Shihan Philip Burgess is one of the Chief Instructor of the British Ki Society and has been promoted to 8th Dan after nearly fifty years of Aikido practice and its application in daily life.
|Kagami Biraki (New Year promotions): In 2014, Sensei Burgess, received his 8th Dan directly from Doshu Yoshigasaki.|
Sensei Burgess began practising Aikido in 1967. He says “In those days Aikido clubs were few and far between.There was a good feeling in the clubthat I liked so I started training. It was Aikido as a form of self-defence.”
In 1970, the year he received his Shodan, he attended a seminar given by Tamura Sensei and realised that something had been missing from his practice. “In the Coventry area there was only one Aikido club and books on the subject were almost non-existent. For people starting Aikido there was nothing to compare with, so one assumed that all Aikido was the same: A Japanese martial art.” Sensei Burgess recalls how Tamura Sensei could execute techniques with ease to the young black belts who in return found him immovable. Tamura Sensei explained the difference in their abilities was down to their application of Ki.
Sensei Burgess learnt Tamura Sensei was a student of Koichi Tohei Sensei, who taught him this application of Ki. Tohei Sensei was the chief instructor of the Aikikai under Morihei Ueshiba for over twenty years and remains the only person to receive a 10th Dan officially ratified by the Aikikai.
In 1971 Tohei Sensei founded the Ki No Kenkyukai (The Ki society) to teach unification of mind and body. He resigned from the Aikikai in l972 and started teaching Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido or the art of Aikido with mind and body coordinated.
When asked ‘what is Ki?’ sensei Burgess replies “Ki is a Japanese word which is written as a Chinese character. The Chinese and Japanese meanings are different and can cause confusion. As Aikido is from Japan, I use the word Ki with the Japanpse meaning. It describes something that is unclear; something that cannot be defined. In daily life it means something like feelings, sentiment, emotions, love or perception. Understanding Ki is very important. It’s a process of understanding our own lives and ourselves.”
He continues ” The biggest misunderstanding regarding Ki is to think of it as something mystical or supernatural. In fact Ki is as natural as air and water so I teach people to be natural. When I demonstrate such techniques as unraisable body some people think it is out of the ordinary, however it is not. All of my students can do it as well. Learning Ki Aikido can be done by anyone regardless of age or size because the basic practice is to unify our mind and body and become one with the universe. We learn to make harmonious movements in exercise for health, Ki development exercise and Aikido art. Learning Ki is for one’s own development.”
Sensei Ken Williams, one of the original practitioners of Aikido in the UK, was the official representative of the Ki No Kenkyukai. In 1978, Tohei Sensei visited the UK and gave a two-week course in Wales. His Omoto on this course was Yoshigasaki Sensei. Sensei Burgess wondered whether the stories surrounding Tohei Sensei’s ability were true and decided that this was his best opportunity to test Tohei Sensei first hand. As a young man in his twenties he volunteered, at the first chance, to take Ukemi. Despite Sensei Burgess’s best efforts, Tohei Sensei threw him with ease. Tohei Sensei himself seemed to relish his sincere attacks and continued to use him as a uke for the next two weeks.
Sensei Burgess says “Using the technique “Ukemi’ allows you protect your body by taking an efficient and safe fall when thrown without losing mind and body co-ordination. A deeper understanding of ukemi is “receiving something through your body.” If nage is calm relaxed and unified the uke understands calmness and relaxation. Making ukemi for Tohei Sensei was a privilege.”
In 1987, Williams Sensei decided to leave the Ki No Kenkyukai. Sensei Burgess learnt of Ki No Kenyukai’s representive in Europe, Yoshigasaki Sensei, who had been teaching in mainland Europe since 1977. Yoshigasaki Sensei was uchi deshi of Tohei Sensei and his main interpreter so Sensei Burgess decided to stay with the Ki No Kenkyukai.
Yoshigasaki Sensei began visiting the United Kingdom four times a year and Sensei Burgess made a point of not missing a seminar, eventually gaining a 5th Dan in Aikido and Okuden in Ki from Tohei Sensei.
After Tohei Sensei’s retirement in 2002, most of the clubs in Europe, including the British Ki Society, left the Ki No Kenkyukai and decided to follow Doshu Yoshigasaki’s newly formed Ki No Kenyukai Assoication Internationale.
One of the aims of Aikido is to develop a non-fighting mind. Sensei Burgess explains: “Life is full of challenging situations. It is up to us to decide the spirit in which we respond to them. When training in the dojo one can look upon each exchange of techniques as challenges which we learn to respond to calmly. In the dojo a ‘non-fighting mind’ is one in which we neither resist our partner nor comply with them. Our aim is to make harmonious movements without trying to defeat or manipulate nage. In daily life, where training is truly tested, a non-fighting mind does not judge others and does not seek power. It is an attitude of non-aggression that brings calmness in difficult or dangerous situations. Seeking a non-fighting mind is seeking to make yourself a better human being. Aikido is not about what you do but what you are.”
Sensei Burgess continues to teach in his dojo in Coventry where he gives regular weekly classes and a monthly Saturday class. He also teaches regular seminars throughout the UK and annually in Gotenburg, Sweden.