Aikido, Creative Work, Photography & Documentary.

Learning to Fall


So it begins. Only a few months after completing a three year documentary, with screenings still ahead of us, I find my thoughts are wandering towards the next project. This time set in the land of the rising sun.  Welcome to Japan and the unusual world of Aikido.

 Belt, tanto & zori. Ilford Delta 400.

Belt, tanto & zori. Ilford Delta 400.

In my limited experience, Aikido as self defence 'system' isn't as direct or effective as say Jujitsu, Krav Magar or even Karate. It takes longer to learn, to have practical purpose and to appreciate. Its not for everyone. After my first (clumsy) lessons I quickly realised I wasn't looking for a self defence system, I needed a system to better understand myself. My body. The way it moves and the way it could move others.

The art combines my interest in Japanese culture with the desire to do something physical, something difficult. 

Its strange that what could be considered a softer martial art has a very different reputation in Japan. To the point where Yoshinkan Aikido is the martial art of the Tokyo Riot Police.

In some attempt to reflect on the practicalities of why I voluntarily get thrown, dropped, locked, pinned, punched, kicked and stabbed 3 times a week I am taking interest in the motivations of other Aikidoka (people who wear white pyjamas and enjoy the actives described above). What makes them dedicate a large portion of their life to this art form? What do they get gain? 

If you practise Aikido feel free to get in touch. It always great to find out about what motivates other Aikidoka.

Its a dangerous time. Creative juices are flowing.

Pieces of an idea are beginning to form - stickies appearing on walls. 

Research is underway, a camera at every session and notebook to hand.

This time its scarier, more challenging and self informing than any project that has come before it. A documentary on Aikido. I feel the draw again into the realms of discomfort. Yet what experience has taught me, what Aikido has taught me, is that usually the uncomfortable, the unconventional, the unknown offer a better understanding of myself and the people around me.

As I pack my bag to leave on a week long Aiki-Summer School in Wales I realised that combining two passions has a lot to live up to.


A collection of photographs from Wales. August, 2016.

Personal, AikidoJames Stier