Reflections on the 50th anniversary of the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration
Day, May 2012, By Estella Dean
Built for the 1964 Olympics, the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo stands 42m high and
is a very impressive octagonal structure, worth a visit in its own right!
Combine that with an event where many thousands of people are gathered
together to demonstrate and watch aikido, it makes for an excellent day out!
Just a pity that I had to get up at the crack of dawn and pay rather a lot
of money to travel all the way to Tokyo for it!
Although this was actually the 50th anniversary of the All-Japan Aikido
Demonstration Day, aside from a neon sign announcing the fact and a mention
in the opening and closing speeches, it didn’t seem to be being celebrated
in any special way.
The five-hour event past very quickly and it is one time when I really
wished that my kanji-reading ability were much better than it is! For most
of the day, each of the five tatami mat areas in the arena, was occupied by
a different group of aikidoka from all over Japan and even a few from
abroad. All were demonstrating a wide variety of aikido techniques. As each
demonstration lasted for only 1.5 minutes, by the time I had worked out
which group was on which colour set of tatami mats, their demonstration was
just about over!
Interestingly, even the announcer seemed to be confused at times and I was
shocked to suddenly hear that ‘Hyogo-ken’ group was apparently performing on
the yellow mats, while I was still sitting in the stands with the
spectators. In fact, I was supposed to be demonstrating with them!
Fortunately I do know how to read the kanji for Hyogo-ken, so quickly
realised that it was the announcer’s mistake!
Luckily Kumi-san was around to make sure that I was in fact in the right
place at the right time when it really was the correct time for Hyogo-ken
representatives to perform! During the Hyogo-ken performance, I felt a
little flustered, knowing that my partner, Kumi-san and I had only 1.5
minutes to perform and it was important to avoid crashing into the others
around us. I was disappointed in myself for making some basic mistakes in
the techniques I was trying to demonstrate, but hoped that in the crowds,
nobody else had noticed!
This year, the Seibukan performance seemed to go very smoothly, with
everyone managing to enter and leave the tatami in the correct direction and
perform in the predetermined area of the mats. Members of the audience who
were paying attention to our performance, were surprised to see our teacher,
Mr. Nakao, taking the uke for Max! However, they seem to be used to
expecting the unexpected from Seibukan, so we didn’t disappoint them!
During the day, we watched men, women and children of different
nationalities and walks-of-life, all demonstrating their own form of what we
all call ‘aikido’. Some seemed very regimented and jumped up to imitate
their teacher’s demonstration of a particular waza; others had practised
exactly what they were going to do and reproduced it like clockwork; yet
others demonstrated ‘ki’ focusing techniques such as the boat-rowing
exercise (funakogi) body movement (taisabaki) and footwork (ashisabaki),
while others used weapons. Some moved slowly, others fast; some were very
soft, while others seemed more aggressive in their moves. One shihan in
particular didn’t even touch his partners, but instead appeared to redirect
their ‘ki’ back at them through his fingertips and they all went tumbling to
There was so much happening on all 5 mats, that it was difficult to know
where to look! Even though I wanted to watch the teachers that I know well,
I was also curious to see what other teachers were doing. Fortunately, when
it came to demonstrations by the highest-level teachers, usually only 3
areas of the tatami were occupied, so I could focus more carefully.
Of course the grand finale was a demonstration by Doshu. For that the
lighting was turned up and all eyes were on the central white tatami mat
area. Unlike my own performance, Doshu seemed very focused and calm, but
then this is what he does almost every day, so I suppose practice makes
For this reason, I was very happy to have the opportunity to perform on two
occasions at this event.
At Gakushuin University aikido practice the following day, if I understood
correctly, Endo Shihan said that he also made some mistakes during his
demonstration, so even the best are not always perfect! That made me feel
better about my own imperfect performances! All in all the event was very
enjoyable and inspired me to keep practising aikido regularly and to expand
my understanding of what aikido is all about.
One added bonus of making the trip to Tokyo, was that we could reunite with
some ex-Seibukan members, who joined us for the Seibukan demonstration.
It was good to see that they are still as enthusiastic as ever to continue
I hope that more members of Seibukan will have the opportunity to attend
this event in future years.