Monday 30 December 2013

Get fit and learn Aikido in 2014

So you’ve eaten too much turkey and Christmas Pud and you’ve slumped in front of the TV and all of a sudden you realise that you really need to do something to get back into shape…. time to make your New Year’s Resolution. Here’s a suggestion:

Learn Aikido in 2014!

The Hartland Aikido Club meets twice a week – on Mondays and Thursdays – so you have lots of opportunity to come and give it a try. We are a small, friendly club with members ranging from white belt level (beginners) to black belt. We are very lucky to have excellent mats (thanks to the financial support of Torridge Council). If you have never done a martial art before, don’t worry. We’ll guide you gently through all the basics. If you already have experience in aikido, then you will be equally welcome. We are open to all styles of aikido. While the Hartland club is affiliated with the British Ki Aikido Association, we will not disregard the skills of people who have studied in other aikido styles. All are welcome.

In fact, in 2014, we will be extending our own practice to embrace some of the weapons syllabus from a different school of aikido. Here in North Devon, we are very lucky to have an expert teacher of the Iwama style of aiki-jo and aiki-ken. Sense Richard Small (4th dan) teaches aikido weapons (but not free-hand aikido) in Bideford. In 2014 he has kindly agreed to teach a series of weapons master classes at the Hartland Aikido Club in Bucks Cross. These will begin on the 4th of February, and will continue on the first Tuesdays of March and April, with an in-depth look at the 31-count jo kata. This is a fascinating, and challenging, jo (wooden staff) kata. If you want to enrich your understanding of aikido weapons, this is a great opportunity. By integrating Sensei Small’s expert weapons teaching with the Hartland Club’s freehand aikido practice and Ki relaxation exercises, I sincerely believe that we will be able to provide students with a rare opportunity to experience a very broad range of aikido training.

I hope that a few people from the Bideford, Bucks Cross and Hartland areas might be tempted to try out aikido for the first time in the coming year. And I also hope that some people who are already experienced in aikido may be tempted to take advantage of the possibilities for extending your knowledge by joining us in our regular weekly meetings or by taking part in Sensei Small’s monthly weapons master classes.

If you don’t know what Aikido is, here are a couple of short videos that gives a very simple overview. This first video emphasises the Iwama-style weapons training…

This second video describes the ‘core’ of aikido common to all styles…

Saturday 21 December 2013

Aikido is the secret to surviving Christmas!

So says The Guardian newspaper! "When it comes to dealing with life's low-level conflicts – the kind of petty sniping some of you may just possibly be about to experience in the coming days – the Japanese martial art of aikido might not seem a promising source of solutions," says an article in today's edition.

However, the author goes on to say that it turns out that aikido may hold not just the secrets to surviving Christmas, but may also have the secrets to coping with the pressures of life in general. "Conflict itself is unavoidable, but we're too quick to assume that any given conflict is also a contest – a zero-sum game, in which one side wins by making the other lose. Treat a friendship, job or marriage like a contest, and you've already determined how you'll respond: by trying to score points until someone admits defeat."


On that thought, it's probably a good time to wish you a Merry Christmas and an Aikido-full New Year!

Monday 25 November 2013

Tachi Dori Workshop, This Friday!

Just a quick reminder that Sensei Small (4th dan, Iwama Aikido) will be teaching a Tachi Dori (sword-taking) workshop at the Hartland Aikido Club this Friday (29th November) evening between 7:00 and 9:00pm. If you practise Aikido and you wish to attend, you will be very welcome no matter to which style or organisation you belong. This short video will give you a few ideas of what to expect...

Sunday 17 November 2013

Aikido Class Schedule Updates

Between now and the end of the year there are a few changes to our regular class schedule. Normally we practise on Mondays at 7:30 and Thursdays at 7:00. However, due to various other events taking place, the following dates have been changed. Please make note!

Monday 18th November: No Aikido tonight!!!

Thursday 28th November: No Aikido tonight!!!

Friday 29th November: Special Event - Sensei Small's Tachi Dori Workshop
Tonight we are pleased to host a special Tachi Dori (sword-taking) workshop given by Sensei Richard Small (4th dan Iwama Aikido and Sensei at the Bideford Aiki-jo Club).

Monday 2nd December: There is an Aikido class tonight!!!
(usually there is no class on the 1st Monday of the month)

Monday 9th December: No Aikido tonight!!!
(there is another event in the village hall)

Apart from the changes noted above, classes continue as normal on Mondays and Thursdays.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Koichi Tohei, rare historic video

I just came across this old video (from 1962 I think) of Koichi Tohei who was at that time the Founder's chief instructor but who later went on to develop the style popularly known as 'Ki Aikido'. In this video, Tohei shows a variety of exercises, throws and also some jo-dori and knife defences. The thing I find fascinating about Tohei is how 'natural' he looks. He never adopts a 'martial arts' stance. He just seems to be walking around without a care in the world but happening to throw people as they attack. It is that relaxed 'naturalness' that fascinates me and it is a quality to which I (perhaps vainly?) aspire. At any rate, see what you think...

Friday 1 November 2013

Aikido Dates for November

There are a few changes to our normal schedule this November. Plus, at the end of the month, we have a very special event. So be sure to add these dates to your diary:

Monday 4th November: Club meets at 7:30
(we normally take the 1st Monday off but this month we've swapped a night with the Bucks Cross Gardening Society - see next entry...)

Monday 18th November: No Aikido tonight!!!
(this is the date we swapped - see above)

Thursday 28th November: No Aikido tonight!!!

Friday 29th November: Special Event - Sensei Small's Tachi Dori Workshop
Tonight we are pleased to hoist a special Tachi Dori workshop given by Sensei Richard Small (4th dan Iwama Aikido and Sensei at the Bideford Aiki-jo Club).

If you are unfamiliar with Tachi Dori, this will give you a taster...

Monday 14 October 2013

Our Latest Orange Belt

Congratulations to Aidan James, who passed his orange belt grading last week. Now onward towards green... !

Friday 4 October 2013

No Aikido next Monday

Just a reminder that the Hartland Aikido Club has a night off next Monday (7th October). We usually miss the first Monday of each month to allow the Bucks Cross Garden Society to use the hall. Sometimes, if they don't need it, we slot in an extra class. But next Monday they will be using it so we won't have a class. We'll back again on Thursday at 7:00 at usual, however. See you then!

Sunday 15 September 2013

Hartland Aikido Club Posters

Can you display a small poster to help to advertise our Aikido Club? If you know of somewhere - a shop, pub, community centre or sports centre, even just a window of your house - where you could display an A4 poster, we would be really grateful. The Hartland Aikido Club is a non-profit-making community group which is supported by Torridge Council and the Active Villages initiative. It is worth mentioning this fact when asking people to display a poster just in case they think we are a big commercial organisation!

You can download and print a PDF-format copy of our poster either for black-and-white or colour printing. The two versions are similar but the colour one highlights the word 'Aikido' in red to add a bit more impact.

Click HERE to download the colour poster.

Click HERE to download the black-and-white poster.

To download the posters, click a link above and then click the small down-arrw at the top-left of the page.

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Aikido Dojos UK - come and join us!

I've long found it frustrating that many big aikido clubs and organisations don't mix much (if at all) with other clubs and organisations, while small aikido clubs are often too remote to do much mixing even if they want to!

As the sensei of a small club way out in the wilds of North Devon, I actively try to find other friendly clubs to practise with. Over the past year I've travelled all over the West Country to courses and seminars given by all kinds of different aikido clubs - some of them with practising quite a different 'style' of aikido than I am accustomed to. And it's been great fun and extremely instructive.

The only trouble is, it's hard to find other friendly clubs and, once found, it's hard to keep track of any events they may be organising. Wouldn't it be good (I thought) if there were somewhere online where aikido clubs belonging  from big, small or tiny organisations of any aikido style could share information and establish closer links? That is why I decided to create a site for exactly that purpose. The new Aikido Dojos UK site is a multi-editor blog. Set up just a few days ago, it already has five editors from different aikido associations and clubs. So clearly I am not the only person who sees some potential in this idea!

If you have an aikido club and you would like to join us, please contact me.

In case you are worrying that joining us involves money and red-tape, let me assure you that it does not. Aikido Dojos UK is a group of Aikido friends - that's all. It is not an 'association' - there is no membership and no fees. If that sounds of interest, please join us!

Sunday 25 August 2013

31 Jo Partner Class

Two members of the Hartland Club (Huw Collingbourne the Hartland Club Sensei, and Dermot Hogan) once again visited the Iwama Aikido weapons class given by Sensei McGlone at the Wellsprings Aikido Club in Dorset. This month the subject was the 31 jo kata partner practice. As always, it was an interesting and challenging class. This is the group photo...

Friday 23 August 2013

The Hartland Aikido Club's new blue belt!

Congratulations to Dermot Hogan who took his blue-belt grading yesterday. He coped well with the speed and pressure of the grading and passed with an impressive performance that included a very broad range of techniques. I'm happy to report that Dermot set an excellent standard. Thanks also to Pete Blayney (Dermot's uke) who showed considerable spirit and stamina. I felt exhausted just watching them!

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Learn A Martial Art in North Devon!

It's that time of year, as we draw to the end of summer and autumn is on its way, when many people start thinking about doing something new that will help them make it through the dark days of winter. If you live in North Devon, may I suggest Aikido?

We have a great little Aikido club in Bucks Cross, close to Clovelly and Hartland and well within easy reach of anyone living in the Bideford and Bude areas. We have excellent judo mats for safe and comfortable practice. And we welcome beginners. In fact, you will even get your first lesson free. So come and join us!

By way of inspiration, here is a short video of Koichi Tohei, founder of the style of Aikido ('Ki Aikido') that we practise at our club.

Sunday 4 August 2013

Aikido, Monday 5th of August

No, we aren't taking a break this Monday! Normally we don't practise on the first Monday of the month due to the fact that the Village Hall at Bucks Cross is used for other purposes. Well, not this Monday. We shall meet as usual at 7:30 on Monday evening. See you there!

Tuesday 30 July 2013

What is Ki Aikido?

There are quite a few "demonstrations of Ki" available on YouTube which I personally find embarrassing in the extreme. I won't link to them because I don't want to give them any more publicity than they already have. Suffice to say, that some people's understanding of Ki in Aikido is very different from mine. It was a joy, then, to discover this short, simple, down-to-earth explanation of Ki Aikido by Kashiwaya Sensei, Chief Instructor of the Ki Society in the USA.

Kashiwaya Sensei is not only a very skilled practitioner of Aikido but he also has a rare quality of being able to convey his joy and enthusiasm for the art. He gives a simple, level-headed explanation of the four principles of Ki Aikido in this video. He also makes what I consider to be a crucial point - that Aikido techniques are not useful to most people once they leave the dojo. But the core teachings of Ki Aikido ("mind/body coordination") are valuable in daily life. Anyway, here's the video. I hope you find it of interest.

Monday 29 July 2013

31 Count Jo Kata

I attended another excellent and informative workshop hosted by Wellsprings Aikido in Dorset last Saturday. This month Sensei McGlone was teaching the 31 jo kata. Here is a commermorative photo of the event...

Friday 5 July 2013

Our Newest Yellow Belt!

Many congratulations to Michelle Heard on passing her yellow belt grading last night.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Sensei McGlone's Kumi Tachi (Aikido Weapons) Workshop

I spent an enjoyable, interesting and challenging afternoon hosted by the Wellsprings Aikido Club in Dorset yesterday. This was a Kumi Tachi (paired bokken) workshop given by Sensei Paul McGlone, 6th dan Iwama Aikido instructor. My experience of Iwama weapons work only dates back to last year when I began studying aiki-jo and aiki-ken with Sensei Richard Small in Bideford. The tradition of weapons practice in Iwama Aikido is very different from my previous experience in Ki Aikido and I still regard myself as a complete beginner in its study.

I am very much of the conviction that it is beneficial to anyone who wants to study aikido seriously to learn from as many other traditions and 'schools' of aikido as possible. Sadly, some aikido clubs are very 'insular' and do not encourage practice with people from other clubs. At the Hartland Club we welcome everyone, no matter what your previous experience and no matter which 'school' of aikido you may have studied with. Put simply: if you are happy to practise with us, we are happy to practise with you.

I am grateful to Sensei Mark Allcock of the Wellsprings Aikido Club for his similarly open and welcoming attitude. It has been a great joy to study at this series of weapons workshops. Here is a souvenir of yesterday - in this picture, I am 3rd from left at the back, Dermot Hogan (also from the Hartland Club) is 4th from left at back, Sensei McGlone is next to Dermot, Sensei Small is on the extreme right at the back, Sensei Allcock is kneeling directly in front of Sensei McGlone.

Monday 17 June 2013

Aikido in action

I don't often see myself upside down! Well, thanks to club member Lara, who took these photos, I can now see what I look like in the most undignified of positions. Here Pete is doing the throwing and either Dermot (top-left) or I (all the other photos) are being thrown. I think it's about time we gave Pete a taste of his own medicine. Oh well, we have a class tonight. Payback time! :-)

Friday 31 May 2013

No class next Monday

Just a reminder that the Hartland Aikido Club does not practise on the first Monday of each Month. So on Monday June the 3rd, we are taking the night off! We'll be back as usual on Thursday June the 6th and on the following Monday.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Tohei Sensei - memories of 1987

You know, it's often the ephemera - the disposable bits and pieces that had once seemed of no importance - that can really bring memories of the past rushing back. And so it was for me this week when, having decided to sort out some old boxes containing 'rubbish', I chanced upon this...

It's just a crumpled piece of folded cardboard. And yet it immediately brought back very vivid memories from 1987 (and it seems hard to believe that it was really that long ago!). In the summer of that year, some members of our Aikido Club from London decided to take a holiday in Italy along with our Sensei, David Currie. The reason for the visit was the Aikido seminar being given in Florence by no less than Koichi Tohei, 10th dan and formerly the chief instructor appointed by the founder (O Sensei). Tohei Sensei is now known as the founder of 'Ki Aikido'. Suffice to say, it was (quite literally) a once in a lifetime experience and I now realise how immensely privileged I was to have been a part of it. At any rate, I no longer regard this piece of crumpled cardboard as 'disposable'. From now on, I shall treasure it.

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Sensei Small's Jo Dori Class

Sensei Small (front left), me (next to him) and students from yesterday's jo dori class

Friday 3 May 2013

North Devon Aikido Weapons Course, May Bank Holiday Monday!

Just a reminder that this Monday (6th of May), the Hartland Aikido Club in Bucks Cross will host a special aiki-weapons class taught by 4th dan, Sensei Richard Small. Everyone, of all skill levels (and all Aikido styles) is welcome. See my previous post for more information.

Sunday 28 April 2013

Free Aikido books from Gaku Homma!

Gaku Homma, who was a live-in student (uchi deshi) at the Hombu and Iwama dojos under both O Sensei, the founder of Aikido, and Saito Sensei, and who now runs the independent Nippon Kan dojo in Denver, Colorada, has very generously made available free PDF eBook versions of several of his published paperback books on Aikido. The books are: Aikido For Life, Children and the Martial Arts and The Aikido Sketch Diary. I have recently been reading Gaku Homma Sensei's excellent book 'The Structure of Aikido' (the paperback edition - this book is not available for download!) which explores the relationship between bokken/sword work and open-handed Aikido. If you are interested in Aikido weapons, I recommend that book. In the meantime, however, if you don't already have his other books, what are you waiting for? Read them for free here:

Sunday 21 April 2013

Aiki Weapons Class 6th May - Don't miss it!!!

I'm pleased to announce that the Hartland Aikido Club will host a special aiki weapons class taught by Sensei Richard Small (4th dan, Takemusu Iwama Europe) on Monday the 6th of May.

As a general principle, the Hartland Aikido Club teaches 'Ki Aikido', following the teaching of Koichi Tohei Sensei. Sensei Small's Aikido background is in a different tradition, often called 'Iwama Aikido, based on the teachings of Morihiro Saito Sensei. One of the clear differences between the Ki and Iwama styles is the greater emphasis given by the latter to practice using the jo (wooden staff) and bokken (wooden sword). Moreover, as I have mentioned before, the way in which the two styles of aikido use the weapons differs considerably. Not only are our formal 'routines' (the katas) different but also the qualities of movement which we strive to perfect are different in some respects.

So does that mean that one of us is right and the other is wrong? No, absolutely not. The fact of the matter is that we have two simple wooden sticks at our disposal. It is rather amazing that we can get anything at all of consequence from practising with them. In fact, we are able to obtain enormous value from jo and bokken practice which can also assist our free-hand aikido. In our regular classes at the Hartland Club, we explore one tradition (perfected by Tohei Sensei). In his class on the 6th of May, Sensei Small will explore some aspects of another tradition (perfected by Saito Sensei). In my view, both traditions are of equal value and students who approach the subject with an open mind will have the opportunity to enhance their appreciation of the great merit of weapons work in aikido.

I should also point out that the Hratland Aikido Club welcomes students from all styles of aikido (and indeed, other martial arts). So whether you are a complete beginner or an old hand, you will be very welcome to join us at Sensei Small's aiki weapons class or at any of our regular classes.

Sensei Small's Aiki Weapons class will be held at the Bucks Cross Village Hall, between 7:30 and 9:30pm on the 6th of May 2013. Cost is £5 for  two hours (£3 for unemployed/retired). If you have any interest at all in the use of weapons in aikido, please come along!

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Bucks Cross Aikido (between Bideford and Bude) now twice weekly!

From next week (Monday 22nd April, 2013) The Hartland Aikido Club will be meeting twice weekly at the Bucks Cross Village Hall. If you haven't visited us before, don't be frightened. We are a very friendly bunch and we always welcome beginners.

We have now moved our Monday classes, which were previously held in Woolsery, so that we can take advantage of the excellent, heavyweight judo mats that we have at Bucks Cross. Currently we have 20 full size mats and soon (thanks to the ongoing support of Active Devon) we will have even more. This means that we can offer a really well-equipped dojo for optimal comfort and safety.

Monday practice starts at 7:30 in the evening. Thursday practice starts at 7:00. Why not come along and give us a try. [Details on Bucks Cross Village Hall]. As an added bonus, your first session is free!

Friday 12 April 2013

Learn Aikido! (because you never know when you may need it)

This little video provides an excellent example of why you need to learn Aikido - before the enemy does!

Thursday 11 April 2013

Aikido - tanto (knife) defences

Later this year I will be teaching classes on 'tanto tori' - defences against knife attacks. We will practise with wooden knives for safety. I've always found tanto defences one of the most challenging and interesting aspects of aikido. At black belt level you are expected to be able to perform these defences against real knives, so you need to have both the technical skill and also (just as important!) the calmness of mind to deal with whatever happens to come your way. Many years ago, when I used to practise with my teacher, Sensei David Currie, I undertook quite a long series of private lessons in which we explored defences against all kinds of weapons - from baseball bats to broken bottles.

Fear not! We won't be using any of those somewhat unconventional weapons in the Hartland club. We'll stick strictly to the wooden tantos. Here is a short video I came across of some basic tanto defences. Incidentally, this teacher (Mike Jones of the New York Aikikai) has a number of videos on YouTube. I recommend them. They are well filmed and Mike Jones is a very clear and engaging teacher.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Steven Seagal - on the effectiveness of aikido

It's pretty common for people who haven't studied Aikido to assert that it can't possibly be effective in 'real' situations. Steven Seagal has his say on this...

Sunday 31 March 2013

Easter Aikido!

Just a reminder that we have a class, as usual, on Easter Monday at Woolsery. See you there!

Sunday 24 March 2013

Hartland Aikido On Facebook

The Hartland Aikido Club now has a Facebook page.

If you are on Facebook, you can 'Like' our page to keep up to date with any news:

Saturday 16 March 2013

Aikido attacks from behind

Hartland Club member, Dermot Hogan, has decided to work on a project to explore ways of dealing with attacks and holds from behind. I don't know quite where this project will lead but I imagine that Dermot  may be at least experimenting with a few of the techniques shown in this video. Should be interesting!

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Self-defence for women!

Sadly we only have one woman member in the Hartland Aikido Club. I'm not sure if women have the impression that martial arts are for men only. That's absolutely not the case. We would love to have more women members. Just to give you some inspiration, here is a short video showing a woman doing Aikido in 'real life' which I happened to notice on YouTube... ;-)

Thursday 7 March 2013

Bucks Cross Aikido - Jogi (kata) 1

We are continuing our study of the 1st Ki Aikido Jo Kata or 'jogi' at the Bucks Cross class in North Devon tonight. Over the past year I have been fortunate to have been able to study with Sensei Richard Small in Bideford who teaches the Iwama style of aiki-jo. Previously I have never studied that tradition and it has been a considerable challenge to me.

I have come to realise that the Iwama (Saito Sensei) tradition emphasises quite different qualities in its jo work than the Ki (Tohei Sensei) tradition. In my view, both styles are equally worthy of study. Iwama jo work builds power, stability and precision. Ki jo work emphasises lightness, fluidity and speed. Both traditions emphasise softness and centredness. It is rather remarkable that a simple wooden stick has so much to teach!

Anyway, for reference, this is the Ki-style jo kata which we are currently studying in the Bucks Cross class.

Sunday 3 March 2013

Learn Aikido in Woolsery - week 2

Just a quick reminder that the new Aikido class meets again tomorrow (Monday 4th of March) in the Community Hall in Woolsery (Wolfardisworthy), North Devon. If you live in Bideford or any of the surrounding villages such as Northam, Parkham, Hartland or Clovelly, this is the perfect opportunity to learn  a martial art. The Aikido class is small and friendly, it is suitable for women and men, and the Hall is a lovely venue with plenty of parking space and even a bar on site! The class begins at 7:30 in the evening but if you can arrive at about 7:20, that would be appreciated as you can then help us to put out the mats to ensure that the class starts on time.

I hope to see you there!

Friday 1 March 2013

Kendo Nagasaki, Aikido and Me!

If you are British and of a 'certain age', you will surely remember the great wrestlers who became household names in the 1970s thanks to the hugely popular bouts televised on Saturday afternoons. Names such as Mick McManus, Jackie Pallo and Adrian Street still cause a thrill of nostalgic excitement. Much to my surprise, I recently discovered that I have something in common with one of the greatest and most famous (or infamous?) of all British wrestlers - the wonderful Kendo Nagasaki.

OK, OK, so maybe it's not a very close connection. But it's a connection all the same - and it is all related to Aikido. Read more in the latest edition of our local community magazine, The Bideford Buzz. Meanwhile, here is the great man himself...

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Bideford's New 4th Dan!!!

Many congratulations to Sensei Richard Small who teaches the art of aiki-jo in Bideford (see his web site), on his elevation to the rank of 4th dan - and very well deserved too, I may say!

Here's a picture taken at one of Sensei Small's seminars (a few weeks ago when he was a mere 3rd dan). Here you can see me whacking Dermot Hogan (who studies both at my club and at Sensei Small's) over the head with a jo. Well, at least, that's what seems to be happening. I should say that I deny all responsibility. ;-)

Friday 15 February 2013

Aikido in North Devon (for Beginners)

If you are new to Aikido, what can you expect when you turn up to a class for the first time?

It can be slightly intimidating to arrive at a martial arts class with no idea of what you are letting yourself in for. So let me try to reassure you that joining our Aikido class is not going to be a frightening experience! In fact, I think (I hope!) that you will find us friendly and that you will have a lot of fun practising with us.

I won’t go over the details of the arts of Aikido here (it will be easier to explain those at the class itself), but I do want to give you a few ideas of what our classes are like.  First, let me clarify what Aikido is not: it is not a system of hand-to-hand fighting; it is not a competitive sport; it is not something that only young people can do! Here is a short taster showing some of the great masters of Aikido...

So what is a class actually like?

A class will generally begin with a few warm-ups. These are a series of graded stretching and aerobic exercises to get you limbered up. We will then go through a number of ‘Ki’ exercises which will help you to learn how to focus your thoughts and remain relaxed and calm even when under pressure. After the Ki exercises we will move on to the Aikido techniques themselves.

As a beginner you will first learn two important skills: 1) how to get out of the way if someone attacks you and 2) how to fall to the ground safely, without hurting yourself. Once you’ve learnt those, you will be taught some ways of defending yourself against an attack. Aikido is an entirely defensive art – and it is not aggressive or competitive. We do not have ‘Aikido matches’, there is no scoring and there are no winners or losers.

On the whole, our Aikido classes are very informal. Aikido classes are – and should be – fun. That said, we take Aikido itself very seriously. So while the atmosphere of a class may be relaxed, don’t be deceived into thinking that we treat Aikido lightly. We do not. Aikido is a beautiful and challenging art. Accordingly we take its study very seriously.

In spite of the informality, there are a few formal conventions that we observe in order to show our respect for the art and for the great teachers of that art. When we enter the practice room (the ‘dojo’) we make a small standing bow. When the teacher (the ‘sensei’) is speaking, the students kneel (or sit cross legged) on the edge of the practice mat. When you have finished practising with another student, it is considered polite to say ‘Thank you’. At the start and end of a class, the teacher will welcome and thank the students. These are minor details and nobody will be worried if you are unfamiliar with the etiquette when you practise with us. But if you want some more information, please see the page on ‘Dojo etiquette’.

Finally, what should you wear? Unless you have practised a martial art before, you probably won’t have a special martial art suit (a ‘gi’). That doesn’t matter. Just wear something loose-fitting and comfortable – a sweat suit would be perfect. Please don’t wear jewellery or watches as they could easily hurt your or another person when practising. Also, bring some slippers or sandals that you can slip on an off easily. We will practise barefoot on a mat. You will need to leave your slippers at the edge of the mat. If you decide to stick with the study of Aikido, you may buy a judo-style suit at a later date. The club is able to supply these at reduced prices.

You will notice that existing students wear coloured belts and some people may also wear a pair of long, flowing, baggy black ‘trousers’ (called a ‘hakama’). The coloured belts represent degrees of skill. Beginners wear white; more experienced practitioners may wear yellow, orange and other colours. The most experienced people wear black belts and a hakama.

We practise every week on Thursday evenings in Bucks Cross. And, from the 25th of February we will also be practising on Monday evenings in Woolsery. Newcomers are very welcome at either class (see here for more information). Why not give Aikido a try? You may find it’s addictive!

Congratulations Aidan James who last night became a yellow belt after a very fluid and assured grading!

Saturday 2 February 2013

Aikido in Woolsery

Set this date for your diary: 25th February, 2013. On that day the Hartland Aikido Club will hold its first class at a new venue - the Woolsery Sports and Community Hall in Wolfardisworthy (pronounced 'Woolsery'), North Devon. Classes will start at 7:30 and they will be perfect for complete beginners, men and women, from the age of 18 to, well, any age...

The Woolsery Hall is a lovely location with good parking facilities and a bar on site (orange juice or water only during class, please - but whatever takes your fancy once the class is over). For more information on the Hall, see the Woolsery Community website.

Note that this class is in addition to our existing classes at Bucks Cross Village Hall on Thursdays. These continue as normal. So, if you are really keen on making fast progress in Aikido, you can now practise twice a week if you like. :-)

More news soon.

Friday 1 February 2013

Aiki-Jo Workshop in Taunton

If you live in the West Country, here's a date for your diary. Sensei Richard Small will be teaching an aiki-jo workshop at the United Dojos in Taunton on the 16th of February from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

More info on: and

Saturday 5 January 2013

Ki Aikido Jo Katas (and beyond)

We began study of the Ki Aikido Jo Kata #1 at the Hartland Club last week. We made it as far as movement number 8 (of 22) and we'll see if we can progress to number 10 next week. We'll be doing a lot more work with the jo this year. If you don't own a jo, don't worry - the club has a few extras so you can borrow one. Just to get you into the mood, here is another inspirational video from one the great contemporary Ki Aikido masters of the jo, Kashiwaya sensei.

Wednesday 2 January 2013

Learn Aikido in North Devon in 2013

The Hartland Aikido Club starts back on Thursday the 3rd of January, 2013. As always we meet at 7 o'clock in the Bucks Cross Village Hall. If you want to work off some of those Christmas calories, Aikido is the perfect way to do it. If you've ever fancied learning a martial art but you don't want to enter competitions or do anything that's violent and aggressive, Aikido could be exactly what you are looking for.

We are a small, friendly club and we welcome beginners. We have men and women members ranging from beginners through to black belt, so no matter whether you've done a martial art before or whether this is your first time, we'll take the time and trouble to get you into the swing of things. 

Incidentally, if you have done Aikido before, don't worry if you think the style you learnt may be different from the style we practise. While we follow the teachings of Koichi Tohei Sensei ('Ki Aikido') there are people at the club who have also studied in several other Aikido styles. In short, we welcome all styles. Why not give us a try....?