Norman Ford Sensei. My first Aikido Instructor
The first time I met Mr Foster, was in 1982, at the Abersychan Leisure Centre. He was down in Wales to conduct a course. I had no idea who he was, but knew he was someone important. I was only sixteen at the time, so my knowledge of Aikido personalities was a little vague. We would not meet again until later on that decade.
Thanks to Janet, she confirmed my membership of the Institute started in 1987. I attended a few courses in Oakdale with Mr Foster. At least once, may be more, Paul came down with him. In 1989 I started training for my Shodan exam. I had already been graded by another organisation to 1st Dan, so my grading in the Hut was a re-evaluation.
The date on my certificate is the 28th April, 1990. I remember the grading very well. If there was an AGM before it started, I have no recollection of it taking place. The grading panel was Mr Foster, Hamish McFarlane, Andy Allen, & David Timms. There was an odd number of students going for 1st Dan, so I had to do the grading twice. Mr Foster had forgotten his commando knife for the grading, so my Japanese tanto was offered for the grading. I think it slightly unnerved a few, as the blade length was eleven inches. I remember during my knife session, Mr MacFarlane stopped us a few times. I was adamant I had failed my grading. Later on, in the pub, I asked him why he had stopped me so many times. He explained he wanted by partner to attack me with more vigour, as I made the techniques look too easy.
The grading process took all day, which was due to the number of students attending. If my memory serves me right, four passed 1st Dan, & two passed 2nd Dan. All I remember Mr Foster saying, when someone’s name was called out, try again next time. After the number of times I was stopped during the Tanto Dori section, I was sure I had also failed. I was stunned when he said pass.
Later in 1990, I was successful in gaining employment with the Metropolitan Police. That September, I moved up to London. This was the start of just over four years of living, working and trying to understand London culture. I would attend the Hut Dojo for training. I use to train with Ron Russell Sensei on a Thursday evening, and Mr Fosters class on a Sunday morning. I couldn’t make every class, but attended as and when I could. I remember making some of the courses, training under Hamish once or twice. I never attended any classes by Andy Allen. I only seen him the once, which was for my grading. Hamish, I found very difficult to understand, which is unusual as I never find any trouble understanding the Scottish accent. He was very fast, and positive. Not someone I ever felt uncomfortable with. His Aikido was technical but straight to the point. I also remember a class taken by Fiona & Robert Brodie Sensei's. I had a quick conversation with Rob at Mr Fosters funeral. I mentioned the one class he took when demonstrating knife techniques, and putting a realistic way on how folk in a particular Scottish City, used Stanley knives. Although he could not remember the class, he said it is something he would have done.
The last time I ever seen Mr Foster, was sitting with him and Ellis Sensei & Eastman Sensei in the bar of the hotel, waiting for them to go up and meet the Doshu, to receive their Six Dan certificates. It was good to catch up with him, and chat about many past and present topics. I always had time to speak to Mr Foster, and always enjoyed our talks. I have always believed the older Aikido Instructors were misunderstood, especially Mr Foster. He was a very knowledgeable Aikidoka, and was often put in a box by others. Mr Foster usually only showed Tenkan on external courses, and was well known for doing so. He believed is was a very important part of Taisabaki. It is also the first thing I show at the beginning of every class.
It was very rare, to see Mr Foster either lose his temper, or show frustration during class. If he did, it was the only time I would say, he would act in the same way as Ken Williams Sensei. Both were very similar in letting everyone know, they were not doing the technique correctly. They also had a way of connecting with each person, making everyone feel the pressure. Finally, they would crank up to fifth gear and show something spectacular. By the time the demo was over, the frustration was over and everyone was left to try and copy what they seen.
My first and last attendance of a national BAB course was at Brunel University in 1990. The main instructors were, Mr Foster, Derek Eastman Sensei, & W Smith Shihan.
To be continued...
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