The ceremony of the Kagamibiraki took place on Sunday January 8, 2017 at the Hombu Dojo of the Aikikai of Tokyo. Like every year, the names of the practitioners promoted to the higher rank were made public during the ceremony.
Once again, I was on the war footing to cover the holding of this major event in the calendar of Aikido on behalf of the International Aikido Federation. This year, the number of people promoted to eighth Dan rose to eight, including Toiumi Koichi, who is instructing the Monday afternoon class at the Hombu Dojo, and Robert Nadeau, one of the last direct students of O Sensei. Robert Nadeau spent two years practicing at the Hombu Dojo, from 1960 to 1962, at the same time as my former professors; Henry Kono and Alan Ruddock.
Arai Sensei, Suganuma Sensei, and Tada Sensei
Two other prominent figures of North American Aikido were also promoted to the eighth Dan, namely Bill Witt and Frank Doran. Bill Witt was a close student of Saito Morihiro in Iwama and he was also able to take classes during O Sensei's lifetime. Frank Doran made his debuts in Aikido in 1959 and is now one of the most recognized instructors in the USA. Bill Witt was present to receive his diploma from Doshu.
Bill Witt receiving his certificate from Doshu
On the promotion board at the seventh Dan, I had the great pleasure of seeing the name of Philippe Gouttard, a dear friend and a major influence in my life as an Aikidoka. Philippe also received the title of Shihan. Other awardees included Philipp Smith, Peter Brady, and Keith Hayward, from the United Kingdom Aikikai, and Jorge Rojo from Chile. My friends Marc Bachraty and Christophe Depaus received the sixth Dan, as well as the Vice-President of the IAF, Mr Leif Sunje.
Démonstration by Doshu
I would like to congratulate all the newly promoted indiviudals and wish them well in their Aikido journey. The full list of promotions is available at the website of the Aikikai.