Monthly Archives: September 2014

10 Years in Budo

This month marks my first 10 years of training in Budo. A lot has changed in this time, both in terms of training and my life in general. I have moved house 8 times within three different counties, I have gotten married and had 2 kids. Throughout this time I have trained mostly in Aikido and Katori Shinto Ryu. I have taken off only 2 months over the last 10 years. My training has been more or less continuous. Although not always with an instructor.


2004 till 2006

I started Aikido in September 2004 in Galway in the Dojo of Diarmuid Lavelle . For the first 5 months I lived outside of Gort about a 40 drive from the City. At the time I had no car so getting to training often meant hitchhiking. Diarmuid is an excellent instructor who often had an illustrative way to explain things. I can remember him once describing Kokyu as a prayer or intention reaching into eternity. I wrote a article called Confused which is based on something he said often ‘ If your not confusion, your not paying attention’. This I found mostly reassuring. Diarmuid is also a hypnotist, I often had the feeling that he knew exactly what was going on in my head. There were two other instructor at this Dojo. Ronan Kane who now runs the Ballybane Dojo and Padraic Moran, now of Atlanic Aikido. I trained in Ronan’s class at least once a week whilst living in Galway. He was good humored and great with beginners. He had a talent for breaking techniques down into manageable and explainable parts. The instructor of Diarmuid and Ronan is Shihan John Roger, based in Dublin. I attended most of John courses for the first year of my training and done two grading with him. The second being most remembered. On the grading sheet he wrote ‘wrong ending to all techniques’, funny thing was, he underlined this three times. Apparently once or even twice wasn’t enough to make his point. Anyway I passed albeit barely.

Padraic I trained with usually for an hour twice a week at lunch time. He had a dynamic approach and through him I met with Simone, who I continue to train with. We would drive up to Sligo for a weekend or a days training, sometimes as much as twice a month.

By this time I was living just 2 miles outside of the City on the Connemara side in a mobile home. My son Sam was born there in November 2005. I worked part time and although I was fairly sleep deprived I continued to train a few times a week when possible. I went to Sligo to train with Sensei Simone usually once a month, sometimes more often. I found his approach to training to be most appealing, his teaching methodology is concise and due to his relaxed and pleasant nature he provided a good space for practice. No one was belittled for not understand a concept and where given the time and space to understand Aikido at their own pace and level. This is something I have and continue to try and give to my students. Simone also introduced me to Katori Shinto Ryu. A subject I put just as much emphasis on now as Aikido. Although I now mainly study Katori under Sensei Luigi in Switzerland I will always be grateful to Simone for introducing me to this Art.

Simone ran an open Dojo and frequently invited instructor to come teach, everyone was always welcome to attend. Over this time I trained under a couple dozen instructor and many to their teachings have stuck with me. Gaku Homma of the Nippon Kan in Colorada taught twice in Sligo. He was one of the last uchi deshi of Ueshiba. An excellent teacher with good humour. Myself and Padraic arrived about 5 minutes late for the class. He was not impressed, but signaled for us to sit on the mat. Although he didn’t mention it directly, he spoke about it a few times in metaphor. He said if you arrive late for a movie don’t expect to understand whats going on. Not that indirect I guess? Another was Mutusko Minegishi, She was quite exceptional. A small women in her later years, very powerful, well able to handle herself. We all went out for dinner to a Thai restaurant {I think}. She walked around the table with an empty plate, picking a little bit off each persons for herself. She seemed to think that this was a healthy way to eat. Maybe?

2007 till 2010

In 2007  I moved to County Clare and with Sensei Simone’s support opened the Lough Derg Aikido Club. I held training twice a week mainly with teenage boys in the GAA hall in Scariff. This was a very eye opening experience for me and led me to work with a local school and Youth Reach. Youth Reach is a project for teenagers who for various reasons are not attending school. I taught a class there to them and in exchange I used the space for my public classes. The young people I worked with taught me a lot, about myself and about Budo practice. My own limitations and failings lay in-front of me at this time. Clear as day, giving me plenty to work on within myself. This time of my time in terms of training showed me how I show think and be with people. I was clearly not as patient as I may have believed myself to be. That being said the experience of running this club was all things considered a positive one. I continued to travel to Sligo and elsewhere to train with Sensei Simone and others. Simone came down to teach every few months with the last course and the end of the Lough Derg Aikido Club taking place in Summer 2010. Although the club was going well, there was little work at the time and we had a second child, our daughter Faye. My wife Susie had the possibility of work in county Kilkenny, so we moved again. Of course I took my training with me. It was difficult to leave the Club in Clare. However by 2010 the teenage boys I had worked with where young men, most of them  had moved on to University and work elsewhere. I will especially remember Rueben, Charlie, Ryan, Esme{the only girl}, Daniel, Keiran and his father Mick who died of cancer two years ago. Also Brid, who consistently trained and brought with her a harmonizing presence to the Dojo and helped temper the moods of all present. During this time Sensei Simone moved back to Italy and for a while we had little contact.

2010 till now

We moved to Thomastown. A small town on the River Nore about 15 minutes from Kilkenny City and 30 to Waterford. We both got work in the Camphill Community Jerpoint where we still work and also where I train.  I was however unemployed for a year before starting nights at Jerpoint. I started an Aikido class in the city in October. It moved a few times. From a large martial arts club first to above a small cafe in the middle of town. Often there’d be just 3 present for training. But enough to keep going anyway. Training above the cafe was fun. Often we’d sit after class and just relax. the rent was so cheap I’d didn’t need to worry about getting more people in. At this time I went frqently to Dublin to train with Cyril a 4th Dan at the time, now 5th for weekend courses and was loosely connected to his club there. I also continued my training in Katori Shinto Ryu, travelling to England to train. which is where I met Sensei Luigi. After 2 years of travelling to train with Sensei Luigi, he started his own association the Koryu Budo Seifukai and I joined in 2012 enabling me to start a class of Katori Shinto Ryu.


In the meantime Simone was training in Italy and had started focusing on Takemusu Aikido. We reconnected and I invited him over. He has been over 3 times last year and twice this year. I now train Aikido 4 times a week and Katori twice, between 3 Dojo and home.

Last year I also was fortunate enough to meet Oisin Bourke and start attending his classes of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, Oisin lived in Sopporo, Japan for 8 years, moving back to his home town of Kilkenny last year with his wife Megumi and daughter Una. With him I am learning about Budo from a unique perspective. His knowledge of body mechanics is remarkable and the classes are a highlight of my week, offering me a break from teaching and the chance to attend Dojo training as a beginner again.

Its been a short 10 years and I very much feel that I’am at the start of a whole new journey in my life. I will be continuing to train for the foreseeable future, and I hope to make it over to Japan next year.

Through Martial Arts I have came into contact with a great many people, some of who I may otherwise have never met. This diversity is something I very much enjoy about Budo. That it attracts people from such diverse backgrounds. You never can tell what people will come out with. And yet in the Dojo everyone is learning together and any differences of opinion disappear, at least till the end of class. There is always more to learn and someone to learn it with.

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Filed under Life

Shodan Please?

Hey Mister, Could I get a Black Belt with that?


Seriously though, I have been asked this on numerous occasions ‘How long does it take to get a black belt’ my answer being about 15 minutes. The time to takes to get online {in Ireland} and order one to be posted to your house. And while your at it, I can write out a cert on the back of this wee receipt I just found in my arse pocket.

This is one of a few stupid questions I have been asked, usually over the phone.

Another one is

‘here I was wondering, what kind of taek-won-do do you teach?’

Head hits the desk and I try to laugh, just because its better than crying. For fucks Sake, I have websites and there is plenty of info available on Aikido and Kenjutsu for people to read up on. Why must they call me? I’am a busy guy.

I usually don’t bother talking to people on the phone. In general I prefer face to face or email/text. If someone insists on discussing martial arts over the phone they will more often than not, not show up. And so just a waste of time.

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Filed under What?

Keep it Fresh

An interesting point made by Sensei Simone during the Takemusu Aikido Ireland Summer School.

Simone often spoke about the importance of keeping our reactions alert and fresh. This requires a clear and relaxed state of mind. For a technique or principle to be studied in depth, both partners most remain relaxed and alert but not expecting a specific technique. This is most notable for Uke who after falling or being pinned several times, may tense up or adapt in one way or another. While this may be appropriate in some styles of practice for kata keiko it is not helpful. If uke tenses up in the middle of a technique, the attack is gone, and with it any flow within the technique. For good Aikido practice, the attack must be sincere. For Tori, adapting to the particular tension of a signal student and perhaps using force and insisting on the technique shows both a lack of respect and an ignorance of Aiki principles. Of course the height, build and physical condition of a student must be considered, but without resorting to brute strength or just changing things to suit our lack of experience. This clear mindedness is something that first attracted me to study Budo and it is just as relevant to my practice of Katori Shinto and Daito Ryu.

If one blocks in one place a opening will appear elsewhere, which may be interesting if engaging in free-style practice, during regular training it is bound to get messy. So for advanced students as well as be beginners Keeping it Fresh is always important.

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Sensei Simone Chierchini lives in Mentenero, Italy. He holds training sessions at his home and offers a uchi-deshi program for people to come stay, work and train.


Filed under Budo Concepts