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!

Interview: Hannes Kannisto

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.

Welcome to the second Taido/Blog interview. Again, I’ve interviewed a Swede…

Taido Jissen Hannes
I first met Hannes at the 2006 European Championshiips

Hannes Kannisto is a good friend of mine, and I’ve enjoyed hanging out with him at various events and entertaining him and his wife when they visited Osaka. He’s a fellow beer-lover and father to a beautiful little girl. We’ve spent many hours discussing Taido and how to teach it, so I know you’ll enjoy reading his ideas below.

Who is this guy?

Hannes started training Taido in 1992 and began instructing 1994. After taking shodan in 2001 (“Yes, that’s a long time, 9 years”), he participated in 2003 European Championships (4th place in hokei), 2005 World Championships, and 2007 European Championships (dantai jissen gold).

He’s currently 4dan renshi, has judged various tournaments and started a new Taido dojo in Mölndal, Sweden, in 2010.

Taido/Blog Interview: Hannes Kannisto

What follows are my questions and Hannes’s responses via email. Enjoy.

1. What do you love most about Taido?

The thing I love most about Taido is that you’re never really done with it, there’s always room to improve, whether you are training for competition or just in general.

The best thing is when you get this kind of epiphany about how for example a technique really works, and suddenly a thing that was really hard is so easy!

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

Hopefully, they can feel the joy I feel about Taido and training Taido. I hope that this makes it more fun to come to class and easier to enjoy Taido. In that case anybody will get better in their Taido.

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

I feel that the spreading of Taido is very slow, mostly because unless you have a very high rank (officially 6 dan kyoshi) you’re not considered good enough to hold shinsa, even for beginners. In other, larger, martial arts the demand for rank of the shinsa holder is not as strict. For example, in a Swedish form of ju-jutsu a 2-kyu ju-jutsuka may hold shinsa for beginners (only), after getting a license (which includes taking a proper course on what to look for, how techniques should be done etc.).

I think a modification of the shinsa-system would be a good idea, to let more shinsas be held. This puts a higher demand on the educational system for shinsa-holders, though, and also a lot of work before such a system could be implemented. I think it would be worth it, but that’s just my opinion.

Another thing is the recruitment of beginners. There’s a lot of work to be done here, but most of the problem is fairly simple: lack of time. Most people that love Taido is most of the time very engaged within Taido organizations, both their own dojo, but also in national and sometimes international organizations. This takes a lot of time, and then there’s everything outside Taido (Yes, there’s actually a world outside Taido).

However, if we don’t recruit, we disappear, so it needs to be done.

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

Students may not be able to do very much about the shinsa system, more than perhaps express their view (in a behaved way) for example to their national organizations. Bringing it up for discussions is always good though. In the recruitment issues on the other hand, everybody can help: bring your friends to class, participate in shows and competitions, put up posters and so on. This I think is the most important thing of all: if you want Taido to survive, you can do so much to help.

Sounds grave, but not really. It’s actually mostly fun!

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

One epiphany (or maybe more of a relization) I’ve got over the years (I’ve actually got quite a few), is how to make efficient and fun Taido. When I started taido, almost 20 years ago, a lot of the training was focused on making the proper movements, exactly how to move the arms and legs and so on. This is of course important, so that you can perform your techniques with proper protection,timing and so on.

Unfortunately, as we trained so much on getting the details right, the movements became slow and because of that, uneffective. I think that, at least for younger and healthy students, speed needs to be stressed, otherwise it takes very long to be able to use Taido efficiently. Also, taigi-ichii (timing of the technique) is very important, both because it speeds up the technique and makes it so much stronger, with much less effort.

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

The next year is focused on developing my dojo, recruiting new people to class and so on. For my personal training, I’m focusing on sei- and -mei hokeis, especially chisei and katsumei no hokei.

7. You began training 19 years ago. Where would you like to see Taido in 19 years from now?

In 2030, I hope Taido have grown slightly more than so far. I would like to see at least 5-10 more dojos in Sweden, and a few more in Finland, Denmark, and Norway too (and the rest of Europe too). I hope to see more active international Taido organizations, or more visibly active I should say. The flow of information is hopefully more visible. I hope that more people engage in the spreading of Taido, I hope I have the time myself.

I’ll still be around though, so Taido will still be around.

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

Try to practice taido for as many different instructors as possible! Go to camps, seminars,competitions etc. Practice with as many different people as possible. You’ll meet lots of new friends, and you’ll have so much fun! In the mean time, you’ll also learn lots of new and fun stuff.

Thanks, Hannes.

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

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

Interview: Mikael Jansson

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.

Welcome to the third Taido/Blog interview. If it seems like I have a bias towards only interviewing Swedes, it’s only because they’ve been the ones who have returned their responses the fastest. I’m hoping that some other nations (cough, cough, Finland, cough…) can be represented here soon.

I first met Mikael Jansson, or Mickey, in Leiden around the 2006 European Championships, but we’d probably crossed paths before that. Since then, we’ve had a few chances to communicate and I’ve always been impressed by how relaxed and easy-going he is. Perhaps that’s not always the case, but he appears quite a bit happier than many of the serious “sensei-type” characters I’ve met.

We need more people like him in Taido who are capable of being serious about training yet knowing how to let go of things that don’t matter and have a good time off the tatami.

Who is this guy?

Mickey began Taido when it was quite new in Sweden, giving up Judo to try out the new fighting sport. After some years, he became a board members for Swedish Taido and in 1987 took his first tip to Japan to train Taido for five weeks. He’s returned almost every other year since. In that time, Mickey has been one of the leaders of Taido in Sweden and also founded the Taido association in the Netherlands.

He’s currently 6dan kyoshi teaching in Stockholm and has judged in numerous tournaments in Europe and Japan.

Taido/Blog Interview: Mikael Jansson

What follows are my questions and Mickey’s responses via email. Enjoy.

1. What do you love most about Taido?

There’s many things that I love about Taido. First it was the joy of movement and the creativity that I fell for. And as an instructor and leader it’s amazing to meet with former students when they’ve grown up and recall how Taido had a positive touch on their lives and personality. To be able to help people with their own personal development and growth, also to help new leaders grow, these reasons makes my day better. Taido is a great method to do this.

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

Physical diversity, problem solving and with a creative way gives people more satisfaction in life, and a better health as well. So, continue with your Taido practice!

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

There is too few people who works to spread Taido both in their own country and internationally. Those who do work to spread Taido are doing the best they can, but we need more people. And because we’re not that many, the growth isn’t as fast as it needs to be.

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

From what I’ve seen, young people don’t take their time to experience how good they can become. They try different things and never go further than a few steps, and will never know how far they can go, both physically and mentally. Let Taido become a natural part of your day, and not just a few years in the teens. Let it be a part of your everyday life throughout your entire life and grow with it, and let Taido grow with you. Of course, the instructors have a big part of this progress, to give our students enough motivation and knowledge – that will help you through life.

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

My first trip to Japan, and the fundamental Taido theory that I learned. JTA helped me with homestay and very good instructors in an admirably and generous way. I compared it to other sports and understood that it was something special with Taido, and the people involved.

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

To get Stockholm’s Taido club to grow with more Taidokas, by opening more dojos and develop our organization, and continue developing our instructors. I also aim for goals as physically active, of course for my own health but also as a role model for the younger generations so they can see the positive effects of good training.

7. You began training 33 years ago. Where would you like to see Taido in 33 years from now?

That Taido is more visible in our society and that Taido is established in more countries, but to do this we need more involved people with a more modern way to organize and work in. We also need a realistic and well thought through plan to get there.

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

To strive towards getting better at something the students aren’t so satisfied with, and continue this process throughout life. Not only in Taido, but also in school, at work, economy, relations and everyday life – so it become a “life rule” or a motto.

Thanks, Mickey.

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

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