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Cheryl Matrasko
James Loeser
Matthew O'Connor

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Cheryl Matrasko
James Loeser
Matthew O'Connor
Editor

 

Peter Bussell, 4th Dan
Canada's own
Aikido Veteran of 40 Years
(Page 3)

by Cheryl Matrasko

 
Above, Koichi Kashiwaya
8th Dan and Chief Instructor
of Ki Society, USA,
at the historic most successful seminar the weekend of August 14th and 15th, 1999, titled Harmony for All.  Hosted by Peter Bussell.

What sort of advice for those persons that start out in Aikido with the idea of being an instructor? Some students get their shodan and start out being an instructor.

(Many instructors with 15 years and many more years behind us – DO NOT feel that shodan and nidan is instructor material.)


" Starting out being an instructor . . . that’s really an interesting concept. I also have some strong opinions on that. Because so many dojos - 'Oh, congratulations – you’re a shodan – now you’re an instructor' . You’ve met Jennifer. She’s a nidan now, as of two years ago (this interview was done 2002 May, Jennifer at this writing is sandan). She is my only instructor that has a Ryurei Aikido instructor certificate. Gary is a nidan. Dan is a nidan. They both have assistant instructor status. Jennifer doesn’t yet hold the position of being a senior instructor. Gary and Dan cannot grade. Jennifer as an instructor can grade to any mudansha level – she cannot grade above that. To be a senior instructor she will have to be at least a sandan and have a few more years experience. Before she received her assistant instructor level she had been teaching for four years. Once she’s a senior instructor then she can grade (promote) within two grades of herself under the Ryurei Aikido system. This way – my ambition is to maintain high standards. Both Gary and Dan, when they reach instructor level will help with grading, as does Jennifer. They will be given my blank examination sheets and they will mark them. I will then critique those with them, so that I can say ' Why did you give this mark for that? Because compared to what Jennifer and I have . . . '. So, I can compare their gradings with what I have. It is at the stage now, that when Jennifer and I mark a grading our sheets will almost be a mirror image of each other. So, it is working."

Yes it is.

"The others will say ' Well, I did this because of this . . .' .
I would say – “Yes, but what about that --- did you see that?” You know, from the grading instructor point of view it is the tiny little things that they miss --- the important critical and subtle things. So they have to learn to watch for those. You, I am sure, watch people doing technique and you can correct it on the mat – on the fly because you see something that most other people are missing. And it takes a long time to learn this. It doesn’t happen overnight."

" For a new instructor – I want to know where they come from. I don’t want brown belt instructors (brown belts – 2nd and 1st kyu). I don’t want shodan instructors particularly, you know. Maybe they can help out – they need to start somewhere. So, at that lower level (ikkyu, nikyu), yes they can help assist the instructor."

"For my dojo, the start of learning to instruct, they can start teaching how to do ukemi, or the principles of Shinkido. We can fine-tune them later, but that’s the start of learning how to instruct. And it takes a long process. So, for a new instructor they’re really an old instructor by the time they are a new instructor (ready to instruct by themselves)."

" I remember so often just teaching, how much you learn about the technique yourself. So, for me, I don’t know if I could ever use the term “new instructor” - maybe a newly official instructor, but they have a lot of water under the bridge by the time they are an instructor under me."

People have a misconception about the term “instructor”. Just because you become a shodan (1st level black), nidan or sandan - doesn’t mean you are an instructor or capable of instructing.

"Yes, this is so true. Some people will never be instructors. They may not have the personality for it. (I agree with him). Or even the desire to instruct."

Where do think your Aikido training has taken you?
(We both laugh.) I know this is an open ended or wide question to ask.


"It’s opened up so many different avenues and fields for me. Before I was working for the City of Ottawa, for many years, I was an independent self-employed person who was giving seminars and courses all based on Shinkido principles. Before I was with the city, the municipal government of this area was called the Regional Municipality of Ottawa Carleton. For 6 years, I had a contract teaching stress management and control, interaction with fellow workers and clients, and their own personal safety. From that came similar work with Customs and Immigration Canada a Federal government department, other municipal government departments – welfare departments – all over Ontario. Different non-profit organization dealing with mentally or physically handicapped persons and all their workers. To companies such as Nortel, we taught team building, stress management, and all from Shinkido principles which emanate from Aikido. It made me a good living for many years from that without having the Aikido dojo’s involvement. It’s taken me far and wide in meeting so many different people, meeting different businesses, and traveling to many different places of the world. I am sure without Aikido, I would never have left New Zealand, if I had not started doing Aikido. So, that means it has been responsible for me having gone to different parts of Asia, including Japan. It’s taken me to North America, Europe, etc. That would never have happened to me if I had not started Aikido – guaranteed. I’d be an engineer somewhere in New Zealand designing billboards! (He jokes jovially and we both laugh)."

What brought you to Canada anyway?

"I had been practicing in engineering in New Zealand and was dissatisfied and went into technical sales within the construction industry. Then I met a director of the US Company that owned the company in New Zealand. I was looking after him in New Zealand for three or four days and you don’t just talk about business. So he was asking about my aims and ambitions. So, I said that my wife and I would really like to go to Canada. He said, “I can guarantee a job in Canada. You write to me and tell me what you really want to do. And if it fits - I’ll put you in Canada.” So he did. And so we moved to Canada."

"Subsequently I left that company, I was with them for four years. I started my own company based on their products but in the Ottawa area. It was supplying specialized equipment in which I had taken their original product, designed things from it, and utilizing it. It was in the solar industry, but the sun went out. (He jokingly says this and we chuckle). And that’s when I turned to Aikido and Shinkido for developing these programs. And these programs developed for team building and stress management are well sought after. They don’t want me to do it – they want to get it."

Where do you see your current direction in martial arts, specifically in relation to Aikido?

In other words, where do you see yourself in about 5 years?

"I see – if we include in martial arts; Aikido, Shinkido, and Shinki-Ryoho,  . . . in 5 years, ideally, I’d love to have a permanent dojo location, combined with a holistic therapy place right in the same location. Here we would teach Aikido, but we would also teach Shinkido just as one would teach Chi Gung or something like that plus the holistic therapy, being offered in two ways. One, as a teaching institution to teach Shinki-Ryoho, and two, as a Shinki-Ryoho treatment center. That would be ideal, a permanent place but not restricted to Aikido. In doing these other things, they have much more potential impact for the betterment of people, in general. Aikido is an interest. These other things have the potential to be much more beneficial for mankind."

"We are doing many things with Shinki-Ryoho. The number of people that I treat, who have been talking to western medicine or even physio-therapists, or some of the other holistic therapists, who have done nothing for them. They may have gone to them for three or four years spending thirty thousand dollars on these other treatments, and still they were not better off than they were fours year ago. Fifteen minutes of Shinki-Ryoho treatment, and they exclaim: “I can’t believe this!” You better come back for one more treatment. You go to some of these other different therapies, you sign a blank check that goes on for years and years. We usually say to people that if we can’t help you meaningfully in three treatments, then we stop."

"And I would like to explore this further and further."

What do you think of today’s Aikido? What are the weaknesses we have out there in Aikido? What can we do to remedy these weaknesses?

"I haven’t been out to see a lot of other Aikido. I’ve seen in recent years, some lack of good instruction out there."

Peter expresses a genuine concern for instructors out there, that are busy trying to cash in on Aikido --- large bank accounts instead of building good Aikido. He examines his own integrity – personally and within his own integrity with its relationship with Aikido.

"It starts at the top. If you don’t have good instruction and leadership at the top, how can you build a base? There are a lot of wanna be's  (individuals all over the world that want to be 'sensei, be called 'sensei', and want to have a following of students calling them 'sensei'.)"

"You and I spoke earlier, saying that we are from a different era in Aikido. I suppose every generation says the same type of thing, but I seriously think that as we get further and further away from O’Sensei’s era of teachings. You and I have observed what has happened to Aikido from O’Sensei’s teachings to the next generation, to the next generation. We are now in the fourth and fifth generation. You and I can see the watering down of the technique in many instances. So, I feel it logical when you hear of the kung-fu groups and they are 23 generations old and you think that the guy that started it must be turning over in his grave!"

"I know that when I get up and I teach my students, and I have some very dedicated students – and I don’t want one clone of me let alone 200 clones of me. I want them to develop their own, but based on some principles and ideals."

"We spoke earlier and I can teach ten people one technique and get ten different aspects of that technique. So, the problem Aikido has per se, is to keep that continuity genuine. And it’s not because people are maliciously trying to change it, it’s just the way man is. So I see that is a weakness in Aikido but I don’t see any solution for that either. Other than better instructors and this may mean better students, too. Look at all the different “forms” of Aikido that have evolved just from the well-known uchideshi of O’Sensei and we can understand what is likely to happen in another two aikido generations."

I think that Morihiro Saito Sensei, as rigid as he is in keeping Aikido true – I understand where he is coming from. He has criticized heavily numerous instructors for changing Aikido. He has used O’Sensei’s manual as a guide for keeping the structure the same. Saito Sensei has kept his Aikido faithfully the same - since the time O’Sensei left Iwama Dojo.

"What I see though is – that O’Sensei was changing --- evolving his own Aikido throughout his entire life, till the day he died. That’s the nature of anything. It’s like a business, it’s either growing or dying. It can’t stay the same. And in that term of “growth” with respect to Aikido – it is evolving. It’s either evolving or stagnating. Shioda Sensei kept pretty much to what he learned from O’Sensei too. But he also allowed the Yoshinkai to evolve. Look how Tohei Sensei has evolved from what he learned from O’Sensei, does this mean it is not as good as Saito or Shioda, or does it mean it is different."

Sempai Kohai --- is it still alive? What do you see as its weaknesses and strengths?

"I see potential weaknesses in abuse of power. I see potential strengths in its old fashioned oriental way but it is the old fashioned way of “respect your elders”. Society per se could do with those old-fashioned values. But you have to be careful of the abuse. That’s always been around and always will be an issue. And some people will abuse it. Well, there’s not much you can do about that. I think the benefits outweigh the disadvantages."

"I’ve never specifically spoken of it in my dojo. But it happens. Its there as a natural thing. It’s not based on ages, but based on their experience."

Your seminar with Koichi Kashiwaya, Sensei of Ki Society 8th Dan, and Larry Bieri, 6th Dan - chief instructor of Finger Lakes Aikido in Ithaca, New York - where you brought in other instructors of other federations to instruct together. That was phenomenal. And the very first Aikido seminar of it’s kind! (Seminar August 14th - 15th, 1999, in Ottawa, Canada – hosted by Peter Bussell and his organization Ryurei Aikido.)
http://www.aikido-world.com/archives /News%20Archive/Harmony%20for%20All.htm


When I agreed to do a joint seminar with you, a friend of mine and fellow Aikidoka had asked me who was I doing this with and what organization was this for. I had told him about you and that you were the only one that had the gift to get two of the most respected Aikidoists of different styles and federations together to instruct at the same seminar – for the very first time in Aikido history! These instructors shared the spotlight together.

"The most remarkable thing about this was that here were two senior instructors from different federations and not only did they 'share the spotlight', as you said but the first class Kashiwaya was the instructor of record – Larry Bieri was on the mat as a student. Then we broke for fifteen minutes. Then Larry Bieri was the instructor of record. Kashiwaya sensei, who out ranks Bieri sensei, was there on the mat as a student! I have never, ever seen that! Even instructors of the same federation never do that. You know two well-known East Coast Aikikai Shihan 'do' seminars together, but they are never on the mat together. Anyway, this went on for two days! Flip – flop, flip, flop (Kashiwaya and Bieri, as they switched instructing classes, they would attend the other’s class as a student actively participating on the mat with the rest of the attendees). At one time, I practiced with Kashiwaya as uke/nage and nage/uke for an hour --- I had never done that with him before. It was unbelievable! He (Kashiwaya) wasn’t instructing me. (Peter smiled and seemed to be tickled with the opportunity and sign of mutual respect). Bieri was coming on and instructing us both. (We laugh). A hachidan taking instructing from a rokudan – usually higher ranked instructors won’t (we both agree). I thought that said so much about both those men. And I sure respected them before --- and I respected them even more after this."


Larry Bieri, 6th Dan at the historic most successful seminar the weekend of August 14th and 15th, 1999, titled Harmony for All.

You’ll rarely see this type of behavior where both instructors humble themselves to show mutual respect. And this is a  good example of good will amongst Aikidoists. "True living Aikido". They are setting examples as senior Aikidoka, in good standing. These may seem like small contributions, however – it makes a big difference to everyone in Aikido.

"This goes back to one of those questions you asked earlier, about what was wrong with Aikido. And that’s one of the problems – the politicization of it – and “this federation compared with that federation”, 'this dojo compared with that dojo', and 'this style compared with that style  . . .' . Bieri Sensei and Kashiwaya Sensei went out of their way to show that they were doing identical things. Even though outwardly their style looked a little different, but when boiled down --- they were identical! We all have the same grandfather (Morihei Ueshiba – O’Sensei)! "

(I agree wholeheartedly).

"We really do! We may have slightly different methods to get there but essentially the same thing! (We are very excited)"

Do you have any advice for anyone in good practice habits??

"Good practice habits start with good respect for the dojo and the art. Set good standards of etiquette and for the dojo and practice them. You know, the foundations are based on allot of tradition and cultural things. They are all etiquette based. And if you maintain those – things seem to follow. You have spoken about my students (I mentioned to Peter that I found his students very proper, punctual in class, earnest, hard working and study hard.) And we maintain etiquette in the dojo. Once in awhile I have to call them out – even the senior students – getting tardy in their arrival time. And they think they can walk on the mat at any time. No! You wait. And if they’re consistently late – they’ll have to wait fifteen minutes before coming on the mat. If that doesn’t work, I take them aside and tell them that they know better – change your habits. Then they know and they change instantly. From that comes about respect for other students on the mat. Some people fool around on the mat. You teach them good manners and everything falls into place."

What would you like to see from your Aikido students? What would you like them to accomplish? What do you want them to get from your instruction? Where do you see them going?

"Almost all of my senior students – universally say they can never see themselves stopping Aikido. That says allot. We’re doing something that they’re enjoying and they feel they are gaining something valuable from it. That makes me feel good and I want to continue to be able to provide something that I see of value and goodness. I would like to see them grow, and grow so they can develop things themselves."

"We do have classes that are reserved for senior students. We’ll say: 'Cheryl, it’s your turn tonight. Show us a new technique or develop one.' Or next week when we do this, we want you to have a new Shinkido exercise for us to do. We’ll try it and we’ll critique it - and say, 'yeah this is something we’re going to put in the program' or 'no, I don’t think so'. (We both laugh). It just won’t be me saying it --- it will be us collectively. It encourages them to start thinking for themselves. Using the principles we’ve got, but developing new ideas."

"I think this is part of the evolution of things, Aikido and as people in development. And they are all so interested in developing their art and Aikido, and taking it into other fields."

"Peter here (Peter Zorzella, an Aikido student), he’s taking the Shinki-Ryoho course and is very much tied into reiki. He brought in a whole group of reiki people including his instructor in taking a Shinki-Ryoho course. Here are 6 or 7 practioners of reiki using more Shinki-Ryoho than they do reiki, when they are treating people. It’s not to say that it’s better, but they’ve found value in it. Peter found value in it – he’s delighted and so is the rest of the group. We’ve had Shiatsu people coming in – the same thing. Cause there are certain things we can do that they cannot and there are certain things that they can do and we can't."


I have a last question for the interview, I think I forgot to ask you earlier --- if you could ask a question of O-Sensei, what would you ask?

"To answer this question, first I would like to say I have two scenarios for this:

1. If I were to ask prior to his passing, it would be – 'Sensei, you appear to allow your senior students to have a completely free reign when it comes to teaching your art of Aikido. Do you think this may cause the art to regress in its development, or do you see this as a stronger way for the art to grow and develop?'

2. If I were to ask a question subsequent to his passing, maybe I would ask: ' Who, in your judgment - really "got" what it was you were teaching and showing us in the arts of Aikido. ' I doubt I would get an answer to this one though . . . . I would still like to ask it. So which ever of us gets there first - gets to ask "Okay?". And then has to get the answer back to the one left here.

Ha,ha. "


Peter Bussell, 4th Dan and Cheryl Matrasko, 4th Dan

Ryurei Aikido - Ottawa
47 Humphrey Way,
Kanata, Ontario,
Canada

K2L 2S9
(613) 591-3223
prbussell@sprint.ca

I'd like to thank Peter Bussell for his true friendship, comradery, help, and generosity with helping us at Aikido World with maintaining good will and communications with all styles of Aikido, and promoting honorable conduct in the highest level of Bushido.

Peter is truly an excellent instructor, an honorable martial artist of the highest integrity, and is a tribute to Bushido and Aikido.

I am very proud to call him my friend.
Cheryl Matrasko, 7/4/2004

Permission received to display the photographs from Peter Bussell.
Other photographs,
© 2002, Aikido World, Inc. All rights reserved.

© 2004, Aikido World, Inc.  All rights reserved

Page 1

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Cheryl Matrasko is a Network Analyst for the department of Networking and Communications at a prominent Chicago hospital. Formerly the LAN Administrator for Northwestern University Medical School - Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and assistant LAN Administrator to the previous MIS of the School of Law. Previous to that, she was a Field Technical Engineer, for some time with Northern Telecom.

She started Aikido in 1965, studying under Isao Takahashi as her first instructor. She enjoyed working out under many well known Aikido instructors during her tenure with Takahashi Sensei, and thereafter following his death in 1971. Cheryl has dedicated time with instructors in Northern Shaolin Long-Fist, Seven Stars Praying Mantis, and Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu to extend her martial arts education and perspectives. Currently, she is instructing Aikido at Northwestern University's Chicago Campus and supporting Aikido World Journal.


Literary materials, film clips, and pictures are copyrighted by their respected authors and owners. Permission in writing to the owners must be made for any duplication, display, or reprint.


Literary materials, film clips, and pictures are
copyrighted by their respected authors and owners.
Permission in writing must be made for any
duplication, display, or reprint.


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Michio Hikitsuchi 10th Dan 1978
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© 1978 C. Matrasko

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7/4/2004