History of Aikido

Aikido was introduced to Newfoundland in the mid-sixties (ca. 1965) by Graham Burt Sensei (RIP) shortly after he had received his shodan from Nakazono Sensei in England. Graham Burt Sensei originally began teaching Aikido in St. John’s at the St. John’s Recreational Center and at the Riverdale Tennis Club. He also taught for a short duration at the old Police Barracks (Fort Townshend) in St. John’s. By 1972 a senior Aikido dojo was well established in the city at the old YM/YWCA building on New Cove Road inSt. John’s. That building has since been replaced with a new facility. In 1975 the dojo moved to 22 Flavin Street on the fourth floor of The Old Tobacco Building in downtown St. John’s and was named Caribou Dojo. In September 1977 the Caribou Dojo moved to a premise on Barnes Road in St. John’s and was renamed St. John’s Aikikai. After much encouragement from Burt Sensei who thought it was time for expansion, in the late fall of 1977 Derm McDonald established a second Aikido dojo in St. John’s at Holy Cross School Gymnasium.The new dojo at Holy Cross was sponsored by the Holy Cross Association. It was open to all affiliates of Holy Cross School and the Holy Cross Association, with a ten percent membership allowance for non-affiliated persons. The ten percent allowance was never strictly adhered to and, consequently, the new Holy Cross Dojo boasted a community membership from the St. John’s area.

After two years, the Holy Cross Dojo was poised to move to a karate facility on Terra Nova Road in September 1979 to share facilities and finances with the St. John’s Aikikai. The purpose was to consolidate Aikido in the greater St. John’s area under Burt Sensei as Chief Instructor. However, on August 4, 1979 Burt Sensei died from a tragic drowning accident. The two dojos did consolidate for that one year only (September 1979 – August 1980) and was named Burt Memorial Aikikai as a tribute to the deceased Graham Burt Sensei.

In September 1980 the group initiated by McDonald Sensei returned to Holy Cross Gymnasium, completely independent of the school and the school association. The dojo was called Graham Burt Aikikai in honour of the originator of Aikido in Newfoundland and Canada. The name of the dojo remained Graham Burt Aikikai until 1995 when it was changed to Aikido Institute of Newfoundland. The dojo operated out of Holy Cross from September 1977 to October 1996, with the exception of the one year at the karate building (1979-1980). In October 1996 the Institute moved to Brother Rice High School, however it returned to its present home, Holy Cross on Ricketts Road, in 2006.

The Institute is affiliated with Aikido World Headquarters while our immediate instructional line is Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan, Chief Instructor of New York Aikikai and CEO of the United States Aikido Federation (Eastern Region).