Guillaume Erard teaches Aikido to the Tokyo Metropolitan Police
I was recently invited to give my very first Aikido seminar on Japanese soil. This is quite unusual for a foreign practitioner, especially considering my relatively limited experience, especially when put into context with the impressive number of top Japanese experts who are present in in Tokyo. What is even more noticeable in all this is the fact that the students that day were not practitioners like the others, but officials of the Metropolitan Police of Tokyo, and that the place of the training was the central police station of Tokyo Ebara (Ebara Keisatsu Sho).
It is well known that Japanese law enforcement officers practice martial arts a lot, and that Aikido is one of the disciplines that is taught to them. However, historically, it is the style of the Yoshinkan school founded by the late Shioda Gozo which constitutes the official curriculum of the police. This training course was therefore an opportunity for the Aikidoka of the Ebara police station to learn more about the Aikikai style. The idea came from Divisional Commissioner Hoshi Norio who wanted his subordinates to complete their usual practice with a different approach. With the Japanese Police Aikido National Championships taking place the following week, he believed that a dynamic work on nagare could be beneficial to his team. So I made an attempt to keep the Yoshinkan technique (which I studied a little while living in the United Kingdom) while adding some speed, dynamism, and a certain freedom of movement.
The course has really been a rewarding experience, especially in the sense that it has been a rare opportunity for me to demonstrate my Aikido to people with very different reflexes and codes of practice compared to mine. The police officers present on that day were impressive in the seriousness with which they have approached the course, and the openness and sincere curiosity.
The course went very quickly. Each time, I tried to demonstrate a technique as in the form of Yoshinkan kata, and then the same technique, but in dynamic action, or in the form of an application. My friend Jordy Delage was there to support me in my demonstrations with his feline ukemi. What is very interesting is that several times, I had to adapt myself to manage the reactions of these practitioners and this was even more obvious during final jyu-waza between me and Arai Sensei, the official instructor of the dojo.
It has been a great learning experience for me. I must admit that I went to the police station that morning with the idea of demonstrating things but in the end, it is perhaps I who learned the most from this experience. I believe that from a certain level, one should always open one’s practice to the outside to see if our technique, as relevant as it is in our own dojo, keeps meaning with people from different styles. I sincerely hope that this opportunity to share with others will occur again and for my part, I intend to place myself as a student in these situations as often as possible.
First row from left to right, Guillaume Erard, Jordy Delage, Hoshi-san and Arai Sensei
Photos: Shinoda Kouji