Bermuda Aikikai Celebrates 31 Years

 Over the weekend of October 25 2014 something pretty amazing happened in the middle of the Atlantic.

Bermuda Aikikai, headed by Sensei Collins Smith, 6th dan, has been around now for 31 years. Last year for the 30th anniversary we had a suitably celebratory seminar lead by Shihan Richard Stickles. This year was different, this year was “in-house” with almost all of the instructors being direct students of Sensei Smith. We are talking about upwards of 10 instructors all coming from this tiny little island dojo so you know something great has been happening there.

A little history: Sensei Collins Smith started his martial arts career in his teens. He was a world-class karate fighter and even went twice to the Karate world championships in Japan. Somewhere along the line he discovered Aikido and soon became a student of now Shihan Stickles. For years Sensei Smith studied in New Jersey with Sensei Stickles, in New York with Yamada Sensei, and out west with Chiba Sensei. He returned to Bermuda in 1983 to open his dojo where with unwavering loyalty to his lineage and dedication to his students he has quietly been teaching Aikido ever since.

 

Bermuda is a dot in the middle of the ocean and Bermuda Aikikai was never going to be a big commercial success, and yet Sensei Smith juggled work and family and the dojo and never gave up, for him Aikido was, and still is, a gift to be received and passed on. He brought the biggest names in Aikido to his students and always supported his students when they wanted to go out and see the larger world. His philosophy was to teach the foundations and let people’s personalities take it from there, something I think he learned from Yamada Sensei and something that, 31 years later, was wonderfully evident in the diversity of aikido we saw when 10 of his students, all now instructor level, brought their styles and in some cases their own students to the mat.

The Aikido that started on that little island has spread. I now have a dojo in Nova Scotia, Canada (Lunenburg Aikikai), Anthea Pascaras has a dojo in London England (Notting Hill Aikikai), and there are two other dojos headed by Graham Fraser and Evie Pond in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick respectively (Mount Saint Vincent Aikikai and Aikido of Central New Brunswick) both under Sensei Smith’s umbrella. The little ripples that started in Bermuda 31 years ago have now crossed the ocean and spread to other lands.

Back to the seminar: 10 instructors all affiliated with Bermuda Aikikai, something like 300 years of collective experience, 10 different styles all unique and yet somehow still linked together, 5 affiliated dojos, a whole lot of fantastic aikido AND a trip on Sensei’s boat. I would say that makes for a pretty fantastic 31st anniversary party and a tremendous measure of one man’s work.

On a serious note I have called Sensei Smith my friend and teacher for nearly 25 years and  my debt to him can only be repaid by following his example. I now have my own dojo in the equally (compared to Bermuda) isolated eastern edge of Canada. Like Bermuda Aikikai we will never be a big dojo, but we are close knit and we are growing and if there is one thing that the seminar in Bermuda last month taught me it is that great aikido can come out of the tiniest places when your heart is in the right place and you have loyalty and dedication.

James Constable

Chief Instructor, Lunenburg Aikikai

Photos by John Manderson | Luminous Imaging

Florida Winter Seminar celebrates Yamada Sensei’s 50th Anniversary

This year the Florida Winter Seminar celebrated Yamada Sensei’s 50th Anniversary by holding a special Red Carpet event. During the event the audience had the opportunity to see a movie clip that Yamada Sensei starred in called Master Blaster. We presented him with an Oscar for his performance and to show appreciation for his 50 years of dedication teaching Aikido in the US. At the end of the show people close to Sensei talked about how he changed their lives.  Jonathan Weiner of Aikido of Charlotte directed this film and captured it with his crew.  We are all very thankful. Please enjoy this special tribute film to Yamada Sensei.

 

 

 

Penny Bernath

Florida Aikikai

Success in the Heartland with Children’s Aikido

First Annual Mid-West Children’s Aikido Seminar – June 2014

On June 7, more than 60 children and young adults from across the Mid-West gathered at the tastefully renovated dojo in Urbana Illinois for a full day of Aikido instruction and “games” to sharpen their skills, deepen their understanding of “the Way of harmonious spirit,” and to forge new friendships with their peers.

Two dojos with robust children’s programs, Fairfield (Iowa) Aikikai and Central Illinois Aikikai (CIA), the hosting organization, worked together to offer four Aikido sessions on Saturday.  Lessons were offered by Julio Soares, Bogdan Heretoiu, CIA’s chief instructor Knut Bauer, 5h Dan, Shidoin, and Fairfield Iowa Aikikai’s chief instructor, Sensei Motier Haskins, 5th Don, Shidoin.  The seminars consecutively increased in skill level concluding with break fall practice and group photos.

“I was feeling a bit shy going to a different town to practice, but everyone in the Central Illinois Aikido dojo made us feel very welcome and after a few minutes I felt right at home.  I am looking forward to next year seeing my new friends again!”  LR

A few older “children at heart” adults joined in as well and were reportedly very busy just keeping up with the younger crowd!  Everyone also enjoyed a pizza lunch break hosted by the Central Illinois Aikikai.

“This was a great experience.  I was impressed by the maturity and dedication of our young adults, some of whom are now transitioning from junior black belt to the adult Aikido world – fifth and fourth Kyu level.”  Sensei Motier

Senseis Bauer and Haskins are thinking ahead to next year and the possibility of expanding to a two-day weekend seminar or perhaps even a full week “Summer Camp” and inviting children and young adults from all over the US to enjoy Aikido in the heartland.

written by David Todt (Fairfield Aikikai)

Aikido of Suffolk Aikikai’s New Location

After spending 14 years in the same location in the Village of Patchogue,
NY, Aikido at Suffolk Aikikai has moved to a new comfortable location in
Medford, New York. The space is air conditioned and provides plenty of
parking.  The move coincides with the celebration of Suffolk Aikikai’s 20th
anniversary on August 6, 2014.

 

 

 

 

San Juan Aikikai’s New Location

San Juan Aikikai has moved to a new location.  The large bright windows blanket the tatami and reflect sunlight on the shomen’s clean sharp lines.  Stop by and visit this beautiful dojo at: 1220 Calle Cadiz, San Juan, Puerto Rico 00920.

 

 

Fairfield Iowa Aikikai hosts its 2nd Annual Aikido Youth Camp

As Fairfield Iowa Aikikai’s youth program continues to grow, June’s successful testing and promotions brought smiles to many faces.

August brings Fairfield Iowa Aikikai’s 2nd Annual Youth Camp

 

It Has To Be Felt

It has to be felt.

How many students felt the dynamic power? Have you experienced the exhilaration, fear, uncertainty, excitement as the dynamic circle sends you spinning to the conclusion of the technique? The uke may not fully know how it will end, but for sure they are fully engaged and dare not lose the connection. Those who have had this happen will say to you, it has to be experienced; it’s active, not passive. You have to make contact and stay committed. If you give up that commitment, the interaction changes in a single moment. We love our videos; it gives us a reference point. It gives us something to observe, but it’s passive. Ultimately, we must physically delve into the depths of the movement. We have to engage physically. It’s in that interaction, the ‘doing’ where we feel what happens and it becomes a part of us.

USAF President Emeritus, one of the first members of the New York Aikikai (NYA) and current Sensei, Mike Abrams, explains that it’s important for students to feel the instructor’s technique. He’s an open history book.  Sensei Abrams is another living legend, who explains the importance of what Yamada Shihan and his contemporaries did with the NYA. Sensei Abrams’ class takes you back to the foundations of training at the NYA; he speaks of the ukemi that Sensei Yamada took for his sempai. You get a picture of it in your mind, while listening. In Sensei Abrams class, when he asks you to grab him, one may do so in a rather naïve, unsuspecting manner. One may wonder what is coming next, but as soon as he begins to move you become immediately clear that whatever happens will end with you on the mat, usually face down. Similarly, Harvey Konigsberg Shihan will point to the connection between his hand and his hip movement. He will then explain it to you, in his low gravely voice. He may then say, “Grab” and you do. Then what you thought you understood goes flying out of your head, as quickly as you land on the mat. His disarming warmth and spiritual connection lull you into a feeling of smooth quiet and security. That is of course, until you feel his hip move and his weight drop while you get tossed. You get up, smiling, because your body gets this “turning on the light bulb” moment of comprehension. And ultimately, when Shihan Yamada says, “grab”, undoubtedly, healthy concern goes through uke’s mind from inception. You know his movement is big, powerful and direct. Some uke have explained that when they take ukemi for Yamada Shihan, they feel like their bodies are going in separate directions at the same time. For example, during one class, Yamada Shihan seemed to be moving toward a particular irimi-nage opening, but it appeared that he changed his mind, so he picked the uke up, as though to do an aiki-otoshi. The entire class held it’s breath and watched with wide eyes, while the uke’s head turned from side to side, looking for the landing place (kind of like a fighter jet coming in for an emergency landing).

Then he let us all off the hook, as he said to the uke, with a chuckle, “don’t worry, I’m not going to do that.” Even as we enjoyed his humor in that moment, we were all taking ukemi, because we followed him intently. We were in sync with him and there was nothing between him and us. We released a collective sigh of relief for the uke, but more for ourselves, because for a moment, “things got real”. We felt the air swoosh, when he picked up and seemed to swing the uke around. We felt the distance between the uke high in the air, (with Sensei Yamada holding the uke underneath his arm pit), and the mat. We felt his joviality, but we simultaneously felt the seriousness of training, which I believe he wants us to understand. After class, in the locker rooms, we talked about that and kind of nodded at each other as if to acknowledge it in a single word, “Yeah”.

I suppose all of this is to reiterate, that is it has to be felt.

 

Dena Williams

New York Aikikai

Yamada Sensei and NYA Receive Letter From The Mayor

On Saturday, June 7th, the New York Aikikai hosted a large party to celebrate the 50th anniversary of  Yamada Sensei’s arrival in New York City. In acknowledgement of this historical event,  he was presented with a letter from William de Blasio, the Mayor of New York City.  A copy of the letter can be viewed by clicking here

 

 

Yamada Sensei Featured In Crain’s New York Business Magazine

On the eve of Yamada Sensei’s 50th anniversary of his arrival in New York City and the New York Aikikai, the June 2nd edition of Crain’s New York Business Magazine features a full-page interview with him entitled “Yamada Sensei is 76. What’s your excuse?” Written by one of Crain’s top reporters, Daniel Geiger, it features of full-color photo of Yamada Sensei and celebrates Yamada Sensei’s half-century of teaching throughout the United States and the world at large. You can access the full article here:

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20140530/MEDIA_ENTERTAINMENT/140539992/yoshimitsu-yamada-is-76-whats-your-excuse

A Sad Loss of Albany Aikido

John Wright started his Aikido training in 1979. In addition to Faust Sensei his Aikido has been influenced by Yousef Mehter Sensei, Yamada Shihan, Kanai Shihan, Chiba Shihan and a host of other teachers to whom he is eternally grateful to for their encouraging him to try new ways of doing familiar techniques. John has also been involved in the Chinese martial arts Tai Chi, Bagua Chang and Hsing-i. His Aikido training has made him realize that conflict situations with others can generally best be handled by a non-confrontational approach – blending in Aikido parlance. Passing on this art has been a wonderful experience. John received his 4th Dan in 2006.