Robert Cowham began his Aikido studies in 1986 in Turin, Italy (Ki Aikido) where he was working, after reading Tohei Koichi sensei’s book “Ki in Everyday Life”. He studied Karate in Bremerhaven, Germany for a year and half (no local Aikido dojo!) and then continued Aikido in Rotterdam, Holland for some 9 months. He returned to London in 1989 and immediately started to train at Ryushinkan Dojo with Kanetsuka sensei (8th dan) of the BAF - British Aikido Federation (Aikikai affiliated). Paul Smith sensei was Kanetsuka sensei’s senior student in London and also ran his own dojo. Over time Robert started also training with Paul, and subsequently followed him when Paul left the BAF to follow the practice of Inaba sensei of the Meiji Jingu Shiseikan in Tokyo.
Robert has studied Kashima no Tachi Kenjutsu since 1992 (with Paul Smith sensei, and Inaba sensei and other teachers at the Shiseikan). He has visited Japan multiple times for further training, as well as attending many seminars, mainly around Europe.
- Aikikai Aikido (all recommended by Inaba sensei):
- Yondan (4th degree blackbelt) in 2006
- Godan (5th degree) in January 2013 (Kagami Biraki)
- Rokudan (6th degree) in January 2020 (Kagami Biraki)
- Kashima no Tachi (directly awarded by Inaba sensei):
- Chuden in April 2009
- Okuden in November 2019
Robert’s main teachers over the years have been Paul Smith sensei (Aikikai 6th dan, Kashima no Tachi Okuden) and Inaba sensei (former Director of the Meiji Jingu Budojo Shiseikan, Master of Kashima Shinryu, Aikikai 8th dan).
- The above shows Robert and Paul Smith sensei as uke performing Jissendachi (4th series) with bokuto, during the Embu at the end of the ISBA seminar in Stara Wies August 2019.
He also studied regularly for some years in Norway with Bjorn Eirik Olsen sensei (7th dan) and Suganuma sensei (8th dan), as well as various other teachers around the world. Robert has studied Cheng Hsin with Kevin Magee and has been to workshops with the founder Peter Ralston. The Cheng Hsin principles have influenced his practice. He has been working with the principles and practices of developing “Internal Strength” as discussed by Mike Sigman and has attended workshops with Mike - this work provides a Western approach and an intellectual framework for the ideas and capabilities as taught by Inaba sensei and others. Recently he has also studied with Dan Harden and Howard Popkin.
Robert was a founding director of MovingEast (Inter-disciplinary Center for Martial Arts and Dance in Stoke Newington, London) in 1999 and was on the board of directors of the company for 9 years (Paul Smith was Artistic Director). He remains an Instructor at Tetsushinkan dojo which is lead by Paul Smith sensei.
Robert played a key role in setting up the International Shiseikan Budo Assocation (ISBA) in 2009 which includes some 40 dojos from around the world. He was the founding ISBA Secretary. He took over as (second) ISBA Chairman in 2013, completing his 4 year term in 2017. He then became Honorary Chairman.