Sometime in 1979, Papakura Auckland:

“That’s the martial art I think would be good to start” said my Ju Jitsu teacher after class one evening. Dave Butler sensei invited the class to view a video – which I discovered much later was called “Budo, The Art of Killing” – a commercial video production with a whole range of martial arts film segments, including one about Aikido. I kept in mind what Butler sensei had said, even after classes with him finished (and which ended up being for just a few months), as he and his family re-located to Christchurch. It was to be some years before the name Aikido came up again. In the mean time, I was busy establishing my psychiatric nursing career at Kingseat Hospital near Papakura. Starting martial arts was in part prompted by an interest in knowing more about self–defence. Occasionally I tried to find a copy of that video, but got nowhere.

Sometime in 1987, Hamilton – The Waikato Times:

There it was in the advertising section of the paper – a small one column notice about Aikido classes and a number to call. Those hazy memories of that short film clip came back. I decided to make a phone call and ended up discussing details with Clyde Sutton sensei who became my first Aikido teacher. And so my journey along the path of Aikido started. Those connections with people and the process of discovery on the mat have sustained me in training over the years since ; even when (and perhaps even more so) during two short periods when I have not trained – once in London in 1990 when nursing shift work, and a bitterly cold winter meant no classes. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Aikido and had, by the time of my arrival in London, been graded to 3rd Kyu. Later at Auckland university I didn`t train while in full-time study during one year. But my personal connections to Aikido people through training brings joy and continuity. I believe that it is not only practice on the mat which has the power to transform (or at least offers a glimpse of the depth and opportunities in aiki), but the expression of that change process as new understanding emerges in the everyday world off the mat – that makes the path of aiki important to me; and that Aikido, in the words of O-Sensei, is to:
Set in motion the power of the cosmos
By wielding aiki; create a beautiful world
And foster peacefulness
What good is it that we train hard and strive to achieve the harmony of energy on the mat, if it is lost once we step out of the dojo? Understanding O-Sensei`s message through practice is Aikido`s essence. I have travelled along that path for a while now, sometimes unsure of what direction to take, and at other times amazed at the wonder of it all. Blending with Danny, and Barry from Rotorua, in a timeless nage-becomes-uke-becomes-nage practice under Richard Moon sensei – or being drawn into a vortex as uke by Suzuki Sensei….Enjoying the laughter of children`s classes.

One day at David Lynch’s dojo near One Tree Hill 1990:

Some of us from Hamilton Riai traveled to Auckland to take part in a training seminar at David’s dojo where we met a visiting teacher of Aikido and the Alexander Technique. One person there that day was Dianne Haynes sensei – my first meeting with her. It wasn`t too long before I was back in NZ from London and a new job at Rotorua Hospital. I had remembered Dianne and called her at the Operating theatre where she was a Charge Nurse. I was welcomed into the Rotorua Kyu Shin Do dojo – making more aiki connections and learning from a wonderful teacher; and having the honour of being graded Sho Dan by Dianne Sensei. 3 years later a new work opportunity came along at Auckland Hospital and back I came to Auckland and training with Mike Ashwell sensei and all the folks at the Ponsonby Community Hall. And in 1997, Ni dan
Much more recently, Henry sensei, Mike and Danny have all been to the Mitcham dojo, as well as Conrad Edwards from Wellington on two occasions. Their visits have offered new insights to my students who I can see have seen the possibilities of aiki for themselves, now that we have been going for 2 1/2 years.

Mitcham Dojo November 2010

My old school friend Maurice Perry was the first to sign up as a new student. He and I have remained friends over all the years since we met as 15 year olds at our church youth club and being at the same high school here in Melbourne. Now there are 8 regular students making progress and training hard. I see the challenges and doubts, and the “wow” moments when some new understanding happens. We have blue tumble mats and I have taken to asking them to consider that the training surface is like infinity of possibilities where opening up to new experiences is an essential part of the path. As Nadeau sensei says – learn to work to the next dimension!


And I did finally come across a copy of that video – discovering yet another connection – the Aikido segment was of Shioda sensei – and David Lynch was taking ukemi! I always smile about that when I think about it, having come to know and respect David so much over the years. And those people who have passed on – Ron Russell, and Adam Cooper – that 11 year old who started in the children`s class in Rotorua – and who amazed us all so much.
The meaning of aiki springs from the commitment each of us brings to training – and in the practice with our partners on the mat. My direct teachers over the years have each in their turn given me so much. Clyde Sutton, Mike Ashwell, and Dianne Haynes. I am very grateful to the many people whom I have met along the way in my journey on the path of aiki. I have become a better person for it.

Riai Aikido

There is something to be said about the name Riai Aikido. We are a strong, growing and a quality group of people led well by Henry sensei. I talk about aikido a lot, think a lot about it, consider what it means to be an aikido student- and roll around on the mat learning new stuff sometimes, consolidating at other times – finding it hard not to think about aching muscles. Trying to work out what Bob Nadeau just said then……

Domo Arigato Gozaimasu

Steve West
Mitcham Riai Dojo

Roban for Sandan March 2013