Allen Sensei: Interview with Head Instructor at UNSW Aikido

Jo Kata - Weapons Training UNSW Aikido.jpg

  • How long have you been doing Aikido?

I started in 1989 with Ozeki Sensei. So this year marks my 29th year.   I have been lucky enough to continue my training when I had the opportunities to work and live overseas.  First with London Aikikai, then Hong Kong Aikikai when I was living there and finally Kokikai in New York City with Gary Snyder Sensei. 

  • What got you into Aikido?

When I was in high school I took up Taekwondo, I enjoyed the physical aspects (as most young people do), however, when I started University I wanted to do something different.  I wanted an activity which was more holistic and fulfilling to the spirit.  By chance I found the UNSW Aikido club via an ARC short course, I was inspired by Ozeki Sensei's approach to martial arts and stayed.

A post shared by UNSW Aikido (@unsw_aikido) on

  • How has your Taekwondo training impacted your Aikido training? 

It taught me how to kick and punch with power and gave me a foundation to teach my students how to attack properly.  

  • Aikido elevator pitch: in a couple of sentences, how do you explain Aikido to someone with no idea? 

Just try it.  Do something for your mind, spirit, and body.  Come and explore a martial art that you can do for the whole life, one that has much more than just physical benefits.

  • Why do you train and teach at UNSW Aikido club? 

An amazing collection of club members, tradition and an ongoing focus training and quality.  Over the last 20 years, the club has developed very strong foundations, we have amazing club members who have volunteered their time and bodies to make our club a sustainable and quality dojo.  The UNSW facility / training space is very good, it is pretty much purpose built for Aikido / Judo arts and the sprung mats are excellent.

  • Does Aikido have any benefits for your life outside of the dojo? What are they?

Yes, it is hard to describe but generally, I feel aikido has increased my ability to focus, handle stress and control my emotions when difficult situation arises.  The underlying philosophy of Bushido combined with the physical and mental training reaches far beyond the dojo and has enriched my life outside the dojo.

  • What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about getting into martial arts?

Don't think, just do.  Go and try

Different martial arts will appeal to different people at different life stages.  When I was young I wanted to break wooden boards and do flying kicks, so Taekwondo became a thing for me.  As I got older, I wanted something I could do on a sustainable basis, something less confronting, something which took the energy of your attacker and redirect it for a better 'outcome' for the defender.  

Choosing the 'art' is just one part of the formula.  You need look at the community / dojo you are joining.  In the end, if you are truly committed to the art you will spend a lot of time at the dojo and it is important you understand their values. 

 Bokken kata with Maruyama Sensei Spring Camp 2017 UNSW

Bokken kata with Maruyama Sensei Spring Camp 2017 UNSW

 Koku nage with Maruyama Sensei

Koku nage with Maruyama Sensei