When I talked to Terry Ezra about his background, he expressed an admiration for Seigo Yamaguchi Shihan. Anyone with experience under Yamaguchi Sensei would know something about Kashima Shin ryu Kenjutsu such as Chritsian Tissier does. In fact, Nick Waites, a senior instructor under Terry Ezra does reference their bokken work as coming from Kashima Shin Ryu on page 117 of his book on Aikido available in the U.K. For me, that confirms that somehow, Ezra Shihan came under the influence of Yamaguchi Shihan. I believe that to be one of Ezra Shihan's major influences.
This is from the Martial Edge.
Shihan Terry Ezra represents the Komyokan Aikido Association, and teaches in the Wirral, Merseyside.
To fuel his obsession for Aikido as a young adult, Terry Ezra sold his possessions and travelled the country in pursuit of knowledge.
Thanks to that early dedication to his martial art Ezra was awarded the title of Shihan, meaning ‘Master Teacher', by the Aikikai Headquarters in Japan. Shihan is the highest level of instructorship that it is possible to achieve in Aikido, and Ezra says he feels privileged to have been awarded the title.
Yet despite this accolade, the down to earth Ezra comments on how he views his training in Aikido: "I always regard my own training from the point of view that I haven't quite got it yet; I'm always trying to improve my technique. So on a day to day basis in my training it's an ongoing quest to achieve the unachievable; to try and gain some level of perfection in my Aikido."
His journey started in 1963, when the 18 year old Ezra was invited by a friend to his local Aikido club. He watched a class and decided it looked interesting enough to try. At the level of sixth Dan 43 years on, he finds it more than just interesting. "At high levels of training in Aikido, you don't need strength; Aikido is a way of taking the attacker's strength and energy and redirecting that," Ezra states.
Chiba Sensai introduced Ezra to the heart of his art over the first 11 years of his relationship with Aikido. This talented man was a direct uchi-deshi, or live-in student, of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. "I felt very privileged to learn from Chiba Sensai," says Ezra. "I was travelling the country at weekends to the courses he held around the UK. I sold a lot of my possessions so I could keep following him around."
Chiba Sensai has been the most influential person in Ezra's career.
He reminisces: "Chiba Senai had the most incredible spirit; he was unstoppable. He just looked at you and it was all over."
Another inspiring Aikido practitioner in Ezra's career was Yamaguchi Sensai, from the Aikido World Headquarters in Japan. "He had a unique style," says Ezra. "It was incredibly soft, but incredibly powerful and when I practiced with him, I thought this is the kind of style I want."
In the 1970s, Ezra met a monk named Hogen, the Abbott of Shizuoka Temple in Japan who was a good friend of Chiba Sensai. When Ezra was finally able to open his own dojo he started teaching not only Aikido, but the Zen chanting that Hogen taught him. "I look at every day as a highlight of my teaching career," he explains. "For each day that I am able to do what I do, even though there's no money in it and I'm living like a monk most of the time, I look at each day as special."
The atmosphere of the Komyokan Aikido dojo is austere, in keeping with the traditional Japanese hierarchical system. Yet that code of conduct is anything but constricting, Ezra explains: "Within that code is a beautiful freedom, so between myself and my students is a good respect."
Ezra says it is hard to pin down exactly what it is that attracts him most to the role of teaching. "I enjoy being able to practice Aikido, quite simply. I particularly like it when people that seem quite inept slowly and surely take on coordination and become much more competent as human beings. I take a deep interest in the development of my students. I like to watch them grow."
Teaching abroad is one luxurious aspect of Aikido that Ezra is able to take advantage of. In October he taught in Costa Rica, South America. This month he is travelling to India and Holland to instruct, with a further course at his own Dojo in the UK on 11 and 12 November that anyone is welcome to attend.
Ezra adds a few words of wisdom that he has learnt as an instructor of Aikido: "You must not rest on your laurels while teaching. If one is constantly training and improving and trying to perfect one's technique on a day to day basis, you are better able to teach your students."
He adds: "When teaching, it's important to take what you're doing very seriously, but not to take yourself too seriously; you have to keep a sense of humour."