Friday 29 January 2016

Aikido Class Tuesday 2nd February

As usual (for the first Monday in each month) there will be no class next Monday (1st February). There will be a class on Tuesday the 2nd of February, however. Sensei Small won't be able to make it this month so instead of his usual weapons class next Tuesday's class will include both weapons and free-hand aikido.

Monday 25 January 2016

Aikido: Knives, Sweat and a Victorian Diorama

The Diorama is a wonderful old Victorian building next to Regents Park. According to Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to its Sights (1844) it was “long an object of wonder and delight in Paris.” By the early 1980s, The Diorama had fallen on hard times, however, for it was there that I went twice weekly to study aikido.

But before I get onto that, let me describe the Diorama in more detail since (unless you are one of my old aikido chums) I think it is pretty unlikely that you have ever done aikido in a Diorama.

Opened in 1823 the Diorama was a building of circular construction, rather like a roofed Colosseum with various extensions branching off from around the edges. Within the central area a paying audience could watch huge pictures of thrilling spectacles such as the eruption of Mount Aetna. It was, I suppose, the IMAX of its day. Moggs’ Guide describes it thus: “This is a very extraordinary and beautiful exhibition; it consists of two pictures that are alternately brought into view by a very ingenious mechanical contrivance; the interior resembling a theatre, consisting of one tier of boxes and a pit, being made to revolve upon a centre with the spectators, thus gradually withdraws one picture and introduces the other to the view. A judicious introduction of the light, and other contrivances, give increased effect to pictures beautifully painted, which, by a concentration of talent, completes an illusion that with perfect justice may be pronounced ‘the acme of art’.”
Plan of the London Diorama
Its ingenious mechanical contrivance had long fallen into disuse by the time I went to The Diorama. By the early 1980s it was simply a venue that was let out, room by room, to anyone who wanted to rent it. In fact, my first visit to the Diorama was made in order to go to the offices of a teenage magazine called ‘Kicks’ which were located on the first floor of the building (for American readers, I should explain that in Britain the ‘first floor’ is the one above the ground floor – so what you would call the ‘second floor’). I was, at that time, a music journalist and I had interviewed pop celebrities such as Simon Le Bon and Steve Strange for Kicks magazine. But I digress. Back to aikido…

On Thursday afternoons I would go to a middle-sized room just off the Diorama’s central area for a private lesson with my teacher, Sensei Currie. These lasted one hour but they usually seemed much longer. Sensei Currie would put me through some very tough tests of my skill – I remember doing several weeks practising defences against knives. These days many aikido clubs never use live blades – this is due to insurance restrictions and issues of health and safely. Back in the early ‘80s we had no such concerns. Then Sensei Currie decided that knives were too simple so he asked my attackers to think of other weapons to bring. They accepted his challenge with glee. For a few weeks thereafter I was attacked with weapons ranging from bottles to baseball bats. The most terrifying weapon of all was a pump-action ‘corkscrew’. This may not sound all that scary. But think about it. In effect, this was a device like a hypodermic syringe filled with air – not only was it very sharp, but it was also very easy to conceal. Strange as it may seem, I was glad when we went back to mere knives!

On Monday evenings the black belt class was held in the same room of The Diorama. The black belt classes were, to say the least, vigorous and during the summer months the walls of the room ran with condensation while pools of sweat ran the length and breadth of the mats.

By the time I was first dan I was practising four times a week: the general class in the Finsbury Leisure Centre, the black-belt class and my private lesson in The Diorama, and Sensei Mark Greenley’s class in Muswell Hill. In addition, I had also opened my own club in Queen’s Crescent, close to Kentish Town in North London. So, including that night, I was doing aikido five times a week. Little did I know at the time how fortunate I was to have so many opportunities to practise aikido at quite a high level.

Here I am (ah, so young!) brutally throwing a harmless yellow-belt student in my London club in Queen's Crescent.
But I’ve skipped ahead in this story a bit. In my last post I explained how I began studying aikido. The journey from white belt to black belt was a long and arduous one. Somewhere along the way we even changed our organisation. When I began Sensei Currie was affiliated with the Ki Federation of Great Britain. Then one day he decided the time had come to make a break and go his own way. That was when The British Ki Aikido Association came into being. But that is another story that will have to wait for another day…

Tuesday 19 January 2016

Aikido Principles - freehand and weapons (North Devon workshop)

Put this date in your diary: Saturday, March 19th, 2016.

On that day we shall be hosting a special workshop at the Bucks Cross Village Hall (mid-way between Bideford and Bude) in North Devon. The course will be taught by Richard Small (4th dan, Takemusu Iwama Aikido Europe) and Huw Collingbourne (2nd dan, British Ki Aikido Association). Richard will be exploring a number of core aikido principles using bokken and jo; Huw will explore the same principles in freehand aikido. The course will run from1:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon. Everyone (no matter what style of aikido or organisation) is welcome! I'll post more information nearer the date.

Sunday 17 January 2016

Hartland Aikido Club's New Black Belt

Congratulations to Dermot Hogan who finally graded to 1st dan last week. Dermot began practising aikido with Sensei David Currie of the British Ki Aikido Association in the 1990s. He later switched styles to Iwama aikido under Sensei Andy Hathaway of the London Aikido Club. In fact, Dermot was graded to green belt twice - once by Sensei Currie and again by Sensei Hathaway. After a long break from aikido practice, Dermot resumed his studies about 4 years ago at the Hartland Aikido Club and the Bideford Aiki-jo Club. Suffice to say this black belt is long overdue! All Dermot now needs to do is master the folding of his hakama. This video should help...

Sunday 3 January 2016

Aikido Classes, January 2016

A quick update. As usual there is no class on the first Monday of the month (4th January) but we have a weapons workshop on Tuesday the 5th. All other Monday and Thursday classes run, as usual, from 7:30 to 9:30. Beginners are welcome to any class.