Neil and Masayo are shidoin (senior instructors) within the national
organisation to which our club belongs, the UK Aikikai.
Neil Mould 5th dan has
been studying Aikido since 1997. His main instructor is Gordon Jones
shihan 7th dan. Neil has practised under
many accomplished aikido teachers both in the UK and abroad, including
trips to Australia and Japan. He opened the Sotenjuku
club in early 2004. Neil’s thoughts on aikido and the right approach
to training in the art are described below.
Neil is supported by Masayo Susumu 5th dan. In addition to teaching at our club,
Masayo sometimes translates for visiting Japanese sensei at courses, both
in the UK and abroad.
We also have two assistant instructors: sometimes either
Stu or Rob,
both 2nd dan, will lead a class.
All our instructors have up-to-date coaching qualifications recognised by
Neil on Aikido
Aikido is a martial art that has a deep spiritual side as well as a
technical martial side. Both sides are not easy to understand and take many
years to develop. Finding the balance and depth between the two is the goal
an aikido student tries to master within their lifetime.
Beginners are taught basic body movements from the very start of their
training. These body movements are based on natural movements used in
everyday life. Beginners will eventually realise that these movements are
linked together to create the techniques used in aikido. Developing this body
movement is something which should be practised both on and off the mat. The
techniques that students are taught are techniques they will develop, with
their instructor’s help, throughout their aikido life to suit their physical
and mental makeup.
The principle of aikido is not to confront power head on. It is more
redirection and control of this power, with the help of basic foot movement
and relaxed yet focused body and mind. Please do not make the assumption
that, because an Aikido student avoids power head on, Aikido students are
weak and have no power. There are a great many instructors in the world that
posses a great deal of internal energy or Ki/Kokyu and can be immovable if
Aikido is an art of blending. This is not only in the context of an attack
but with everyday situations. With any art, to practise what is taught only
on the mat is not going to be of any benefit. You must try to incorporate
your learning into your daily lives.
Ukemi plays a large role in aikido and tends to be overlooked. People who
have no experience of Aikido and watch from a distance can misunderstand
ukemi as “falling over”. Uke (the person taking ukemi) is the aggressor when
practising aikido. Uke would attack tori (the person performing technique).
Ukemi is allowing your partner to practise their technique to its fullest by
extending and stretching your body; so in turn it forces Tori to extend their
technique. When taking ukemi you should make sure your attack is positive and
directed to the area intended. Also, you should make sure your intention to
attack your opponent is there from start of technique through to finish.
The weapon work in aikido complements the basic body movements used in the
open hand art. The weapon work is laid out in kata forms both for the
individual to practise and for partner work. It is a very important part of
aikido as you learn, amongst other things, your basic posture, your ma-ai or
striking distance between you and your partner, and improves your relaxed
movement to perform your cut. When practised sincerely, it also trains a
student to keep their mind focussed and not get slack or shorten their
movements when performing techniques, for the simple reason that either their
partner or themselves may get injured in some way.
The weapons used in aikido are mainly the bokken (wooden sword) or jo
(wooden staff). The bokken is designed to resemble the katana and the jo can
be considered as a spear. Some aikido clubs train in the use of the iaito,
which is a katana with a blunt cutting edge. This is mainly individual
practice and concentrates more on the way the sword is drawn from the
scabbard although it does incorporate movements based on cutting an enemy
A basic point of aikido but the most difficult to obtain and master is the
use of ki/kokyu when performing techniques instead of using brute strength.
With the correct technique and a concentrated ki/kokyu, a smaller person can
down a larger person who ordinarily could not be put down.
Neil is shown airborne on the cover of the book Aikido by the
late Peter Brady 7th dan. The author was a
shihan in the UKA, so if you’re considering buying a book on aikido, this
one is particularly appropriate to the style we practise.