I was freezing my backside off in a MilitaryTent in the middle of the night in Germany in temperatures of -10 that were less than enjoyable!