Interview: Fredrik Utbult

The Taido/Blog Interview is a set of eight questions that I’ve been asking for the past few months with the idea of highlighting a variety of perspectives from students and teachers around the world.

This is kind of exciting for me. I first had the idea to interview people I respect on Taido/Blog during the 2009 World Taido Championships in Hiroshima. With some many truly excellent people hanging around and talking about Taido, it was only natural that a lot of ideas got shared and lot of interesting subjects were discussed.

It took me a while to act on, but this is one of the ideas that came up.

For the first interview to publish, I decided to share the responses of Fredrik Utbult, president of the Australian Taido Association and a good friend. Check it out:

Who is this guy?

Fredrik, like me, began practicing Taido in 1984, though he did so in Sweden. After spending six weeks in Japan in 1988 and taking his shodan examination with Shukumine Sensei, he went on to compete as a member of the Swedish national team. He later coached that team and served as president of the Swedish Taido Association.

Eventually, he must’ve gotten tired of his toilet swirling in the same direction, so he picked up and moved to Australia in 1997 where he founded the first Taido club at University of New South Wales in Sydney. As of now, Fredrik holds the rank of 6dan kyoshi and continues to lead Australian Taido.

Taido/Blog Interview: Fredrik Utbult

What follows are my questions and Fredrik’s unedited responses (I didn’t even change his weird European spelling…) via email. Enjoy.

1. What do you love most about Taido?

It is not just a single thing that makes me love Taido. I’ll give you 3 of my favourite reasons.

a) Taido has finesse. The cooler we can finish off our opponent the better. We strive to perform the perfect technique, the most agile, stylish and proper way to beat our opponent. If we succeed, we will get the appreciation not only from our own friends but also Taidoka’s from other clubs and nations whatever the level of competition. This is something I have not experienced in any other martial art.

It is often argued that Taido is difficult to learn and may not be effective on the streets. I agree to some extent, if you want to quickly learn how to fight in real life situations, then a simple and straight forward martial art is probably the way to go. Saying this, you will still be able to use Taido if it comes to it. It will just take a bit longer and you will need to understand that the rules in a competition does not apply to street situations. The difference is that you will have a lot of fun while learning.

b) Taido is very broad. When practising Taido it is important that we do things correctly. This is to preserve the style so that it does not drift off and away from the basics that makes Taido very beautiful to watch when performed to perfection. Knowing this you may think that Taido is very strict and cannot be changed, but this is not the case. Taido is ever changing, this was Saiko Shihan‘s will and as long as we stay within the guidelines we are encouraged to come up with our own techniques. This is a very cool concept as a referee in a competition will be able to reward a point for a technique he/she has never seen before.

In Taido we are supposed to move in 3 dimensions, meaning there should be no restriction to what plane we are moving or body axis we turn around. To be able to move freely we have been given a set of movements called unsoku and unshin. In combinations with all our techniques it does give us a very broad martial art. Over the years I have been practising, trying, watching and reading about many other martial arts, none of these are as broad as Taido.

c) Taido community. What makes Taido really interesting though is the people, my students, overseas students, Sensei’s etc. Wherever you go in the world as a Taidoka you are welcome. The whole international Taido community is like a huge family, I think this is quite unique.

2. What’s one way students can take advantage of this right now?

Travel around the world to practise and meet with other Taidoka’s.

3. What do you feel is the biggest problem facing Taido?

Political issues are unfortunately the biggest problem facing Taido in the future.

4. What’s one thing students can do right now to make this better?

Students should not worry about those things, just enjoy learning Taido and make friendships across the borders.

5. What was one epiphany you’ve had in your training or general approach to Taido?

The one epiphany that made the biggest difference was when I realised that nothing that other Taidoka’s do is impossible also for me to do also. If other people can do it so can I. No one is more than human so it is also possible for me to do it as good. Of course it may not always happen this way that you become as good as the best, but that attitude is what can take you a long way in anything that you do in life. It is also important to realise that you do not need to follow what other people are doing, you can also lead the way yourself.

6. What are your personal goals for the next year in Taido?

Personally, I would like to see another club started so that we can continue to spread Taido in Australia.

7. You began training 27 years ago. Where would you like to see Taido in 27 years from now?

I started Taido 27 years ago. In another 27 years, I would like to see Taido practised in another 10 countries and that the number of students in each of the existing Taido countries will have at least tripled.

8. What message or advice do you have for Taido students?

Most important advice is to be patient, listen carefully to your instructors and to see and learn from the older students.

Thanks, Fred.

I’ll have more interviews coming soon, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, if you have any comments or questions for Fred, leave them below, and I’ll make sure he sees them. Thanks!

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