History of CLSA
For those enquiring minds, here’s the low down on how the club began.
Jerome Chin Aleong (4th Dan) started Aikido training under Phil Newcombe (7th Dan), joining the City University Shodokan Aikido Club, many moons ago.
Jerome Sensei was then a student at City University with ambitions on an optometry career and training in Japan. In fact Jerome and his long time training partner Ulrika managed to win a Gold medal for Kyu Grade Randori-no-kata (Katsura 1993).
Doing a three month stint in Shodokan Hombu definitely helped, at this point we can say determination and natural talent played their parts.
Having done his time as a student in the UK, Jerome Sensei returned to his native Trinidad and after having trained at such a high level, felt the need to continue training, and joined the local Judo club. No Aikido clubs existed in Trinidad at the time and the judo players frequently asked the old question…..’What’s this Aikido thing?’
After doing countless demonstrations, the T&T Shodokan Aikido Club was born, in a little Gym called ‘Body Works’. Where Marlon Hoating (author) happened to be a regular member. I recall one occasion seeing Jerome Sensei going to the training room in his white dogi bottoms, but never joined the training, in fact I didn’t even know it existed until fate stepped in. The Gym closed and we all had to move to another branch of Body Works Gym (West Mall, Trinidad).
So the story so far is great natural Aikidoka sitting in a small island in the Caribbean finally meets his soon to be keen student by a twist of fate!
Yup we moved to the new Gym, feeling like I needed to do something new or in fact learn some type of self-defence, I heard the first sounds of Ukemi. This was Jerome Sensei throwing around Larry Camejo Sensei (T&T Shodokan instructor). Now Larry is closer to 7ft and Jerome is closer to 5ft, so this was particularly dynamic to see and hear.
Having sat at the side and looked on at my first class, I joined and have never left!
Many training experiences followed, like learning to breakfall before even owning a dogi. All the high ones too, remember I was a regular Gym junkie, young fit and keen with the only Shodan in the country, bored with his class of laid-back trinidadians. Training was a mixture of kata and randori practice, mixed with the occasional beer waza evenings, really nice on a beach after training!
I must mention the Olympic Foundation at this time. There happened to be a Olympics sponsored visit of a senior judoka where sensei and I were the only aikido practitioners present and ofcourse the usual demo had to be done, I had my dogi finally, however no tanto’s *(soft rubber dagger) were available so the nearest ‘slipper’ found its way into the demo.
There also happened to be a chap there I went to St Mary’s College (Trinidad’s debatable top secondary school) with, Hans Crosby. Now Hans and I were very similar, same school, same local employer and both bored of it, so travelling to the UK was a very interesting option being mentioned by Hans.
After talking with sensei and filling out the visa forms, my bags were packed.
A famous, or should I say infamous story is out there of a slender yellow belt trinidadian tied up in a very large leather jacket at every Shodokan aikido club during the month of April 1997. Yes its true, cold, freezing and unaccustomed to it all I turned up and often saw the smiling face of Jim Newcombe Sensei, who was caught off guard that this guy just kept turning up at every different venue he trained at that week.
Well as you can guess I turned up and never left!
The story goes on to many training sessions, great people and loads of ukemi. I trained at every shodokan dojo in the UK and competed at most of the BAA competitions. Yes we competed with the BAA at that time, and we won loads of events. To the point of when I turned up as a brown belt in the Hove Recreation Centre, the comment shouted out was ‘Oh no there goes the gold medal then’.
Yes we competed; yes there is competition in Aikido. Competition is a method of checking a students progress in a realistic or as close to realistic as possible. What is necessary is a clear and full understanding of its goals by two parties (players/ clubs etc.) of matching skill. The idea is to test your knowledge and help the other player reach his or hers. Not just to win medals!
Saying this I have a load of old pieces of wood sitting high on top of a display cabinet that I won’t let anyone throw out of the house. They remind me of many great people and memories of learning events.
After competing in Japan (broke my thumb three months out and never got a chance to give my best). I trained for a further year and got my Ni Dan (Second degree black belt). Also got married and joined the best fitness job in the world (at that time) Central YMCA Fitness Coordinator.
As part of my job at the Central YMCA, which happens to be the very first YMCA, I managed clubs, sports clubs! Just what was necessary. It took a while to convince the powers that be that Aikido was a good thing, since there was a ban on contact sports due to cases of bullying in the past.
It took meetings, presentations, letters and loads of convincing to get things off the ground. October 2003 we started, Tuesday nights in the Prince of Wales room, 32 mats and 32 new people! Thankfully I had support, but a club needs a leader, especially in its early stages and I took it upon myself to do this.
Since then we have grown to the point where we have 13 classes each week, 70 plus members and visitors from around the world. Funny thing fate, when you put some elbow grease behind it.
What I’ve missed out in this short story has to be experienced; open your heart and your mind to training, to people and to yourself. Your individual need for growth outweigh any momentary discomfort or gratification. Keep training and life will be amazing!
Central London Shodokan