Issue 38 – Southern Aikido Connection

Another year is coming to a close and we are really excited looking forward into 2011 when ASC will celebrate our 20th. Anniversary by hosting the National Gasshuku from March 4-6. Well done Andrew & Irene, for building this wonderful aikido family in Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury. Meanwhile, have a great & safe Christmas and a fantastic New Year 🙂Editor – Terry Mah

A Few Thoughts

I wrote this a few years ago…

“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…

However, some of the key moments I’ve enjoyed over the years are those that demonstrate the development as people. 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.”

The event that started this thought pattern was a friend and student of mine Chris Raeger who died in a car accident. He had contributed hugely around the dojo but did not seek any recognition for it. I wanted to recognise his work. Chris and I had talked at length about things and he helped me develop one of the important principles that I hold dear. That to paraphrase JFK “Ask not what the dojo can do for you but what you can do for the dojo”.

We must promote the group not the individual. Within that strengthening group culture we may then further develop ourselves both technically and as people. It is not about what you take but what you contribute.

Andrew Williamson

The conclusion of Dawn Training – Waimari Beach

Impressions of Japan

My first trip to Japan was an interesting experience. I arrived in Tokyo mid-evening on a Sunday without directions to my hotel and quickly found myself immersed into an almost palpable sense of busyness. Being a novice traveller (at least to a country where there are few signs in English!) I was suddenly very thankful for the GPS app on my phone which I used to navigate my way to the hotel. This was no small task as even though it was already 8pm at night the streets were still packed with people.

I’d eagerly prepared myself for the trip by enrolling myself (and my partner for practise purposes) in Japanese language lessons. The lessons were fun but in reality the only phrase I really ever used was ‘Arigato Gosaimasu’ which means thank you; a phrase you’ll quickly pick up even without 8 weeks of lessons!

This one is of the special Nagoya seminar taken by Waka Sensei. The uke is Aaron McConnell.

The people are all very polite and friendly, which is comforting as there are a lot of people in Japan. In Christchurch when you wait to cross the street you might have to wait to do so with at most 20 others and usually only at peak times in the centre of town; we also tend to wander across roads when we judge it safe to do so regardless of what colour the lights are. In Japan however when the lights turn green a tsunami of people spill out onto the road at once and flood it. It’s quite an impressive sight. You also have to be careful when walking on the foot paths as you have to share these with cyclists. It’s certainly a constant challenge to one’s sense of personal space!

I’m also used to measuring the size of a TV in inches, but in Japan it’s easier to resort to using meters! TV screens appear everywhere, even on the side of buildings (with sound) that are over 10metres wide and are just there for advertising. I can’t imagine how much energy is used to power all the TVs, lights and neon signs, but it’s an awesome sight. Japan is definitely a playground for anyone with a passion for technology.

The food in Japan was not quite as I expected. I enjoy Japanese food here in Christchurch, but it seems that what we are served at home is nothing like what we were served in Japan. I guess they ‘Westernise’ things to suit our taste here at home, so I wasn’t quite prepared for the true flavours of Japan. The only time I saw chicken on the menu was at KFC. Of course I’ll admit that I don’t have very adventurous taste buds, so it was probably a harder adjustment for me, but I adapted and thankfully managed to avoid some of the more unusual foods that were available.

Teaching kids at the Gurhka Contingent Dojo, Singapore

Another hurdle for me during the trip was sleep. In Tokyo I had a normal bed with a mattress, but everywhere else I had only a thin futon mattress set directly on the floor with a light duvet and a pillow. I’m used to sleeping in a very soft bed so this was pretty hard on me. Of course getting a good night’s sleep could have been worse; I do count myself lucky that I didn’t have to share a room with Terry who apparently has a most impressive snoring ability.

My feet also got a lot of exercise during the trip, and I certainly felt how unused to this they were. It didn’t help matters when Andrew was navigating – we always got to where we intended to go, but never by the shortest route, although to be fair he only put us on the wrong train once.

The public transport system in Japan is impressive. They’ve got buses, trams and trains and they come and go every few minutes. If you invest in a rail pass, travel on these systems is truly easy. You just flash it at the guards at the entrance on your way to pretty much anywhere, then you flash it again at one of the guards on the way out. It couldn’t be simpler – until your rail pass runs out, then things get a bit more complicated. The Japanese have done a pretty good job of putting English translations of place names at most of the train stations, BUT you have to purchase your ticket before you get into the main train station where these are located! The maps at the pay stations don’t have translations, so it can be difficult to work out how much you need to pay. In hindsight it would have been good to find and pack a map of the train stations with English translations before arriving, or at least soon after arrival.

Most of all I found Japan to be a place of contrast. While there was a lot of technology around there was also a lot of history to be experienced, and I enjoyed learning about Japan’s past. The people I met were incredibly welcoming and it was always easy to find a friendly face. The two weeks went quickly but I still managed to take away a good sense of the country and its culture and I look forward to returning one day with the experience I now have and knowing to always ask for a ‘western’ style bed.

David Kirk

Aikido: Impressions of Japan 2010

In October this year, a group from A.S.C visited Japan to train at Hombu (Tokyo) and with Kimori Dojo (Nagoya). Andrew had asked me to write on my impressions of our training in Japan that will help members who wish to train or visit there in the future. After some thought, I believe that training, lodging and food in Japan would be the most informative for the Aikidoka visiting Japan.

Training in Japan, the birthplace of Aikido, is certainly different from New Zealand. The first thing one notice is the relative softness of their ukemi. Our Japanese counterparts tend to have a softer grip and move along with you with very little resistance. The core people at Hombu and just about everyone I met at Kimori dojo are extremely good (and scary). But just like any other places in the world, Japan has a wide spectrum of Aikido standards and it was comforting to know during the All Japan Seminar at Nagoya that our level of training at A.S.C can be considered solid.

Aikikai Hombu dojo. The mystical dojo that is the centre of the Aikido World (well Akikai anyways) has many outstanding instructors. Imagine taking classes from famous teachers like Ueshiba Mitsuteru (Doshu), Seijuro Masuda (8th Dan), Nobuyuki Watanabe (8th Dan), Seishiro Endo (8th Dan), Shoji Seki (7th Dan), Masatoshi Yasuno (7th Dan) and many other Shihans. With 5 classes a day, one could be pretty good in a relatively short time with this level of instruction right? Well…maybe.

The 6:30am morning class is taught by Doshu every morning and for all visiting Aikidoka to Tokyo, this is the class to attend. In advanced classes, you remain with the same partner throughout the class and the regular Japanese students there would have already pre-arranged this which makes it difficult to find a senior partner to train with. More likely, you will end up with another tourist student from overseas. The classes are conducted in Japanese and you will not get much attention from the Sensei. While it is a thrill to train at Hombu dojo, one’s expectations have to be managed. They have so many short term foreign students visiting that unless you train there for a decent period of time, don’t expect to get too much attention from both the instructors and regular students. Nevertheless, Doshu himself did a shihonage on me! Priceless.

Using a military analogy, if Hombu Dojo is the Division Headquarters , then Kimori Dojo in Nagoya has to be the Special Ops Unit a.k.a Special Aikido Services (SAS). It will be hard to find such a high concentration of senior Dan grades and awesome aikido in single place and time. Weapons training is emphasized here and the relationship between empty hand and weapons form the basis of the instruction at Kimori. And thanks to Christchurch’s very own Aaron McConnell, little is lost in translation during the classes. However, be mentally prepared to move and think differently as Kimori dojo has their unique way of executing techniques. Highly recommended. (

While in Tokyo, we stayed at Sunlite Shinjuku which was one of the cheapest Hotel near Hombu Dojo. The hotel is decent with laundry facilities and it is about a 15mins walk to the dojo. A point to note is that if you take the airport limosine bus to Shinjuku, drop off at Hotel Sunroute instead of Shinjuku Train Station and you would have halved the walking distance to Sunlite Hotel. (

Kimori Dojo provides cheap accommodation for visiting students . They are basically dormitory styled rooms with futon mattresses laid on the ground. Remember to bring your own wash towels, washing powder and toiletries. There are washing machines available but not dryers. Therefore, depending on how frequently your training is, you may need up to 3 keiko gis.

There is a wide range of food available in Shinjuku. Ranging from McDonalds’s (5 minutes walk from Sunlite Hotel) to budget Japanese restaurants to specialty food places run by families with hundreds of years of tradition. The budget Japanese restaurants have machines outside with pictures and prices. Put the correct change in them, press the dish you wanted and a receipt will be printed out. Take it to the counter and the food will be served shortly. They are entirely self-serviced. So collect your order, wipe the table top in your area when you finish and take your tray to the designated area. The food is generally good and cheap. Food at Kimori Dojo isn’t as convenient. There are no eateries nearby with only a 24 hr. convenience store within walking distance. However, fresh pre-packaged bento sets are available from the store and they taste pretty good.

It was a once in a lifetime experience visiting and training in Japan. For all those hard core Aikido addicts, the next International Aikido Federation (IAF) will be in 2012 where Aikidokas from around the world will be attending. So start saving and train, it’s not that far away.

Richard Tham

Training Around the World!

When I first started Aikido I had no idea I would be able to train in different places in the world, let alone training with different Shihan. I was extremely excited when I boarded my flight to Singapore, and had no idea what to expect. I certainly did not expect the heat. Exiting the airport was like being met by a sauna and was quite interesting… (worrying!) how the hell I was going to train in it.

It was amazing how well we were looked after. Bernie and Frankie Sensei from the Singapore dojo, went out of their way to make sure we had enough to eat and drink. But it was a relief, that Andrew asked for sandwiches instead of a three course meal for lunch before training! I’m still trying to figure out why they like such spicy food in such a hot climate.

Training was something I will never forget, we trained outside in the 30deg C heat and I think it was around 80 percent humidity! I lost all the water in my body just helping the guys put the mats out . Training was fun even through I almost threw up!

Jeremy McGregor

Yamashima Shihan – one of the guest instructors for the upcoming 2011 Gasshuku in Christchurch – teaching at Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury.

“Graduates” of ASC teaching elsewhere

Over the years a number of Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury students have gone on to move away from Christchurch but have continued their aikido studies. Some of those students have also gone on to be teachers or dojo managers in their own right at different places in the world. We are proud of all these students and thought this magazine would be a good place to record some detail of where they now train.

  • Ringo Wong – Makoto Aikido Singapore

    Migrated to New Zealand in 2005 and trained for a period in Christchurch. Ringo has recently begun teaching in Singapore at the Katong CC as part of the Makoto Aikido Singapore group. Andrew Williamson acts as Technical Adviser to Makoto Aikido.

    SENIOR INSTRUCTORS: Frankie Leong/Bernie Ho
    WHERE: Katong Community Centre Dojo, Kampong Arang Road, Singapore
    WHEN: Wednesday 20.00 – 21.30
    INSTRUCTOR: Ringo Wong

  • Nick Burnett – Aikido Shinryukan Dumfriesshire

    Name of group: Aikido Shinryukan Dumfriesshire
    Teacher: Nick Burnett
    Telephone: 0044 1461 500 663
    Training: Tuesday nights 7pm-9pm and occasional Thursdays and weekends.
    Location: Eaglesfield Village Hall, Dumfries, Scotland

    Nick Burnett started training in Christchurch in 1996 before moving to Alexandra and starting Aikido Shinryukan Alexandra. In 2003 Nick moved to Scotland where he trained with a group in Dumfries before starting Aikido Shinryukan Dumfriesshire.

    The group started training in a gym in Langholm 5 years ago but this proved too expensive and after just under a year the group moved to the Eaglesfield Village hall. We currently train with a group of 7 from England and Scotland mostly focusing empty handed techniques.

    As a group we also offer training for local companies in conflict management and team building using the skills of one of our students who is a Managing Director of a Human Resources and Recruitment company. We have managed to raise enough money doing this to buy a very high quality mat.

  • Geoff Sinha – SGS Aikido Club

    NAME OF SCHOOL: SGS Aikido Club

    I’m very happy to announce that the School of Global Studies (SGS) Aikido Club is now 3 months old. The idea for this club originated at a welcome party for new faculty. I inadvertently mentioned that I had a 3rd dan in Aikido, and the dean shouted for an Aikido club – and it really has been as simple as that. So far so good!
    We have 5 members, 12 tatami mats, and a whole lot of enthusiasm. SGS Aikido is fully supported by Sugawara Shihan. One of the luckiest breaks for me is that Saito San, who is a 4th dan at Sugawara Budo, lives just 10 minutes away from SGS, and he is able to come and teach some of the time. This is great, because I can relax my role as teacher every now and then and my students get an excellent level of training. My goal is to keep this club going for 1, 2, 3 years, and then to assess how and where we are, and where we are going. Initially, I would like to obtain some more mats as I’m sure our numbers will grow as word of mouth spreads about this great club. So for now, I have no complaints!

  • Bryan Bell – Aikido Hawke’s Bay

    I run a dojo in Hastings with small group of guys. We are lucky to have Sensei Alan Wade close by in Gisborne, and we try and visit him as much as possible. It is also great to get to Wellington when we can. I find that input is critical for improvement.

    When I arrived in Hawkes Bay, the first place I trained was an independent dojo as it was the only place available. As time went on and with that a change in towns, and I began to consider the option of starting my own dojo.

    This was not done lightly. There are a number of great people and websites that recommend it only as a last option. On top of that I was only a third Kyu. However, there was no Aikikai aikido in Hastings or Napier, and I really did want to train. So I made the push and got mats, and a local hall. From that start we have carried on for the last three years.

    The recommendation makes sense. Running dojos can be expensive and as the head you spend a lot of time involved in administration. I love the Aikido, and would love to give that side over to someone else. However, its great to see people really enjoying Aikido, and it allows you to develop your Aikido in the direction you want to take.

  • Aaron McConnell – Aikido Kimori Dojo

    Opened in January 2002 by Toshiharu Sawada, Aikido Kimori Dojo currently has around 90 adult members and 70 children. I have been training at Kimori Dojo for 5 years now and started helping with the children’s classes in 2005. I eventually started teaching and running the children’s classes and any events that we hold, and also fill in for other instructors of the adult`s classes too. I am also involved in the day to day maintenance and running of the dojo, as well as helping out and interpreting for the many foreign visitors who come to Kimori Dojo.

    There is a wealth of knowledge at the dojo with five main instructors; Toshiharu Sawada 7th Dan (Chief instructor), Katsutoshi Fujii 7th Dan, Mitsushi Kobayashi 7th Dan, Motohiro Yokoi 6th Dan and Eiji Morimoto 6th Dan. The training has a strong emphasis on the link between weapons use and empty-handed techniques.

    The dojo is located in Kasugai City next to Nagoya (about a 30-40 minute train ride from Nagoya Station) at 10-1, 2 Chome, Nishihonmachi, Kasugai City, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

    There are regular adult`s (damn Japanese computers! I cant find the apostrophe key!!!!!) classes and children`s classes throughout the week.

    For more information about Aikido Kimori Dojo then please follow these links or contact Aaron McConnell at:

    Links: Japanese:

    (A little bit of) trouble
  • Patrick Somevell – Waikato

    Training at Cambridge, with Papu Siameja Sensei, and in Hamilton with Douglas Gilmore Sensei. On some Saturdays, I share in the training in Tauranga. Occasionally, training in Auckland, Gisborne and Hastings. We’re starting a group in Pirongia, for which I will lead the Aikido practice. [Patrick travels extensively around the Waikato and further afield occassionally teaching at various dojos – Ed.]

    I well remember that important phase in my aikido development, when I trained with Andrew and Irene Williamson and Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury.

    I have a role, as Secretary, for the New Zealand Aikikai Federation and this interest is continuing.

“And how long will it take to get my black belt!?!”