Kenneth Cottier

Founder of Hong Kong Aikido Association – K.G.E. Cottier Shihan has passed away


With the deepest sadness, we have to inform you that our beloved Sensei, K.G.E. Cottier Shihan passed away on Sunday morning, 8 June 2008 in Liverpool, England.

To many of us Sensei was not just our Aikido teacher, but a cherished friend, a trusted mentor and a man of wisdom from whom we had learned so much about life over the past 37 years.

To pay our last tribute to Sensei, a simple memorial service will be held on Wednesday, 11 June 2008 at Kwun Chung Dojo before the regular practice. Similar services will be held at all classes during the week up to Sunday, 15 June 2008.

Executive Committee
9 June 2008

The following two articles had been written by Sensei shortly before his return to England in May.

Edmund Wan
Technical Committee

For all yudansha of the Hong Kong Aikido Association

As all of you – apart from one or two – have been brought up by me, so to speak. I would not expect your aikido to be far removed from mine. Having said this, I would not, on the other hand, expect you to be carbon copies of me. With some of you having as much as 35 years of aikido under your belts, and having down the years attended many courses conducted by Hombu Shihan, you will have your own opinions. As for teaching, some of you have heard me say more than once that it does not matter how hard you try you will never satisfy all you come in contact with. Let me advance on this. Some are in aikido for the spiritual side of it, others for the physical side. Some are looking for something that will give them inner peace, confidence and self-reliance. On the other side of the coin I had one lady who did not please me at all on telling me she was in aikido simply to keep in shape. I remember thinking, well at least we have her in the dojo, and that she may find that there is certainly a lot more to aikido than keeping in shape.

To get back to actual training. One senior Hombu Shihan used to not spend one minute on warming up exercises. Another very high graded Shihan – on the other hand – spent 25 minutes on a one hour class on warming up. How long should we take to explain a technique? How much suwari-waza should we do? How many techniques should be taught during a one hour class? How much emphasis should be placed on atemi? How much attention should be given to beginners? So many questions with – of course – the answers to such questions being decided during class time by individual teachers, with some placing much more importance on some aspects of aikido than others, usually because their sensei’s did.

As for myself, the question regarding beginners is an important one as I feel the first 6 months, or so, of practice can be very confusing to some. Therefore beginners need encouragement, support, guidance and – when possible – praise.

As I said in a previous article addressed to beginners and low kyu grades, they could be middle aged, or approaching old age so they really need to be taken care of, particularly in the case of ukemi.

As teaching beginners, I always try to put myself in their place. I look at their faces. They can tell us so much. Do they understand what is being said? Are their faces showing fear, uncertainty, doubt? If so you must reassure them that you are not there to hurt them. You must win their confidence.

Let me here change the subject somewhat and briefly speak on how to behave as instructors. You should set an example to those you teach both inside and outside the dojo. If I behave abhorrently, how can I expect respect from those I teach?

Kenneth Cottier
Hong Kong
May 2007

For New Members

Welcome new members I am meeting for the first time. Being beginners, I can well understand some you feeling confused and apprehensive, may be even nervous. But I want you to know that I am available to you all, whilst I am here. What I mean by this is that if any of you wish to talk to me regarding problems you have with your aikido, do not hesitate to approach me. Do not think that because you are a beginner I will not be interested in you. Believe me. The very fact that you are beginners makes me more interested in you as the first six months or so of practice can be quite daunting. Let me advance on this a little. Because of aikido being non-competitive, we can have beginners in their fifties – sixties, or even seventies (a fellow in England started at the age of 74!) Considering this I feel the biggest obstacle to the just mentioned groups is breakfalls. To those who enjoy nothing more strenuous than collecting stamps, reading, attending concerts, playing a musical instrument, or other such pastimes, the very thought of launching oneself through the air can be likened to facing Everest. (I urge instructors within the Hong Kong Aikido Association to always bear this in mind).

I have found on a number of occasions beginners have become despondent because of not progressing at the same speed as those that started at the same time. One particular fellow comes to mind. As he had been successful in, basically, all he had done, on one occasion he became quite discouraged. When I pointed out to him that he had excelled over many others in what he had achieved, he saw things differently. There are those that write nice poetry, but on dance floor, do not know their left foot from their right. Other paint well but in a swimming pool struggle to keep their heads above water. I have heard it said by some who have been in aikido for quite some time, that they were better six months ago. If I know that they have been training regularly and receiving a good level of instruction, I always tell them that they learn something every time they come to the dojo. And on that basis they are better than they were six months ago. It is their frame of mind that is causing them to feel so negatively about their aikido. What has brought on this state of mind; well it could be anything – a bad day at work; problems at home; an injury; money matters etc. etc. Let us say a day has progressed, the internal argument has gone on – should I go to the dojo? With you finally getting there, your first partner may be a very stiff, uncoordinated, awkward, inflexible, very big beginner who seems to insist on moving in the opposite direction to where you want him to be, although he is probably not aware of this. Your next partner could be a strong young tiger who gets carried away and roughs you up a bit. This is not supposed to happen, but it does. Of course I am referring to – unlike Hombu – dojos where partners are changed after each technique. So, we need to try and put unpleasant experiences behind us. Remember most of us have been there. Tomorrow is a nice day. If you have an opportunity, before entering the dojo try to put things in perspective. Change negative thoughts to positive ones. Be aware of your breathing (we are only conscious of our breathing when we have problems such as asthma, a cold or smoke).
Again, speaking particularly to beginners, for those of you who feel confused, let me try to break things down a little. Generally speaking, we concentrate on ten techniques, them being Ikkyo, Nikyo, Sankyo, Yonkyo, Shiho-nage, Irimi-nage, Kokyu-nage, Tenchi-nage, Kaiten-nage and Kotegaishi. Now some of you reading this may well be thinking: “just what is Cottier talking about? I have been in aikido for a year and very time I go to the dojo I see a technique I have never seen before”. Yes! What you think may very well be so, but often what you have seen is a technique you have done may be more than once. But you are seeing it done for the first time from a particular attack, and therefore do not recognize it as such. Then, again at times variations of techniques that you have done before go unrecognized adding to your confusion.

During my first days at Hombu I clearly remember one morning after the 6:30 class feeling so confused that I had decided not to take the following class. When into the dojo stepped a dan grade I had befriended. “Let us practice” he said. “I am leaving” I answered, then told him why. He took me to one side and went on to simplify what we do as I have tried to do with you. I stayed for the next class during which we dwelt on what he had just said. He certainly helped me. From then on I started seeing things differently.

I do hope these few observations I have made help you with your practice.

Enjoy your aikido.

Kenneth Cottier
Hong Kong
May 2007