Join Date: Mar 2004
Aikido in Amsterdam, Terry Lax style...
How it came to be...
At age 23 lived in Belfast Northern Ireland and coming from a military background, having no real education or life skills to show, I ventured into the security business, thinking this would be quite "up my alley". I did not count on all the different types of situations I would find myself in. Some of the more violent situations that I more often than I wanted found myself having to deal with was with i.e. shop lifters, drunks, tramps, and people with mental problems.
With the job came a weekend training in self defense and we were sent to a place and shown different techniques from a style of martial art called Aikido. I had never seen many martial arts and this was my first time ever having to try it for real and was instantly hooked. The way that your technique surpasses any physical strength was just amazing to me.
After this weekend my confidence was heightened and I set off looking for a dojo to train in Aikido and found a place in Belfast called the Aiki no Michi Dojo (Belfast Aikido Circle). This was an Aikikai based style which was a little rougher than I expected. However it was a small group and, since I prefer this, I ended up training with these guys for around three years.
Almost every day I made use of the techniques I had been taught, and on the street defending myself against hockey sticks and drunken aggressive young men who where out for nothing more than a fight.
In my time there I also studied the Philosophy of Aikido and the many other different types of styles that are out there. What I was studying at Belfast was an Aikikai based style which is a more recent style: a little more circular and soft, less tradition as it is Japanese. There is Tomiki which is a more sporty style with competition and different colored belts and the likes; this is also a little controversial as Aikido renounces sport and bishido. Then there is Ki Aikido which deals with the more mystical and magical side with use of internal powers. This is also a little controversial as "foreigners" are not supposed to know these things. Then there is Yoshinkan, very hard, very direct and a more "man's, man" type of style.
You can find some more information about some different styles in the attached information sheet.
How it continued...
After moving from Belfast to Amsterdam and not training for quite some while, I once again felt the urge to train, since it felt as something was lacking. I was missing a piece of my life. I scoured the papers and magazines for Aikido Dojo's and stumbled upon the Amsterdam Aikido Dojo run by Erik Louw.
This was a more gentle style of Aikido [Aikikai], was very nice and sometimes even a little fake to the point that you had to hardly touch you opponent to make him/her fall to the floor. I trained in this style for a little over one year or so. I enjoyed my time with Erik, yet found myself constantly searching for that style that I was used to the feeling that I once had where if I was not trained my body would still fill itself with adrenaline because this was what my body is used to doing, I continued to scour Amsterdam.
One evening whilst leaving the dojo, I stumbled on a little flyer with Aikido on it. Being very plain and very inconspicuous it aroused my interest. I took it home and looked at the web page that boasted that the head practitioner is Toshiro Obata, a famous martial artist and movie star from Japan who worked beside the late and great Brandon Lee (Bruce's son) and who has been in many movies like "Demolition Man". I decided to e-mail the Sensei for the Amsterdam Dojo and arranged a meeting.
I arrived at the Dojo the following week and we greeted by his head student who told me that this was a hard style and is the same as Yoshinkan. Yoshinkan is a very old style of Aikido which has very strong movements and is very direct in its throws and the joint locks are very heavy and hard.
I was intrigued as this is the only Dojo that has this in Amsterdam and is run by an English speaker (American Brent Hire). The lesson started out very energetic and was very group orientated. Everyone participates in the warm-up, all counting out loud in Japanese. Then all rolling, falling and tumbling exercises together so I got a very nice sense of community and oneness about this little group which I had not felt in the last group, which was nice. The lesson was very dynamic and looked much fun with a seriousness about it that made me want to just run onto the mat and join there and then.
How it is now...
After this meeting, I had decided to take up my Aikido training at this Shinkendo Dojo, seeing that it more fit my personality and seemed to fill the void I had while training at the Amsterdam Aikido Dojo. The Dojo is taught by Brent Hire Sensei.
He teaches four different Martial Arts, which consist of Aikibuken, Shinkendo, Jiu Jitsu and Bojitsu. All these are taught on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and his students range from white to black belt in each and every one of the styles.
Brent Hire Sensei likes to call all his groups his Martial family and this is what you feel when you join. He also likes to give each group a taste of the other group just to show what other Arts there are. He also believes that there's always something to learn from others and other Martial Arts.
The training in Aikibuken is a physical style, but after a while this builds up with your physical frame and state of mind. I myself have now been training for five months and have recently been tested for my skills and found this to be quite a beneficial experience for me. This because testing helped me build up a different type of thinking, as you need to know all the basics by heart, and don't just copy things, but KNOW things. It forces you to also DO things instead of thinking about them first, making it more of an automatic behavior. Also the stress I received by having to perform to the best of my abilities in front of every one, pushed my abilities and thoughts a step beyond from what I knew before.
One thing I do find different about Brent Sensei over my previous Sensei's is that he becomes this father figure out of the Dojo and I do not mean this is a negative way.
I mean this in a good way as he offers to help and guide you, steer you in what ever direction you want to go. At the last Dojo "party" we had, he showed us he has an extensive Martial Arts library of books, videos and DVD's. He allows you to borrow them, as long as you bring them back. He likes to cook for every one and show his sword collection, tell stories of his past experiences and also answer any questions you have. Yet back in the Dojo he completely changes to a serious man who pushes you to your limit and asks "Show me what you have when you have nothing left".
This is exactly what I plan to do…
Aikido was originally developed by one man, Morihei Ueshiba O-sensei (Great Teacher). Many students who trained under O Sensei decided to spread their knowledge of Aikido by opening their own Dojo's. Due, among other things, to the dynamic nature of Aikido, different students of O Sensei interpreted his Aikido in different ways. Thus different styles of Aikido were born. The more common are listed here along with a brief explanation of what is different about the style.
Each style has its own strengths and weaknesses, but all are firmly rooted in the basic concepts which make Aikido the unique art that it is. None should be considered superior or inferior to any other, but rather an individual must find a style which best suits him or her. Outside factors such as geographic location may of course limit one's options.
No matter which style you choose, you are going to be taught that particular instructors' interpretation of it, and you yourself are going to develop your own particular Aikido. One might say that there are as many different styles of Aikido as there are practitioners.
Since this list is going to be challenging enough without looking for extra work, we'll restrict our definition of Aikido to mean styles that clearly trace their lineage to Ueshiba O Sensei. The classification into categories is fairly arbitrary.
The "Old" Schools
Here we'll list the schools that developed from the pre-war teachings.
This is the name given to the art O Sensei was teaching early in his development. It is very close in style to previously existing Jutsu forms such as Daito-ryu Aiki-jutsu. It is considered to be one of the harder forms of Aikido.
Most of the early students of O Sensei began during this period and much of the early practice overseas was in this style (e.g. Abbe-sensei's teaching in the UK in the 50s).
This form was developed by Minoru Mochizuki, who was an early student of O Sensei and also of Kano sensei at the Kodokan. This style includes elements of Aiki-Budo together with aspects of Karate, Judo and other arts.
This is the style taught by the late Gozo Shioda. Shioda-sensei studied with O Sensei from the mid-30s. After the war, he was invited to begin teaching and formed the organization known as the Yoshinkan. Unlike many later organizations, the Yoshinkan has always maintained friendly relations with the Aikikai both during and after O Sensei's life.
The Yoshinkan is a harder style of Aikido, generally concerned with practical efficiency and physically robust techniques. It is taught to many branches of the Japanese Police.
The international organization associated with the Yoshinkan style of Aikido is known as the Yoshinkai, and has active branches in many parts of the world. In recent years, there have been a number of offshoots of this style, usually developing for political reasons.
The "Modern" Schools
This includes most of the variants taught today. Most of these "styles" are taught by various senior students of O Sensei, with the divergences coming after the death of the Founder. Most would claim to be teaching the art that O Sensei taught them - and this is probably true even though some have little in common with others! Taken together with O Sensei's notorious obscurity in teaching style, the story of the elephant and the blind men may give us some clue as to how this could have come about :-) .
Most of us have our biases and preferences amongst the various styles but can recognize that all have their strengths and weakness and we all have something to learn from all of them.
The "Traditional" Schools
The Aikikai is the common name for the style headed by Moriteru Ueshiba, O Sensei's grandson, as taught under the auspices of the International Aikido Federation. Most regard this school as the mainline in Aikido development. In reality, this "style" is more of an umbrella than a specific style, since it seems that many individuals within the organization teach in quite a different manner. The Aikido taught by Ueshiba Sensei is generally large and flowing, with an emphasis on a standard syllabus and little or no emphasis on weapons training. Other teachers within the auspices of the Aikikai (like
Saito Sensei) place much more emphasis on weapons practice.
The style taught by Morihiro Saito, based in the Iwama dojo, is generally considered sufficiently stylistically different from mainstream Aikikai that it is named individually, even though it still is part of the Aikikai. Saito Sensei was a long time uchideshi of O Sensei, beginning in 1946 and staying with him through his death. Many consider that Saito Sensei was the student who spent most time directly studying with O Sensei Saito Sensei says he is trying to preserve and teach the art exactly as it was taught to him by the Founder. Technically, Iwama-ryu seems to resemble the Aikido O Sensei was teaching in the early 50s mainly in the Iwama dojo. The technical repertoire is larger than in most other styles and a great deal of emphasis is placed on weapons training.
The "Ki" Schools
One of the most noticeable splits in the Aikido world occurred in 1974 when Koichi Tohei, then the Chief Instructor at the Aikikai, resigned from that organization and founded the Ki no Kenkyukai to teach Aikido with strong emphasis on the concepts of Ki. Since that time, there has been little interaction between the traditional schools and the Ki schools. All of these arts tend to refer to themselves as Ki Aikido, even though there is little contact between some of the styles.
Shin-shin Toitsu Aikido
The style founded by Koichi Tohei - Aikido with Mind and Body Unified. Tohei Sensei places a great deal of emphasis on understanding the concept of Ki and developing this aspect independently of the Aikido training for application to general health and daily life.
This style is one of the softest styles of Aikido and is characterized by soft movements that often involve the practitioner jumping or skipping during the movement. Most schools are not concerned with practical application of the techniques, considering them exercises to further develop Ki.
In recent years, Tohei Sensei has been moving further and further away from Aikido and has devoted himself almost exclusively to Ki training. The latest news is that Ki no Kenkyukai has started an initiative to make Shin-shin Toitsu Aikido into an International Competitive sport.
The "Sporting" Styles
One of the other big breaks in Aikido history occurred during O Sensei's life when Kenji Tomiki proposed "rationalizing" Aikido training using Kata and Competition. Since that time, there has been little commonality between the Tomiki schools and the mainline Aikido schools. In recent years there have been a number of offshoots of Tomiki-ryu that have abandoned the idea of competition.
Founded by Kenji Tomiki, an early student of O Sensei and of Judo founder Jigoro Kano. Tomiki Sensei believed that a "rationalization" of Aikido training, along the lines that Kano Sensei followed for Judo would make it more easily taught, particularly at the Japanese Universities. In addition, he believed that introducing an element of competition would serve to sharpen and focus the practice since it was no longer tested in real combat. This latter view was the cause of a split with O Sensei who firmly believed that there was no place for competition in Aikido training. Tomiki-ryu is characterized by using Kata (prearranged forms) in teaching and by holding competitions, both empty handed and with a rubber knife.
There are no 'styles' of Aikido. It is like cheese cake. You can cut it in
wedges or squares or just dig in with your fork but it is still cheese cake!