I have a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering and a Ph.D. in Psychology. My martial arts training and my interest in Aikido started about 1960. My initial arts were Judo and Karate. I studied Judo with Rick Mertens. He influenced the way I practice now in two major ways. He taught that the hand on the collar in Judo was a sport adaptation of a strike to the face in Jujitsu. He also taught that you should move in such perfect harmony with your partner that you felt like an empty Gi to your partner.
There was not a formal Karate instructor in town but one of the Judo students had just moved to town. He had spent several years studying Karate and I started practicing Karate and Judo with him. We read articles on Aikido and were eager to learn this interesting art. When Koichi Tohei came out with his book, Aikido The Arts of Self-Defense, I started practicing from that book. It was actually a pretty good manual. We practiced from the book and I practiced with some Japanese students who had taken Aikido in Tokyo.
Finally around the beginning of 1980 I was able to start formal classes. I was at the second class taught by Dale Matthews. He had studied with Mitsugi Satome, Shihan who founded Aikido Schools of Ueshiba (ASU). I was fortunate to get to practice with both Mitsugi Satome, Shihan and Hiroshi Ikeda, Shihan.
One year I went to ASU summer camp near Washington, DC. There was an old Sergeant there who seemed to me to really understand what he was doing. These days I would think he was a young stud. It is amazing how one's perspective changes with time. Anyway, I asked him how Aikido really worked. He told me it was the art of Checking. When I asked what Checking meant he said that you stand in a place that makes it difficult for your partner to step. I did not quite understand what he meant but I was too shy to ask him to take the time to teach me. I was also disappointed. One of the reasons I got into Aikido was to learn about the magic Ki power. I did not really expect him to teach me the secrets of Ki but I thought it would at least be a little exotic. Standing around in inconvenient places was a big let down. Now I know he was right on. We stand so that our partners cannot step. Then we step and squat forcing them to move. They have to fall. This is simple. Most students can be good at it in a few months of regular training. There is no reason to spend 20 years learning this.
I failed the first time I tested for my black belt. This was a major traumatic event for me. They said that I failed because I did not follow through and finish my techniques. You can see from the way I teach that I got the message. I am convinced that the secret that so many people miss in Aikido is the necessity to squat and finish the technique.
Several of us left Mathews, Sensei and started our own Dojo. For a while we had Dan Caslin, Sensei teach us. He had spent a year in Shingu, Japan studying full time under Hikitsuchi Michio, Shihan who was a 10th Dan. We put our mats on the cement floor of his two car garage. He was very formal and we could only wear Gi's. The garage was unheated and the temperature in Louisville frequently gets down around 10 to 15 degrees F. At that temperature those mats got really hard and just a little chilly. When one is cold like that everything is painful. We had a pretty dedicated group.
Caslin Sensei is a good instructor who influenced several things I do. One thing he did that is not mentioned elsewhere is that he liked to throw people into walls. He is a nice guy and did not injure anyone, but he practiced using every feature of the environment as a weapon. Some people complain that Aikido has a problem because it requires so much space. This was not a problem for Dan. He just incorporated the obstacles in the environment into his technique.
We had regular seminars with Ariff Mehter, Shihan. When he moved to Louisville in 1989 and started teaching I joined his club. Mehter, Shihan started studying Aikido in Burma. When he came to the United States he studied with Mitsunari Kanai, Shihan and Yoshmitsu Yamada, Shihan. At the same time Mehter, Shihan came to Louisville Patrick Hardesty, Sensei moved to Louisville and they both taught the club. Hardesty, Sensei studied with Akira Tohei, Shihan. Hardesty Sensei talked a lot about the lessons that Tohei, Shihan had taught. Even though I have practiced with Tohei, Shihan, when I refer to the teachings of Akira Tohei, Shihan I got this information form Hardesty, Sensei's classes. Mehter, Shihan's club was affiliated with Yamada, Shihan's United States Aikido Federation.
I started my own club in early 2005. This has given me the opportunity to develop my Aikido in a direction that best suits me. At present I have a 5th Dan and teaching rank of Fukushidoin in Aikido.
I have had the pleasure of teaching with Carl Brown, Shihan who has an 8th Dan in Judo, 1st Dan in Jujutsu and is a Grand Master in Imua Kuon Tao Kung Fu. As you might guess from his credentials, Brown, Shihan is an amazing martial artist. He is very tough, but he constantly stresses the importance of mutual welfare and benefit. Our primary task on the mat is to protect our partners. At a time when many martial artists want to win at all cost this is a breath of fresh air.
He and I had independently come to essentially the same understanding of good martial art. Maybe we just both got the Japanese concept. We both step in, strike and throw. He follows with a kick. He uses Karate and Judo and I use Aikido with Kuta basics. It has been a great honor to train with him. Because of our work together he awarded me a 1st Dan in Judo.
In 1993 Dok Lee published Hikuta The Art of Controlled Violence. Kuta is an amazing form of boxing that meshes very well with Aikido. Finally starting at the beginning of 2002 I was able to get formal training in Hikuta with Jack Savage. I have attained the teaching rank of Temple Guard. Hikuta practice is structured very much like Aikido in that there is no sparing. Hikuta and Aikido use multi-partner attack situations for freestyle practice. The basic movement in Kuta is very similar to Irimi in Aikido and the basic strike is very similar to a Jo strike. A major variation of the basic Kuta strike is like the upward strike we use with our techniques. They are a natural match and I use the Kuta to inform the Aikido. Kuta includes some mat work but it is not comprehensive. I have studied Judo for the mat work and combined it with Gene Simco's applied ground fighting to understand the basics of mat work.
I completed the novice Fencing course with the University of Louisville Fencing Club and practiced with them for a couple of years. In some ways Western Fencing is almost identical to Japanese sword play and in some ways it is quite different.