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  • Keep One Point
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Memories of Sensei William Smith

Memories of Sensei William Smith MBE, 6th dan Aikikai, Shihan of the United Kingdom Aikikai and the 2004 Summer School

On 7th of August 2004, I called the late sensei William Smith MBE, 6th dan Aikikai, shihan of the United Kingdom Aikikai, to tell him I would arrive in England on the 14th of August to attend the United Kingdom Aikikai summer school. It was a difficult decision for me, because I had strained my right ankle two weeks earlier. But this shouldn’t stop a ninja!!! Anyway, Sensei knew about the strain and suggested I spend some days relaxing at his house before the summer school. I really loved the idea knowing that Mr. and Mrs. Smith are extremely hospitable. This is well known to all the UKA members and to all the Japanese senseis who have taught aikido in England from the very beginning. So I changed my ticket and arrived at Luton airport on August 11th 8:30 am.
Philip Winters, a good old friend, offered to give me a lift to Mr. Smith’s house. Philip’s great company made the two-and-a-half-hour trip very pleasant and fast. The smiling and friendly face of Mrs. Smith welcomed me again. Sensei was in the garden mending something at the time. This was my first time visiting the Smiths house by myself. I hope I am an easy-going guest who doesn’t bring any troubles.
After Sensei welcomed me, we sat around the table for the traditional English breakfast. Usually in Hellas (Greece) I never have breakfast. But in England it’s different. Let alone that Mrs. Smith is an excellent cook and every time I visit them I put on some weight. Sensei is very interested in the Hellenic Aikido Association, so he wanted to be informed about everything. Since he is our Shihan, he has to know. It’s amazing how many faces and names Sensei remembers. We discussed plans and matters of the Association and some changes that have to be done in the future. Also, when Sensei would come to give a seminar in Athens again, because everyone in the dojo was asking for him.
His valuable knowledge and guidance in solving any kind of a problem for over 12 years now, have helped the Hellenic Aikido Association grow and become one of the strongest houses of the UKA. I have to mention here Sensei’s the moral support that sensei provided to me when Shihan Fumio Toyoda, a great friend and teacher, died. Mr. and Mrs. Smith are the only couple I know who live according to the Good Book: Christian faith, beliefs and principles. A perfect example to all of us. I am grateful to know them.
I rested for a little bit after 24 sleepless hours. Sensei took me to Ren Shin Kan dojo. It is always a nice feeling to enter this place and surprise many friends. Unfortunately, because of my injury I couldn’t train but I watched all the classes every day. Later that day, we went back home and after supper, I started on a 3-day marathon of questions about aikido. I admire Sensei’s patience towards me. Long ago, I realized that he is an expert in explaining how the techniques were born, their origin, the difference between jutsu and do and how to teach them. Following his instructions, I have changed a lot of the basics of my mentality in training and teaching. Since he was a living encyclopedia of aikido, I wanted to hear stories about all the senseis he had trained with, their personalities, the differences in styles, their way of teaching etc. Most of them have spent some time at his house.
The next two days Mr. and Mrs. Smith took me for a couple of excursions around the beautiful sunny English country side and villages. I really had a lovely time. On Saturday, the 14th, the three of us drove to the university where the summer school would take place.

From the moment we arrived and for the next week I had such a busy schedule I couldn’t believe it. I attended all the classes given, so I would like to mention some points about the teachers who taught.



For Mr. Smith ,I only have to say that I didn’t expect he would be so energetic and strong. I confirmed again that his classes should be a syllabus to everyone! Mr. Smith formally introduced me to Shigeru Sugawara Shihan with whom I had first trained, in a seminar in Warsaw, on 1997.
The seminar was given by the present DOSHU Moriteru Ueshiba and Sugawara Shihan was the uke there. The simplicity and economy of movements along with his friendly character and personality impressed me the most. He is affable and easily approachable, he trained with everybody during his class. I really like that he kept this friendly attitude off the mat too, where everyone could meet him. I had the opportunity to talk to him about HELLAS, when my late friend.

Pat took us for an excursion along with Kath to a nice village near a river. Of course, I invited Sugawara Shihan to Athens, he told me he liked the idea.
About Gordon what to say…My first training with him was 10 years ago at his first seminar in Athens. Then I called him “terminator”. I still do, even though his technique has become much smoother through the years. Peter has this aristocratic dynamic style, he seems to know exactly what he is doing at any moment. Philip is always the quiet force. I really like his detailed explanations about techniques and his extremely stable and balanced posture. He is very relaxed and very powerful at the same time. It runs in the family, I believe. Keith says a lot of jokes (but not all of them are funny). But when he teaches, he never jokes. I like his practical style and his using of toys to emphasize his views. Pat’s class was based on the basics and on her very positive attitude. I liked that. Mike specializes in weapons classes and focuses on categorizing the movements.
My general conclusion of all their teaching is that I learned a lot of new things. Training with many different people was very beneficial for me. I liked the shodan and nidan tests. Congratulations to all! What I also liked very much was that all the shidoins participated in each other’s classes, so everybody had the chance to train with everybody else. This non competitive spirit is very important for the further development of the UKA. This spirit was prevalent on and off the mat throughout the seven days. The social evening was joyful and entertaining. I have to say that everyone was very friendly and helpful to me. I made new friends and I hope we’ll keep in touch. I would like to thank all those who trained with me, especially Mario and Cliff, Richard for his excellent work on the DVDs (man, you are a magician!). Special thanks to Pat, Frank and Dave for the lovely dinner and to Mark Machin who took me to his house in London for a quick tour of the city and later gave me a lift to Luton airport. Needless to say, all of you are invited to Athens. You are welcome any time. Remember there is the November seminar…!
Again, I am extremely grateful for the hospitality shown to me by my hosts!

Babis Keranis Sensei
President of the Hellenic Aikido Association-Fukushinkan Dojo, Athens Greece
5th dan So Hombu Aikikai Japan, Shidoin
Technical Advisor and Chief Instructor of the Hellenic Aikido Association-Fukushinkan Dojo, Athens Greece