We all have a story as to how we came to be practicing Aikido. Mine was sadly not a happy one: I had just lost someone I loved very much and was, if I’m honest, a wreck. I was determined to move on and live my life, and so ended up making a whole bunch of new friends. Emile Swain Sensei (then a 5th Kyu) was one of those friends.
After much badgering on his part (and even more stubbornness on mine!), he finally convinced me to come along to a martial arts class for something called Aikido… or was that Ikeia-do… I wasn’t sure then. Then I met my Sensei, Denis Burke, who - despite my reluctance - managed to get me to engage and, dare I say it, have a good time. I *still* wasn’t “convinced”, so made sure I went out to a couple other martial arts classes (they just weren’t for me!).
It was obvious after even that briefest of contacts though that no other class had the ability to make me feel like a human again. This was my first taste of real Aikido. And the beginning of a life-debt to Emile Swain Sensei…! I knew I wanted more… and even more importantly then, I knew I wanted to become like Denis Burke Sensei (or at least as close as I could get!).
Since those early days (now more than a decade ago!) I have continued to grow and love Aikido. Particularly Isshinkai Aikido, of which I have found no equal in its beauty, creativity and ‘realness’ (it’s also extremely challenging, wont let you get a moments rest on your development if you let it and provides a life-long practice for you to continuously polish your spirit…!). Isshinkai’s founder, my Sensei, has created this method of teaching Aikido to improve the “quality, effectiveness and applicability of [his] Aikido and teaching”. This has made our practice an incredible tool for helping people become the truly amazing people they are. And has allowed me to grow to be the person I am today.
I attest a great deal of my successes in life to the skills and qualities that Isshinkai Aikido has given me. I have had been a civil servant, working for the UK Foreign Office in some pretty incredible locations around the world. I have also had a career in the private sector, working for PwC, the then largest accounting, consulting and business advisory business in the UK. And I’m now an entrepreneur, running my own firm in the venture capital space. I’ve been an angel investor, supporting a number of early stage businesses to achieve their success. I’ve chaired patron committees for charities. I’m also a trustee for a charity which supports the teaching of stress reducing methods for people. I have learned a huge amount doing all this, and have grown enormously in that time, all down to the mindset that Aikido has developed in me - be curious, be honest, be generous, be respectful and be gracious. These are our values. For me, Aikido is real and has infinite applicability off the mat as well as on. And I continue to grow as a person because these are now more a part of me than just an idea or a concept.
Because of all this I started teaching when I could; I want to share with others what I have been able to develop in me. Some of the people I had come across in my work and personal life would ask me how I was able to do things, or how I was able to think about things in a certain way that, for them, was more positive. My answer would always be: ‘because I practice Aikido’… or something to that effect at any rate! And they wanted to know how they could learn this too. So I started introductory classes at first, hoping to share Isshinkai Aikido with as many people as I could. This has now developed into a wonderful club, with a few key members who have been with me since the beginning, and many more who have come and are starting to gain the benefit of this practice.
I look forward to sharing this with many more of you and I hope to see you on the mat soon.