Daren Sims from Bristol North Aikido Dojo

  • Post author:
  • Post category:Interviews

Bristol Aikido Club

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

Hi Daren, thanks for meeting with us today. I was wondering for the people that don’t know anything about aikido, if you can explain to us a little bit about what Aikido is?

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

So Aikido is a martial art, originally devised from jujitsu, weapons roots and various other martial art forms from Japan. Put together by a martial artist called Morihei Ueshiba. He took a selection of techniques into this art form, specifically so he could work a quality known as a Aiki utilising these selected techniques. I guess it differs quite a bit from most other arts, as it’s specifically looking to practice with an idea of creating an Aiki body so changing oneself rather than with a target of doing things to others. Now I have used the term Aiki twice. When I say Aiki I’m referring to using opposing forces (yin and yang) within the body to generate and manipulate power. So in short it’s a martial art that came together from other Japanese martial arts specifically for this purpose.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

I heard you mention earlier Dan Dien or Tan Tien and you just mention yin and yang which are Chinese concepts, right?So is there a Chinese influence in Aikido?

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

Very much so, I think the journey of the art came from China to Japan and from India to China originally. O’sensei was infamous for invading Mongolia or northern china with about six other people, so he definitely had a Chinese connection I would say. Initially the roots of Aikido are as much in Chinese arts as they are in Japanese, if you go back far enough I think. I think Aiki or Aikido is almost the same as Tai Chi. It doesn’t always look the same obviously, historically I see a very close connection. Right now, within my own practice for the last 5 years or so I’ve been exposed to quite a bit of the Chinese arts. Practitioners of those arts seem to be doing the same techniques and content as Aikido, they have much sexier names for them though and different training systems, but the concept of what they’re trying to train seems to me as being the same. For internal martial arts I see it as being one big family and I don’t see a great deal of difference in the training goals.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

When Ueshiba died there was a bit of a split in Aikido, can you elaborate on those differences and more so on what you’re offering.

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

So let’s elaborate on the largest Aikido groups. So Ki Aikido groups come from a guy called Tohei who was probably, if not O’Sensei’s best student definitely one of the best. Now I don’t know what happened when O’sensei died, as I wasn’t there and don’t really know more than hearsay of the politics of it but Toheis’ focus seem to be on the “Ki” qualities of it This style of Aikido is not one of my strengths and certainly not my background but I believe basically he turned the regular training model on its head which means that “Ki” Aikido people work on “Ki” exercises with lots of different push tests. They start their training journey very much with a “Ki” focus and in time they move towards a more martial form. Traditional arts forms, such as traditional Aikido, start more with martial techniques lifted from jujitsu So you can practice them in a jiu jitsu way initially overtime you can overlay your Aiki” on top of it So traditional Aikido works on the other end of the spectrum to Ki Aikido. This which is more where I come from.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

A bit more for the natural progression of how Ueshiba taught it?

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

Yeah I think so, so Ueshiba has roots from quite a mixture of arts and features heavily daito ryu Aiki jujitsu. Right now we’re starting to bump into guys that teach Daito Ryu Jujitsu as we look for the more knowledge about the source of our art. Its great stuff and it really helps with our understanding of Aikido and where it came from.. Moving back to the other main styles of Aikido, You mentioned Yoshinkan Aikido which is from Gozo Shioda. That’s reputed to be quite a hard style. It’s quite famous because it used by the Tokyo riot police, there’s a book about it called angry white pyjamas by Robert Twigger which is quite a famous Aikido book. There’s also Tomiki Aikido, the competition stuff which I’ve dabbled in it but it’s not my art, I don’t really know much about it. It’s not something I’m really qualified enough to talk about to much. There were some guys in the area a few years ago but it’s difficult to get a club off the ground in this area where there’s a lot of martial arts available with some great teachers so a lot of competition. I don’t think it came to anything. There’s also Iwama Ryu Aikido which was lead by Saito Sensei who recently died. This group are prominent in the Aikido weapons field. Finally there is the Aikikai. This is the official mainstream group in japan for Aikido. Many groups of Aikido are no longer connected with the Aikikai but most can trace their history back to them at some stage.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So the next question is a brief explanation on how you got into martial arts and how you got into your now chosen art aikido.

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

I got into martial arts by luck really. As a kid I always had fights and wrestled and I did a bit of boxing. My dad was a big boxing fan, ex-army and growing up as a child, that rubbed off on me. I got into a couple of scrapes when I was younger, I am the way I am, so that probably meant I had more than my fair share of these.

I was kind of interested in martial arts although in my late teens, early twenties I played football. I was a traditional dirty full back. I started to get a bit old for football and I was looking for something else to do. I had moved to Bristol for my job and two of the guys I worked with were both Aikido instructors. One of them is still one of my training partners and a drinking buddy almost 30 years later. So he said to me ‘why don;t you come and have a look’ so I went had a look and said ‘I’m not doing that, you’re holding each others wrists, I don’t like it, I want to punch people’ and I walked away. Six months later I went back. That was on a Monday and by the time Thursday came around I’ve done 4 nights. I was hooked, I loved it and for me Aikido was absolutely brilliant.I did have questions though, after a couple of years, I didn’t really understand what it was all about and why it didn’t have kicks and punches in it so I went off and did jujitsu as a 2nd art. I trained with Kevin O’Hagan in Bristol really just to see what it could add to my Aikido.

Eight years I was still there and I might still be there now if I didn’t get an injury. Sometimes in life its hard to do all the training you would want to do. About that time my daughter was born and I just couldn’t keept up with 2 arts. During this time I really set off on the teaching path. At this time Templegate Aikido had grown into a massive club by Aikido standards. The few guys that were there that were senior to me either stopped being senior to me as I progressed or moved on or stopped training. Soon I was the most senior guy tand was already used to coaching through the football training. I picked up the coaching and teaching and ran with it. I found really liked it as I really like the people in Aikido and its diversity. Anybody can do this and find a level to train. And that’s what it’s all about getting better and training.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So motioned to your arm earlier and obviously you have a bit of your arm missing. So how have you had to adapt your Aikido suit you?

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

So what it has taught me is that everyone is different. Everyone has something they’re not good at. Having had this challenge all my life has given me a great affinity for helping people who struggle. What it meant as an Aikido instructor is that when learning while everyone else could just watch and copy I had to really get a better understanding of it, so I could to work out how I was going to adapt it.. Someone else could say ‘right, I’m going to move there and there’ and that’s it. I had to really understand it, I think that’s pushed me to understand it better and it made me a better instructor than I would have been otherwise.

I don’t see myself as God’s gift to aikido, I might have when I was younger. Something my instructor Mike Narey said to me was the better you get as an instructor the harder it is to teach because you attract better quality students. That pushes you to get better. You yourself have met two people today that you’ve known from other arts that have come here today. They can see we’ve got something to offer, and recently we’re pulling people in from different arts. People that have been off the mats for 10 years at times because they can see we’ve got something interesting to share.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

Does that interest you, having eople from other arts or do you liek having raw beginners?

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

Sometimes it’s easier to have a raw beginner. They may be easier to manipulate and lead in a certain way. Alternatively if I have someone that has trained to a high level, and is happy to share those skills then I’m interested in picking up some of those skills. If someone with experience think that what we have to offer is interesting then that’s a massive endorsement to us. I’m really grateful to have them with us. Some people, who would knock me all over the place in the own martial art, come here and train and they put a real effort into learning what we have to offer. I think this is a brilliant attitude and it is quite nice when this happens.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

Can you tell us a bit about your club, about the North Bristol Aikido School.

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

The Aikido Club is an offshoot of the templegate dojo which is where I taught for a lot of years. We’re still affiliated with them, Mike Narey, is still my instructor. I just wanted to start something new,, I wanted to stretch myself and I felt that this area was such a good place for a dojo. Someothers from our Federation had gone off and done their own thing, I wouldn’t say i was politics, it was just some people went off in a different training direction. I felt I wanted to do something about this and this would be a great place to do it. I came here and the guy said that he had a Aikido here before and they’re only had two students which wasn’t very encouraging .. I came here and some people from templegate have followed me here but mostly I’ve picked up a whole new dojo full of students. We now have weapons classes and some kids classes. I’ve never taught kids classes before and it’s absolutely fantastic although hard work at times., I’m very proud of the kids classes and see it as one of my best achievements. If anyone has kids that want to train but don’t want them instinctively punching others at the first disagreement then maybe this is the art for them.
.
You asked me about the Chinese influence before, we’ve been training with a guy called Dan Harden. Lets call him a bodyworker, with a background in wrestling, boxing,and mixed martial arts. He offers martial arts training that will fit with any art, people that are looking for the internal stuff, the Aiki. He works using connective tissues of the body such as fascial or meridian lines. In my opinion he’s a world leader in martial arts, we met him about 5 years ago. That hasn’t changed my Aikido in terms of affiliations, I’m still Mike Narey’s student, but it’s giving me a far greater insight into what people are trying to teach me, with regards to what Aikido is all about and what O’Sensei was trying to teach. It has been a defining moment in my Aikido.

I see my strength is that I work with a team of people. My day job is as a manager and I have a large number of people that I work with. My job is to allow these people to use their skills and create a situation for this to happen.

In the dojo its the same thing. For me Aikido is like an ongoing project. I have students that in certain areas of Aikido are better than me – my job is to use this and share their skills for everyones benefit. . For me, this is great and that’s what it’s all about, getting students to stand on your shoulders and take things to a new level. I’ll keep working with them and then the club will go from strength to strength.

I’m a senior coach with the British Aikido Board – I haven’t had time to become a principal coach with BAB I see same things as a coach as a people manager at work.. How to work with people, how to get the best out of people, is there a high achiever or low achiever?, whether they got confidence or lack confidence. It’s all about understanding people and I think that’s where my strengths are. It’s not about standing there being fantastic and saying what an amazing I am, that’s not my destiny.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So if I walked into your club today, what could I expect and can you give us the details of your club.

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

First of all you’ll get to meet a new group of people, they’ll look after you, they’ll make sure you’re safe and included. We won’t pressure you too much, we won’t see what you’re made of by punching you in the ear. We’ll try to give you a flavour for the system and an idea of how we start. Saying that we’ll also give an idea of the long term goal. Usually I’ll sound people out, if they’ve done nothing before there is no point talking about higher level stuff, but if they have done something before then we’ll talk about that and how we can meet that. Usually people have done a bit of research, have an idea of what they want and we have a dialogue.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:

So someone came to you wanting to fight would you say you can help them?

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

Probably not, to be honest. I think Aikido can be useful and help in that direction and unquestionably some of the most powerful people I know are Aikido practitioners. But I’m looking for people that want more than just a way of beating up others. Thats not really the philosophy of aikido at all.

Doug Swift @ Enso Martial Arts Shop:a

and your club details.

Daren Sims @ Bristol Aikido Club:

Our website is bnad.org, my phone number os 07941 257940, we have a facebook page, Bristol North Aikido Dojo, people can book up with us on that and we are happy for anyone to come along.