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1985 Aikido Friendship Demonstration

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #66 (February 1985)

We of AIKI NEWS have learned as a result of long experience that we must approach our work with a mixture of idealism and realism. The idealistic emphasis of our activities is dictated by the nature of O-Sensei’s Aikido itself which attaches great importance to love, harmony and a deep respect of life. In contrast, a pragmatic attitude has to a certain extent proven necessary in that we live and act in a world where politics, personalities and economics are inescapable realities. In line with the above, readers will note that, although the response to our work has over the years been overwhelmingly positive, there still remain those who frown upon our research efforts and the all-inclusive attitude with which we approach our activities.

Bearing this is mind, you can perhaps imagine how the hope and excitement we feel in organizing our 1985 Aikido Friendship Demonstration is necessarily tempered by the sobering realization that many difficulties yet confront us and that a project which brings together top Aikido senseis of markedly different styles from separate organizations will surely not elicit cheers from all quarters.

Variety of Reactions to Demo

Let us summarize what has transpired thus far as our preparations for the demonstration and film show continue. When the idea was conceived we sought the advice of a number of individuals in and outside of Aikido circles whose opinions we value. We found a surprisingly wide range of reactions toward the idea. There were those who immediately indicated their strong support. Others endorsed the concept on an abstract level but thought it would be premature and ultimately futile to attempt such an undertaking at the present time. And, in one instance, our plan was strongly condemned as running contrary to the “correct” direction in which the Aikido movement should be carried and an activity of which O-Sensei would disapprove. Curiously enough, it was suggested to us that bringing such a diverse group of individuals together was like attempting to mix “water and oil”, an impossible task. We must say in response that it is not our desire to “mix anyone” together but rather to afford each and every one of the participants a congenial atmosphere in which to share the results of their many years of experience and perspectives on Aikido. And, to be perfectly honest with you, I have a suspicion deep in my “hara” that these outstanding teachers will actually relish this rare opportunity to scrutinize each others’ technique. All in all, it would thus appear that the idea of an “Aikido Friendship Demonstration” is indeed a controversial one. So be it.

Finalized List of Participants

We are pleased to say that the list of participants has now been finalized. They are the following six senseis listed in the order in which they began their training of Aikido: Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei, Morihiro Saito Sensei, Shoji Nishio Sensei, Yasuo Kobayashi Sensei, Yoshio Kuroiwa Sensei and Mitsugi Saotome Sensei. I would like to publicly thank each of these gentlemen for the courage and integrity they have shown in accepting our invitation. You must realize that in several cases the decision to take part in this unique activity came only as a result of a long, soul-searching process.

Lecture Demonstrations and Film Show

The participants will be presenting in-depth “lecture demonstrations” on Aikido in the manner in which they best see fit. No attempt has been made to impose any limitations on content or time. As a result, the demonstration portion of the program should run anywhere from two to three hours. Needless to say, I feel convinced that the audience is going to be treated to a display of six distinct and stimulating approaches to Aikido. The lecture demonstrations will be followed by a showing of several of the best 16rmi O-Sensei films from our library and then a reception held in the same building where those in attendance may have a chance to chat directly with the participating senseis.

One final word. I would like to make clear our intentions in organizing this demonstration. This activity should in no way be construed as a “unification movement” for the simple reason that I, for one, would not be in favor of a “unified” Aikido. Such a “unified” condition would imply some type of powerful organizational link binding together the various groups of dojos, a set of rules, regulations and standards to be adhered to, a system of fees to be assessed and monies to be collected and spent, decisions to be reached, promulgated and enforced, and all the opportunities for abuse that such a controlling structure breeds. I personally feel that what is more important is the task of creating a fertile ground for mutual conmiuni-cation, a vehicle for the voluntary exchange and dissemination of information, and a means through which to preserve our treasured Aikido heritage. These ends can best be served, not through the erection of partitions which separate us one from another thereby obsuring our vision and creating animosities, but rather through the elimination of such obstacles. A free, unhampered state of affairs would of course be no guarantee that persons of different persuasions would conrmunicate or commune, but it does assure that if they chose to do so they could and without censure. It is to such a goal that AIKI NEWS is dedicated and the “1985 Aikido Friendship Demonstration” is our calling card.