Kevin Bash is a city councilman, an author, an actor, a business owner, a former mayor and stuntman. Now the UC Riverside alumnus spends a good fraction of his time teaching students on this campus the martial art known as Aikido. Recently, Bash offered the Highlander an inside look at his class as he showcased his mastery of the art, all while revealing his eventful life story.
“I work very hard to [make sure] that [students] get certain skills,” Bash said about the class he teaches at the Student Recreation Center. “Aikido … because of its soft style, is almost like a dance, but eventually it’s not a dance. What Aikido really is is the art of taking the fall. You always should be able to reverse whatever the person is doing. So if [a person] attacks you, you’re constantly doing reversals on them.”
Bash demonstrated the intense training process that he and his students go through on a regular basis to master Aikido. As he stood on the padded flooring wearing his white wraparound uniform, Bash instructed his students to charge at him. One by one, they ran toward him, attempting to restrain him. As they did so, he carefully demonstrated how to defend against “the attackers” by gripping their arms, redirecting the momentum of their bodies and eventually throwing them to the safely-padded floor. They practiced this maneuver over and over until the end of the class.
“People don’t get hurt in my class,” he assured. “They learn how to take correct falls and things like that. Anybody can train here.”
Bash explained that Aikido is an art that he has been practicing since he was a student in the late 1970s. “It’s just a hobby gone nuts,” he said. According to him, it was a hobby that began back when Bash was still a student at UC Riverside. As an undergraduate, Bash was a drama student and acted in UCR’s theatre department. It was a simple suggestion by his drama professor Eric Barr that got him started in martial arts.
“Eric said, ‘You should do Aikido, it’ll help you move,’” Bash recalled. “In those days, Aikido was one of the best ways to train actors. So I started doing Aikido.”
According to him, the martial art eventually took him all over the world. After graduating from UCR, he visited Japan many times, where he trained and mastered Aikido. Eventually he settled in Los Angeles, where he found work as an actor and stuntman. During that time, he started his own theatre and began doing stunts in a number of commercials. “The only thing I won’t do is cigarette ads,” he said jokingly.
Before long, Bash said he became interested in politics. “I became interested in getting the truth out,” he said. He ran for a local government office and was eventually elected as the mayor of Norco. He’s also written numerous books about the city, hoping to educate the public about about Norco and local government in general. After his one-year term ended, Bash became a city councilman for Norco and holds that position to this day.
Bash explained that he made his return to UCR in 1997 when he decided to start a class at the Student Recreation Center to teach students Aikido.
“I think you should do some kind of physical art,” he said. From there, he went on to address a major concern of his: the current health of young adults on campus. He believes students should participate in physical activities more often and believes that his class can help with that.
“Some [students] come for exercise,” he explained. “Some come because they want to learn to defend themselves. Some come because they like this particular style.” Often times, he says, students who take his class go on to teach Aikido themselves.
“It’s called the wise man’s martial art because it’s a little bit more cerebral,” he went on to say. “I’m not a believer in teaching self-defense, per se, but I teach you to be aware. You got to be very wary in today’s society, and I teach that.”
He concluded with an advice for students: “You got to find that thing that you like to do.”