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Our Club


Avalon Aikikai (formerly MUN Aikido Club) is a diverse community. A typical class is 30% female and 70% male, but it is not unusual to have equal numbers of men and women. Our group spans a wide range of ages from teenagers to visiting instructors who have been in their 70s and 80s. All are welcome.




Avalon Aikikai has existed for 40 years. During that time it has benefitted from the teaching of many dedicated instructors. In particular, Leslie Mulholland (3rd dan) was chief instructor and responsible for the development of the club through the 80s while Al Skehen (4th dan), Shin Chin (now 5th dan, Shidoin) and Michael Langford (2nd dan) taught and inspired the club in the 90s.

For our first 33 years we were located on campus at Memorial University. However with the closure of the Combatives Room in 2011 we moved off-campus and are now part of the St. John’s Martial Arts Centre.

Over the past decade we have hosted many seminars and benefitted from the teaching of many visiting instructors. In particular we have been very happy to host Yukio Kawahara Shihan (8th dan) and Yumi Nakamura Shihan (7th dan) many times each for weekend seminars. We have also been fortunate to host classes or seminars featuring teaching by Bill Collins (6th dan), Ishu Ishiyama Shihan (7th dan), Hiroaki Izumi (6th dan), Peter Maclean (6th dan), Derm McDonald Shihan (6th dan), Kevin McDonald (5th dan), Scott MacPhail (6th dan), and Fran Turner (6th dan).


We practice Aikikai Aikido and are affiliated to the Aikikai Foundation (headed by Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu) in Tokyo, Japan through the Canadian Aikido Federation (CAF). Our kyu grades are awarded under the authority of the CAF. Yudansha gradings are conducted either directly by the Technical Director of the CAF or by members of the Examination Committee. They are registered with Hombu Dojo in Japan.



We are a non-profit club. Fees are primarily used to cover rent for the dojo. Other uses of club funds including bringing in visiting instructors, paying CAF membership fees and (when possible) subsidizing the travel of Student Members to external seminars. A small amount is used to subsidize club social events.

Our instructors volunteer their time and are not paid.


Ivan started Aikido in 1985 in the St. John’s YMCA youth aikido program with Dave and Heather Tucker. From 1990 he trained with Al Skehen taking his Shodan (first black belt) test in 1994. He then spent seven years training in Ontario and Alberta before returning home to Newfoundland in 2002 when he rejoined MUN Aikikai. Besides his original instructors, his strongest aikido influences have been Bill Collins, Fran Turner, Shin Chin and Yumi Nakamura along with Yukio Kawahara and Hayato Osawa. He was named a CAF Shidoin in 2019 and promoted to Godan (fifth black belt) in 2021. He has been teaching children’s and adult aikido for almost 30 years and been chief instructor at Avalon Aikikai since 2020.

Chief Instructor

Ivan Booth

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Jolanta Lagowski

Prior to aikido training, Jolanta practiced karate-do at the Toronto Academy of Karate for a number of years under the direction of Burt Konzak. She attained the rank of brown belt before moving to Newfoundland in 1992. Jolanta started aikido practice in 1996 at the Memorial University Aikido Club in St. John’s, NL. Her teachers include Al Skehen, Shin N. Chin, Yukio Kawahara, Yumi Nakamura, Hayato Osawa and more recently Ivan Booth. She was awarded Shodan in 2004, Nidan in 2009, Sandan in 2017 and Yondan in 2022. Over the years, she has attended many aikido seminars and contributed to teaching aikido on a regular basis at Avalon Aikikai.


John began practicing Aikido at Aikido Institute of Newfoundland in 1992. He moved to Memorial University Aikikai with Al Skehen teaching until 2001. He practiced Judo between 2001 and 2006. In 2006, he returned to Avalon Aikikai and has been there since, first with Shin Chin and now with Ivan Booth. He has attended many classes and seminars at Ottawa Aikikai with Don Dickie. He did all his kyu tests in MUN Aikikai (Kawahara Shihan), his black belt tests were with Osawa Shihan with the last one being Sandan in 2023.


John Bell

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Stephanie began practicing aikido in 2002. She attained the rank of Shodan in 2013 at the Aikido Institute of Newfoundland under the instruction of Dermot McDonald. Stephanie has benefitted from many great teachers, both at home in St. John's and in visits to other dojos, especially Claude Berthiaume and Yumi Nakamura. She is currently a member of Avalon Aikikai under the instruction of Ivan Booth. She also practices at East End Aikikai under the instruction of Colleen Hogan. She holds the rank of Nidan.


Stephanie Curnoe


Esteban began training Aikido as a teenager in 1993 at Kobukan Xalapa in his hometown (Xalapa, Mexico) with Emiliano Perez. He continued his practice with Marta Fernandez in AikiCalli Central Dojo when he moved to Mexico City in 2005. He joined Avalon Aikikai in 2012 when he moved to St. John's. His main Aikido influences have been Emiliano Perez, Yutaka Kurita, Marta Fernandez, Yukio Kawahara, Shin Chin, Ivan Booth, Yumi Nakamura and Hayato Osawa. He tested for Yondan in 2023.


Esteban Ricalde

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Chief Instructor Emeritus

Shin Chin

Chin Sensei was chief instructor of MUN Aikikai from the late 90s until he retired to New Brunswick in 2020.

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