“Girl Power,” the phrase that was popularized in the late 1990’s is an idea that combined power with female pride. The way the feminine “mystique” became the female physique. That’s exactly what we saw at the 2001 International Aikido Festival, held on October 27- 28, 2001, at the Maishima Arena in Osaka. Next to the male competitors, approximately 100 women from Japan, the UK, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, the USA, Australia, and other nations participated in this important Tomiki Aikido event. In both kata and randori competitions the ladies seemed to be alive and kicking. What made this women’s competition special? Can we speak of progress (on both quality and quantity) in women’s competition compared to the previous tournaments? What were the main differences between the male and female competitors? And what are the strengths of Miki Kawamura, the winner of the women’s individual randori competition, and runner-up Fumika Yamazaki?
Female competitors getting briefed on randori procedures
In his welcome speech, Nariyama Shihan spoke of this tournament as a landmark tournament. First because this year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Kenji Tomiki Shihan, the founder of competitive aikido. Secondly, because this was the first international tournament of the new millennium. With each successive international competition, there were increases in the numbers of participants, participating countries and the levels of performance. This progress was also visible in the women’s section of the tournament. At the 1st International Aikido tournament, in 1989, there were no female participants in the randori competitions, only in kata. If we compare this with the number of women in the randori section this year, we can certainly speak of an increase.
Lineup at the beginning of the women’s individual competition
In his speech, Nariyama Shihan spurred us all to keep in mind Tomiki Shihan’s precept of “Waza no shinri wa hitotsu,” which basically means “The truth is in the technique”. According to people who were there at the previous festivals, technique itself seems to have improved. Taking in account that in the randori competition there is no division based on weight, it was remarkable that weight and physical strength didn’t seem to be of determining influence in the women’s division. Technique, speed and fitness seemed to be the most important factors in winning. These strengths were visible with Miki Kawamura, the winner of the woman’s individual randori competition. Her tsukiari especially was so quick that it was almost unavoidable. She passed all the heavy-weights, including the strong runnerup Fumika Yamazaki. Women also put their stamp upon the kata competition. Together with Steven Evans, Abi Bown from the UK performed an excellent goshin no kata that yielded them first price.
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