A blog with some news, reports and articles from the Aikido community around the world.
Edited by Lawrence Warry & Ze'ev Erlich

Friday, January 16, 2015

January 2015

1.0 We're back in 2015!
Hello public. HAPPY NEW YEAR! 
It's been two month's since we announced any news. I'm glad to say that Our Aikido World has never been more alive than it is now and I hope you have had a great start to the year.
I'm reporting this month from Tokyo Japan, as I have attended the Kagami Biraki at the Hombu dojo and the festivities of friends receiving their 5th dan promotions. 
I'd like to say a big congratulations, especially to the Dutch Aikido friends, Paul Jungschlager, Rob Conradi and Jan Lieffering, who I have known and practiced with for more than 14 years. It's a great step in the Aikido journey, and, a step taken with a lot of dedication and trying times!
I'm featuring this month an article about Paul Jungschlager sensei, who is currently running the Hagukumi dojo. The article is about my friendship with Paul since I arrived in The Netherlands in 1999 and what great things he has done in the Dutch Aikido community. Please sit back and enjoy the story (note: sometimes there are some sad accounts of my own personal life and how Paul had been there to support me but also there are accounts regarding Paul's relation to the late Peter Bacas. I had to write this with a few swallows in my throat. I know this is a bit of a side-track from the theme of Aikido but I nevertheleess feel this is a good occassion, being Paul's graduation to 5th dan to highlight how Paul is something of a silent hero in our aikido world.
Happy reading and looking forward to keep you updated soon regarding the agenda of Yamashima Sensei. 

2.0 Kagami Biraki, Hombu Dojo, Japan
It was a last minute decision to fly to Japan and join the Kagami Biraki and I'm very glad to have done so. 
Yamashima sensei entering the hombu dojo got the Kagami Biraki ceremony.

The Kagami Biraki at the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan, is the major highlight of the opening of the new year at the Hombu Dojo. It is an event which involves cramming hundreds of dedicated Aikidoka onto the tatami areas of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors of the Hombu dojo to listen to speeches of high ranking officials and the Doshu of Aikido, Moriteru Uehsiba himself. Following the speeches, there is a demonstration performed by Doshus and his Uke assistants who have to be careful and coordinated within the small place which is left on the tatami due to the crowds gathered around. 
Despite the limited space, the demonstration was beautifully executed and impressive as usual, as Doshu kept to his typical structure of techniques which are to be considered almost a trademark in his Aikido movement. 
After the demonstration, the announcement of promotions took place, including those of the overseas 5th dans and above. This year, three Dutch friends were promoted to 5th dan: Paul Jungschlager, Rob Conradi and Jan Lieffering. All three have made significant contributions to the teaching and furthering of Aikido in The Netherlands and have thoroughly deserved the promotion.
Following on from the promotions, tables are carried out onto the floor and people sit and raise a glass of good health and eat snacks. Marking the closing of the celebrations Doshu's son, Waka Sensei, Mitsuteru Ueshiba, appeared on the mat with his children for a photo opportunity and brought a true family atmosphere to the event.
After the Hombu dojo party, my Dutch Aikido friends joined Yamashima sensei and some of his students to go to a local restaurant where we finished a few drinks, some light chatting and photos all around!

3.0 A Story of the Dutch Silent Aikido Hero, Paul Jungschlager

I can give you a thousand reasons why Paul Jungschlager not only deserves 5th dan Aikikai, but should be considered a silent hero of Aikido in The Netherlands. 
Paul has been around in Aikido since early times (early 1980s) when Peter Bacas sensei (the late teacher of Paul and so many other Dutch Aikido personalities) was a pioneering Aikido personality in The Netherlands, being the link to bring Masatake Fujita to The Netherlands on a regular basis. Already in the early days, even before black belt, Paul decided to adopt the role to be a dedicated student. He did not faulter in his dedication. He was always there to help at the dojo, to clean up, to assist with administration, to move mats from A to B and he did it selflessly with the goal only to play that role of being a correct student. I know at first hand it was not an easy task for him and he faced his ego and the ego of Peter Bacas on many occassions. I witnessed a few battles between Paul and Peter sensei during my early years in The Hague, even to the point where Paul boycotted being on the tatami for about one year due to a dislike in the actions of Peter Bacas sensei and his approach to handling the students. Nevertheless, Paul stayed present. He stayed at the dojo. He did not stop being the student of Peter Bacas sensei and, through the conflicts, he built an even stronger bond, to the point where he was the one who sat at the death bed of Peter sensei looking at his face as he went from life to death state on the night of February 27th/28th 2006 in a hospital in Leeuwarden, near Ameland.
On my arrival to The Netherlands in 1999, I was in ragged state. You could say that I was probably at the lowest point of my life. I had lost my job as a computer programmer and was almost penniless. I had a broken family, a mother who had almost taken her own life 5 years before, now in a handicapped state and in need of constant medical care, a brother diagnosed with a mental illness, a broken relationship due to an abortion which took place a year before and I felt like I was a total failure to life, to my responsibilities as a son, a brother and a partner in my relationship. Feeling useless, without any hope of being functional in this society, and, to ever considering I could ever pick myself up again and somehow find a normal stable existence, I did not know at the time, that, in my years of instability and disfunction, Aikido became my saviour, and, in particular, Peter Bacas and Paul Jungschlager were there to take me in. Peter Bacas sensei accepted me into the Hagukumi dojo as a live-in student, calling me the "shipwreck". He showed me a place where I could sleep in the back corner of the dojo until I would find a better place to stay. I was most thankful to Paul, who allowed me to reside at his house for a number of months instead of at the dojo. He gave me an example of how to be a brother and, even not knowing me so well, gave his unconditional love and support to me through the hard early times in The Hague.
My attempt to relocate in France and follow my dream to be an osteopath was short lived and I was soon back in The Netherlands where I could survive as a computer programmer after having succeeding in acquiring a new job in 2000. 
It is at that point when I started having the means to travel with Peter Bacas to various countries and assist him in his seminars. Paul was mostly there receiving us on returning from our trips. He would listen to stories of our Aikido adventures and was somewhat cynical and smiling about our excitement like we were little boys on a wild adventure. Wise Paul would drink a snaps on every opportunity with us and with Dr. Leisinger sensei (when he was around too) in the late evenings.
Conversations with Paul have been and still are very much philosophical, and, philosophy is something which Paul is very much interested in. Sometimes I'd have some concerns about a relationship or my family and Paul would guide me, with his ideas, out of my situation and allow me to look at the situation from the outside. I won't forget also how Paul showed me that my destitution and low life was my personal choice, and, in that case, getting myself out of it, was also my personal choice. Step by step, year by year, I built the confidence and the necessary means to pick myself up and put myself in a grounded position to find a new stable place in society's daunting realm. Partly due to luck, partly due to Paul's partner, I found that my university degree and software engineering experience were useful assets and I managed to get employment at a large international organisation, where I not only worked but could have available to me the means to practice Aikido during my free time at the work place on a regular basis. I felt very fortunate to arrive at this situation even though my initial dream of being an osteopath seemed, at that point very far away. I discovered that this was not mere luck because it required that the choices I was making were based on a dedicated drive and intention. It seemed to me very far fetched and unreal for a number of years, knowing that I had fallen and risen thereafter, and, that I had ended up in a highly secure job compared with other jobs I had had previously, even to the point where I still find my lifestyle being centered around the same organisation where I work.
I'm very much thankful for the way things have turned out and to my conscious decision to continue following my dreams even when their outcome was different to the initial vision. As I enter a new phase of helping people to also believe in themselves, both in my role as an Aikido teacher but also in my role as a Samurai Game® facilitator, I've been fortunate to meet great people in both roles and I've been fortunate also to assist Aikido Without Borders in Israel, delivering Aikido courses in the Palestinian Territories. The path I have taken has been to rebuild my self love in order to care for the ones I love. Aikido is a means to achieve such a self love and that's why not just the phyiscal movement is important but also the transformation that it cultivates and, ultimately, Aikido is an art of giving life. All this could not have happened if I hadn't taken charge of BEING THE CHANGE and made the decision to rise up and make a new start with my life. I feel this is a direct result of Paul having been there to help and his dedication to Aikido was a real inspiration for me. 
In the Aikido organisation, Paul was always the one coordinating the mat transport from dojos to seminar locations for the summer, winter and lent schools. This is the kind of a job for a silent hero. If the chairman of an organisation is the face of the organisation, then the persons who dedicated themselves selflessly to setting up the events in the background are the organs of the organisation that really make it functional. 
Paul has chosen somehow to be always in the picture behind the scenes. However, today, after being promoted to 5th dan, he should be not only the organs but also the face of Aikido because he is an example of how to lead a pure Aikido life. If you speak to him about this, he will shrug and tell you it is nonsense that's because he wisely only lets the closest people touch his ego.
This is his silent wisdom, and what makes him such a hero. 
Now, I can tell you that it feels really special to me at this point to be a friend of Paul and to have been through a lot of things with him. However, let's not underestimate Paul's reach. He has, in fact, not only helped me, but a lot of people. I believe a number of people can tell their story about how Paul has helped them too. 
If there is anything to gain from my perceptions, it is to know that, from no hope, there is always hope, and that to reach it you have to make the decision that you want to go somewhere better than where you are now. I finish this article with a message to Paul:

Dear Paul, 

I want to tell you, whilst I have made decisions for a better life, you made the magic happen not only for me but for hundreds, if not, thousands of people in your community and, whilst officially 5th dan is your success, in fact your true success is us, your Aikido friends that you've made around you. I salute you and I embrace you for what you have done for all around. I know you're going to modestly trivialize my glorification of your greatness but you are not going to tell me that you're not touched :-P.
Thank you for all you have done in Aikido.

Peace and Love,

- Lawrence

4.0 A New Year Message from Ze'ev in Israel
I received in my post this week a lovely card from Ze'ev Erlich sensei, his wife, Miho and their son, Kazuki. So nice, thank you so much. I like it so much and I would like to share it: