Re: The History of Aikido in Australia?
I was very interested to follow this thread and happy to put forward a perspective on behalf of Aiki Kai Australia regarding the history of Aikido here.
I commenced in 1970 and my knowledge goes back to discussions with Tony Smibert, 7th Dan Shihan, who began training in Melbourne in 1964 with leading Judo teacher Mr Arthur Moorshead. Mr. Moorshead had arrived in Australia from the UK where Tony understood he had received Aikido shodan from Kenshiro Abbe Sensei. To our knowledge, Mr Moorshead started the first Australian Aikido Association in 1965 (and I believe Tony still has his membership card somewhere!).
Meanwhile, in Japan, Australian Verelle Sugano, had already achieved shodan at Hombu and was preparing to move to Australia with her husband, then Hombu instructor Seiichi Sugano, 5th Dan. The young couple arrived in Sydney in mid 1965 and Sugano Sensei brought with him a document signed by O Sensei giving him responsibility for developing Aikido throughout Australasia. He duly established Aikido Australasia, (which later evolved into Aiki Kai Australia). Because Moorshead Sensei encouraged his students to seek instruction from Sugano Sensei as well, Tony, Robert Botterill Shihan and others were soon training with him. More people with an interest came from around Australia and some of these people are now still on the mat within Aiki Kai Australia holding 6th and 7th Dan Aikikai rankings.
Regarding the impression that Aiki Kai Australia is ‘closed to' outsiders, I think this reflects a misunderstanding by some people of the evolution of Aikido outside Japan and also the traditional perspective about teaching and studentship to which some of the greatest teachers subscribed, and among whom Sugano Shihan can certainly be numbered. Sensei was a teacher who gave and expected to receive a very high level of commitment and far as he was concerned, people outside of Aiki Kai Australia were not our responsibility because they were acting outside of Hombu regulations as they existed at that time.
Of course, during the 1970's and 80's Hombu was actively promoting the idea of one organisation per country. Hombu policy is very different now, but anyone with a perspective going back a few years will understand how the Japanese Shihans dispatched in the 1960's during O Sensei's time felt about it. Sugano Sensei, presumably like his peers in other regions, was officially designated Hombu's ‘ Area Representative' in Australia. Hombu policy at that time seemed clear. For example, Aikikai Australia's 1978 certificate from Hombu stated that ‘Aikikai Foundation, and The Aikido World Headquarters officially recognizes the Aikikai Australia as its representative organization in Australia…'.
Sugano Sensei was therefore profoundly troubled that people in Australia were receiving dan rankings through organisations recognised by Hombu as national organisations in other countries. Just as troubling were ranks given by Japanese Shihans, from local dojos in Japan -- many sent to Hombu as if the individual were actually studying in Japan, then simply mailed here.
None of this would have affected Aiki Kai Australia very much were it not for our participation in the IAF -- where it was also believed that Hombu Regulations were (or should be) binding and it was expected that Member nations would uphold them.
In today's world, none of this may seem very important to a large part of the international aikido family. Hombu regulations, including the ways that gradings may properly be issued, have evolved and adapted to encompass the reality of natural growth. Today, while as I understand it, only an organisation with official Hombu Recognition can maintain an standing dan examination authority on behalf of Hombu within its own national borders, there are certainly other acceptable ways that ranks can be issued within a nation outside Japan. These include: on the occasion of a visit by a Hombu Dojo instructor, when an individual (usually a Shihan) is authorised on a specific occasion to conduct an examination, or if such rank is recommended by one of the senior shihans dispatched during O Sensei's time to teach overseas -- the highest designation of Shihan and of whom there are very few left outside Japan.
As noted by someone earlier in this thread, Aiki Kai Australia is still the only officially recognised organisation in Australia. Not because we would now be in any way concerned by another organisation being officially recognised, but solely because it hasn't happened yet. I don't know why not, but for myself, and I'm sure others in Aiki Kai Australia, I do look forward to the day when such an association of the various independent groups and dojos in Australia might occur.
As for Aiki Kai Australia, while the name might suggest that we are THE national association (as originally intended all those years ago) the reality is that Aiki Kai Australia is more like an educational grouping than a political one. With nearly thirty people of 6th or 7th Dan ranking working together remarkably cohesively in memory of what Sugano Sensei achieved here -- we're doing what we can to deliver the best we can to those who join Aiki Kai Australia.
Next January, we'll mark our 50th Anniversary with an international Summer School, to be led by Doshu and with honoured guests including Yoshimitsu Yamada Shihan (now Patron of Aiki Kai Australia) and Motohiro Fukakusa Shihan. This is definitely open to everyone with a recognisable connection to Hombu and we'll do our best to figure out these connections so that the broad family of Aikido can join us there if they would like to.
Aiki Kai Australia webmaster
For those in this thread not familiar with Tony Smibert he is 7th Dan, Shihan and current President of Aiki Kai Australia. He was formerly Vice Chairman of the IAF and he is a current Member of the IAF Senior Council.
Robert Botterill is 7th Dan, Shihan, current member of the Aiki Kai Australia Board and Senior Member of the Teaching Committee.