Mark Sleeman (1st dan)
My philosophy has always been that no one really “wins” in a fight: hurting someone else merely invites retribution further down the track in some form. You could call that karma. However, being defenceless is no answer either: not wanting to fight does not mean you want to be a victim. I came to the martial art of Aikido in 2008 because I feel it strikes the best balance between these two, seemingly opposite, desires. I like the way Aikido strives to operate on a sound moral plane and I admire the people who strive at Aikido because they too, by definition, are aiming for the same goal.
I have trained solely at the Riai Aikido Learning Centre in Auckland under Senseis Henry Lynch (6th Dan) and Danny McIntyre (5th Dan). I attained my Shodan (first degree black belt) in December 2017. I have also had the pleasure of observing and learning from a number of others, principally: Shihan Robert Nadeau, Shihan Bill Gleason, Mike Ashwell Sensei and Darryl Murray Sensei.
My main teaching experience has been with the children’s class, which I have been involved with since 2012. Children present special challenges when teaching a relatively gentle art like Aikido. There is no hard punching or kicking to release the seemingly endless supply of energy. While in an adults’ class the teacher may instruct their pupils to quiet their minds, my experience tells me this is an unrealistic goal in children’s class! Rather, my intention is to keep them engaged while they start to perform the techniques subconsciously. My favourite quote is from a famous MIT professor, Harold “Doc” Edgerton, “The trick to education is to teach people in such a way that they don’t realise they are learning until it is too late.”