The latter part of 2014 saw the advent of a number of significant events for White Rose Aikikai. Firstly, at the beginning of September a new class was started at Pudsey Leisure Centre on Wednesday evenings. Although the Association used to run a very successful class at this location a number of years ago, taken by Sensei Ashley Scholefield, it had to be closed when his work commitments took him away from the area. The new class is run by Sensei Derrick and Sensei Thorpe in a Studio containing good quality mats and mirrored walls (great for checking your weapons postures) and they hope it will develop into another successful dojo for the Leeds area.
Untitled-1 A few days after the start of this new venture came the celebration of something more long-standing, the Association’s 35th Anniversary. September 6th saw a day’s course, followed by an excellent evening meal and lots of presentations. The seminar was held at Dewsbury Sports Centre, and teaching during the day were two of the Association’s senior grades, Sensei Derrick and Sensei Heseltine, as well as Sensei Burlingham who had travelled up from Lowestoft for the occasion, and of course Shane Riley Shihan who had started the whole thing off when he had agreed to teach a small class 35 years earlier.
John and Jane Pryce, who operate a dojo in Kyoto, Japan organised their family visit to the UK in order to be present on the course and to take an examination with the Association, and Sensei Riley was pleased to promote John to Yondan and Jane to Nidan. These special occasions provide the opportunity to present senior promotions, and after the celebratory meal in the evening the Association was very pleased to award Sensei Bernard Maloney with his Rokudan certification. Bernard has trained with the White Rose for over thirty years and also spent eight years in Judo before starting Aikido. At the age of 73 he is still active on the mat; still training and teaching. Jackie Beaumont was also awarded her Sandan certification. She has been a student of Sensei Riley for nearly 20 years, having spent many years in Judo previously. She has helped to promote Aikido around the world, but due to the nature of her work she rarely has time to present herself for examination, so this promotion was overdue.

Although the meal in Zucchini’s Restaurant was a social affair for everyone’s friends and family, it seems that Aikido is never very far from people’s thoughts, and before the desert course Sensei Riley and a few others could be found in the carpark where he was giving an impromptu demonstration of counter- techniques to Rokkyu. We hope that this will not discourage students from asking questions in the future!
Finally, at the end of this month Sensei Riley with a few of his students travelled down to Lowestoft where he was to teach at Sensei Burlingham’s dojo. The purpose of this course was to celebrate the thirty years that John and Allan, two of Frank Burlingham’s senior students, had spent in Aikido. Although it had been arranged that both of them were to instruct on the day, they had not been informed that Sensei Riley was also going to attend, so it was quite a nice surprise (shock!) when he arrived at the dojo. A successful course was again followed by an excellent evening meal and several presentations.
The following month, October, saw another milestone in some students training experiences when eight of them (including two from the Durham dojo) travelled to Singapore with Sensei Riley to attend an International Aikido Friendship Seminar. One of our students, Graham Terry, who now lives in Thailand, also joined us, and along with Sensei Burlingham and one of his students, Luba, this made it quite an impressive turnout from the UK. Sensei Riley had been invited to instruct on the course by Philip Lee Shihan, along with other senior Instructors from around the globe. Chief amongst these was K. Shimamoto Shihan (8th Dan So-Hombu) from Japan, who spent his 77th birthday on the mat and who was joined by other very high ranking Aikido teachers from Singapore, UK, Canada, Belgium and Greece. All these Sensei provided two days of excellent instruction on a mat attended by a total of almost 400 students.

The eight days spent in Singapore included other training sessions, along with plenty of sightseeing, socialising, eating and drinking; and although all the stories of adventures are too numerous to be told here, it is enough to say that everyone had a fantastic time and would recommend any students who get the opportunity to attend such events in the future to do so without hesitation. You can check out the album on the Gallery page to get a flavour of the trip. A couple of events are worth mentioning however. Sensei Riley, along with Sensei Obata from Canada had been invited to teach in Malaysia, so one day was spent with the whole group experiencing the delights of traditional Malaysian dancing, batik painting and eating an excellent meal that they’d selected from a choice of 90+ dishes. This was followed by training, at night, in the open, at the top of a luxury hotel, with full size dinosaurs in the background. Very surreal, but very atmospheric. As usual, with tremendous hospitality, this was followed by a local meal hosted by all the Malaysian students.

A final event worth mentioning was one that happened to Gary (Fourfingers/The Rock) Elphick who had excelled himself throughout the week, both on and off the mat, and had been a credit to his instructors from Durham and an excellent ambassador for the White Rose Association. Gary was scheduled to take his Shodan grading shortly after returning from Singapore, but Sensei Riley surprised him by awarding it to him during the final meal of the trip at the Crystal Jade Hotel restaurant. There then followed a panic and a tremendous effort from Mr Burlingham who managed to acquire a black belt for him from Shinju-Kai headquarters. This was presented to Gary in the airport during the journey back to the UK, and it took him two or three days afterwards before he came down off his cloud.
Next month, on the 26th of November, saw a mid-week visit to the Durham University dojo. Sensei Riley and Sensei Derrick, along with Andy Thornton and Diane Martin continued what has become a regular event and travelled up to the Wednesday evening class. The Durham Instructors and students have made an effort to travel down to Dewsbury on several occasions this year to get the benefit of Sensei Riley’s instruction, and he was only too happy to make a return visit and catch up with the local news and share an ‘Orange juice’ after training.

The next time that everyone got together was at the beginning of December, for a day’s course at Dewsbury taken by Sensei Riley. Drawing on his long experience of using his Aikido skills in the real world he passed on a lot of practical knowledge during the day for the participants to work on. The course was well attended, with White Rose members being joined on the mat by groups from four visiting dojos, including John Gaynor sensei and some of his students, and Gavin Campbell who once again had travelled from Northern Ireland for the event. The course was followed in the evening by a get-together for a Christmas drink, (not the last time this was to happen!)
In previous years Association gradings have taken place on courses, but due to a reduction in the number of mats available it was decided to hold the end-of-year gradings during one of the regular Thursday evening classes at Dewsbury. On December 11th a large number of Sensei Danford’s students from his childrens class were put through their paces at their first-ever grading, and they were all successful. They impressed the panel not only with their technique, but also with their enthusiasm and their general attitude. Next came the senior gradings, and several students had made an extra effort to attend the class in order to take ukemi for those who were grading. The Senior Panel were pleased to award James Gratino with his Sandan, Tim Gerrard with his Nidan, and Andy Besford gained his 2nd kyu. Afterwards, the celebrations spilled over into the pub again for another Christmas drink.
The final class of the year took place on December 30th at Dewsbury and once again saw an excellent turnout from the Durham students. After a vigorous class which resulted in a number of body-shaped dents in the plasterboard walls it was decided to adjourn to the pub again for a final Christmas/New Year get together. A fitting way to end a very successful year.

A less positive event has been the recent closure of the Friday class at Halifax after a span of approximately 30 years. This has been necessitated by changing circumstances, but Sensei Tyler will now be training and teaching at the Huddersfield class with Sensei Maloney, and the hope is that this venue will gain a new lease of life with the opening of the brand new Sports Centre later this year. Sensei Danford has also just closed his Monday class at Morley Leisure Centre, but this is just a change of venue to a new location based at Fight Science Martial Arts at Morley. He has also opened a new class at the same venue for children and adults on a Saturday morning, and we wish him well with this new venture.

For those who like to plan early, a number of dates for 2015 are already on the calendar. Particularly significant is the one in September celebrating Sensei Riley’s 40 years in Aikido, and further dates and information will be added as they become available, so keep checking back to the ‘Events’ page on the website. Until we see you all on the mat at one of these events…….a Happy New Year to everyone.