Aikido Kobayashi Dojo

from the Soshihan's Blog

Aikikai Deutschland 50th Anniversary Seminar

My wife and I, along with Hiroaki dojocho and three others from Aikido Kobayashi Dojo attended the 50th Anniversary of the Aikikai Deutschland from April 3 to 6 this year. The event of this association that has a long connection with our dojo was held in the city of Muenster, an hour and a half's drive from Düsseldorf, which has the highest concentration of Japanese residents in Germany. Muenster, a university town, has a population of 300,000, 80% of whom are students. The practices were held in a rented soccer gym on plastic-covered tatami.

Gathered for the three-day event were clubs from all over Germany, representatives of affiliate dojos from the various European countries and Russia, and from Japan, us and the Kenshinkan's Hatayama shihan, the Sendai city Shinburenseijuku's Shirakawa shihan along with about 20 students. Altogether there were around 750 men and women who participated. Instructors for the seminar included the main instructor of the Aikikai Deutschland, Asai Shihan, the Tada Juku's Tada shihan, Miyamoto shihan of Hombu dojo, Hatayama shihan, Brazil's Nishida shihan and myself. Each shihan's practice was scheduled for two and a half hours.


in the old Hombu dojo, myself and Asai shihan seated to the right.

Asai shihan and my connection stretches back to 1955. Asai shihan enrolled on April 1st of that year when he was a junior high school student, and I entered Hombu at the end of that month, so he is my sempai (senior) by one month. When we practiced together, because my strength of a university student was much greater than his as a junior high school student, I often caused him to cry out in pain. His house was right across from Hombu dojo. He continued with his practice through high school and then entered Meiji University where I had established a club and where I was teaching as a 2nd Dan. He was already much more advanced than most of the students.

As the Meiji University Aikido club grew, Asai shihan practiced, then graduated and went to work for a trading company. Two years later, however, the person scheduled to go to teach Aikido in Germany cancelled, so the 2nd Doshu, Ueshiba Kisshomaru, requested Asai shihan to go instead. In 1965, with his own money, he arrived in Münster and Aikido took its first steps in Germany. At first, a judo dojo was used, but soon, the German Judo Federation demanded that Aikido come under the Judo Federation umbrella. Remembering that Aikido and Judo were not practiced or administered together in Japan, Asai shihan refused, so the German Judo Federation forbid his use of any Judo dojos. Without being able to practice or teach, dark times followed.


my first visit to Germany, myself with Asai shihan in a bar

He ran out of money and sometimes he survived on potatoes and couscous (a wheat-related grain which is a main staple of Northern Africa and the Middle East). Because of his indomitable will, he could finally gather around him Germans who could understand Aikido and gradually was able to expand practice. When I visited Asai shihan's Düsseldorf dojo 12 years later, at the end of July, 1977, I found a magnificent 100-mat dojo he was managing.

Since his 10th Anniversary celebration did not feature anyone from outside his organization, I didn't attend, but after that, Hatayama shihan, who was still with Aikido Kobayashi Dojo, spent two years teaching in Germany, thus strengthening the ties between our respective associations. For the 20th and 30th anniversaries, I accompanied the 2nd Doshu, Ueshiba Kisshomaru, and for the 40th, I attended along with the 3rd Doshu, Ueshiba Moriteru. And now here we are at the 50th!


the German Aikikai 30th Anniversary. Asai shihan with the 2nd Doshu, Kisshomaru, and myself

I was to teach on that Sunday from 3 to 5:30. From the hotel to the dojo, we went by car, so did not meet or talk with any of the other instructors, but I heard that because there were 750 people on the mats, ukemi was considered dangerous, so practices were being held without anyone taking ukemi; unthinkable. I taught as I usually do. Warm-ups went well, and after everyone did ukemi practice, I demonstrated techniques also taking ukemi. People practiced in groups of 4-5, taking turns throwing. I explained the techniques trough an interpreter. No problems. I also did koshinage, using a jo. I was able to throw very tall guys over my back because I was a short 85kgs, and I could get very low and deep.

It was a two and a half hour practice, but I explained through the interpreter that we needed a break after an hour and a half. I started Aikido 60 years ago and Asai shihan is one month my senior. For his 20th, 30th, 40th and now 50th, I was thoroughly enjoying practicing with everyone again. In 10 years, I'll be 89, and, if I can, I'll be back to see everyone once more, and on and on..... When my seminar ended, the clapping continued for quite a while, and I was grateful for the satisfaction expressed by the 750 participants.


the 40th Anniversary of the German Aikikai, with the 3rd Doshu, Moriteru

Naturally, following the practice there were demonstrations and then a big party as the festivities continued. We reluctantly said goodbye.

This time, the taking of private photographs was forbidden, but when the official CD of photos arrives, I'll post them; please check them out at that time.

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