What a year! Somehow a year has passed since the founding of the Great Ocean Aikido Community and quite a year it’s been, and on many levels.
Prior to formation, we followed a traditional path for many years through our individual dojos, augmented by our own wider Budo and professional networks in education and sports sciences. It was a terrific time. Cultural shift with the resignation of Williams Sensei and change to a more Koryu model saw rapid change and we spoke sincerely of what the art meant to us (“Ars longa, vita brevis”) and of what we felt was unacceptable. Eventually this lead to the founding of Great Ocean Aikido.
We chose to honour and acknowledge our past, something quite different to the general practice of pretending it never existed (“Who is Koichi Tohei?”) as we moved forward. It very easy to slip into this traditional mindset of “old-teacher-bad, new-teacher-amazing”.
We sought to build a community rather than establish a traditional hierarchy. We decided to adopt a syllabus as a means of communication and interaction between ourselves, yet leave the grading authority within each individual dojo. We found the AJF a terrific organisation to facilitate teaching competencies and working to national standards.
Has our practise changed? Yes and no.
- Jim introduced a sense of community and how to interact in the workshop he led at last year’s winter retreat (“Winter Retreat in Pictures”).
- We have welcomed influences from the internal strength movement with many of us attending one or more of Gleason Sensei’s seminars to augment our knowledge of sports science and biomechanics (“Jin-ning around with the segmental topple”), together with Nash’s pilgrimage to the Harden seminars.
- We are also looking more closely at atemi waza through Target Focus Training.
At a personal level, during last year’s World Harmony Day (and anti-bullying day) I felt challenged to write to my colleagues in a frank and honest way. I felt it was my obligation to my sempai to express my concerns as well as my responsibility to care for my kohai, some of whom were suffering quite badly. Was I threatened and vilified? Yes! Did I lose some friendships? Yes! Did my health suffer? Yes! Would I do it a again? In a heart beat!
The freedoms of Great Ocean Aikido Community are very real but came at a great cost to us. I’d like to think our choices also gave power to others to walk away from situations they didn’t like. For those with different views it also gave the power to move forward with confidence on their own path. Vive la différence!
Two quotes resonate with me now as they did back then:
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln
“He who allows oppression shares the crime.” Erasmus
My gratitude to brothers Andrew, John and Jim, and appreciation to Aran and Mike as custodians of the Aikido Republic dojo: seekers of the art, one and all.
Dan James, Founder Member