In the world of British Karate, there are few men who have achieved paralleled heights as that of Aidan Trimble. He was a brilliantly successful competitor and now very charismatic karate instructor. Because of his deep knowledge and very obvious skill, he is in much demand throughout the world. When he is not traveling, he teaches in his headquarters ‘The Dojo’ in Nottingham. I, Sarah Amos, was lucky enough to speak to Sensei Trimble.
SA: You are recognized as one of the greatest Karate to have ever come out of Britain, can you please tell us how you started Karate.
AT: I started in about 1972, during the Kung Fu boom and I used to go with my father to see all of the films, and I became fascinated with Bruce Lee. I began training with a brown belt, because you had to be eighteen to train in a legitimate club at that time. I was eleven at the time. It’s taken for granted now that clubs are filled with kids, but it was very rare back then. It wasn’t until I was about fourteen that I began to train with Asano Sensei. (After lying about my age).
SA: That follows quite nicely onto my next question. Asano Sensei is highly regarded for his fighting spirit, would you say that this has rubbed off on you, and the way that you teach?
AT: Oh yes, that was his forte, not being disrespectful, but he was not known for his technical classes, he wouldn’t really explain anything about individual techniques, he wouldn’t do bunkai or anything of that nature. Basically, he would give you the numbers as you work along in the class, but his main thing was to get everyone out and fight them. And he would do this every week, and he did instill that fighting spirit. You never went down, and if you did, you got straight back up and he would expect nothing less. All his senior students were like that. They had tremendous fighting spirit, and that certainly helped me. Don’t get me wrong, I think you’ve either got that in you or not, to a certain degree, but he certainly brought it out in you.
SA: I would imagine that it did help you, because you were amazingly successful. How do you think that success has set you up for the rest of your Karate career?
AT: When I was younger all I was interested in was competition that became my focus. That Shotokan style of fighting very dynamic, forward never back was very exciting. It didn’t go down as well on the all styles team though, that was a different kettle of fish all together. I was sweeping people up in the air, stamping on people, because that was how we fought, very similar to the KUGB was as well, obviously we were all from the same stamp, but I was the only Shotokan fighter on the squad at that time. People were saying “Calm down, take it easy.” I just went in there crash, bang, wallop. After a while I did change and learned a great deal from the then coach Ticky Donavon. Having said all that you realize that the most valuable lessons you learned were right at the beginning.
SA: How did you feel when you were listed as one of the top ten greatest fighters in combat magazine?
AT: It’s a nice compliment have someone say that, but there have been a hell of a lot of fighters not on the list that are excellent, and I would put above me.
SA: As a fighter, Enoeda’s trademark move was his infamous leg sweeps, what would you say was Aidan Trimble’s trademark technique
AT: Probably ashi-barai, but then I suppose the one I was known most for was the yoko-geri. Not a lot of people used it, so I would certainly surprise opponents with it. I used to do fake-uraken, and then follow with the kekomi. I used to try to think of lots of different ways to draw people onto it.
SA: Do you think that the legacy of being a competitor like yourself and Frank Brennan has gone, or do you think that people like Rory Daniels will be remembered by the next generation?
AT: Yes, there are some great fighters now. I think it will always go up a level with each generation. I think early on in my career to improve your karate you simply did more karate! But in the late seventies early eighties it was normal to incorporate other types of training. That time was the start of the concept of a karate athlete. I do feel that the attitude has changed somewhat. I do think there’s a slight lack of respect with some competitors. I must say, I don’t find that in Shotokan so much. It’s more on the open circuit where you get that kind of attitude.
SA: How would you say the way you trained for competition differs from the way you now teach for competition?
AT: I would say there’s more emphasis on attack, rather than defense, but at the end of the day, a fight’s a fight and I don’t think the fundamentals will change. We still have two arms and two legs. And I suppose it comes back to your question about Asano sensei, you’ve either got it or you haven’t. It comes down to whether you’ve got that fighting spirit, that bottle to go in there and have a fight. I was teaching in Norway some time ago and I was speaking to a friend of mine who used to be on the Norwegian team, she said that in the early eighties the Great Britain team, was the team, I’m talking about in the all-styles, yet we had no funding no doctors, physios etc whereas Norway were relatively pampered. They were well supported, they didn’t lack for anything, but we had that bite, and now I think we are a little bit pampered. The fighters get funded, they get everything. All the equipment they want, all the support that they need and quite rightly, but then you’ll get some kid from Kosovo or Kazakhstan! who come out and wipe the floor with everyone. That’s not because he’s got a team of sport scientists behind him. It’s because he’s a fighter, he’s got the heart to go out there and take anybody on.
SA: During your training career, who have you trained with, apart from Asano who has inspired you?
AT: Well, I’ve trained with so many people, and I still do. As far as Karate is concerned I’ve trained with all the senior Japanese instructors at one time or another. Shirai, Kase, Enoida, Tsuyama and many more I also trained in Japan with Yahara sensei. I did quite a lot of training with Ticky Donovan once I got onto the all-styles team. The way he taught his fighting was very clever. I trained with Dominic Valera and that was inspiring. Later on in my career, I trained with the likes of Terry O’ Neill, Billy Higgins. And then of course I became great friends with Dave Hazard, and he had a big influence on me. He’s incredible, but also he has a fantastic karate mind. It’s always an inspiration to train with him. I’ve trained with different people who do different styles; I’ve trained with Tomiyama from Shito-ryu. That was the first time I actually did bunkai, which was probably in the early eighties. As I said earlier we didn’t do bunkai at our dojo.
SA: Considering the state of political chaos that has existed in the world of karate over the last couples of years, one name that cannot be associated with the politics of Karate is yours, how do you feel about the over-attention being paid to the politics of Karate? Do you think it takes emphasis away from actual karate?
AT: Yes I do, but having said that, whenever they used to ask people in magazine articles “what do you dislike the most in karate” invariably would say politics. But it’s a bit naive to say that we don’t need politics, because we need politics for everything. Even your own karate club involves politics. When you deal with another individual there’s politics involved. That’s always going to be the case. The unfortunate thing is that you tend to find the ones who are good at it don’t want to do it. I did get persuaded to become an executive board member on the governing body for what was then the EKGB, so I gave it a go, and I did it for a couple of years. I found it to be mostly a waste of time. Well, it wasn’t a complete waste of time because it gave me an insight into how politics work and I didn’t have an aptitude for it. I found that you have to play the politics game, you have to be in one camp or another, and if you try to stay neutral you end up being in no-mans land and when you’re in no-man’s land you can’t get anything done which was exactly where I was. Unfortunately, a lot of self-interested groups have their own agenda for politics in karate. We’re Martial Artists, so we are fighters by definition and that doesn’t bode well for group discussion! I don’t think it will be long before this governing body goes up the wall I’m sure. I think I’ve been through about four so far! It’s ridiculous, they’re chasing this goal of the Olympics and we’ve got so close and yet so far away. I don’t like to be a defeatist, but I don’t think it’ll happen to be honest with you.
SA: If we did get into the Olympics, do you think that’d be a good thing?
AT: In some ways I think It’ll be good, in other ways not. It’ll bring huge amounts of money into the sports side, and I think that’ll rub off onto the traditional side I would hope. On the other hand, we’d be giving immense power to the WKF. I don’t think that’s a good thing.
SA: We have recently reviewed your applied Karate series with Sensei Hazard and we would just like to congratulate you on three fantastic DVD’s. One thing that many of our readers commented on was how inspiring it was to see such a tall man moving as quickly and nimble as you do. What would you say are the benefit of your height?
AT: Size helps but it’s no use having size without the skill, I mean, I’m six foot, and I’m quite a stocky build. I’m being very complementary to myself by calling myself stocky. Slightly over weight might be a better term in the recent years. I have had comments in the past saying, “you don’t want to be trying to move like Yahara or Dave Hazard, you want to use your size more”, but I don’t agree with that. I always think that if I can move as fast as somebody like Dave Hazard or Yahara, and people of that size but have my weight behind it that has got to be better. Lightweights always seem to have better footwork and movement it doesn’t mean I can’t use my size but the more I can move like that, obviously the more advantage I have.
SA: What is it about Sensei Hazard that impresses you so much?
AT: I think it’s because he ticks all of the boxes. I think he’s always been a fighter; he’s got that fighting brain. I think he had a fairly rough upbringing in the East-end; he got involved in fights before he ever did karate. But then, he took that attitude into his karate practice. He went to Japan, There’s a story in itself with the stuff he was subjected to in Japan, but of course he got that technical ability or improvement if you like from Japan. He brought it back, so he’s got that great mix of the classic Shotokan and that quality of movement that people have when they spend a lot of time in Japan, but mixed in with the practicality that he has. He’ll do a classic movement from Shotokan, and he’ll apply it in a street situation. I have spoken to people who said Enoeda Sensei said his karate is genius. That’s Enoeda saying that so that’s a fair old comment. His knowledge of kata, and the way he applies it, he’s just very clever. His classes are never boring, there’s always a theme behind his classes and they’re always enjoyable. That’s what I like about him. He’s got a great depth, and he’s not just copying somebody else who taught him. He developed his own way, which is what we are all trying to do. And the fact that he can still do it! He’s got an incredible kicking ability, at a mature age; I won’t say how old he is, because he might bash me when I see him Ha Ha.
SA: I own your Kata Application series, and often reference the book for your excellent kata applications. How much emphasis do you place on Kata application?
AT: Every now and then I do it a lot more than we used to do years ago, but I don’t do applications every time I do kata. What I try to do is get people to get their body movement correct, and then I’ll do the applications. To keep the interest there and to keep their focus so they are not just doing a dance. Those kata books that you spoke of were done in the mid eighties and it’s great that they are still about. I’ve had nice comments about them and some not nice comments as well (laughing). At the time, there were no books like that on the market. Now there are a lot of books there but people still use them. Some of the techniques I don’t do the same way, because obviously, our karate changes and ideas change. It’s a good reference for people to use however and some of the applications are better than a lot I’ve seen.
SA: Everyone who trains with you comments on how technical you are. Please tell us your opinion on how important Kata is to your everyday training?
AT: It’s very important. It’s something that has kept me grounded really. I‘ve always liked kata. Sometimes when you get a good fighter in the dojo, you have to force them to do kata, but I loved it. Even when I didn’t really understand it at all, I loved the performance of kata. I loved that attention to detail within the technique itself. I think that helped me in my kumite, because I put the same attention to detail in my kumite. Where’s my hip going to be, where’s my foot going to be, that same attention to detail from combination to combination. In a really practical sense, when we talk about competition, I liked kata because kata was usually on first. You’d get out there, do your kata, even if you didn’t win, you got those nerves out of you. You got nice and warmed up and your body was in tune so to speak. I always did kata and kumite. Now you get people who just do kumite, or just do kata. I you look at the likes of Frank Brennan and his peers who excelled in both discipline Terry O’Neill etc and of course Dave Hazard we have a tradition of competitors being champions in both.
SA: What is Sensei Trimble’s favorite Kata and why?
AT: I can tell you which kata I don’t like! I don’t like Chinte! (Laughing). I had to teach it on a course recently so I had to study it again; it was quite good for me actually.
I was in Norway teaching again this year with Richard Amos, Scott Langley and Tom Kompeir. Richard was teaching kata that were devised by the late Asai sensei which were very interesting. We’ve done them a few times before when we’ve gone there but I’ve never managed to remember them as we tend to do them in a short class. The Kata was Suishu (not sure if that’s the correct spelling) It was very much like a Nijushiho type kata, which are the type I like, very flowing. And the other one - I think it is called Henka - has a lot of spinning and turning which I’m not too crazy about. But again a very interesting kata and I will practice them both (laughing).
SA: Do you still train, privately or under anyone?
AT: I train on my own now, because it’s very difficult to get somebody to train with. Having said that, I’ve got a friend who does Shito-Ryu, Kenny Johnson, we were training partner’s years ago; we get together and do a bit. I went to Spain and we spent a week or two training with each other. He does combat training for the Military, so we spent a week doing that. It was great, we had people from the Police and different disciplines there, and it was great because they didn’t have a clue who I was so they didn’t hold back and neither did I, it was great fun! Dave Hazard is now living in Nottingham, so we get together every now and again, more often than not now as I’ve got my own dojo. The dojo opened in January, it’s something I’ve avoided doing actually for years because I travel around and teach a lot so I thought I didn’t want to be tied down to running a place. But the opportunity arose so I took it. It’s a lovely dojo although it’s taking up a lot of my time; however it gives my association a headquarters. It’s got a nice traditional feel to it. I’ve tried to give it a Japanese feel.
SA: Who inspires you now?
AT: I tend to get my inspiration from outside karate. I relate everything back to karate, so if I see somebody in another sport or skill, I try to relate it back to karate.
SA: If you could change one thing about the world of Karate at the moment what would it be?
AT: What a question. Back to basics in every sense of the word both physical and mental let’s remember why we started karate in the first place. Change the political structure of karate in England. We’ve been trying the same structure for years and years and it never seems to work, so why keep repeating it. The governing body should stop trying to be a super association we have plenty of those and we have been very successful without their intervention. I’ll give the KUGB their due; they used to get a lot of stick years ago for being a closed shop and not participating in open comps. I think they had it dead right as their students knew KUGB first everything else second. I’ve had fighters who once they get into the all-styles system lose their focus and forget where they came from and who got them there! I don’t think it’s good for them. It’s not good for the FSK. Just get in the dojo and enjoy your training.
SA: I would just like to say a huge thank you, for such a brilliant interview. I hope all goes well in the future for you and your association, and that you continue to inspire karateka throughout the world.