Why did you decide to commit to Sensei Riley and the White Rose?
I had been practicing aikido in Durham with Sensei Arthur Lockyear following Chiba Sensei for quite a few years and had achieved the grade of Shodan. In this time I would try to go to any course that I could get to. travelling to London , Birmingham and all the far away places that you had to go to in those days to get to see the main Sensei’s.
In the process of travelling around I bumped into loads of like minded people some of which became good friends and would meet up at different places. A certain group stood out from the others and would give me a sound thrashing whenever I saw them. I started to visit them more and more whenever they held their courses and was really impressed with their practical style and no nonsense attitude, lack of politics and friendly atmosphere. When I decided to come away from Sensei Lockyear, Sensei Riley who by this time was a very good friend very kindly allowed me to practice under the White Rose and helped me to form my own club in Durham
What was it like in the early days with Sensei Riley and do you think he has changed over the years. If so Why?
Everyone changes in some way or other he has a lot more tattoos for a start. Ha ha. In all the years I have known him his commitment and professionalism in his aikido has always impressed me, in that, I do not think he has changed. Obviously the way in which we practice has changed as you would hope it would after so many years, still with the emphasis on practical.
What effect has Sensei Riley had on your Aikido?
A profound affect. What can I say ?
With the utmost respect, do you see a difference in Sensei Riley’s students and your own students with regard technique?
You will find differences in students who only practice with Sensei so obviously you will see differences with people who practice with other people. However I do try to put the effort in to keep up with the teachings of the White Rose Aikikai and ultimately Sensei Riley. We are very different sizes and Sensei will show me variations to use which may suit me better.
A quote from Sensei. We are not his clones so he does not expect us to be exactly alike.
A lot of people studying martial arts say Aikido is too soft/doesn’t work. What would you say to them?
They are practicing with the wrong people or have been watching the wrong people. Tell them to practice with Sensei Riley or Sensei Hemmings and tell me the same when they are finished
Your flexibility is amazing, can you give us some stretching advice?
The main thing about being flexible is the amount of time you put into it. It really does no good to stretch for 10 minutes 1 night a week. The more time spent as in anything the better you will become
Can you tell us why you chose Aikido over the other martial arts you have studied?
Believe it or not I am actually quite a lot bigger than when I started so the fact that you use other peoples strength against them had a lot to do with it as I am not exactly large now. I also feel that you will be able to keep practicing a practical martial art while you are getting on in years by choosing Aikido
A lot of Aikido associations do not have honesty in their training. Meaning, holding back on punches and not putting techniques on properly in case it hurts. What are your views on these associations and do you agree with their methods?
I do not really agree with it if they are telling people and themselves that they are practicing a practical style. If they know that they are doing it as a form of exercise and being honest with themselves and others then that is up to them.
What do you think the Dan ranking represents in Aikido and other martial arts?
I suppose that it gives you goals to achieve but do not get the idea that they are the real goals. The real goals depending on what you want out of your training is to be able to make it work. To feel better within yourself. To give yourself more confidence. Some might say to be at one with the world but at present that sort of thing is beyond my comprehension
I was at the 25th Anniversary of the white rose evening party when you were promoted to Godan. You seemed very moved by this presentation. How did you feel and did you ever expect to reach such a high rank?
When I first started practicing I thought sho dan would be a bit of a thing to be especially when at the time sho dan was a really high rank in England and did not really presume to go any further but sometimes you get caught up in things and you could say that happened to me in fact it took over my life much to the chagrin of my long suffering and very understanding wife How did I feel, shocked and stunned would be one way to put it.
Yes I was very moved by the presentation. I had no idea that it was on the agenda and even though I had been yon dan for quite a while still thought of godan as more of a fantasy than real life. The fact that Sensei Riley and Sensei Hemmings feel that I am worthy of this is a great honour to me. Funnily enough before we set off to drive down to the course my wife Deb asked me what would I do if I was awarded another grade, my reply was a flippant “I wouldn’t have thought so” and did not give it another thought. I don’t think my face was big enough for my smile later that night
How do you rate Aikido to all the modern martial arts?
It’s very difficult to rate one against another. Lets just say that some a good for some people and others are good for others. Aikido is just my preference.
You hear a lot of people saying that Aikido is a martial art that suits women more than men. What are your views on this?
Aikido suits anyone wishing to put the time in as will any other art. However I do believe that aikido is probably the best martial art for women to take up due to the fact it uses the attackers energy and strength against themselves.