Richard Sims, Aikido Takemusu Kai Aikido Instructor interview

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Aikido Takemusu KaiPhil @ Enso Martial Arts: Hi Richard, thank you very much for coming in and doing a short interview with us. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background, how and when you started in Aikido.

Richard @ Aikido Takemusu Kai:

My name is Richard Sims, I stated Aikido in London about 1974 when I was about 13 years of age. At that time, I had never seen Aikido before and a friend from school, who used to do Wing Chun, just said to me “they do this stuff in this place (London Nautical), they do this thing up there and they’re doing all somersaults and stuff like that”. He said I’d like it and I should go up there and have a look.

And of course I didn’t, but one day I came home from school and got home early and I thought I’d get on my bicycle and get on down there and have a look. So I went along. I watched the first class and my eyes weren’t used to what I saw, it was totally alien to me what these men and women were doing. It was totally alien.

So I watched the first class and came back the next session, which was on a Friday, and watched the second class. I did this for about 3 or 4 weeks. I think about on the 3rd week I said to the instructor whose name was Andy Moxan1 I said to him “can I do that?” I didn’t realise it was something I could do, I just thought it would be something that I couldn’t do because it was totally different. He said yes I could but I have to get a letter from my school because it was part of adult educational institute, and I started training from that day until today.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: So you’ve been training since 1974 that is, with respect, a very long time. What would you say is the biggest positive influence Aikido has had upon you?

Richard @ Aikido Takemusu Kai:

Well, one of the influences, although it is very hidden, is that your Aikido grows as you grow. So in a way, starting at a very young age it is very difficult to see the influence. As you grow within Aikido you’re growing within yourself and it’s all intertwined. The longer you train it becomes inseparable.

Of course it’s had lots of effects really. It enabled me to utilise the philosophy of Aikido, hopefully it’s a part of how I do things, a part of me. I wouldn’t consider myself an aggressive person, I don’t know if I hadn’t trained in Aikido I would have become one.

Mental outlook is a positive one, being able to be centred even when in conflicting situations. I suppose everyday you’re in a conflicting situations, at work, relationships with people. You have to give and take with people, keep a mental balance, a lot has come from Aikido. Also from the physical fitness side of things. It keeps you reasonably fit depending on the intensity of your training and as you get older the fitness is important as you keep a bit of strength that you need.

Socially you meet so many different types of people, the rich, the poor and everyone in between, introvert, the extrovert, there are so many. It also allows you to travel, I’ve been to Japan, Australia, Brazil, all around the UK. All because of Aikido, there have been a lot of positives.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: What would you say is one of your biggest accomplishments, or biggest memories, is there anything that sticks out?

Richard @ Aikido Takemusu Kai:

I think getting my Shodan2 sticks in my mind because at that time it was a landmark. I also think our teacher wasn’t quite sure on his path in Aikido until he graded a few people to Shodan, and through seeing how we are progressing, he was able to see how he was progressing. The whole occasion was one to remember.

One minute you’re wearing a brown belt and the next a black belt and feeling of responsibility of the black belt. You think, “okay I’ve got it, I don’t really know anything, but I’ve got it and I have to work towards knowing something.”

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: Was that in London?

Richard @ Aikido Takemusu Kai:

Well funnily enough, I took my Shodan here in Bristol, we had a sister club here in Fishponds, on Chalks road. We had a three floor dojo, up until ‘95-’96. It was still there and you had Aikido, Karate and Judo. Unfortunately it’s now a block of flats.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: So if you could give one piece of advice, to somebody that is beginning their martial arts journey now, what would it be?

Richard @ Aikido Takemusu Kai:

Well, I think it’s really important to have an open mind. You find these days there are lot of what I call ‘advance beginners’. These are people who have tried lots of different martial arts and styles. Now, from one perspective this is a good thing as it gives them broad perspective on things but also it narrows their thinking. As I say their ‘cup should start empty’ empty as it were, but they come with their ‘cup full’.

This can be a struggle to teach as it is something they have to overcome before they can start learning. Unfortunately having to overcome this can puts them off the style and stop them from training. However, if you can come with an open mind and you can say “I’m here, I know nothing, can you teach me.” I think those are the best students.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: Can you tell me a little bit more about your teaching career, as it were. When you started and where you are now.

Richard @ Aikido Takemusu Kai:

So I started in 1974, I think I got my Shodan in about ’82. I was never really interested in the grading side of things I have to admit. Now I am slowly becoming interested in it, not for me but for the students. About 2 or 3 years after that I got Nidan2. Anyway in 1985 I went to Japan, I spent about 11 months in Japan. Prior to that I studied some Japanese, so I knew it intellectually before I went and I felt I was a reasonably quick learner.

So I went to Aikido Takemusu kai Honbu Dojo, the headquarters in Japan and I trained with them. The man who was the head of our school at the time was a man called Toshinobu Susuki3. He was a direct pupil of the founder of the style Morihei Ueshiba4.

Toshinobu Susuki was unique in some respects because he was high ranking Shinto priest. Aikido and Shinto work well together, they have similar ideals. There are practices in Shinto that are in Aikido so one is taken from the other, these act as cornerstones in Aikido, so lots of people are practicing these rituals.

Anyway, the founder of Aikido instructed Toshinobu Susuki to teach a different style of Aikido. That is to say it wasn’t a completely different style it just headed in a slightly different direction within Aikido. This was named Aikido Takemusu Kai. The word Takemusu, has two characters, one is the Kanji for martial, the other means to create. Put them together they read Takemusu. What that means is that the practitioner allows the technique to be created through you, rather than you’re constructing it. With that in mind, it makes Aikido Takemusu Kai very creative, even to the individual instructor.

For example, lets say the instructor is a prism, when you shine a light through it you have no idea how the light with refract. It’s similar to how we approach Aikido. You allow a technique to manifest itself through you. That’s our slant on our Aikido. Of course at a basic level all Aikido is the same, you have to learn all the basics things. We are really talking about things at a higher level, that’s the kind of Aikido that we do.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: To finish off, can you tell us about your club and how to get in contact with you

Richard @ Aikido Takemusu Kai:

We have a website for our local Bristol dojo the web address is www.atk-bristol.co.uk were over in Easton, Cato Street which is off Mivart Street, just of St Marks road. About 2 minutes walk from Stapleton Road station.

Phil @ Enso Martial Arts: Thank you very much for coming in and good to talk with you.

Richard @ Aikido Takemusu Kai:

No problem, anytime.

Club Address:
Aikido Takemusu Kai Bristol Club
Cauldron Studio Dojo
Cato Street Easton Bristol BS5 6JE
Telephone: 07828624440
Website: www.atk-bristol.co.uk

Training Times:

Tuesdays: 19:00 – 21:00
Thursdays: 19:00 – 21:00
Saturday: 15:00 – 17:00

References for interview with Aikido Takemusu Kai Bristol

1. Sensei Andy Moxon was the founder of the UK Branch of Aikido Takemusu Kai in the early 1970’s
2. Shodan (??), literally meaning “beginning degree,” is the lowest black belt rank in Japanese Martial Arts. The 2nd dan or Nidan is higher than Shodan, but the 1st dan is called Shodan traditionally and not “Ichidan”. This is because the character sho, alternative pronunciation: hats, also means first, new or beginning in Japanese.
3. In 1958 Suzuki Toshinobu Sensei trained directly under the founder of Aikido in the style of Aikido Takemusu Kai. In agreement with Doshu Ueshiba Kisshomaru, son of and successor Aikido Takemusu Kai to the Founder, he was authorised to establish and lead a separate Aikido Takemusu Kai headquarters (honbu).
4. Morihei Ueshiba (1883 –1969) was a martial artist and founder of the Japanese martial arts of Aikido. He is often referred to as “O’Sensei” or Great Teacher.