Quentin began to practice aikido in 1984, within the Ki Society, which was linked to Koichi Tohei Sensei, which was headed up by Kenneth Williams Sensei in the UK. He is one of the original practitioners of aikido in this country under Abbe Sensei and widely recognised as the most senior UK practitioner of aikido. Williams Sensei eventually broke away and founded the Ki Federation of Great Britain, which Quentin stayed with until 2000 having reached the rank of 4th dan.
At that point, he left to join Denis Burke Sensei (a former assistant of Williams Sensei ) and his brother Piers Cooke Sensei, who had founded the Isshinkai Association, which in style was still principally based in Ki Aikido. Unfortunately many of the off-mat issues and problems that he experienced within the KFGB were replicated. Whilst politics is part of life, how they are conducted is key.
So, in 2004, believing that the traditional structure of aikido has a tendency to induce too much ego, and the abuse of power, Quentin, along with his brother Piers Cooke, sought to create a group that could avoid these issues. Thus Aikido for Daily Life, (ADL) was born.
''ADL's name was chosen carefully to reflect what we felt aikido is really about. Accordingly, we structured the group to be democratic and not hierarchical, to better reflect the culture in which we live. Since foundation, our association has steadily grown, as have the bonds between the member clubs. We have also built strong ties to a number of other aikido associations, both nationally and internationally, and often run joint courses with them.''
Initially Quentin linked to Yuishinkai International under the guidance and teaching of Koretoshi Maruyama Sensei, (www.aikidoyuishinkai.org), one of the founder's original students. He encouraged people to celebrate what we share rather than seek to emphasise our differences, (''There are many ways up the mountain'').
In 2004, he was awarded the rank of 5th dan and in 2011, Maruyama Sensei awarded him the grade of 7th dan, which was a great honour. However in 2017, Yuishinkai International issued new guidelines adopting a more traditional model in terms of how they are organised and the way they wanted to develop aikido. Quentin could not support these changes and so resigned to concentrate on developing Aikido in Daily Life.
Quentin's dojo is a qualifying member of Peace Dojos International and he is also the serving Vice President of Aiki Extensions. This international group based in the USA has charitable status and seeks to spread the principles of aikido into 'off the mat' situations with a view to making a better world. Their work is something I believe in passionately and so devote much time and energy into making their aims a reality. He also collected aikido stories from practitioners around the world, contributed to and edited the collection, and ultimately published the book, 'A Way to Reconcile the World'
He regularly publishes interesting articles via the club blog and is an original thinker when it comes to teaching and how to understand exactly what aikido can do for you. Quentin says:
''I love my practice and study of aikido and believe it to be a powerful tool for improving the world we live in and my desire is to share it with as many people as I can.''
Chair and Co-Founder of Aikido for Daily Life
Vice President of Aiki Extensions
Nikos Papanikolaou - 4th dan
I started aikido back in October 2000, training in the French style of Christian Tissier. I achieved the rank of 1st Dan (shodan) in November 2003 in that style. As I returned to Greece in 2004, I trained with Yannis Tsorotiotis Sensei, whose teacher was Kazuo Chiba Sensei. This was a very technical and powerful style, which taught me how to think critically about every technique and why it works. As my footsteps brought me back to England in 2008, I trained with some excellent senseis, including John Longford at the Cambridge Iwama aikido club. My appetite for a more philosophical approach to aikido led me to extend my horizons, and in November 2008 I found myself knocking at the door of Quentin Cooke and at this period of my life, I have found a dojo to truly call home. After lots of coaxing and encouragement, I graded for 2nd dan (nidan) in March 2010. I was subsequently graded to 3rd dan, (sandan) in July 2011 and to 4th dan (yondan) at the end of 2015.
I believe that aikido has the power to help us achieve great things and it is something I want to share so I will attempt to explain what I think aikido is.
When an observer sees an aikido technique, there are certain things that come as a surprise. The body movement is fluid and the attacker is effectively dealt with but the technique is not violent and the person playing the attacking role will be seen to get up smiling, ready to practice again. When violence is met with more violence it breeds hate, but aikido offers another solution to break this vicious cycle, based on principles of love and peace. The founder O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba called the system of aikido the “Art of Peace”. Although aikido was initially developed as a martial means to end conflict in an era of world wars, Morihei Ueshiba extended the art in all spiritual dimensions to include love, tolerance and compassion to other human beings. Ueshiba took Aikido beyond a one-dimensional body discipline and created a rounded system of mind, body and spirit coordination. Whereas traditional martial arts focus on the destruction of the opponent, aikido aims to transcend physical conflict by meeting the attack with understanding and love, which neutralises the aggression. When we teach the mind and spirit to transcend physical conflict, we meet all attacks, both physical and verbal, with consideration and compassion towards the attacker, because the mind is not consumed by anger or the desire for revenge.
Can the search for universal love and spiritual perfection be cultivated through a martial art? When we respond to hate with love, what happens to the nature of conflict? Once we devote time and effort in the art of aikido, we will learn to deal effectively with any kind of conflict and soon, all desire for violent response will give way to acceptance and peace. It is rare in normal life for an average person to be attacked physically, however, we do all have to deal with conflict situations in our daily lives. By applying aikido principles we can have a positive effect on our own lives and the people around us. Conflict often arises from within, so we need to apply the aikido principles to ourselves first, perhaps by recognizing negative feelings and turning them to positive ones, before we can apply them to others.
I believe that the path to universal love and peace is possible only when we realise that it is up to ourselves to use the tools that exist within us. Aikido is a manifestation of body, mind and spirit unification and, seeing how aikido has positively shaped my life, I would like to pass it on to others and help society grow. It is my hope that aikido will contribute towards a loftier goal and, as Ueshiba himself said, help reconcile the world.