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Cheryl Matrasko
James Loeser
Matthew O'Connor


Cheryl Matrasko
James Loeser
Matthew O'Connor



Part 3

by Frank Burlingham

  Frank Burlingham.GIF (33006 bytes)

Frank Burlingham, 4th Dan
Broadland Aikido Club, Lowestoft in UK
Copyright 1999, Frank Burlingam, All rights reserved

F.B. What’s the happiest thing that’s happened to you? What makes you happy?

S.F. I think it’s to feel satisfied over a lesson. I often think, "I’m not giving enough to these people." I’d like to give them everything. Sometimes you feel disappointed in yourself, tat you haven’t given enough. I feel I could give them a bit more than that. When you see the many people that go through your hands over the years, and I mean this, I’ve had some wonderful people come up to dan grade and simply go. I can never figure that out, because I take things too personal. It’s a personality to me, not just some one doing Aikido. They become a little closer, especially in the old Hut, and even in places like this. I know everybody here, if I don’t I make it my business to find out.

F.B. What would you consider to be the principle techniques of Aikido?

S.F. Usually the 1st one taught in the dojo is Shihonage or Ikkyo, from what we call 1st (katadori ai hanmi) and 2nd form (katadori gyaku hanmi). What little understanding I have of the depth as because I do not have the Japanese culture as such. They say that these are the pillars of Aikido. Ikkyo, once you have an understanding of Ikkyo the other techniques fall into place.

F.B. What do you think are the principles, the main principles of Aikido? Would you say it’s the discipline, the harmony, to get on with other people, what?

S.F. That’s a difficult one, Frank

F.B. Aikido means the way of a harmonious spirit. The word Aikido meant something special.

S.F. I didn’t know what it meant then; I didn’t know it broke into 3 parts.

F.B. Would you say the principles are within the main then?

S.F. Yes, they’re there, but mind you, they are very often far apart and not adhered to by lots of people. I think it gives a great satisfaction like in the teaching profession. It must be wonderful for anybody to bring somebody along and see their success, that’s great. The greatest thing of all I think they’ve gone off, gone on, been to Japan. One particular lad he came back, his attitude to Aikido had changed. I don’t know why he never continued, his neck had been damaged maybe it was that. I was very disappointed.

F.B. What advice would you give someone starting a club?

S.F. Well I guess you would make sure you had mats for a start (laughing). Then the next thing was to get some pupils.

F.B. Any pitfalls

S.F. If you want a successful dojo I think you’ve got to have etiquette. The rest comes after, lets have etiquette. Lets show them how to behave, like you did this afternoon. Just show them how to conduct themselves.

F.B. It’s the foundation really isn’t it, of Aikido

S.F. Also of the dojo you started.

F.B. How would you like to be remember?

S.F. As a portly gentleman(laughing), who wasn’t too bad at Aikido

F.B. I remember getting into trouble one day when we discussed whether it was portly or not. Who do you feel, you may not like to answer this, who do you feel is the finest exponent of Aikido today?

S.F. I don’t know enough I don’t know

F.B. O>K> who do you think has been the finest over all the years, with us now or in the great dojo in the sky. Obviously ‘O’ sensei was pretty good, who do you think?

S.F. I suppose you speak of someone who influenced the most. I would say Noro sensei and Nakazono sensei

They were the influence. I’ve seen lots of others, I mean when we brought Saito sensei over in 1985 I think it was. I said to him through an interpreter when we were dining, sitting in the kitchen in his flat at the university. I said I thought that he stood out as the man who had given so many things that maybe a lot of people thought were missing in their practice. They had heard of the Jo, I remember practicing under Nakazono sensei with the Jo. He never did go into them with any depth but I remember the techniques he taught me as were doing them now. I think it was the influence of Saito sensei, I don’t follow him, but I respect what he did. Everything I see that he does, I’ll use it and change it around a bit. I’ll use it because I think what he did, for me he provided the missing link and that was the training with the Jo and Bokken.

F.B. How would you like, how do you see the institute in twenty years time?

S.F. Well that’s a difficult one because I’d like to see a few more members. Someone is going to come along and take over, I hope they do, I hope it doesn’t fold up. Lets be fair about it, the foundation of the institute goes back further than any other organization in this country.

F.B. It was the birthplace of Aikido in this country

S.F. Yes although people would deny that. I remember we were visiting people, we were dan grades then. The group was very close, a very close group of people. I remember a course we went to in Sunderland Mr Williams took one tatami and I took the other. We had enough students to have a beginners class in one dojo and he had the senior grades in the other one always there was some others of our own.They’d find their way there, we were a very close group.

F.B. So in twenty years time how doe you see

S.F. Well I’d like to see the institute go on. I’ve shown the way I feel about Aiki, I’ve shown the way I feel it can be done. The need to look, I was a bit concerned that every thing we did was a free running system. It was too free, too disfunctionable when it came to it.

F.B. Too unstructured

S.F. Maybe, yea, because it became maybe a dance, I don’t think that because I saw these men, when they moved, the power in their movement would take you off your feet, just with the movement. A martial art, I believe it should have a solid bases from the solid state and go on from there. Lets progress through the system, don’t lets miss something and jump up into a system that we consider ‘X’ amount up.

F.B. You mentioned Saito sensei and the weapons system that brought it all together. How do you see the relationship of weapons in Aikido?

S.F. If you study them correctly you will see the relationship. Our posture is triangular we hold the weapons triangular when we make technique. It isn’t hard to understand that our posture in each one of them is the same. We don’t alter it.

F.B. The circle, triangle, square

S.F. Yes exactly. I didn’t finish really about the institute

F.B. No sorry please

S.F. I would really like some of the younger people, like yourself who come along and will continue. You go to other places to study, you bring that back to us which is a help any rate.

F.B. I sometimes feel I overstep the mark

S.F. No, no, it’s good to have that there, you see Frank you bring something back. In time other people, you realize now that people, Ronny, Henry when they were with me, they used to go everywhere, all over. They’d come back tell me what was going on show me and then off they’d go again. You see there was a little more knowledge.

F.B. I teach for a living, I’ve been on lots of courses through my trade, teaching career and Aikido. Sometimes one person will move a certain way and everything falls into place. I think people get confused, that if they go to another course, there looking at another style of Aikido. Sometime they go there just to see someone put it differently. How doe you feel about that?

S.F. Yes they come back, it may have been a better way. You see I must admit the last Japanese teacher I studied under was Saito sensei in 1985. They obviously give you something, if your mind is open enough and you have enough experience no doubt about it you’ve got to have experience, you can then continue on with what they’ve shown you. These books that Saito sensei put out, people say ‘O’ they learnt it from a book. They didn’t learn it from a book, they’re good exponents, what they did was use the book as a reference and through the reference they improved their technique. Because a person can get one of those books written by the master look at it and get everything wrong, but what satisfaction when you get it right. You see them doing it and you say, "I was right," that’s the satisfaction.

F.B. As you said I go out to other organizations and you get me to show some things sometimes. There’s a very fine line of controlling the dilution of what the institute direction and fundamentals of Aikido is, as to other organizations who do it slightly different. That doesn’t seem to worry you, do you feel that’s the way Aikido will develop and grow

S.F. Yes I think so, you see somebody do something and you think "that’s a bit tidy". If it just ended up there it wouldn’t be so good, but if you could say that’s the beginning of something the sequence roles on then. Aikido is prolific there’s no limit to it so you only need to see one thing, if you have the good basics the rest will fall in place. Simon (Thackeray) brought a point up this morning about my foot, "I said what about my foot, he said well you do it. I said It’s natural, I do it naturally. I can’t explain it. I do it natural, I’ve got to be there". Coming back to the organization, I would like to see it carry on, but where will it all end, we have how many organizations in the B.A.B?

F.B. I think it’s about 26-27

S.F. We have Bill (sensei Smith) has always kept his Japanese connections. The man deserves everything he’s got. He’s worked damn hard and I admire him immensely for it. There were no short cuts for Bill. He went straight down the middle, good luck to the man. He has a sound organization, good administrators and still has good connections with Japan.

F.B. What’s the funniest thing that you’ve seen happen on the mat?

S.F. Well we didn’t use to wear anything under our hakama, only underpants no trousers. Mr Noro was holding a course in Brussels, he knew we did this, he’d never told us of about it. He was strick with use. He was always pleased to see us where ever he was if we rolled up. When Mr Nakazono re-assessed us we were presented with our certificates at the Albert Hall. This year was when Ralph Reynolds got his 1st degree. Like myself he has one of the oldest Hombu certificates in this country. Where was I?

F.B. The funniest thing

S.F. We go to this Dojo, 4 of us Hamish McFarlane, and Andy Allen became part of the original group.

F.B. They started at the hut?

S.F. ‘O’ yes a very important part of the original group. Noro sensei knowing we didn’t wear anything under our hakama said "everybody remove hakama and fold it up" well you can imagine. The funniest part was the Hamish McFarlane had a pair of pyjama’s on(laughing) ‘O’ that was funny that was. Another time Noro sensei said to Hamish attack this man, well he did and he crucified him. Noro sensei said to the man I told you get out the way because these people punch for real.

F.B. When I started at the hut there were lots of stories about yourself, and I believe Ronny and Henry Card bless his soul

S.F. Yea lovely man

F.B. In the early days you used to go out and test it. Go into pubs, any truth in this

S.F. Yes there is really. What we used to do at summer school, we’d break into two side, we used to run to the pub in our zori. Mr Nakazono wouldn’t let us go until the pub was nearly closed. We used to run like hell. One side would leave first and lay in waiting somewhere on the way back, when the other side arrived there would be a free for all. One particular man who became a wrestler was absolutely terrified. I wouldn’t have believed it, the man was in a state of fear that this would happen. I said just whack them and run. Then then we got back to the hut all the Judo blokes backed off, we were becoming something to handle, they didn’t want to know about Aikido. This particular occasion we were in the hut this would be 12 o’clock at night, someone would say "right contest time". Outside there was a big field associated with the hut, you’d name two people and they’d go out and knock hell out of one another.

F.B. Didn’t you used to get hurt

S.F. I hurt my leg one time, pretty badly. I think I went over a tree. They said you let him beat you purposely. I said I didn’t, I didn’t go over that tree purposely. I said he put me over there. Anyway Mr Abbe heard about this, he took it all in his stride and we cooled down a little bit.

F.B. This would be yourself

S.F. Yes with Harry Ellis and Mr Williams.

F.B. I believe Ronny Russell and Henry used to do this

S.F. I believe so

F.B. Is there anything you would particularly like to say. Through this interview I’ve tried to do for the institute membership, to get a picture of the man, the governor.

S.F. I feel that the people who are still with us now. You’ve been with the institute quite a long time

F.B. Yea I walked in the hut about 1875-76 I think it was

S.F. You’ve got various people who have been in it for years Simon (Thackeray), Lawson (Moore), this must be Lawson’s 30 summer school. It’s got to be, he came as a beginner in Barry.

F.B. Is there anything particular you’d like to say to the membership?

S.F. I’d really like to thank the ones that stayed loyal. It’s very unfortunate that some one like Les White left us. The gradings this afternoon I’m very happy with that, quite happy with that, everybody new what they were doing. Nobody standing with a finger in their mouth. See what I mean Frank

F.B. Yes, yes

S.F. It’s sad that the numbers have dwindled maybe for a reason, maybe we’ll get stronger

F.B. I think we will. One final question. How do you feel the current group within the hut and the institute, compares with the spirit and camaraderie of years past at the beginning.

S.F. It’s good, The people of today associated with the institute know a lot more than I did. Like the people in the future going for 1st dan. They will have to do a lot more than I did when I went for mine. There’s no doubt about it. The spectrum has become vast even from our little organization, there’s so much

F.B. Well that’s lovely, Thank you so much, it’s brilliant

S.F. Thank you (laughing)

There ended nearly one and a half hours of the most enjoyable experiences and greatest honor of my Aikido Career. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I.

Interview by Frank Burlingham

Many thanks to Frank Burlingham, 4th Dan and Chris Metcalfe, for taking the time to share with us their most historic and treasured interview with Hayden Foster, 6th Dan. We here at AWJ feel so very proud to have been able to place this interview in our pages! Thank you so much.



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Michio Hikitsuchi 10th Dan 1978
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1978 C. Matrasko

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