Issue 34 – Southern Aikido Connection

We started 2009 with a blast – we were blessed with the honour of hosting Masuda Shihan again for the whole month of February – training was awesome as usual and fun at the same time. And now, we’re in the midst of preparing for the mid year grading. The weather is getting colder so make sure you warm up properly and enjoy your Aikido.

Editor – Terry Mah


We are now into April and the year started well. I think it was great to see so many people enjoying instruction from Masuda Shihan in February, enjoying golf and many dinners. I know Masuda Shihan enjoys the contact with all of you – he likes to see ASC grow and students develop. Many thanks to all those that helped and attended.

I was also really pleased to see so many attend the Auckland gasshuku with Osawa Shihan. Osawa Shihan has a very interesting take on sabaki which I am finding a rich source for developing my aikido.

Now our focus has to turn to firstly to the Autumn Seminar and then to the mid year grading at the end of June.

A grading is similar to any other examination that we face in life. There are certain requirements that you must meet eg minimum training times, knowledge requirements etc. There is one difference though – we [the instructors] will not let you attempt a grading unless we are 98% sure you will pass. Some of the ways we do this are through the Proficiency Tests or simply observing your training. Typically those who exceed the training times by a substantial margin do not have problems.

How you perform on the day will depend on your preparation!! If you were attempting an examination at University you need not only to attend lectures but also to study. Aikido is the same. As well as attending classes try to spend time with your peers or seniors and go over the basics that are required for your grade. We have both the Burnside and Linwood Dojos available 24/7 a situation not repeated anywhere else in NZ. At Rangiora we have times set aside before and after class when you can use the dojo. Take advantage of this.

Most important of all – keep training.

Andrew Williamson Sensei


This year was my third time heading to Auckland for the New Zealand Aikikai Annual Gasshuku. While I’m still a bit of a newbie compared to many there, each year it gets easier as I remember more names and I’m more familiar with the routines.

This year the guest of honour was Osawa Shihan, from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, Tokyo, Japan. It was the first time I had trained with Osawa Sensei. He moves very smoothly, with very refined footwork and handwork. He focused a lot on trying to improve our balance and posture as both throwing and being thrown. One of his comments which stuck in my head was that we spend half our time as nage (thrower) and half our time as uke (receiver), so we should concentrate on both roles equally.

Osawa sensei teaching. Thanks to Kelly for the video footage.

Classes were also taken by Takase Shihan, Alan Wade Sensei, and Andrew Williamson Sensei.

I always enjoy weekend seminars – it’s a rare chance to focus on aikido and ignore everything else! Since the Auckland national seminar is away from home, it’s a great chance for me to see what other teachers are working on, and to get thrown around by people I don’t normally train with. It’s great to look at familiar topics from new perspectives.

It is strangely comforting to find that I’m getting better, but can still be as confused as when I first started!

The highlight for me (well, more Shane and Colin than me) was forgetting to pack my belt. I realised while I was sitting on the plane, ready to take off. Luckily Shane and Colin were travelling after me, so I asked them for help and got back a txt “Don’t worry we will sort a belt for you.” For the first three classes I was wearing a red kids belt – it’s interesting trying to explain this to people while others stand around laughing – if you look closely you might even see it in the youtube clip above.

The real highlight is of course the private training session, held in the motel pool. Afterward I overheard some kids commented that the pool wasn’t very full 🙂 (we know why J – ed)

Christchurch was well represented at the seminar with ten of us making it up, and seven of us sharing accommodation in the motel opposite the dojo.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary – so I expect that seminar will be special. If you’re interested in going then start thinking about it at the end of 2009. I’m sure there will be a large group from Christchurch heading up, and ready to help out!

Useful links:

  • Great accommodation straight across the road from the Howick dojo:
  • Public transport timetables (to get from the airport to Howick):
  • Aikido Shinryukan web site, which will have news about upcoming seminars:

Here are some of the costs I can remember for this year:

  • Return flights from Christchurch to Auckland $180
  • Seminar fee $150
  • Two nights accommodation at motor lodge $80
  • Social dinner on Saturday night $30
  • Return taxi trips to and from the dinner $25 (my part of shared taxi rides)
  • Bus and taxi from Airport to Howick $20 (someone else paid $70 for a taxi!)
  • Shared shuttle bus from Howick to the Airport $15
  • + Mall lunches
  • + Health food and nutritious drinks from the Countdown, about 10 minutes walk from the dojo.

James McNeill – Christchurch


Assualting the elderly for fun and profit

“Is that it?” – if that phrase doesn’t bring a smile to your face, you obviously missed one of the funniest moments I’ve seen in 4 years of Aikido. But more on that later…

Once again, we’ve been lucky enough to host Masuda Shihan here for a month. Most of you have experienced how awesome his Aikido is (if you’re not convinced of it by now, nothing I say will change your mind) but if you haven’t been to one of his classes you might not know what a genuinely nice guy his is. He’s great fun to train with and his explanations leave you wondering how you didn’t see something so simple before… at which point (for me anyway), you attempt the technique and shortly after you’re wondering how something so seemingly simple could actually be so subtle, awesome and bloody difficult to do!! Inevitably, just as you’re wondering if you could possibly do a worse version of the technique, Sensei will appear with a growl of mock-exasperation and patiently explain why you’re missed the point 🙂 If you’re lucky… if not, he’ll decide everyone has missed the point, and that we all need to re-learn, for example, nikkyo. Some poor soul (possibly someone who hasn’t been training as much as they should) will then sacrifice his wrist so that the rest of us can look on, learn and thank whoever they pray to that it’s not them up there. By the way, how’s the wrist, Bensei? 🙂

Thing is, Sensei doesn’t need to actually hurt you. He has a wicked sense of humour. Which brings me neatly back to where I started… and poor Lui, in front of everyone, having punched a someone of “high age” straight in the gut. There’s a moment of silence, and Sensei askes Lui (with perfect comic timing) “is that it?”.

That one will run for a while, but the best bit?…..

Lui afterwards, talking about punching him, said “He hurt my wrist”!!

Now that’s Budo!

Colin Grealy – Christchurch


Kevin receiving his Godan certificate

It has taken me nearly 30 years to accomplish my current grade of Godan.

I’m really happy I didn’t have to perform in front of everybody for this one! Can you imagine what Takase Shihan would have wanted me to do?? The mind boggles!! I wonder if I would have made it?? Guess we’ll all never know!!… lucky for me huh?

I tell you what though; if a physical Grading was the requirement for my 5th Dan, I know I would have performed well… lack of fitness or not!! Why?? Because I know my stuff!! (I’ve been at it since 1979).

When you look at the total number of years that the Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury’s Seniors (i.e. Andrew, Irene, Gary and myself) have been training, you get a total figure of 104 years!! Which is fairly impressive to say the least!! What I’m trying to say here is we have all paid our dues, and committed a huge part of our lives to this particular Martial Art that we love to do and love to teach.

It has been hard work indeed, sometimes very hard physically and emotionally!! There have been times (many years ago) when I had thought about stopping my Aikido training for various reasons but luckily, I hung in there, put the issues in question aside, and got on with it.

Which brings me to the current students of ASC in Christchurch. Andrew told me recently, that we now have 128 people on the roll. Pretty cool huh??? Most of whom, I would expect, will be attempting to move to the next level of their training in June of this year, at the next grading. I would be surprised if there was anybody who didn’t want to climb the Aikido Ladder. Why wouldn’t you?? It’s a fairly interesting question for sure, and I dare say there is only one real answer. Agreed?? Human beings always try to better themselves – always have, and always will. So, why should Aikido Students be any different??

I looked forward to all of my Gradings from the very first day I started Aikido up until now, and I look forward to the next one, but who knows when that will be?? Plenty of time I’d say, and I’m in no hurry! Besides they may change the rules and I may have to perform in front of everybody again; I might have to prepare myself. Jiuwaza is going to be a blast for sure – Yudansha be warned!!! I’ve become a little more clinical with my Jiuwaza; anything could happen!!!

But, I digressed! All Aikido students should be grading when the opportunity presents itself. Really!! It is the only way to progress. You can just train, but that will not achieve anything, and if you miss an opportunity to grade, you will end up behind everybody at your level.

So, in closing (food for thought here), keep going, try to lift the level of training that you are currently at. We have a couple of months left before the actual June grading. Also, Andrew and Irene will organise a couple more Proficiency Tests before then as well, which, by the way, are a must to attend if you wish to attempt a Grading. In plain English, it means “if we don’t know where you are at, we can’t recommend you to Takase Sensei for a promotion” – plain and simple!

There ya go. See you at the Grading… I’m the grey haired guy sitting over on the side watching you all do your stuff! Enjoy the day.

Kevin Allen – Rangiora


Do not chase after secret techniques for everything is right before your eyes.

Morehei Ueshiba

This is a classic comment from O’Sensei. One of the things that is “right before your eyes” is kuzushi. I use this term quite often in training.

Kuzushi is a Japanese term for unbalancing an opponent in martial arts.

The noun comes from the intransitive verb, kuzusu, meaning to level, pull down, or demolish. As such, it is refers to not just an unbalancing, but the process of getting an opponent into a position where his stability, and thus ability to regain balance, is destroyed.

In aikido, it is an essential principle and the first of three stages to a successful throwing technique: entering, off-balance, throw [sabaki, kuzushi, waza].

At its simplest level, kuzushi means off balance and involves the use of the other person’s motion. While most people understand this they do not incorporate that understanding into every part of their Aikido practice. Every technique requires kuzushi, taking your uke’s balance. Without kuzushi the technique becomes difficult and labored or maybe impossible.

However, if you take someone’s balance their ability to press the attack or resist your technique is removed. Using kuzushi you can then achieve a level of harmony with your uke or “aiki”.

To achieve kuzushi you need to move your body as one from your hara (your center) not from your extremities. The movement of your arms and legs should be a result of moving your center in concert with your assailant.

Secondly, become one with the other person. Physically you move when they move, at the speed they move and blend your movement with their attack. You keep blending with them until they hit the ground. Only by fully accepting his attack and allowing your assailant to move in the direction he wants, can you use your technique to the fullest without allowing him an opportunity to counter.

Thirdly, although I believe this only develops with training, there is a psychological element to kuzushi. That is off balancing your uke at the moment they attack. There is not room to deal with it here but it can easily be seen in the fabled story of the duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro.

If you want to improve your aikido then one way is to improve kuzushi. When you train be aware and look for kuzushi in every technique. Practice it. And of course the most important thing is practice often!!


  • Wikipedia
  • Kuzushi? What’s That and Why Do I Care? Harold Zeidman
  • The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi William Scott Wilson Kodansha 2004

Andrew Williamson Sensei


Aikido from a female perspective is not really any different from any other individual perspective. My personal view is that females have several advantages over males. To perform most Aikido techniques strength is not required, many times I’ve heard Shihan say ‘don’t use strength, relax’. Women seldom need to concentrate on not using their strength. Hence the correct technique may be mastered faster by a weaker person, compared to someone who needs to reduce their reliance on muscle power. There is even the occasional technique where being shorter is an advantage (shihonage – to name but one).

Having said that though, it is noticeable that most Aikido practitioners are male. With the increasing seniority of grades, the number of females within those grades decreases. At present within our group we have amongst the female practitioners, one godan, one sandan, two nidan and a number of very active kyu grades. However, at almost every level females are outnumbered by male practitioners (by at least two to one). What happens? Why don’t we have more females training? I’ve noticed that we generally attract more males to start, and there is a greater attrition rate for females over males. The issues then boil down to how to attract females to aikido and how to retain them. I’m afraid to launch into a discussion of these points would take up more space than I have in this column, and would be biased towards only my views. I would welcome input from anyone reading this for a future discussion.

I will finish with my own personal reasons for continuing to train in Aikido. First and foremost, I love Aikido. I have a sense of joy and camaraderie when I train. When I accomplish a technique well, especially one that I’ve been having difficulty with, I feel an immense sense of achievement. Everyone should have that feeling. I had the pleasure of representing New Zealand at the International Aikido Federation demonstration in 2004. I was incredibly nervous leading up to the demonstration but once it was over I felt like I could conquer the world. Aikido is a buzz, a legal high. Sometimes it’s difficult, sometimes I get discouraged, but when a technique falls into place all the problems before hand become insignificant and I bask in my accomplishment. “I am capable and I am important”, who wouldn’t want to feel that every day!

Irene Williamson Sensei – Christchurch


Every Saturday morning we all come in our white pyjamas (called a Gi) to train in the Rangiora Dojo with friends and peers. Every class starts with a warm-up, usually involving some random exercise like shimmying on your stomach or piggy back rides.

We go over footwork and rolls, and you might forget the names first off (like I did) but the more we learn it the easier it is to remember. We get to take a break and play games, a popular aikido game is spiders and we get to crawl; always fun!

When we start aikido we are on white belt but (with) each grading we go up; etc. white, yellow tip, yellow, orange tip, orange, and you get the main idea. We have gradings twice a year and the gradings are usually in town and it’s full of aikido students from different dojos.

The nerves build up, but once you’re on the mat re-doing what you’ve learnt from classes there’s absolutely no worries.

At gradings we get to watch higher grades do their stuff so it’s sort of a heads up for what we’ll be doing when we get to our higher belts.

Kyle, our instructor, is really funny and always making the kids and parents laugh by cracking jokes. One time we had a big, thick mat and we were practising jumps, when Kyle told us that we had to scream while running at the mat. When one of the older girls called Rebecca had her turn she let out a shrieking yell and made the whole class cover their ears. From now on every one covers their ears before her turn.

Ruby Vanderlaan – Kitto – Rangiora