Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 7
A feel for aikido in Japan can be got from watching the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration. I have occasionally told Doshu that it is too long, with too many people demonstrating, but it is easy to see why my words always fall on very deaf ears.
The latest issue of the Aikido Shimbun gives the number of participants as 7,500 (more than the entire aikido population of some countries), with an audience of 10,000 spectators. So just think of how many times ikkyou was performed during the afternoon. The Nippon Budokan is a very large hall and there are five sets of tatami laid out, the wooden borders being in different colors, so that one can more easily work out who is demonstrating where. The demonstrations are preceded by speeches, all with a common theme of how such a huge gathering--with foreigners as well--is overwhelming evidence of the obvious physical and spiritual 'good' that aikido does throughout the world, but especially in Japan.
To someone who knows nothing about aikido, the impression is of a vast military operation, like a military tattoo, with tens, hundreds of people wearing strange uniforms and armed with wooden weapons running around the hall in strictly disciplined lines. These people are directed by a vast group of staff, also in uniform (strictly white tops and black bottoms), to the sound of a huge taiko drum, which booms out at the beginning and end of each set of demonstrations.
The impression, then, is of a spectacle, rather than a demonstration, for no one really bothers very much about whether what is shown is good aikido. Of course, it is intended to be, and the majority of participants probably rigorously choreograph their moves. Some do not, however, for good or ill--and it shows. The program is so arranged that demonstrations of huge groups are interspersed with those of shihan, one or two on each set of tatami, or one in the center tatami, if the person demonstrating is someone like Hiroshi Tada, or Doshu. The huge groups come on and go off very briskly, but senior people come on in a distinctive style, with something of a 'samurai' walk, followed by lines of ukes bearing weapons.
As I stated in an earlier post, there is a pamphlet giving a rough breakdown of the various groups, with an incredibly complicated organizational chart. So, as of May last year, there were 1550 local dojos, including large companies and government organizations (400 locations). A separate grouping is the Self-Defence Forces, with 50 locations, and the All-Japan Student Federation, with 124 colleges, organized in various geographical sub-groups, but with 180 schools and colleges which are outside these sub-groups. Then there are all the overseas groups (in 90 countries).
Of course, not all groups participate in the annual demonstration, but many do--and make a point of doing so. There is usually a smattering of foreign participants from overseas, who are usually put together in one large 'gaijin' demonstration, plus those very few people like myself, who are foreign residents and demonstrate with the Japanese groups. I should probably attend, but do not often do so.