“Compared to other countries, China’s Aikido is
very young but I believe it has a bright future.”
Aikido was officially introduced into mainland China in 1983 through an Aikido demonstration by Yoshiaki Yokota Shihan of the Aikikai, but due to the social situation of that time Aikido didn’t quickly spread among the public.
By 1990, there was a local Shanghainese sensei, Mr. Chen De Ming, teaching Aikido without formal upgrading examinations. There was no official direct connection between the Aikikai Hombu and China mainland until 2004 when the Aikikai started to have their shihans visit China, hold seminars and examinations yearly on a regular basis.
Personally, I was learning Kyokushin Karate in that time and was introduced to Aikido by some friends at a martial arts forum in 2002. I was attracted at first sight by its techniques and spirit when I observed a small Aikido group training and decided to join immediately.
Mr. Xu Lei, a young aikidoka who had trained under Mr. Chen De Ming, led the small group as instructor. We had around 10 young men training together in a very small place. It was dirty, hot and humid in summer and very cold in winter; but because of the passion to study Aikido, all members trained hard. Unfortunately Mr. Xu severely injured his knee in training and a Japanese couple, Mr. & Mrs. Nokura (at the time both 2nd Dan) who where the highest rank in the group, took over the teaching responsibility. Through their connections they succeeded in inviting Seishiro Endo Shihan to our dojo for a yearly seminar and examination. As time passed, more and more people joined our group to practice Aikido, and its official name became Shanghai International Aikido Club. In 2003, both Mr. Chen’s dojo and SIAC became recognized dojos under Aikikai Hombu’s umbrella. 10 years, later the Nokura Senseis have almost never missed teaching classes. Mr. Nokura was in senior management of a Japanese company in Shanghai and Mrs. Nokura has devoted all of her time operating the club. Now, the couple of senseis are both 5th Dan, and the club has members from Japan, Europe as well as local Chinese.
As for myself, I got my Aikikai Shodan in 2010. However, I was feeling the progress limitation and had a lot of questions of the techniques, as Aikikai style begins with Kinonagare exercises. I started to doubt the efficiency of Aikido techniques and its martial arts meaning. I felt lucky in that just as I started to doubt my Aikido I was told by one of my good friends in the dojo (Mr. Li Li) that a small dojo, Aikido Budo Shanghai (Affiliated with International Takemusu Aikido Federation) was just established in Shanghai, teaching Takemusu Aikido according to the Iwama method. I went to see.
The instructor was a young Frenchman, Mr. Antoine Simonin (3rd Dan ITAF). He had been studying Aikido since 1999 under Mr. Philippe Voarino Sensei (7th Dan ITAF, ITAF Leader) who was an uchideshi of Morihiro Saito Shihan, and his closest student Mr. Matthieu Jeandel (5th Dan ITAF). I was quite impressed by its learning system (by stages: Kotai, Jutai, Kinonagare and Takemusu) and technical precision.
I started to modify my aikido to Iwama style to pursue Takemusu, and finally left the Shanghai International Aikido Club. With Antoine’s instruction and help, I realized O’Sensei’s Aikido is a really big thing, even unlimited. It not only has body techniques, but also weapons; and thanks to Saito Sensei’s method, it becomes possible for us to learn O’Sensei’s original techniques. The Iwama style insists on Kihon and Kotai to help build a strong base to make us progress solidly, meanwhile the precision and explanation of the techniques solve most of my questions. I understand there’re a lot for me to learn and improve.
In 2011, we held a Gasshuku in Xi’an China, attracting quite a lot of Chinese aikidoka (most of them had 8-10 years experience and have their own dojos) from different cities to train in a new way together. I would say the seed of Iwama method was planted then.
In August of 2012 Matthieu came to China to instruct at the second ITAF Gasshuku, at which I received my ITAF Shodan. We had more than doubled the attendees this time and another 2 Dojos interested in joining the association. Thus, the International Takemusu Aikido Federation (China) was officially formed.
Shortly thereafter Antoine relocated to South China and, I was asked to take over the dojo to lead the group to continue practice. Though we are not comparable in size with the other two Aikikai style dojos, our members are sincere in seeking true Aikido, O’Sensei’s Aikido. I welcome and believe more people will want to know and join our club to learn Takemusu Aikido.
In the meantime, Beijing’s aikido is also developing. As far as I know there’re more aikido dojos than Shanghai, moreover some secondary cities of China have dojos established. I’m not that familiar with the details, so I have to save words here about the rest cities.
Compared to other countries, China’s Aikido is very young but I believe it has a bright future.
Li Dong Ming