Alan Ames was my first teacher of Aikido after I came to Australia in the late 1970s. He was originally a Londoner who learned his Aikido in the U.K. and he was a student of the late John Gay Sensei, who was also a Pom.
I had originally learned a little Ki Society style Aikido while in Hong Kong, but I just didn’t like the demeanor of the Aikikai guy who was teaching it in Sydney at that time. You have to ‘connect’, and we just didn’t.
Then I saw an advert which Alan Ames had put in the Northern District Times newspaper which covered the northwest suburbs of Epping and Ryde. It said Aikido classes were starting up at Epping YMCA, which was about 5 miles (7 Kms) from Ryde, where I used to live back then.
Alan had set up mats in an upstairs room at the Epping YMCA, and proceeded to show us all a few Aikido techniques with the aid, if I remember correctly, of Tom Fischer. Anyway, Tom was an early student of Alan Ames, that’s for sure. He later dropped out though, and I remember Alan was very disappointed, as Tom was by that time a 2nd Kyu (blue belt). I was just a beginner back then.
The Epping “Y” Aikido group was just one of the venues where we trained with Alan Ames back then around 1980. The others were at Forestville and in the Pitt Street YMCA right in the heart of Sydney. That building is now a giant block of apartments.
There was a whole crowd of Kyokushin full-contact karate guys used to train there as well, and we would all go across the road to the pub together to have a drink after training. The karate guys thought we were mad throwing our bodies all over the place, and we thought they were crazy because they often broken noses, hands and feet from the full-contact fighting. It was some kind of mutual respect, I guess.
I gave poor Alan a really hard time when he started his Tomiki Aikido classes at the Epping YMCA in Sydney’s north-west suburbs. I was a real ‘doubting Thomas’. Some would call me a smart-ass. When Alan demonstrated knife defenses, I insisted on picking up a rubber tanto knife and using it as a skilled knife fighter would, with no rush attacks, a slash here and a feint there… And this was with a room full of prospective newcomers watching.
Boy, I made Alan sweat that day! 😉
Alan Ames eventually got religion and became a Catholic lay preacher. He now lives in Perth, West Australia.