This year aikido in Sweden celebrates 50 years. It started in 1961 with two judo students experimenting a bit with the help of a book one of them had found in France. Now, we are 5000 in about 100 dojos. One of the guys who started it all, Jan Hermansson, is still around and as active as ever.
Aikido outside Japan is moving towards maturity. Fifty years might not be that much, but the art of aikido is just twenty years older. Some countries were introduced to aikido several years earlier, so there the difference is even less. That's worth contemplating.
Not many westerners have practiced aikido for as much as fifty years, but there are some. That approaches a lifetime. A lifetime in aikido. This complex art needs that much time to be properly explored and digested, no doubt. So, those who have done it the longest, what are their conclusions, their impressions so far?
I remember that Stanley Pranin compiled a book of the interviews he had made with Osensei's pre-war students. That was an interesting read. Is there somebody doing something similar with the oldest non-Japanese aikido students?
History is something we make along the way, but we tend to forget to document it properly when living it. Instead, it usually becomes a complicated task of reconstruction for future generations. It's a pity. Shouldn't we make a joint effort in the international aikido community of writing the history as it happens, or at least while the pioneers are still around, so that we can get primary sources?
Probably, a lot of it is done, here and there in the aikido world. But I can't see that these local contributions are gathered somewhere for the whole aikido community to discover. If Jun Akiyama, the motor behind this AikiWeb, wasn't already tremendously busy running it, I would ask him if he might be tempted to take on the gargantuan task.
Swedish aikido might celebrate its semi centennial this year, but the Swedish Budo & Martial Arts Federation did so last year, in 2010. We made a book about it, almost 400 pages, containing interviews with several of the pioneers. They were happy to tell the often amusing stories of how it all started. Inspecting the book, when it arrived from the printer, I was hit by the importance of such a documentation. Those words and pictures of the modest beginning are jewels to the present practitioners, who are eager to learn about what preceded their own entry on the tatami.
Not only budo, but just about every martial art, is deeply rooted in tradition. That means its history is of vast importance. The history adds to make the art an art.
Of course, regular training should be done in the nakaima
mentality of here and now. Nonetheless, it can only be done wholeheartedly if growing out of a sense of the extensive past and the distant future. Otherwise we are in the middle of nowhere.
So, let's make an effort to keep writing and sharing our history as it happens.
Stefan Stenudd is a 6 dan Aikikai aikido instructor, member of the International Aikido Federation Directing Committee, the Swedish Aikikai Grading Committee, and the Swedish Budo Federation Board. He has practiced aikido since 1972. Presently he teaches aikido and iaido at his dojo Enighet in Malmo, Sweden, and at seminars in Sweden and abroad. He is also an author, artist, and historian of ideas. He has published a number of books in Swedish and English, both fiction and non-fiction. Among the latter are books about aikido and aikibatto, also a guide to the lifeforce qi, and a Life Energy Encyclopedia. He has written a Swedish interpretation of the Chinese classic Tao Te Ching, and of the Japanese samurai classic Book of Five Rings. In the history of ideas he studies the thought patterns of creation myths, as well as Aristotle's Poetics. He has his own extensive aikido website: http://www.stenudd.com/aikido