I thought about how best to describe Shane and came up with too many answers. A traditional martial artist who has crossed the boundaries into cross training and realism for many years forgoing his own successful association.
As an Aikido 6th Dan and head of the White Rose Aikido. Shane has all the qualities of a great martial artist whilst retaining a down to earth approach to his training and his life.
I have been involved with martial arts for 25 years. starting in Shotokan Karata Over the years Shane has practised various styles. I have known Shane for many years as a friend and fellow martial artist and so decided it was time for him to share his thoughts and experiences with the readers of MAI.
Neil Hall: Why and when did you start training and in what art?
Shane Riley: I started in Wado Ryu Karate in 1972. My father had always wanted me to start doing Judo at an early age. This I found strange, as my father had been a prisoner of war with the Japanese for over four years, having worked on the infamous Burma Siam railway. I would have thought he would have been very anti-Japanese but he told me one that life is too short to bear grudges and you can’t dwell too much on the past, you have to look to the future. I think his outlook on life has helped me in my path in the martial arts and life in general. I had seen the early James Bond films which featured the martial arts and was intrigued by the idea of the ” Judo Chop”. A Karate dojo opened locally and me and a friend went to have a look, we were both fascinated and joined up. After about two years I finally did some Judo. I hadn’t realised how physical it was, I turned up all cocky and was battered for a few weeks by all these low grades. I suppose you could say I was cross training then but didn’t know it. You did Karate for punches and kicks and Judo for throws and groundwork but it was hard at the time to mix them up, you tended to do one or the other in a situation. I don’t think we had the maturity to understand and the arts at that time didn’t overlap, they were taught in isolation to one another.
Neil Hall: Was the Karate and Judo training any different then to now?
Shane Riley: Judo was very vigorous ‘Old Style Judo’. I went along as a young, cocky 17 year old Karate purple belt and got plastered every week for about 6 months by all the yellow, orange and green belts. I did Karate for around 12 years and Judo for 2 years, I still do a bit of Karate now, where I first met you, Neil. I have also trained in Shotokan and Shukokai Karate. The sparring in those days was always heavy, we all got battered.
Neil Hall: What was different about ‘ Old Style Judo’?
Shane Riley: In Olympic Judo they are all fighting for a grip, back then you just started with a grip and went for it. Also it was more technical then, more into detail, there are many changes now. It was good at the time, everything is good when you are young.
Neil Hall: Did you do any other arts before you went into Aikido?
Shane Riley: Yes, I did some Jujitsu and bits of wrestling with various people over the years, also my father took me and my older brother Boxing when I was 12 years old. He took us to an old army Boxing instructor in the works canteen, he had 2 cauliflower ears. My dad said it was for us to look after ourselves. Also when I first started Aikido we always did half an hour of grappling at the end of the class.
Neil Hall: So cross training is not a new thing to you then?
Shane Riley: Not really, we didn’t call it that at the time, we just trained in what was available in our area. You just did Karate, you didn’t realise there were other styles about until later on. Otsuka Sensei, founder of Wado Ryu, Ticky Donovan, Sakagami and Walter Seaton came up to Huddersfield, we trained with them, Wado Ryu was strong in this area at that time. When we trained in different styles it wasn’t like a challenge thing, it was just an add-on to what you did already. Nowadays some people cross-train but don’t get a core base in something solid. I was glad I did Karate for a long time and Judo before moving into Aikido. It gave me a good grounding in stances, etiquette etc. in martial arts, you definitely need a core. Some people think Aikido is a soft option, some styles are an some are not. Some people might get a shock if they trained with a hard style Aikido like ours. We train (at a higher level) with an uncooperative Uke unlike some style of Aikido.
Neil Hall: Is it important to you that you Aikido is practical?
Shane Riley: Oh yes, definitely! Because me and my Senior Grade Dave Hemmings had trained in Karate and Judo we experimented with the Aikido. Also sometimes people coming into the classes had Karate, Kung Fu, JuJitsu etc. backgrounds, so you had to make it work against different types of opponent. You couldn’t just say to them ‘ grab me here and run around after me’, you had to make it work. We had some interesting moments proving Aikido could work.
Neil Hall: So you had pressure testing from people coming into the Aikido?
Shane Riley: Yes, you cannot expect people who have done a bit just to take your word for it; you had to show them it was workable. Also at that time we were working on building sites and were always messing about and trying things out together. Dave was still doing Karate as well so we were always trying each other out. I found out at that time that the Aikido I was doing was alright but still lacking in certain area’s, it wasn’t quite as effective as I would have liked it to have been. I met up with Dave Martin from the midlands, his Aikido was more dynamic, and he came up to teach. Also he knew people like Gary Williams, he was into Judo and Karate, 3rd Dan Karate and 2nd Dan Judo. He had always been involved in GoshinRyu as was Brian Whipps, known as ‘Skippy’. He was probably the biggest influence on me, he was very dynamic, 3rd Dan Aikido and also involved with the GoshinRyu, amongst others. It was all interlinked then. Skippy is such a character; he’s only 5ft odd, but very hard and dynamic, back then he was about 40 and very impressive. He made us realise there was a lot more to it all than we thought. Last time he came up he was about 60 and he was still grappling with me and Dave, Amazing!
Neil Hall: Is there a competition side to Aikido, anywhere to test it?
Shane Riley: Not really, I was used to the competition side of Karate then when you had fight for your grades, but in Aikido perform a defence to an attack, you face an opponent and deal with the attack. In Tomiki Aikido there is competition, it’s a cross between Judo and Aikido, I have practised in it but it is not my cup of tea. Ours is more traditional Aikido from Ueshiba Sensei, it is more of the older style, a more martial side of Aikido. Abbe Sensei came to England, he was a great Judo man but he had also done the Aikido with O’Sensei which at the time was very vigorous, and was called Aiki Budo. He used to go round and teach Aikido and Judo, he didn’t mind being challenged.
Neil Hall: So is your Aikido practical on the streets today?
Shane Riley: Well I’ve had a lot of success with it, as some of my students have. Also I have taught door personnel in Leeds and also the North and West Yorkshire Police in control and restraint. They have adopted one or two things that I have put across to them. Their instructor was a Tomiki Aikido man and Tai Jutsu instructor. I just went in and showed them a more cost effective or better way of doing it.
Neil Hall: Would you teach the Police or security industry the same things you would teach a civilian?
Shane Riley: No, obviously it is the requirements for the job that we give them. Doormen, Police etc have to be able to deal with the public without causing big damage, i.e. to use arm locks etc for control and restraint. A big part of fighting is the use of peripheral vision and ma’ ai fighting distance, also the ability to adapt. In our style of Aikido we try to do this, some would say we are a rough style of Aikido. If you were in a pub or a club and you had to deal with someone who attacked you from an awkward position for example, you would still have be able to make it work by adapting your ma’ ai (correct distance).
Neil Hall: Do you think that most people come to martial arts mainly for self- defence?
Shane Riley: Yes, most people do but self-defence is a part of the whole picture, we teach all the weapons part of Aikido, the sword, staff etc, some people might say that this is not practical at all, but it is all inter-linked with each other part of Aikido. Sometimes people see the four foot staff defences and maybe say that that won’t work, but they don’t realise until it explained that we use the staff as a training aid to the whole, then it makes sense to them. Also I think in Aikido it might take a little bit longer to become proficient at it than some other styles. You can learn to kick and punch quite quickly, but to get the correct ma’ ai (distance) in Aikido takes time.
Neil Hall: If you cannot control the ma’ ai (fighting distance), does Aikido fall apart?
Shane Riley: No, because you have to adapt the techniques as I mentioned earlier. Ma’ ai can be nose to nose or at kicking distance as long as YOU control it. Aikido is also about ‘blending’, if you pull me I will let you and create a lot of momentum to use against you. Also in our style we teach defences against non-usual Aikido attacks such as ‘upper cuts’, ‘hooks’ and kicks, we are well know in Aikido circles as being practical minded, which is why we get invited to their dojos to see Aikido in a more practical light. Also we get invited to other dojos, Karate, JuJitsu etc. so people can see Aikido being used in a more practical way.
Neil Hall: Wasn’t the original idea of O’Sensei to deal with an attacker causing as little damage as possible?
Shane Riley: As he got older, he got more philosophical, as we all do, but when he was a young man he was very vigorous and very practically minded. In Aikido we use a lot of slaps, palm heels and backhands that reduces damage to each other.
Neil Hall: So do you believe that you can subdue someone without hurting them, or do you have to hurt them?
Shane Riley: In a live situation principals sometimes go out of the window although you do have to be in control of yourself. If you aren’t in control of yourself how can you be in control of somebody else? You are there to protect yourself. Because of the people within our style who may have varied martial arts and self protection skills, we teach, hopefully, things that are going to work. If someone is going to be an aggressor then they are going to get hurt, it unfortunate, but thats the way it is. It depends how they attack you as to how much the level of response is. Also with the arm locks people think they are for pain compliance but they are also for balance compliance.
Neil Hall: Some people might not feel pain if they are on drugs etc.
Shane Riley: Exactly, so with the locks if you can break someone’s balance you might get a chance to escape or to throw them over, or into an obstacle. Also there are two things your body does involuntary, one is your eyes water and the other is, you breathe. If you can stop or restrict the flow of oxygen or blood to the brain you will get a result, even if the attacker is on drugs. Going back to what we have done over the years, the Martial Arts Commission (MAC) wanted self-defence registered coaches and Dave Hemmings and myself were one of the first to get qualified for that due to our varied backgrounds.
Neil Hall: So do you teach chokes and strangles then?
Shane Riley: Yes, to the senior grades but not all styles of Aikido do. Also we teach a lot of Atemi. Ueshiba Sensei said that Aikido was 90% Atemi, a lot of people don’t realise what strikes/atemis are used in Aikido. They are all there within the techniques, you have to rediscover them or have them pointed out to you, a lot of Aikido people only pay lip service to the atemis.
Neil Hall: Why do you train with swords, what is the relevance today?
Shane Riley: Because it is a traditional Japanese martial art, the sword is said to be the soul of the samurai.
Neil Hall: So you are not just doing this for self-defence then?
Shane Riley: No, the thing about the traditional martial arts is that I like the history and the background of it all, it is a living history.
Neil Hall: You are not likely to be attacked by someone with a sword nowadays.
Shane Riley: No, but practicing with it helps you to learn your fighting distance and also your concentration if you use a sharp sword. Obviously we don’t hack away with it, it is all controlled, but when you face someone with a 3ft sharp blade, it focuses things pretty quickly. From Shodan in our association, you have to do certain things with a live blade.
Neil Hall: So there would be an element of fear?
Shane Riley: Yes, although we train with control, there is always a risk. Also we train with live knives as soon as the student feels comfortable with that. I don’t pretend to teach ‘knife fighting’, I teach within the syllabus of Aikido, which creates body movement and awareness and trying to ‘read’ somebody.
Neil Hall: Do Aikido knife defences work?
Shane Riley: The traditional ones, a lot of them are in my opinion too long winded. You have to condense your body movement. It also depends how good the attacker with the knife is, and how good you are with your Aikido as an individual. It is the same with all martial arts, you might get two students who have both trained for twenty years and very technically proficient yet one is very clued up and streetwise and his mate isn’t.
Neil Hall: What about a frenzied slashing attack as opposed to a more traditional thrust/slash attack?
Shane Riley: It is very difficult, again body movement comes into it, close them down, use the ma’ ai, don’t let the attack develop. Can the environment you are in help you in your defence, tools to pick up, obstacles etc? We teach the lower grades more traditional defences so that they get a feel and basic understanding of the knife. Later we encourage them to learn to close the attacker down. I am no knife-fighting expert but I have disarmed two attackers with knives over the years. One was with kote Gaeshi (outer wrist throw). I just cut his arm into his body and it fell into my hands, I don’t mean the knife I mean the technique. At first I didn’t know that he had a knife, we were very close, as I said, I jammed his arm against him, we were shoulder to shoulder and I automatically had his wrist and did kote Gaeshi and took the knife off him.
Neil Hall: So he was really having a good go at you then?
Shane Riley: Yes, it frightened me to death, I’ll tell you. You don’t know until you realise it is a knife how frightening it really is. Everyone at some time in their life has been cut either accidentally or not and we associate the knife with pain. We have played about in the higher grades with the pen as Dave Turton promotes and yes, unless you are very lucky, you are very likely to get cut. If somebody leaps out in front of you and produces a knife you have to first move your body out of his way and readjust to see where he is going next. When someone is going wild with a knife you have to try an put something between you and them. Also the jamming techniques work very well.
Neil Hall: Was that when you were on the doors?
Shane Riley: No, this was when I was a young lad. I was once attacked by a guy who had a knuckle-duster, luckily someone had told me about it as they had seen him in an earlier incident that night. Anyway, someone said that this guy was coming back with the duster, I had not been doing Aikido long then, once he got there it was the usual strutting chest puffed out sort of thing, I had had more than a few beers by now, and again I jammed him. He had his arm around his back, then he came to hit me and I jammed his arm and pushed it up his back in an arm lock then I grabbed the back of his head and pushed him over a chair. The doorman came then took him out and we saw he did have a big knuckle-duster.
Neil Hall: Did you fight a lot when you were younger?
Shane Riley: When I was younger I never started any I only fought to protect myself. Young lads want to fight to prove themselves but I only ever protected myself. I didn’t have a reputation as such, but people knew you did martial arts, so unfortunately, yes quite a bit. I think a lot of young blokes do don’t they? One time me and a mate, John, he is a competitive body-builder now, were in a pub and ran into the local hard man. There were three of us, me John and a lad called Steve, who didn’t do Karate. We were getting a bit giddy wanting some aftertime drinking when this guy told us to calm down. We had just got our first Dans in Karate and thought we were a bit handy. He told us he would take us all outside. When we got outside we were all in a line, we realised it was serious, anyway next it was like something out of a cartoon, he went bang one way across our faces with the flat of his hand and backhand the other way and that was it, then he said ‘ are you going to calm down and come back inside’, which we did. It was good really. You need that sometimes when you think you are a bit good, you need putting back in your place. He was a seasoned ‘old hand’, a proper street fighter, he’d been a gaffer on the tyne tunnels, he was a real bloke. He didn’t do it with any malice, he was ok afterwards, it was good to be taken down a peg or two.
Neil Hall: So are you convinced then that arm locks work?
Shane Riley: Oh yeah, obviously they have to be applied within the feel of the technique, I mean, if I went up to even a small guy and tried to put an arm/wrist lock on from cold, it wouldn’t work, it would have to be within the movement whether it is a grappling attack or whatever. You could also line someone up with a pre-emptive strike. A lot of people don’t know what you are going to do; it gives a surprise factor. It is the same with most martial arts. Don’t forget Aikido is also about strikes and body movement, not just arm locks. Locks in the right place definitely work. The Police I teach control and restraint, they have to be seen to be doing a standardised way of dealing with people, they can’t just go up and slap somebody and get away with it. This is also why the doormen come to me, with the advent of CCTV. A lot of them are handy lads, you feel like you’re trying to show them how to suck eggs, but it is a different thing when you have to remove or deal with someone without banging them about. Also, I try to teach them to work as a team or in pairs. So if we were a pair and I went for an arm/wrist on one side you would know what I was doing and you would take the other arm and stop him swinging at me with it.
Neil Hall: Do you think it is more difficult for non-aggressive people to come into martial arts to learn effective self-defence?
Shane Riley: I think it is a bit yes. Perhaps aggressive is not the right word as it is looked upon as un-controlled, but aggression can be channelled. I’m not saying they can’t learn, of course they can, but it does come more naturally to some than others, people who may have already had certain experiences and perhaps developed either a fighting spirit or a determination already. Teaching spirit or ‘bottle’ is very hard, you could know all the techniques in the world but if your spirit goes you have nothing. Good spirit is everything.
Neil Hall: By the same token, do you think that some ‘hard men’ would not dream of doing martial arts?
Shane Riley: Oh yes definitely. One example was the Doormen Courses I did. A lot of them wouldn’t or didn’t want to come on them. You know, they said “What do I need that for?” But once the doormen who had been on the courses went back and showed them some of the stuff we had done, they were interested.
Neil Hall: You have been involved in the security industry, can you tell us about some of that?
Shane Riley: Well one area of the security was the ring guard we used to do for Yorkshire television, me, Dave and big Peter. This was before Sky TV dominated the sports. YTV used to do Thursday night fight night. The three of us used to do the main doors and the local rugby lads covered the fire exits and that. We had a few scrapes and a few laughs. One time when Henry Wharton came to fight, this was when he was an up and coming fighter, he brought a bus load of supporters with him, and they were all big lads. I was in my mid ’20s then and they were all in their thirties and forties, big mature lads. Anyway we had to have a word with them at the door and I remember feeling like a rabbit amongst a load of dogs, I thought I was going to get ripped to shreads. We had a bit of a situation but it was all sorted out. The three of us made a good team, because of our backgrounds we did ok between us. I had a rough and tumble upbringing and lets say informative teenage years, I wasn’t too worried about getting involved in things. Dave wasn’t really a brawler as such but he could certainly handle himself, he is very dynamic, long limbed and very strong, someone to have at your side. Pete was handy as well, he knew a thing or two, his granddad was a Cumbrian wrestler and taught him some of this stuff. Pete is very, very strong, so we made a decent team between us. More recently I have been involved with organised security at MAG motorcycle rallies.
Neil Hall: You mentioned strength a couple of times there, is it important then, should it be in Aikido?
Shane Riley: In mainstream Aikido, the Japanese instructors came over and were saying “Too strong, too strong” with their limited English people went away thinking they had to be all weak and they took it a little bit too far. What they really meant was to relax within practising the technique. I mean, I weight train, I try to go fairly regularly, depending on circumstances I get to the gym between one and four times a week. Weight training is a personal thing to me, it suits me and doesn’t harm my Aikido. Not everyone has to weight train for martial arts, it is a personal choice, we have all types, shapes and sizes in our classes. I try to do both resistance training and cardiovascular work as well. I want to keep myself as fit as I can generally. Some people frown on weight training for martial arts claiming it makes you stiffen up. But if you stretch properly you can have a good balanced physique. Also, if my job depended on me being a doorman or whatever, I would want to be heavier and leaner, I’m about fourteen and a half stone now and in reasonably good shape. I think fitness is important whether you are in martial arts or not.
Neil Hall: What do you say about people who say that Aikido and the like is outdated for modern day self defence? Let’s put it another way, there are many people now teaching only self protection, perhaps a small collection of techniques and ideas, do you think that we still need Traditional martial arts?
Shane Riley: I think so, as I said before I am practising a living history, I am practising techniques that were used for hundreds of years and some are still effective today. This is what grabs me, all right the self protection side of it is there, it is part of it for me. Going back to the fact that I have at some time or another practiced several martial arts, Karate, Judo, Aikido etc. It has stood me in good stead when I have been on any self protection course. And again, because myself and Dave started going on the self defence courses in the early ’80’s we were very open to anything and didn’t mind trying everything. Our backgrounds helped us a lot, we could punch, kick, lock, throw and yes Aikido can be practical, it is all about how it is taught.
Neil Hall: A lot of people now don’t want to learn a martial art, they just want to learn something instant for self-defence.
Shane Riley: I used to teach self-defence for the local council, but it is like anything, whether you are learning a martial art or self protection, you are learning a skill and you must keep up to that practise or you become rusty. It’s like learning to drive a car and getting your license, if then you didn’t drive for the next 10 years you would be very rusty. You can’t just go on a 10 week self defence course and expect that to be it, whatever drills you do, whether it is bag work, groundwork, 10 weeks is just not enough. You have to keep practising and improving. Granted, you may come away with something, but you have to develop a core of something and practise and develop it.
Neil Hall: Changing the subject, can I ask what are your views on KI?
Shane Riley: In the broadest sense it is classed as internal energy, same as the Chinese call Chi. I have trained with some top level instructors both Japanese and non-Japanese and have felt some very strange things over the years. I have trained with Tamura Sensei 8th Dan who was one of O’Sensei’s main students and is based in France. He was about 5ft odd tall and one day he picked me up under his arm and carried me around for a laugh, I weighed a good 12 stone then.
Neil Hall: So are you saying that is KI?
Shane Riley: I don’t know, when I’ve trained I can certainly feel something different, Gozo Shioda Sensei of the Yoshinkan said it was the technique and the body coming together to create KI, it was the focus. I do believe there is something there, I can’t explain it. If you get your breathing, timing, technique etc together it is there. This unbendable arm business that you sometimes see in Aikido I can get it to work. I had a 20st Judoka sat on me, I had my heels on one chair and my neck on another and I kept rigid. These are seen as tricks but within the technique it is about focusing you centre of gravity and feeling relaxed and powerful in yourself, it is just there. I don’t know what it is.
Neil Hall: So, the unbendable arm, if it is or isn’t a trick, what is the point of it?
Shane Riley: All it is showing is a direction of energy. The unbendable arm can be a strike. It is like Karate when they talk about Kime, they focus their power into the punch as they drive through.
Neil Hall: So, is it the same as Kime then?
Shane Riley: It is a similar kind of feel, it is very hard to explain. I can’t really put it into words, it is just a good feeling when everything comes together.
Neil Hall: What do you think of the idea that people claim to be able to move or hurt people using Ki without actually touching them?
Shane Riley: I’ve not really come accross it, I’ve read about it. I have never felt anything like that. I have felt, though, with Sensei Cottier, a certain strength. This man is over 70, not very big, but when he gets hold of you it is like having a very strong young man having hold of you. I can’t explain that, whether this is down to experience or what, I don’t know. But this business of bouncing someone off you or putting you down without contact, I have never experienced that even with very high-ranking Shihan, but they have a bit of an aura around them like many high ranking martial artists do. I know some Chinese methods use internal energy (Chi) a lot more than most styles, but I think you have to see it or experience it to believe it. I can make myself heavier or lighter which had developed over the years. I put this down to internal energy and it can help your technique to an extent by keeping a strong centre.
Neil Hall: Would Ki or internal energy help you in a fight?
Shane Riley: Your centre of balance is important in Aikido as it is in all martial arts. The idea of the technique and the feeling (Ki) coming together can add to your defence in a conflict. For example you can stop somebody dead in their tracks with a rolling hand movement. This is done with a palm heel, again to create this fighting space or to a degree you can drop people with it. I have one student who is an arm wrestling champion, he is not a massive guy but he is very strong in his arms. When he first came to us he was looking for an alternative to the usual brawling he was used to, his mates questioned his taking up martial arts, saying he didn’t need it. I had shown him the rolling hand technique early on and he actually used it in a pub on an aggressor. The aggressor was forced back some way and declined to continue. When he came to tell us what he had done, he was elated that this had worked for him without him having to use his fists like he had always done before. This was a relatively untrained guy. You don’t have to be an expert to do this, he had only been training with us a few weeks. He had got the principal of the technique right away, the idea of breathing out correctly as you push, it worked for him. This also goes back to the idea of minimising damage to all parties involved. Obviously you have to respond to what you are given, if someone is having a serious go at you, you have to respond appropriately, it depends on the situation you are in.
Neil Hall: Picking up on a couple of things while we have been talking, you mentioned breathing two or three times, what would happen if you were confronted with a mad axe man for example and your breathing went haywire through fear (adrenaline etc.)? How could you co-ordinate you breathing then?
Shane Riley: I think if you are used to correct breathing then this would help you to regain you equilibrium and control quicker than an untrained person. Correct breathing comes about with training in the whole package of our Aikido, including the weapons and atemi. There are three points of centre, the main one being the Hara (centre of gravity), one point as it is sometimes known. Some of these points of focus were also atemi points. The use of the sword, tanto, jo help develop the breathing in Aikido. So keeping a low centre of gravity keeps you focused and regulates your breathing.
Neil Hall: Are there any arts you would like to have studied that you haven’t already?
Shane Riley: I was lucky to meet people like Brian Whips, they took me away from the flowery Aikido and directed me to a more rounded approach to Aikido. I have trained, as we’ve said before in Karate, Judo etc. I would like to do a little more la-do but Aikido takes up a lot of my time. You have to find a balance of family life and commitments to the art you do.
Neil Hall: It seems to be all Japanese martial arts with you, Shane.
Shane Riley: Yeah, I must admit a lot of it is Japanese with me. I have done a bit of Tai-Chi, and a Tai Chi instructor did come and train with us for several years. With the Japanese styles I just like the etiquette and correctness of it all, it enhances the feel of the training for me. A lot of people don’t like that, the bowing and scraping and that. I know the self protection and the modern styles think it is unnecessary. Maybe it is, but to me it is part and parcel of my training.
Neil Hall: What do you think to the variety and availability of martial arts styles these days?
Shane Riley: The variety nowadays is amazing; there is so much to choose from.
Neil Hall: Do you think traditional martial arts feel threatened by the modern ways?
Shane Riley: I still think that you will get people who will want to specialise in one area or art. Not everyone wants to be a doorman or champion or whatever. Many people feel that they can get self protection from the martial arts. With regard to modern styles, I wouldn’t say that I feel threatened by them, I think it’s good that people want to do them. O’Sensei and other Japanese masters, they had to start somewhere, they created from what they had learned. Obviously they had a massive and deep understanding of things they had learned before developing in their own right, they were very, very good at what they did. I think this is one danger the modern stylist or creator has to be aware of. You can’t just skim the surface, you have to have a good understanding and grounding in order to develop and grow. I think that there is room for Traditional and modern styles, why not? Some people give Aikido bad press, but you’ve seen the style of Aikido and methods we teach and I would like to think it is in a practical light and it can be related to as self protection. Many people in mainstream Aikido appear uninterested in the more practical aspects of Aikido, enjoying the freedom to train in their own way. Many people outside of Aikido usually see this style practised, perhaps missing the more practical side of the art.
Neil Hall: What is it mainly that makes you like and stick to Aikido?
Shane Riley: Because I am interested in the Traditional and historical side of it, it is a big part of it for me. Also I found with the Wado Ryu Karate, the stances were similar to Aikido and later I realised how many things can be all encompassing. If you did pre-set sparring in Wado Ryu, then later when you broke it down you realise some of the defences were similar to Aikido in a way, and vice-versa. It also makes you realise that there are only so many ways you can throw somebody or hit them, it’s a question of if you are comfortable within a certain style and how it is taught to you. All martial are good if they suit you, Aikido suits me, it suits my personality.
Neil Hall: What about future plans, what are your hopes for White Rose Aikido?
Shane Riley: Well our association has never set out to be a vast empire, and we certainly don’t do politics. All we want to do, as an association is to keep improving our Aikido by being on the mat doing it rather than talking about it. The association has always brought high ranking Sensei to our dojo’s to keep our standards up. We are one of the few dojo’s in the country who have Sensei Cottier teaching for us on his visits to the UK. We are always open to other Aikido groups or individuals to come practise with us. Dates are always advertised on our website.
Neil Hall: Tell us about your DVD release.
Shane Riley: We had talked about making a DVD for some time and wanted it to portray Aikido as a more practical art and to highlight the Aikido we practice. So, Red Lizard, the people who do the T-shirts, got involved and we made the DVD ‘Ma-ai Critical Fighting Distance’. It shows traditional Aikido in the dojo, then the same techniques in a section on more real life scenarios. We have had some good feedback from it so far from people outside our dojo’s. It is on sale now through red lizard or on our website. I believe it is to be reviewed in the martial arts media.
Neil Hall: Where can people train with you now, where are your main clubs and associates, do you run seminars etc.?
Shane Riley: We have classes in and around West Yorkshire and up in the North East. If people go on our website it gives all details they require. Beginners are welcome to all the classes except the Thursday night class in Huddersfield, which is kept free for the more experienced students. We do tend to get the Yudansha (Black Belts) and club instructors coming to this one. Beginners are more than welcome to watch though; it isn’t done behind closed doors. And yes I do get invited around the country for seminars at other dojo’s. Not just Aikido dojo’s. I have been invited to quite a few Karate dojo’s as they are exploring the Kata Bunkai more these days and a lot of the joint locks are Aiki related. Coming from a Karate background I can relate to where they are coming from. We also hold courses and gradings for the White Rose Aikikai four times a year as well as orgainising guest instructors.
Neil Hall: Well thank you Shane for giving us an insight into your experiences over the last 33 years.
Shane Riley: Its been quite enjoyable as I haven’t spoken about some of these experiences before. As a last note I would like to thank all my senior students for supporting me over the years as it hasn’t always been a smooth ride. And Terry Bayliss Sensei for his encouragement and support he is a true gentleman. Also Sensei Ken Cottier for all his support over the years, and for attending the White Rose courses as often as he does.
Sensei Shane Riley 6th Dan