The Great British Aikido Controversy

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The Aikido Controversy is now a part of British Aikido History. It was a long and difficult fight to protect the true history of British Aikido from the false claims of Mr Jack Poole and The British Aikido Board. Sport England totally exonerated Henry Ellis. The BAB were instructed to give Henry Ellis a full public apology after admitting that Mr Poole had received an award to APPEASE him. The BAB also admitted that Mr Poole could only substantiate his history from 1968.

The Controversy

(Why such a controversy)

Two years ago I received a circular, via the British Aikido Board, inviting me to Mr Jack Poole’s celebratory seminar of “47 years in Aikido”. At that time this would have placed Mr Poole as the first ever for Aikido in the UK in 1952. This is a very serious statement and offensive to those like myself and others who took part in the birth of British Aikido, and its subsequent promotion. So why the controversy? Mr Poole was an immediate beginner in my Dojo at Slough, Berks, in 1968. One does not have to be a nuclear scientist to calculate that 1968 from 2000 is 32 years (not 47 years) However the British Aikido Board in its wisdom refused to answer my subsequent complaint, against Mr Pooles claim, and at the National Seminar 2000 awarded him a bronze samurai statue to celebrate his “40 plus years of Aikido”.

The article that follows details these events and has been built up as the events unfolded.

Yours in Budo

Sensi Henry Ellis

For the history of British Aikido, read Sensei Ellis’s article “Positive Aikido” in “Fighting Arts International”.

The Final Analysis

On the 29th February 2000 Sensei Ellis sent an official letter of complaint to the British Aikido Board, the letter was addressed to the British Aikido Board secretary Mrs S Timms, subsequently Mrs Timms arranged a meeting at “The Hut” with Sensei’s Foster, Ellis, Eastman, and Mrs Timms herself to discuss the matters detailed in the letter. It was agreed without doubt that no one had ever heard of Mr Poole prior to him being a beginner in Sensei Ellis’s dojo in 1968.

At the British Aikido Board meeting held on the 23rd September 2000, the British Aikido Board executive denied having received the “official complaint” when the matter was raised by Sensei Derek Eastman. If the British Aikido Board executive did not receive the letter, why? It was as a result of this letter that the above meeting took place, so I will ask the question again, why was this important official letter that directly affects the history of British Aikido not placed before the whole of the executive committee?

In brief the evidence against Mr Poole that was offered to the British Aikido Board:

Sensei Ellis has not one photo of Mr Poole as a beginner in 1968 but several.

Both these photos clearly show Mr Poole as a beginner and were taken in 1968

A video taken in 1968, clearly showing Mr Poole as a beginner.

Witnesses to these dates:


Ellis Sensei

Eastman Sensei

Goodwin Sensei

Staverou Sensei

Students from that time.

When Mr Poole was asked by a senior member of the British Aikido Board “Jack, when and where did you actually start your Aikido”, Mr Poole’s reply was “errgh, I can’t really remember when I started”.

On the strength of that brief statement the British Aikido Board awarded Mr Poole with a fine samurai statue to celebrate our new leader.

Once again I repeat that the only reason for the controversy article being placed on our Internet site is not malicious but simply to protect the true history of Aikido in the UK.

As of today’s date, 13th October 2000, we have not yet received any advice from a lawyer as to any threatened action. We intend to keep the article on our website and if Mrs Timms and Mr Poole wish to contest the truth then we patiently await your legal response to change hard facts into fiction.

Jack Poole

And his forthcoming

“Celebration of 47 years of Aikido”

By Henry Ellis Sensei

The Controversy

Recently, I received a letter from the British Aikido Board, enclosed were the usual documents of a previous general meeting, amongst the papers was an A4 size photo of Mr. Poole, inviting everyone to the above celebration, including me. The content of the poster was of great concern to many others and me who shared in the birth of Aikido in Britain. If you have not read my story in “Fighting Arts International ” No 93, and Aikido Today Magazine No 36, they are to be found on this web page.

Why all this concern?

As I have stated above, the history of Aikido in the UK is very well documented. Kenshiro Abbe Sensei introduced Aikido in 1955, his first student was Ken Williams Sensei, (see Aikido Today Magazine #43). From that early group of selected students, the only ones to survive are Williams sensei, Haydn Foster sensei, and myself Henry (Harry) Ellis. Williams sensei was made the National coach for Aikido in the UK, and I was the assistant National coach.

During those great early years, we traveled all over the British Isles, also to France and Belgium.

If we are to believe Mr. Poole’s claim to 47 years of Aikido, then this would place him back in the era of 1952/3, this is two years before the arrival of Kenshiro Abbe sensei to the UK. None of the early teachers had ever heard of Mr. Poole, that is until Mr. Poole came to join my “beginners class” in 1967/8 at my dojo in Slough, Berkshire.

Take a look at the photos in both magazines, you will see a man with a bald head and long beard, that is unmistakably Mr. Poole. Is it not conceivable that as I was a 3rd dan at that time I would have noticed that this “beginner” had some 15 years previous training, and the fact that Mr Poole was with my beginners for some three years, would he not have told me.

I have a book in the final stages of preparation in the USA titled “Positive Aikido, 45 yrs of Traditional teachings “. Arthur Lockyear the most prominent writer on Aikido is also gathering information on the history of “Aikido in the UK”. I also understand that Sensei Williams is also preparing something on the same lines.

Once a fellow Aikidoist has read the history of our Aikido then perhaps you will realize why the few of us that are left from the early days are so protective of its origins.

Prior to this claim of 47 years, Mr. Poole has always chosen to totally ignore me and my existence when attending the British Aikido Board meetings. Maybe he feels that if he ignores me he then can ignore his true history.

During the time Mr. Poole was in my beginner’s class, he was always a good student, and I can never recall any problems or concerns. I have no concerns either regarding Mr Poole’s impersonation of O’Sensei on the poster I received, nor do I envy the fact that he is the only person to my knowledge to ever have a grade in “Budo”. However I do have grave concerns for the true principals of Aikido, and just as importantly its survival as a creditable Martial Art.

The planned celebration by M Poole is to take place in April. I have written to Mrs. Shirley Timms, the secretary to the British Aikido Board, to ask the British Aikido Board to authenticate Mr. Pooles claim. Mrs. Timms told me that this would take some time. I suggested to her that now was the right time, before he commits himself to the “celebration”.

On Saturday the 11th of March 2000, I traveled to Birmingham with Sensei Derek Eastman’s (The 4th survivor from the 1950’s) son, Mark. This was the first time he had attended a General Meeting of the British Aikido Board, he could not believe how the proceedings went.

We arrive at the meeting Mrs. Timms hurried ahead of everyone else, I can only assume to advise the Chairman Toni Davies that I was here to speak at the Item 11 of the agenda, which was any other business. This is the only time that you can bring any other issues to the attention of the board). After sitting in the meeting for almost 3 hours we eventually reached Item 11, any other business, and as quickly as I stood up the Chairman called the meeting closed. I asked to be allowed to speak and Bill Smith Sensei one of the most respected men in Aikido, called out “Let the man speak” and again “Let the man speak”. This is an abuse of privilege that we have never seen before in the British Aikido Board. I was refused permission to speak and raise the matter of Mr Poole. I have been told that Mr Poole claims to have trained in France and that he has a letter from O’Sensei. In those early days we too trained in France, we still have contacts in France, so it would be possible to check out this claim. With reference to the letter from O’Sensei, I have no comment.

In its hurry to dismiss item 11 from the agenda, the board also omitted the very last item on the agenda, which was the date of the next meeting.

By protecting Mr. Poole from what would have been a simple question of authenticity the British Aikido Board have actually accepted his claim to rewrite the history of British Aikido, and given him their full approval.

When I carry out a display of Aikido I always use a couple of beginners to try to encourage other people to join, I have a 8mm film converted to video clearly showing Mr Poole in 1967/8 as a beginner.



The origins and history of Aikido in the UK started with its introduction by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei in 1955 and his first student was Sensei Ken Williams. A small select group of dan grades developed around Sensei Williams at the Abbe School of Budo, Hillingdon Middx.

Apart from Sensei Williams there are only four survivors from those early days, Sensei’s Foster, Ellis, Reynolds & Eastman. When Sensei Foster and I were training at the “HUT” in the 1950s I am sure that neither of us ever thought that we would still be involved in Aikido 45 years later. Sensei Williams always had great faith in the future of Aikido, and would often say to me that Aikido would grow to be the most popular martial art in the UK, and all the early dan grades would one day be full time professional teachers. The promotion of Aikido in those early days was such a struggle that although I felt just as passionately about Aikido as Sensei Williams, I must admit I did not share his vision.

The early history of British Aikido is a colorful one with many anecdotes as we the early teachers tried to promote Aikido. Now after 45yrs those original four are still teaching and promoting Aikido.

After all these years I (Henry Ellis) still feel as passionately and dedicated as I did in those early days. I have always had a strong and positive approach to Aikido and I know that the other teachers and I are all very proud of our history and our small part in the development of what was once only a vision of Sensei Williams. Today that vision is now a reality.

I trust that any true student of Aikido will know that I care little for my own promotion but only for the Protection and Promotion of the Martial Art of Aikido that I have devoted most of my life to.

Yours in Budo,