with Roger Taylor
Please give us a little background on
your training. Under whom have you studied and for how long?
Initially under Fred Wainwright who
actually trained with O Sensei, and who, with Ken Cottier did much to
establish aikido around here. Then, mainly with Terry Ezra, one of
Fred's and Kazuo Chiba's students. I think Terry's about a fifth dan
now. He was a senior coach with the British Aikido Federation, but has
now formed his own Komyokan Association.
Tell us about your style of Aikido. How
does your Aikido practice differ from others in your area or
frequently train with?
Traditional - non-sporting,
non-competitive. Most of the aikido around here is traditional,
largely due to the influence of Fred and Ken.
Who is / was your greatest influence in
Probably Terry Ezra for the reasons
given in the Intro to the book.Mike Tibbs too, for his constant and
open-minded testing of all my ideas. It's not possible to measure the
value of that kind of help, I hope I appreciate it as fully as I
Tell us about any martial arts training
you have had in addition to Aikido.
A little bit of Judo, millions of years
ago. Not good at it, but enjoyed it - it certainly taught me how to
breakfall. Interestingly, my judo instructor told me I was an aikido
person before I even knew what aikido was. Also did a little goju
karate, but, while it was a good class, it wasn't for me - nothing
How were you first drawn to Aikido?
See the Intro to the book. Even now I
can remember sitting at the back of the hall watching bodies flying
about and thinking 'Wow!' There was no question but that I would take
up this strange art.
What are the most ingrained
fundamentals of your Aikido?
I'm not quite sure what this question
means, there is so much in aikido. Probably the most important feature
for me is the ability aikido has given me to relax (physically and
subsequently, mentally) while moving *and* to use this as such a
powerful form of personal defence.
To relax I could do yoga etc. To make
pretty movements I could do ballet and gymnastics. To defend myself
(unarmed) I could learn any one of a raft of martial arts. Aikido does
all these things. Intellectually, emotionally and physically, it is
practical, efficient and elegant.
Can you tell us how these deep-seated
principles affect your daily life?
The mental relaxation, improved
awareness and presence in the moment that come with aikido probably
touch everything beneficially for me.
Tell us about your most memorable
Aikido experience. How has this affected you since?
Apart from watching Fred Wainwright
I've no particular Damascene moments. My aikido 'career' has been more
one of a long and enjoyable walk. I do have a dark(ish) memory which
has influenced me - I saw a very high graded Japanese instructor knock
out some guy with a ferocious irimi-nage in a public demo. The guy's
wife was sitting in front of me in the balcony and she fainted
immediately, banging her head on the balcony rail. I remember
thinking, 'Nth dan or not, this is not the way. You're wrong.'
Do you have your own dojo?
No. Nor would I want one. I run a
commercial shooting club and while it's great, it's a lot of work. I
really appreciate what a gem I have in our 'little' aikido club.
Where is your home dojo?
We hire a room in a local sports centre,
(West Kirby Concourse, in the Wirral, Merseyside)
How often do you instruct and at what
Just once a week. The 'level' of
instruction is determined by the abilities of the students we have at
any one time.
What essentials or fundamentals do you
stress to your students?
Everything in my book.
How much ukemi do you have your
As much as possible. I have never yet
found an easy way of teaching ukemi but it is *very* important.
How much atemi?
Not striking training per se, but atemi
awareness all the time. 'You do not *have* to do an aikido technique
just because you began one. From here, for example, you could . . .'
Basic footwork / body positioning?
All the time, but integral with the
techniques, not as separate exercises.
How much bokken and jo?
An increasing amount of bokken to
emphasise the importance of 'cutting' and also focus. Not too much jo.
With a reasonably experienced class jo work can be fun and good
breakfalling practice but I'm not too sure about its 'absolute' value.
Tell us a little about the structure of
your classes. How do you divide the class time?
Warm up - Mike usually does qi-gong
exercises and a simple tai-chi form as a
co-ordination/balance/relaxation exercise. Then 'technique de jour' -
sometimes one technique against different attacks, sometimes different
techniques against one attack. When the beginners have left, we
continue but more vigorously. Sometimes, in this last part, we go into
'research and development' mode to work out any difficulties we are
having with a technique or to share some inadvertent discovery. Mutual
exchange between intelligent participants is very important.
How does instructing differ from
As a learner, you just learn. As an
instructor, you both teach and learn.
What is the most valuable lesson you
learned as an instructor?
That you ain't as smart as you think
you are, fella! And you must care for your students.
What advise would you give to beginning
Be patient, remember how stupid *you*
used to be. Be clear in your mind what you are demonstrating. Never
bullshit or show-off.
If you had a council of all the most
instrumental Aikido instructors since passed, what would you ask them?
Crikey, what a question! In an activity
that ostensibly reduces the negative effects of egoism, is it not a
poor example for so many of you dash off and form your own
associations and schools? Don't you think that the rigid hierarchical
system inherited from Japanese culture is basically
How does your daily life influence your
It doesn't. I suspect - no, I know -
that the mental and physical benefits that aikido has given me affect
my daily life, not vice versa. More than once, particularly in the
past, I have gone on to the mat with my mind spinning with
technical/business problems and left it with, not with the problems
solved, obviously, but with a much quieter and balanced mind, and a
decent night's sleep ahead of me. Now I'm a tad more computerate, I'd
call it resetting the defaults. It's remarkable, really, and I'm
What personal characteristics do you
find aid in the study of Aikido?
Curiosity, persistence, and
open-mindedness, and also taking joy in just being there.
What personal characteristics hinder
the study of Aikido?
I'm afraid you'll have to ask my
students about that. My engineering background can make me too
analytical at times.
How do you cultivate the positive
qualities in your students?
I hope, by my own example.
How do you dissuade the negative
Ditto, or, if necessary, tell them to
their face, as gently as the circumstances dictate.
What is your approach to disciplining
students on and off the mat? Please give us an example.
In all conscience I have to say we've
never had any real problems. If someone is applying applications too
hard or throwing someone too hard, I just tell them not to, and why.
It's rare and invariably ignorance rather than malice when it does
happen. We did have one young man who was rather opinionated and,
though he did not remonstrate verbally, didn't listen and just did
techniques his own way. I wasn't bothered - we're all entitled to go
to hell in a hardcart of our own choosing - but after I heard him
grievously misleading (and bewildering) a beginner (he had less than
12 months experience himself) about the need for very low posture, and
quoting this in the name of O Sensei no less, I had the class do some
techniques standing on one leg. Most of them managed quite well, but
he kept falling over. I experienced a modest of schadenfreude at this,
but we're all touched by the dark side of the force from time to time,
aren't we? It makes me smile even now. And I never said a word.
How do you discipline yourself?
I just remind myself that these people
in front of me have got off their busy backsides and taken the trouble
to come to the dojo to try to learn something from me (and Mike). How
would I like to be treated under such circumstances?
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In what ways do you see you Aikido developing over the next ten years?
No idea. It's a peculiarity of human
beings that we *always* tacitly assume that things will roughly
speaking carry on as they are, despite the fact that we know that most
of the directions our lives follow are
due to random incidents - out of left
field, if I might risk and American expression. I will continue to try
to improve my aikido, full stop. Where we end up is where we end up.
How has your Aikido changed in the last
ten years? How has the direction of your Aikido changed since you
It's just more relaxed, more efficient.
As a result of just plain old-fashioned thinking, I am also much
clearer in my mind about the mechanics of most techniques. This is
important to me.
What do you think about today’s
Aikido? What are the strengths? What are the weaknesses? How can we
improve the nature and direction of today’s Aikido?
I don't feel remotely competent to
answer this. By its very nature there is no *one* aikido. Its strength
is that it can offer a splendid way to cope with peculiar and complex
strains of modern life. It's
weaknesses are (perhaps) that it can be
over-ritualized, can drift too far away from its basic function as a
practical martial art, and areas of it that do not need to be can be
befuddled by unclear thinking - what
Arthur Clarke cuttingly referred to as
'New Age Nitwittery.' How to improve on this? This is definitely way
beyond me, but as I said above, curiosity, open-mindedness, are
important. Add to that, mutual respect and care for your neighbour -
the basic Golden Rule of all the world's great beliefs.
Do you emphasize a more martial or a
more artistic style of Aikido? Why? What are the strengths and
weaknesses of each approach to learning and studying Aikido?
Aikido must work as a practical martial
art. Most human concerns ultimately derive from a need for security
and if aikido does not offer what it can at this level it is missing
its most fundamental point - it is futile. Aikido's elegance and
gracefulness come from its deep efficiency, like the coloration and
musculature of the tiger - beautiful and dangerous. These things are
not incompatible, they are mutually supportive.
on Roger Taylor's new book titled:
Aikido, More Than a Martial Art
by Roger Taylor
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