Ismail’s arrival in the U.K. does, I feel, herald a fresh start for those followers of Chiba Sensei who really want to follow him. This is a great opportunity for people like myself to improve and polish our study of Aikido.
February of 1993 saw the loss of one of Scotland’s great Budo men, with the untimely death of my old friend George Girvan. I had known George for some 20 years and had always admired the sincerity and tenacity of his Aikido. If, as l have previously said, Dee Chen captured much of the essence of Chiba Sensei’s movement, George had taken on board totally the man’s spirit and commitment to Aikido.
I have often heard the term ‘uncompromising’ used to describe George. Well, maybe that was true, in as much as it applied to the high standards of training that he set for himself. In his attitude to others he was, in fact, anything but uncompromising. He was the most amiable and helpful of men. Although described as something of a ‘rough diamond’, he was, nonetheless, a diamond. In his own way a gentleman of great humour, courtesy and consideration. Truly the Scottish Samurai. The directness and control of his manner was reflected in his now legendary Aikido technique. Many times in training have I had my ‘bottle’ well and truly ‘shaken’ by the overwhelming spirit of George’s practice, only to be thrown with a reassuring control that was indicative of the man’s high standard of ability. His koshi rage or hip throws were, I might add, an altogether different proposition. I still have some cherished injuries to remember him by!
George had a commitment to Chiba Sensei that was total. His death leaves a void in British Aikido that can never be filled.
“Oh flower of Scotland, when shall we see your like again.”
Moving on to another old friend of mine, and certainly a close friend of George, Tony Cassells of the Ei Ho Juku Dojo, Birmingham. tony, or TC to his friends, is one of the U.K.A.’s most travelled Dan grades together with his wife, Stella, of course. TC has more than just a commitment to Aikido, he has made Aikido an integral part of his existence. His contribution to the spread of Chiba Sensei’s Aikido is second to none, and his potential for teaching it in the future is enormous. His classes never fail to inspire me. They are vibrant, friendly and conducted in a most positive manner. Tony’s instruction not only stretches one physically and technically, it pushes the spirit and the intellect toward new horizons.
Tony’s demonstrations are always explosive, creative and spontaneous. His excellent ukes (assitants) are taken into his technique without any preconceived ideas or rehearsals. In taking falls for him they are not only helping their sensei to project a powerful image of Aikido, they are being shown very directly the value of those many abstract facets that make up the art of ukemi. zanshin (awareness); musubi (contact) and ki no nagare (the blending of flow and power). They are inculcated with the art of self-preservation, and boy, do they need it! Tony has a positive and dynamic application that has to be seen. For someone of middle rank (4th Dan at this time), he really is exceptional. .
Being very much in touch with the developments of both Chiba Sensei and Shibata Sensei, Tony has helped me greatly with my development of weapons and ukemi. In coaching me in the latter, he has shifted me across the tatami with ease and (I am pleased to say) much control. Thanks to him l am, after a quarter of a century of Aikido, seeing much more in the execution of technique and ukemi. TC has given me a direction that I have not known since Chiba Sensei left these shores in 1976. His style could not reasonably be described as the most gentle in the world. lt is a style of Aikido that is notable for its speed and power. His spherical movements can be seen to be directly related to his weapons training, and the potential for atemi is a constant factor within that flow.
As the reader will, no doubt, be aware, by now the Aikido propagated by Chiba and Shibata has a strong sword and stick basis. Tony’s prowess with Ken and Jo is renowned throughout the U.K.A. and beyond, and until the arrival of Ismail, there was no-one in the organisation who could really com- pliment his practice. So I feel that, between TC and Ismail, weapons development is about to accelerate in British Aikido, for those who want it, of course.
Seeing Tony Cassells in full flight with his senior students is an awesome sight indeed. When practicing the two-man Jo Kata ‘San Sho’ (three victories), they hold no preconceptions. Both men strive to allow their training, their subconscious, to take over, so that their commitment to the Kata is total, and their execution of it more natural. Further, their ability to react to a variation in the Kata becomes, eventually, a natural blend of body, mind and weapon. Of course, the pursuit of this combination of mind and spirit can only be achieved through hard work, a little blood, much sweat and even the occasional tear!
Tony is a personal friend and committed student of Ichiro Shibata Sensei, and makes great efforts to take his tuition whenever he visits Europe. Shibata’s influence is easily seen in TC’s Aikido and is shown through his strong irimi (entering movement), his extended triangular stance, and the very martial potential of his actual technique. Tony has set himself the task of following two of modern Aikido’s most innovatory and charismatic teachers. Those of us who count him as sensei (teacher) or sempai (senior) are reaping the benefit of his hard work and commitment.
l hope that my outline of the aforementioned teachers will show the reader that, even within the parameters of Chiba Sensei’s Aikido, there is much scope for personal interpretation and individual application.
Arthur Lockyear’s instant conversion from Karate to Aikido occurred the day he saw master Chiba in action. That was in September 1969, and he has been a “Chiba man” ever since.
Arthur holds the rank of 3rd Dan and is the senior instructor of the Durham City Aikido Dojo.
Lockyear, Arthur C. “AIKIDO SENSEI AND SEMPAI…” Part two: The Disciples of Kazuo Chiba, edited by Terry O’Neill, Fighting Art’s International, 1995, Pages 27-32, Edition 90