Wednesday 16 December 2015

Learn Jedi Martial Arts! (Aikido the Star Wars Way)

The Force or Ki? Light sabre or bokken? You knew that was Aikido all along, didn't you!!! Here's the proof...

Thursday 10 December 2015

Aikido Classes over Christmas and the New Year

We are taking one day off on New Year's Eve (Thursday the 31st of December). Otherwise, all classes run as usual! We will have classes on December 14th, 17th, 21st, 24th and 28th. There is no class on the 31st. We start back in January on Tuesday the 5th. All classes start at 7:30.

In addition, the Wednesday classes of Bideford Aiki-jo will run without a break throughout the Christmas and New Year period. So make the most of the chance to come and join us and work off the turkey and mince pies!

Friday 30 October 2015

Aikido Class Changes for November

There will be no Aikido class at Bucks Cross on Monday or Tuesday next week (2nd/3rd November). The Thursday class (5th November) will take place as usual. On Monday the 9th of November, there will be a special weapons workshop led by Sensei Richard Small who will be concentrating on aspects of the Iwama weapons syllabus. All other classes take place as usual on each Monday and Thursday throughout November.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Why Did I Choose Aikido?

Of all the martial arts in all the world why did I pick this one?

It’s a long story. It began back in the early 1980s. I was a youngish freelance journalist working in London. I spent most of my time either interviewing pop stars or writing articles for computer magazines. It was a sedentary life and I was starting to feel distinctly unfit.

I interviewed pop stars (like Captain Sensible) by day and did martial arts by night!
So I joined a gym. For about 10 months I did push-ups and sit-ups, I lifted weights and I got very, very bored. Some people enjoy the challenge of lifting weights. I didn’t. I decided to look for some other form of physical activity. Someone mentioned martial arts. I’d never even thought of taking up a martial art. All I knew about martial arts was what I’d seen in Bruce Lee films and the Kung Fu TV series. I began looking for a Kung Fu class. I found a Wing Chun teacher and signed up for a beginner’s course. After the first lesson my arms were black and blue with bruises, but that didn’t deter me. I was, however, less happy about the other people who had signed up for the beginner’s class. Many of them (now how can I put this politely?) – well, let’s just say they seemed to have purely practical reasons for wanting to know how to punch and kick someone senseless. I’m sure the teacher was a decent chap but I didn’t feel entirely at ease with his students.

So I signed up for a Taekwondo class. This was more like it! Lots of high kicks and energetic exercise. Exercise, after all, was my main reason for taking up a martial art. After an hour of Taekwondo the perspiration was pouring off me. This, I thought, might be exactly what I was looking for. But one of the other students, who was obviously even more unfit than I was, couldn’t take the pace. He fell out of line and sank in an exhausted heap against the wall. The instructor went over to him. I thought he would ask politely if the poor bloke was ok. Not at all. He shouted at him, bellowed at him, a bit like the stereotypical portrayal of a British army sergeant-major, “You horrible little worm, you! What d’you think you are doing, you pathetic creep? Get back in line! NOW!!!

One style of martial arts teacher!

Well, to be honest, I don’t know if he actually used the words “you horrible little worm” but, if not, I’m pretty sure that’s what he was thinking. So, in spite of enjoying the exercise and the kicking and in spite of finding my fellow students much more friendly than those from the Wing Chun class I somehow didn’t think I’d be able to form a warm and friendly relationship with the instructor.

So I joined a karate class. The students were friendly – and so was the instructor! This, I felt, was finally exactly what I was looking for. And I may well have spent the rest of my life devoted to the study of karate – but for one little scrap of paper.

The scrap of paper was stuck on the notice board of the leisure centre where I was studying karate. “Aikido – Japanese Martial Art,” it said, “Lessons start next Monday at 1:30.” I didn’t have the slightest idea what Aikido was but, well, I’d tried out three martial arts already, I might as well try one more.

So the next Monday, just after lunch, I walked into the leisure centre. In the changing rooms I got talking to a quietly-spoken chap with a mild Scottish accent. “You here to do the aikido?” I asked. He assured me he was. “Me too,” I said, “Do you know anything about it?” “Och,” he said, “Just a wee bit.”

I didn’t know at the time that he was the teacher. He didn’t look or sound or behave like any of the other martial arts teachers I’d met. He was so laid-back, calm and well, un-martial, that I began to doubt if he was really a martial arts teacher at all. Maybe he was just someone who’d walked in off the street and claimed he did aikido. That first lesson with him baffled me even more. Everything he did was soft, gentle and calm. No kicking, no punching, no shouting. And yet he seemed to have some special quality that intrigued me. That was my first meeting with David Currie, the man who would eventually become my teacher and take me all the way from white belt to 2nd dan.

I’ll carry on this story in another blog post

My teacher, David Currie (centre left, smiling at camera)

Saturday 24 October 2015

The Man In The High Castle - the Aikido Connection

I read Philip K Dick's 'alternative history' science fiction novel, The Man In The High Castle, many years ago. I don't recall any aikido in the novel. However, that sad omission has now been corrected in the new TV series created by Amazon and produced by Ridley Scott. You can see a few seconds of aikido in the trailer...

In fact, it seems that one of the principal characters is an aikido teacher (sadly Ridley Scott didn't offer me a role!) and aikido will feature frequently in the series. Here's a slightly longer clip in which the aikido teacher gives a reasonably cogent explanation of the fundamental principles of aikido.

It's refreshing to see aikido featured so prominently in a major production such as this. I can only hope that it inspires a few more people to take up our wonderful art.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Seigo Yamaguchi - the forgotten aikido master

Well, no, not "forgotten" exactly. But certainly not as well known as he deserves to be. Yamaguchi Sensei (9th dan aikikai) was, at one time, one of the most important and influential aikido teachers at the Hombu Dojo and his students include such significant figures as Seishiro Endo and Christian Tissier. Even so, if you were to ask most students of aikido to name some of the aikido 'greats' I suspect Yamaguchi would not feature on their lists. Well, that's their loss. Yamaguchi was not only a master of free-hand aikido but also of weapons. If I were to characterise his aikidoi style I think I would say that he was a master of unbalancing an attacker. If you watch videos of Yamaguchi Sensei on YouTube you will note that his attacker is often unbalanced at the very point of contact. This is truly one of the great skills of aikido but one which few people ever come close to mastering. Here, to inspire you, is a short clip of the great man himself...

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Self Defence With Style

Amazing the things you can find on YouTube. I love this short video from 1933 in which an elegant young woman gives her male attacker a very rough time! The techniques here are taken from jiu-jitsu but they, or techniques very like them, also exist in aikido. And she still has time to adjust her makeup!

Monday 5 October 2015

Self-Defence For Women!

(....not to mention votes)

There really is nothing new about women learning martial arts for practical self-defence. The BBC has just published an interesting article about the Sufragettes who, in the early part of the 20th Century, studied jiu-jitsu in order to deal with aggressive attacks (even by policemen!)

Aikido is based upon aiki-jui-jitsu and some of the best practitioners I've ever seen are women. The main quality of jiu-jitsu which attracted the suffragettes was (according to the BBC feature) that fact that it "emphasised using the attacker's force against them, channelling their momentum," which made it effective even when used by a small women against a large man. The same is true of aikido. In fact, aikido goes even further than jiu-jitsu in emphasising the importance of using the force of the attack in order to defeat the attacker.

Read the full article HERE.

Saturday 3 October 2015

Aikido Weapons Workshop, Tuesday 6th October

As usual, there is no class on the first Monday of the month (5th October). However, Sensei Richard Small will be initiating us into the mysteries of the Iwama weapons syllabus on Tuesday the 6th of October. Everyone is welcome. Please bring a bokken and jo!

Monday 21 September 2015

Aikido Workshop - Saturday 26th September, Bideford.

There is an Aikido and Aikido weapons workshop open invitation to all styles and levels, this coming Saturday (26th September 2015), in Bideford.

The venue is: Methodist Hall, High Street, Bideford, North Devon EX39 2AH

Training starts 2.00 pm, finishes 5.00 pm. Bring Jo, Ken and proof of insurance. There will be no mats at this venue, so be prepared with suitable footwear. All money goes to charity.

Instructors from various associations include, Pete Blayney, Huw Collingbourne, Richard Small, Mark Allcock plus a representative from Banyu Hatten Akido.

All welcome!

Thursday 3 September 2015

Bo Kata #1 and the 22-Count Ki Jo Kata

If you are familiar with the 22-count jo kata ('Ki Jo Kata #1') you might be interested to compare it with this video of 10th dan Hikitsuchi Sensei performing a Bo Kata. I was struck on watching this by the very close similarity with the 22-count jo kata. The two katas are not quite identical but they are certainly very, very similar.

No class next Monday or Tuesday!

There is no aikido class next Monday or Tuesday. We generally have a weapons class on the first Tuesday of the month but this has been cancelled due to another even in the Bucks Cross Village Hall. We have our Thursday class as usual and there are no changes for the rest of the month so there are classes on every other Monday and Thursday.

Saturday 4 July 2015

Aikido Weapons Workshop, Tuesday 7th July

Just a quick reminder that there is no class this Monday (6th July) but there will be our monthly weapons' workshop taught by Sensei Small on Tuesday 7th at 7:30. If you want to learn about the Iwama Weapons syllabus this is your perfect opportunity. Everyone is welcome, no matter what style of Aikido you currently practise. Please bring bokken and jo if you have them.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Swords, sticks, tea and buns!

Yes, it could only be another Bideford Martial Arts Seminar! We had a great time yesterday at the Aikido weapons workshop taught jointly by Senseis Richard Small (Bideford Aikijo) and Huw Collingbourne (Hartland Aikido). Thanks to everyone who came. Our next special event is in September. More news soon. Here's a photo from yesterday's seminar.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Aikido Weapons Workshop, North Devon

Aikido weapons seminar, Bideford, North Devon, 27th June. All welcome. Taught by Senseis Richard Small (Bideford aiki-jo) and Huw Collingbourne (Hartland Aikido). Please bring bokken and jo if you have them.

Sunday 31 May 2015

Learn Aikido in Bideford and Bucks Cross (3 times each week!)

"In the martial art of Aikido, ultimate victory over self is prized over the merely relative victory over others. It’s an ideal art to assist those who might suffer the effects of anxiety and PTSD because it is all about regaining control, self control in a safe environment which you can then continually recreate for yourself. Without ego it changes helplessness into helpfulness. You don’t have to be a hero, tough or super fit; you just need a mindset that says you are willing to start the journey."

--- Richard Small writes about Aikido in the local magazine, Bideford Buzz.

Richard teaches Aikido weapons every Wednesday evening in Bideford. At Bucks Cross we practise Aikido on Mondays and Thursdays. On Saturday afternoon 27th June 2015 there will be an Aikido weapons workshop at the Methodist Church Hall in Bideford. It is open to viewing by members of the public for a small donation to the chosen charity, Macmillan.

Sunday 24 May 2015

Aikido diary dates - June 2015

Just a few notes about events during June. Our monthly weapons class will take place on Monday the 1st of June (not on Tuesday as we usually do).

There will be no class on Monday 8th of June. However, there will be a class on Tuesday 9th of June.

At the end of June (Saturday 27th), Senseis Richard Small and Huw Collingbourne will be teaching a special one-off weapons workshop in Bideford. If you are interested in weapons (no matter what your aikido 'style' or organisation) you are very welcome to join us. I'll post more information about this even shortly.

Apart from the dates mentioned above, classes in May and June continue as normal at 7:30 on Mondays and Thursdays.

Monday 4 May 2015

Aikido Weapons Class this Tuesday

Just a reminder that there will be no Aikido class tonight Monday 4th May. There will, however, be our usual monthly weapons workshop taught by Sensei Richard Small tomorrow - Tuesday 5th May. Be sure to bring a bokken and jo!

Saturday 25 April 2015

Devon Aikido Summit!

Sunday May 3rd, 12:00 to 16:30 at Chudleigh Town Hall, TQ13 0 Chudleigh, Devon. A cross-cultural seminar with instruction by Geoff Flather Sensei of Banyu Hatten Aikido Yuishinkai, Richard Small Sensei of Bideford Aiki-jo and Huw Collingbourne Sensei of Hartland Aikido. A mixture of weapons work and empty hand taught by three experienced teachers from a wide variety of backgrounds.

There will be two sessions separated by a break with tea, coffee and homemade cakes! Please bring bokken and jo, and proof of insurance for non-BHAY/HA members.

NB: there is some forecourt parking at the hall, but it is limited, so car sharing appreciated.

Cost: £10 for the session.

Monday 13 April 2015

Kaiten (rotation) in Aikido

Turning, gyrating, deflecting - 'kaiten' is at the heart of much we do in Aikido. This video by Kashiwaya Sensei illustrates the principle rather well...

Sunday 5 April 2015

Aikido in Devon, dates for your diary

On Sunday May 3rd, I'm pleased to announce that the Hartland Aikido Club will be joining forces with Aiki-jo Bideford and Banyu Hatten Aikido Exeter in a seminar devoted to both weapons and free-hand aikido. The seminar will take place at Chudleigh Town Hall. More info can be found here:

And if you are interested in aikido weapons, we also have our regular monthly weapons workshop next week (Tuesday 7th April) at the Hartland Club. This is taught be Sensei Richard Small and will cover aspects of the Iwama weapons syllabus. Everyone is welcome. Be sure to bring a bokken and jo!

Please bear in mind that there is no aikido class on Monday the 6th of April.

Sunday 22 March 2015

Aikido Fandango!

This is a photo taken at one of last week's classes.

Here Dermot, Phil and Lara appear to be doing a Spanish flamenco dance. All they need are castanets! As I don't recall teaching flamenco dancing at last week's classes, I have to assume that they are, in fact, doing something that may have some vague connection with Aikido. After prolonged consideration, I have decided that this might be their attempt at a bizarre version of Sankyo. Then again, I could be wrong. Maybe they were doing a flamenco dance while my back was turned...

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Katate Kosadori Kokyunage

We've been exploring Katate Kosadori Kokyunage (known to some as Iriminage) in our classes recently. We emphasise flowing, blending, circularity and balance-taking. This short video from Kashiwaya Sensei illustrates these qualities nicely.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Meanwhile, back at the dojo...

Here are some photos taken at the Monday class last week. I am explaining some of the principles of the shihonage technique...

Many thanks to Sensei Richard Small for taking the photos.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Fitness for Aikido - there's an app for that!

It's often said that you don't need to be fit to learn Aikido. And that's true - up to a point. Since timing, softness, blending and unbalancing should be used instead of just muscle-power, you need to be neither very young nor super-fit to do Aikido.

But is it sensible to do a martial art without being fit? Personally, I don't think it is. For one thing, the fitter you are, the safer will your practice become: muscle strength and flexibility will support your joints, cardiovascular fitness will ensure you don't get tired quickly. And what is more, since Aikido is, at its best, a very dynamic martial art, one of its benefits is (or should be) that it helps to make you, and keep you, fit.

But to be truly fit you need to work at it. And the older you get the harder you have to work. While I am not exactly unfit, I am by no means at an optimal level of fitness. So my New Year's Resolution this year was to get myself fitter. The video below shows your a short review of an iPad app which I am using to help me achieve this goal. It's call You Are Your Own Gym and I can honestly say it's the best $2.99 (£1.95) I've spent this year.

You can read my complete review of You Are Your Own Gym here:

Thursday 5 February 2015

Tohei Sensei performs jo kata (video)

This video was recently uploaded to YouTube. I've never seen such an extensive video of Tohei sensei performing jo katas before. Very interesting to watch.

Saturday 31 January 2015

February Aikido Schedule and 13 Jo Kata Workshop

There is no aikido class this Monday (2nd February). However, there is a special weapons workshop on the 13 jo Kata (not suitable for complete beginners - but anyone with some experience of aikido, no matter what style or organisation, is welcome to attend). This workshop is given by Sensei Richard Small on Tuesday 3rd of February at 7:30. For the rest of February all classes run as normal on Mondays and Thursdays at 7:30.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Aikido - Putting the Art into Martial!

There is more to Aikido that simple self-defence techniques. The best Aikido is smooth, fluid and, well, just plain beautiful. In that spirit, I really enjoyed this video by an Indonesian teacher in which he demonstrates a number of defences against attacks while simultaneously manipulating a fan! This is not only aesthetically pleasing but it also shows a high level of skill. I hope you enjoy watching this as much I I did.

Friday 2 January 2015

Keep Fit with Aikido in 2015!

The Hartland Aikido Club starts back again on Monday 5th of January at 7:30 and we shall, as always, be practising twice a week on Mondays and Thursdays. If you are anywhere in the area (roughly between Bideford in North Devon and Bude in Cornwall), please come and join us. If you are new to Aikido, don't worry - we are a small, friendly club and we will help you at every step along the way. In addition to being a method of self-defence and a system for learning calmness of mind and relaxation of body, Aikido is also a great way to get into shape. We'll be studying a range of fitness exercises this year to increase flexibility, stamina and general fitness - no matter what your age!

Here is a short video of a fundamental technique to give you some inspiration: Katate Kosa Tori Kokyunage (which some Aikido styles call Iriminage)...