Aikitaikai class with Sunter Sensei Sat 22nd Feb 3pm

Andrew Sunter Sensei and friends, image C. Withers

Andrew Sunter Sensei and friends, image C. Withers

Continuing the Aikitaikai dialogue of late with Sunter Sensei, Schnell Sensei and other colleagues on the path, we are delighted to have Andrew Sunter as a guest for a special session on Saturday 22nd Feb from 3pm,  ahead of the Sunday dan grading.
Ever since visiting Okajima Sensei in 2005 (See Budo bums in japan) , we have pursued an interest in the practices Aikido Yuishinkai from the Daito Ryu through the window of biomechanics and more recently internal strength (see
Since last we met Andrew Sensei has made some progress in developing Kokyu which I am looking forward to finding out more about. If you would like to join us please bring your Dogi and an open mind. A casual class fee for visitors or a little something in the tin at the dojo door for regulars is appreciated.


Internal Strength: How we got started

internal strength aikidoIts about a decade ago since Andrew Sunter and I dropped by the Aikido Yuishinkai headquarters for Kansai (See Budo Bums in Japan). While we were there Okajima Sensei showed us some ‘other budo’ that in time was revealed to us through Aikido Yuishinkai. Dial forward a few years and the material was presented in Australia, fortunately Catherine Schnell captured the moment and we practiced these exercise for the next 4 months as our warmups and the teaching began to reveal themselves. Over time the connection between these and the internal strength movement became clear (see getting an internal strength baseline) as we plod along

You can see the Okajima Sensei’s exercises here along with the back story

This week is Mike’s last download of the Hawaii seminar on Sunday, the week after are some Dan gradings and after that Steve Seymour Sensei has kindly agreed to give us a report card.

Hawaiki – Mike gets some hands on IP training!

by Michael Nash

windwardaikido hawaiki hawaii-aikido-dojoWhen you first set eyes on Hawaii you feel a sense of welcome, the embrace is in the land and the people. Time slows; the spirit of Aloha overtakes you, better to let it take hold. If you have a need for rapid response times and carefully planned agenda’s you will be endlessly frustrated in Hawaii. Drinking age is 21, gambling is banned, the only place you can find a nightclub is Waikiki, no bike helmets required you can have plastic chairs in the back of the pick up truck and sit in them driving around taking in the views.


Our first stop was the North Shore area of the Oahu virtually no stores, no pubs, small population, main area of interest, the ocean. No signs or directions to the famous Pipeline or Sunset Beach, you need to ask a local if you are there or near the iconic locations once you get close. The main town is Hale’iwa you can get here on “Da Bus” or hitchhike, it is a true, time has stopped in the 70’s, type of place, a little tourist orientated but not in your face as it can be in other Pacific destinations, definitely no hard sell.


So after a case of Pacifico is purchased from Foodland along with dinner components, we retire to our beachfront bungalow and kick back and watch a sunset over the ocean, something we got very used to and will miss. 

We moved back to Waikiki, after a few days as this is my base camp for the first Dan Harden seminar. Waikiki is a place you must experience at least once, it is like Surfers Paradise on steroids but it feels safe and there are nice spots just off the tourist strip. Beware the traffic though.


The Saturday and Sunday seminars were to be held on the Windward side of the island, that is to say the Eastern side of Oahu or about 35 minute drive from Waikiki. I had no car and public transport was not an option, so some minor panic started to set in I had travelled thousands of miles to get here but those last few kilometres were out of my control. Chris Li the most gracious of hosts from Aikido Sangenkai had told me all along a ride would not be a problem. However, I needed to get set on Island time and trust Aloha, I eventually did, and all my perceived issues rolled away like a wave back into the ocean.

Dan had called a pre- seminar meeting for the Friday at 6pm down at Ala Moana Park Area 51, area 51 is actually a no go zone from what I could work out but not for the IP participants. This is Chris’s crews home away from home dojo, a massive tree lined park with ocean views, you can’t complain when you are oceanfront and training.


So, what happened from the time I made the trek down to area 51 and when we finished and I got back about 12 pm to the hotel is still a blur. No, not what you are thinking, not one skerrick of alcohol passed my lips, we trained until approx 10.30pm, (that is what Dan calls a pre- seminar meeting !). Then had a bite to eat at a Vietnamese restaurant, Dan still retelling stories and explaining aspects of his concepts all through dinner.

I had meet the majority of the other participants who were there for the weekend seminar that evening, some old hands some newbie’s like me, they seemed like old friends by the time we reached the restaurant, I had a lift organised with Josh from Ohio a much more seasoned DH student than me and my head was spinning. Chris and others took me under their wing as they have all experienced the whirlwind that is Dan Harden.

Saturday and Sunday went so fast, notes, laughs, wonder, no hierarchy, no holds barred. It was literally a barrage of information. This IP stuff is not for everyone and its application to Aikido in my opinion is integral, and it would seem has been lost to some extent in what we might call modern Aikido. When IP is matched with Aiki we have a devastating combination, it is soft yet impossible to resist. While Dan demonstrated and workshopped, the link back to O’Sensie’s real teachings kept revealing themselves, I had heard a lot of it before but somehow it was making some sense this time.


What is Dan Harden like, the man I had travelled so far to spend time with.?

Well, like me you go through the years of MA training, does not really matter what style or code you are currently studying. You make it up through the ranks, you train hard, you get glimpses from time to time, you hold a wrist from time to time that says “oh! this is what it must feel like”. You go seminars, you get the flavour of the month be it technique or a concept that launches you into a new lease of life and direction. Sometimes you get disillusioned and change styles. Always on this journey up the mountain you are constantly striving and over many years if you are lucky you get an inkling of what Aiki truly is.


As others say if you are lucky you never get to the end destination. Many things are held back until you are worthy, many are never revealed, sometimes on purpose sometimes because of poor communications.

What if you meet someone who is at the top of that mountain has a beachside condo perched up there, and welcomes you in and shows you things you thought were not really achievable, and also explains there is a way to reach them. All the time there is nil rank envy, nil ego, but 100 % intent.


So your world is now upside down, instead of working your way through to some level of proficiency, you are now shown it first up. This makes it no more daunting as you are in for a lifetime of studying how to not suck at it. By now I am sounding like a born again something or other, maybe so, but once you have felt a person that has the equivalent of two six inch spiralling stainless steel cables for arms attached to a two tonne block of concrete as a body, that concrete block by the way, can also relocate in space way faster than you can think, you have no choice but to take notice.


People who can produce kuzushi on contact, at every contact, using true aiki are rare, he can achieve this.



My point is that we are talking top down learning not bottom up. For some it is too confronting and easier to dismiss. While many other martial arts were represented over the seminars for me Aikido is the one that stands to gain the most from this integration if you believe aiki is what you are striving for in the end.


Notwithstanding the strikes and counter measures Dan is capable of are breathtakingly martial. It is like witnessing the volcanoes on the Big Island or the Twelve Apostles on the great ocean road, until you get the scale of it mentally digested you cannot really describe it in words alone.


So next stop the Big Island of Hawaii. This is a completely different trip in itself we are staying waterfront again in Kona only this time the landscape is decidedly rocky, lava rock to be exact.


In Kona it feels like it is going to rain all the time but the haze, called locally vog is not cloud rather gases pushed into the air by the volcano’s Maunaloa and Kilauea that dominate the landscape. Again magical sunsets this time tinted red through purple due to the vog.


People on this island are even more laid back than Oahu and equally accommodating. Bill and Sharon were the hosts for the seminar and we trained at a little dojo outside Kona. This dojo is the home of another Hawaiian icon in the martial arts Sensei Meyer Goo, sensei is in his 90’s and had just had a hip replacement. He was friend, student and masseuse to Tohie Sensei, he has trained many well known martial artists and he also has taken ukemi from O’Sensie.


The trip to Hawaii would have been worth it just to hear some of his recollections and wisdom. Validation of the work being done by Dan came when Sensei Meyer Goo, told all of us that what he felt from Dan was similar to what he had felt from O’Sensie.

He was insistent  that he (Dan) was to keep telling people about it (aiki and how to manifest it ) no matter what obstacles were put in his way. Sensei Goo is old school and a real warrior in the true sense, he also saw active duty during the second world war.

A few of the Oahu crew backed up like Mert. My faithful new sidekick Heraldo and his mum Maria ( they live in the town called Volcano) were my drivers this time. Without them I would have been lost I hope to repay this one day when they come down under. The seminar was more of the same relentless information, some skewed for the MMA types there, as well as judo and jujitsu. The crazy thing is that this aiki, spiralling, IP stuff translates to ALL martial arts. Similar to how techniques seem to blend into each other eventually in Aikido. It becomes obvious from observation with Dan working with other MA styles the current thread is the same. When he is spiralling toward you he could be doing any form you can name, he may lack perfect technique in any particular style but the end result is not in question.


I have plenty to download with those who are interested in our dojo, as I say it is not necessarily for everyone and the issue remains that it is so difficult to pick up what Dan is putting down in such a short interaction. But we start at the basics and eventually we start to feel it and work from there.

If you ever get the chance to go to Hawaii do it…… if you ever get a chance to interact with Dan Harden …… jump….. so to get both on a trip it is the ultimate…. just pack a beginner’s mind !


Budo: A journey from the mountain

Views of mount Fuji, Hiroshige #32 - Dog Eye Pass

Views of mount Fuji, Hiroshige #32 – Dog Eye Pass

The journey of the budoka is often described allegorically as that of climbing a mountain, its a great allegory! A long difficult journey, many paths joinging into one, getiing lost and finding ones way, I’ve mused on it myself and found it quite helpful.
Recently I have wondererd if the reverse a useful truism, that is we start Budo at a mountain top and journey to join the ocean eventually. Its not a new idea of course ( rarely am I accussed of anything original ).

Maruyama sense’s. Famous Doka reads  “Every river has a name. However, these names disappear when they flow into the great ocean. Aikido has many styles, many names, but Aikido is Aikido. It is my vision and hope that, like the rivers, they flow together and unite as one”

When you start out on the journey of Budo its pretty straight forward and much like walking down a mountain.  Initially the way is clear and easy, there are not to many hard decisions along the way , and like a flowing stream you meet a growing group of people to share the path err river with. Pretty soon you’re wizzing past the milestones grading regularly, in fact  with alarming regularity and all the while caught up in a growing momentum to help keep you moving. And the more you practice the more you see similarities with other rivers in your art. And as you join them at the tributaries and perhaps even in other martial school and eventually completely different arts too start to have more in common that different.

However its not to long before the pace of the river slowsup, it becomes tidal, brackish and maybe even a bit smelly. Its here many slip off into the shallows and in time maybe come stuck there ending up in a stagnate pool or a billabong over time. But pressing on we arrive at the river esturarys and fertile marsh lands as we get closer to the great ocean. This is often around the time we exit the formal school gradings systems, where having done all the kata and learned all the techniques (at least externally) and its difficult to know where to go.

The great ocean lies not far away but here too at the estuaries are the great cities (dare i say martial  organisations) of the world to delight and bedazzle, and here in the marshes along with the guides can lurk the crocodiles and predators too ( yes the skilled and near great – growing their followers but perhaps not able to guide them to the ocean)! too. The great ocean lies not far away but the way is now often occluded, perhaps directionless wandering ensues, trudging through mud ( sweat and great effort) in the hope of making progress. In time though you can hear the ocean, hear the delight of those that have found their way their to the shores and are diving in, but for now the trudge to find your way through by effort,studying , listening out and following blindly one you trust are often your only guides. In these time the company of like minded Arganouts is a treasure

Aikido Yuishinkai Sydney Grading Weekend 5 & 6 October 2013

Aikido in Sydney dojo grading

Aikido in Sydney dojo grading, Bob Withers in action

by Bob Withers.

So, I just got an email from Danny James Sensei asking me if I would mind writing a blog post about our recent seminar and dan grading weekend in Sydney. Even something about my Aikido ‘journey’ might be OK? Apparently I hinted at something that caught his interest … if only I could figure out what it was.

Oh well I guess I’ll do my best to review the weekend and see what crops up.

Andrew Sunter Sensei (who you may know) runs the dojo in Sydney where I train alongside a small but dedicated group. Several of us had successfully avoided the subject of grading for far too long, but Sensei was on to us. In his wisdom he decided to organise ‘an event’, thinking that this would make our gradings even more exciting and memorable than they would normally be.

His idea was to ask Danny James Sensei to teach on day one, and then do the five dan gradings on day two. Danny is a sports scientist and he has applied his scientific approach to his study of Aiki – a certain aspect of this (toppling) was the main subject of his Sydney seminar.

There was an excellent turnout. David Bardos Sensei bought several of his students from the Wagga Wagga dojo, Mark Campbell Sensei and Brett (grading San Dan) from Grafton arrived plus a bunch of roughnecks from the Liverpool dojo taught by Tony Neal Sensei filled the place up. A special guest appearance from Jim Nicholls Sensei was a wonderful surprise, and it was a that point we realised that there were now six highly regarded Sensei’s in the dojo, and that they would be watching the dan gradings with a critical eye. Oh good.

Day one – Seminar: Prior to opening the seminar Andrew Sensei casually accused Danny Sensei of having a reputation for not believing in Ki … this of course was countered with “It’s not that I don’t believe in Ki it just that I am starting to be able to understand some of the concepts through bio mechanics and how the body works”. That set the scene for the seminar. I would never attempt to relate everything Danny taught, but I believe that after that first day of teaching there was enough information to keep our dojo occupied for at least a year. It was an insightful and inspiring day, and it had me plotting a trip to Brisbane to get more insights from Danny.

Day two – Dan grading: First let me explain that the grading’s would be judged by a panel of our peers who decide if they are happy with our standards. They must agree (or otherwise) on a pass rather than the usual recommendation by your teacher with a guaranteed pass. This was done partly as a requirement of the Australian Jujitsu Federation (AJF), which certifies some of our senior grades as teachers but also to terrify us and test our powers of self-control.

It now became clear that the panel comprised all six afore mentioned senior teachers, sitting in a row, looking knowingly at each other and whispering various instructions on the best attack to test our required techniques.

There was quite a crowd of onlookers; various family and friends had arrived to view us going through our paces. Some of my family (making up at least 50% of the crowd) only now seeing  just what I have been up to for many years for the first time.

aikido-in-sydney-grading-groupAs it turned out, everyone that graded: Mayumi Takahashi – Shodan, Bob Withers –Nidan, Michael Van Der Donk – Nidan, Martin John – San Dan and Brett X – San Dan did a great job and passed. Waiting for the panel to review all the gradings reminded me of the meeting of the cardinals before the election of a new Pope …

On reflection, I realised just how far I had come since starting Aikido with Andrew. I have always been a pretty nervy guy, prone to over-thinking things and being very self-conscious. I think it is fair to say that Aikido training has changed my life and given me many tools to help me deal with an at times stressful world. Going through that grading would have been something I would never have thought possible when I started, and I feel a deep gratitude towards my teacher everyone that I have trained with.

Ah, that must be the ‘journey’ Danny was referring to.

ED: For all the blow by blow images and movies and a terrific seminar cake recipe checkout the Aikido in Sydney Facebook group

Japan In Brisbane

Brisbane Budo kai kan Open day


This Sunday the 8th  starting at 11:00am, there will be an open day at the Brisbane Budokai kan-  most of the Martial arts groups that use this centre in Merrivale Street South Brisbane will be putting on demonstrations, so it’s an ideal time to learn about what other styles and schools are doing


Also of interest to any Budoka is the other Japanese cultural activities that are presented during the Open Day


-the event will be opened by the resident Shakuhachi player, master Shigeru Yomei Nakajima


-there will be a static display of flower arranging, 


-There will be the chance to have a go at Shodo with demonstrations and hands on activities of traditional Japanese calligraphy under the guidance of Sensei Yumiko Kigoshi, sensei will also demonstrate Sumi E – the Japanese art of ink and brush painting in a separate session- so if you wish to learn how to paint like a classical japans Samuir here is a great chance! 


Chado – “way of tea”- is the name of the Japanese tea ceremony and there will be a demonstration of this graceful art- also there will be tasting and the opportunity to be a “guest” at the ceremony ( limited places ) 


Anyone who Knows Susan or I, will know we also do a traditional sword school – and our school Komei Juku will be demonstrating Traditional Iaijutsu – Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu at around 12:20 this is one of the few times a year we do demonstrations so it will be a bit of an event in our calendar.


Other Martial arts on the Day will be Aikijutsu demonstrating their open hand techniques, the Kyokushin Karate will be also be demonstrating their art- there will be Aikijutsu weapons that will feature this schools use of the Bo ( of interested to most other Aikidoka)- and finally Battojutsu and Tamashagiri – another style of sword combat arts and also some display cutting of bamboo. 


This is a great opportunity to find out about other arts you may be interested in and ask questions in a more informal manner rather than the more traditional class setting – all the demonstrated arts are taught at the centre martial and cultural

For more information please check the Budo Kai Kan website

























Budo Kai Kan 

Open Day Program 2013











Tea Ceremony




Aiki Jutsu Open Hand




Komei Juku Iaijutsu




Kyokushin Karate








Aiki Jutsu Weapons




Sumi e




Battojutsu / Tameshigiri


The program is an ideal only; obviously on the day there will need to be a degree of flexibility, but things will run more smoothly if all groups make a sincere effort to stay within their allotted times.Image

Winter and Spring Seminars coming up…

imagesWith the REED13 seminar on the horizon (and only a few places left), there are some nice seminars happening in an around this time to get you all tuned up. Don’t forget if you still want to register for REED13 you need to hurry, at this stage we are unlikely to have any spaces available at the door. See

July, Saotoshi Takeda Sensei, Byron Bay

Firstly in mid July Saotoshi Sensei, Aikido Kenjkyukai is being hosted by friend of the dojo Chicko down at Byron, we managed to get along last time he was in the neighbourhood (See seminar report ).

Seminar details here

Augest, William Reed Sensei, Brisbane

William Reed Sensei travels to Brisbane as Maruyama Sensei’s official representative for 2013. to teach on the theme ‘The Evolution of Aikido Yuishinkai’.

Limited places

Augest, Shinkage Ryu Seminar, Capalaba hosted by Onami Aikido dojo

Yamamoto Sensei  (6th Dan Iaido, 5th Dan Kendo)
Head instructor of the Ichimon Shinkage Ryu Dojo in Sano Japan

Yamamoto sensei has kindly consented to provide a seminar on the principles and features of Ichimon Shinkage Ryu Iaido, Discussion of the Sword and Insights on training.  Location and cost to be advised. details

October, Japanese weapons, Komei Juku

Lastly Craig, “Big Rock”, is helping with a Komei Juku weapons seminar later on in October.  Brisbane Komei Juku Dojo hosting Japanese Swordsmanship and Naginatajutsu Full details are yet to emerge but stay tuned to

Aikido Seminars: Want to go to an aikido or budo seminar, here are some tips in mind

REED13: Letter from Maruyama Sensei


Since the initial seminar announcement we have been busy organising the programme. Maruyama Sensei has  been preparing William Reed Sensei for the seminar to Australian members and this week we received a letter from Maruyama Sensei appointing Reed Sensei as his representative for the occasion. A few changes to the programme have emerged, providing us with even greater opportunity to learn Aikido Yuishinkai and its future directions.

Seminar Schedule Changes

– The addition of a Shindou session on Friday night, where Reed Sensei will also put Shindou into the context of its root arts and why they have been drawn together

– A lunchtime meeting on Sunday for Aikido Yuishinkai senior members

– The Nanba Aikido session will be available now on the Thursday before the seminar.

Please check seminar website for details and to register (limited early bird places remain <10)

look forward to seeing you at REED13




The Aiki Smorgasboard

bentoToday we teeter on the edge of the 3rd generation Aikido, that is, there isn’t the access to direct students of O’Sense,  by and large. Also many of the boundaries to training widely, such as being locked within rigid hierarchal structures have started to soften or disappear, though there are bastions of expertise, ( and ignorance) running very well. Its, I suspect, a function of the desire to get access to as direct a transmission as possible as well as the influence of global culture pushing into dojo. In fact is possible in Australia to attend seminars, from all kinds of direct lineages to the founder, every month or more. There is at times abundant opportunity to get a wide adn at times diverse views of the founders aikido from many perspectives. Issues of quality aside, it can really enhance our understanding of the art, though important to do this mindfully.

All aikido schools, and indeed dojo within schools have considerable variation on the surface. I imagine its quiet possible to devote a lifetime to studying these differences without penetrating to the core of aikido nor the founders intent. That is, to be so busy with the variation/minutiae in aikido kata, how the kata is practiced in the major schools etc.. that deep learning is somehow ancillary.

Within our own dojo we encourage everyone, once a foundation of core skills and good ukemi has been established to train widely. We think it helps to help develop robust experiences and to see what is common between the various schools and dojos rather than the differences. Its also selfish in that it improves the quality of practice within the dojo. It helps avoids ‘tunnel vision’ , avoids belief in the infallibility of sensei (mostly this is obvious at our dojo) and starts to develop a feeling for the core principles of aikido and with it confidence in practice.

The challenge of running a dojo though is how to embrace the diversity, yet avoid becoming an Aikidoka or dojo that is just based on loosely focused experiences and training pedagogy. This is where the core practice, structure from sensei and teaching team and affiliation is so important. From this we have structure, principally through syllabus and instruction pedagogy. In our school,  after 2nd Kyu the art becomes freer and more accommodating of different ways to move, a ukemi method that is compatible with free flowing training, resistance training and a dojo of thoughtful people open to the expression of ‘aiki’. If someones been to a seminar we generally like to see some review of a seminar or experience undertaken in the dojo as a structured part of information being brought back, through seeing it and feeling it expressed in the uke-nage interactions is probably where the real transmission of it is. Superficial differences aside, considerable care in ensuring it doesn’t detract from the programmed life of the dojo, nor detract from the study of the art, through the vehicle of syllabus needs to be taken.

Were it possible to be a student in daily contact with a master teacher I think the importance of training widely would be less of a consideration. The reflections on this dilemma by Peter Goldsbury are a valuable read. We have seen over the years the negative influences in restricting students exposure to the wider aikido community unduly, ultimately leading to stagnation. But also the dangers in abandoning ones self with no connection/lineage to the source and leads to unfocused aikido. There is a kind of dynamic tension between the two and the importance in having a direct teacher to maintain a particular focus is very important at both dojo and organisational level.

Thus at the aiki smorgasboard we think its wise to not over fill the plate in excitement, but instead to allow time for digestion to take place but most importantly not to go hungry.