Last year in October I traveled to Japan for the first time. I spent the first two weeks with my fiancée visiting beautiful destinations like Kyoto and Miyajima and after that I went back alone to the Ki Peninsula to hike the Kohechi Trail for one week. Finally, I had something a bit special in mind for my last week alone in Japan: I wanted to train in aikido at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo.
I will try to sum up my impressions from training at Hombu dojo in a few themes. Some of the notes I will be posting here were written almost right after I came back from Japan while the rest is still work in progress based on my already blurry memories and general longing for serious aikido training.
First of all, a bit of background about myself. I trained in Judo for about 10 years when I was young. Although I had a few successes in competition, I got fed up with Judo when I was 17 and dropped everything. It now seems like a bad decision but at that time I just didn’t enjoy training anymore and would go to classes without much motivation. So, after all, maybe it was the right thing to do anyway.
Skip forward a few years. I’m 25 and live in Amsterdam. I really feel like I need to seriously get back in shape. I try running and swimming but it’s not fullfilling enough and decide to look into learning a martial art again. I consider Judo but actually realize I would prefer to start something new afresh. Aikido is the logical choice: it’s close to Judo, especially when it comes to ukemi (receiving the techniques, which includes rolling) but with no competition and a strong emphasis on joint locks and weapon work (jo and bokken).
After trying a couple of dojos I finally settle down at an Iwama school (Morihiro Saito lineage) and I have been training there for the last three years with a lot of pleasure. In addition I have also been attending seminars by the teachers of my teacher in Amsterdam.
The best option for Aikido students training in the Iwama tradition wishing to practice in Japan is likely to go to, well, Iwama. This is where Morihei Ueshiba, Ōsensei, lived from 1942 until his death in 1969. There he built the Ibaraki dojo and the Aiki Jinja, a shrine in honor of the deities of Aikido. Morihiro Saito trained under Morihei Ueshiba in Iwama since he was 18 and became the Dojo Cho of the Ibaraki dojo after the death of Ōsensei.
However, I really wanted to spend time in Tokyo to get immersed in the city and visit as many places as possible so instead I decided to train at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo located in Shinjuku.
Next part (2/5): An Awkward Registration
Photo: Shibuya at night, Tokyo