This is the organisation to which we belong. It’s one of the largest aikido organisations in the country, and is affiliated with the Aikikai Foundation in Japan. The highlight of the UKA’s year is the annual Summer School, usually held in the midlands, when a senior instructor from the Tokyo headquarters takes classes.
The JAC is the group of aikido organisations in the UK that are affiliated with the Aikikai Foundation in Japan. Specifically, this means that the members of the JAC — including the UKA to which our club belongs — are recognised by the headquarters in Tokyo. In practical terms this means that the dan grades (black belt qualifications) they issue are authentic, and the technical standards of instructors within the JAC are in line with the expectations of the aikikai (that is, the headquarters in Japan). Lineage is important in arts such as aikido which are not governed by competitive rules, and the Aikikai Foundation is definitve: it’s the organisation directly run from the headquarters dojo set up by Morehei Ueshiba, the founder of the art.
The JAC came about in the UK because, outside of Japan, there really is no regulation of aikido. Over the years, many non-accredited aikido clubs and instructors have established themselves in the UK — some do have a credible pedigree, but many more do not. Membership of the JAC is one way to help determine if an instructor is authentic.
The head of the aikikai style of aikido is Moriteru Ueshiba, the third doshu of Aikido and the grandson of the founder. He oversees the organisation from the headquarters — "hombu dojo" — in Shinjuku, Tokyo. We’re fortunate that in our club several of us (including our instructors) have trained there. Furthermore, the Aikikai is widely regarded as the definitive source of aikido, so sets the technical standard of what is taught in aikido dojo around the world.
British Birankai (also known as the British Aikikai) was founded by the late Chiba sensei, one of the most influential teachers in aikido’s early development here in the UK. Many of the senior instructors in the UKA have been influenced by Chiba sensei or were his students before he moved to the USA.
Aikiweb is one of the best-known sources of information on aikido on the web. The aikido page on wikipedia is a good summary too — but really the only way to understand aikido is to get on the mat and experience it directly. Remember that there are a lot of different styles of aikido, and teachers’ approaches can vary as much as technical styles, so not everything you read about the art will necessarily apply to your own practice.