by Richard Mann
After leaving Tomiki AIkido (as outlined in my previous article "Why did I start Aikido?"), I continued with The Kai Shin Kai, Shinkendo and Aikibokken. My training was UK focused with various excursions to Amsterdam and the Netherlands to train with Obata Toshishiro and his senior students at seminars and other events.
Skinkendo, which loosely translates into English as 'Live Blade', trains with the central understanding that the sword you hold is a real, live, cutting blade. Starting with bokken and bokuto, the style moves through the use of iaito and eventually culminates with the use of a genuine live blade (for very restricted and controlled live cutting exercises).
Really, I cannot explain Shinkendo any better than the people still managing the Skinkendo website itself, but my experience of it was very enjoyable and I progressed through the kata swiftly until I moved back down from Northampton to Cornwall. Because of this, I was required to give up or start my own club. At this time, Shinkendo had only two clubs in the whole of the UK and mine made a third. Living in a tiny town out in the sticks however, made getting a new club off the ground challenging. Further to this, I was a newly graded instructor, so my experience was another limiting factor.
I ran a small club of four people for a year or so before, while moving again, I was forced to close it down. At this point, I was no longer practicing with the Kai Shin Kai, due to logistics, but had fostered myself an odd reputation for running around the town waving my arm about. From this point forward, for several years, I stopped training, without a master to follow, and it was not until I came across the club we have now that I stepped back into keiko.
This was my first experience of Iwama Aikido, a group of people that my colleagues in the Kai Shin Kai always referred to as 'the nutters'. From that day forward, my passion for Aikido was rejuvenated and I have considered myself a 'happy nutter' ever since.