On Friday the 19th October at 6.45pm, despite a bit of jet-lag, Dojo-cho walked onto the mat at Leigh Sports Village near Manchester and opened the BAF 50th Anniversary course. After so many months anticipation and much preparation by members of the Manchester Dojo, the course was under way. With many friends of the BAF travelling from Europe, along with those from other UK Aikido groups, the mat in the sports hall, full to capacity, came alive.
Dojo-cho, Mitsuteru Ueshiba, had not travelled alone but was accompanied by a youthful and energetic group which included his talented uke, Akira Matsumura, a group of students from Universities across Japan, Kazufumi Soma from the Hombu office and of course Ikuko Ishii, our dearest friend and regular visitor at BAF Summer School! Setting the style of the weekend with his trademark crisp clean techniques, Dojo-cho focussed on a few basic techniques, emphasising posture and good control. Almost as soon it had begun, the 1 hour opener session was ended. This allowed Dojo-cho a little time to change before the evenings formal dinner with representatives from the Joint Aikikai Council(JAC) member organisations. Along with BAF committee members and course organisers, senior members of UKA, British Birankai, Komyokan, DAN and the Scottish Aikido Federation were present. A great start to this BAF 50th Anniversary weekend. Following the meal good humoured speeches were given by our Chairman, Peter Gillard, JAC Chairman David Yates and Dojo-cho. Peter Gillard recalled the origins of Aikido in the UK and how far we had come whilst David Yates commended the creation of the JAC. Dojo-cho noted that the BAF was older than himself which caused all to smile and wonder at the passing years. Ending with a request for us to look to the future and seek younger students, we could only agree and so toast everyones health, the future of Aikido and the next 50yrs of the BAF!
Through Saturday and Sunday training continued, a 2 hour session in the morning and again in the afternoon. The large group from Japan gave a truly international feel to the crowded event and brought an energy and enthusiasm to the mat that was infectious. Dojo-cho spent some time emphasising certain aspects of techniques and practice and Jean Paisley was most helpful in translating for non-Japanese speakers. Ending the weekend on Sunday afternoon with the Embukai, our sister organisations in the JAC each gave a short demonstration, followed by Ian McClarence Shihan, and finishing with a 6 minute energetic flourish by Dojo-cho and 3 tireless ukes. A truly entertaining performance which produced a long and well deserved burst of applause from all present, so bringing the proceedings to a close.
A most notable social event took place on the Saturday evening in the form of a buffet for over 100 course attendees, giving a chance for Aikido students of all ages and from all organisations to mix and chat. The visiting Japanese students were very active throughout the evening, mixing well and practicing their English. In the true spirit of Aikido new friendships were forged and old friendships renewed.
It was delightful that the visiting party was so large to make a real impact on proceedings. That they all travelled such a distance for such a short visit to support the BAF in its 50th year was humbling. Special thanks to the young students for supporting this event, Hayato Arima, Mizuki Otake, Hiroaki Sato, Anna Suzuki, Ryo Tanaka, Soh Yanagihara and Taiga Yoshino.
The much anticipated weekend finished, now we carry the memories and give special thanks to the Hombu and Dojo-cho for taking this BAF 50th anniversary course. The only cloud over the weekend was the absence of Kanetsuka Shihan and Matthew Holland Shihan because of illness and we wish them both steady recoveries.