I think it must have been 1992 and in the middle of a summer camp in Shropshire England. The venue was an agricultural college set in the Midlands. The guest teacher was Waka Sensei, now the current Doshu, enjoying some British hospitality. I had just finished the USA western region camp and had flown to the UK to participate in the UKA camp straight after. I carried a letter to Waka Sensei, these were references from Chiba Sensei to accept me as Uchi Deshi in Hombu dojo for the following year. So a busy trip ensued with more training and even more socialising in the evenings. The British camps did “social” in a big way and sometimes I wondered if these were aikido seminars with social elements in it or a social event with aikido elements. For me and Yahe who joined me on this occasion, it was work. Having spent 21/2 years in Hombu dojo as an Uchi Deshi he knew Waka Sensei and was able to assist and take care of his needs.
In the course of one night I was lost in the myriad of identical looking corridors, wandering around trying to find my room. Tired and looking forward to some sleep and needless to say getting frustrated, I kept walking around when I came across George Girvan. George was a lean and wiry Glaswegian who in general scared the shit out of most people he came across. We took to each other in previous events and I always liked him from the start. It was always funny that he was sure that I was sent by Chiba Sensei to target and then work on him. It was nothing of the sort, we just tended to gravitate to each other. He asked what I was up to. “I’m lost and have no idea where my room is,” I said. ” Oh, ok come this way, I’ll sort you out.” So I follow him for a few minutes until he stops and knocks on one of the identical generic doors. As it opened I came face to face with a slim, pale and yawning man. ” Give him your bed!” George barked at him. ” I said no, no, there is no need for that, don’t mess the guys sleep.” I tried to protest. ” Too late that’s your bed.” George countered. The poor man insisted, “Take it, I’m not bothered I’ll sleep on the sofa.” “See sorted,” said George, and with a quick goodnight disappeared off.
That was how I met Stevie Boyle. He eventually took over the running of George’s dojo in Cumbernauld, when he sadly passed away quite suddenly a couple of years later. In the following years and against all odds we came across each other on several occasions, that in time cemented our relationship in Aikido and as friends. Stevie and I worked together in the following summer camps and again on the anniversary of his late teacher’s death. I was invited to teach, together with Chiba Sensei, in a memorial seminar arranged on his behalf. Stevie also made an effort to come to London and stay and train with me. The rest, as they say, is history.
I always found Stevie solid in his demeanour, together with an understated intelligence. Warm and charming in nature. This was usually overlooked by his straight and sharp wit. He came from the call a spade a spade school of thinking. He also never suffered fools, although quite happy to play one. I never knew if this was an act or a part of survival but as a rule, he would challenge fake, fraud, dishonesty and hypocrisy with a straightness and contempt that it deserves. For my part, I have never been on the receiving end of this confrontational side of him. I instead saw a hard working, genuine and incredibly generous man. Although he seems to like making winding me up a favourite pass time of his (whether I gave as good as I got is another matter). His Aikido while martial is well informed and educated. His standard high and his conduct professional, but expect a potential head butt or two in class. He is someone I am happy to engage with and in turn help in whatever way I can. The world needs a few more Stevie Boyles, I always thought, but not too many. I am not sure the world can take it.