Alan started practising aikido in 1989 in his late 30s and ended up leading his first class 6 months later when the instructor failed to turn up and no-one else was foolish enough to volunteer.
Alan's original instructor was not interested in handling gradings and the club was not affiliated to any national organisation so when Steve Beecham came to Norwich to teach a course Alan asked to take kyu gradings with him. At that time Steve was a member of the National Aikido Federation and, to make the gradings official, Alan joined the NAF.
Alan first attended NAF Summer School in 1991 and encountered Mike Narey and Pierre Chassang who were to have a major influence on how he viewed aikido.
Returning to Norwich Alan found that there were no clubs at that time teaching aikido in the manner which satisfied him so, along with Mike Outten (as senior intructor) and Mairi Drummond, founded the Fudokai Aikido Dojo.
A year or so later John Tidder and the Norwich Aikido Club also joined the NAF and the two clubs came together, sharing courses and students with the Norwich and Norfolk groups becoming the largest contingents at NAF Summer School.
Later Alan was to become first Membership Secretary and later General Secretary of the NAF.
Alan was awarded 3rd Dan in October 2008.
Mike was one of the founding members of the Fudokai Aikido Dojo and was its principal instructor over the first few years. Changes in personal circumstances caused Mike to temporarily cease training in Aikido although he continued his martial arts training in other disciplines. In more recent times he has returned to Aikido sporadically as circumstances allow and has now returned full-time to Aikido and the Fudokai as an instructor.
Mike is a charismatic teacher with boundless energy and enthusiasm and is keen to see the Fudokai Aikido Dojo grow in its new venue at the Owen Barnes Room in Costessey.
Mike was responsible for introducing Alan, Mairi and John to the NAF, Pierre Chassang sensei and the style of Aikido promulgated by Nobuyoshi Tamura sensei.
Mairi first started training in aikido in her teens with the Norwich Aikido Club under it's original instructor Jan Jones.
Mairi accompanied Alan to NAF Summer Schools and also encountered the charismatic Pierre Chassang.
Mairi has been taking a break from aikido, partially due to completing an OU degree and partially due to ill health.
Unfortunately it now looks as though Mairi is unlikely to return to training for the foreseeable future.
John was a long-term student of aikido having started training under Jan Jones in the original Norwich Aikido Club.
He took over the running of the Norwich Aikido Club after the then instructor turned up at one class, announced his retirement from aikido and told John he was to take over.
John ran and taught the club for the following years with no backup or support. In 1991 he joined the NAF and was awarded shodan for his services to aikido. In following years he received his nidan and was pivotal in the coming together of the Norwich Aikido Club, the Fakenham Aikido Club and the Fudokai Aikido Dojo allowing the instructors to provide cover for each other for illness and holidays.
Sadly John died of cancer on the 4th February 2007.
He had been ill for some time and although we all hoped for a remission he passed away in his sleep at home in the presence of his family.
John was highly regarded and well loved by his friends and fellow aikidoka and he will be sorely missed.
Colin, one of John's students, related a story about him ...
It seems that a student came to John to study aikido saying that he needed to learn a martial art to defend himself as he drank in some rough pubs. To which John's answer was simply 'drink in different pubs'. The potential student prevaricated saying that he had to go to these pubs as his friends drank in them, to which John's answer was 'get different friends'.
I think this nicely sums John's attitude both to Aikido and fighting in general.
Pierre Chassang sensei has been an instructor to the instructors at the Fudokai Aikido Dojo. Alan, John, Mike and Mairi all studied under Pierre at various NAF Summer Schools. Pierre has been a long-term student of Tamura sensei and has studied his form of Aikido in detail for over 40 years. It has not been easy for a normal Aikdo student to come to terms with the high-quality Aikido that Tamura sensei practised but Pierre extracted and distilled the base of it and passed it on to his own students such as ourselves. Pierre's teachings meant that when we could attend courses conducted by Tamura sensei we were more aware of just what it was he was attempting to communicate and able to see the subtle movements of the hips and centred practice of Tamura sensei. Truly, as Tamura sensei said, "I pivot and cut".
There's a nice interview with Pierre (with Philipe Voarino of Takemusu Aikido Intercontinental) on the Aikido Journal web site. It's in French but (as they say) Google - in this instance Google translate - is your friend.
This is not to pretend that Tamura sensei was a direct instructor of this club, nor that he probably even knew directly of our existence. Alan, John, Mike and Mairi have all attended courses conducted by Tamura sensei, been awed by the quality of his Aikido, and believe that the form of Aikido we teach with in the Fudokai would have been one that he approved of.
Tamura sensei's death in July 2010 has robbed Aikido of one of its greatest practitioners, respected by other senior Japanese sensei as well as Aikido students around the world. Tamura sensei was one of the few remaining links to O'Sensei and his loss is irreplaceable.
Here's a youtube clip which was created as a mark of respect to the memory of Tamura sensei.