Saturday 9 December 2017

Aikido Classes over Christmas and New Year

The last Holsworthy class this of 2017 will be on Friday 15th of December. We start again in 2018 on Friday 5th of January.

Classes continue at Bucks Cross, with no break at all. So if you want to wear off the Christmas Pud and mince pies, come and join us on Thursday December 14, 21 and 28, January 4th onwards...

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Aikido Weapons and the Los Angeles Police!

I happen to be reading Joseph Wambaugh’s famous 1970s novel The Blue Knight – about the Los Angeles police. I was struck by his account of training to use his stick (baton):
“We’ve learned new ways to use the stick from some young Japanese cops who are karate and aikido experts. We use the blunt end of the stick more and I have to admit it beats the hell out of the old caveman swing. I must’ve shattered six sticks over guys’ heads, arms and legs in my time. Now I’ve learned from these Nisei kids how to swing that baton in a big arc and put my whole ass behind it. I could damn’ near drive it through a guy if I wanted to and never hurt the stick. It’s very graceful stuff too.”
Now, I have no idea how weapons are used in karate and I suspect that Wambaugh is, any any case, talking more about aikido-based training here. What he says certainly has the ring of truth (Wambaugh worked with the Los Angeles Police Department for 14 years so I presume he knows what he’s talking about). Naturally, I wouldn’t promote using weapons for acts of violence. But if you want to learn their power and grace, come and join us. Either in the Holsworthy and Bucks Cross classes or at Sensei Small’s aiki-weapons classes in Bideford.

Monday 30 October 2017

Aikido Course with Lewis Bernaldo de Quiros

Two of our North Devon aikido practitioners (Richard Small, front row, far left; and Dermot Hogan 3rd from the left standing) attended a workshop given by Lewis Bernaldo de Quiros (6th dan, Aikikai, 4th from right, front row) in Dorset at the weekend. Lewis was teaching weapons and free-hand in the Iwama tradition. I look forward to discovering any insights Richard and Dermot may have taken from this course during our regular lessons at Holsworthy, Bucks Cross and Bideford Aiki-jo.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Holsworthy Aikido Weapons Workshop

Many thanks to everyone who came to the weapons workshop at Holsworthy last Sunday. It was a challenging and interesting afternoon (taught by Sensei Richard Small) in which we practised a broad range of techniques and exercises from the Iwama Aikido weapons syllabus. Let's see if we can arrange some more workshops soon...

Monday 11 September 2017

Aikido in the Hartland Post!

Here's an article that I wrote for our local village magazine, The Hartland Post ( recently. Click the image to read it at full size...

Note, since I wrote the article we have opened a new club in Holsworthy but we now only practise once a week in Bucks Cross (on Thursdays).

Thursday 31 August 2017

Holsworthy Aikido - now every Friday

The Holsworthy class has now moved from Tuesdays to Fridays. From next week - September 8th - the Holsworthy Club will meet on Fridays only from 7:30 to 9:00. Details in the poster shown below. As always, everyone welcome!

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Aikido Weapons Workshop, North Devon

Sunday 24th September, 2017. Save that date! We shall be hosting an aiki-weapons workshop, taught by Richard Small (4th dan, Takemusu Iwama Aikido Europe), at the Holsworthy Leisure Centre North Devon between 12:00 and 4:00 in the afternoon.

If you are interested in learning about the Iwama weapons system, don't miss this. Sensei Small will be teaching a broad range of jo and bokken techniques including weapon-against-weapon or against empty-hand. The cost is only £10. Everyone with an interest in weapons is welcome, no matter what level of experience or what style of aikido you practise. In fact, even if you practise a different martial art but want to deepen your understanding of weapons, this would be a great introduction. The post below gives more details.

Saturday 19 August 2017

Holsworthy and Bucks Cross Aikido Club News

There are a few changes to the class schedules for the Bucks Cross and Holsworthy aikido clubs this September.


In September we switch from Tuesday to Friday evenings. Our last Tuesday evening class will be on Tuesday the 29th of August. Our first Friday class will be on Friday the 8th of September. Classes will continue every Friday thereafter.

Bucks Cross

The Monday classes will end from September onwards. Our last Monday class is Monday the 28th of August. The Thursday classes continue as normal.

All classes (Monday and Thursday at Bucks Cross; Tuesdays at Holsworthy) run as normal throughout August.

Sunday 30 July 2017

Holsworthy and Bucks Cross Aikido Classes in August and September

From September, the Holsworthy Aikido classes move to a new regular slot on Fridays. There is also one change to the Bucks Cross class schedule in August. Details below...

Bucks Cross Aikido Club

July 31  - Monday class at Bucks Cross as usual.
August 7 - Monday class at Bucks Cross
August 14 - NO class at Bucks Cross (due to another event, we are taking the night off!)

Apart from the change noted above, all Bucks Cross classes as usual at 7:30 to 9:30 on Mondays and Thursdays throughout August.

Holsworthy Aikido Club

Classes continue throughout August every Tuesday at 7:30 to 9:00.
The last Tuesday class will be on August 29th.

From September 8th, all classes at Holsworthy will be on Friday evenings. This will now be our regular class time. So, from September onwards, there are no longer and Tuesday classes. All classes are now between 7:30 and 9:00 on Fridays.

Sunday 23 July 2017

Aikido has no form

Thought for the day...

Aikido for Self-Defence (or maybe just gratuitous violence)?

Aikido is the art of peace, yes? It's non-violent, OK? Then again...

Here are those crazy Czech Aikido people once again (be sure to watch their previous video) showing how to win a fight on the street, in a bar or on the bus. Even with the help of a snooker cue!

Wednesday 12 July 2017

Monday 10 July 2017

Aikido "on the train"

"Get on the train! Be on the train!" - I'm always saying this. But what does it really mean?

To me, being on the train means that you are sensitive to the energy of the other person - be it nage or uke. You "go with the flow" rather than try oppose the other person's power. This is not only safer (you won’t be taken unexpectedly if someone suddenly tries to do a technique) but it is also more effective.

However, I have practised with some people who take a different view of being on the train. I remember one teacher who shall remain nameless (mainly because I’ve forgotten his name!) who insisted that being on the train meant that the uke should fall over when the teacher did a technique. If you ended up just standing there, he would ‘correct’ you – “Oh no, you are not on the train. If you’d been on the train my technique would have worked.”

Well, pardon me for taking issue with that. But I am not of the opinion that it is the uke’s job to make a technique work!

Anyway, here is a passage taken from Koichi Tohei’s book (‘the black book’) on Aikido:
“Not to receive anything means unlimited strength. If you try to stop with your strength a train which is coming toward you, you will be flung aside though you may have very great strength. It is better for you to ride on the train, and when it stops you take one step forward and get off. 
“Though your opponent may be strong, if you do not struggle against his strength but follow it and when it stops you go one step ahead of him, you will be able to lead him to fall down.”
And that, in my view, pretty much sums up the essence of the art of Aikido.

Saturday 17 June 2017

Aikido, No Pain, No Gain?

In the first part of these reminiscences about my early days in aikido, I got as far as explaining how – out of four martial arts that I tried – I decided that aikido was the one I’d devote much of the rest of my life to studying. In the second part, I told a bit about my progress to black belt. But let me backtrack and return to the early days...

It was the early '80s and I had enrolled in a lunchtime beginners’ class held in a basement room of the leisure centre in Camden Town High Street. There were just two or three of us who turned up week in week out to study with the teacher, Sensei David Currie. Occasionally  one of Sensei Currie’s higher grades would come along too. I remember being intimidated by an orange belt who actually knew where to put his hands and feet when doing something called shihonage. This manoeuvre seemed impossibly complicated and this was the first time I’d ever seen anyone other than Sensei Currie who knew how to do it! Then one day a brown belt student turned up. He could do even more complicated things and when Sensei Currie threw him, he seemed to fly across the mat and land (mysteriously!) without even hurting himself.

I realised that there was much more to this aikido lark than was being vouchsafed to us mere beginners. After a few weeks I came to the decision to take the next major step and go along to one of the general level classes – with students that even included (gulp!) black belts. I was really nervous about that. Would I look like a fool? Would they make fun of me? Worse still, would they hurt me?

The Pain, The Pain!

The truth is that some people did hurt me. They cranked on the nikkyos and yonkyos and kotegaeshis in a way that brought tears to my eyes. But the higher grades usually hurt me less than the lower grades. And Sensei Currie never hurt me at all. His nikkyos, yonkyos and kotegaeshis worked without pain. In fact, he specifically told us not to rely on pain to make our techniques effective. People are not always moved by pain and it is bad technique to assume that they will be. When, many years later, I finally joined the black belts, Sensei Currie told us: “The black belts should be the most dangerous people on the mat – and also the gentlest.”

I still think that is true. Good, skilful aikido, should not rely on pain. It should rely on using the force used against you. It should rely on leading an attack without engaging in a fight. It should rely on taking the person’s balance to lead them to fall, not smashing them into the mat with the maximum of brute force.

In fact, the more I practise aikido (and it’s been well over 30 years since I started) the more I believe that people who use pain to make their techniques work have fundamentally lost the plot. That’s not what aikido is about. It’s a cheat, a trick, an excuse for poor technique. Your technique must work whether or not the attacker feels pain. If they feel pain, it may be because they are using strength to resist your technique. But it should not be the aim of your technique to impose pain. Instead, think of using gravity to unbalance the attacker.

The simple fact of the matter is that some people can resist pain. Nobody can resist gravity.

Wednesday 7 June 2017

Aikido in Holsworthy, Bucks Cross and Bideford

You can now study free-hand Aikido and weapons in our three North Devon Clubs. If you are really keen, that gives you the opportunity to study aikido four times a week. The two principal teachers are Huw Collingbourne (the Bucks Cross and Holsworthy clubs) and Richard Small (Bideford Aiki-jo).

Huw began Aikido in the early 1980s and has taught since the early ‘90s. He studied mainly with Sensei David Currie in the tradition of the great teacher, Koichi Tohei. Richard began his Aikido journey way back in the 1970s and has studied mainly in the Iwama tradition of Morihiro Saito.

It is very unusual for two teachers from such different traditions of Aikido to work together and we feel that, by combining our knowledge,  we are able to provide students with an unusually deep and broad overview of the arts of Aikido.

I’d once again like to emphasise that at all three clubs – Holsworthy, Bideford and Bucks Cross – students are welcome from all styles of aikido. Ki, Aikikai, Tomiki, Yoshinkan, Iwama – whatever your style, if you are happy to practise with us, we are happy to practise with you. Even if you currently practise with another club or organisation, that is no barrier. You will be very welcome to extend your experience of aikido by practising at our clubs as well. Naturally, we also welcome complete beginners and will take the time needed to explain everything from the ground up to newcomers to the art.

  • The Bucks Cross Club meets every Monday and Thursday (with the exception of the first Monday of each month) between 7:30 and 9:30.
  • The Holsworthy Club meets every Tuesday between 7:30 and 9:00.
  • Bideford Aiki-jo meets every Wednesday between 7:00 and 9:00.
For details of the Bucks Cross and Holsworthy Clubs, see the Club Info page.

More details of the Bideford club can be found on the Bideford Aiki-jo site.

(Above, one of the Iwama jo katas which are studied at all three clubs)

Sunday 28 May 2017

Learn Aikido for Self-Defence in North Devon

We start our new club in Holsworthy in just over a week. The Holsworthy Leisure Centre is a great venue for practising aikido so I hope that lots of people in the area may be tempted to give us a try.

It’s difficult to summarise aikido for someone who’s never done aikido before. These days I like to use the expression: “The Coordination of mind and body for self defence.” That was the subtitle of Koichi Tohei’s marvellous book on Aikido, written under the supervision of the founder of aikido, Morihei Uyeshiba, in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s when Tohei was the chief instructor of aikido. To me, this is the central text of aikido. It defines what aikido is all about. Sadly, the book has been out of print for many years so I cherish my own copy which I bought about 30 years ago.

The definitive book on Aikido - sadly now out of print
 This is how Tohei describes Aikido: “All the Aikido arts are involved with the principles of non-resistance…. No matter how strong he may be, you do not oppose his strength with yours but lead him in the direction of his own strength…”

And this is what he says about self-defence: “In the arts of self-defence, you discover how important it is not to struggle against the power of your opponent: in other words, not to receive his power. Though you may have strength, if your opponent is stronger, you will have difficulty beating him. If you do not struggle against his strength and do not receive the strength that he is projecting, he may be stronger than you but that means nothing to you.”

Aikido is a beautiful, elegant, graceful, powerful and effective martial art. The fact that it relies upon using the power of an attack itself means that you do not need to be big and strong to practise aikido well. If you have never done aikido before, please come and join us to learn this wonderful art. Or if you already practise aikido, come and join us anyway. You will be very welcome no matter which aikido style or organisation you come from. There are no boundaries to our aikido. If you want to practise with us, we will be very pleased to practise with you!

From the 6th of June,  we will be practising at the Holsworthy Leisure Centre each Tuesday evening from 7:30 to 9:00. Every Monday (except the first Monday of the month) and Thursday we have a class at the Bucks Cross Village Hall, between Bideford and Hartland. And our friends at the Bideford Aiki-jo club teach Aikido weapons every Wednesday in the Methodist Church Lower Room on Bideford High Street from 7:00 to 9:00. Please note that all classes are adults only (18+).
Make this the year you learn Aikido! Come and join us!

Sunday 21 May 2017

Back To the 80s - My Aikido History

I just came across this old article which I wrote for a lawyers' magazine called "Legal Business" way back in 1991. That's me (oh, so young!) chucking about one of my students at a club I used to run in Queen's Crescent (midway between Kentish Town and Belsize Park ) in North London. I was a 1st dan at the time - I took my first dan in 1989 and my second dan in 1992. Happy days!

Friday 19 May 2017

Aikido Against Bamboo?

Got any over-rampant bamboo in your garden? Aikido can help! Here Kashiwaya Sensei (head of the Ki Society in North America) demonstrates the power of aikido weapons with some impressive bamboo cutting using a bokken (wooden sword). Notice that the bits of paper supporting the bamboo remain intact. This may look easy. From personal experience, I can assure you that it isn't!

Wednesday 17 May 2017

More movie Aikido

Firecracker is another film I haven't seen. The chap in black in this scene is Omar Camar, a senior aikido instructor in the Philippines. Camar did fight scenes in several action films. I would be the first to admit that this is not entirely 'pure aikido' shown here - it is definitely the movie version! - but anyhow, he seems to be enjoying himself...


Another film that features aikido (or possibly aiki-jujitsu, the precursor to aikido?) is this Japanese film... apparently about a boxer who has to relearn self-defence after being confined to a wheelchair.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Aikido on TV - Science Fiction and Zombies

Following on from my recent post about Aikido in the films of Steven Seagal, here are a couple scenes of aikido (or, anyway, an approximate representation of aikido) from two recent TV dramas... first, Amazon's alternative history science fiction blockbuster, The Man In The High Castle.

Man in the High Castle
from michael hilow on Vimeo.

And then, aiki-jo as a defence against zombies from The Walking Dead.

More aikido in TV and films soon...

Saturday 13 May 2017

Holsworthy Aikido - North Devon

Our new Aikido class starts on Tuesday June 6th in the Holsworthy Leisure Centre. This is the poster. If you'd like to display it on your blog or web site or print it to display on a notice board, we would be very grateful for your help in publicising this class. Remember that Monday and Thursday classes continue as normal in Bucks Cross and aiki-weapons classes are also taught every Wednesday in Bideford.

Monday 8 May 2017

Aikido in Holsworthy!

From June you'll be able to practise Aikido with us in Holsworthy, North Devon. Classes will be on Tuesday nights. Classes continue as usual on Mondays and Thursdays at Bucks Cross. And our good friends at Bideford aiki-jo also have aikido weapons classes every Wednesday. Which means that if you are really keen you will be able to do aikido with us four times a week!

More details of the new Holsworthy class soon..

Sunday 30 April 2017

Aikido class schedule for May

Note the following class dates:

Monday 1st May - Aikido class is ON.
Monday 8th May - NO Aikido tonight.
Tuesday 9th May - Aikido class is ON (instead of the usual Monday).

All other dates are as normal, Mondays and Thursdays throughout May.

Monday 27 March 2017

Aikido in Films and on TV

I previously posted a clip of an aikido class that features in Amazon's blockbuster science fiction series, The Man In The High Castle. While aikido doesn't get as much coverage in the movies as, say, kung fu and karate, it does pop up every once in a while. I'll post a few more aikido clips from TV and cinema shortly. But to start, I really can't leave out Steven Seagal...

Saturday 18 February 2017

The Aikido of Seigo Yamaguchi

If you understand Aikido and you watch closely, you will discover some gems in this old video. There is no commentary but there is much to be learnt if you watch attentively.

Tuesday 3 January 2017

January Aikido Classes

There will be no Aikido class next Monday (January 9th, 2017) but there will be a class on Tuesday (January 10th). Apart from that, all classes run at their regular times in January - that's 7:30 to 9:30 on both Monday and Thursday. Newcomers are welcome to come along to any class. The first lesson is free. We also welcome visitors from other Aikido clubs no matter what style of Aikido you practise. So I hope to meet a few new people during the coming year!