Origins of the BAB and its Predecessor the Reputable “Martial Arts Commission”.
British Aikido Board
By Henry Ellis
BAB ex founder member & British Aikido pioneer.
British Aikido Council
With the birth in 1955 of Aikido in Britain at the now famous “Hut Dojo “Hillingdon Middlesex. The dojo was known at that time as the “Abbe School of Judo”, soon to be renamed the “Abbe School of Budo”. There were no organisations for Aikido at that time, just this one dojo. The rapid interest and expansion of Aikido across the UK would eventually encourage Kenshiro Abbe Sensei to develop another organisation alongside the British Judo Council (BJC). It was named the “British Aikido Council “(BAC).
Martial Arts Commission
British Aikido Council (BAC). In the beginning all Aikido came under the umbrella of this one organisation. In later years, as Aikido spread and became fragmented throughout the UK, several small independent organisations began to flourish around the country. In 1977 the UK govt’s `Sports Council` authorised the newly formed “Martial Arts Commission “(MAC) to oversee all of the many various disciplines of the martial arts, including Aikido.
The “British Aikido Board “was formed later that same year.
The Sports Council made what has since been considered by many to be a monumental mistake, by allowing each of the individual Martial Arts to form their own independent governing bodies, all with full Sports Council recognition. Representatives of these various bodies were required to attend Sports Council meetings in London, held approx four times per year. Derek Eastman of the ESTA and the BAB secretary would represent the various BAB member associations at these meetings.
There were the obvious problems at this time associated with many of the lesser or newer disciplines of the martial arts, those who understandably, also wanted their own governing body status. Several of the already formed governing bodies did not agree with this, Insisting that they were prepared to take other martial arts under their umbrellas, no doubt as a means of increasing their own membership and authority. Derek Eastman and the secretary did not receive expenses from the BAB funds to attend these meetings.
There was initially a great deal of interest for the development of a governing body for Aikido; many organisations became a part of the BAB. One large organisation for example being Britain’s first Aikido pioneer Ken Williams Sensei’s ` Ki Federation of Gt Britain `. In later years several organisations became disenchanted with the changing face of the BAB, such as the Ki Federation of Gt Britain, which is one of the largest Aikido organisations in the UK. The Ki Federation resigned. The initial enthusiasm to join the BAB has faded for many of the British Aikidoka.
Although there is no actual available data, it is generally accepted that there are more Aikido organisations and independent dojos outside of the BAB than there are within it.
Too Many Governing Bodies?
In a conversation I had with a senior member of Sports England (Sports Council) at the Kenshiro Abbe Memorial Event. I was informed that there is a growing consensus of opinion within Sports England that there are too many problems with having so many governing bodies, It is now thought that “one“ governing body such as in the original framework of the old Martial Arts Commission ( MAC ) would function far more efficiently than the present system. There have been some very serious problems with the governing body for Karate. The BAB was called before the Sports Council for their support of attempting to corrupt the true history and lineage of British Aikido. The BAB have since reluctantly apologised.
In the beginning the British Aikido Board held quarterly general meetings which were spread around the country, holding the meetings at the dojo of each and every association in turn. This was considered a fair way of sharing the various travel problems experienced by many of the association representatives.
Each association would lay on a very nice buffet of cakes, sandwiches and biscuits, and of course tea and coffee. The costs of the buffet came out of the host club funds. These social buffets encouraged members to mix and socialize. That does not happen anymore.
The BAB meetings have been held in Birmingham for several years. At the first of these Birmingham meetings there would always be a nice buffet laid on, appreciated mostly by those that had travelled long journeys.
This treat did not last long; it was soon reduced to a cup of tea and a biscuit. With no time to socialize, which gave little time or opportunity for the representatives to get to know each other.
BAB Members Money
Those early developing days of the BAB were enthusiastic days, with associate members willingly participating in all aspects of its development for the future benefit of the BAB membership. There were no expenses to be had, no one ever asked for expenses either. Members did whatever they did for the well being of the BAB. When the crass and inept chairman Toni Davies was rejected, with the following election of a new chairman, the original ideals changed.
Now, when one becomes an executive member, it is an opportunity to get ones trotters in the financial trough. The BAB has now built up a substantial fund of member’s money, much of that money from the sacrifices of those early days.
The BAB now gloatingly hands out the members money to the executive members in the guise of an “ honorarium “ which I believe to be in the region now of approx £1,000 each. Multiply that by the number of executives and it comes to a tidy sum of the “members money “. Once it was “What can I do for the British Aikido Board!! “ Now it is appears to be more “What can the British Aikido Board do for me!! “.
BAB National Courses
The BAB National Courses in recent years have been an expensive disaster, with an average embarrassing attendance of 80 to 90 students being considered a good supportive attendance. 80 / 90!! Out of a membership of approx 10, 000 members. With the teachers now receiving a fee and expenses. The course first aid member receives more than anyone with a cash sum of £200. For that money you could have the services of the St Johns with an ambulance in attendance.
The early BAB national courses required large venues such as Crystal Palace and the Birmingham Sports Centre. WHY? Because the members felt that they were part of a good organisation. Today the BAB hires much smaller venues such as Bisham Abbey, WHY? This creates the false impression of a good attendance.
The question must be asked, the BAB has grown in membership numbers, yet it receives less support than ever from its members. In recent years the “Executive Clique “has alienated the membership.
The National courses in the early years were well supported with attendances of between two and three hundred students attending. The teachers were never paid.
Today the majority of BAB members are no longer proud to be part of this discredited organisation. I get a great deal of feedback where the average member states “I am a member of the BAB for the insurance”….. There are many better Martial Art Insurers out there, such as MARTINS (Acronym). Full Details can be found on this website
Apart from the BAB being knee deep in bureaucracy, the question has to be asked “What does the BAB do to actually promote Aikido? .The simple answer is nothing.
At a general meeting it was once suggested by a member that the production and circulation of a BAB Aikido information brochure to be sent to sports and community centres around the UK as a way of promoting Aikido, many members agreed. The BAB executive nearly had a collective coronary at the thought of spending the member’s money on something worthwhile. That idea was kicked out before it could be entered into the meeting minutes.
The Ultimate Challenge
I find it quite amusing that the BAB have now employed the promotions company KKP to face the ultimate challenge to advise and attempt to improve the image of the BAB. Has it never occurred to this clique? That it should be asking those questions of the very people who know Aikido best, consult the membership!!.
A Suitable BAB Patron
The BAB is also looking for a suitable `Patron ` I am sure that Lord Peter Mandelson would appreciate a call.