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Old 03-24-2011, 06:57 AM   #14
Ethan Weisgard
Dojo: Copenhagen Aiki Shuren Dojo
Location: Copenhagen
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 138
Denmark
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Re: Who brought the Saito a.k.a. Iwama lineage to Europe?

Iwama lineage in Europe and Scandinavia

Hello Hanna,

I will try to give you some information regarding your question about the Iwama lineage in Europe and Scandinavia. I apologize for the length of this answer -- it's hard to make it brief.

There were several students from Sweden who went with Tomita Sensei to visit and train in Iwama back in the early 1970s (1972/1973). You will see group pictures from the Iwama dojo with a young Ulf Evenås among them in the old Traditional Aikido book series of Saito Sensei . There was another student called Mirko who is also seen in these photos. (volume 3, page 11: Ulf is number 3 from the right in the line, Mirko is number 2; page13: Ulf is on the right, with no hakama and a white belt). Mirko is no longer active in Aikido. Lasse (Lars Goran Andersson isn't in these pictures but he was there during this period, too, as was a gentleman called Sam, from Tomita Sensei's dojo. He is no longer active either. These books were published in 1973/1974. I know that Ulf and Lasse were in the dojo several times during this period (mid to late 1970s) -- once for a pretty long stay, about 9 months or more. This was the time when David Alexander was soto deshi for more than 10 years, Bruce Klickstein was there as well. This was a time when you would get very close to Saito Sensei, as uchi deshi, working and training from morning to evening, with some after-keiko enjoyment time put in as well! You can find photos on saitosensei.com

This close connection created a bond from Ulf and Lasse directly to Saito Sensei. So Tomita Sensei deserves the credit for creating the first connection to his own teacher -- Saito Sensei. Tomita Sensei had studied under O-Sensei directly, in Iwama, and was first a student of Nishio Sensei, before connecting directly with Saito Sensei, staying as uchi deshi in Iwama, and helping take care of O-Sensei in the last stage of his life. Tomita Sensei was Saito Sensei's first uchi deshi, staying on after O-Sensei passed on. Saito Sensei always showed Tomita Sensei respect for this.

So the first contact to Saito Sensei in Europe in an organized way was made from Tomita Sensei, and his students at that time-the most active being Ulf and Lasse.

Saito Sensei came to Scandinavia, visiting Copenhagen in 1976 (?) for a demonstration and Sweden for training camps and demonstrations. Bruce Klickstein was Saito Sensei's otomo -- translating for him, taking ukemi and helping him in general. Tomita Sensei was with him for all the arrangements, and Ulf and Lasse were there as well. Saito Sensei came back to Sweden in 1982 to hold a summer camp -- with David Alexander as otomo.

In Denmark we had -- from 1975 - followed Tomita Sensei and his group, sort of like the little brothers and sisters in the family. Ulf and Lasse helped us tremendously in developing Aikido -- both in our own individual training, as well as spreading it in Denmark during the mid-1970s and forward.

In time, Tomita Sensei decided to move out on his own -- to teach his way and share his outlook on Aikido with his students. In 1992 at our (third?) summer camp in Denmark with Saito Sensei, Tomita Sensei made an official announcement, saying that he was going to start his own organization -- Tomita Academy. People were asked to decide whether they wished to be part of this organization or to connect with Saito Sensei. This was when Tomita Sensei's own organization started. Those of us who chose to connect directly to Saito Sensei went that way and others connected directly with Tomita Sensei.

Tomita Sensei was our Sensei, and he was a great inspiration. I will always give him the greatest respect -- my life would not be what it is without him.

So to summarize, there may have been individuals from Europe that went to Iwama before 1972/1973, but none that actually brought the training methodology back and promulgated it as Iwama aikido at this time. I think the credit has to go to Tomita Sensei and the Swedish contingency -- of which Ulf and Lasse were and are the mainstays of this group.

From the mid-1980s and on, there were more Europeans that came to Iwama to train -- Paolo Corralini being the most active in this respect. It is evident that with Saito Sensei awarding Ulf and Paolo his highest degrees ( 7th dan and Shihan) and making an official statement saying that these two people were his top representatives in Europe shows that these two people have put in the time and effort to be worthy of this credit.

Disclaimer! Please note that this reply is regarding the chronology of Iwama aikido in Europe.
Other countries have been there starting in the early 1970s as well: America, New Zealand and Australia, as far as I know, and probably other. I don't want to steal any glory from these countries -- just substantiate the time line regarding the European Iwama lineage.

In aiki,
Ethan Weisgard
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