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FRANCE, HISTORY OF AIKIDO IN

The origins of aikido in France can be traced back to the year 1951 when Minoru MOCHIZUKI visited the country to teach judo at the request of the Overseas Research Department of Nihon University. During this time he also introduced the little-known art of aikido to French judoka thus laying the groundwork for later Japanese teachers. Mochizuki stayed for approximately one year and was followed in 1952 by Tadashi ABE who arrived as an official representative of the AIKIKAI HOMBU while simultaneously studying law at the Sorbonne. Abe taught initially in the jujutsu dojo of Mikinosuke KAWAISHI. Abe systemized the techniques of aikido to facilitate the task of teaching Europeans and published two books in collaboration with one of his students, Jean ZIN (see bibl. ). Abe's stay lasted some seven years through 1960 and he trained hundreds of students, attracting in particular well-known judoka such as Rossignol, Andr� NOCQUET and Zin. Nocquet, after training with Abe for some three years and at the latter's urging, spent the period of 1955 to late 1957 in Japan as an UCHIDESHI at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo training under the founder Morihei UESHIBA. Upon his return to France in 1958, Nocquet actively assisted Abe in the spread of aikido until the latter's return to Japan in 1960.

In the area of AIKI BUDO, Hiroo MOCHIZUKI, son of Minoru, spent 1957-1958 studying in France and teaching YOSEIKAN BUDO. A Frenchman named Jim ALCHEIK spent a year in 1958 at the dojo of Minoru Mochizuki in Shizuoka, Japan. Upon his return to France as the representative of Yoseikan Budo, he created the F�D�RATION FRAN�AISE D'AIKIDO, TAIJUTSU ET KENDO (FFATK) (French Federation of Aikido, Taijutsu and Kendo). Alchiek implemented a crash training program to develop instructors, drawing mainly from judo black belt holders. One of these was Alain FLOQUET, presently a 7th dan, an expert in AIKI BUDO, DAITO-RYU AIKIJUJUTSU and KATORI SHINTO-RYU. The official teaching text of Alcheik's school was Ma m�thode d'Aikido Jiu Jitsu by Minoru Mochizuki which was adapted by Alcheik. Alcheik was killed in an explosion in the Villa El Biard incident in Algeria in 1962. Hiroo Mochizuki later returned to France to replace him in 1964.

With the departure of Abe in 1960, no Japanese teacher was present and much of the work in spreading the art was shouldered by Nocquet and other students of Abe. To alleviate this situation, in 1961 the Aikikai Hombu sent Masamichi NORO, a 6th dan, as its official representative. Noro was assisted by Nocquet in establishing himself in France. In 1961, another Japanese teacher, Mutsuro NAKAZONO, also a 6th dan, followed Noro after an earlier brief stay in France in 1958. Nakazono would remain in France through c. 1970. Then, in 1964, Nobuyoshi TAMURA, also representing the Aikikai, arrived in France where he has lived ever since.

By 1964 the need for some kind of organization became urgent as the number of aikidoka had increased to 400-500 practitioners and there was a shortage of teachers. Nocquet joined the F�d�ration Fran�aise de Judo et Disciplines Assimil�es with his students, an action viewed negatively in some quarters due to the assimilation of aikido by judo on the organizational level. The organization became the F�D�RATION FRAN�AISE DE JUDO ET DISCIPLINES ASSOCI�ES (FFJDA) the next year in an attempt to appease the aikido members who did not wish to be "assimilated" by judo, but the situation remained awkward since judoka outnumbered aikido practitioners by a margin of ten to one. The same year, the FFATK, Hiroo Mochizuki's organization also became a member of the FFJDA. Noro headed a separate group, the ASSOCIATION CULTURELLE FRAN�AISE D'AIKIDO, established by Pierre CHASSANG and Rossignol in 1962. He later created the INSTITUT NORO.

By 1965, the aikido section of the FFJDA included 111 dojos with some 2,200 registered members. In addition, the combined groups of Noro, Nakazono and Tamura numbered more than 1,000 persons. Then in 1967 Nocquet and his students left the judo organization to create the F�D�RATION FRAN�AISE D'AIKIDO (FFAD). Its first president was Dr. Pierre Warcollier.

The number of practitioners in France had surpassed the 10,000 figure by 1970. The next year the Ministry of Youth and Sports decided to extend to aikido instructors the official teaching license which was awarded to judo teachers. Although recipients could then teach with official approval, the government also assumed the role of verifying the quality and technical level of prospective instructors. Since the government was not specifically equipped to perform this task it became necessary to delegate this function to an aikido body. However, the only two organizations presumably able to serve in this capacity, the FFJDA and the FFAD, were at odds with each other and both sides resisted government efforts to force a union.

In 1971, Mr. Pfeiffer, former judo association president, created the UNION NATIONALE D'AIKIDO (UNA) under the umbrella of the FFJDA in another effort to achieve unity among the three main groups. The UNA was composed of the ASSOCIATION CULTURELLE FRAN�AISE D'AIKIDO (ACFA) headed by Tamura, the CERCLE D'AIKIDO TRADITIONNEL (CAT) under Nocquet, and the Yoseikan group of Mochizuki. The Institut Noro maintained its independence from the FFJDA and refused to join the new aikido federation. Soon a new teacher's diploma for aikido teachers was awarded to some 500 aikido instructors who had operated dojos for a minimum of three years. In September, a committee was created with representatives of the three component groups. Two years later, the leaders of these organizations, Nocquet, Tamura and Mochizuki, agreed to a common teaching program called the "m�thode nationale." This method was published in a book entitled Aikido - M�thode Nationale written by Tamura which appeared in 1975 (see bibl. ). However, the UNA began to disintegrate about this time, leaving Tamura alone as the effective head of the organization which for some years continued to have government approval.

On October 12, 1975, DOSHU Kisshomaru UESHIBA visited France. He was witness to the creation on 2 November of the INTERNATIONAL AIKIDO FEDERATION and the EUROPEAN AIKIDO FEDERATION. At the insistence of the Aikikai, the official inauguration of the IAF took place in Tokyo the next year. The first IAF president was Guy BONNEFOND while the EAF was headed by Antonio Garc�a de la Fuente.

By 1975 the UNA alone included some 16,700 registered members bringing the total number of practitioners to more than 20,000 when members of other groups were added.

The period of 1975-1980 saw a great deal of organizational turmoil during which the UNA lost nearly one-fourth of its membership. By 1977-1978 the number of members had fallen to 12,500. Many instructors abandoned the large organizations which had government backing. Also, many dojos, though formerly members of the larger organizations led essentially autonomous existences due in part to their distance from Paris or their disapproval of organizational policies.

During the next year, 1976, in an attempt to promote a semblance of order among the various schools, Guy Bonnefond created the F�D�RATION NATIONALE D'AIKIDO (FNA). A major meeting of the rival aikido factions in November produced no positive outcome, to the consternation of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

1977 saw an attempt by Tamura to improve the technical level of practitioners by conducting a series of ten national training seminars while the new federation organized another 240 sessions at the local level. Despite these efforts, membership in the FNA fell to 12,300 members. Meanwhile, four large groups, the FFAD of Nocquet, the CERA of Alain Floquet (a former student of Hiroo Mochizuki), the Institut Noro and the F�d�ration Fran�aise de Yoseikan Budo of Mochizuki banded together in opposition to the FNA to create the F�d�ration Fran�aise des Arts Martiaux Traditionnels. In 1978, one of the groups left the organization which was then renamed the F�d�ration Fran�aise d'Aikido, Taijutsu et Kobudo (FFATK). Its president was Michel Hamond.

Several smaller groups opted out of the political mainstream and operated independently. One was the Institut Noro which taught a new, dance-like art called KI NO MICHI. Another was the F�D�RATION FRAN�AISE DE KI ET D'AIKIDO, formed in June 1978 at the initiative of Jean-Daniel Cauh�p�, the highest ranking student of Nocquet. Cauh�p� was joined by Jean GRESL� and Roux, two veteran instructors. It included some 500 members during its seven years of existence under the guidance of Father Igor Vassilieff. This group was later absorbed by the FFAAA. Also active was the KATSUGENKAI of Itsuo TSUDA based in Saint Maurice near Paris which taught aikido and regenerative medicine.

The 3rd Congress of the IAF was held in Paris from September 30 to October 4, 1980. More than 400 instructors and students attended and seminars were given by Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, his son Moriteru, Rinjiro SHIRATA and various Japanese representatives of the Aikikai in Europe. The Congress itself was a raucous affair with angry outbursts and the problem of the exclusive recognition of a single national organization by the Aikikai proved to be a divisive issue.

Given the chaotic situation in the French martial arts world in general, due partly to the large influx of refugees from Southeast Asia which resulted in a proliferation of new dojos, the Ministry of Youth and Sports demanded in 1981 that the various groups band together in three government-approved federations for judo, aikido and karate. Any group which failed to comply would be lumped together into a fourth, cover-all federation whose instructors would not be granted teaching diplomas.

Moreover, a crisis within the aikido section of the FFJDA developed. In 1982 a meeting was held to discuss a declaration of independence from the judo-controlled mother organization. Although there was unanimous agreement on the idea in principle, one group favored a gradual move toward independence while the group led by Tamura urged an immediate severance. In fact, Tamura's group had already prepared the structure of a new, independent organization. This move by the latter served to strengthen the opposition of the former group and the president of the aikido section of the FFJDA, Guy Bonnefond, an advocate of the Tamura viewpoint, was forced to resign in April 1982. Tamura himself resigned the following month. This left the officially-backed aikido organization without a high-ranking instructor.

It was against this backdrop that the creation of the F�D�RATION FRAN�AISE D'AIKIDO, AIKI-BUDO ET ASSIMIL�ES (FFAAA) took place in 1983. Its president was Jacques Abel. The FFAAA, still under the auspices of the FFJDA, enjoyed exclusive government recognition. This group was composed of those aikido members of the FFJDA who favored a gradual move towards independence as well as the federations of Nocquet and Floquet who had been wooed to join the new organization. On the other hand, the group of Tamura, in which Chassang and Bonnefond played predominant roles, chose to totally sever ties with the FFJDA and established the F�D�RATION FRAN�AISE LIBRE DE AIKIDO ET BUDO (FFLAB) which was later to become the F�D�RATION FRAN�AISE D'AIKIDO ET DE BUDO (FFAB).

However, in 1985, Nocquet withdrew from the FFAAA to join with Tamura's FFAB. The FFAAA was therefore left without a high-ranking teacher once again, although its members included many experienced teachers. Among the latter was a young Frenchman, Christian TISSIER, who had spent seven years training at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Tissier had returned to France in 1976 whereupon he began to teach professionally. His success was unprecedented and over the years he built up a personal following of several thousand students. Tissier became the de-facto leader of the FFAAA and a sort of counterpart to Tamura of the FFAB.

At the present time (1990), the fundamental situation has changed little. The two largest organizations, the FFAAA and FFAB, both have approximately the same number of members, about 20,000 each. In addition, the various independent groups bring the total number of practitioners in France to about 45,000 with over 2,000 dojos. As such France appears to have clearly surpassed even Japan in terms of active numbers of aikidoka and thus to have assumed the honor of having the world's largest practicing aikido population.