The study of weapons in some styles of aikido is almost ignored. In fact, weapons are at the heart of aikido. Working with the bokken (sword) and jo (staff) teaches you balance, correct distance, dynamic movement, whole-body movement and it helps to build in many other important qualities such as being centred, fluidity, blending and much more.
Saito Sensei shows an 'Iwama-style' jo kata
Of all the 'schools' of aikido, it is perhaps the Iwama style, based on the teachings of Saito Sensei, that is best known for its strong emphasis on weapons training. Iwama aikido has a very large weapons training syllabus with katas, jo-taking, jo-throwing, paired bokken exercises and much more.
Tohei Sensei shows a 'Ki-style' jo kata
Ki Aikido, based on the teachings of Tohei Sensei, also has katas and other exercises though in my experience, Ki aikido practitioners usually devote much less study to weapons than Iwama students. Even so, the Ki style has much to offer. Its katas tend to be more dynamic and 'flowing' than those of the Iwama tradition. In fact, however, the two style overlap considerably - hardly surprising since both Tohei and Saito were long-term, high-grade students of The Founder.
Remarkably few students of aikido have experience of both the Tohei and Saito style of weapons practice. Which is a great pity. If you study both you will soon appreciate how well they complement one another and how much you can learn from both traditions.
Well, here in North Devon, you have the rather unusual opportunity to study both styles. The Sensei of the Hartland Club, Huw Collingbourne, has studied in the Ki tradition since 1983. For the last six years he has also studied Iwama weapons with Sensei Richard Small of Bideford Aiki-jo. And recently Sensei Small has been studying the Tohei-style katas to add to his extensive knowledge of Iwama weapons practice (which he has studied and taught since the 1970s).
Both Sensei Richard and Sensei Huw welcome practitioners of all styles of aikido. If you have studied Iwama style, Ki style or a style with its own weapons syllabus or no weapons syllabus at all, we hope you may find something of interest in the sorts of aiki weapons that we both teach.
Please, come and join us!