Issue 30 – Southern Aikido Connection

Well everyone, another year is drawing to a close again. The grading just been was awesome so please do not let up on your training when it resumes in the new year. Meanwhile, have a great X’mas and Happy New Year. Be safe over the holidays. Don’t forget the Pound Davey Lim day (read on!)

A few thoughts…

I recently have had reason to consider what I think is most important to me about aikido and Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury. The answer to me, is the people. We form strong and enduring friendships between us. But as an aikido instructor I also see development of both technical skills and character.

Technically we have made significant advances in recent months with two “homegrown” students reaching yondan – Gary here and Aaron in Nagoya. Both of them have gone on to become great instructors. “Behind” Aaron and Gary are a slew of sandan, nidan and shodan who train regularly and hard. Some of whom teach. These people will also achieve higher gradings in the next year or two. The skill level people are achieving is outstanding. If we simply continue along this same path I’m positive our skill base will improve.

However, some of the key moments I’ve enjoyed over the years are those that demonstrate the development as individuals. In particular, I notice those who contribute to the “culture” of Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury, who are prepared to go out of their way to help others. I see it often whether it is just offering simple friendship to a new student or providing some help for another with their business. This truly is something to be valued.

Although I don’t want to point at any individual I am going to remember one person. Chris Raeger died in a car accident a year or so ago. He was a student of mine for over 10 years and my friend. He was not particularly gifted at aikido although he had reached nikyu. He was a very quiet and private person. Chris though did a huge amount around the dojo whether it was looking after weapons or painting a wall, he would simply get on with it. I’m sure that most people had no idea of his contribution but I certainly appreciated him greatly & we were all enriched by his contribution. He did not seek recognition for these things he did but simply gained some pleasure from the “doing”. Maybe he was the best teacher of us all.

Andrew Williamson Sensei

News update

  1. Open Day! ASC will hold an Open Day on 23 January 2007 at 6:00pm at the Burnside Dojo. Diary this date, and please line up your friends and bring them along. More details to follow.
  2. Masuda Shihan in Christchurch: February 7 – March 5 as has occurred for the past couple of years, we are extraordinarily lucky to have Masuda Shihan in Christchurch from 7 February. Andrew will post a training schedule for when he is here as soon as he is able to confirm it.

Kimori Dojo Annual Seminar Sept 2007

It was early, early on a Thursday morning, I remember it well. My peace was disturbed by a bunch of (old, can I still get away with saying that???) guys getting noisily out of a car. They had come all the way here, to Nagoya, Japan to participate in Kimori Dojo’s Annual Gasshuku. So as much as I wanted to hold a grudge against them for waking me up (and smash them for it later!) I found myself forgetting the early hour (what was it about 9 0r 10am?) and enjoying their company!

What followed was a week or so of great times, good conversation (in English!!!), shopping, intense training, intense drinking, sight seeing, more training and did I mention intense drinking?

Well, rather than have me bore you, I thought I would get a few thoughts from some of the people that attended this time round…

It’s a little odd bowing in to several sensei in a row. I still get that nervous knot in my stomach I remember from the very first time I stepped on the mat. Afterwards, I’m usually left with a high that’s hard to describe. It’s not often in a dojo that you can step on a mat with that much talent represented, so many different points of view – and even more rare, to train with the sensei for any length of time during keiko!

I enjoy visiting Kimori (even though it’s only once a year) because I can see the drastic leaps that the instructors are making. What I just started to grasp after one year of training in America looks completely different when I get back to Japan. I’m inspired to see teachers still practicing and improving when so many sensei just teach. I feel I can never quite express the debt of gratitude I feel towards the sensei and students of Aikido Kimori Dojo.
I’ll be back to Kimori as soon as I can, video camera in tow, notebook at the ready, eyes wide open.

Neil Hamilton, California, America

My last visit to Kimori Dojo, nine months ago, had revived my interest in the practice of Aikido, which I felt had been merely idling along for so long. With that in mind I decided to try again, with Sawada Shihan’s consent, joining the Dojo at their annual Gashuku at the Yumori Dojo, in the forest about 100 kms from Nagoya.

This area is in itself a marvelous environment in which to join Kimori Dojo in their training. Being in a picturesque location in the mountains, added to which is the local specialty ‘Castelo’ (my spelling of this may be off for which I apologise) a type of baked cake. Something also very special is the Kanji at the Dojo, having been written by O’Sensei.

As to the training, words cannot do justice, this was for me the highlight, seeing and feeling Sawada Shihan in his element. The merest hint of this we have seen in his demonstrations at the New Zealand seminars.

The almost ‘magic’ of his movement must be seen/felt to be believed. He has connected the ‘Buki’ and ‘Taijustu’ completely, maintaining them as one practice, not the separate items they have become over the years. The sense of lightness is what is inspiring, the ‘clash and bash’ has given way to a greater sense of movement and being lead exactly where ‘Uke’ did not wish to be. Meanwhile ‘Nage’ has the feeling of being lightly centered the whole time much to ‘Uke’s’ detriment.

The feeling of responsiveness, of being connected to Uke, either via Bokken and Jo, or with the open hand, is what I particularly remember. This connection to Uke was shown again to be light and centered and very responsive.

We were all given a treat during the Gashuku when the ladies of the Dojo dressed in Yukata and Obi performed various songs etc much to the admiration of the visitors.

It was an absolute pleasure to be allowed to train with the Kimori Dojo once again, let alone socialise with all there. For myself I felt just like a beginner again, and that to me was fantastic!

Thank you again to Sawada Shihan and the members of Kimori Dojo

Richard Halson, Wellington, New Zealand

For many years I have wanted to come to Japan to experience the culture and see what Aikido was all about in its founding country. Just last December, I moved here on a one year work contract. I couldn’t find Aikido in my small town. However, various contacts led me to Kimori dojo and Sawada Shihan, just a short train ride away in Nagoya.

Just this past August I attended Sawada sensei’s summer seminar (gasshuku) in Japan. I come from Vancouver, Canada where I have had the pleasure of attending one week Aikido summer camps, in a beautiful western setting for over 10 years. The gasshuku did not disappoint!

Kimori dojo’s event was everything that I was hoping to experience in Japan; solid training, expert instruction, and Japanese cultural entertainment. Friendly people, good food and drink, a peaceful atmosphere, and diversity in people were the theme of the event. Among the Japanese participants there were New Zealanders, Americans, Swiss and Australians. Oh and did I mention there was also a Canadian (oh and it’s not ‘Trevis’, Aaron, it is ‘Traaaavis’).

As per usual, practicing with everyone was great and as many of you know I felt it the next day and the next. But hey, there was a sento (bath/hotub) that I could sit in after a day of practice and a river to cool off at in front of the dojo. There was also a beautiful waterfall only 15 minutes walk. There is no doubt about (‘noo dooot abooot it’ Aaron) my attending another gasshuku after returning to Canada. It is well worth the trip.

Travis Carter, Vancouver, Canada

It’s been two whole weeks since I returned from my first trip to Japan, and I’m still searching for the words that will adequately describe the appreciation I have for both Takase-Shihan and Sawada-Shihan for allowing me to have that experience.

Visiting Kimori Dojo opened my eyes to how that school conducts itself. I am most inspired by how Kimori strives for excellence in everything they do. Whether they are training, keeping the dojo clean, or enjoying food/drinks/laughs, everyone contributes with a spirit of teamwork. As a guest, I found it very easy to relax and join in. To say that people were very friendly and warm is to put it mildly.

The gasshuku was amazing. The Yumori venue supplied us with an excellent place to train, eat, sleep and socialise. We trained for many hours in the heat and humidity, and people kept going back to the dojo for more practice afterwards. They were so eager to share and to learn, the enthusiasm was contagious. I was humbled by their dedication and skills. I learned early on that despite my many years of training, that there is still much to learn. I’ve returned to New Zealand with renewed inspiration.

Alex Natelli, Wellington, New Zealand

I had daydreamed of going to Nagoya since the Gassuhku in Auckland earlier this year. I had been talking to Richard Halson about Sawada Sensei when he told me that he planed to go to his seminar in early September. At that time I couldn’t commit myself to anything. I had just moved to Queensland and had started my first job after finishing my degree. I had been quite busy with my new job and life in general but I kept thinking about Sawada Sensei’s seminar. Then, one day I decided that I needed a holiday anyway and got in touch with Richard and Aaron.

Seven weeks later I arrived in Nagoya. I had arranged that I arrived together with Richard and Alex at Nagoya airport, where we were welcomed by Yamamoto San. He drove us to our accommodation in Nagoya. We were staying right next to the Dojo, in a house used for guests and live-in students. There we were welcomed by Aaron and briefly by Sawada Sensei, whose business is just next door. In fact the Dojo is in the same building above his business. Soon after lunch we changed into Gi and Hakama and went to the Dojo. Aaron went with us through some of Sawada Sensei’s basics. I was very grateful for that, it helped lot during the seminar.

Later that day we met the rest of the “foreigners”, a few guys from California and Hawaii. In total we were only seven visitors attending the seminar… there would be not much hiding… we would be in the spotlight all the time… The same evening we were all invited to dinner at Sawada Sensei’s house. It was a very special evening… all the instructors of Kimori Dojo were there… and the food was just amazing.

The next day we left Nagoya for the mountains. The seminar was at Yumori Dojo, which is located in a narrow mountain valley with a river and waterfall nearby. The place reminded me of Switzerland. Training was just great, a few sessions were empty handed but mostly we trained with weapons. At the Gassuhku in Auckland we saw Sawada Sensei’s uke use protective gloves. But then, to me, it didn’t mean much because we were not using them. At Yumori we were using them all the time… now I makes more sense… We were also very lucky that we had two great translators, Aaron and Nelson (one of the Californians), without them everything would have been so much more difficult.

The seminar was not just about Aikido, every evening we had a party. There was always plenty of Japanese food. I didn’t always know what we ate but I always liked it… except for the fresh squid! I tried it… but I decided I can do without it… One evening, most of the girls dressed up in traditional Kimonos and presented Japanese songs. I also remember Kobayashi Sensei opening a Japanese schnapps. And there were the “late evening Aikido sessions” were people, relaxed after a few drinks, started to discuss Aikido and tried some moves on each other. In particular Sawada Sensei enjoyed it, to explain and demonstrate techniques in that informal setting. Fuji Sensei too had fun demonstrating that he really knows how to apply nikkyo, which was less fun for uke!

Both mornings, at 6am, there was a voluntary early morning class. The first one I missed, I slept in… I had set my alarm, but… anyway it was a bit embarrassing. I made up for it by being the first one on the mat the following morning. These morning sessions were not formal classes, people practiced by themselves but Sawada Sensei was present and corrected people in there doings. I got plenty of attention too… and learned a lot… The seminar was over much too soon. The last class finished Sunday morning. After lunch we packed our stuff into the cars and went for a short trip up the valley to a very nice water fall. We were back in Nagoya the same evening and had, you guessed it, another dinner party at the Dojo.

The next morning we slept in, we all needed some rest. But not for long, Sawada Sensei had arranged an afternoon class just for us visitors. Again we did mostly weapons and got plenty of personal attention. After two and a half hours we stopped and had a rest before we went to the normal Monday evening classes. This time we did empty handed techniques. There were quite a number of people on the mats and soon it got hot… I mean really hot… I just managed to hang in there. After the class we had another dinner party, this time in a Chinese restaurant.

The next day, Tuesday, was our last day in Nagoya and the only day where we didn’t do any Aikido. We had a lazy morning and said goodbye to our American friends, who left a bit earlier. Later we went into town and did some shopping and sightseeing. Back at the house we started packing, cleaned our room and later invited Yamamoto San for dinner. He had been a great help during our whole stay. The next morning, we got up early to catch the bus to the airport. Sawada Sensei dropped by to say goodbye and soon after we were on our way. It was a great visit… but much too short… we all learned a lot and I definitely want to go back

Roland Stettler, Gladstone, Australia

Kimori Dojo’s Annual Seminar is held on the first weekend of September every year and I have been lucky enough to attend 3 of these. It is not only a great opportunity to get to know the members of Kimori Dojo but also an exceptional opportunity to absorb Kimori Dojo’s Aikido.

If you have ever thought about coming to Japan then I highly recommend attending this Gasshuku.

Many thanks to all the old guys (you know who you are!) who attended and made this year’s Gasshuku the best yet. Cheers!

Aaron McConnell, Nagoya

Aaron & Sawada Shihan

Aaron McConnell [Yondan]…is a member and instructor at Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury. He achieved his dream of being able to live and train in Japan for an extended period – to this end, he had lived and trained with Sawada Shihan at Kimori Dojo (to the envy of many – Ed).

You may want to watch a video of Aaron’s Yondan grading.

Ex Shodans-in-waiting

Editorial: – In our last issue, we published a perspective from our 2 shodans-in-waiting. In this issue, we follow up with our 2 new shodans with regard to their elation after their shodan grading.

DAVID Post-Shodan

The Terror (a.k.a The Grading) is over! We are free! FREE I TELL YA!! Buuuuut… that doesn’t mean we can slack off just because the grading is over… no, no, no! (Otherwise you have to suffer consequences… refer to “Pound Davey Lim” event* further down). Post-grading is an excellent time when we can experiment new variations, ask deeper questions and bring our techniques closer to culmination. Post-grading, as Andrew Sensei says, is a very important time for learning.

The period leading up to grading day was, to me, quite fairish. I was expecting to be super nervous because I had an evening job all that grading week so the only time I could practice or enquire about techniques troubling me was during the seminar on the Saturday, a day before the grading. Not the greatest idea obviously but I was lucky to get away with it that time because Shihan didn’t call the technique I was having a bit of trouble with. Watching the grading was totally awesome and I reckon everyone performed fabulously, whether uke or nage. I would like to seize the opportunity here to congratulate everybody who graded. You all went out there, did your best and got the grade you very well deserve. Well done to you all!

Now for a bit of personal reflection on my grading. You recall from before that I said I was expecting to be super nervous… and indeed I was! As soon as I finished watching Colin’s ikkyu grading, my stomach was doing massive flip-flops. But, strangely, they all went away as soon as I stepped on the mat. Admittedly I was still scared about weapons taking, because it was a major weakness at the time. But I pulled through. Just an aside… I reviewed through the set of videos that James took with his camera and caught a few people laughing at me… you guys beware! Mwahahaha!

Anyways, I left the dojo that day feeling satisfied at my performance, acknowledging that from that day on, I would have to step onto the mat with my unisex skirt and have higher expectations from the Sensei both in technique improvement and break-fall standards. Scary thought!

I would like to thank all who have been my ukes, friends and support through this long four year journey. Extensive thanks to the Sensei’s. Without your constant guidance and patience, I would have never made it this far. You all have been brilliant through the years and your efforts have not gone unnoticed. My gratitude also goes to my ukes for the day, Terry and Warren, for turning up and taking whatever I had for them. I thank you both regardless of the many times you chatted behind my back about how you were going to be mean and charge at me at speeds up to 100mph during the test. I was nice to you both at grading but I won’t go so easy next time, ya hear?

Anyway, to conclude, I’d like to say that I’m really looking forward to coming back in the New Year and taking on new challenges that may arise. Even if one of these challenges include a “Pound Davey Lim” event* (organised by James “Facebook” McNeill).

Take care over the Christmas break and Merry Christmas to everyone!!! Be safe!!!

David Lim, Christchurch

* “Pound Davey Lim” event (as posted by James)
Date: Sunday, January 6th, 2008
Time: 5:00pm – 6:30pm
Location: Burnside Dojo
Description: Davey just got his shodan and now he won’t train until next year. What’s up with that? Oh well, I’m organising a celebration when he starts training again. You’re all invited!


I remember being very calm in the days leading up to grading. It was exam time at school so I had other things to think about anyway, and not much time to worry. I felt great the day before grading at the seminar, which seemed to be a particularly good seminar. The stifling heat had everyone relaxed and flexible and I was feeling really confident about my aikido in general, and also about the grading the following day.

Somewhere between the seminar and grading I lost that feeling, and on the morning of the grading I felt a stomach ache which I presume resulted from an unhealthy mixture of nervousness and the chilis Shane had tricked me in to eating the previous night.

When I arrived at the dojo I felt much calmer as I was able to move around and warm up and the familiar feeling of confidence from the previous day filled me once more. This lasted for about ten minutes, after which the grading commenced and I was forced to stand relatively still and in silence with nothing to do except wait for my looming Shodan grading. The time crawled by, until finally I was on the mat, which now looked very big and empty, beginning my grading. As expected, my first technique was suwariwaza shomen uchi ikkyo, which went horribly. My hands were shaking furiously, it seemed to me, and my movements were very jerky.

I don’t think I ever really relaxed in to that grading. Takase Sensei’s orders kept me on my toes the whole time, and I hadn’t been expecting most of my grading to be Jiyu Waza, and especially not from hamni hantachi. The worst feeling during my grading was definitely how dry my mouth was. I had half wanted to get a drink of water before my grading, but I was feeling very self conscious and didn’t want to cause a scene by moving around too much. As a result, about five minutes in to my grading my mouth and throat was extremely dry and sticking together. Obviously this would have been an even worse time to get a drink of water.

The rest of the grading was alright. Colin and James are quite big ukes and I was working hard most of the time just to keep things going. I can’t remember any specific techniques. Weapons taking was made more difficult by the sweatiness of both mine and uke’s hands.

Well, those are my somewhat unstructured and obscure thoughts about grading.

Alex, Christchurch

Down memory lane

Andrew Williamson (circa 18[oops], 1983)

Irene Williamson (1983)

Some lighter moments

‘Tis the season to be MERRY

Aaron McConnell at Kimori



Paul McIntosh (dig that chicken bone!)