The Journey of UK Chief Instructor Bob MacFarland, Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido Godan, Full Ki Lecturer (Awarded from Ki Society HQ, Japan). D.O.B 1/9/1955.
Bob MacFarland Sensei started his practice of Aikido over 45 years ago with the old pioneers of Traditional Aikido in the UK Sensei’s – Ellis, Foster and then later Ki Style with the main Ki Aikido Chief Instructors of the UK – Williams, Yoshigasaki and now Tabata Sensei. This Bio provides in broad brush strokes outline of the major influences on his practice over the years.
Bob first started his training in Aikido in the late 60’s with Henry Ellis Sensei at the Slough Football Supporters Club and Sports Centre in Bracknell. You were not then allowed to start training in Aikido until you were 13 due to the physical nature of the practice then. However as Bob was quite tall for his age he was allowed to start at just over 12 years old.
At that time there was no difference in the training regime which was undertaken by children than adults they all practiced together in the same group. The way that the Aikido was practiced was more of an “irimi” style and was very solid and direct. During this period Bob also occasionally attended training in London with TK Chiba Sensei. Described from the calligraphy perspective the training conducted then was “Kaisho” this is the style in which each of the strokes is very much made in a deliberate and clear way.
Henry Ellis Sensei was working I believe as a self-employed decorator during that period and had to stop his teaching briefly in Slough due to the load of his work commitments and for some reason his assistant Geoff Goodwin Sensei did not continue teaching the classes then.
Bob as a result discontinued his practice briefly for up to perhaps a year or so and then resumed practicing Aikido again in the beginning of 70’s with Ron James Sensei and then subsequently David Timms Sensei at the Slough Community Centre.
The method of training at the Institute of Aikido was based rather more on tenkan, circular, flowing movements rather than the direct manner that Bob had previously been used to and would be described from the calligraphy perspective as “Gyosho” where strokes are made with more of a flowing semi cursive style. Bob eventually also began studying at the nearby Hut in Hillingdon with Sensei Hayden Foster and the other instructors there such as Andrew Allen and Hamish MacFarlane Sensei’s.
Bob attended a training session lead by Margaret Hughes Sensei in 1977 in Slough Boy’s Club. Margaret hearing that Bob was shortly afterwards going to leave Slough to start studying in Brighton. Requested Bob helped out the current teacher Ron Cattrall Sensei at the University of Sussex Aikido Club whom she knew well with the teaching and running of the club. Whilst over the next year or so Bob regularly meet and escorted Minoru Kanetsuka Sensei on his monthly Friday evening visit to the Sussex Uni Aikido Club.
Bob upon David Timms Sensei’s request also started an entirely new club at the Brighton Poly in 1978 where he was studying for an BSc. in Applied Physics. Consequently at first with the help of the Sussex Uni Aikido club members he started a club under the banner of the Institute of Aikido. Pat Kelly Sensei also after a while came weekly from Portsmouth to help and advise Bob with the running of their Brighton Poly Aikido club which they ran together until 1980.
Apart from reading the book “Aikido in Daily Life” this was the first time that Bob was introduced to Ki Aikido first hand by Pat Kelly Sensei which wetted his appetite for more Ki Aikido instruction. Pat Kelly Sensei as well as studying traditional Aikido with Hayden Foster Sensei had also studied Ki Aikido with Valery Smith Sensei from Portsmouth. Pat would occasionally show the Ki Aikido alternative of the techniques they were teaching at the time in class to Bob.
In 1980 Bob graduated from Brighton Poly and decided to visit his Farther who lived at the time in Texas. From there he went to practice Aikido in San Francisco. This was when Aikido was at its peak there and there was a very strong community of Aikido practitioners of all the various styles there. Bob practiced with all the now famous instructors there at the time such as Terry Dobson, Robert Frager, Bob Nadeau, Frank Duran, Bill Witt, Bruce Klickstein, George Leonard etc. Bob also practiced regularly with Hideki Shiohira Sensei and joined the Ki Society but only managed to stay 3 months practicing in the Bay area where he had been able to practice three times a day seven days a week before his return to the UK.
Back in the UK Bob continued teaching in Brighton and even became also after Brian Elgood Sensei’s request the Traditional Aikido Instructor at the Tomiki Style Myo Do Kan dojo in Brighton. During this period he also visited France for a seminar with Hizokazu Kobayashi Sensei. He then got a job at a Swedish Company Ericsson and was eventually transferred to live in Sweden for a 9 month visit.
Whilst living and visiting Sweden he practiced regularly with Tochikazu Ichimura, Lennart Linder, Peter Spangford and sometimes with Jan Hermanson and Takeji Tomita Sensei’s and attended seminars with the visiting Shihans over the years by Shoji Nishio, Seichi Sugano and Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei’s.
It was circa early 1980’s during Kenjiro Yoshigasaki Sensei’s first training seminar in Sweden in which Bob participated and became impressed by the rapid progress of the participants. At the time despite training regularly six times a week Bob felt that he was not making very much progress personally in his training in the traditional Aikido arts.
Kenjiro Yoshigasaki Sensei suggested that Bob should participate in the training with the GB Ki Federation when he returned to the UK. So he attended a seminar with Kenneth Williams Sensei who was the UK Chief Instructor. At the seminar Ken Williams Sensei was able to show to Bob the flaws in his techniques that Koichi Tohei Sensei had pointed out previously to Ken Williams Sensei himself.
As a result Bob joined the GB Ki Federation as the student of Valery and Glynn Smith Sensei’s from Portsmouth eventually Sensei Paul McKeckan helped with the opening of a Ki Aikido club in Brighton too. As part of the conditions of his joining the GB Ki Federation Bob had to renounce his Traditional Aikido gradings and close down his various training facilities that he held in Brighton and to agree also to only train Aikido within auspice of the GB Ki Federation starting again from the very beginning as a white belt.
Due to his loyalties and friendships to Sensei Hayden Foster to whom at the time he used to assist as his uki whilst Sensei Hayden Foster was away on trips from the Hut and also at the Institute of Aikido Summer School in Barry this proved to be a painful period emotionally.
During this period Bob wished to improve his use of weapons so Bob started learning and practicing Musho Shinden Ryu Iaido and Jodo for a few years under Vic Cooke Sensei in Brighton achieving his Shodan in each of these respective arts. In 1986 Ken Williams Sensei resigned the British Ki Federation from the Ki No Kenkyukai HQ in Japan. Bob and a number of other notable UK students including Phil Burgess, Mike Dipple, & Richard Gardiner Sensei’s, eventually established the British Ki Society which remained under the Ki No Kenkyukai HQ with Kenjiro Yoshigasaki Sensei appointed as the UK Chief Instructor.
During the nearly 20 year period in which Kenjiro Yoshigasaki Sensei was Bob’s teacher Bob regularly attended Ki Aikido seminars in Netherlands, Germany and Sweden along with his students as well as attending the various UK National seminars which Kenjiro Yoshigasaki Sensei also conducted. The Chief Instructor of Netherlands Eugene Du Long Sensei also visited Bob’s dojo in Brighton to teach seminars. Shinichi Suzuki and Chistopher Curtis Sensei’s from Maui also conducted a misogi and aikido seminar in Copenhagen in which Bob participated.
Bob attended the 1990 grand opening of the Ki no Sato Ki Society headquarters near Utsonomia in Japan. Subsequently Bob participated in a number of classes over the years at Ki No Sato and at the old Tokyo dojo under the supervision of Koichi Tohei, Shinichi Tohei, Yutaka Otsuka, Taketoshi Kataoka, Kuuki Sawara, Shuji Maruyama, Tomonori Kobori and Will Reed Sensei’s.
In 2003 Kenjiro Yoshigasaki Sensei resigned as the Chief Instructor to establish his own association once again Bob and a number of other notable UK students including Roger Packman, Ian Parsons and Rhys Edwards Sensei’s eventually established the UK Ki Federation which has remained under the Ki Society HQ, Japan with Calvin Tabata Sensei the Chief Instructor of the North West Ki Federation and a lifelong direct student of Koichi Tohei Sensei acting as the Ki Society HQ Advisor to the UK Ki Fed.
Subsequently during this over the ten year period Bob has attended a number of seminars and training sessions in Ki, Aikido and Kiatsu® (the healing method of Koichi Tohei Sensei) in Oregon Ki Society,USA with North West Ki Federation Chief Instructor Calvi Tabata Sensei and the senior instructors of the OKS Louis Sloss, Jon Gillmore, Bob Hart, Brenda Tam & Terry Coperman Sensei’s.
Both with them in the USA and they have visited the UK to help provide direction, instruction and training in helping the UK instructors and the others UK students towards achieving the Ki level of training which from the calligraphy perspective would be known as “Sousho” where the strokes are made with a flowing cursive style but with strong mental intention (Ki).
So for over thirty years now Bob has been learning, following and teaching the training method devised by Koichi Tohei Sensei referred to as Ki Aikido in the west or Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido in Japanese at the Brighton Ki Society. The principles this method is based upon help to guide your practice and aid in your application of them in your daily life in order to derive the benefits they have to offer. This broad path is sometimes referred to as “Setsudo” or way of the universe.
A lot of people make comments regarding Ki Aikido without actually experiencing what it is like with an actual authentic practitioner and is based solely upon either seeing a video or training with somebody who is no longer associated with the Ki Society HQ, in Japan.
With his over 37 years teaching experience Bob MacFarland Sensei has a wealth of knowledge and insights to pass on based mainly upon Koichi Tohei’s teachings. To find out what Authentic Ki Aikido has to offer you please do attend one of the Ki Society monthly intensive training sessions with Bob MacFarland sensei.
Kiatsu® is a registered trademark of The Ki Society H.Q. Japan.