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ITALY, HISTORY OF AIKIDO IN

The history of aikido in Italy began in 1946 in Rome with the return from Japan of Prof. Salvatore MERG�. Merg� had spent nine years in Japan on a diplomatic mission. He was a learned orientalist who taught Japanese at ISMEO and who had studied AIKI BUDO under Morihei UESHIBA in 1942. He taught privately on a limited scale and was instrumental in starting the first aikido class in Italy led by Takao Okamura and Haru Onoda, both Japanese 1st dans and art students, in 1959.

In October of the same year, Tadashi ABE conducted the first major aikido seminar at San Remo (Liguria) which was attended by many Italian judoka. From 1960-1964 Onoda and a few enthusiasts continued spreading aikido mainly in judo circles where a number of teachers showed interest. Notable among these was Ken Otani, a KODOKAN shihan, who was the official trainer of the Italian Judo Team. During this period, groups receiving technical direction from such Japanese teachers as Abe, Hirokazu KOBAYASHI, and Mutsuro NAKAZONO began to spring up in various parts of the country. A book published in 1964 by T. Betti Berutto, a pioneer of Italian judo, mentions that various groups were following Minoru MOCHIZUKI and practicing a mixture of aikido and jujutsu.

In February 1964, Motokage KAWAMUKAI, arrived in Rome on a business trip from the U. S. and was supported by Betti Berutto. Kawamukai met with Onoda and several judo teachers and began a class in Rome with about 20 students. That summer, Nakazono held a seminar which was attended by Kawamukai and his students.

Through the intermediary of Kobayashi who also visited during the summer, an AIKIKAI HOMBU DOJO instructor, Hiroshi TADA, was dispatched to Italy in October 1964 and initially collaborated with Kawamukai in developing aikido.

Tada established a "Central Dojo" in Rome c. 1966 where aikido exclusively was taught to a membership which eventually exceeded 100 students. His first years were difficult and involved great personal sacrifices as the number of practitioners was limited. The first Italian dan ranks were given in 1968. Tada also set up an entity called the "Institute for Traditional Japanese Culture - Aikikai of Italy" in 1970 and assumed leadership. The Aikikai organization contributed greatly to the spread of aikido in the 1970s while conducting intensive summer seminars, special black belt courses, and large courses in Northern Italy in which other Japanese teachers resident in Europe such as Kazuo CHIBA, Katsuaki ASAI, Kobayashi and Masamichi NORO, participated.

Tada returned to Japan c. 1973, but continues to conduct yearly summer seminars and provide technical direction for the Aikikai dojos in Italy. After Tada's return, Hideki HOSOKAWA took over instruction of the Rome dojo for several years before later moving to Sardinia. Yoji FUJIMOTO, who had established himself in Milan in the early 1970s, presently oversees Aikikai dojos in Northern Italy. DOSHU Kisshomaru UESHIBA visited Italy in 1975 and his son, Moriteru, made trips in 1983 and 1984.

Other groups have formed over the years independent of the Aikikai of Italy. One of these is the LEGA ITALIANA D'AIKIDO (LIA) which has close links to Nobuyoshi TAMURA of France and Kawamukai. It was established in 1983 and is an official member of the EUROPEAN AIKIDO FEDERATION supported by Tamura and is recognized by the COMITATO OLIMPICO NAZIONALE ITALIANO (CONI = National Italian Olympic Committee). LIA's current President is Angelo Capellani, also the President of the EAF.

Another group, the UNIONE ITALIANA AIKIDO (UIA) of Paolo CORALLINI was initially under the supervision of Andr� NOCQUET, then later established ties with the Aikikai Hombu through Morihiro SAITO. The Associazione Italiana d'Aikido under Hirokazu Kobayashi is another independent group.

The FEDERAZIONE ITALIANA LOTTA PESI JUDO (FILPJ = Italian Federation of Wrestling, Weightlifting and Judo), formerly called FIK. T. eDA, is also affiliated with the CONI and receives instruction primarily from Hirokazu Kobayashi, Takeji TOMITA. Morihiro Saito also conducted a seminar for the FILPJ in October 1990. The largest aikido dojo in Italy, the Modena school of Giorgio Oscari, is a member of this organization. Another group, the Movimento Sportivo Populare incorporates various martial arts and also has an aikido section. �SP51&hibar;At present, there are approximately 4,000 practitioners of aikido in Italy, a little more than half of which belong to the Aikikai organization while the remainder form part of the other smaller groups mentioned above.