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.
I had to get up early this Saturday morning in order to be on time for the 8.30 a.m. appointment with Sugawara Sensei and all the volunteers of the Hombu Dojo at the foot of the Budokan. When the doors of the bus that was to take me from Yotsuya to Kudanshita opened, I was surprised to noticed that the only other passengers were none others than sharply dressed Aikidoka friends from the Hombu Dojo who like me, came to help to make sure that the event went smoothly. With already a few life under our belts before even leaving the bus, the day was off on a good start!
In fact, it is more or less always the same people who volunteer each year and that helps bringing the team a deep sense of cohesion, as well as a friendly atmosphere. As we passed the massive Japanese gates and made our way to the business entrance, Sugawara Sensei welcomed us into an empty Budokan for a meeting and some safety drills. Everyone knew what to do and with whom they were to be teamed up, and each team promptly started to attend to their respective duties.
Once the final preparations completed, we were given an hour break before the spectators would be allowed in. I took advantage of the break to encourage my friends to Seido shop. Indeed, this year, they were granted an official booth to sell their equipment alongside legendary brands such as Tozando and Iwata. It seemed quite surreal to me because it felt like it was yesterday that my friend Jordy Delage talked to me about it plans to open a martial arts equipment shop. I must confess that I did not take him very seriously at the time. I realize then that I had been quite mistaken. I was also pleased to see that Jordy's wife also came to help, as well as the 7th Dan Kendo practitioner and Tokyo Metropolitan Police Commissioner Norio Hoshi, the one who invited me to teach an Aikido class to his Police force a few years ago. Now retired, he acts as the weapons expert for Seido. After greeting everybody, I then went outside to take a last breath of fresh air from the balcony before the show. From there, I could see that the queue outside the Budokan was already impressive. It is then that it hit me, we were just about to have to guide a crowd of well over 10,000 people!
Soon, it was time for things to start. People moved in as the official speeches began. After the presentations, the first demonstration kicked off at the sound of the massive Koto drum, rang as usual by the equally massive Suzuki Kojiro Shidoin.
Budokan opening and Japanese national anthem
First demonstraton by the Kanto Student Federation
Waka Sensei Ueshiba Mitsuteru
Sakurai Hiroyuki Shihan
Irie Yoshinobu Shihan
Fujimaki Hiroshi Shihan
Demonstrations smoothly succeeded to each other, each dojo, each instructor, did their best to display their own particular take on Aikido and to present their practice, from the white belts to the top Shihan. Soon it became time for some of us to go downstairs and change, because soon would be the time for the general demonstration of the Hombu Dojo members. There, Waka Sensei Ueshiba Mitsuteru, the great grand son of the founder of Aikido greeted us and began giving his instructions. Like last year, he would be the one who would orchestrate the demonstration of the Hombu Dojo. As always, it was great fun to invade the practice area with all my friends from Hombu. Everything went smoothly and once the demonstration finished, I quickly changed back into my suit and went up to resume my duties.
Yokota Yoshiaki Shihan
Miyamoto Tsuruzo Shihan
Yasuno Masatoshi Shihan
Endo Seishiro Shihan
Tada Hiroshi Shihan
Speech of the Doshu Ueshiba Moriteru
Ueshiba Moriteru Doshu
Doshu Ueshiba Moriteru concluded the festivities with a closing speech and a virtuoso demonstration with his deshi. Soon after, people got up and started to leave the Budokan, for us, it was cleaning time. Once we made sure that the place was spotless, Sugawara Sensei met us all in the arena where the military staff was working to remove the tatami. He thanked us for our help and of course hope we can count on next year.
We all met up afterwards in the Budokan's reception room in the company of Doshu and the Aikikai Sensei for a buffet and a few well deserved glasses of beer and/or sake! The atmosphere was jovial and everyone shared the gratifying feeling of a job well done. Another year down, and we were already looking forward to the next one!
Videos by Megumi Fukuda