Aikido classes began at Ren Shin Kan in early 1968 in a small room on the top floor of Old Hill Conservative club. The club was founded by William Smith – who was then 1st Kyu – and classes ran twice weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The dojo was affiliated to the Aikikai of Great Britain headed by Kazou Chiba (then 6th Dan Aikikai) who had been a direct live-in student of Morehei Ueshiba ( Ōsensei) the founder of Aikido.
Expansion and Growth
The club rapidly expanded and outgrew the venue so in 1970 the dojo moved to the Unitarian Church Hall in Park Lane, Cradley where it remained for the next 25 years. During this time Mr Smith was appointed as member of the Superior Council of the International Aikido Federation; a position he held for 12 years.
By now classes were running seven days a week with classes taught by not only Mr Smith but also Gordon Jones, Philip Smith, Mike Smith, Pat Narey and Mario Falaschi.
In 1995 the club moved again to premises in Old Hill where Mr Smith continued to teach until his death in 2006. The dojo has always been allied to the Aikikai Hombu, Japan; initially through the direction of Chiba Shihan, but since 1988 directly when it became the headquarters of the United Kingdom Aikikai.
Where we are today
Ren Shin Kan moved to its current premises in 2010 and still holds the position of UKA headquarters with the principal instructors being Gordon Jones and Philip Smith who are both accredited Shihan (master teacher) by the Aikikai Hombu.
Iai-do classes at Ren Shin Kan began in about 1974 under the direction of Philip Smith.
Philip had begun his study of Iai-do under T.K. Chiba (6th Dan) in around 1972, studying Muso Shinden Ryu shoden and chuden techniques. Chiba Sensei was a direct student of Mitsuzuka Takeshi.
Mitsuzuka Sensei began his training in Iaido on March 1st, 1955 under the watchful eye of Nakayama Hakudo Sensei who was the 18th (and last) sôke in the Muso Shinden Ryû Gotô-ha line. Nakayama Sensei was 85 years old at the time and would only live for another three years. Mitsuzuka Sensei continued his training and modeled the Seiteigata in Gordon Warner and Donn Draeger’s well-known book, Japanese Swordsmanship.
In 1983 Philip was encouraged to, by Chiba Sensei, to join the ZNKR via the British Kendo Association and he therefore began training in the Seiteigata techniques under the tuition of Fuji Okimitsu Sensei, and Fay Goodman. Around this time Karl Gibbons began his Iai-do training with Philip often being the only student on the class.
During the 1990’s the dojo lost contact with the BKA re-joining in 2002, a link which continues until the present day.