About the Instructors
Sensei Barry Gibson 5th Dan - Chief Instructor.
Aikido for me was something that I saw and was instantly drawn in by. When I was 22 I found out I had cancer, as you can imagine when you're told something like that it turns your world upside down. I lost my mother to cancer when I was 13 years old. She was 31 and was also a strong spirited woman who fought it to the end, always smiling even though she was in so much pain.
This "spirit" lives on in me and I was determined not to let this beat me and during one of my periods sat at home after surgery I read something about Steven Seagal in the paper. It stated that at the time he was the highest graded non Japanese instructor in Aikido. This intrigued me so I researched it and gained more and more interest in it.
After months looking at four walls I found a club local to me and went to watch. It was ok but nothing that I hadn’t seen before, I thanked the instructor for letting me watch and went home. A couple of days later I went to buy a Gi (uniform). While in the shop I was talking to the shop owner and he asked me where I was starting Aikido. I told him and he mentioned someone in Derby who also taught Aikido. This man's name was Sensei Chris Macdonald. I went to watch his class and was blown away! His Aikido was dynamic, powerful and direct and I was hooked straight away. I started training with Chris and was with him for 17 years until his untimely death in November of 2008. Chris was a fantastic Aikidoka who taught me well and had a massive following and is sadly missed.
During my time with Chris I attended many courses, one of which was hosted by Master Shigeho Tanaka who was visiting from Japan. On this course I had the honour of being graded to 3rd Dan by Master Tanaka himself.
Whilst at Derby I also had the good fortune to meet and study with a fantastic Aikidoka named Charlie Hall. He didn’t suffer people who lacked spirit or passion in their training and taught me so much during my study.
I have the utmost respect for these Aikidoka for and their vast knowledge, Which I will try and remember always.
-Sensei Barry Gibson
Sensei John Shields 5th Dan - Assistant Chief Instructor.
I First started Aikido in October 1988 when I was 17 under sensei Pip Mahoney 5th Dan and sensei Mick Hammonds 5th Dan. I have read about Aikido and imagined it to be flowing projections and big movements. I was soon to be educated!
Both Sensei were in there late 20s and were of slight build. They also seemed to have a possitive attitude and purpose about them. I must have caused a series of severe headaches for them both with my immature attitude and challenging questions. I learnt the hard way. Their Aikido was dynamic positive and controlled. Their was no doubt technique worked and I spent my “Aikido Apprenticeship” being thrown and pinned up and down to tatami until I began to understand.
They both studied under sensei Pat Stratford 8th Dan and have trained hard for many years. My frustration and lack of control spurred me onto the study as often as I could. I travelled the country and trained on many many national courses. It wasn’t until 1992 when I was in Coventry I met and trained with Master Shigeho Tanaka 9th Dan that I finally found my real passion and focus within Aikido. His calm, passive appearance hid his powerful, traditional but completely effective technique. I would meet and train with him when he visited the UK on a further 4 occasions.
In 1995 I moved to Derby and found training hard as I worked shifts. It was then that I had the good fortune to meet and train with Sensei Chris MacDonald 6th Dan and Sensei Janet MacDonald 5th Dan. His powerful, controlled technique seemed effortless and he always trained and taught with good humour. I assisted coaching at Derby Aikikan Dojo in Derby and we were fortunate to have a large following of varied and dedicated students. Also at that time, I had the good fortune of becoming friends with and training with Sensei Barry Gibson. His Aikido technique is second to none and his spirit and outlook are an inspiration to many.
Unfortunately Sensei Chris passed away very suddenly in 2008. He would always help others on and off the mat and would always enjoy a laugh and a joke. He is sadly missed by all who knew and trained under him.
Since 2001 I have assisted coaching with sensei Gibson at various clubs including my own that was based in Hinckley. In 2007 Sensei Gibson founded Isshin Dotai Aikido at Derby University and we are now passing our knowledge forward. When I was younger I though Aikido was just a fancy way of fighting. When I had been doing Aikido for about 5 years I just collected technique. Now I am just beginning to see and apply principles in practice and when coaching.
Over the years I have been honoured to have trained with Master Tanaka 9th Dan, Norio Tao 8th Dan, Hirosuke Fujisawa 6th Dan, Bob Marsay 6th Dan, Tom Moss 6th Dan and Christian Tissier 7th Dan. All the different influences have had an effect on my Aikido and helped me to develop a broad approach to training.
To me Aikido is a great ego leveller. You must let go of all of your pre-conceived ideas and absorb it like a sponge. There are no good or bad aikido styles, they are all Aikido. We can learn new applications and principles from studying many different ways and having an honest and open attitude to learning.
Aikido is about co-operation, good communication and mutual development. The principles that we study on the tatami should be transposed to our daily lives so that we can become better and more productive members of society. The “Aiki” or universal harmony should help make us more understanding husbands, wives, parents and work colleagues.
My study is constantly developing and I will never know it all. This keeps me coming back and trying my best to develop and pass on all I have and learn through my Aikido career. I would like to thank my family and my Dad who only last year saw me teach for the first time and was impressed….. I think. -Sensei John Shields
-Sensei John Shields