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Visiting the Aikikai Hombo Dojo

The last resort of a lost foreigner in Japan is the Koban, a Japanese police station, which can be found at various places in the city, mostly filled with two or three police men mounted on bicycles. When we asked for the Aikikai Hombo Dojo (Hombo = main) the policeman in charge wanted to know the name of the Dojo; we answered ‘Hombo Dojo’, but the policeman told us that ‘Hombo Dojo’ is no name. As we did not have any telephone number, the policeman checked with his headquarters and learned that the name was actually ‘Hombo Dojo’.

From Shinjuku we went by the very new Oedo line, which is located three levels below ground, to Wakamatsu-Kawada station. After a ten minutes walk we arrived. Christian recognized the building already from far away, because he had seen it in a television report. After giving our names and addresses at the reception we were permitted to enter the building as guests (of course we changed to slippers). At the first floor about 25 beginners practiced (Ikkyu Ura from Aihanmi Katate Tori), and we walked on to the second floor, where the advanced students were practicing.

The Dojo was about 12*12 square meters; there were about 45 Aikidoka with a share of 30% foreigners and of 15% women. Independent of his actions and movements the teacher in charge did not part with his Bokken during the whole lesson (which just had started). The techniques were demonstrated relatively short and with nearly no comment, and then all students went on practicing. There was no change of partners, which I already noticed at earlier visits.

When strutting around (unfortunately the way of the teacher’s walking around could not be described differently) the teacher grabbed different students of all graduations for a demonstration of the same technique or for some variations, whereas the Uke took the Ukemi in a hurry, obviously to protect him. Watching the two foreigners, who kneeled about one hour disciplined on the wooden floor (when getting up we nearly lost our stoic face), the master came closer step by step when showing his actions, which actually did not improve his performance. The arrogant behavior of the master resulted in a somehow unpleasant mood in the Dojo.

Unfortunately actually very different interpretations of Aikido can be observed. At the Hombo Dojo in this class we missed dynamic attacks, the absorbing of partner’s movements, flow of movements, and an understandable balance breaking; But we watched many ducking and pushing, occasionally resulting in the master stumbling over his Uke (and, as we noticed, it seemed not to be necessary at all to apologize as a teacher). The movements sometimes seemed to be hard and brutal. Instead we missed the elegance, the easiness and the harmony of the natural movements, which we were used from Tendoryu Aikido.

The students mostly moved softly and flexibly, probably due to some kind of flexible survival strategy. The share of women was even lower as in the Tendokan, although there were considerably more women in the beginner’s class at the first floor.

The morning class at the Tendokan at the following Tuesday was a special pleasure ...

C & P