View Full Version : Want to learn Aikido, any helpfull info

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01-20-2005, 11:48 AM

My name is Donald Griggs and I have been looking for an excellent Aikido school. I am very interested in Aikido, more so Steven Seagals style (Tenshin Aikido )due to it seeming to be very involved not that I know much on the subject. However I cannot seem to find a school in my area for that. I am located in Birmingham , Alabama and willing to drive an hour or so to a class. Tenshin Aikido seems to incorporate the styles and teaching that I desire. The only school that I can find here is http://www.usamartialarts.com/ which is led by Van Bushnell, Mr Bushnell teaches Aikido , Karate, Kobudo, Iaido, and TaeKwondo.
While speaking with Mr. Bushnell he informed me that the style that he teaches is ( yoshinkan/Aikikai ) and that even though he teaches Iaido he does not teach KenJutsu but then he kind of does ( his words). This here confused me and I was not clear on his explination on the fact that he does not but kind of does. Also while asking questions I asked about the Tenshin Aikido Style and was told that he has never heard of it. Is this common for a 6th Dan not to know of a Style ?If you can give me any insight and some direction here I would be greatly appreciative. Also sense it appears that this is the only
Aikido dojo should I take advantage of this and start learning or would it be a waste not to take advantage of this dojo and wait until what I really would love to learn and study became available, ( not know if or when that would be ) . Could you also please give me some insight on the major differences of these to styles ?

Thank you for your time and thoughts

Donald J. Griggs ( DJ )

01-20-2005, 12:38 PM
By no meens in mentioning Mr. Bushnells name do I mean him any disrespect I find him to be a very honest and honorable man who wants to spread the teachings of Aikido. I mention it only in the terms of questioning myself and wanting to learn more about his art, style and teachings and what exactly I am in search of. :D

Lyle Laizure
01-20-2005, 12:45 PM
In regards to the kenjustu, I would go back and ask the instructor to explain what he/she meant. It may mean that they teach some kenjutsu but do not or cannot offer ranking. Either way if you are confused have it clarified.

I don't know how common it is for high ranking instructors to not know about different aikido styles but I am confident that there are a lot more styles that most would know about. I wouldn't hold this against him.

Whether or not training there would be a waste of your time is hard to say. It sounds like you were not satisfied with his/her answers. I would go to class and get on the mat a few times and judge for yourself if what is being taught is what you are looking for. Keep an open mind and go for the experience.

Greg Jennings
01-20-2005, 01:03 PM
Hi DJ,

I'm in Montgomery. I know the scene up there pretty well. There is no "Tenshin Aikido" there to my knowledge. Aikido just isn't so common in the South that you'd find just whatever you were looking for even in a larger city like B-ham.

I know Bushnell Sensei and I think you could learn aikido just fine there...if it works for you. There are a couple of other schools that you should check out.

One is Faulkner Sensei's school: 205-9917250 mgfaulkn@bellsouth.net . They have a long heritage and are associated with the ASU. I train with them at seminars every so often.

The other is Couch Sensei's school Couch Sensei has been associated with Toshishiro Obata Sensei for many years. I've traded e-mails with Couch Sensei on sensitive matters and he seems to be an upstanding gentleman. http://www.isf-alga.com/about%20ISF-AL-GA.htm .

If you're ever in Montgomery, drop us a line and come by to play. I promise that you'll break a sweat and have a good time.

Best regards,

Greg Jennings
01-20-2005, 01:41 PM
BTW, if you want to PM me, feel free.

Best regards,

Robert Cheshire
01-21-2005, 12:15 AM
How far is it to Huntsville (I don't remember my AL geography)? While it's not Tenshin Aikido there is a good Yoseikan dojo there. It might be worth a look.

01-21-2005, 12:36 AM
How far is it to Huntsville (I don't remember my AL geography)? While it's not Tenshin Aikido there is a good Yoseikan dojo there. It might be worth a look.

about 2 hours , but it would be worth the drive, I have family there

01-21-2005, 06:43 AM
I wouldn't persue 'Steven Seagal's' style; it seems apparent to me that many of the instructors are just trying to make money out of the name. I haven't trained with him myself, so I can't judge (though one of his students wanted to visit, though he requested a 'personal bathroom' and changing area, and quite expensive fees), but I would personally go for something like Yoshinkan or Aikikai where you can get a good solid grounding in aikido. Saying this, the quality of training depends more on your instructor than on their grade, 'style' or affiliation. I didn't know the 'Tenshin' aikido style myself was that which Steven Seagal used. Probably many people in Yoshinkan and Aikikai pretty much ignore Tenshin style since Yoshinkan and Aikikai are huge and very important affiliations. Now if it was the other way around, and a 6th dan hadn't heard of yoshinkan or aikikai, I would be worried.

Best thing is - find a dojo you feel comfortable training in and ignore the affiliation and styles. After a time you will be more aware of the style you want to train in and what you want to get out of it. I train in a tiny affiliation (Aiki no Michi) which is very different to my original affiliation, but I get an enormous amount out of it, partly 'cos it is differrent, and also because the instructors are good and the people are friendly.

01-21-2005, 06:52 AM
PS looking at the web site it seems the chief instructor is predominantly influenced by taekwondo - not that this is a bad thing at all (many people are not aware that taekwondo also has many joint locks and pins with some similarity to aikido). Also, rising to 6th Dan from the mid 80's seems fast to me (unless he's doing full time training), but hey, it's taken me 16 years to be a 1st Dan, and I think the dan grades seem to have a lot of influence in pulling in the punters in the US.

Bryan Webb
01-24-2005, 09:33 AM
Please feel free to visit Aikido of Birmingham anytime.
If you are closer to Montgomery, I would train with Greg Jennings...great person.
If you would like jujutsu, check out Richard Worthington Sensei at Akayama Ryu in Trussville.

bryan webb

Mark Barlow
01-24-2005, 03:04 PM
I've had the pleasure of training with every instructor listed above and you really can't go wrong with any of them. Faulkner Sensei is the voice of experience when it comes to Aikido in Birmingham but Bushnell Sensei is also an excellent teacher. Worthington Sensei has a strong background in Shodokan Aikido and his Jujutsu is very aiki friendly.

As far as sword training, Paul Couch Sensei is the absolute authority as far as hard core battojutsu or kenjutsu goes.

Any of the teachers discussed in this thread would be a good choice and Greg Jennings in Montgomery is definitely worth a road trip when you want to try another "flavor".

Mark Barlow

Ron Tisdale
01-24-2005, 03:14 PM
Kevin Blok (mentioned as one of the person's aikido instructors) is pretty well known in yoshinkan groups. I would confirm the person's rank with Blok sensei's organization...if confirmed, give it a try and see if you like what they offer. It would not be unusual for someone to be unfamiliar with Tenshin aikido.
Good luck,

01-24-2005, 06:02 PM
I'm not sure who really teaches Tenshin aikido. Matsuoka went back to Japan and is now on his own when he returned. I understand Seagal was not actively teaching but I could be wrong. There is an instructor who has set up an association but I don't really know if they are affiliated with Seagal or not-I know the instructor shows up on the AAA website and was recently promoted to 5th dan by a Japanese Budokai organization I believe-if he's a student of Seagal why is he going outside for rank? Friends in AAA say he still has dealings with AAA-I don't know what that means.

01-24-2005, 10:08 PM
Mr. Griggs,

I began studying at the Retsushinkan at the beginning of January. If it's any help, I've found the beginner's aikido class to be full of competent instructors and senior students, and we (beginning students) are handled with care. Class is very organized and everyone seems to have their ____ together.

While I am by no means a voice of experience, I thought I would throw my two cents in and say hi.


Greg Jennings
01-25-2005, 06:40 AM
John, all: when he first posted, I, in private e-mail, I referred DJ to someone that can give him the inside scoop on the Seagal/Matsuoka/et al situation. No need for speculation.

Best regards,

James Young
01-25-2005, 04:19 PM
Just for the record, for those that aren't aware "Tenshin Aikido" or style is or was not a separate style or organization apart from the aikikai, it was a part of it. Of course it has some unique characteristics or takes on techniques, but this is no different than the various approaches to techniques that one finds of different organizations or teachers within aikikai that we all are aware of.

01-26-2005, 07:13 AM
I've only just started Aikido myself but I think the best advice I can give is don't get too hung up on a particular style before you've been on the mat. There are an awful lot of styles around. Maybe you should try a few before deciding.

As far as I am aware all Aikido is involved but perhaps in slightly different ways.

Casey Martinson
01-26-2005, 07:20 PM
Ian, I thought it was worth pointing out that according to Bushnell Sensei's website,
"He received his 6th Degree Black Belt from Master Jarrett's Chong Shin Kwan TaeKwonDo/Karate Organization in March 1999." Given that he recieved his first TKD black belt in the seventies, that's not so hard to believe. Below that information, the web bio states "He received his 4th Degree Black Belt in Aikido in September 2002." I.e. it took him twenty years to achieve yondan, also perhaps a bit more credible.

phil farmer
02-02-2005, 09:35 AM
Mr. Griggs,

I got to this thread late but wanted to let you know that there is a Yoseikan Dojo closer than Huntsville. It is in Tuscaloosa, at the University. Sensei Omar Smith is running that school now and, if you get this in time, you are welcome to come visit this weekend, when we have the annual clinic in Tuscaloosa. Our technical director will be there as will several of our highest ranking instructors. You can see for yourself what we do. We cover a broad curriculum of aiki, jiujitsu, iaido, kenjutsu, judo and karate withing our art.

Phil Farmer

Greg Jennings
02-02-2005, 02:42 PM

Tuscaloosa is closer, but still not that close to Birmingham. It's good to know that the school is active there. I've long been interested in experiencing Yoseikan. Could you post or PM me contact info?

Best regards,

Adam Huss
08-17-2005, 11:28 PM
I've met Busnel Sensei quite a few times and I must say that he is quite an impressive man. My second Aikido seminar I watched him test for yondan and it was pretty amazing. Blok Sensei, who promoted him along with a board of 5 or more other yondan + have the highest regard for him. There are now two dojo in Brimingham....Bushnel Senseis and Tim Morgan Sensei's. Sensei Morgan is also a great guy, one of Bushnel Sensei's senior students. About the confusion with the iaido stuff....he is affiliated with the Iai-Tate Do federation formerly headed by Yamazaki Sensei and now headed by Jarrett Roger Sensei. It is a blend of Kashima Shinto Ryu and Suri Ryu (sp?). Suri Ryu has added a bit more martial element to the federation's style. The addition of Suri Ryu is still quite new and there are some polotics involved. Jarret Sensei also teaches Kobudo and people like Jarrett Sensei and Bushnell Sensei have been around so long they know quite a few things they from styles they don't have rank in, or if they do, they don't say they do becuase its not something they focus on. Usually these are techniques they teach becuase they are 'cool' and won't really put them in the standardized testing.
On another side note, Bushnel Sensei is one of the funiest budoka I have ever met. He has quite a quick wit and had us all laughing our heads off when I was at his dojo in the spring. Anyways, good luck with your decision, and if you already made one...maybe I saw you at the Spring Fling.