Issue 37 – Southern Aikido Connection

Wow! to an explosive start to ASC’s 2010 calendar and we’re going to see many more wows right through to March 2011 – yessss, you read me right, we’ll be having lots of aiki fun (as you can read in Andrew Sensei’s “A few thoughts…) right through to ASC’s 20th Anniversary come National Gasshuku in March 2011. So to all ASC members, I hope you’ll take advantage of as many of these gasshukus as possible to improve, train well and train safely and enjoy the aiki journey!

Editor – Terry Mah

A Few Thoughts

We are now into April – this year is one of our busiest and incidently also our 20th anniversary – ASC started in 1990. We are enjoying record numbers of new members as well as visits to Christchurch by Sawada Shihan and Masuda Shihan in February and March. In addition over 30 ASC students attended Takase Shihan’s 40th anniversary at the beginning of March. The year will continue and I hope many of you will join me in seminars in Auckland, Singapore, Australia and Japan.

One of the great things ASC has enjoyed for the past 6 years is an extended visit each year in February by Masuda Shihan. Masuda Sensei brings his wife and takes a holiday in Christchurch for the month. Very fortunately for us he also kindly teaches 3 or so Aikido classes each week.

More people each year make the effort to attend these classes, and for those who do, gain knowledge that Masuda Sensei joyfully imparts. This knowledge builds over the month and years and forms a hugely valuable base. Masuda Sensei subtly develops the lessons he teaches in their complexity as the years go by – you have to pay attention. A great advantage over Gasshuku is that the training over a month gives us all time to practice Masuda Sensei’s lessons outside his classes during the time he is here. Masuda Sensei has, in recent years, particularly outside the dojo discussed history and many wider aikido concepts such as the development and use of power, how to encourage and train with beginners, how to develop dojos etc. His knowledge is vast.

Masuda Sensei first visited NZ in 1982, I was fortunate to first get to know him at that time. Since then we have met many times and now I find when training and teaching I often end up reflecting & drawing on the lessons he has taught to me many years before, coming to new understandings that enrich and develop my aikido.

I feel incredibly lucky and honoured that Masuda Sensei enjoys visiting Christchurch. I hope that it continues into the future and I encourage every ASC student from beginner to the highest grade to attend every class possible. The knowledge gained, if you pay close attention, will underpin your aikido for the rest of your life.

Andrew Williamson

Advance Notice

Christchurch 4-6 March 2011 – Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury’s 20th anniversary seminar – celebrating 20 years of aikido in Canterbury


The Auckland National Gasshuku – March 4-7 2010 – Part 1

What can i say, wow. The last few months have been full on.

With Masuda Shihan and his wife here in February, roughly 15 classes at the Auckland gasshuku and 8 hours with Sawada Shihan, i still don’t feel ready for the upcoming proficiency tests!
In June i’m going to grade for nikyu. The classes needed for this grade are 75. As of Thursday 25 March i’ve done 121 classes.

And what can i say i’ve learnt from all of these hours? Well to begin with I have more of an understanding of how terrible my aikido is!

I am completely aware that a lot of the things mentioned at the seminars are far over my head, but all the same I enjoy the training and the little I do take away gives me plenty to ponder over and hopefully helps me improve my techniques.

However even as a beginner I am able to appreciate when I see good aikido.

This leads me to my highlight of the Auckland gasshuku: Waka Sensei.

For the past 18 months i have constantly been told I must train more gently, i’m too mean, too rough, need to slow down and i’m not short i’m MEDIUM sized (hahaha). And I know from being uke that this sort of aikido works very well and can be VERY effective.

But for the first time I was able to see aikido executed fast, hard, circular AND effectively. And to say the least I was impressed.

I may just be aiki-ignorant but Auckland was a real eye opener for me and I feel as though I have more drive than ever to attend more classes, to train 100% each time and to KEEP TRYING no matter how many times my techniques don’t work.

I’ve seen a whole new world of aikido that I cant wait to explore, learn, experience and participate in as much as I can.

Even more so than ever I’m looking forward to the up coming trip to Japan as I know the time there will be Auckland magnified by ten.

Look out Japan, here I come.

Just as a final note I would like to say thank you to the following people for helping me so patiently and doing their best to answer my many (i’m sure at times very annoying) questions:

  • Colin
  • Gary
  • Warren
  • Shane
  • Aaron
  • Logan
  • Miko
  • Elissa
  • Chris
  • Richard
  • Sensei Andrew
  • Irene

Odette Stokes – Christchurch

The Auckland National Gasshuku – March 4-7 2010 – Part 2

This year I decided to attend the Gasshuku in Auckland, which coincided with the 40th anniversary of Aikido Shinryukan in New Zealand.

Needless to say such an auspicious occasion meant some very good teaching was in the offering, Shihans galore from Japan, Masuda, Horii, and Sawada, also Waka Sensei (the great grandson of O’Sensei).

I was not disappointed.

The teaching was fantastic and very little was lost in translation, (although very few of us knew Japanese). Thanks Aaron.

I suppose the highlight for me of the Gasshuku was training with so many people from different Dojos from around NZ and the world. We all had different levels of proficiency and understanding. It was interesting to see that we were all trying to do the same moves but went about it in different ways, the same but different, I believe that’s an Oxymoron.

To say I came away from the Gasshuku with a fresh understanding of Aikido would not be a mistake. I come away with the understanding that I can make Aikido my own, my lines may not be as sharp as others, or as delicate, I learn the same moves as everybody else but apply them differently. The same but different, I suppose this makes me an Oxymoron. (not just a moron)

I would encourage everyone to attend a Gasshuku even if it is just for once, an enjoyable time on the mat and off.


Steve Redmond – Christchurch

The Auckland National Gasshuku – March 4-7 2010 – Part 3

It was awesome (that’s the kiwi way of saying it). What else can I say – the Auckland Gasshuku was like nothing I had been to before. I have always enjoyed and gained a lot from the Christchurch seminars and training received from persons like Takase Shihan and Masuda Shihan, but this! This was an opportunity to train and practice under many different teachers – each with their own style and presence.

The people I trained with were also great – and each new person just so different. I especially recall trying to sort out ‘how we should do this’ with someone who spoke no English – fortunately Aikido is its own language so with a bit of signing, pointing and a few well placed atemis, we got there in the end. Training with people from the Islands was also so different – the style seemed all round just a little more laid back, no hurry to get there, and always always deliver with a smile.

So what was the main thing I got from all this – well a few things actually … there’s always more to learn about the basics … keep it centered … move from the centre, and relax … relax … relax. Like everyone else, I’m still trying to figure it all out but then so are those people who’ve been training for 30+ years! So no worries – one day I may get there (wherever ‘there’ is for me), and even if I don’t … I expect the journey will be a great one.

Annette Mills – Christchurch

The Auckland National Gasshuku – March 4-7 2010 – Part 4

Gurkha Contingent Singapore Police Force & Makoto Aikido attended Shinryukan 40th Anniversary Gasshuku in Auckland and visited Shinryukan Canterbury Burnside Dojo in Christchurch New Zealand between 5 March 2010 to 9 March 2010

A team of 6 members from the Singapore Police Force Gurkha Contingent and Makoto Aikido led by Superintendent Bernie Ho attended Shinryukan 40th Anniversary Gasshuku in Auckland between 5 to 7 March 2010.

Aikido training demands mental and physical discipline, stamina and courage. It is therefore very difficult to maintain a high spirit in training all the time especially when there is no competition. Therefore, it is very important for aikido practitioners to participate in Aikido Convention, Assembly and Seminars organized by the International Aikido Federation from time to time. These events provide excellent opportunities for us to train with and learn from Senior Aikido Instructors from around the world so that it will allow us to have an in-depth understanding of the martial art and it will motivate us to excel in our skills. During the Gasshuku in Auckland, Combined training conducted by Shihans (all 7th Dan and above) and Waka Sensei (the son of Doshu from Hombu Dojo, Aikido world HQ Japan and International Aikido Federation) was the highlight of the Anniversary.

The visits to Shinryukan Canterbury at Christchurch allowed us to practice with our Technical Advisor Sensei Andrew Williamson and to observe and peg the standard of Aikido training in Singapore to that of established Aikido dojos in New Zealand.
During the 9 days visit to New Zealand, besides receiving valuable experiences practicing with participants at the Gasshuku and Burnside Dojo (Christchurch), our team can never forget the wonderful hospitality and friendship that the New Zealander had given to us. We are already planning and looking forward to attend Shinryukan Canterbury’s 20th Anniversary Gasshuku in March 2011.

Supt 1A Bernie Ho – Aikido Instructor Gurkha Contingent – Singapore Police Force / Makoto Aikido

Singapore Visitors in Christchurch

As most of you know, Andrew is the technical director for a couple of Aikido groups in Singapore. Representatives from the Makoto Dojo and the Singapore Police Gurkha Contingent were at the Auckland Gasshuku this year and came over to visit us in Christchurch after that.

Most of our initial reactions to the Singapore visitors were focused on the Gurkhas. But first, for those who do not know about them, the Gurkhas are a race of people in Nepal who had basically kicked the British Army’s butt back in the 1800s. After that, the British wisely decided to hire the Gurkhas to fight for the Crown and they had distinguished themselves in almost every major confrontation since.

How would a group of fierce professional warriors do Aikido? Do they train hard or softly? Am I going to survive? All those who had trained with June, Pratha and Vishnu will attest to the friendly way they train. They were always smiling. Throw them as hard as you like and they will just bounce back up smiling again. Naturally we were all pleasantly surprised and concluded that “hey, these guys are really nice people!!” However, another Singaporean visitor, Wilson, remarked that how the Gurkhas do Aikido with others (non-Gurkha) is very different to when they train among themselves. So be very sure that they are still smiling when you are the uke……

Among the Singapore visitors were two very experienced instructors, Frankie Sensei and Bernie Sensei. Frankie Sensei is over 70 years young and still going strong. I can only hope that I can still move as well as he does in my golden years. Bernie Sensei’s passion for Aikido is admirable. I cannot remember how many hours he trains in a week but I know it was significantly more than a lot of our top trainers in A.S.C and that’s saying a lot.

It was enriching experience training with the visitors from Singapore. Practise with the Gurkhas is a story good enough for my limited Aikido war stories that I can tell to my (future) grandkids. Frankie and Bernie Sensei are both shining examples as to how Aikido should be practised and training with them had deepened my understanding of Aikido as a way of life.

Richard Tham – Christchurch

Sawada Shihan in Christchurch – 15-21 March 2010 – Part 1

As far as Aikido is concerned I’m a beginner, well and truly. On the mat I sometimes feel like I have two left feet, and as for sitting comfortably in seiza, well let’s just say I’m improving. The list of techniques that I remember is slowly growing, but it seems the more I come back the more I forget. I’m just starting out, and I’m beginning to see that Aikido is vast and varied, there seem to be many different styles and postures, and for every different person you train with there appears a slightly different way to apply your technique. In this way Aikido is technically challenging and fun, that’s why I keep coming back.

I was recently able to attend a couple of training sessions with Sawada Shihan that were held at the Linwood dojo. Awesome! I mean really awesome. The way this guy moves is flash (no disrespect intended), I mean it’s smooth, it’s flowing, it’s crisp, it’s powerful and it’s accurate. In some instances it appeared as if he barely moved during the application of his techniques (especially his cuts with the Bokken). As a novice I was impressed and maybe a little bit dazzled.

The first session I attended started with a thorough warm up followed by ken and jo training. I was quite nervous at first but Sawada Shihan was kind enough to separate the class into two, allowing myself and other not so confident participants to receive some essential basic weapons training. For a novice this was a great introduction and throughout the following classes Sawada Shihan would continue to point out many similarities between his empty handed and Bokken techniques.

At one stage during training I was surprised to find myself in the middle of the mat as Uke to Sawada Shihan’s very efficient Shihonage. Not only was this a surprise, but it was also a very interesting experience. As I held Sensei’s wrist it felt relaxed, almost weak, and the next moment I found myself off balance trying to breakfall correctly. He was able to easily move me around, and demonstrated differences between use of strength and method. There’s a particular feeling you get when you’re on the receiving end of a good technique, to me it was much like being out of control.

During the sessions so many things were taught, and hopefully a few things were learnt. I experienced a small sample of Sawada Shihan’s Aikido, his style and his understanding of the principles and techniques. It was a fun time, interesting and definitely challenging. Thank you to all those that made Sawada Shihan’s visit possible, and thanks to the patient training partners who were helpful enough to help me through many different techniques. If you didn’t make it along this time, well I’ll see you next time. Don’t miss out.

John H Wilson – Christchurch

Sawada Shihan in Christchurch – 15-21 March 2010 – Part 2

Sawada Shihan, 7th. Dan, is the founder of Kimori Dojo in Nagoya. His last visit to Christchurch was in 2002, when I attended his classes as an ikkyu and I was extremely impressed by his style. He was a guest instructor at Aikido Shinryukan’s 40th Anniversary Gasshuku in Auckland. Following the gasshuku, he spent a week in Wellington and then we hosted him for a week from 15-21 March in Christchurch. During that time, Sawada Shihan taught 1 x 2 hr. class and 2 x 3 hr. classes.

All of Sensei’s classes were 50% weapons and 50% open-hand techniques, and he paid special attention to explaining how the weapons & open-hand techniques are related. Sawada Shihan has refined his style to a point where his movements are not huge, but sharp, precise and extremely “centered” using what he describes as “one point”. His techniques are effortless and yet powerful! – absolutely awesome and awe-inspiring! Sawada Sensei’s overriding principle is simply to stay connected to your centre at all times and to understand that it is your centre that’s “driving” your body, or “drawing” your uke, in any technique.

HOWEVER, despite all the awesomeness which makes me so “mouth-wateringly” want to copy him in what is a seemingly a “different style” of aikido, there’s no denying that all the grassroots basics are there. AND, for anyone wanting try to “copy” Sawada Shihan without first having a solid understanding & appreciation of the basics, he/she will most certainly be disappointed and hopelessly lost! Sensei’s “style” is different only in the way the techniques are executed BUT all the basic principles remain unchanged. And in replying to various questions asked by one of the guys here, Sawada Shihan’s answer to them all was simply “lose your power” – how awesome is that! – Sensei can generate so much power in such a relaxed way, and it is the Aikido that we strive to achieve.

I do look forward to training in Sawada Shihan’s classes again at every opportunity that I can get. I’m sure all those who trained in his classes will agree with me, and for those who missed his classes, I hope you will grab the next opportunity to train under Sawada Shihan and try to take your Aikido to another level.

Terry Mah – Christchurch

Lighter moments