NSW Tomiki Aikido Club at North Ryde

I started the NSW Tomiki Aikido Club at North Ryde.
I started the NSW Tomiki Aikido Club at North Ryde. That's me, with the beard, kneeling, front left.

My information on the NSW Tomiki Aikido Club is way out of date, because it is no longer “my” club. But this will give you some of the history of it, here in Sydney, Australia.

The NSW Tomiki Aikido Club began back in the late 1970’s under Alan Ames, a student of the late John Gay, Shihan, 7th Dan Japan Aikido Association (JAA), who was founder and head of the Australian Aikido Association (AAA) based in Melbourne. At that time, the AAA represented Tomiki Aikido in this country.

Back then, John Gay was a full-time instructor with the Victorian state police in Melbourne. His defense techniques and baton work were awsome… I can testify to this because I have been on the receiving end during some of his demonstrations! The Sydney branch of the AAA taught Tomiki Aikido at Willoughby Park Centre, near Chatswood, New South Wales — a pleasant and affluent suburb on Sydney’s north shore.

After Alan Ames left Sydney, we learned our Tomiki Aikido skills from Mick Mugg and later Bill Fettes. Bill had been living in Melbourne and was actually sent up to Sydney by John Gay to train us up to black belt standard, which he did. But he wasn’t yet a Sandan (3rd Dan) black belt, so Bill couldn’t grade us himself.

Then John Gay decreed that all new black belts had to learn and perform the Dai Yon kata before we could be graded by him, and neither Alan Ames or Bill Fettes knew this kata… And since Bill Fettes was then only a Shodan, he could not grade us either.

Bill too did his best in the time he had, but he left Sydney to train in Japan and China. Bill Fettes got into Jo (5 foot staff) and Naginata (halberd) and various arts, both Chinese and Japanese. And meanwhile, our Tomiki Aikido club just struggled on as best we could without a Dan grade instructor.

The Willoughby Tomiki Aikido club was kept together by a hard core of 1st Kyu (brown belts) which comprised Ed Watkins, myself (David Harvey), my (now ex-)wife Rhonda Harvey, and the youngest of us, David Lee.

In many ways it shouldn’t have been a big deal, but prospective students do expect the club instructor to be wearing a “black belt”. Funny that…

Every time I would travel from Sydney to Melbourne to train with John Gay sensei, he would change the core Tomiki Aikido techniques we had learned yet again, and the gradings we all needed to make Dan Grade slipped further away.

John Gay never showed us the Dai Yon kata, and he even interrupted procedings when I hired a video camera (they were very expensive back then) and flew down to Melbourne after arranging to video two of his black belt students performing it. (Forgive me, ladies, but I have since forgotten your names.)

John Gay did not stop the women, but he picked very minor errors in their Aikido demonstration afterwards, and gave a lecture to the video camera. He said that if the kata was not performed perfectly, it should not be recorded at all.

Ed Watkins, who was a retired fireman, ex WWII Military Policeman, amateur wrestler and yoga teacher, was the only one of us with enough time to spare. He drove to Melbourne and stayed for six months with John Gay and his (then) wife, Leonie. (John and Leonie later divorced. She is now Leonie McFarlane.) Eventually, Ed returned triumphantly to Sydney with his Aikido black belt.

But when Ed made another trip and came back with yet more changes from John Gay to our Tomiki Aikido techniques, I swore enough was enough. Some of the basic 17 had been taught to us five different ways. I wanted no more changes to my Aikido because they only served to confuse me. I had been a brown belt (1st kyu) for seven years, and I was quite prepared to remaim the same grade forever. I just couldn’t cope with any more changes to my Aiki.

After a vote of hands, I took half the students and formed a breakaway Tomiki Aikido Club, which trained at the North Ryde RSL Youth Club, in Magdala Road.

Unfortunately I handled the whole thing badly, and in the process I managed to lose the friendship of David Lee, who chose to stay with John Gay. Naturally, I incurred great wrath from John Gay but sadly, from Bill Fettes also when he returned to Australia about two year later.

Eventually, Alan Ames, who was by that time a Third Dan, visited Sydney and proceeded to grade me to black belt, in spite of John Gay’s fury.

2 thoughts on “NSW Tomiki Aikido Club at North Ryde”

  1. Training in Aikido has definitley changed as the years progress, Ive trained with many styles of Aiki, and they all have different applications of Techniques, confusing for the student.

    1. That’s for sure. Even different instructors have small variations, and if you know the variations well enough you can tell which instructor or teacher taught that person their Aiki technique! But those are usually very minor differences. The key principles of Aikido remain the same… To get out of the way of the attack and return the power (Ki) to him or her.

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