Article by Dave Humm
Jack Poole is an aikido instructor and Principal of his own association - UK Shinwakai, Poole is a senior member of the British Aikido Board. The BAB are accredited as the Governing Body for the martial discipline of Aikido within the United Kingdom.
Henry Ellis is an aikido instructor and Principal of his own association - Ellis School of Traditional Aikido. Poole begain his own study of aikido under Ellis in 1968
David Humm (author) is a yudansha student/instructor of aikido, known as outspoken individual and supporter of Ellis; Humm has been co-responsible for a lengthy and in-depth research in to the claimed pedigree and biography of Jack Poole.
The Controversy Article
In 2002 I was the owner/administrator of the National Aikido Communication Database (now defunct), a martial arts website dedicated to the art of Aikido. I was approached by Henry Ellis and asked if I would be prepared to host an article which he'd written about Jack Poole, an aikido instructor and former student of Ellis. I was advised that the content of the article was controversial and sought to address a particular claim made by Poole, namely that Poole was claiming to have been involved in aikido for 47 years. Essentially placing him as the first ever Englishman to have studied aikido. I agreed to run the article on my website having reviewed the information Ellis possessed at the time regarding Poole, and in doing so, the article generated interest and discussion from within the Aikido community.
The only response to the Controversy Article from Poole was via his wife, as a result of an email I had issued to Poole asking for his comments.
Ironically, following publication of the Controversy Article and an earlier letter of complaint from Ellis dated 29th February 2000 directed at the British Aikido Board to whom Poole was a senior member, a martial arts biography appeared on Poole's Aikido association's website; within that document there were several astounding claims, it is my opinion that this biography was released as a means of attempting to substantiate a general credibility for Poole's earlier 47 year claim.
- Commenced study of Aikido. circa 1952/3
- Achieved 1st dan grade for Shotokan Karate. circa 1954
- Student of Kendo with Otani Tomio. circa 1954
- Represented the British Judo Council in International competition. circa 1951-1955
- Claimed to have been graded to 3rd dan by Otani Matsutaro. circa 1955
To verify that the biography was authentic and published into the public domain with Poole's consent, I made contact with its author Simon Deering. Deering was once a student of Poole's in the 1970's and despite now living outside of the UK retained links to Poole's Aikido Association. Deering responded to my (2nd) email claiming not to have received the first however; his reply confirmed the biography was indeed published with Poole's consent even going so far as to indicate the content was "quite correct".
According to Deering, the only mistake Poole was responsible for, was letting the 47 year poster "slip out" containing wording which was, by his own admission, "misleading" that, it should have read "47 years of martial arts experience" however; whilst this may seem like a plausible explanation, whichever way you look at the numbers, the math doesn't add up.
The issue of when Poole claims to have started martial arts casts some doubt over the credibility of the biography. Considering he suggests his formative years were spent studying Judo with one of the UK's most renown instructors of the day; it is therefore difficult to understand how Poole or his associates would reach the figure of "47 years" as presented on the celebratory poster.
If, as Poole asserts, he studied Judo from the age of 8, his "martial arts experience" would be considerably more than 47 years. However; I was unable to find any substance of Poole's claims prior too 1968, again the math didn't add up. For his 47th year claim, Poole was clearly including a period of 15 years prior to his study with Ellis in 1968 but, this again doesn't account for him studying Judo at the age of 8, as stated in his biography.
As I began to investigate Poole's martial arts claims, I sought to first understand the legitimate history of Aikido within the United Kingdom and in doing so better understand the nature of the alleged controversy surrounding Poole. This understanding crucially involved establishing when Aikido was first introduced to the UK and prior to that into Europe.
My enquiries principally lead me to many historical discussions with Henry Ellis and Derek Eastman, both of whom were direct students of Abbe Kenshiro and two of the very first British Aikido dan grades legitimised by the Founder of Aikido Ueshiba Morihei. It became clear that 1955 was the inception date for Aikido within the UK with the arrival of Abbe Kenshiro and, within Europe (France) in 1952 with Abe Tadashi. Establishing these dates gave me the starting point on which I'd be able to validate Poole's 47 year claim.
It is important to understand that for Poole to have been involved in Aikido for [in 2000] 47 years, his study would have pre-dated the arrival of Abbe Kenshiro to the UK and would have necessitated study with the nearest source at the time out side of Japan - Abe Tadashi in France. - Poole's martial arts biography claimed that he had indeed studied with Abe whilst serving within the Army stationed in Germany. Ellis refuted that point emphatically because Poole had started Aikido in 1968 under Ellis as a rank beginner, Ellis held records including several pictures and 8mm cine film showing Poole with no advanced or indeed prior knowledge of Aikido. Keep in mind that Poole claims to have trained extensively for a period of almost 15 years (That time spent with three notable senior Japanese instructors) prior joining Ellis's dojo.
My first line of enquiry, with the help of Ellis and Eastman, was to establish if Poole had indeed studied with Abe in France during the early 1950's. Contact was made with one of Abe's original students Pierre Chassang. Chassang studied with Abe from 1952 making him one of the first European Aikidoka. During the National Aikido Federation's summer school of 2003 held in the United Kingdom, Chassang confirmed that he had never seen or heard of Poole, despite being shown photographs of Poole from that era, he also more importantly confirmed that there were no Englishman studying aikido with Abe in the early 1950's.
Poole asserted to have gained a shodan in Shotokan Karate in 1954 - the same year he allegedly returned to the UK from Army service in Germany. This claim was fairly easy to debunk. Shotokan Karate was formally introduced into the United Kingdom with the arrival of H'reny Plee and Vernon Bell, both of whom were accompanied by four JKA instructors including Enoeda Keinosuke. The first British based Shotokan Karate yudansha certificate being issued in 1966 to Andy Sherry. Poole's claim of shodan pre-dates Vernon Bell's own shodan certification [of 1957] by three years. Bell is accredited by his peers as the "Founder of the British Karate movement". Poole could not have earned a shodan in Shotokan in (or around) 1954 as he claimed because there were no instructors within the UK at that time.
Otani Tomio was the first son of the reknown Judoka Otani Masutaro; like many budoka within the United Kingdom during the late 1950's - 60's he was a student of Abbe Kenshiro. Otani Tomio was graded to shodan in Kendo in 1961 [by Abbe] and later appointed the National Coach for Kendo for the United Kingdom. Otani Tomio was a talented swordsman and Kendoka and worked closely with Abbe Kenshiro in teaching Abbe's Kyu Shin do budo.
Poole claimed to have studied Kendo under Otani Tomio as his teacher, citing that he did this in the same year he gained his shodan in Karate however, this was not possible. When clarifying this with Robin Otani - Otani stateted : "I never saw or heard of a Jack Poole training in Kendo with my brother Tomio, and the time (1954) Mr Poole gives Tomio was still a Schoolboy at the local school. Tomio did not start Kendo until 1958, and would not have taught before 1960”
Whilst in communication with the Otani family clarification was also sought in connection with Poole's claims of receiving a 3rd dan in Judo from Otani Masutaru circa 1955, and represented the British Judo Council in "international Competition". Robin Otani - President of the British Judo Council stated that he still retained all of his father's [Masutaru] extensive records including those of the BJC; Otani later confirmed that no record existed of any Judo dan grade ever being issued to Poole (or anyone by that surname) and, that it would have been impossible for Poole to have represented the BJC in any form of international competition during the time period indicated as the BJC didn't exist until 1958.
Having fully established the facts relating to Poole's martial arts biography, I published those findings on my website, Ellis did likewise on his own domain however; he additionally published the same information on a wider scale through the internet. The issue of Poole's claims aside, Ellis had still not received an amicable resolution to the earlier complaint he had directed to the British Aikido Board. Indeed the BAB further compounded the issue with an award to Poole of a bronze samurai statue during the National Aikido Seminar in October of 2000 under the auspices of celebrating British Aikido instructors with over 40 years experience. You will note however the absence of Poole's name on the seminar poster. The reason for this would be later revealed at a mediated meeting involving Sport England.
For Ellis, the matter now was no longer about Poole but about the conduct of the Governing Body for Aikido.
Sport England and The British Aikido Board
The series of events surrounding the investigation of Poole's martial arts biography, the lack of affirmative response from the British Aikido Board in relation to Ellis's complaint, and the subsequent misrepresentation of an award given to Poole is a complex subject, this article only details the most salient points of a much larger and indeed much more thorough examination of the facts (some 160 pages) however; as a result, Ellis felt so strongly that he tendered his association's resignation from the British Aikido Board, (for which he was a senior member) in his opinion, finding the executive's over all lack of action and attitude toward him and his position, asinine to say the least.
Previously, Ellis had sent an official letter of complaint to the British Aikido Board, the letter was addressed to the BAB secretary Shirley Timms, subsequently Timms arranged a meeting which took place between Hyden Foster, Henry Ellis, Derek Eastman, and Timms herself to discuss the matters detailed in the letter. During this meeting it was unanimously agreed by those present that they had never known of Poole prior to him being a beginner in Ellis's dojo in 1968. Ellis presented Timms with some photographs of Poole however; 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 Eastman in order to ascertain its progress.
On the 17th April 2002 The BAB Chairman Mr Vincent Sumpter wrote to Henry Ellis with reference to the history of British Aikido, in which he stated “...The period in question predates the creation of the BAB by a significant amount of time and therefore we have no formal records to prove or disprove either claim.” (Poole's 47 years in aikido and Ellis's rebuttal)
Ellis's tenacity on the matter ensured the complaint wouldn't simply fade away, further discussion and interest developed within the forums of the website I then hosted and, despite my own personal attempts at discussing the matter with the Chairman, the BAB still refused to take positive action to resolve the original complaint.
In March of 2004 following written communication from Sport England the Chairman of the British Aikido Board finally released a statement presented on their official website. However, whilst a step in the right direction it did nothing to settle the dispute. Indeed it was clear, in my opinion, that whilst Sumpter pontificated about how the controversy fed "hatred, ill-feeling, bitterness and discord" he conveniently neglected that the truth when exposed, often hurts.
On the 6 July 2004 a meeting convened at the offices of Sport England in London, the purpose was to mediate between myself, Ellis and Eastman and members of the BAB Executive, in order to resolve matters concerning Poole, the issue of his award and what we, the complainants, considered to be unconstitutional behaviour on the part of the Aikido Governing Body.
The minutes of that meeting can be read here. In short, the BAB Executive members present at the meeting - Vincent Sumpter, Ralph Reynolds and Dominic Foster acknowledged the providence of the award given to Poole in 2000 was misleading to the participants of the seminar (and to the wider aikido community), indeed Reynolds revealed that Poole had been given the award to appease his organisation's displeasure at Poole not being originally included as a recipient.
Sport England concluded "...that in allowing the matter to remain unresolved, the BAB have undoubtedly damaged its own reputation, particularly in terms of its perceived ability to openly and decisively deal with grievances in line with their Constitution." The Chairman of the BAB was instructed to extend a full apology to Ellis in respect of the non-action to his complaint of some four years earlier.
Hyden Foster, Henry Ellis, Ralph Reynolds and Derek Eastman are all 1st generation British Aikido Yudansha holding certification issued from the founder of Aikido Ueshiba Morihei. In addition to each being a direct student of Abbe Kenshiro, and part of the first group of eight aikido black belts within the United Kingdom. - The first being issued to Ken Williams, the second being issued to Eric Dollimore.
The full 160 page investigation is in Mr. Ellis's possession and is available for scrutiny by request