Born in 1950, Alain Peyrache likes to tell the self-deprecating story that his first experience with aikido was by accident : He thought he was showing up for a judo class. But this kind of accident cannot explain a commitment to this martial art that has continued for over 45 years!
Alain Peyrache began practising aikido at age 14 , with the Ueshiba club led by André Nocquet, which he quickly left once he realized the low level of skill. He also tried practising for a time with a group named Mochizuki. When the national judo association (the ‘FFJDA', led by an ambitious president), sought to expand the sport's reach throughout France , this Mochizuki group was transformed into a judo club in 1964. And by this point the national association had already absorbed the Nocquet-led club when Master Abe returned to Japan .
Alain Peyrache thus bore witness, and not for the first time, to the jarring lurches that marked the history of aikido in France . To take but one example, a Mochizuki practitioner named Alain Floquet took it upon himself to invent a new discipline, aikibudo, and overnight vaulted from fourth to sixth dan. More than one aikido practitioner was left wondering whether this defied common sense .
In 1967, following an injury suffered by his teacher, Alain Peyrache took charge of the dojo and, although only 17, realized the importance of seeking out proper instruction. As passionate about aikido as he was conscious of the need to learn only from the best instructor, he sought the discipline taught by the heirs to the greatest of the Japanese masters, students of Master Morihei Ueshiba , the Founder of aikido, at a time when there were no more than ten of these.
He sought instruction from Master Nakazono, Master Noro, Master Tada, Master Asai, Master Ichimura, Master Chiba, and others , but it was Master Tamura —whose student he would remain for nearly 30 years—who would set him firmly on the path of aikido, and open his eyes to the fulfillment of his true vocation. By studying under these masters, he perfected the sober and unembellished technique that is his hallmark.
Every weekend, Alain Peyrache would travel throughout France and Europe to work with the students of the Founder. At the same time, he studied traditional Chinese médicine as well as philosophy . And in 1970, he founded his own dojo.
At the start of the 1970s, Alain Peyrache became a member of the Board of Directors of the ACFA , the governing body for aikido in France . Guy Bonnefond was the président, and the great names of French aikido were also members : Pierre Chassang, Paul Mûller, Gérard Gras, and Gérard Blaise. In 1972, the ACFA was replaced by the UNA in a move designed to consolidate French aikido, and place it under the supervision of the judo federation and the Ministry of Youth and Sport.
Alain Peyrache taught a substantial number of France's current instructors and leaders , first at the martial arts school in Lyons, then for many years in Burgundy . This is how he came to know Kader Bentata, Marc Coudurier-Curveur, and François Collinot, among others. Later, he met Nicole and André Gonze, both deeply involved in the European aikido community. Many of Alain Peyrache's students went on to serve on the Board of Directors of the UNA. Burgundy in particular experienced substantial growth, becoming one of France's most dynamic regions, and would soon host the first conference of a new national organization named the Free French Federation of Aikido and Budo (‘FFLAB').
In 1982, following disagreements with the judo federation, Alain Peyrache devoted himself to acting as the technical advisor to FFLAB . By bringing to bear his deep understanding of federal sports politics, he sought to put aikido in a position where it could develop along the lines of its true spirit. Despite Master Tamura's insistence that he seek the presidency of the national commission for belt rankings, he refused, staying true to the idea of the traditional dojo .
At the beginning of the 1980s, the underlying direction of the discipline was in crisis. Some, like Alain Peyrache, followed Master Tamura. Others lacking the courage of their convictions remained under the rubric of the judo federation and were regrouped into the FFAAA, ending up in otherwise vacant positions for which they were ill-suited. This dispute between these two groups continues today. Some, practitioners of a martial art that is supposed to cultivate good judgment, find it difficult to understand how some FFAAA members came to be where they are. This separation explains the current situation , 30 years later, of having two competing aikido federations despite ongoing pressure from the Ministry of Sport.
Alain Peyrache remained with Master Tamura, affiliated with the FFLAB. In the meantime, FFLAB removed the ‘L' for ‘libre', free, and became simply FFAB. Alain Peyrache spent several years as a national technical delegate, and as a member of the belt rankings commission, steering committee, the teaching commission, and as a State licensing judge. He had every reason to stay in these high-ranking federal positions.
Nonetheless, weary of seeking these associations treat aikido as a sport, he stayed true to his vision and quit his positions. Seeing these opportunists flush with success, politicians exercising more authority than aikido practitioners who in turn were taking the easy way out, and the federations slowly but surely taking the opposite tack of what they had initially promised, Alain Peyrache decided that everything he had tried to do to promote traditional aikido had been wasted. From that moment on, he would uncompromisingly teach a pure aikido, in his own dojos.
Around him, there were many who were just as disappointed, yet who lacked the courage to do the same and remained trapped in this system that was so ill-suited to aikido. While they complained about it, they did nothing to change the situation, continuing to act as federation VIPs—which was, perhaps, the point.
Some members of the board of directors advised Alain Peyrache to set up a separate ‘pyramid' structure within the FFAB, that is, a group with somewhat more independence, but in the end this would simply be subject to the whims of the sports federation and would have been of no help to the discipline.
Next, Master Tamura was suddenly betrayed by members of his inner circle who, rather than defending his interests, happily sacrificed them on the altar of the national federations. With only a handful of masters able to take up the banner of traditional aikido, some sought the return of Alain Peyrache to take charge. Master Tamura lucidly answered them: ‘ You cannot buy him with titles or ranks. He will do as he sees fit . ' Ten years after his departure, certain members of the board of directors would recall this decision, and rue that ‘ Peyrache was right. He warned us .'
For Master Peyrache, there is no hope that the FFAB will return to teaching traditional aikido, because its structure dictates its actions. Despite the good-faith efforts of those who established it, the federal bureaucracy compelled it little by little to veer from the essence of aikido and in the end, the opposite of what they had intended was the result. In the end, an environment adapted to a traditional martial art – a dojo – is what nurtures traditional aikido, while a sports bureaucracy – a federation – debases aikido into just that, a sport. This truth is self-evident.
Thus, following several years of detached reflection, at the start of the 1990s Alain Peyrache created an entity that was previously unknown in Europe : EPA-ISTA , a structure that works as a global dojo in keeping with the traditional idea underlying the discipline: ‘one master, one dojo.'
Given his understanding of both aikido and of wayward federations, Alain Peyrache knew perfectly well that creating a similar structure, led by similar people –as many of his students kept asking him to do—was not a solution, no matter how competent these leaders were, because the result would be the same. The same causes would produce the same effects, and the problems inherent in the FFAB would soon reappear. Another solution would have to be found, one adapted to the practice of aikido. For four years, he thought deeply on this issue, teaching at his own dojo .
Deeply aware of the Eastern tradition , Master Peyrache immersed himself in the essence of what it means to practice aikido, eschewing the distribution of pointless gratification to students. Stripped of needless jargon, he provides instruction in a highly refined technique that is both simple and effective. Famous around the world , he is sought out for his instruction by practitioners throughout France , as well as in several other countries: Belgium , Canada , Spain , the Netherlands , Italy , Israel , Reunion Island , etc.
Those who know Alain Peyrache, know how much he emphasizes the need to be vigilant in ensuring a fusion of theory and practice: ‘ Aikido cannot truly be understood without an appreciation of the cultural context in which it arose—that is, out of an Eastern tradition and philosophy. '
Alain Peyrache applies himself to a deep understanding of how to teach , which he does in his own, unique way. Each course is planned, develops an idea, and is designed to follow a progression. If the technical study of aikido is precise, and rigorous enough that its fundamentally martial quality is not watered down, then it can also illuminate the basic principles that underpin these techniques.
For Master Peyrache, instruction that is worthy of the name must not stop at the means , but must realize the end, the Way , do , the ultimate goals. Among these we can list the promotion of health and wellness, and going beyond the traditional way of teaching, in order to adapt a technique to a student's body type and even character…
A highly-developed sense of criticism, and of impartial research , have thus allowed Alain Peyrache to avoid the main traps that, unfortunately, have sometimes befallen martial arts instruction: schisms into sport or strength contests, crass commercialism, mysticism or sectarianism. Throughout his remarkable journey, his insistence on this point has sometimes led to friction, but ultimately has led to him being widely acknowledged as one of the great masters of aikido.
He is the author of a reference work: Traité didactique d'aïkido traditionnel
He is responsible for the compilation: Les guides du pratiquant d'aïkido
He is the founder of EPA-ISTA
Following the rigorous requirements of this authentic master is a difficult path—and an incomparably rewarding one. There are those who, having met the benchmarks of aikido, go on to forget them. Unlike them, he passes on his knowledge and experience to those who choose him as their teacher with unequalled generosity and complete immersion in what constitutes the essence of the practice.
Alain Peyrache is a master of aikido, sought after for his proven competence, embodying in every sense the traditional spirit of aikido: ‘one master, one dojo.'
In 2010, Master Tamura asked to see him once more, just a few months before passing away.
Maître Peyrache suit, sans en dévier, la voie du fondateur de l'aïkido.
Master Peyrache unswervingly follows the path of the founder of aikido.