Some particular advice Ichihashi provided as he was about to return to Ireland: "Remember, all these things like bowing and sitting in seiza are Japanese – not aikido. You know better than we do how to teach foreigners. When you go back home, respect the ways of your country, remember to teach aikido your way."
Alan also trained at Nishio's Otsuka Dojo ( the latter held senior dan grades in aikido, iaido and karate).
Ruddock also attended regular classes with Tohei at the later's Iidabashi dojo.
When interviewed in 2008, Ruddock was asked for his take on the supposedly supernatural prowess of Morihei Ueshiba that are often mentioned in Aikido circles, to which he replied: I don't think magic or the supernatural came into it. If you meet someone from the Amazon rain forest and use your mobile phone to get something they want dropped to where you are by helicopter, they may think that is magic. However, once they get a mobile themselves, they will realise how easy it actually was for you. In terms of O-Sensei's ability, if you begin to understand the real meaning of Ai Ki, his 'mobile phone' is within your grasp!
Ruddock returned to Dublin and started an Aikido group which had a number of the people with whom he had originally learned Karate with as members. There was no formal structure at that time nor anyone else practising Aikido. Leaving Ireland to find employment, Ruddock went to London but soon realised that he was on a "different path to others who followed the 'official' Aikido line". Having spent three years at the source he "knew where he wanted to be, even if he was not quite sure yet how to get there".
Ruddock subsequently moved to the Isle of Man (IOM) and started an Aikido group in 1975. After a few years when students wished to be graded, he joined with the Aikikai group in Britain. This was on track for a number of years, but the sense of being part of a worldwide monumental structure operated like a commercial business from Japan was not where he wished to be. He left and set up his own group called Aiki no Michi. This is an umbrella organisation where anyone from any dojo or 'style' was welcome to come to explore an Aikido which was "always focused on the essential simplicity of the Founder's art."
A new take on Aikido
Ruddock graded to 4th dan with the Aikikai but (see above) then decided to part company with that organisation. He subsequently graded sixth dan within the Butokukai (which Morihei Ueshiba had been involved with originally), an organisation which includes all Japanese martial arts. Ruddock is on record as saying the only certificate he really valued was his shodan (1st degree black belt) taken in the original old Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, he usually never mentioned his grade.
In recent years Ruddock travelled extensively to give seminars in Ireland, UK, Poland, Germany, Italy, the Basque Country, Portugal and the Netherlands. Ruddocks' Aikido being somewhat different from the standard taught by Aikikai teachers, his ideas did not suit everyone (see next section). "Some people enjoy Bash Ki Do, I personally enjoy Aikido."
From his length of practice and time with Morihei Ueshiba, Ruddock was one of the most experienced Aikidoka in Europe but it's widely acknowledged in Aikido circles that he was very discreet about it, which was in keeping with his teaching style: humble, kind and not aggressive but yet very focused and relaxed when he moved and most of all, very effective.
Like many modern martial arts, Aikido derives from a number of prior systems but the latter is relatively unique in being widely recognised as the primary distillation/creation of one man- Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba trained a large number of students, many of whom grew into great teachers in their own right. There are roughly four generations of Ueshiba direct students with Ruddock (given his training at the Hombo Dojo from 1966 to 1969) belonging to Fourth (and last) generation (c.1956–c.1969). Ueshiba was in his eighties by this time and as he "grew older, more skilled, and more spiritual in his outlook, his art also changed and became softer and more circular. Striking techniques became less important and the formal curriculum became simpler. In his own expression of the art there was a greater emphasis on what is referred to as kokyū-nage, or "breath throws" which are soft and blending, utilising the opponent's movement to throw them. Many of these techniques are rooted in the aiki-no-jutsu portions of the Daitō-ryū curriculum rather than the more direct jujutsu style joint-locking techniques."
In his memoir, Ruddock makes a point of observing: "many Aikidoka try to create what they assume O-Sensei was doing before the Second World War. I try to create what I actually saw him doing in his later life. Even by observing the pre-war film of his demonstration it is possible to clearly observe the means by which he seeks to confuse those who seek his 'secret'."
Alan Ruddock (10 January 1944 – 2 April 2012) was an Irish martial arts pioneer, teacher and writer. He introduced both aikido and karate to Ireland and was the founder of the Aiki no Michi and its interpretation of Aikido. Ruddock was one of the few western aikido practitioners and only Irish national who studied directly under the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba ("O-Sensei").
Senseis (instructors) at the dojo during this period, apart from the founder Morihei Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei included Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Shoji Nishio, Seigo Yamaguchi, Kisaburo Osawa, Morihiro Saito, Mitsugi Saotome, Irozaku Kobayashi and Norihiko Ichihashi. In addition to witnessing Ueshiba first hand on a couple of hundred occasions, he took extra private lessons, firstly from Kobayashi and then Ichihashi.
While not a student of these sensei Ricky has attended courses taught by them (in alphabetical order):
Anita Bonnivert is a 7th Dan Belgian aikidoka that has been training for over 50 years. Despite being in her 80's Anita is still training and teaching. Her style of aikido predominantly comes from Koichi Tohei.
Once a year she visits Scotland to teach a course at the University of St. Andrews.
Ricky first met Anita in 1997 and has trained with her every year since.