Sensei William Smith at the Phoenix Dojo

The weekend was a fascinating one at the Phoenix Aikido Club, with a course given by Sensei William Smith and other senior instructors from his Dojo.

Sensei Smith is one of the most senior Aikidoka in the UK, the Principal Instructor and Technical Director of the United Kingdom Aikikai, and it was a pleasure to watch him in action. Although he is still recovering from a serious chest infection, and is obviously not yet back to full fitness, the strength and speed of his demonstrations was wonderful. As well as a powerful and skilled practitioner, he is also an excellent teacher, full of generosity, humour and humility. Despite the very martial bias of his techniques, he shows infinite patience and tremendous care with all his students.

For me, attending the course was something of a minor personal triumph, as I managed the full four hours on the mat on Saturday without any major difficulty (though I was falling asleep in front of the TV by 10pm). By the end of the two and a half hour session on Sunday my knees where extremely sore, but not unbearably so, and I am confident that I will be back on the mat for the Tuesday class as usual. The gain was certainly worth the pain though, as Sensei Smith has given me plenty to think about. I am looking forward to attempting to incorporate some tiny fragments of his knowledge into my own technique.

I also had the good fortune to be asked to Uke for Sensei Philip Smith, which was in equal measure exciting and nerve wracking. Hopefully I didn’t do too bad a job.

At the end of the course, Sensei Smith gave a very touching tribute to our late Sensei Tom Moss. He praised Tom’s wife Barbara for her continued commitment to the club, and for the fantastic job she has done in maintaining the quality of the teaching since Tom’s untimely death. As Sensei Smith pointed out, many clubs loose their way when their founder passes, so the quality of the teachers and students at the Phoenix Dojo is a continuing testament to the care and generosity that where the core of Tom’s teaching.

All in all, a wonderful weekend.

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