2016 was another busy year, beginning in March with an Association course at Dewsbury. In addition to basics, as is often the case, Sensei Riley can teach techniques or principles at these seminars which would rarely be covered in the regular weekly classes. This time students got to experience the delights of Yonkyo when applied to the leg. Pain notwithstanding, everyone enjoyed it and the day was rounded off with the presentation of a Godan certificate to Andrew Thornton who had graded earlier in the year.
The following month thirteen students from Yorkshire and the North East, including some of our younger White Rose members travelled down to Lowestoft with Sensei Riley where he was teaching a seminar at Broadland Aikido club. Sensei Burlingham had asked him if he would focus on defence against weapons, so all the participants were treated to an in-depth explanation of techniques involving jo and bokken attacks. Sensei Riley was particularly keen to emphasise the importance of the correct awareness, handling and use of these weapons and treating the bokken particularly as if it were a live blade rather than just a piece of wood. Several of these Tachi-dori techniques can now be seen demonstrated on YouTube.
Sensei Derrick had been asked by some of his students if he would conduct a weapons seminar, so in May a class was held at the new Huddersfield Leisure Centre dojo. A number of the students had learnt the 13 and 31 jo kata, but only had a limited knowledge of what the movements meant in a more practical context, so Sensei Derrick led them through a series of vigorous, paired exercises to give them a better understanding of the implications of the movements they had been making. Hopefully this knowledge of body movement, blending, distance and timing when using weapons will feed back into and enhance their empty-handed technique.
The international event of this year took place in Belgium, where Sensei Aziz Belhassane and his Kiriyoku Aikido Association were celebrating a number of significant milestones in their development. Sensei Riley had been invited to teach at this two day seminar, along with other senior instructors from Canada, Singapore, Belgium and the UK, and once again a large number of White Rose students took up the opportunity to travel and train with these high-ranking Sensei and Shihan. The White Rose group travelled to Brussels days before the seminar was to begin and were all extremely pleased with the warm welcome they were given, after being invited to a special meal at the home of some of the Kiriyoku students. The visit included a sightseeing trip around the historic city of Brussels and wouldn’t have been complete without the tours around the traditional brewery and the Chocolate Museum, and tasters were provided at both locations.
The weekend’s training included a special Friday evening session followed the next two days by a range of classes and demonstrations, and most of our students enjoyed the session when they practiced with lots of very young children in tiny hakama. It had to be pointed out to Diane particularly that however cute they were it would be probably be frowned upon for her to slip a couple of them into her luggage and take them home with her. The instruction was very varied, each Sensei giving their personal interpretation of Aikido. One of the highlights for the Kiriyoku students was Sensei Riley’s teaching slot which they described as ‘intense’.
August saw the visit to Durham for the regular annual White Rose summer course at the university dojo. Students once again benefited from Sensei Riley’s practical approach to Aikido by practicing a range of techniques against Mai Geri Chudan (front kicks). In addition, Sensei Burlingham of Broadland Aikido Club, who was travelling even further north to teach in Scotland, was invited to ‘stop off’ and conduct a teaching session at Durham. Senseis Riley and Derrick took this opportunity of being relived of teaching duties to conduct the grading of two of the associations (relatively) young students and were very glad that they did. Both candidates demonstrated a very positive and spirited attitude throughout, and although both of them are quite ‘slight’ they both coped extremely well against much larger attackers. Their focused, dynamic and effective movement and control of their ukes set a standard for other candidates to try and match in the future. In fact, because their demonstrations had been a joy to watch, after the full grading had been gone through the Senseis asked to see a few more techniques just for the pleasure of being able to watch them. Kim and Oliver were both awarded 1st kyu and given permission to wear hakama. Many of the students who had travelled to the seminar from Yorkshire stayed overnight in order to join Sensei Riley at Sambucas Italian Restaurant, where he had been taken by the Durham students. As usual, a good time was had by all.
The next month Sensei Riley and Sensei Heseltine once again travelled to Northern Ireland for what has become almost an annual event. This seminar for Ki-Shin-Tai-Aikido took place on Friday evening and all day Saturday, but Sensei Gavin Campbell who had invited them also benefitted from a personal tutoring session on Sunday. As usual, the warm welcome and excellent hospitality from the Ki-Shin-Tai students was second-to-none.
Also this month the ‘White Rose Road Trip Bus’ moved to the Koteikan dojo of Sensei Nick Waites in the North East of England for a joint course with Sensei Riley. Although both Sensei have trained for over 40 years, and often with the same instructors, their teaching styles are quite different. Nevertheless, over the course of the day’s training more observant students will have noticed many similarities in the principles that were taught. Good posture, maintaining a strong centre, breaking balance etc. were common principles emphasised by both instructors, and students from both associations benefited from explanations of technique which were different from their regular training. This is the benefit gained from travelling to other dojos and practicing with other Instructors and students whenever the opportunity presents itself.
During October Shihan Terrence Bayliss, 8th Dan and principal instructor of Seijitsu Aikido Ryu had planned to carry out a seminar at the brand new Leisure Centre in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire for the White Rose Aikikai. Sensei Bayliss and Seijitsu have had strong links with the White Rose for 35 years, and he has carried out numerous teaching sessions for us during this time. The original purpose of this seminar was to give Sensei Bayliss an opportunity to present Sensei Derrick with his Yudansha certification from the Aikikai Foundation in Japan, but this objective was to be overtaken by less happy events.
A few months earlier, West Yorkshire had seen the tragic murder of the MP Jo Cox outside her surgery. Knowing that she was Sensei Derrick’s local MP and being aware of the very positive contribution that she had made to the area, Sensei Bayliss suggested that the seminar be used to celebrate her life and the positive contribution that she had made to so many people. As the leisure centre at Huddersfield had had strong links with Jo they kindly provided all the facilities for the event at no cost.
The course went very well, with students attending from different associations, and in addition to Sensei Bayliss, Shane Riley Shihan and Sensei Paul Derrick taught during the seminar. The conclusion was that the excellent sum of £820 was raised on the day and donated to the fund set up by the friends and family of Jo Cox in her memory, which supports some of her favourite charities. These include the ‘White Helmets’, a group of unarmed, volunteer rescue workers who assist those caught up in the violence in Syria. The White Rose Aikikai would like to thank all those who attended the seminar, and would particularly like to thank Sensei Bayliss for being the motivating force behind this event and, in addition to passing on his extensive Aikido knowledge, for giving up his time to such a worthwhile cause.
Sticking to the approximate schedule of one activity a month, November saw the Huddersfield dojo once again be used for a weapons seminar taken by Sensei Derrick. This time he concentrated on the paired version of the 31 jo kata, making sense of some of the movements which the students had otherwise just learnt by rote. The importance of body movement was again emphasised, and as not all of the jos managed to survive the session intact it was made clear that this seemingly simple weapon could be quite effective when used from a strong base with a powerful centre.
The final major course of the year was held at Dewsbury, and it was rewarding to see a number of students attending from some of the newer dojos which are now part of the White Rose Aikikai; namely – Sensei Derrick’s Pudsey dojo, Sensei Chapman’s Hyde dojo and Sensei Elphick’s new dojo in Durham. Sensei Riley was pleased to note the way in which all students trained well together trying to follow a common approach to Aikido. This is a good indication of a forward-looking Association which continues to grow and develop and improve its member’s understanding of Aikido. Sensei Chapman also taught a session on this course and gave the participants the benefit of his 40+ years of experience in the martial arts. What he was not expecting was that this dedication would be rewarded at the end of the seminar when Sensei Riley presented him with his 6th Dan certification. Many congratulations.
Because of the changing availability of facilities at some Sports Centres this year’s gradings have taken place in a variety of venues and at different times. This didn’t make it any easier for any of the candidates and as usual at times tensions were high, techniques were worried over and a range of skills were demonstrated, but this is all part of the process of making progress in this art. Congratulations to all those who were successful.
Aside from the large scale seminars and events Sensei Riley ensures that he teaches at all the different dojo in the association throughout the year (except perhaps for the one in Kyoto!) and he is usually accompanied by a number of students. They attend for the training and not for the inevitable post-training visit to the pub, but this too can be useful and it’s an opportunity to ask Sensei questions and glean more knowledge about the wider aspects of Aikido. Even being asked how he would defend against a flock of sheep by one of the Chinese students at Durham (no it wasn’t a lost-in-translation problem!) didn’t throw him and the student was given a precise and logical response (amid all the laughter). Along with the training this is the kind of thing which makes all the travelling worthwhile, and students should make full use of all the opportunities which will inevitably present themselves again next year. In 2017 Faye Clarke is opening a new dojo in Hereford, a large group is travelling to train in Athens under Sensei Riley, and two visits to Lowestoft have already been planned; and these are just a few of the many events which students could take part in to enhance their Aikido training.