Dojo: Muden Juku, Ireland
Join Date: Dec 2005
Re: It Had to Be Felt #33: Alan Ruddock: I Don't Know What It Was, but He Had It
The first time I trained with Alan Ruddock, I didn't know who he was. I was an eager white belt at a seminar given by Henry Kono, a close friend of Alan. After Henry demonstrated something, I paired off with an older gentleman in a hakama and attempted to recreate what he had shown. Well, I tried, while the older gentleman patiently went through whatever it was I was doing.
A few months later, I attended another seminar, this time given by the only Irishman who had spent time training under Morihei Ueshiba. I stepped on the mat, and lo and behold: it was the same gentleman I had previously trained with! Alan was like that: Low key,never pushing himself to the fore and consummately good natured.
I trained over the next three years off and on with Alan, maybe six or eight times. It was at the very beginning of my Aikido, and I was lucky enough to be exposed to a lot of different teachers and "styles" in this strange, fascinating art. At the same time, I wasn't so set in one way as to judge another style, good or bad. In retrospect, this was a great thing, especially when learning what Alan was teaching: "nyuanshin". I didn't judge his stance or movement, I just tried to do it .
Alan mainly tried to get principles across as opposed to a huge number of techniques, but some of his techniques stand out in my mind. His kaiten nage was great. To be honest, I never really liked this technique, it seemed far too complicated and awkward. Alan, however, would move almost imperceptibly, take your balance forward, and take your head as he turned. Uke would flip away before they knew what had happened, and Alan would still be standing naturally. It was simple, effective, with no overt display of power or effort, Alan made it look like it was a completely natural movement.
His irimi techniques were memorable, too. I remember him doing irimi on me. He didn't take my head so much, it was more a light touch on my chest and upper body. I just dropped. I wasn't thrown, or pushed, my balanced was gone and I just fell onto my behind. Again, it was totally natural.
I remember Alan saying "whatever uke does is wonderful!", meaning, that upsetting or trying to fix uke is counter to aikido: you must deal with what you are given and go with that. He would get us to practice against the wall, to try to get across this idea: you can't change "the world", you are better off changing your response. Instead of cutting down or pushing uke, you must keep consistent contact and deal with the attack.
Alan was very influenced by Henry Kono, which he acknowledged. Personally, I think he was also influenced by Koichi Tohei, who was still teaching at aikikai hombu when Alan trained there. Alan often worked with drawing uke's attention, or leading uke's "mind". I think he also appreciated Tohei's efforts to demystify obscure oriental concepts and explain them clearly and plainly.
Ken Cottier, another friend of Alan, once said that you could tell the level of a practicioner in Hombu by looking at their shoulders: The lower their shoulders, the higher the rank. Using this standard, Alan must have been a Shihan! His shoulders were always relaxed and his forearms kept close to his body, encouraging the movement of the whole body as one unit. The hands and arms were really power conduits as opposed to generators.
Although Alan was a gentleman, he was no pushover and had clear opinions on the martial arts. He didn't have time for what he termed "bash kido" where uke was pushed and pulled all over the place by Tori.
Some time after returning from Japan, Alan separated from the Aikikai and formed his own group, Aiki no Michi, which had affiliated dojos around Britain and Ireland, and also in Spain, I think.
I think he had caught the vision of what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go from his time in Japan, and he just followed that. He wasn't interested in having lots of dojos or a high rank. He wasn't interested in doing others down, either, he just followed his own path with a small group of like minded individuals. It was truly a "way".
Anyone with the least scrap of sense
Once they start on the Way
Will follow it unceasingly
But humans love byways