04-12-2004, 09:18 AM
Location: The Oval Sports Centre, Bebington (Birkenhead)
Hosts: Komyokan Aikido Association
Instructors Terry Ezra Sensei, Ken Cottier Shihan, Bill Smith Shihan (All 6th dan Aikikai Foundation, and founders of the KAA, HKA, and UKA, respectively)
Special guest from Hombu: Tani Shihan, 7th dan (a private visit, hence him not taking any classes, as Hombu didn't send him, he just came).
This was a two-day course, Easter Weekend. Saturday's morning class ran from 11.00 til 13.00, and had half the time taken by Ezra Sensei, then the other half by Cottier Shihan. The afternoon was from 15.00 til 17.30, and had half the time taken by Smith Shihan. The mat area was very large, but was still remarkably crowded. On the mat were practitioners of various associations and styles; associations I recognized people from were KAA, BAF, UKA, BNMAA, Ki Society, Lone Pine Ryu, and a few other associations I didn't recognize / find out who they were. The Lone Pine Ryu people stood out somewhat, as they had blue keikogi, obi, hakama, etc. Practitioners on the mat ranged from mukyu up to shichidan via all the grades in between (except rokudan, since the only rokudan present were the three instructors), so it was very good to be able to practice with ppl at all different stages of Aikido development.
It's always interesting of course to compare and contrast the similarities and differences of such teachers, for example Ezra Sensei's very distinct style that is well summed-up in Nick Waites' new book "Iron Balls and Elbow Power" (Nick Waites is a godan student of Ezra Sensei), of which I and many others were sold a copy at the course, and Cottier Shihan's powerful mix of old-style Aikido, as one might expect from someone whose teachers included O Sensei and Chiba Sensei; and then different again is Smith Shihan's Aikido, heavily based on sword-work.
We had a photograph taken at lunchtime, in which everybody looks very happy except Ezra Sensei who instead of his usual mischievous grin was grimacing like he'd just bitten a bee. Photo taken by entertainingly eccentric Dr. John, that is to say John Forster, the then-nidan now sandan teacher from the Tarporley dojo.
After lunch, a short while into the class, the Mayor arrived, and (unintentionally, of course) humiliated Tani Shihan, by trying to be culturally aware etc and bowing, but bowing far too low to him (meaning that Tani Shihan, being aware that the Mayor is an important person, felt he had to bow even lower, meaning that he ended up having to bow far lower than he, as a VIP shichidan guest from Hombu really ought to have to bow). Ezra Sensei then did a short demonstration himself for the Mayor's benefit, and selecting his best uke did big impressive dynamic throws that made big bangs onto the mat, and also demonstrated controlling with sankyo, making uke dance around and crawl along the mat, and get up and then sit down in a chair provided. Next came a demonstration by the Komyokan juniors, Ezra Sensei's under-16 students, who did the best Aikido I've ever seen done by kids aged about 5 upwards (Well, given that as well as having seen other juniors doing Aikido in various clubs around the NW of England, I saw these same juniors do the same demonstration in the same place at the same time last year), including an Iaido demonstration and a demo of the 31 count jo kata (all by the juniors). These demonstrations lasted for quite some time, and good as they were to watch, we were all quite happy to get off our knees once it was over. Some people cheated by wimping out and sitting cross-legged when the pain of seiza overcame the desire to observe proper etiquette; I remained in seiza but cheated by using a quick and easy acupressure technique to stop my legs from hurting.
There was a meal on Saturday night, which a select few of us attended (well… when I say a select few, I mean that there were only a certain number of places, and after the various organizers / instructors / special guests etc, it was first come first served, and I sent my booking form back filled in and with a cheque about ten minutes after it arrived to me in the post). I didn't here any new stories from Cottier Shihan, which was a pity, but the evening was otherwise very enjoyable, and I even got back to my hotel for 1am, which was a lot earlier than I did after last time the KAA had such an event.
Sunday's classes were very good, and I also got to practice with Tani Shihan; I found him very powerful but very soft and relaxed. On another occasion he was practicing with someone else, and as he was on the floor having just been thrown by his partner, I did a fast tenkan and my outside foot kicked him sharply in the head while he was still down on the mat. I felt it, and looked to see who it was I'd just kicked, and heard myself start to say "Oh, shit!" but changed it suavely into "Oh, shitsurei shimasu… sumimasen Sensei!". He then onwards politely ignored me. Still, not so bad as Steve Parr, who hit Doshu smack in the face with a shomen-uchi during a demonstration in Chester some years ago; which I guess just goes to show that everyone, even Doshu, can make a mistake sometimes.
Anyway, could write more about the course… but I'll just finish up this post here by saying that it was a very good course, I certainly learned a number of important things. Even though when Smith Shihan is teaching, he keeps asking "Got it?" and "Understand?" etc, and one girl I practiced with said "I keep feeling I want to answer "Ask us in a minute when we've had a chance to try it". I responded that I kept feeling I wanted to answer "Ask us in thirty years". Actually, on one occasion when he'd asked "Got it?" and people were nodding acquiescently, he said "Really? I'm so pleased for you… it took me years to learn that" (Smith Shihan has been practicing and teaching Aikido for 50 years or so, btw. Like Cottier Shihan and Ezra Sensei, he'd quite possibly be a higher grade, if it weren't for politics etc.
Anyway… that really is all I'm writing for now.