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Ken McLean Sensei has trained in martial arts for over 50 years with the last 40 focusing on Aikido, Ki Energy Cultivation and Aiki Healing Arts.

He began with his father who was a former Australian Professional Boxing Champion from the 1940s-1950s, the Golden Era of Australian Boxing. He was one of the first boxing professionals to teach at the Police Citizen’s Youth Clubs at that time. From age 6, Ken would accompany his father to his coaching sessions and began to absorb his approach. From his father Ken learned how to absorb one’s opponents’ strength and energy and how to ride the motion of one’s partners’ attack.

Ken’s father also emphasised many principles that Ken did not appreciate at the time. Later in his life after researching and training in Aiki arts, Ken realised how profound his understanding really was. Another principle he taught was how to move the body as one unit with movement beginning in the legs, hips and waist. All his life his father rose at 4.30am to do his own training.

In Ken’s early teenage years he trained in Judo and Aiki Jujutsu. At the age of 12, he received his first book on Aikido and Ki from a friend at school. This inspired him to look more deeply into this way of training. He began to train daily in Judo and Aiki Jujutsu. He won the local judo championship and discovered the principle of using one’s partner’s balance.

At 15, disillusioned with his life and competitive sport, Ken left school and, with friends, built a shack in the forest of the Northern NSW to seek a deeper connection with nature for a number of years. He studied natural living, diet and yoga and it was here they were introduced to Macrobiotics by coming across a copy of George Oshawa’s ”We are All Sanpaku” on the local tip. They immediately embraced the principles. Ken lived with his friends in the forest for over 3 years and it was at this time he developed his life long love of great Nature (Shizen).

Returning to Sydney he moved into the East West study house where he trained and studied full-time Oki-Yoga, Oriental medicine, macrobiotics, acupuncture and shiatsu. Common to these practices was the understanding of Ki. Not long after he moved to the study house he started teaching various oriental energy arts. This was an extension of the East/West Foundation which was founded by Michio Kushi a teaching exponent of Macrobiotics and Ki related healing systems such as Do In and Shiatsu. One of Michio’s students Daniel Weber came to Australia to begin the Australia Branch. He introduced Ken to Shiatsu and Oki Yoga. Ken researched and trained in many streams of Shiatsu, Japanese yoga and Ki energy Arts.

As chance would have it, up the road from the study house was an Aikido dojo run by Seichi Sugarno, an original apprentice to the modern father of Aikido, “O’Sensei”, Morihei Uyeshiba. So Ken would train daily at this dojo. Inspired by Aikido Ken would do his own training in Ki and Aikido for six to eight hours daily. After 3-4 years with Sugarno Sensei, Sugarno left Australia, so Ken explored other streams of Aikido while he continued his teaching of Oki Yoga, Shiatsu and Macrobiotics. Around this time, he lived in Melbourne for a year where he founded the Melbourne East/West Center. As his own understanding of Ki deepened and developed he began to observe that many streams of Aikido had become rough and unrefined – Ki was disappearing from the training. This inspired him to travel to Koichi Tohei’s dojo in Japan in 1980 and once again in 1981 to explore his Ki approach to Aikido.

Koichi Tohei had split from the Aikikai (main organization of Aikido) in the 70s because he felt he had no room to explore Ki. There was a major division in the Aikido world. To differentiate from each other, both streams – Tohei and Aiki-kai – seemed to over-accentuate their differences. The Aiki-Kai de-emphasising Ki and Tohei’s principles, whilst Tohei had got rid of many of the Aikido movements.

The middle ground that unified the two approaches was disappearing. This is what Ken began to work on; a unifying approach to Aiki – for that is what one of the meanings of that word is “unification”. He found that many Aikido styles had become locked into their own approach and could not blend with the other’s approach.

Aiki also means to be able to blend with every situation, so he began to concentrate his efforts on an approach that was Holistic and expressed the essence of what Aiki means.

When he returned from Japan and began training in parks, he attracted many people who wanted to train with him. He also attracted a number of Blackbelts from other styles who were looking for something deeper in their practice. This is when he opened the Dojo in Angel House in the city in 1980.

On his second trip to Japan he had a brief training with Seigo Yamaguchi whose work he knew of through the Macrobiotic movement. He had been a student of George Ohsawa who had taken Macrobiotics to the west. After George Ohsawa had met O’Sensei (Morihei Uyeshiba) he sent Seigo Yamaguchi to train with O’Sensei.   George Ohsawa and OSensei had become firm friends and saw in each other kindred spirits. Whilst OSensei developed Aikido in the form of physical moving training, George Ohsawa researched and taught what he called the Unifying Principle which was that which underlied all the traditional Do (tao) of Japanese Arts.

Yamaguchi eventually became one of the main teachers in the Aiki-Kai Dojo and was known for his relaxed, supple, flowing and spontaneous approach to Aikido. Ken found due to a similar background (Macrobiotics) he could easily identify with Yamaguchi’s approach.

Ken began to integrate all of these approaches to Ki and Aiki over time to get to the original essence of training.

In the early to mid-1980s for about six to seven years, he hosted the Sydney visits of Yamaguchi’s students including Yoshinobu Takeda, now a famous world teacher of Aikido. Whilst opening up his Dojo to these teachers he could never quite join their organization for his commitment was to the more holistic and original stream of Shin Sen.

It was during these times – early 1980’s – that he met an old western Sennin – Alfred Kaufmann. Sennin means ‘free person’ or ‘awakened being’ and is a type of character depicted in Star Wars, like Yoda; someone who has reached a freedom and level of mastery in their expression. For example you could say Morihei Uyeshiba was a martial arts ‘Sennin’. Also the word ‘Macrobiotics’ means ‘Big Life’. In other words, to develop your health to its full potential so you can live your greatest, most happy life realising all your dreams.

Although Alfred had never heard of Macrobiotics, he had lived an incredibly Big Life and had developed some special abilities.

At the time Ken met him Ken had just finished a Ki-Shiatsu treatment and he came through the front door and sat on a chair and said “I am here to guide you.” Ken thought to himself, “Who is this crazy guy?” But as he talked Ken found himself rooted to the chair, the room developed a certain golden ambience and Ken could see that Alfred was much more than he had seemed initially.

He spoke of his experience in his meditation where he had come across O’Sensei and that Aiki was the new way for human beings. Alfred had been many things in life, including a University Professor, a world lecturer on the Dead Sea Scrolls, he had been the Founder of Osteopathy in Australia and the Director of the Natural Therapy College, a Priest and the list goes on.  He was grounded in reality and had very special qualities and was liked by all.

Ken opened up the Dojo and his students to Alfred’s influence. He and his wife (Tricia) cooked for him and helped look after him to prolong his stay in this world. There are a lot of stories Ken could share about Alfred Kaufmann, however suffice to say he had reached a deeper level in himself than any of the famous teachers Ken had interacted with to that point in time. He had an understanding of Aiki on the mental and spiritual level that exceeded all other Aikido teachers Ken had trained with. He also confirmed that all the aspects Ken had been researching in the Eastern understanding had also existed in the west as well.

In the 1990’s the Dojo moved to Bondi Junction and Paddington. During those years many interesting people came to train in the Dojo.

In 1995 Tricia and Ken moved to the Blue Mountains with their family of seven children. Ken developed Aiki in that area as well as spent that time exploring Shizen (Deep Nature) and meditation under the many waterfalls in the area.

In 1996 Tricia and Ken were fortunate to travel to the Dojo of 10th Dan Aikido Master and Zen and Shinto Priest, Michio Hikitzuchi. His Dojo was in the beautiful and spiritual Kumano area of Japan where the mountains meet the ocean.   There are many great waterfalls to do Misogi under!

They lived and twice daily trained in his Dojo for two weeks while doing misogi. During the day Ken also treated Michio Hikitzuchi with the Shiatsu system he had founded called Ki-Shiatsu. Michio Hikitzuchi had cancer at the time. He received Ken’s treatment very positively and commented that it was the highest treatment he had received. On leaving, Michio Hikitzuchi presented Ken with some special calligraphy which is displayed in the Dojo today.

Other Interesting People

In the early 90s Ken and Tricia brought Michio and Aveline Kushi to Australia on two trips to teach Macrobiotics. They were well received by all. At the time Ken was the President of Macrobiotics Australia as well as running the Dojo. Michio lectured at Sydney University and Aveline taught macro cooking classes. They enjoyed getting to know each other. Michio and Aveline acknowledged Ken and Tricia’s approach to Macrobiotics. Michio asked Ken to be President of his organisation in Australia – One Peaceful World which he did for a short while. He then handed that over to someone else so he could focus on the Dojo. Michio had a deep comprehension of the ancient way of Shin Sen and felt Macrobiotics had come out of that understanding.

Also Ken trained with and supported Tom Crum of Aiki Works, author of the Magic of Conflict, great friend of John Denver and co-founder of Winstar Foundation. Ken assisted Tom in his Seminars on conflict resolution the Aiki way. Tom has developed a wonderful way of taking Aikido principles and relating them to every day interaction as well as within the corporate and business world. This is the wonderful thing about Aikido – how effective its principles are in everyday application.

In the early 90s we also took a group from Shin Sen and had a “meeting of minds” with American Aikidoists in Maui – Hawaii. This was led by Aikido teacher and Shinto Priest, Koichi Barrish. If any students visit the USA, Ken always recommend they visit Koichi Barrish Dojo Shrine in Washington State. He has a very deep comprehension of the spiritual dimension of Aiki as expressed through Ancient Shinto and its application to the modern world. A couple of his beautiful and clear calligraphy are on the walls of Shin Sen Dojo.

In the late 90’s Ken’s wife and mother of seven children passed on. She was a wonderful human being. A great wife and mother, tremendous Macrobiotic Cook and teacher, masterful Aikidoist with the most wonderful forward rolls. She was only 5 feet high but could easily throw big guys around the mat.

Soon after Ken was fortunate enough to meet Emma who had an adventurous spirit to enter a relationship with him and his seven children. They had three more children to bring the tally to 10. The children have all trained in Aikido and take the Macrobiotic approach into their lives as they move on.


Senior Practitioners

The longest practitioner of Aikido apart from Ken is John Durr who has been with Shin Sen for nearly 35 years. He is a senior practitioner and teacher of Aikido who has been an inspiration to many with his natural, vital and flowing approach.

Another great support to Shin Sen Dojo is Geoff Ritchie who has trained in nearly every class for almost 25 years.  He has become a great practitioner and teacher of Ki Energy, Aikido, Sword and Staff, Ki-Shiatsu, Macrobiotics, Kotodama and Misogi. He has been an invaluable influence and pillar of strength.   A quiet and inner person who, like the Tao, has had a pervasive influence. He is now taking the way of Shin Sen to New Zealand.

Peter Hons, a regular to the Winter and Summer Intensives, founded the Shin Sen Dojo of Tamworth where he teaches Ki and Aikido as well as Ki-Shiatsu and Macrobiotics. He is a dedicated practitioner and fine teacher of Shin Sen.

One of the oldest Aikido students, who has passed on now, began his training with Shin Sen Dojo when he was 58 years old. His name was Harry Hall. However, when he came to Shin Sen Dojo he had been training in another style of Aikido which had not nourished his body and so his body had become stiff and he was definitely showing his age.

However, gradually throughout the training here, he got all the rust out of his body and became incredibly free, vital and flowing in his movement. Observers where amazed that someone with his shock of white hair could move so positively. He became stronger and powerful in the Ki way and loved nothing better than to have four or five big men come and attack him all at once, where he would then joyfully throw them through the air all around the mat in an effortless fashion. He trained well into his 80s.

Also training at the Dojo is Mathew Charleston, 4th Dan who has trained for many years and has reached a senior level. He also has researched and taught the principles of Ki and Aikido and how they apply to acting and performance.

Another very dedicated practitioner who has embraced the Shin Sen Arts is Jamie Terley.  He founded the Sydney Aikido Dojo in Bondi which has now moved to Artarmon.  Along with his wife Hirome, he is developing fine practitioners of Aiki through his children and adult programmes.

Luke McLean 4th Dan who helps run the childrens program has been training since the age of six. He is an enthusiastic practitioner who leads by example.

There are many others that could be mentioned including the wonderful women practitioners who have graced the tatami. Tricia McLean who was 4 feet 11 inches tall enjoyed throwing big men around the Dojo and wonderfully applied the principles of Aiki to raising her seven children. Emma Barton developed into a powerful influence, great Macrobiotic cook and Aikidoist.   Grace Rea, feminine and gentle yet strong who happily and gracefully transformed the most masculine attack into a dance of harmony in her practice. Natasha Serventy a positive practitioner of the Ki way of Aiki and many more.

In the last 14 years Shin Sen Dojo has been settled in the beautiful tatami Dojo at Kensington in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. Many new people come to train in the various programmes as well as experienced senior practitioners. Regular visits from senior practitioners and other Aikidoists from the Blue Mountain Dojo such as Darell Shields and Bill Harvey.

There are many more names that could be mentioned and will be added to the story of Shin Sen as the dojo continues to unfold. It has been great to have so many people of all ages and backgrounds interact with a spirit of positivity and harmony in the last 35 years.


More on Shin Sen

Shin Sen Dojo was founded in Sydney by Ken McLean Sensei in 1980 after deep research and training in various Aikido streams as well as Aiki arts such as Ki energy cultivation, Ki Shiatsu, Macrobiotics and Misogi.

The purpose of the Dojo was to create a place where people could train their full potential in an atmosphere of enjoyment and focus – to support the full expression of themselves as human beings not just on the mat but in their whole lives as well. This is the meaning of Holistic practices – one’s whole self is affected and the benefits overflow into all areas of life and one’s varied relationships.

Since its early beginnings in Angel House, in Pitt St, Sydney, it has had many thousands of people come through the door and benefit from the trainings it offers.

This then is one of the Key components to the practice of Shin Sen, that is is the freeing up of the body – the creation of deeper vitality, health, suppleness, flow and strength. In the Shin Sen way, as we get older our body gets younger as the various Arts of Shin Sen are based on the deepest understanding of health and Ki.

The principle behind all the training is Aiki – which means ‘harmonising energy’. Unfortunately many systems and styles of Aikido in the world (and indeed many other spiritual practices) do not bring about the results mentioned above. Any practice that does not free your body up and make you feel better should be forsaken immediately.

Ken McLean Sensei has trained in Aiki for nearly 40 years and has researched deeply the various streams of Aikido. Through his long and deep practice and through several realization experiences, he came upon the original stream of practices called Shin Sen Do. Although ancient, he found it to be more relevant than ever. Unique to Shin Sen is Ken’s natural ability to translate this teaching in a form which can be understood, absorbed and applied to the 21st Century.

One of the first victories of Aiki is called self-victory. This is about the master within each person being brought out. This is the ability to perform at our highest with every challenge. This is of course an on-going practice. The second victory is called victory through being in harmony with our true path or our true destiny.

All the aiki trainings at Shin Sen then have the effect of creating momentum and bringing out one’s deepest desire and passion, the work that one really wants to do and is meant to do and to make that a living reality.

Shin Sen Dojo is now moving into its fourth decade. From 1980 to 1989 it was located in Angel House, Sydney, then moved to Bondi Junction for three years, then Paddington until 2001 and now at its present location in Kensington.

The space is a large open space with tatami flooring. Tatami are the traditional mats made of rice straw that are used in temples and true dojos. Sensei inherited these mats from various elders in the way (Do or Tao). Tatami are great for the body and support true movement. Tests have found they emit negative ions into the atmosphere that make people feel good. These ions are similar to ions released by the ocean and sand. When you go to the beach you naturally feel refreshed and problems seem smaller. Negative ions affect us in such a way that positive hormones are released.

The Dojo with its deep inner ambience, naturally creates a calming effect on the nervous system supporting the development and unification of the mind, body and spirit.



How can Aikido benefit me?

There are many and varied benefits of doing Aikido. On the physical level, one’s fitness, health and flexibility improves. Mentally one develops deeper levels of calmness and relaxation so the ability to comfortably deal with stress and challenge improves. The ability to stay centered, grounded and positive amidst attack increases so that unbalanced situation can be guided back to harmony and balance.

Energy levels increase so that one can give more of one’s self to the areas of one’s life you wish to express more.

On a practical self-defense level you develop the ability to comfortably and enjoyably deal with multiple attackers as you train to develop “the State of Flow” that Aikido brings out. This in the zone state then can be applied to daily life – leading to living a full, wonderful and adventurous life.

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