Discovering Aikido: Principles for Practical Learning 



Where am I? ............ [ Pic1 ; Pic2 ; Pic 3 ; Pic 4 ; Pic 5 ; Pic 6 ; Pic 7 ; Pic 8 ]

Well, for starters, I am not in my book - it is not meant to be about me. I am sure there are others out there that have the same ideas, thus I cannot claim them as my own. What are represented here are a particular set of ideas my own unique journey has brought together. As for myself, I am content in that my search has led to continued progress. That is all I can claim, except I like to think that had I had this book way back when, my progress might have been a little faster.

I have practised Aikido and related arts for forty plus years (as of 2021). Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, there is no single definitive lineage. Unfortunate, in the sense that I wish I could have found the perfect master and had an easier time of it. Fortunate, in the sense that variety adds spice to life and forces the mind to discern order from an otherwise classical mess. For a long time, alongside Aikido, I practiced Judo, Jujutsu, and Wing Chun. In my first decade of training I gained black belts in various arts. The second decade was spent consolidating what I had learned and I also got hooked on the search for the elusive aiki. It is fair to say that my Aikido has a 'jutsu-bent' but for the main part, I call what I do Aikido. I still practice Wing Chun by myself.

My martial journey started in the U.K. where all I earned was spent training almost everyday for over ten years in various arts. This was a time spent chasing-the-grade and culminated in several extended trips to Japan totalling three years and by 1991, I held black belts in six arts. Since then, due to getting a life - study / work / family - the grade-oriented focus vanished. Instead, the journey became more of a search to make better sense of what had been learned. To be honest, I was never completely sure that I was learning anything useful. The only measure is comparison with others - in some respects I fared well, in others, not so well.

Arriving in the Republic of Korea (the South) in 1994, I found no Japanese arts at all and a Korean psyche dead-set against such. This forced a major rethink and the result was a new discipline of regimented self-training that continues to the present. After a spate of teaching ex-pats here and there, in 1996 I discovered what is now called the Korean Aikido Federation - they had a few dojos but their previous experience was Hapkido and Muai Thai. I was invited to be an instructor and was with them for ten years. It was a fantastic experience and it helped set me on my search-for-aiki journey.  I  returned to Japan for a year in 2012 and Korea for two years in 2014. I discovered that the Korean Aikido Federation members have improved tremendously. Especially of note, they study Katori Shinto Ryu and some members have gained teaching certs.

In 2000 Korea officially opened itself up to Japanese culture and one result was a slight increase of interest in Japanese martial arts. One thing that attracted Korean attention at that time was the notion of aiki - something that one always has in the back of the mind but never really does much about. Not easy to explain, but, since all good Aikido is aiki, so I believe, I made concerted attempts to make sure my Korean students and myself had lots of useful aiki-related exercises to practice - thus I began my search.  Useful, that is, in the sense that the exercises have something that transfers over to technique. I do not mean the so called ki-tricks; I want more than that.

In 2006 I moved to New Zealand where I have trained in various Aikido dojos. I also coached high school wrestling, which was a great environment to test my ideas. Boys learn very, very fast, and they remember only that which works.

I sincerely hope my little book will provide the keen reader with several ideas to discern where they stand and where they are headed, therein provoking a little curiosity and self-direction.

RMJ Atkinson
BA Japanese & Korean Studies, University of Sheffield, UK
MA Applied Linguistics, University of Southern Queensland, Australia
MA International Relations (ABD), Seoul National University, ROK
Diploma in Teaching, University of Auckland, New Zealand


Main teachers: Barry Vigras (Judo, Tomiki Aikido, Hakko-ryu Shihan, UK), Steven Johnson (Kyushin Judo, Kyushin Aikido, UK), Paul Jenkinson (British Jujutsu Association), Terry Ezra (Komyokan, UK), Robert Brodie (Institute of Aikido, Edinburgh), Robert Ross (Jujutsu, Dundee), George Dosoo (Taekwondo, Edinburgh), Mike Harper (Wing Chun, UK), Richard Tutin (Iaido, UK), Onda Tetsuya (Judo), Abe Shin (Judo, Japan), Nakamura Hisashi (Takeda Ryu, Japan), Ando Tsuneo (Yoshinkan Aikido, Urayasu, Japan), Omura Hiroaki (Kawasaki, Japan), Nakano Shuuichi (Kawasaki, Japan), Soijima (Shiseikan, Chuo University, Japan), Yun Ick-ahm (Korean Aikido Federation, Seoul).

Short term seminars: Ueshiba Kisshomaru, Ueshiba Moriteru, Ueshiba Mitsuteru, Saito Morihiro,  Chiba Kazuo, Kanetsuka Minoru (BAF, UK), Tamura Noboyoshi, Fujita Masatake, Shirata Rinjoiro, Shioda Gozo (Yoshinkan), Tanaka Shigeho (Shiseikan, Meiji Jingu, Japan), Inaba Minoru (Shiseikan, Meiji Jingu, Japan), Haydn Foster, Inoue Tsuyoshi Munetoshi (18th Soke, Hontai Yoshin Ryu - his son strangled me), Christian Tissier, Ken Cottier, Dan Innosanto (Escrima), Kirby Watson, Roy Hobbs (Hakko Ryu), Kobayashi Yasuo, Kobayashi Hiroaki, Nariyama Tetsuro (Shodokan), Igarashi Kazuo, Kim Yun-sang (Hapkido), Song Il-hoon (DaitoRyu Aikibudo, Korea), Mr So (Bagua, Tokyo), Akuzawa Minoru (Aunkai, Tokyo), Toby Threadgill (Takamura ha Shindo yoshin Ryu), Robert Nadeu (USA), Maruyama Koretoshi (Yuishinkai). The various teachers of the International Aikido Federation courses held in Tokyo. I could go on, and on, and many names are just forgotten ...

In New Zealand (2006 - 2012) I trained with Takase Nobuo (Shinryukan), Nishimura Junichi (Buikukai), Tony Shaufelberger (Aikiway), and Dunken Francis (Institute of Aikido).

From Sept 2012 to Jan 2013 - I trained in Japan at my old dojo in Kawasaki with Aoki Kiyoshi (he met and trained with Ueshiba as a very young man) and Nakano Shuuichi ... it was a long train ride! Also trained with a friend - more local - but informal gets you further faster.

From April to August 2014 - I trained at Kobayashi Honbu Dojo in Kodaira, Japan.

August 2014 - 2016: Back in South Korea. Employed at Yongin University which is well known in Korea for teaching various martial arts - Judo, Taekwondo, Hapkido and various others. I taught self-defence at a local Karate dojo and taught Aikido in Bundang and Suwon. Also trained with Aunkai ideas on a weekly basis.

2016 - present: Back in New Zealand. A lot of self-training and travelling this time. Living in Whangarei since the beginning of 2017 and I joined the Iwama style Aikido club here taught by Greg Francis.

My Aikido Grades

  • Aikikai: Nidan (Japan, 1990)  - this has been my main style through the years - but haven't graded in years. I just enjoy ...
  • Takeda-ryu Sobudo Aikido: Shodan (Japan, 1990)
  • Yoshinkan: Rokkyu (Japan, 1990)
  • Tomiki Aikido: Shodan (UK, BAA, 1987)
  • Kyushindo: Aikido Ikkyu (UK, 1987)
  • Institute of Aikido: Nikyu (UK, 1986)

    My Other Grades

  • Kodokan Judo: Shodan (Japan, 1990) - my first class was in 1974, UK. Quit in 98 after getting injured in Korea.
  • Goshin-jutsu: Yondan (UK, Honorary, 2003)
  • Enshin-jutsu: Nidan (UK, Honorary, 2000)
  • Kyushindo Atemi-jutsu: Shodan (UK, 1991)
  • Jujutsu: Shodan (UK, BJJA, 1987)
  • Hapkido Il-dan (ROK, 1994) - Tongdaemun club: the teacher assessed me on my first day!
  • Hapkido Sa-dan. (ROK, 2021)
  • Archery Instructor's Certificate (UK, 1987)
  • Kyushindo: Judo Ikkyu (UK, 1987)
  • Wing Chun: No grade, but have trained since 1985 .... rather a lot. Still training.

    That was the old me. These days I have little interest in grades  ...

    Other Experience

  • Aunkai: I have developed an interest. Visited the main dojo in Japan in 2010. 2 years in Korea 2014 -16.
  • Wrestling (5 years as a high school coach in NZ)
  • Taekwondo (1 year under George Dosoo, Edinburgh)
  • Jujtusu (1 year under Robert Ross, Dundee)
  • Thai Boxing (6 months, Roy Mann, Sheffield)
  • Hapkido (1 year, Seoul)
  • Taichi (on and off over the years)
  • Iaido (2 years, Richard Tutin, Sheffield)
  • Shiatsu & Massage (2 years, Sheffield)
  • Indian Club Swinging (3 years, Colin Hughes, Sheffield)
  • Attended the yearly world martial arts demos in Chungju, Korea - about ten years worth
  • Attended many demos/competitions in Japan: Kobudo, Sumo, Aikido, Judo, TakedaRyu ... etc.
  • So many seminars of various styles ... and endless experience training with friends and by myself (the most valuable, I might add)

    Contact: Discovering Aikido on Facebook