By Francis Takahashi sensei
On the weekend of July 18-21, 2008, a very special celebration took place in Westminster, California. It was the occasion of three anniversaries for Aikido and the nation of Vietnam. The first milestone was 50 years of Aikido in Vietnam. Second, it marked the 40 years of the existence of the Tenshinkai Aikido Federation. Third, this was the 20th anniversary for Westminster Aikikai Dojo in California.
This occasion was attended by well over four hundred participants and well wishers, who were treated to joyous events including presentations from dignitaries, local government offices, congratulatory letters from George W. Bush, President of the United States, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Governor of the State of California, amongst others. The guests were also treated to wonderful music, including Taiko drums, singing by various artists, and a stirring dan certificate presentation to worthy members of the Tenshinkai Dojo, and memorable demonstration of Aikido by Tenshinkai members and, of course, Dang Thang Phong Sensei himself. This all occurred on Saturday, followed by a fun luncheon.
On Sunday, a seminar was held for the close to 150 participants, who were given amazing performances by four noted Shihans of Aikido. Shihan Hideki Shiohira of Mountain View, California led it off with powerful kihon waza easily understood. Shihan Howard Hoa Newens of Davis, California was next with elegant aiki movements and blending concepts. Shihan Dang Thang Phong began the afternoon class with his usual beautiful presentation of fundamental aiki movements and techniques. The last session of the day was presented by Shihan Hiroshi Ikeda of Boulder, Colorado, who blew participants and onlookers away with a laughter filled, humor guided and enlightened presentation of SEN training, a concept that is rarely given, difficult to internalize but so vital for the student who seeks advancement in his or her Aikido path. Truly, a marvelous blend of aiki concepts and Aikido techniques that gave far more than the amount paid by the participants. Hopefully, some of these priceless lessons will stick.
This weekend event underscored a vital reminder that, as serious students of the Aikido of Ueshiba Morihei, we must take every opportunity to avail ourselves of quality Aikido instruction whenever feasible and available. It was also a confirmation of the fact that when dedicated aikidoka gather to train, all notions of organizational ties, difference of styles of teaching philosophies, simply fade away in the glow of the joy of training, and the incredible sense of gain with new ideas and new friends in Aiki.
Let us all continue to train In Oneness!