4 question interview with Joe Curran
Thank you, Joe, for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope other people on Aikiweb enjoy this as much as I did.
1. How old were you when you started Aikido?
I started Aikido in 1969/70 approximately, in Glasgow, Scotland. I was aged between 29/31 years old. I had been a Judoka for over 13 years.
2. What does rank mean to you? And what rank are you?
Grade wise I hold currently 6th Dan. I was also promoted to Shihan by Chiba Sensei and my Shihan was confirmed by Doshu /Japan in Jan, 2014. The Shihan process of course started earlier. I had to submit all sorts of information, reports to Japan prior to recognition.
As far as Rank is concerned, I am, of course, fairly proud of my grades on a personal level. It's always nice to be considered fairly good at one's art by your peers. Nevertheless, I do not get too carried away by an overwhelming feeling of self-importance or ego. I consider myself as a competent aikidoka. I also consider that there are many other people in aikido with skills I admire. The grade, of course, can give you the opportunities to influence the direction of your group.
I have been both Chairman/ex-President and I am currently part of the Shihankai of the British Birankai. In these roles I am hopefully able to guide, offer advice, mentor and plan strategic matters [course, promotions, admin duties] in the best interests of our members. I see myself as a servant of the Briitsh Birankai rather than be a master. It's not about me. It's about Aikido and the welfare of the students as a whole. As leaders we should endeavor to protect Aikido and care for all students. My grade gives me this opportunity, hopefully, to be a positive influence into Aikido.
I am extremely grateful to my late teacher, Chiba Sensei, for entrusting me with this task.
3. How do you feel about wearing a hakama?
Wearing of the Hakama is considered to be a sign of a person who trains in what one would consider to be a traditional Japanese discipline. Kendo /Kyudo, Iaido, Naginata, Kashima Shinju Ryu, etc. fall into this category. Judo /Karate in general do not have this tradition. This is not to denigrate or be critical about Judo /Karate. It's just how it is.
As an Aikidoka, having reached a certain level when I was younger [2nd Kyu] my Teacher Chiba Sensei awarded me the honour of wearing a Hakama. I therefore feel that this awarding of the Hakama implies I had to be a good example to others. I feel quite comfortable wearing Hakama.
When I received the Hakama award from Chiba Sensei it was as if I had graduated from High School in a sense. My preschool work had been done, but the real work lay ahead as it were. It was also true of my Sho Dan grading. The Sho Dan is literally the first basic understanding of Aikido. I had completed the initial stages of Shu Ha Ri.
Chiba Sensei stated that one had to be a committed sword i.e. a person who trains diligently. I think the Hakama indicates someone who is a committed student as opposed to a person who just dabbles in Aikido as a hobby. Not that this is wrong, some people just want to keep active. That's ok by me. Aikido does not have to be a matter of life or death.
4. What do you say when people ask you about aikido and then start telling you about how they took taekwondo in 6th grade?
Now should I be asked about Aikido by someone I would do what I could to give them an insight to our Art. Should they then say they prefer to choose Tae Kwon Do/Karate /MMA or whatever
I wish them the best of luck in their choice of Art. I think each person has to find their own Way, be it: Karate, Judo, etc. There is one mountain, but there may well be more than one way to climb the mountain.
Each person is as unique as are the Martial Arts. Martial Arts can contribute in a meaningful way to the development of good character, good social and moral traits, and common sense, etc.