Scroll down to meet our Founder and Teachers
"My quest has been to continually improve the quality, effectiveness and applicability of my Aikido and teaching, and to understand more deeply how both individuals and communities can be helped to co-create a brighter future."
Burke Sensei explored several forms of practice and began Aikido training in 1979. He attended a Summer School taught by Koichi Tohei Sensei (one of Aikido's original two 10th Dans), and saw that it's harmonious movement and non-destructive values meant he could commit unreservedly to training, which he set about doing.
In 1985 he was appointed full-time Assistant (apprentice) to Sensei K. Williams, the UK's most senior Professional Teacher and one of Britain's greatest ever pioneers, exponents, teachers and servants of Aikido. This was a rare honour. The extraordinary training he received had a radical effect on his development. Following this period, between 1986 and 1992 he founded Clubs in Salisbury, Ringwood, Amesbury, Newbury, Winchester and eventually Andover. For several of these years, he also ran a full-time Dojo in London and travelled each month to teach in Paris. In 2000, after 21 years, he left the Ki Federation of Great Britain and founded Isshinkai.
The years that followed were ones of experimentation, exploration of different approaches and reconnection with the origins of Aikido. He made research trips to the US and Japan, and met, among others, John Smartt Sensei, Founder of New School Aikido, Hikitsuchi Sensei, (the other of Aikido's 10th Dans) and renewed a connection with Koretoshi Maruyama Sensei, Founder of Aikido Yuishinkai. In 2004 he was awarded the rank of 7th Dan.
Since the beginning of his journey Denis Burke has continued to work in the "everyday" world and to study a diverse range of related subjects. This has led him to work helping thousands of people in several areas outside the context of Aikido, such as for charities and large corporations, with employees, unemployed graduates and with sports people, including International Athletes in several sports. This work continues in the form of coaching for individuals and teams. His book, “Purpose & Practice”, which outlines many of the principles behind this work, is available online.
“After inspirational and transformational Aikido training, I became an Aiki Exercise and Aikido teacher in 2005.
Initially I took these disciplines out into the community – I was interested in offering techniques from Aikido, Kiatsu, Kinesiology and Soutai Ho for people to develop a feeling of well-being, self-esteem and being able to cope with whatever may arise, in an alert yet relaxed manner and without becoming a victim. I have also assisted in some Corporate training, bringing Aiki to clients, and a sense of being able to do what was initially thought impossible.
Latterly, I focussed on teaching Aikido to children, youth and adults up to 1st Dan and helping maintain the Isshinkai Head Quarters dojo and grounds. I’m delighted and excited Martin Sanderson Sensei is now running the children, youth and young adults classes.
Isshinkai Aikido has opened a way for me to enjoy mind and body coming together in a most extraordinary, life enhancing way. A continuous journey of adventure to a deeper connection with the Universe, with others and with nature. More than I could ever have imagined.”
“I was introduced to Aikido around 1997 by a friend at Plymouth University where I practiced until I left in 2000. After completing University I got caught up in life and a new Job in London. It wasn't until 7 years later that I realised I hadn't really ever stopped thinking about Aikido, but thinking wasn't practicing, so I endeavoured to join a new club.
After some careful looking I found "Isshinkai Aikido" and my current Teacher who had recently started a new Isshinkai club based in Ladbroke grove. I knew from one session that this had everything I was looking for, though in retrospect I've come to appreciate I probably didn't really know what that was. However he had it and lots of it.
Having been out of practice for so long, everything seemed to have changed, so I embarked on learning everything again, which after several years lead to me passing my 1st Dan.
With my teacher eventually leaving the London club in our hands, to concentrate on the Headquarters in Andover and a new business, I eventually took over running the regular Tuesday classes and Thursday practice sessions for several years.
Aikido is an incredible experience. I hope you'll join us to find out for yourselves.”
Martin Sanderson Sensei began Aikido training at Isshinkan at the age of 12 in our children’s class, taught at that time by our Founder, Denis Burke Sensei. This was not his first form of training, Martin already at that age had a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
In Isshinkai Aikido, the minimum age for taking 1st Dan, or first degree black belt, is 18, and Martin passed his 1st Dan as soon as was possible after his 18th birthday. To date he has also passed his 2nd Dan grading and gone through our Teachers Training programme, which is a demanding two year training of which he is in the closing stages. Our high grades are already sufficiently qualified to coach before they enter our Teachers Training Progamme.
Martin Sanderson Sensei is now the Teacher in charge of our Children’s and Youth section at Isshinkan.
We all have a story as to how we came to be practicing Aikido. Mine didn't start as a happy one: I had just lost someone I loved very much and was, if I’m honest, a wreck. I was determined to move on and live my life, and so ended up making a whole bunch of new friends. Emile Swain Sensei (then a Yellow belt) was one of those friends.
After much badgering on his part (and even more stubbornness on mine!), he finally convinced me to come along to a martial arts class for something called Aikido… or was that Ikeia-do… I wasn’t sure then. Then I met my teacher, Denis Burke, who - despite my reluctance - managed to get me to engage and, dare I say it, have a good time. I still wasn’t “convinced”, so I went out to a couple of other martial arts classes (they just weren’t for me!).
It was obvious though, even after that briefest of contacts, that no other class had the ability to make me feel like a human again. This was my first taste of real Aikido.
Since those early days (now more than a decade ago!) I have continued to grow and love Aikido. Particularly Isshinkai Aikido, of which I have found no equal in its beauty, creativity and ‘realness’. An incredible tool for helping people become the truly amazing people they are.
I’ve been a civil servant, working for the UK Foreign Office in some pretty incredible locations around the world. I’ve also had a career in the private sector, working for PwC, the then largest accounting, consulting and business advisory business in the UK. And I’m now an entrepreneur, running my own firm in venture capital. I’ve been an angel investor, supporting a number of early stage businesses to achieve success. I’ve chaired patron committees for charities. I’m also a trustee for a charity which supports the teaching of stress reducing methods. I’ve learned a huge amount doing all this, and have grown enormously in that time, all down to the mindset that Aikido has developed in me. I attest a great deal of my successes to the skills and qualities that Isshinkai Aikido has given me.
I look forward to sharing this with many more of you and I hope to see you on the mat soon.
My own journey with aikido didn’t start till my early 40’s. Martial arts had been a fantasy that I never imagined would become real for me. I was both afraid of hurting someone and of being hurt. I remember doing one class of Wing Chung at University but that was as far as my martial arts experience went. Years later, I heard about Aikido as a form of embodied leadership that was popular amongst change makers, systems thinkers and leadership consultants. It caught my interest but I didn’t know where to begin, so it lived on as just a dream.
As luck would have it, I stumbled on Isshinkai. From the first class, I noticed that the teacher’s words matched his actions, to an unusual degree. I didn’t feel intimidated as a white belt and as a woman new to martial arts; this meant a lot to me. I noticed that I felt better after every single class and that this was a path of peace that was practical and real. I never looked back.
One of the things that I value most in Isshinkai, is that as well as individual empowerment, there is a concept for how groups and societies can work together. To say it is a path of learning is an understatement: for improving relationships, for facing every day challenges, for finding my centre, for being able to stay calm under pressure, for being able to walk the streets with less fear and for standing taller and bringing out my spirit and joy of life. I began to know that if I really want to achieve something and I put my mind to it, I can do it.
Achieving my 1st Dan was one of the most empowering moments I’ve ever experienced. In my coaching and facilitation work people have gone out of their way to tell me how embodied I am. Those close to me have mentioned a radiance and confidence in me that has grown over time. The fact that I get to practice each week with others who share this joy is an unbelievable gift that I am so grateful for and for which I still have to pinch myself.
I first started practising Aikido in 2005 when a housemate suggested I do something physical and with movement to counter-balance all the sitting meditation I was doing at the time - and also to get me out of my head! That first part of my training was up in Manchester and lasted until 2008 when I moved down to London.
I was very keen to continue my training, but couldn't find any Aikido club that had that same flavour of dynamic but expansive practice which would leave me feeling that I was two inches taller than at the beginning of class. I tried 5 or 6 different teachers and came away a bit discouraged, though every now and again I would give it another shot.
Eventually, after writing to my teachers, I received a hearty recommendation for Isshinkai, which they thought had classes near where I lived in Waterloo. The first class I went to, led by Emile Swain Sensei, one of the Founders' senior students, was a bit like returning home. I knew straightaway that this is what I’d been searching for. Powerful but with a light touch, creative & playful: wanting to give people a bigger experience of what they could be.
This positive response was multiplied when actually getting to work with Denis Burke Sensei in seminars and feel the depth of his engagement with the Art of Aikido, and the elegance and ease with which he made tangible in his technique the profound ideas he was teaching us about. I attended Tuesday classes and Thursday practice, pretty much without fail from 2014, til recently when I moved to Exeter, such has been the positive effect I noticed from such consistency. I now travel up from Exeter to Isshinkan for class on Tuesdays.
Aikido has changed my life, no question. I feel much more balanced, more grounded, more accepting and less afraid. I passed my 1st Dan black belt in Summer 2017 and that really is just the beginning of all the learning and development I feel is possible if I keep challenging myself with the teachings and ideas in Aikido. The more I practise the more I see how wide the application of the principles we explore through attacks and throws on the mat can be in my life off the mat.
Aikido is a practical way of bringing together the different sides within our psyche and the different energies within our bodies. When mind and body start to be co-ordinated, life can be experienced in a much more fulfilling way - and I encourage you to come and try it out for yourself, as it really is a wonderful path towards deeper connection and authenticity.
Every Qualified Isshinkai Teacher has
passed the most extensive Teachers’
Training Programme available in Aikido,
and continues with ongoing further
Teachers in Training will have already
trained in Isshinkai Aikido for several
years before starting Teachers Training.