Frank Burlingham, 4th Dan
Broadland Aikido Club, Lowestoft in UK
Copyright 1999, Frank Burlingam, All rights reserved
F.B. Whats the happiest thing thats happened to you? What makes you
S.F. I think its to feel satisfied over a lesson. I
often think, "Im not giving enough to these people." Id like to give
them everything. Sometimes you feel disappointed in yourself, tat you havent 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, Ive had some wonderful people
come up to dan grade and simply go. I can never figure that out, because I take things too
personal. Its 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 dont I make it my business to find out.
F.B. What would you consider to be the principle techniques
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 its the discipline, the harmony, to get on with
other people, what?
S.F. Thats a difficult one, Frank
F.B. Aikido means the way of a harmonious spirit. The word
Aikido meant something special.
S.F. I didnt know what it meant then; I didnt
know it broke into 3 parts.
F.B. Would you say the principles are within the main then?
S.F. Yes, theyre 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, thats great. The greatest thing of all I think
theyve gone off, gone on, been to Japan. One particular lad he came back, his
attitude to Aikido had changed. I dont 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 youve 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. Its the foundation really isnt 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 wasnt too bad
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 dont know enough I dont 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. Ive 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 dont follow him, but I respect what he did. Everything
I see that he does, Ill use it and change it around a bit. Ill 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 thats a difficult one because Id like
to see a few more members. Someone is going to come along and take over, I hope they do, I
hope it doesnt 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.Theyd
find their way there, we were a very close group.
F.B. So in twenty years time how doe you see
S.F. Well Id like to see the institute go on. Ive
shown the way I feel about Aiki, Ive 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
dont 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, dont 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 isnt hard to understand that our posture in each one of them is the
same. We dont alter it.
F.B. The circle, triangle, square
S.F. Yes exactly. I didnt finish really about the
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, its 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. Theyd come back tell
me what was going on show me and then off theyd go again. You see there was a little
F.B. I teach for a living, Ive 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 youve got to have experience, you can then continue on with what
theyve shown you. These books that Saito sensei put out, people say O
they learnt it from a book. They didnt learn it from a book, theyre 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," thats the satisfaction.
F.B. As you said I go out to other organizations and you get
me to show some things sometimes. Theres 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 doesnt seem to worry you, do you
feel thats the way Aikido will develop and grow
S.F. Yes I think so, you see somebody do something and you
think "thats a bit tidy". If it just ended up there it wouldnt be so
good, but if you could say thats the beginning of something the sequence roles on
then. Aikido is prolific theres 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 Its natural, I do it naturally. I cant explain it. I do it natural,
Ive 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 its about 26-27
S.F. We have Bill (sensei Smith) has always kept his Japanese
connections. The man deserves everything hes got. Hes 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. Whats the funniest thing that youve seen
happen on the mat?
S.F. Well we didnt use to wear anything under our
hakama, only underpants no trousers. Mr Noro was holding a course in Brussels, he knew we
did this, hed 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 didnt 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 pyjamas 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, wed break into two side, we used to run to the pub in our zori. Mr Nakazono
wouldnt 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 wouldnt 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 didnt
want to know about Aikido. This particular occasion we were in the hut this would be 12
oclock at night, someone would say "right contest time". Outside there was
a big field associated with the hut, youd name two people and theyd go out and
knock hell out of one another.
F.B. Didnt 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 didnt, I didnt
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 Ive 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.
Youve 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. Youve got various people who have been in it for
years Simon (Thackeray), Lawson (Moore), this must be Lawsons 30 summer school.
Its got to be, he came as a beginner in Barry.
F.B. Is there anything particular youd like to say to
S.F. Id really like to thank the ones that stayed
loyal. Its very unfortunate that some one like Les White left us. The gradings this
afternoon Im 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. Its sad that the numbers have dwindled maybe for a
reason, maybe well 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. Its 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. Theres no
doubt about it. The spectrum has become vast even from our little organization,
theres so much
F.B. Well thats lovely, Thank you so much, its
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.