Is Aikido passing to the West?

Williams Sensei awarded his 10th dan by Maruyama Sensei, Japan 2010

Williams Sensei awarded his 10th dan by Maruyama Sensei, Japan 2010

With this year’s Aiki Kai Kagami Biraki announcement of promotions, I noticed a healthy sprinkle of aikido pals from near and far. The number of “foreigners” being promoted seems to increase each year. It might be just that I am getting older but I wondered whether this might be a trend.  I thought I’d take a look at the numbers of gaijin appearing on the list historically. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I gathered the promotions lists since 2010 and counted up the number of names in romaji vs those in kanji and plotted these up as a percentage of the total. While there are a few problems with this methodology, it’s an interesting first cut and shows some quite clear trends, particularly as the sample size grows. (8-dan is a pretty small sample so it’s a bit tenuous there, but 5,6,7 dans are pretty robust I think.)

The figure shows the percentage of total dan grades awarded to gaijin through Aiki Kai hombu dojo over time. I plotted only 5-dan and higher for two reasons: firstly because I ran out of fingers and toes; and secondly at these levels what’s issued from hombu is a reasonable aggregate of those issued by this organisation globally. Throughout the time period you can see a trend of more awards going to the west over time.
Dan grades trends in Aikido

Dan grades trends in Aikido

It’s seems reasonably clear the hump of foreigners is working its way up the dan ranks in the mainline Aikido organisation, having passed unity (50%) quite some time ago in the lower listed ranks.

Another possible indicator, when I look around my own backyard, is the increasing number of independent organisations not affiliated to Japan, I suspect this is approaching unity as well.

Of those affiliated to Japan, some have now passed in a significant way to the West. As an example I’m thinking of my own former organisation whose chief instructor Michael Williams was based in Australia. (More recently there is his establishment of a new independent organisation  Aikido Goshinkai, further grist for the mill too!)

 A further indicator might be the growing speculation about whether hierarchical feudal organisations are the way forward, and I defer to my betters with this excellent piece from US commentator George Ledyard, together with a rambling commentary (see on the death of the traditional organisation)
Caveat: Of course the trends aren’t a “real” statistical treatment (n=3 for 8-dan in 2016 for example) but it’s a start and fairly robust for the more junior ranks. I couldn’t find any earlier data than 2010, so a shout-out there to aikido land if you have some promotion lists from earlier that would be a useful inclusion.

Going out West – Perth Aikido Yuishinkai

aikido perth, aikido WA

Aikido WA

Perth Aikido Yuishinkai visit

by Craig Boyd

In my travels recently my partner and myself found the road would lead to Perth WA, so we did a quick search and found there was a Yuishinkai dojo there! So  Gi’s and weapons got packed and off we headed to the west coast. Before heading over we made contact with Sensei David Mathews who wrote a very encouraging email and very detailed instructions on how to find the dojo.

So on a Wednesday night we left Perth to head down to Port Kennedy ( the dojo location). when we arrived we found a dojo full of life and packed with children training on the tatami and Sensei Mathews leading a bunch of very keen young Aikidoka. We were greeted and welcomed in by other club members. The dojo was also a testament to Sensei Mathews dedication as the set up was excellent & had a lot of effort put into it.

We eventually found ourselves on the mat and I realised another amazing thing about the warm-ups and Aiki-tiso in Yuishinkai, in that familiarity dose help maintain a relaxed state of mind and body- doing these familiar exercises amongst other people also doing the same exercises you have only just meet, dose help to put one at ease, here we had travelled over three and half thousand Kilometres and we are all doing the same thing.

Down to training and I found every one eager to get their hands on you, and enter into a very good understanding of the Uke/Nage relationship, and look at developing their own understanding of this, I also was nicely challenged, with a great rolling exercise that warrants some more exploration- rolling over and as going over picking up the Jo as level one and then level 2 was a nice exercise of changing distance where as you walk toward the Jo someone rolls it toward you..then as you get close to the Jo you roll over and collect it. Not impossible on first attempt but I did find myself thinking way too much during this exercise.

What we discovered was a great bunch of fellow Aikidoka in realistically one of the most remote locations in the country getting on with and enjoying their training, while also dedicated to the teachings, style and the motto of Master Murayama- it was great to travel so far and discover something new, but still feel welcome  and have a certain sense of family, the only real problem was we only had one chance to visit and the lesson was great, so it felt like no time had passed before it was over.

Big thanks to Sensei David Mathews and the rest of the Port Kennedy dojo for making Susan and myself most welcome, it’s defiantly a great part of aikido that you can pack your Gi and travel, keep training and also meet great people. Win win win!


The Port Kennedy dojo details:

5/12 Endeavour Drive,

Port Kennedy    

They have classes Monday, Wednesday & Fridays nights