The practice of an art such as Aikido is full of events and celebrations. This section gives you first hand accounts of the most significant ones as well as information on punctual events that might be of interest.
In my last article covering the Aiki Taisai in Iwama, I had made the promise to report on it, so here are the highlights of the 51st All Japan Aikido Demonstration that was recently held at the Nippon Budokan. There, more than 8,000 practitioners from all over Japan and from abroad succeeded to each other all the afternoon on five areas massive tatami of the Budokan, demonstrating their techniques and presenting their dojos to an audience of over 10,000 Aikido enthusiast. Like every year, I have been pretty busy helping out in the organization of the event, but I still managed to make a number of videos that I hope you will appreciate.
Like every year, I am meeting my colleagues and friends from the Hombu Dojo at Ueno station on a warm morning of April in order to take the train that will lead us to the town of Iwama in the Ibaraki prefecture. It is there that the annual celebration of the Aiki Jinja Tai Sai is taking place, which is the ceremony in memory of the founder of Aikido Morihei Ueshiba and his son, the second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
Every year, the Nippon Budokan holds one of the most important events in the Japanese Budo world: the Kagamibiraki (鏡開き). The demonstration is usually scheduled at the end of the winter break and this year, the date was set to January 10. It also marks the resuming of training in most dojos that had closed their doors during the holidays. On that day, representatives of some of the most important martial art schools demonstrate their incredible skills to a packed audience of enthusiasts. We of course would not miss that opportunity to enjoy the display and this year. We attended the event with our colleagues at BudoExport and took some recording material with us in order to share the event with those who are not lucky enough to be in Japan.
The Tokyo Budokan (not to be confused with the Nippon Budokan) is a sports facility that primarily hosts martial arts exhibitions and competitions. It is located in the Higashi Ayase Metropolitan Park in Tokyo and it is run by the Sport Benefits Corporation. It was recently closed for renovation and its reopening was celebrated with a series of demonstrations from experts in Japanese martial arts including Judo, Kendo, Kyudo, Karatedo, Aikido, Shorinji Kempo, Naginata, Jukendo, and Hojutsu. We were kindly invited by the organizers to cover the event and we were allowed access the official press tribune to film the demonstrations.
Christian Tissier has recently published an open letter to the heads of the French Aikido in response to the recent polemic surrounding his potential promotion to the 8th Dan. Since I find his attitude exemplary, I have translated his letter in English and posted it here to allow the numerous non-French-speaking Aikidoka who are interested in this Sensei to read his words. Please note that the translation is my own and if any misquoting or approximation existed, it would be my sole responsibility.
This year marked the fiftieth edition of the great annual demonstration of the All Japan Aikido Embukai. The event was held as usual at Tokyo's Nippon Budokan, the legendary place of martial arts and budo in Japan. Like last year, I was helping out in the organization with my colleagues from Hombu. Let's review some of the highlights from this very special day through a selection of videos and photos taken during the event. Also, make sure that you keep an eye on this page as I am planing to regularly post new documents as I edit them.
Along with the Shinobukai, the Aiki-jinja Taisai is one of the yearly events that commemorate the death of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba (26th of April 1969) and that of his son, Kisshomaru (4th of January 1999). While the Shinobukai takes place at the Hombu Dojo of the Aikikai in Tokyo, the Aiki-jinja Taisai (Aiki sanctuary festival) is set at the famous Iwama Dojo in the Ibaraki prefecture. The commemoration is particularly important since the sanctuary was built by Morihei Ueshiba himself and that it is in the adjacent dojo that the master perfected, during the Second World War, what would become Aikido.
Every year, the Aikikai Hombu Dojo holds a kangeiko (寒稽古), a special period of training taking place over the coldest days of winter. During this 10-days period, practitioners are encouraged to practice every day for at least one class. This year, the kangeiko took place from the 23rd of January to the 1st of February.
One of the most important yearly Aikido memorial events is the Aiki Jinja Tai Sai Festival that occurs on the 29th of April at the Aikido shrine in Iwama in the province of Ibaraki. The Aiki Jinja is a Shinto shrine built by Morihei Ueshiba himself in the aim of receiving the "spirit of Aikido".
The annual All Japan Aikido Demonstration took place like every year at the legendary Nippon Budokan (日本武道館). All the afternoon, a succession of demonstrations were of course performed by many prestigious Sensei, but also, by members of smaller dojo including university clubs, private groups, corporation dojos etc. Thus, the whole Japanese territory was represented. This year was very special for me because it was my first visit at the Budokan. Each time I had been in Japan, I had had to leave shortly before the All Japan Aikido demonstration and I therefore never had the chance to see it, let alone take part in it.
In Japan, the months of April and May are quite busy in celebrations. Within the Aikido world, there are also a few events that are worth noting such as the anniversary of the founder's passing on April 26th 1969, the Aiki Shrine Festival and the 29th of April and the massive annual All Japan Aikido Demonstration on May 22nd.
After more than five years spent practicing and teaching Aikido in Ireland, I gave my very last class on Monday, May 18, 2009. Practice took place at the dojo Foley Street that I had founded two years before at the request of my friend and teacher Cyril Lagrasta. Many practitioners from Cyril's dojo in Phibsboro kindly made the trip and practice with us. It was a great opportunity to share with all of them one last time.
As some of you may know, Cyril Lagrasta and I recently opened a few weeks ago. It is located in Dance Ireland, Foley Street, Dublin 1. Today I will give you a little insight of how things are going over there. The beginner's course has now been running for 3 weeks and it has to be said that Cyril and I are very pleased with the attendance (about 20 people) and the hard work that the students are putting into the practice. Beginning any new activity is often difficult and challenging but as you know, in Aikido, it is even more so.