Tony Neal “retrospective”

Tony Neal

Tony Neal takes time out from the grading panel to be uke for jo dori

“Never with a whimper”

Tony Neal Sensei has retired from teaching Aikido and has handed on his Liverpool Dojo in Sydney’s south-west to his students.

We’d like to acknowledge Tony’s contribution to Ki Aikido in Australia. We look forward to the promised occasional visits in the future and further enjoyment of his appalling yet infectious sense of humour. Tony’s participation is never with a whimper, always with a bang.

Tony began training in 1995 with Michael Stoopman at Griffith University. He soon became a key supporter of the Cleveland dojo and pretty much ran the club for head instructor Thom Hansen, bringing lots of enthusiasm, support and new students. Some of these, like Colin Staples, became long-term practitioners themselves.

At the same time Tony was an enthusiastic supporter of Griffith Aikido as it transitioned from a dojo running three styles of aikido (Ki Society, Shinkondo and Aikido Yuishinkai). He was also a supporter of Steve Dows’s Coorparoo dojo and for a time Tony ran the Logan dojo.

There was a 6 am class at Griffith in those days that attracted up to 15 people in part because of Tony’s enthusiasm. The after-class showers were something of a feature (but that’s a story best shared over a few drinks).

One of Tony’s greatest achievements is the Capalaba dojo he established with Darren Cowles in 2002. Now known as the Onami dojo it is still running today.

Tony relocated to Sydney and opened Aikido Liverpool in 2008. He has hosted numerous events and guest instructors in Sydney over the past seven years.

Tony has always been a wonderful supporter of the aikido community, often travelling long distances to attend seminars in Hobart, Perth and Hawaii, to name a few. He was a stalwart of Brisbane-based aikido seminars when he lived there, hosting both Williams Sensei and Maruyama Sensei. Tony initiated Bokkens on the Beach (Stradbroke Island) and ran it annually for several years, typically with Murray Loader instructing. He billed it as “Five star location, one star accommodation”.

Tony never seeks the limelight but seems instead drawn to doing the jobs others might shirk, helping out with the practical side of things. He always does his best to present the gruff exterior of a boofy bloke but Tony’s actions reveal a man with a deep sense of justice, concern for society and the will to do something when he sees a need.

Tony has been an informal mentor to many a young adult, helping them through rough patches with quiet generosity and raucous good humour.

There are precious few who take such an unassuming role, quietly working in the background for the good of the art, many a dojo, and the individuals therein.

Tony is a shihan in the art of life who always has a sneaky technique to spring upon the unwary on the mat.

Dan James, Aikido Republic and Andrew Sunter, Aikido in Sydney


Spring Workshop Review

TFT Sydney The Great Ocean Aikido Spring Workshop was held at Camperdown dojo 4–6 October 2014.

Highlights were the further study and practice of expanding in six directions — roppodachi — and the increasingly prevalent statement that good posture is the essence of aiki. These were practiced in several forms including Tai No Henka and Katadori. However, it is more and more obvious that this basic training creates toppling in uke and completion of technique becomes a lot simpler.

The experience of uke being able to apply 100% power and then to feel this reduced efficiently to zero gives a glimpse of the aiki we are seeking.

Visiting instructors at the seminar were Mike Allen from Sydney TFT and Steve Seymour from Aikido Kenkyukai Balmain.

Mike Allen gave an extremely interesting introduction to Target-Focus Training and showed how it is used in violent confrontations. The training is confronting. However, Mike’s clear and relaxed manner combined with his extensive knowledge of body systems generated wonderful group participation as well as raising many questions.

One immediate outcome is a total rethink of previous weapons training which has focussed on “take the weapon” rather than “control the operator”. We had plenty of opportunity to feel the difference.

Another outcome was to experience the power of aiki techniques in a new way and the realisation that our syllabus offers knowledge of dangerous power if not contained within the dojo training environment.

Steve Seymour Sensei was responsible for the visit of Bill Gleason Sensei to Sydney in mid-2014 and gave something of a review of what Gleason Sensei had left behind. This was blended with teaching from Dan Harden and the recent visit of Harden’s student Jill Lapato. Steve Sensei’s key message was to work from the ground up and to incorporate “turning the femur” in all techniques. It meshed nicely with “roppodachi” and “posture” which were more or less the themes of the weekend.

There was a strong sense of excitement and I would also say “mission” within the Camperdown group led by the able teaching and ongoing research of Andrew Sunter Sensei.

Andrew’s articulation of the uke-nage relationship and the levels of Gōtai, Jūtai and Ryūtai are important new directions as is his insistence that we must be able to explain what we are doing to any participant and have them succeed at every repetition.

This year of 2014 has been a year of revelations for me on the aikido journey and I am pleased to say the Spring Workshop was yet another revelation – so glad to have participated and thanks to all Camperdown friends.

Jim Nicholls

The Way of Disgrace

I was initially attracted by the title of this article ‘The Way of Disgrace’ given recent events within the Aikido Yuishinkai community I thought that maybe others had been treated in a similar fashion and through that experience had discovered a new aikido path. Well, yes and no. As it turns out, this article by Guillaume Erard is a fascinating insight into the aikido life of his friend Olivier Gaurin.

‘The way of disgrace’ or ‘the way of unpopularity’ is, as it turns out, ia one of three ways one can learn in Japan. Gaurin has chosen this way as his way to learn aikido. The third way made more sense to me, but it is clear that to improve, training with and experiencing other teachers ideas is the way forward. Something I believe we now have the freedom to do in our new community.

Olivier Gaurin is one of the most well-known French Aikido practitioners. His atypical path and his ease with words have made him one of the prominent voices of our martial art in France. Olivier Gaurin has been living in Japan for many years and he got the chance to practice with some of the greatest masters such as Seigo Yamaguchi and Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei. He speaks Japanese fluently and has a deep understanding of the Japanese culture, which he enthusiastically shares with other practitioners through a series of books that he wrote about the practice of Aikido.

Aiki Workshop in Alstonville 20-22 September

Hi All,

alstonville-aikidoJoin two of our founders Andrew and Jim for a weekend workshop in Alstonville, NSW and some good country air.

Alstonville Leisure & Entertainment Centre

42-46 Commercial Road, Alstonville

Saturday 20 September 11 am – 1 pm,  2 – 4 pm;
general training at Alstonville Leisure & Entertainment Centre
Sunday 21 September
private training (location TBC)
Monday 22 September 7 – 8.30 pm
general training at Alstonville Leisure & Entertainment Centre

Chasing the IS Rabbit with Science…thoughts from a recent seminar

Winter retreat 2014, IS and strain

Winter Retreat 2014, IS and strain in action?, photo S. Russell

I went to an interesting musculoskeletal research retreat recently (I had to give an invited talk, though – no such thing as a free lunch). As an added bonus it also informed my IS practise. So bear with me as I make a short story long.

The insights came during a talk on investigating tendon strain, which in the achilles is a significant health issue. A multi-national group had examined various protocols for healing the achilles tendon (see reference at end). The work kept tendons, sourced from rabbit cadavers, in an artificial environment for a prolonged period of time. Rabbit tendons are very similar to human ones and easier to source.  The tendons were stretched at varying levels of strain for different time periods using a set protocol and the resultant strength measured over time. The work ultimately is to assess what might be best practice in recovery protocols.
It turns out there is a sweet spot at 6% strain ( under 0.25 Hz – a 4 second cycle of 1s graded strain, 1s hold, 1s reduction and 1s release).  Any less strain and there is natural decay, any more strain damages the tendon – interesting news for us IS try-hards. The cycle time was chosen from previous rabbit treadmill studies that varied the step rate ( loading time) and looked at tendon strength after. In humans and possibly related (though its muscle) we know from other researchers that oxygen depletion in humans takes place in the muscles inducing the strain after 6–7 seconds (see 2nd ref below) so its all in the same ball park.
From science to inferences for IS training:
If we consider similarities between tendon and fascia, this provides good evidence (or indication at least) of how much muscle to use, how hard to try and for how long in exercises that seek to build conditioning eg winding, reeling, bowing, balloon man, skin breathing, opening and closing qua,10 of 10 and so on. Many of these traditional methods talk about not forcing, working with intention and have cyclic periods of strain and relaxing. 6% is then something of a middle ground, where there would be good reasons to go a bit higher, perhaps to weed out the connections not wanted or for elongation. Cycle time too might be something to do with the art it is embedded in, to build coordination ( eg bowing) or historical ( eg the shinto rites of spring)
So how much is 6% strain? Good question. Neglecting the complexity of dynamic and static strain, it’s possible to get into the ball park, I think, and discover how we might be trying too hard. 
By putting the tips of your two index fingers together and pushing so they bend back until there is the onset of pain. Let’s call this 50% strain. (It’s a stab in the dark but a reasonable assumption – choose a different number if you want.) Try again and only push half as hard for 25%. Reduce the effort by half for 12.5% and repaet and half that for 6.25%. Its not very much by the time you get to 6%, maybe this is the illusive intention for those of us struggling with whatnthat might mean. 
You can also try  to find 6% strain with this method on an IS exercise of your choice if you think it’s relevant.
Understanding 6% or intention benefits other IS exercises that aim to recruit deep rather than surface muscles. For example, opening the hips (or that component of the qua), where applying too much effort tends to recruit superficial muscles. You can explore this by placing your hands on your buttocks or glutes (or other muscle of choice) to ensure they remain relaxed as you practise. Using only 6% strain in opening the hips should ensure only deep muscles are engaged (with practise), whereas using more effort engages superficial muscles and is potentially counterproductive.
Anyway, the ideas above move from a reasonable scientific foundation to inference and conjecture by a relative IS neophyte. Please take what’s helpful if any and let me know about the rest. I would be grateful for your thoughts and comments to inform my personal practice.
Best Wishes,
Many thanks to Andrew, Mike and Aran for feedback in the writing
The papers
Find then on google scholar, you may need an .edu.x domain to download for free though
Programmable mechanical stimulation influences tendon homeostasis in a bioreactor system
Tao Wang1, Zhen Lin1,2, Robert E. Day3,Bruce Gardiner4, Euphemie Landao-Bassonga1, Jonas Rubenson5, Thomas B. Kirk6, David W. Smith4, David G. Lloyd7,Gerard Hardisty8, Allan Wang9, Qiujian Zheng2 andMing H. Zheng1,*
Article first published online: 4 FEB 2013, DOI: 10.1002/bit.24809, Copyright © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Biotechnology and Bioengineering
Volume 110, Issue 5, pages 1495–1507, May 2013
Identification of functional programmable mechanical stimulation (PMS) on tendon not only provides the insight of the tendon homeostasis under physical/pathological condition, but also guides a better engineering strategy for tendon regeneration. The aims of the study are to design a bioreactor system with PMS to mimic the in vivo loading conditions, and to define the impact of different cyclic tensile strain on tendon. Rabbit Achilles tendons were loaded in the bioreactor with/without cyclic tensile loading (0.25 Hz for 8 h/day, 0–9% for 6 days). Tendons without loading lost its structure integrity as evidenced by disorientated collagen fiber, increased type III collagen expression, and increased cell apoptosis. Tendons with 3% of cyclic tensile loading had moderate matrix deterioration and elevated expression levels of MMP-1, 3, and 12, whilst exceeded loading regime of 9% caused massive rupture of collagen bundle. However, 6% of cyclic tensile strain was able to maintain the structural integrity and cellular function. Our data indicated that an optimal PMS is required to maintain the tendon homeostasis and there is only a narrow range of tensile strain that can induce the anabolic action. The clinical impact of this study is that optimized eccentric training program is needed to achieve maximum beneficial effects on chronic tendinopathy management. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2013; 110: 1495–1507. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Lumbar erector spinae oxygenation during prolonged contractions: implications for prolonged work
SM McGill, RL Hughson, K Parks – Ergonomics, 2000 – Taylor & Francis
… HICKS, A., MCGILL, SM and HUGHSON, R. 1999, Forearm muscle blood ¯ ow and … and magnitude of blood ¯ow changes in the human quadriceps muscles following isometric …LANOCE, V. and CHANCE, B. 1989, Noninvasive detection of skeletal muscle underperfusion with …

Spring Workshop 2014

Aikido in Sydney is hosting the 2014 Spring Workshop for the Great Ocean Aikido Community.great ocean spring 2014

This inaugural Great Ocean Aikido Workshop will feature Steve Seymour (6-dan Aikido) and Mike Allen (7-dan Kenpo) as well as Great Ocean founders Jim Nicholls and Andrew Sunter. (We are still hoping Dan James and John Ward will be able to put in an appearance)

Location: Aikido in Sydney KōMyō Dojo
Bridge Road School
127 Parramatta Road, Camperdown

Cost: $90 full weekend, $50 single day
Date: Saturday 4 to Monday 6 October 2014.
The program may change due to some uncertainty about who will actually present some sessions, but essentially it will follow the pattern below.

Saturday 11 am to 4 pm:
•   Welcome
•   Syllabus and principles of Great Ocean Aikido with Andrew Sunter
•   Introduction to Target Focus Training with Mike Allen

Sunday 10 am to 5 pm
•   Internal Strength with Steve Seymour
•   Insights into Aikido from TFT and Yang Mian with Mike Allen
•   Training in Great Ocean Aikido with a GO Co-founder

Monday 10 am to  2 pm
•   Consolidation and integration sessions
•   Hooroo

Does budo build character?

David Lynch, Koru Dojo

Stan Schmidt once made the observation that we promote karate or aikido training on the basis that it builds character. We then interact with other “trained” people assuming that they must therefore be trustworthy, and are disappointed when they’re not. He suggested instead that budo reveals character.

It is a mistake to think that the more senior a person the more poor behaviour can be forgiven. I believe we must hold ourselves to a higher and higher standard as we rise in rank. A good starting point is the Code of Ethics of the Australian Jujitsu Federation (AJF).

These reflections were prompted by this post by Wayne Muromoto: Having a Moral Compass in Budo

“Budo, like any human endeavor, has its own share of scoundrels, liars, cheats and crooks. There are also people who may not be engaged in illegal activities, but whose moral, ethical and spiritual compass are less than stellar. Way less. How you deal with that is your own kuleana (“property,” as we say in Hawaii), but you have to live with yourself, and you shouldn’t lie to yourself about the choices you therefore make.”


Winter Retreat in Pictures

Aikido Republic Winter Retreat 2014A wonderful weekend away, a time to regroup, spend time with families, do some excellent training and cogitating for the future.

Many thanks to Sunter and Nicholls Sensei for guest instruction, the naughty chef for excellent fare and everyone for making the trip away. Sadly it was a time to formally farewell Eric and Alison as the prepae to move to new Zealand . We love you guys, come and visit us often!
A weekend in photos courtesy of Simon, Neil, Charlie and Dan. Please enjoy and let us know if you would like any taken down

Winter Retreat July 25-27 with Guests Sunter and Nicholls Sensei

Bell Misogi - Winter retreat 2011

Bell Misogi – Winter retreat 2011


Kumijo Winter retreat 2012


Pre dinner fireside Winter retreat 2013

Hi Everyone,

An open invitation to our 4th Winter retreat. Winter retreat is just a few short weeks away. This year we will have both Andrew Sunter and Jim Nicholls Sensei as guest Instructors. This years retreat will examine the purpose behind Kata, weapons training and the meditation disciplines as well as on Sunday morning a led open discussion on Budo and community in the West

You are welcome to come for the full weekend of a day. Camping should be booked via the Biggriggen website. Bunkrooms through the dojo,  Costs are $15/bed/night which you can pay to me on arrival. The Saturday night dinner err.. feast is $25 which i’ll need before so the Naughty Chef  can do all the shopping.


Bill Gleason rocks Sydney

aikido-sydneyI was down in Sydney for the long weekend visiting family and friends. It was very nice time to catchup with a few sisters and the obligatory lounge room tanninzygake err… Rumble with nieces and nephews too. Whilst out for a stroll I spied a beautiful dojo set in the rural environs of Terry Hills. Imagine my surprise to find an aikido seminar underway and none other than Bill Gleason Sensei – who I visited 2 years ago in Boston, leading the instruction. At the half time oranges err… mandarin break I had the good fortune to catch up with what is possibly the broadest cross section of the Australian Aikido community gathered in a single place, well done to Balmain dojo and Seymour Sensei!.

Gleason Sensei, of the Yamaguchi lineage was putting the Aiki back into aikido in what was less about technique and more about the feeling. That is about building Aiki from within rather than through technique. It was for me the next step in following the internal strength movement in aikido circles ( see). Bill sensei speaks highly of Dan Hardens method and brings a translation of it to the aiki arts.

He combined effortlessly the traditional terminalogies like earth, fire and water as analogues for the familiar square trianle and circle. He spoke his own work of tate and yoko combined with spiraling where one must use ‘just eough power but as much as is required’. The vertical and horizontal aspects together with entry resonated strongly with an emerging picture with toppling seen in biomechanics and then some i.e. to freeze the base and topple through up and through. Its a dangerous assumption to make to though fitting everything to an existing paradigm – every the trap of the tyro

I was also reminded of some of the teaching of my former school such as a) Kotai, Jutai and Ryutai levels of practice and the importance and b)  insights that can come from the Kashima sword school, really liked the neutral /support points being exlored through the sword.

For an in-depth review this by way of the Aikido Sydney Facebook page from Bill Sensei’s seminar in Auckland

One night I also managed to catch up with some budo buddies too for dinner…it brought out the boof in all of us 🙂


Sadly there wasn’t opportunity to get onto the mat this time, maybe next time