Who we are

Bloomsbury Aikido Club

Beginners and visitors are always welcome (you must be 18 years or over). Our members have a range of experience, from ungraded to 5th Dan. Over the years, the Club has produced many Dan grades and instructors. Kyu gradings are held regularly at the Club. In our new association, Goshinkai, Dan gradings will be held at Goshinkai courses, and with the agreement of the Goshinkai Principal, at the Club.

Club History

The Bloomsbury Aikido Club originated as the UCL Aikido Club. UCL Aikido Club was founded in 1976 by UCL student Barry Hutchinson, as a UCL Students’ Union club, run by students for students. Barry, the Club’s first instructor, was an Aikido student of Minoru Kanetsuka (Technical Director, British Aikido Federation). Also teaching at UCL in the 1970’s was UCL postgraduate student, Peter Goldsbury (since 1996, the Chair of the International Aikido Federation). Peter Goldsbury was one of the first students to practise Aikido at the UCL Dojo before the Club was formally established, having arrived at UCL in 1975. So Aikido has been practised at UCL for over 40 years. Martial arts students at UCL were fortunate in having a permament, traditional Dojo in the Central Collegiate Building (became Bloomsbury Fitness Centre, Bloomsbury Building) from the earliest days until a new BF Manager demolished it in December 2013.

The Club was a member of the British Aikido Federation until 1994, when it joined the United Kingdom Aikikai, Principal and founder, Mr William Smith Sensei, MBE (d.2006). In 2016, the Club is a one of the founding clubs of the new Goshinkai Aikido association, of which the elected Principal is Mr Mike Smith, 6 Dan, nephew of Mr William Smith.

The Club celebrated its 25 year anniversary in 2002. The highlight of the year was the 25 Year Celebration weekend course 16-17 March 2002 with Senseis Mr W Smith, Gordon Jones and Philip Smith. See United Kingdom Aikikai News, UKA News article number 23

In August 2004, the club transferred its status from a Students’ Union society to a Bloomsbury Fitness Martial Arts club – i.e. one of the martial arts activities offered by UCL Union’s Bloomsbury Fitness centre to its members. In January 2013, the club was renamed the Bloomsbury Aikido Club at Bloomsbury Fitness. Since the very early days (1970s) of the student UCL Union Aikido Club to the Club’s evolution (2004) as a Bloomsbury Fitness UCL Union martial arts activity, UCL alumni and staff Aikido practitioners have played a significant role in providing continuity, experience and teaching. This has now been recognised through the establishment, in 2013, of the UCL Alumni Aikido Group.

December 2013 – September 2015: Aikido at UCLUBF has had a struggle for survival over the last couple of years, after the re-structuring of the BF management. In December 2013 the new BF Manager and the Commercial Services Manager demolished the permanent Dojo, replacing it with a “multi-purpose” room. The Aikido Club initiated a campaign to restore the Dojo. In September 2014, that same pair cancelled the Bloomsbury Fitness Martial Arts Activity programme but the UCL students had already set in motion the revival of the student-led Aikido Club. The revival of the student-led Club meant that traditional Aikido survived at UCL after the cancellation of BF Aikido classes. Affiliation to UCLU was not a straight-forward matter. Initially affiliation was declined because the affiliation panel had been advised that Aikido was not a “unique” martial art. However, thanks to the actions of the 2014-15 club officers, James Fairney, Erin Niles, and Paul Magee, affiliation was granted in March 2015 and completed in September 2015. Over the year from September 2014 to September 2015, the student officers succeeded in obtaining agreement from UCLU Clubs and Societies that the club could continue to train at the BF under a “transitional” status, subsequently under a “pending for affiliation” status. In September 2014 the BF Manager had handed over the Aikido class slots of Monday and Wednesday evenings 6-8pm to the Squash Club. The “transitional” Aikido club had to take whatever times were left over on the booking timetable, i.e. at the weekend. The club re-organised itself to hold classes on Saturdays 3-5pm and Sundays 10-12noon. Eventually, in June 2015 (with different staff organising the UCLU Clubs booking timetable), James (Treasurer and Acting President at the time) was able to obtain bookings for classes at the better times of Wednesdays 6-8pm and Saturdays 10-12noon.

The student-led New UCLU Aikido Club (fr.2015/16) has emerged as an association of three Aikido styles: Goshinkai (Aikikai) and Eigoku Bansen Kai Exeter, both traditional, and the competitive Shodokan Aikido. By coming together, the three groups were able to raise the minimum 30 UCL student member requirement for a club to be affiliated by UCLU. The Shodokan group trains on Mondays at Astor College. The traditional group trains on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Bloomsbury Fitness Dojo/Multipurpose Room. Paul Magee (EBK Exeter and UCLU Aikido Club President 2015/16) teaches on Wednesdays. The Goshinkai style training takes place on Saturdays: Barbara Sotowicz teaches on two Saturdays a month and Kris Zymla, assistant instructor, co-ordinates informal practice on the other Saturdays. One of the current roles of the Bloomsbury Aikido Club is as an Alumni (Aikikai) counterpart of the New UCLU Aikido Club.

On 1 January 2016 a new UKA House came into being – Go Shin Kan House. Bloomsbury Aikido was one of the five founding clubs of this new House. In June 2016, this new House became an independent association, Goshinkai. In October 2016, Bloomsbury Aikido Club started Friday 17:30-18:30 training sessions at a new venue, The Upper Room in Camden Town.

 

Current Club Instructors, Senior Practitioners and Officers

more in preparation

Barbara Sotowicz Sensei, 5th Dan, Shidoin teaching rank. BAB Coach Level 3.
View Barbara Sotowicz's profile on LinkedIn

I have been practising, teaching and running a Dojo for over 30 years, actively promoting Aikido and ‘martial way’ training. I have trained students up to 4th Dan grade and up to Fukushidoin level. I started Aikido in 1977, got my 1st Dan in 1986 and 5th Dan at UKA Summer School 2012. I was awarded the Shidoin teaching rank in August 2008 by the United Kingdom Aikikai. This rank authorized me to examine and promote Aikido students to 1st Kyu and to be a member of the UKA Technical Committee, sitting on the Dan grading examination panels. In 2016, I took a part in the founding of a new association, Goshinkai Aikido.

My Aikido Senseis (where dates overlap my study was/is concurrent):

  • 1977-1985: My first Aikido teacher was Barry Hutchinson, the founder of the UCL Club. My other teachers included Peter Goldsbury and Marian Hutchinson (nee Holland). UCLU Aikido Club
  • 1983-1994: M. Kanetsuka at his Ryushinkan Dojo (British Aikido Federation).
  • 1983 – 1985: Derek Coffey, at his Dojo at Sundance Studio, Chiswick.
  • 1994 – 2016: Mr William Smith (d. 2006) and the senior teachers of Renshinkan House, United Kingdom Aikikai – Gordon Jones, Philip Smith, Mike Smith and Mrs. Pat Narey (d. 17 March 2010).
  • 2014 – present Mike Smith at Renseikan Dojo, Kidderminster, of Go Shin Kan House, UKA (fr. 1/1/2016), Goshinkai Aikdo association fr. 1.6.2016.

Club and Teaching Record (where dates overlap, my involvement was/is concurrent):

  • 1978 – 1986: UCLU Aikido Club Secretary. Fr. 1982: Instructor (having led occasional classes since 1979).
  • 1985-1993: Ryushinkan Dojo (UCL site) club secretary. 1986-1994: Ryushinkan (UCL site) Instructor.
  • Fr. 1986 – present: Principal instructor at ‘UCLU Aikido Club’ which became the ‘Bloomsbury Aikido Club’.
  • 2013 – present: established the UCL Alumni Aikido Group, becoming contact for the Group.
  • 2014-2015: active in the campaign to restore the permanent Dojo and in raising awareness of obstacles experienced by martial arts clubs at UCLU/BF; aiding students in the establishment of the new, multi-association, UCLU Aikido Club (2015/16). Fr 2015 UCLU Aikido Club Coach, traditional, Aikikai style.
  • 1/1/2016 – present: one of the founding members of Go Shin Kan House, becoming Goshinkai association on 1/6/2016.
  • 9/7/2016 – present: Goshinkai’s Coach Liaison Officer.

I started Aikido while a postgraduate student at University College London. I agreed to be secretary of the Club in 1978 (until 1986) (awarded Full Colours for Aikido in 1978/9 from UCL Students’ Union) and continued to support Aikido at UCL to the present day. In April 1985 Kanetsuka Sensei’s Ryushinkan Dojo came to the UCL site after I negotiated with the Students’ Union on Ryushinkan’s behalf. This included having to prepare a written proposal for submission to the Union. This was the first time an external martial arts club was allowed to hire the Union’s facilities. The two clubs continued a close association until 1994. In 1994 I left Ryushinkan and consequently the BAF and joined the United Kingdom Aikikai. My students followed suit and so the UCL Aikido club became a member of the UKA, Renshinkan House. In 2016, we are members of Goshinkai.

Career-wise, my absorption in Aikido training led to an interest in Fitness Training and exercise science. I qualified as a Fitness Instructor and became UCLU’s first gym instructor, working at UCL for the Students’ Union’s Bloomsbury Fitness Centre from 1987, becoming the first Bloomsbury Fitness Manager in 2003 and holding and developing that post until leaving UCLU’s employment on 30 April 2010. In 2004, while working for UCL Union, I set up a BF Martial Arts Activity Programme. This made use of the services of volunteer martial arts instructors, myself included. Hence UCLU Aikido transferred its status from a Students’ Union society to a BF Martial Arts club. In 2013, I set up the UCL Alumni Aikido Group, to recognise and encourage the contribution (in continuity, experience, teaching) that Alumni, staff and friends have been making to Aikido at UCL. The Group also functions to enable its members worldwide to keep in touch and to spread knowledge of Aikido.

In 2014/15 Aikido at UCL entered a new phase. The Club had to struggle for survival after the re-structuring of the BF management in 2013 (see Club History, above). The new BF Manager demolished the permanent Dojo, then cancelled the BF Martial Arts Activity Programme. The newly revived student UCLU Aikido Club experienced various administrative obstacles which resulted in the process of affiliation of the Club to UCLU being dragged out for over one academic year. I was active in the campaign (2014) to restore the Dojo. In 2015 I worked on raising awareness of the problems and obstacles being experienced by students, coaches and martial arts clubs at UCLU/BF, sending a series of complaints to the UCLU Trustees. I am involved by way of being a UCL Alumna, an Associate Member of UCLU, Club coach and associate member of UCLU Aikido Club.

2016-717 in preparation
Kris Zymla
Andy Washbrook
Ara Schorscher-Petcu
Fr. Tom Plant

UCLAAG Reunion2016 InstructorProfiles

Past Club Instructors and Officers

more to follow

Peter Goldsbury, 7 Dan, Chair IAF. Instructor at UCL Aikido Club in the 1970’s:
I returned from the US in 1975 and immediately became a Ph.D student at UCL. However, I started as a part-time student initially, because the state studentship I had applied for did not come through until a year later. So I did not reside in London until 1976. I lived in Brighton, but I did commute to UCL, but I think I mainly practised Aikido at the Sussex University club, of which I was a founder member. I might have practiced occasionally before then, but when I started at Ryushinkan, I also trained at the UCL club and Barry was there. I received my Shodan in 1978.

more to follow

Marian Hutchinson
Mire Zloh