These are my recollections and discussions with various members from over the years:
Plymouth School of Aikido started around 1980 at Fort Austin. It was held in the basement (commonly known as the dungeon) of the boxing club at the Fort. Ken Samuels was the first Aikido Sensei of the club. It followed on from a club run by 'Doc' Price from the 1970's based in the YMCA in central Plymouth when Judo, Aikido and Kendo were taught. Both Ken and Doc practiced Aikido with Colin Pike, in Cardiff at the Cardiff Aikikai in the late 60's.
Ken had also trained with Ken Williams in the Rhonda and travelled to London to study with Abe Sensei, Tamara Sensei and Kenetsika Sensei, whenever he could.
In 1981 the club moved to Farringdon Road to a small Dojo owned by Sensei Bob Rose of Kenpo Karate. This was above the shop that Sensei Rose ran, and was very small, only 12-14 tatami in size with a transverse beam we had to be aware of when doing weapon work! We did our first live demo over in Saltash in late 1982, Alan and I performed a "live knife" kata at yellow and white belt respectively. We moved to the Judo dojo in Trelawney Youth Centre, Ham Drive in the autum of 1984 after the Judo club there had folded. We had a dojo with a canvas covered foam mat. At least we had exclusive use.
We then started a subsidiary club at Estover Community College on a Monday led by Alan and L-J Roberts. Tre and I led the Wed club at Trelawney; we were all Green Belts by then! Ken ran the Friday nights and any weekend sessions.
In 1984/5 a club was opened on a Wed in Ivybridge Town Hall, run by Alan Tait, we also started a club at Fursden Leisure Centre on a Thursday, again led by Alan and L-J but frequently assisted by Alan, Tre and myself. For a while Kim Dixon ran a club in Plympton with Hephzibah Davis – Evans.
At some time in this period Doc started a club on a Thursday in Plymstock but it only lasted a short while, probably not helped by not having any mats other than old fashioned coir gym mats!
In 1986 Ken moved back to Wales and the club was taken over by Chris Mavin however he emigrated to Canada, and Alan Roberts took over as Sensei. We had joined the Aikido Society of Wales headed by Gwynne Jones in 1986 after Ken had joined their group and been rapidly promoted to 3rd Dan (he had been 1st Dan for about 20 years!) We wholeheartedly followed our new head and in June 1986 Alan and I were awarded our 2nd Dan's
In February 1992 Alan retired from Aikido and I took over and have led Plymouth School of Aikido since.
In 1995 we started classes in Laira Dojo which grew to become our home Dojo for the next 17 years. We also ran classes at the sports complex at Derriford Hospital between 1990 and 1998, first in the main hall and then in a squash court which was a bit cramped at times. Between 2011 and February 2012 we had classes at the Jon Kitto School with a view to moving there when our main dojo was closed. Sadly this arrangement was not suitable and we returned to the Laira Dojo.
From February 2012 we left Laira dojo due to the close and sale of the church and moved to our present location in "The Shed Dojo." We have converted the property into a permanent matted area for training and currently have five classes per week scheduled. These are one weapons class, one junior and three adult sessions.
By Sensei D Worsley (April 2012)