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Tom Moss Sensei (6th Dan), 1944 - 2003.

Tom Moss Sensei

Tributes and Memories

Tom Moss Sensei

When I first met Tom, the first thing that struck me was his welcoming, friendly smile. That never changed in the time that I knew him.

O’Sensei said that Aikido was for everyone, not just for the elite few. Tom, like O’Sensei, genuinely believed in this philosophy, and made it a reality. Teaching not only the physically capable but people from all walks of life, including the disabled and those with special needs.

Tom said many times how he wanted the Phoenix to be an oasis for people to come to, where there were no grievances or hostilities between people, just a friendly, helpful and joyful atmosphere. He believed that if the world became like the Phoenix Aikido Club there would be no problems.

Tom believed that Aikido focused on the development of people and friendships, in which the techniques of Aikido were a route to achieving this. The members of the Phoenix were his family, and this showed in his love for his students and their love for him.

Out of all the classes that Tom taught, I believe the junior classes showed him at his best. His mix of enjoyment and discipline on the class were so perfectly balanced, and no matter what the class size, everyone had one-to-one help from him. Tom’s success in the children’s classes came from his belief that they had been told what to do all day at school and in the evening they should enjoy Aikido. He said that even if they didn’t learn any techniques, at least they would take away respect and self discipline from his class.

I think it is fair to say that all of the children and adults idolised him for both his kind, loving nature, and his understanding and knowledge of Aikido.

He changed more people’s lives than anyone could have thought, mine included. His dreams and ideals will live on through the Phoenix and the people’s lives that he touched.

Tom was a man that I was proud to call Sensei, and even prouder to call my friend.

Paul Scally.

Tom’s Last Journey

The afternoon of Wednesday, 28 May [2003] was a beautiful day, clear blue skies, and warm.

We said our last good-byes to Tom Moss (Our) sensei in a packed church in Coventry with at a guess five hundred Aikido associated colleagues and friends that has travelled from all over the UK and beyond, to be with him on his last journey. Among them were principals of other UK associations and officers of the British Aikido Board who held Tom in their esteem - my thanks to them for their thoughts.

Floral and verbal tributes were paid to him in glowing terms, with many of his current and previous students of 30+ years reappearing in varying states of disbelief, wondering how this man could leave us. He was only 59.

Tom enjoyed life, and stuck with his way of showing a kind and caring attitude to all that entered his domain. We celebrated his life all that afternoon and evening, and some of us (he would have joined us if he could) for a bit longer - it’s now Thursday.

Cheers, Tom.

Ric Costigan.


Tom was my teacher for 30 years so it is difficult to sum up in a few words how much impact he made on my life.

I first met Tom at the Judo club on the Foleshill Road on 9th May 1973. Brian, Steve and myself were welcomed onto the mat in his usual welcoming style. Although I didn’t know their names at the time also on the mat were Barbara Moss, Trev and Malc Griffiths, Dave North, Paul Stoba and the infamous Charlie and Nutty.

Tom has many tributes for his friendship and his prowess at Aikido but he has touched people in so many more ways. By creating such harmony in the club, lifelong friendships were made and courtships began, leading in some cases to a marriage. When I was about to be made redundant he managed to get me a job where he worked, which changed my life. We spent hours at work talking about Aikido as it was never far from his mind. He would Tai Sabaki around the workshop as he said you never stop learning or practising. He once threw someone at work for bullying an apprentice using a soft kote gaeshi so the message was clear without him being hurt too much. He was forever looking after his friends.

There are many things that colour your life and Tom was like a rainbow in mine.

Grev Cooke.

Farewell To A Friend

By now you will have heard the sad news that Sensei Tom Moss passed away on 14th May. Of course, this is not only a great loss to his family, friends and to me personally, but it is a huge loss to British Aikido. In this tribute to Tom, I have the almost impossible task of trying to capture the essence of this great man and commit it to paper! I will try to do this by relaying various interactions (and I mean this in the purest sense) I had with Tom over the 12 years that I knew him. Anyway here goes!!!

They say first impressions count and I can certainly say this was the case when I first met Tom. I would suggest that there are very very few people who failed to warm to Tom on their first meeting and this was certainly the case with me. Our first meeting took place around two years after my return from Canada, and after having become the chief instructor of Broadland Aikido Club. As with all club instructors, I was being deluged with posters for various courses that were going on around the country, but one that stuck out above all others was the regular Silverstone course where the name Tom Moss jumped out from amongst all the other teachers on the course. It was about a year later that Richard Guise, a student of Tom’s for many years, moved to Lowestoft and started to practise with us. He would relay stories of Tom with such great affection that I had already taken to the man before I had even met him. This fateful event took place at Grimsby where Tom was teaching a course. Tom arrived at lunchtime and Richard introduced me. I must admit, I was a little nervous and concerned as to whether a man of Tom’s standing would approve of the club and teacher where Richard was now training! “Tom” Richard said, “this is Frank who I’m training with”. With some trepidation I said, “Pleased to meet you Mr Moss!”. “Pleased to meet you”, Tom replied and “It’s Tom — don’t forget it!”. I immediately felt relaxed in his presence and this was one of Tom’s great great qualities — his natural, genuine warmth together with his ability to make everyone, from whatever background or circumstance, feel at immediate ease.

Tom was also natural and genuine with himself as well as others! Many years later when he was invited to teach with two other great British teachers, Haydn Foster and Bill Smith, on our annual Big 3 course as Lowestoft, he admitted to me he was very nervous. “Are you okay, Tom?”, I asked as we walked from the changing rooms to the mat. “I’m very nervous teaching in front of these great men”, he admitted. “Oh, don’t be — you have nothing to worry about. They like you, your Aikido and respect what you have done”, I reassured Tom as best I could, and he taught a great course as he always did! The tables were turned next year though! Through a misunderstanding in the course title, I was forced to teach a session! I felt the panic rising as we were walking towards the mat from the changing rooms. Tom picked up on this and said “Are you okay, Buddy?” I turned to Tom and admitted “I’m feeling very nervous”, expecting similar reassurance that I had given him the previous year. He stopped, took a step back and looked at me, aghast! He touched my shoulder with a gentle tap. “Don’t be nervous, it’s easy” he said, incredulously! “Well, last year you were nervous!”, I retorted. “Oh, that’s different, you can do it — I can’t!” was Tom’s modest reply.

Tom had a great knowledge of music, but no voice, as I found out at a course social in Coventry on Saturday night when I asked him if he knew a song about a man who had a dog that died. “That’s Old Shep, I’ll sing it for you”, he said, knowingly, and then got up on stage and began to sing, much to the joy of Barbara and his students who formed a circle around him and howled to the ceiling like a pack of wolves.

Tom lived life to the full and liked to get on with things. He really wasn’t one for too much formality. Dare I say he could be a might impatient? This was evident at »last year’s Big 3 where he received his 6th Dan. The award was made at the end of two day’s hard training, when sitting in seiza for any length of time is too much for anyone. After the usual final rei, the “Lowestoft Lip” had his say, thanks, gifts and speeches made, it was quite clearly time to go as far as Tom was concerned. Itching to get to the bar to have a much deserved pint, video footage shows him shifting from one knee to the other while the “Lowestoft Lip” gets up yet again (oh no!) to make yet another announcement, quite unaware that the next announcement was to hand over to Mr Foster who presented Tom with his 6th Dan award. Seeing Tom gob-smacked and speechless at the surprise is one of the highlights of our friendship. He was, of course, delighted and immensely proud of this well-deserved award, particularly as it was endorsed by three people he respected and held in very high regard, Ken Cottier, Bill Smith and Haydn Foster. In fact, he was so proud that at the Dan gradings the following September, he drew a three-line whip and all the candidates were forced to watch the video of the presentation.

Tom was a man who treated everyone with respect and on their own merits, but he did not suffer fools gladly. He had a very high code of behaviour. Whilst he loved a good time, he could not accept someone who had been partying the night before failing to turn up for practice the next morning. You had to be there, green and all. He might play you up a little, but the bottom line was that he would respect you even more. Another of his great dislikes was people walking around on the mat kitted up, but not training.

For me, one of the things I shall miss most is the phone calls — our chats on the phone. He would often ring me on Saturdays. “Hello buddy, I’ve just rung for a chat”, he would say. He often called me “buddy”. When these calls started, I was often aware that there was an echo on the line at his end. One day, I plucked up the courage and said, “Tom, what’s that echo your end? Where are you?”. His reply was “Oh, I’m in the bath”!!! Well I have to say, the “Lowestoft Lip” lost his lip for once! “Thank goodness it’s not a video phone — I hope you are not playing with your loofah!!” I managed to say. Tom laughed out loud but dropped the phone in the bath! Well — friendship has its limits! But this became a frequent event. He would often lie in the bath, and we would chat about aikido and other things. I am immensely grateful for his unconditional support and friendship.

Tom had the ability to make everyone feel special. He had time for all and would encourage and support you in any way he could. He was always very generous to me, always available to talk though problems and give advice. He was very supportive of women’s aikido and he and his dojo were the first to book up for the “3 Ladies” course at Lowestoft, where he clearly enjoyed getting on the mat and joining in. Indeed, this was one of his great qualities. He was so supportive and would support the courses I arranged, coming to train under other teachers, irrespective of grade.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that Tom was a great teacher. He is the only teacher I have seen to get a spontaneous round of applause at the National Course. The UK has lost a leading light in Aikido. Personally, I have lost a good and true friend and great Sensei. I shall miss him greatly, but my loss is just a speck of sand compared to the loss to his wife, Barbara, and son, John. My heart goes out to them.

Farewell Tom, rest well
and rest satisfied with doing well!

Frank Burlingham
Broadlands Aikido Club»

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