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British Aikido Federation - Ken Cottier


Original Text from BAF Newsletter

Aikido enthusiasts throughout the world were greatly saddened to hear that Ken Cottier passed away on 8 June 2008 after a prolonged illness. His Aikido careerKen Cottier began in 1962 when he had instruction from Kenshiro Abbe; and a few years later he went to Japan, where he trained at the Hombu Dojo under the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. In 1971 he founded the Hong Kong Aikido Association, of which he was President. In 2002 he was promoted to the rank of Shihan by the Aikikai. For many years he was a prominent personality in the International Aikido Federation, appointed first as a member of its Senior Council and later of its Directing Committee. After returning to live permanently to Britain in 1999 he became a Senior Member of the B.A.F. National Committee and taught at many B.A.F. Summer Schools and Spring Courses, as well as being invited to take courses throughout the UK. He was an extremely popular and respected Aikido teacher, and tributes have been flowing in from all over the world. Here are some from B.A.F. members.

“I first met Ken Cottier in the early seventies when I attended a class he was taking in London during a brief visit to England from Hong Kong, where he was living at the time. I was tremendously impressed by his talents as a teacher (being a teacher by profession myself I particularly appreciated them). His class was so well structured, his pace just right, his delivery loud and clear. And afterwards I found him so approachable, patient in explaining some particular point when he was questioned. Although he returned to Hong Kong soon after that occasion I kept in touch through audio cassettes. I felt we had a lot in common, in addition to our devotion to Aikido. We were of similar age and we both came from the same part of the country: I from Liverpool and he from the Wirral across the River Mersey. It was interesting to hear about the period he spent as a child during World War II evacuated to a rural area near Newtown in central Wales, where he attended a small village school where Welsh was spoken. That was why, I suppose, he still had a slight Welsh accent. Of course we met again on numerable occasions when he visited England and more often after he finally returned to live permanently in his home town of Eastham. What particularly impressed me with Ken was his fair-mindedness. He never had a bad word for anybody; and when he did hear someone being criticized, he was always ready to give them the benefit of the doubt and imagine another side to a story. He had a great sense of humour and an endless fund of amusing anecdotes. He was held in the highest regard by people all over
the world.”

Peter Megann

“During the Second World War, Ken was evacuated to mid-Wales, a sojourn which left him with fond memories: so he was always pleased to come to Sudokan (the Aberystwyth dojo), where his classes always delighted and enlightened us. He still retained quite a bit of Welsh, especially when he had had a few beers with which we plied him here at Aberystwyth, in the heart of Wales. He knew the words (and often, recognisably, the tunes) of many songs which he should not have remembered, and of course his stories were equally irrepressible. His brother Ron, together with Mamie and the rest of his loving family, were overwhelmed at the esteem in which Ken was held, all over the world; but this high regard was not simply due to his astounding gifts in respect of aikido, but to his qualities as a man. Almost comically self-effacing, he was the last to realise that the love we all felt for him was because of his humanity, his interest in others. His unpatronising encouragement of the young was especially notable: off the mat, he did not expect them to stand on ceremony. Not all that long ago, he was still in his own home: when I used to ring him up to ask how he was, his first words were, ‘How is your wife?’ This is what I shall remember of him (not to speak of his wonderful company and humour): whatever his difficulties, he would think first of others, of himself last. What a man; how privileged we are to have counted him a friend!”

David Wulston

“I have many fond memories of Cottier Sensei – the respect he commanded in training sessions in Hong Kong; the reverence that seniors all showed to him when we travelled to Vietnam (1994), Singapore (1995) and Hawaii (1996); his nikyo on a young Vietnamese aikidoist who challenged him in a bar in Hochimin City (his wrist ended up in plaster!) and then immediately standing up and singing the most amazing sequence of songs to everyone there; the comradeship he installed in the Hong Kong musketeers who toured with him, not just for the love of aikido but more for the friendship he generated amongst us of which, of course, he was the centre; the echo of his unique voice “William!” or “Well, William, you must…” whether I was on the mat or not! It is only now I am starting to understand glimpses of what he wanted me to understand all those years ago; and finally those precious private lessons with him on Saturday mornings in Hong Kong shared with Juneko and Jay and the English breakfast we would all enjoy afterwards when he would entertain us with stories of his time in Japan and of O-Sensei himself. However, to elaborate in more detail on any of these would to some degree do him disrespect, since although Cottier Sensei was a man of many stories and songs, he was not one who would ever wish to be a story. He was such a private man on the one hand and yet, on the other, universal in that he knew everyone on the aikido circuit by their first names whether beginners or experts, and was able to engage with all due to his empathetic and sincere nature. I remember talking to him on the telephone the night before he passed away. Even at this time of great pain and fear, all he wanted to talk about was me, my wife (who often joined us for breakfast in Hong Kong), my daughter and of course our time in Hong Kong together. This was typical of his selflessness in giving me his time despite his breathing difficulties and the many others trying to contact him at this time. What he shared with everyone was a very precious gift – that of himself. If Aikido’s ultimate purpose is to polish the soul then Cottier Sensei had reached the highest level. It shone with such triumph through his bright active eyes, his kind grin and joyful face no matter where he was – teaching aikido or chatting over a beer on Nathan Road. For me that is his greatest legacy, that pure polished spirit that made him the quintessential English Gentleman.”

William Spooner

 “Ken Cottier was the true Gentleman Master. No matter whom he met, all were treated with the same respect and dignity. In fact many will remember his first words to them, which were often “I’m Ken Cottier, you are?” With these words many a lifetime friendship was forged. We were drawn into his enthusiasm for Aikido, and life itself. To practise with him always left you feeling he had shared this special art, the aikido he had taken up all those years ago, that had kept him in Japan to study under O-Sensei, and many of the great masters of the day. To sit with Cottier Sensei and hear his many recollections of those days, often late into the night over a glass or two, was a privilege, because not only have we lost a teacher and friend, we have lost this precious link to O-Sensei. He may not have been the ‘Father of British Aikido’, but he was, and will always will be, the Great Uncle of British Aikido. It is important that we thank Cottier Sensei’s family for sharing him with us. His brother Ron said that they had no idea of the love and respect which the Aikido world held for him – from Japan, Hong Kong, South Africa… to the Wirral, and many places in between. He will be sorely missed.

Thank you Ken for being you! We will keep you close to our hearts always.”

Peter Gillard

“Like many folk, I have a large number of good memories of Cottier Sensei. I very much enjoyed both his style of aikido and his style of teaching. There is one memory in particular that sticks in my mind. As it is a story that I often find myself thinking about, I thought it would be appropriate to share it. I apologize at the outset that I’ve forgotten some of the details, such as the names of all those involved. During a break at a December course in Cardiff several years ago, Cottier Sensei offered to answer any questions we had about O-Sensei, or indeed any other (aikido - related) questions we might have. So, we gathered around, and someone asked him about his favourite memory of O-Sensei, and he shared this with us. He had been on the mat in Hombu one evening, practising with another one of the students there, who was a big strong guy. The other guy was holding morote-dori, and Cottier Sensei couldn’t move him, try as he might. He saw O-Sensei walking through the dojo, and asked for assistance. O-Sensei came over and had the other guy hold him morote-dori. Hold harder, O-Sensei said, and the other guy held harder. Harder, O-Sensei said again, and the other guy put everything he had into his grip. O-Sensei then hit the other guy, lightly, in the face, threw him easily, and walked off the mat.”

Jim Anderson

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