Aikido : 2nd Dan – Practicing 21 Years
Other Arts : Wado Ryu Karate 1st Dan – 11 years
WAR & PEACE
For me my martial arts life started at the tender age of 21. I had already had an upbringing in the ghettos of Glasgow namely the Gorbals and later on in a lovely place named Priesthill. You learned what real life was about then. Anyway enough of my reminiscence, my initiation into martial arts nearly for me fell to the wayside as I got “stung” by my first taste of karate. This was the one where you pay an extortionate amount of money up front , get a free “stay press” nylon karate gi and was graded to my first belt after six hard weeks…….that equated to six hours by the way, it may even have been four. God I was good….
Anyway totally disheartened by this and whilst waiting on my friend doing his ten minute grading, I saw a traditional Wado Ryu karate class which to me seemed more like what I was after. I threw the stay press in the bin and joined Pete Kennedy’s club, which I remained at for a number of years. During this time politics took hold of his club between the dan grades and groups of them broke away. I too went with a pair Dan Grades namely Brian Noble a chap called Nigel Macintosh or ginge as I affectionately still call him today.
Any way it was with him that I learned the art of karate and we dabbled in full contact stuff, street fighting etc. and trained five to six times a week. I was super fit at this time in my life but the elusive six pack evaded me. Nothing whatsoever to do with the copious amounts of beer we had to have to replenish the fluids lost during training. Any way after about nine years of karate one of my friends said he had been to an Aikido class and said I should have a look as he thought id be interested. After a few weeks I decided to go and have a look at it.
I got my first taste of Aikido on a Thursday evening at the Northampton Unitarian church. This old chap was teaching and I was blown away by the fact that this doddery old man, he was well into his sixties, could throw and pin me with relative ease…….I was hooked.
I carried on with my karate training and eventually took my first dan in it. But aikido beckoned and shortly afterwards I stopped the karate and put my efforts into one art. During my first year or so I met a lovely man called Bob Mauseka. A big American chap. I remember working with him one night as a white belt going over my syllabus for my grading for yellow later on that night. I couldn’t do a thing right and bless him his patience was stretched to breaking point. The grading ended up with me staring at a panel of no less than 6 or 7 black belts. I did the grading and everything clicked into place and they gave me an orange belt. During the compulsory beer afterwards American Bob looked at me in amazement and said in his droll accent, “Joe if you said to me you did not wanna grade, I would have said no problem buddy, in fact I would have told you to stop aikido altogether……..”
During my early years I trained a lot with Roy Biggs and his way seemed to suit me. I had a lot of respect for the chap, rest his soul. Also I had the privilege of training under Cathy Knight who later became a close friend, along with her and John Wilson I learned a lot.
I also recall the first time I saw Aubrey, I was a beginner of about 3 or 4 months when he walked into the club. He seemed to have an air about him and commanded respect even though I’d not heard of him or seen him do any Aikido.
Tuesday nights started at the Obelisk Centre after the demise of the church. I think there was a period before it got under way as Cathy, John, Roy, Bob and Steve went their separate ways for a while, I think Aub just stayed in the pub. The Obelisk was started to try and bring the higher grades back together and train under one roof again. It worked for a while but they all flew the nest one by one leaving just a few of us, namely Steve, Bill, myself and Aub. We trained week in week out under Aubrey dissecting each technique to the nth degree. Sometimes with just 3 of us on the mat. Aub was pulling his hair out with us. Explains where that went.
At one point there was four first kyu grades and it was decided that we should all do our first dan gradings. Bill went first then Tim, poor chap failed his then Ray and me well I lost my bottle and bowed out? Don’t know why, perhaps it wasn’t my time I don’t know? Any way I eventually did the deed and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
I remember a great big man mountain of a chap arriving one Tuesday who was full of youthful energy and would talk the back legs of a donkey, you still can’t shut him up, even today, ha ha, its an endearing quality….I think? Says he can’t understand me? – Its not Jockanese its Scotswalie !………
I think now that my journey with this wonderful, intriguing art is just starting and a few years later I took my 2nd dan and decided to start a beginner’s class on the Tuesday evening just after Christmas. My understanding and realisation of how it all works is improving and its nice that I too can put a little bit of my aikido back into the club and hopefully keep the art moving forward.
I think every now and again, the Gorbal diehard in me shows his little face, but that’s in there and well, sometimes people just have to toughen up …………..to be continued…..