“Ki Aikido can become a rock solid centre that fear, confusion and conflict cannot disturb. It is that in my life and has seen me through some tough times. The way to peace requires constant practice but it pays huge dividends.” – Michael Geisner Sensei, Chief Instructor
Sensei, when and why did you start practising martial arts? When I was 14 years old, I discovered an affinity for Japanese martial arts when my best friend at high school urged me to do traditional Karate with him. I loved the discipline, attention to detail and development of willpower. I started to feel like I could stand up for what was right, rather than bowing down to the big, mean bullies. I hated injustice being done to people who were smaller or unwilling to fight.
So, you started in Karate. How did you come to Aikido?
I continued Karate training for a few years and also practised Wing Chun for a while. I found that I developed great reflexes, speed and confidence, but had a gnawing feeling that there was something missing. I was looking for a warrior code; some principles for life, something bigger than just defending myself and being able to defeat an attacker. I thought there must be something around with wisdom and heart. Did it really come down to speed, strength, technique and meanness? I signed up for a self defence class in my senior year at high school, which was taken by a true gentleman, a middle aged Aikido black belt, who reminded me of an Oxford scholar. Ian Sensei did not show us how to maim and destroy; instead he showed us how to remain safe by moving our bodies and doing things like running straight towards him when he raised his sword and getting safely behind him! It was so different to the typical ‘kick and punch‘ methods. Then he showed us his unbendable arm. It was like a rock! He taught us the value of accuracy and getting things just right. He recommended that I visit the Aikido Club at the Australian National University (ANU), so that I could train with more advanced students and meet his teacher, John Turnbull Sensei, who is still there today.
What led you to Japan – to Tohei Sensei?
While doing intensive training at the ANU, I was deeply impressed by an old book written by Koichi Tohei, the highest ranking master in the world and I spent three years in Tokyo studying under Tohei Sensei and his senior students. I knew that this was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life and resolved to learn it and teach it in Australia. When I completed university, I moved to Cairns and trained to black belt under Roby Kessler Sensei. I still see him and Japanese masters several times a year for intensive training camps.
Have you ever had to use Ki Aikido?
Every day! The Ki principles and mindset of Aikido are applicable to daily life and I have used them for years to get a fantastic sleep, to improve my posture, in raising my children right and also in my job as a teacher. It is a continual process of self improvement…. Ah, but I know what you are hinting at. Yes, I have used it in some dangerous situations where the trouble was unavoidable. I have used it when surrounded by a gang at a railway station. I used it to restore harmony when approached by an exceptionally vicious individual I once had dealings with. And I have used it to avoid a car crash. I’d have to tell you these stories face to face. That said, all of these situations were unavoidable – if I kept running into trouble day after day I would be questioning my real understanding of Ki Aikido. Some people bring trouble to themselves like magnets – this is largely because of their ’fighting minds.’ Ki Aikido techniques are to be used when you are in real danger, not to satisfy the needs of your ego. It is far better to ‘win without fighting’.
You started Melbourne Ki Aikido Kai in 2005. How is it being an instructor yourself now?
It makes me feel alive! I will always be a student, but it motivates me to see that Ki Aikido also brings confidence and happiness to my students.
What is your vision for the future?
I do have big dreams as ever and like to share them with those students that show a sincere and disciplined attitude to their practice. Generally speaking, I would like to help many people in Melbourne transform their lives through Ki Aikido – there are many wonderful paths in Life, but as a schoolteacher I have seen many young people and families who are thirsting for a way to better themselves and their desperate situations. We would like to eventually have a fully dedicated, permanent dojo that trains high quality instructors and brings happiness and opportunity to many more people in Victoria.