Why Have Martial Arts Demonstrations?
by Niall Matthews
photo: teppotai enbu
by kanko sekigahara
Budo is not a thing for show. Budo is a matter of life or death. So what is there to show?
Kinjo Asoh Sensei
In aikido demonstrations, the more advanced the persons executing the techniques and taking the falls are, the more balanced their minds, techniques and bodies become. As their kokyu or breathing becomes united, the artistic beauty of harmony emerges. This beauty is different from the elegant beauty of dancing or gymnastics. I would describe it as a severe beauty, that is, like an autumn frost.
Gozo Shioda Sensei
The martial arts are not theatre or entertainment. That is not the true Budo.
I believe that it cannot be said that one's aikido is genuine unless his technique looks false or rigged to the eyes of observers.
Yoshio Sugino Sensei
Are martial arts demonstrations necessary?
And if they are necessary why are they necessary?
Many modern martial arts have tournaments. The All-Japan Judo Championships are held every year on 29 April at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo. It is a very popular traditional event with no weight divisions. This year it was nice to see that the winner was the lightest champion for 40 years. On a global scale there are the World Judo Championships and the Olympics. Karate and kendo also have national and international championships.
Most aikido styles do not have tournaments because there is no concept of winners and losers in aikido. But many martial arts organizations and dojos hold demonstrations.
One reason for demonstrations is public relations. Demonstrations introduce martial arts to a wider audience. They can be a form of advertising.
Demonstrations can also be a good way to showcase individual styles and differences within the world of martial arts - different kobudo for example - or within a single martial art.
For students a demonstration is a chance to prepare seriously for an event. It's a little like the strict preparation for a test.
Also a demonstration can have the aim of bringing a dojo or an organization closer together. Everyone's energy is used for the same purpose. The demonstration is just one of the annual calendar of events. This is a positive and valuable reason and the one I like best.
So there are lots of reasons to have demonstrations.
But what is a demonstration? Performances at the All-Japan demonstration last just a couple of minutes. They start and end with a drumbeat.
At teachers meetings at the hombu dojo Hiroshi Isoyama sensei always asked us to try to go the student aikido demonstration at the Nippon Budokan. To encourage the next generation of aikidoka.
I talked about the All-Japan aikido demonstration before in No-touch aikido: defence
Like Kinjo Asoh sensei Sadateru Arikawa sensei believed that aikido was not a thing for show. I was his uke at the hombu dojo for about thirteen years until his death. He did not participate in the All-Japan aikido demonstration. In all those years he only did one demonstration. He did that as a personal favour. It was in 1995 in Hibiya in Tokyo. A video
of that demonstration was posted in this thread
. It was nice to see that video again after many years. It was a very pure high-level demonstration.
In May every year the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration is held at the Nippon Budokan. In fact the Budokan was originally built for the judo events at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Aikido was a demonstration sport at those Olympics and Asoh sensei did the translation into English for the aikido demonstration. But for people all over the world the Budokan is more famous as a concert hall. I saw Bob Dylan play there once.
interesting article about Yoshio Sugino sensei
interview with Yoshio Sugino sensei
interview with Hiroshi Isoyama sensei
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© niall matthews 2012
Niall Matthews lives with his family in Japan. He teaches aikibudo and community self-defence courses and has taught budo for twenty-five years. He was the senior deshi of Kinjo Asoh Sensei, 7 dan Aikikai. He was the exclusive uke of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei, 9 dan Aikikai, at the hombu dojo in Tokyo for thirteen years until Arikawa Sensei's death in 2003. He has trained in several other martial arts to complement his aikido training, including judo (he has 4 dan from the Kodokan in Tokyo), kenjutsu (for about ten years) and karate (for about three years). He originally went to Japan as a staff member of the EU almost thirty years ago. He received 5 dan from Arikawa Sensei in 1995. This 5 dan is the last aikido dan he will receive in his life. His dojo is called Aikibudo Kokkijuku 合気武道克輝塾. Arikawa Sensei personally gave him the character for ki in kokki. It is the same character as teru in Sadateru - not the normal spelling of kokki 克己. It means you make your life shining and clear yourself.