Cotter spreading the art of Iwama Ryu Aikido in Kuching

Sullivan demonstrates a gripping technique.

KUCHING, Sept 12: One after another, a body is effortlessly flipped into the air and lands on the soft, cushioned floor of the dojo. Welcome to the sport of Aikido.

The fast-moving action of this form of martial arts is similar to those seen in Hollywood movies featuring Aikido master Steven Seagal, who can seemingly twist the bones of villians the wrong way with subtle body movements.

With sweat rolling down his face and emerging from his ‘keikoji’ (aikido uniform), Sensei Sullivan Cotter sighed and composed himself as he extended his hand to welcome DayakDaily to his Aikido Dojo at Stutong here.

Sullivan in his ‘keikogi’.

The 45-year-old master heads ‘Kelab Aikido Stutong’, which has been teaching its members the Iwama Ryu style of Aikido since 2012.

Sensei Cotter, or simply ‘Sullivan’ to his students, is a dedicated martial arts practitioner. He was already a black belter in a Korean martial art when he decided to join an Aikido school in Germany as a teenager. He later joined the AikiShuren Dojo in Copenhagen,Denmark.

Apart from his usual students, he said he had a dozen students who trained seriously to master the martial arts and to learn its philosophy.

“Strange enough, I started with Tang Soo Do. When I went to Germany, I wanted to continue with it, but I was introduce to Aikido in Germany before pursuing it seriously in Copenhagen,” he revealed.

Sullivan’s Aikido martial art certificate.

The firm foundation from learning Tang Soo Do made his transistion to Aikido much easier. It helped him in his movements, especially the speed of his hands, and fighting techniques.

He encouraged both the young and old to learn the art, irrespective of their gender, to stay healthy and to get their body, mind and soul sync in harmony.

“Now not only I mastered the art but it rejuvenates me every day,” he claimed.

A senior student demonstrates the technique of throwing an opponent down.
Weapons used in Akido. The wooden sword (bokken) and the knife (tanto).

Sullivan, who is of Iban and Bidayuh parentage, briefly explained that the Iwama Ryu style of Aikido allows the practitioners to use their hands as weapons to ward off attackers.

He added that Aikido is a modern form of martial arts and was developed in the early 1940s by a Japanese named Morihei Ueshiba, who put together the philosophy, studies and religious beliefs associated with this form of martial arts.

One of Sullivan’s young protégés interviewed after the training was Austrian-Chinese Isabel Kholer, 10, who started learning the ropes more than a month ago.

“I am slowly picking up the right techniques and skills of this Japanese martial art. At first, I was worried when I enrolled myself because I am a girl and Aikido is a very physical, contact sport. For me, this form of martial arts uses a lot of muscle strength, but under the guidance of Master Sullivan, I am more confident and learning to be brave,” said Kholer, an expatriate who is living here with her parents.

Sullivan (centre) demonstrates to Lim (right) an Aikido technique, as Kholer watches.

Kholer believed she would not be worried about people bigger and stronger than her soon because she is confident she could defend herself.

“I hope to extend the Aikido principle to my life. Not only to learn the self defence art and techniques but its discipline and philosophy, as well. I need to strengthen and condition my young muscles. Once this young, fragile body and mind is conditioned, I am confident of taking down anyone, even Master Sullivan!” she giggled.

She revealed that for now she was still learning the basic stuff, inclduing how to fall onto the floor.

“But I am alright when I get thrown about or pushed to the floor,” she said, adding that she is a student of Borneo International School here.

Senior students showing the right way to throw and land on the floor.

Another student, Brandon Lim Wei, 16, said he chose to learn Aikido in order to protect himself.

“I aim to master the art and to get myself physically stronger. My father encouraged me to learn the art, and I took his advice as I was bullied in school some three years ago.

“I used to doubt myself when facing kids who are stronger physically, but not now. Aikido has boosted my confidence in many other things as well,” said Lim, who is a student of Chung Hua Middle School No.1 here.

He added that he trained regularly with both senior members of the dojo and with Sullivan. — DayakDaily