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Sensei Oly Medlicott - a Martial Arts Path



Growing up between Kyiv, Ukraine and grandma’s place in Stavropol, Russia, I was interested to join my classmates for judo classes. However it was a strict No: Martial Arts are not for girls. At that time competitive wrestling would often cause broken noses and ears if not more.


I had to wait until age 21 to join Karate classes in Moscow while stretching between college and job. The teacher was recommended by friends. He didn’t associate his karate with any popular style. He was teaching Tai Chi Chuan as well. Though I never attended his Tai Chi Chuan class, many of his seniors did both and it definitely translated in the teaching. His karate had huge focus on absorption and redirection and was also extremely dynamic for turn around the opponent - what we know as tenkan in aikido. With lots of bruises on arms through the first half a year, it miraculously disappeared while the speed and 360 awareness increased. We also practiced bo, nun-chucks, straight single and double handed swords. After about 3 years practicing I got a minor back injury during bridge stretching and was out for a year of PT. 


Then my career made first big move to Heidelberg, Germany. Within about half a year, I wanted to try martial arts again. Karate atmosphere felt too rigid. A friend suggested aikido and I had not a slightest idea since it was before YouTube came around.


For my first Aikido class I came in shorts and T-shirt, and was offered to join the mat right away. With simple explanations and help from seniors it was an outstanding group to learn with. Having many foreigners and many German students who used to live abroad, it was extremely open hearted and open minded community that accepted me as a family. Finding community for a first-time immigrant was both essential and empowering. Social skills, diligence and intellectual skills are also at the core of my profession as data analytics consultant. That huge correlation for profession and hobby has probably deeper ties to the depth of my soul.


I trained about two years and passed 5th Kyu in Heidelberg PSV – Police club aikido under Georg Umlauf (7 Dan) under Aikido Shinki Rengo federation of Michael Daishiro Nakajima (7 Dan – Aikikai Hombu Dojo, 9 Dan – Daitoryu Aiki Jujutsu Bokuyokan).


Still very much a beginner I moved to Singapore and joined the largest aikido group there. I started traveling for work - Japan Hombu Dojo was definitely a great hit attending as much morning and evening classes as I could outside of work schedule. Seminars around the region included Donovan Waite (7 Dan), Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (8 Dan) and Seiichi Sugano Sensei (8 Dan). Practicing with them and their students was very welcoming and grew my passion for aikido.


Meanwhile in Singapore I had a great friend Stefan Hauff who moved from Switzerland with about same Aikido experience level as me. Then suddenly two French guys arrived to Singapore about the same time and walked onto the mat. They were invincible and their appearance stirred the atmosphere. Me and Stfan  joined them for beers after class and suddenly Serge Beraud (6 Dan) and Thierry Diagana (5 Dan) started pointing our mistakes, answer many of our questions and shared stories of legendary teachers like Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei (9 Dan) and Katsuo Chiba Sensei (8 Dan).


Though first Stefan and I were thrown off the rail with our own deficiencies, we found a dance studio and started private classes once a week with no mats. There was so much to learn.


Taking good ukemi was the first connection back to my karate past – blocking and ready to strike back, never turning one’s back away and refocusing right away both on tori (attacker) and uke (defender) sides. Pinky connection on yokomen (side shoulder diagonal attack) was probably most mysterious and intriguing at the same time. Avoiding atemi (potential strikes) and leaning into or out of the strikes or rather failure to react and move fast caused me and Stefan much grief with many strikes missed and to achieve the learning points.


After half a year of our dance studio practice, I had my last chance to visit Germany and it was anniversary seminar at Aikido Shinki Rengo. I could see my progress right away and recognize dramatic breakthrough in aikido understanding I made in half a year.


2009 was a big year. First time I went to attend Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (8 Dan) in Manila. Went to visit Birankai North America (BNA) Summer Camp 2009 – official Chiba Sensei retirement. Me and Stefan didn’t wear hakamas and were thrown around like kittens for 6 straight days. We bought mats, founded Mumei Shudan (No Name) dojo in Singapore. Mumei Shudan hosted Takeshi Yamashima Sensei (8 Dan) and Christian Tissier Sensei (8 Dan) and passed our Shodan (1 Dan) black belt tests. Serge Sensei introduced weapon (jo and bokken) practice of Saito Sensei. Thierry Sensei started regular Chiba Sensei weapon practice and Iaido. We started kids classes in the dojo. We took over NTU (Nanyang Technological University) Aikido club. Serge Beraud sensei developed the Instructor course and we conducted several rounds within the next few years.


Next 8 years it was the best aikido around me. Or rather me everywhere with good aikido practice and people. What was important to me was the sincerity, honesty, generosity of everyone I met on the aikido path and shining the light forward. I’would not able to name all the teachers, but many of them shared not only teaching but also personal insights. I believe I learned from those experiences as well as meditation practice I started around the same time to tune in with people asking questions, or on the other side offering guidance or advice to juniors.


I feel I wake up after every practice both from teachers and my students. I hope I learn some more aikido that still looks full of mystery as well as become a better teacher – always adjusting and exploring, and keeping my brain and heart wide open.


I slowed down significantly since my son was born in 2018. I love to connect with old friends, having wonderful neighbors at Heaven and Earth Aikido group and attend local seminars. I totally look for opportunity to join Heaven and Earth Aikido on regular basis and bring my personal small contribution for the world through the Art of Peace. Growing out martial and spiritual awareness in shu-ha-ri tradition is likely an essential component of our planet survival and well-being.


Reference:

Interview with Katsuo Chiba by Josh Gold in 2004

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