Recovering from the effects of a stroke can be a long and difficult process so practical support, medical help and advice is vital.

It can take months to regain speech and some form of mobility, with each person affected in a different way.

Brighton and Hove City councillor Roy Pennington is recovering after suffering a major stroke last April.

Following three weeks in hospital, he was transferred to the Sussex Rehabilitation Centre at Southlands Hospital in Shoreham for several weeks.

Once home, he was given support by a community rehabilitation team employed by South Downs Health NHS Trust which included a speech and language therapist, occupational therapists, physiotherapist and a dietitian.

Stroke support groups and organisations, including the Stroke Association and the Sussex Stroke and Circulation Fund, can also help those recovering.

A new group called Action for Rehabilitation from Neurological Injury (Arni) is dedicated to helping people rehabilitate from stroke and other head injuries resulting in partial paralysis.

Tom Balchin, 27, formed the group directly from his own experiences and is now offering his services to people from the Brighton area.

In 1997, he had a major brain aneurysm which paralysed the left side of his body.

When he came out of hospital, he was determined to rehabilitate himself, with the aim of complete self-reliance as soon as possible.

Since then, he has developed specialised training techniques in order to regain physical fitness and is involved in strength training, martial arts and energy work.

Using the knowledge he gained in his own fight for fitness, he has since informally trained a number of stroke survivors in his methods so they can regain actual movement, function and confidence.

He said: "A major problem for many stroke survivors is there are very few strategies for people to try that work and few accessible sources from which they can find out how to try to regain actual movement.

"The means of effective rehabilitation can be unavailable from NHS sources once sufficient movement to move around seems to have returned."

The Arni group combines three different disciplines - aikido, resistance training and shiatsu. Regular physiotherapy assessments are integral to its success.

Mr Balchin said: "We offer uniquely tailored training for the individual which revolves weekly round the three diciplines, relying on the holistic effects of the complementary strategies which aim to hit individual targets for individual cases.

"Training is done at a very basic level, using the principles, techniques and attitudes from each strategy. For example, aikido is a martial art but we have taken the flowing body movements that are required from it to make it therapeutic.

"Each case will be different and will require different emphases. As the training is so personalised, it offers a unique chance to reap the benefits of training normally absolutely inaccessible to the average stroke survivor.

"The stroke survivors on our course already feel it has been designed specifically for them and have shown the necessary motivation to push themselves in the quest for further movement and ability to cope.

"Before they found us, most had resigned themselves to life with disability. One person even comes down from Cambridge each week."

The team, based in Lingfield, ranges from a 6th Dan aikido instructor, who works at a very advanced level with the principles of movement and energy, to a physiotherapist of 25 years standing.

All personnel on the team are dedicated to working towards rehabilitation from paralysis and have had experience of doing so through their own disciplines.

Mr Balchin said: "We are carrying out two six-month pilots to gather performance data and still have a couple of places left for one-to-one rehab for those who are half a year to five years from insult.

"It is an excellent opportunity to work one-to-one with experts who are dedicating their time towards enhancing the quality of life for stroke survivors."

Full details about the group are available from a factsheet by going to, emailing or writing to: The Arni Group, PO Box 68, Lingfield, RH7 6QQ.