57th Zen Nihon Aikido Embukai This was my fourth time to attend the All Japan Aikido Demonstrations event in Tokyo, but my first time to travel by air. It was also my first time to go to Kobe Airport, so was good to find out how convenient and easy it was to fly. Moreover, the cost was a little less than the shinkansen! By the time I arrived at the Budokan (about 11:30 a.m.) there were no seats remaining in the area with the other members of Seibukan. This was disappointing and also surprising, as in previous years this has never been a problem. It was a sign that attendance at the event was even greater than in previous years, possibly suggesting that aikido is becoming more popular. I hope so! As always it was a busy day with hundreds of ‘aikidoka’ moving on and off the mats every few minutes. It was interesting to see how each group organised themselves (some very regimented, others rather casual) and to see the variety of moves being performed, all under the name of aikido. In some groups a teacher demonstrated and then all the participants performed the same move; others performed ‘synchronised aikido’ and others just performed random techniques according to the ‘ki’ of their partner. In one group, the members sat in ‘seiza’ and watched their teacher perform, but didn’t actually do any aikido themselves. In another demonstration it was interesting to see aikido being performed with no physical contact between the ‘tachi’ and the ‘uke’. Two demonstrations culminated with the ‘tachi’ sitting on top of the ‘uke’! There was even one aikido group going by the name of ‘Outer Space’. I wonder what O-Sensei would have thought about all the variety and modernity? It’s difficult to comment on the Seibukan performance, as I was among the more than twenty members, vying for space on the mats. It would have been nice if those at the front of the queue had sat closer together so that those at the back could also have fitted onto the mats. Anyway, somehow we managed to make space and had time to do 4 techniques each before the sound of the drum. As always it was especially interesting to watch the impressive demonstrations by the Shihan who visit Seibukan: Endo Sensei, Kuribayashi Sensei and Suzuki Sensei and also their students. I felt very inspired!
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