The Kagamibiraki ceremony was held on Sunday, 11th of January at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. The Kagamibiraki is the first official event of the year at the Aikikai schedule, and in addition to being a traditional way to celebrate the new year, it also marks the publishing and awarding of the new Dan grade promotions.
Due to the many people present on this day, we had to get to the Hombu Dojo quite early, almost two hours in advance, and stand in line outside in order to make sure to get a place at the front row of the third floor. The usual dojo members were there to celebrate the new year of course, but so were many people from abroad who had come to be issued with their rank. Both due to a lack of interest for ranking systems and the usual hectic nature of early January, I do not usually attend this particular event, but this time was pretty special because my sempai Manolo San Miguel (sixth Dan), Denis Lortie (fifth Dan) and Gaute Lambertsen (fifth Dan) were on the list among the people promoted on that day. These people are long time practitioners of the Hombu Dojo and their promotion by Doshu Ueshiba Moriteru carries a real meaning in my eyes, and I was therefore delighted to be able to support them in this moment of celebration of the work done on the mat of the Aikikai.
I owe a great deal to these three practitioners since all three took it upon themselves to guide my steps ever since I arrived in Japan, both on and off the tatami. Denis and Gaute have also done me the honor of being my uke during my fourth Dan test at the Aikikai in front of Miyamoto Tsuruzo Sensei and Kanazawa Takeshi Sensei. Denis is also my sempai in the art of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, which we both practice within the Takumakai. I also noted that my close friends Guenter Zorn and his wife Elke Sehlbach-Zorn, two long term Japan residents, were promoted to the respective ranks fifth and fourth Dan.
Full house (photo by Takenaka Kadzuharu)
As usual in these sorts of events, the celebration started with a series of speeches and continued with a demonstration by Doshu Ueshiba Moriteru in a very small space of nine tatami at most. Doshu then awarded Dan grades diplomas to a few selected people, about one per level, starting from first to eighth Dan. Then came the time to uncover the list of all graduates as it had remained hidden until now. It is to be displayed at the back of the dojo for the days to come. Tables were then set up and time came to relax and socialize while enjoying the shuriko, a sweet red bean (azuki) soup accompanied by mochi, a rice cake with a rather elastic consistency, all washed down with a seasonal nihonshu (alcohol rice).
Note that promotion the list also included some members of the Groupe Historique Aikido André Nocquet, since an equivalence of their grades had been offered to them. My first teacher, Michel Desroches was therefore awarded the sixth Dan, as well as Pascal Heydacker, who was once one of my sempai when I practiced in line with the students trained by Michel. The list of all newly promoted is available on the website of the Aikikai. Congratulations to them.