“Aikido legends of the past return
to inspire us in the present!”
“They were witness to an extremely rare display of Aikido talent, a profound statement
about the possibilities of cooperation among Aikidoists of different persuasions.”
The Aiki News staff spent the night before the big day hosting its good friends Morihiko and Machiko Takanohashi from Morioka. A spicy curry dinner complimented the lively atmosphere permeated with anticipation for what the next day had in store. Not surprisingly, what was intended to be a relaxed evening turned into a late-night speech revision session as the editor was given another timely lesson in the mysterious workings of the Japanese mind. Only hours remained before our rendezvous with Aikido history. Sunday morning, April 7, dawned to cloudy skies with a forecast of rain to come. Nevertheless, our spirits remained undampened as we hurtled ourselves into a frenzy of activity trying to set up the beautiful Edogawa Bunka Center for the soon-to-come crowd of 900 eager Aikidoists. The hour of eleven arrived in the wink of an eye and the “1985 Aikido Friendship Demonstration of Film Show in Commemoration of O-Sensei” had begun.
It may have been raining outside, but those inside had their minds on things other than the weather. They were witness to an extremely rare display of Aikido talent and what amounted to a profound statement about the possibilities of cooperation among Aikidoists of different persuasions. The six senseis who performed were, in order of their appearance: Yasuo Kobayashi Sensei, Mitsugi Saotome Sensei, Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei, Yoshio Kuroiwa Sensei, Shoji Nishio Sensei, and Morihito Saito Sensei.
Kobayashi Sensei appeared first and gave a short talk on his personal view of Aikido including anecdotes about O-Sensei and then demonstrated non-stop for some 10 minutes. And a beautiful display of smooth, fluid movements it was with an entire range of taijutsu techniques both seated and standing being executed.
Saotome Sensei traveled all the way from Chicago, Illinois, USA to take part in this event. He spoke at length about his world views and the role of Aikido as a means of achieving peace. Then with a lone American ukemi, Mr. Don Modesto, he executed a wide range of techniques including taijutsu, jo and ken. His technique was crisp, sharp and spontaneous.
The next participant, Kanshu Sunadomari has, up until now, been little known outside of his native Kyushu. Together with 12 of his students, he made the trek from Kumamoto to perform in this demonstration. This was the longest demonstration of the day lasting about one hour and fifteen minutes. Several of Sunadomari Sensei’s students gave individual performances including two skillfully choreographed prior to the demonstration by the head of the Manseikan Dojo. Sunadomari Sensei himself lectured at length about the goals of Aikido and his personal theories concerning the art and then proceeded to give a well-received presentation of his highly unusual approach by showing numerous techniques. Especially fascinating were his handling of group attacks.
Yoshio Kuroiwa Sensei was next on the line-up and gave his presentation dressed in a suit. He is expecting to undergo a cornea transplant operation at any moment and was thus limited in what he could safely show. His talk was characterized by his “common sense” approach to Aikido and he also demonstrated quite a number of techniques in his imitable and unorthodox manner.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Shoji Nishio Sensei, the fifth sensei to demonstrate and his students, for assisting us in handling a great deal of the preparations for this demonstration. If one word had to be used to describe this teacher it would certainly be “dynamic.” Nishio Sensei spoke for several minutes on the art, budo in general and O-Sensei. He then demonstrated his unique style which emphasizes the elimination of openings, the acquisition of basic striking and weapon skills and the budo nature of Aikido. His performance also included an exhibhition of iai movements related to ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo and yonkyo which he has developed.
The last performer of the day was Morihiro Saito Sensei of Iwama, custodian of the Aiki Shrine. Saito Sensei offered a comment about how it was perfectly natural for many styles of Aikido to evolve and how they could all be considered authentic. He stressed that he regarded his personal role as being to preserve the techniques he learned from the Founder. He gave a demonstration which traced the historical development of various techniques from the prewar period (using as a reference point the 1938 book by O-Sensei entitled “Budo”) up until the latter years of the Founder’s life. This was then followed by an explanation of the relationships between taijutsu, jo and ken techniques.
After the six Aikido demonstrations came the showing of 3 films of the Founder. During the films a rare voice tape of O-Sensei was played and the effect was magical as the audience was obviously moved at being able to experience the visual and audio presence of the Founder simultaneously. A party attended by some 100 persons capped off the long day leaving those who remained tired yet obviously stimulated. On reflection, many persons too numerous to mention by name assisted us in the organization of this event. AIKI NEWS would like, in particular, to thank Mr. Takeyasu Masuda, our emcee for the demonstration for his incredible support, ideas and encouragement through all the preparations required to mount this event.
THIS WEEK’S SPECIAL FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Aikido Journal is now offering a “Collector’s Edition of videos of the Aikido Friendship Demonstrations,” historic events that took place in 1985, 1986, and 1987 in Tokyo, Japan. A total of 6 videos in DVD or downloadable format — your choice! — are included in the package which includes over 9 hours of rare footage. The following experts and martial arts appear: Saito, Shioda, Mochizuki, Nishio, Kondo, Kobayashi, Saotome, Sunadomari, Kuroiwa, Shimizu, Sugino, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, Katori Shinto-ryu, Kashima Shinto-ryu, Yagyu Shingan-ryu.
This special offer is available through Saturday, April 6, for the special price of $89.95 for the 6-DVD set or $49.95 for the same set in downloadable format.