World Combat Games 2013

SportAccord Aikido Introduction Video

Lausanne, 25th of November 2013

Dear Mr. Ueshiba and Mr. Izawa (International Aikido Federation),

I would like to thank you for all your hard work during the SportAccord World Combat Games in Saint Petersburg in October. It was a real pleasure to work with you. We have created informative videos of each combat sport. Below you can find the Aikido video, the goal being to increase knowledge and visibility of your sport present during the World Combat Games.

Best regards,

S. Vlad Marinescu
Director General, SportAccord

 

Naoto Uchida and Toshio Suzuki as ukes for Miyamoto Tsuruzo Sensei at World Combat Games

 

Good Show, and the Aikido Ideals Maintained

The one making it all happen at the aikido demonstrations of the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg was Wilko Vriesman, IAF Technical Delegate for the Games. Here he comments on his experiences from working with the event.

IAF Technical Delegate Wilko Vriesman (left) and his assistant Jorge Rojo at the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.IAF Technical Delegate Wilko Vriesman (left) and his assistant Jorge Rojo at the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

Wilko Vriesman is a 6th dan Dutch aikido teacher with a long experience from both teaching and managing aikido. He is the founder of the Dutch Aikikai Federation as well as the Aikido Nederland. Also, he is a Directing Committee member of the IAF.

He was part of the IAF team working at the 2010 Combat Games in Beijing, and already before its closing he started preparing for the 2013 St. Petersburg Games.

It has been a tremendous workload behind the scenes, carried out by Wilko Vriesman and several members of the IAF Directing Committee, as well as other hard-working volunteers.

“Although we had more people this time, we were still understaffed,” Wilko Vriesman reflects when we meet right before he leaves for the airport to go home to Holland.

Things were running quite smoothly with the preparations for the Games, but in St. Petersburg there were some mishaps leading to several changes of plans. That caused Wilko Vriesman and his team a lot of trouble.

“At the event, we had expected previous agreements to be fulfilled,” he says. “The logistics should have worked. But we had to solve a lot of that, although we were not running the show.”

He had a lot of help in this from his tireless assistant Jorge Rojo Shihan from Chile and from fellow IAF DC member August Dragt. Both of them had also been in Beijing 2010.

“Together we found a working mode, in spite of it all. And the participating aikidoka took it in a very mature way, not being disturbed by it.”

So, despite complications in logistics, none of that was visible at the aikido demonstrations.

“Everything on the tatami went well.”

Read more: Good Show, and the Aikido Ideals Maintained

To Have Fun and Not Suffer

At the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg, we brought together two of the aikido participants – the one who has practiced aikido the longest, and the one who started most recently – to have a conversation about their experiences.

Christian Tissier Shihan and Ranya Iqbal discuss their experiences in aikido and other arts, with reporter Stefan Stenudd (left). Photo by Goska Smierzchalska.Christian Tissier Shihan and Ranya Iqbal discuss their experiences in aikido and other arts, with reporter Stefan Stenudd (left). Photo by Goska Smierzchalska.

Of all the participants in the IAF aikido demonstrations, the one who has practiced the longest is Christian Tissier Shihan, who started in 1961. The one who started most recently is Ranya Iqbal from Chile, who began to practice aikido in 2007. On the other hand, when Christian Tissier started, he was a little boy of 11 years old, whereas Ranya Iqbal was 27 when she did the same.

That was not in Chile, but in St. Louis, Missouri, where she had practiced several sports since childhood. A friend who practiced aikido made her come and watch a class.

“I was immediately mesmerized by the action and the interaction between the practitioners,” she recalls.

And she has practiced aikido with the same fascination since, presently at Aikikai Chile in Santiago.

Christian Tissier started with judo back in 1960, when he was just nine years old. Apart from him, there were only adults in the dojo. After the judo class, some two or three men with strange clothing had their training of something different, which intrigued young Christian.

It was aikido. They explained that in aikido neither size nor weight matters, so he thought he would have a go at it, since being the youngest and shortest didn't work out that well in judo. He remained the youngest by far, also in the aikido classes.

“The teacher was no more than 26 at the time – but to me he was like a grandfather,” Christian Tissier says.

And soon he was to meet an even older man, when legendary aikido teacher Masahilo Nakazono Sensei moved to Paris. Christian Tissier quickly joined his dojo. Although he was by far the youngest, he also had the self-confidence of a youngster.

“I felt that nothing was difficult,” he says with a smile. “And I was treated just like an adult.”

Ranya Iqbal, being 27 when she started with aikido, had confidence because of her past experiences with sports.

“As an adult, your body has already learned how to move,” she explains. “But in aikido you must learn to relax, and that's difficult for an adult.”

Read more: To Have Fun and Not Suffer

Videos Now Accessible in USA and Brazil

Now, the videos from the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg can also be seen in USA and Brazil, at the official YouTube channel of the event.

The Award Ceremony ending the aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg, where the awards were presented by IAF Chairman Peter Goldsbury and Russian Aikido President Sergey Kirienko (seen on the video screen). Photo by Viktor Kazarin.The Award Ceremony ending the aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg, where the awards were presented by IAF Chairman Peter Goldsbury and Russian Aikido President Sergey Kirienko (seen on the video screen). Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

We have just been informed by the chief representative of IEC in Sports, the video production company, that they have managed to open the access to the World Combat Games YouTube videos also for USA and Brazil, where it was previously restricted.

That means also the six hour videos from the daily streaming can be watched in those countries. On these videos you find a total of 1,5 hours of aikido demonstrations. Read more about that here: Aikido Videos From the World Combat Games.

We had alerted IEC in Sports and the World Combat Games media team to the many aikido fans in Brazil and USA telling us about their frustration, not being able to see the aikido demos. So, they sprung into action and made it happen. In the complicated world of video and broadcast rights, that's quite a feat.

Don't forget to subscribe to the World Combat Games YouTube channel, to make sure you are alerted to new uploads there.

The only country now remaining, where access to the YouTube videos is restricted, is France. There, only daily highlights can be seen on Canal+ of France. We hope that our French friends eventually get to see it all, maybe by requesting it from Canal+?

Text by Stefan Stenudd
Photo by Viktor Kazarin

To Be Teacher and To Be Student

Ulf Evenås Shihan from Sweden is 67 years old, which makes him the oldest participant at the aikido demonstrations of the World Combat Games. The youngest participant is Igor Komarov from Russia. We let them meet to discuss their experiences with aikido.

Ulf Evenås Shihan and Igor Komarov, the oldest and the youngest aikido participants at the World Combat Games, and reporter Stefan Stenudd to the far left. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Ulf Evenås Shihan and Igor Komarov, the oldest and the youngest aikido participants at the World Combat Games, and reporter Stefan Stenudd to the far left. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

Ulf Evenås, 7th dan, is one of the three shihan teachers, holding classes and demonstrations at the Combat Games in St. Petersburg. He was 21 when he started to practice aikido in Gothenburg, where he still lives.

At that time, in the 1960's, people in his hometown – or anywhere else – didn't know about aikido. But he did, because he was practicing karatedo.

“I heard about the philosophy of aikido, and my intuition sensed that there was a deeper meaning to it,” he explains. “Also, I could feel the good relations the practice created.”

Igor Komarov started aikido in 2006, at age 15. Now he is 2nd dan and practices in a Samara dojo. When he started he asked if he could join the older group immediately, which consisted of adults between 30 and 40 years old.

“They had the bigger experience,” he says. “I wanted to practice in hard conditions.”

He wants to get all he can from the teachers, in order to develop his techniques. He knows it's a gradual process, step by step.

“Each step is very interesting, so I like to go through them all.”

He watched closely when Ulf Evenås and the other shihans were teaching the classes at the Combat Games, eager to get every detail from such experienced aikidoka. Ulf Evenås agrees about the meticulous process of learning aikido.

“It's hard work indeed,” he confirms. “Sometimes it's not fun, but you have to overcome it and go to the dojo anyway.”

Asked to summarize his experience of more than four decades of aikido training, Ulf Evenås gives this advice:

“You always have to be totally focused and go to your teacher for any advice. Others just don't know. But also, help your juniors. That will help you. Together you will all develop.”

Read more: To Be Teacher and To Be Student

Aikido Participants Comment the World Combat Games Experience

Ivan Egorov from the Russian team shaking hands with Russian Aikido President Sergey Kirienko. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Ivan Egorov from the Russian team shaking hands with Russian Aikido President Sergey Kirienko. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Wednesday was departure day for the aikido participants of the SportAccord World Combat Games in St. Petersburg. We asked a few of them how their experience had been – the ups as well as the downs.

The 80 participants and most of the officials and shihan teachers stayed at the Pulkovskaya Park Inn hotel, conveniently close to both the Peterburgsky arena, where the aikido demonstrations took place, and the airport. From morning to late afternoon, aikido practitioners checked out and pulled their luggage out to shuttle buses provided by the local Combat Games organizers.

We took the chance of getting their opinions of the event before leaving for their distant homes. They had both praise and criticism.

Tsuruzo Miyamoto Shihan signing after the Sunday seminar. Photo by Goska Smierzchalska.Tsuruzo Miyamoto Shihan signing after the Sunday seminar. Photo by Goska Smierzchalska.Miyamoto Tsuruzo from Hombu Dojo was one of the three shihans demonstrating at the final part of the aikido event. We caught him already at the Tuesday night sayonara party, and asked for his comments.

“Aikido is not competitive,” he states very firmly. “It's not about combat, but about harmony.”

Like many other aikidoka, he is uncomfortable with the name of the event. But he was impressed to see the many nations represented, the big ceremony of the whole event and the presence of other budo, such as kendo and judo.

He keeps contemplating whether aikido should continue to be part of the Combat Games.

“Before I thought not,” he tells us, and continues with a smile: “Now it's about fifty-fifty in my mind.”

He appreciates the exposure this event gives aikido, and the good this can do to the development of aikido in the world.

“In a small way we confirmed aikido internationally. And aikido must expand.”

He is inclined to think that participation in the Combat Games can be of some help in that respect.

Jikou Sugano at the aikido demonstrations of the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Jikou Sugano at the aikido demonstrations of the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Jikou Sugano is a 5th dan aikido instructor from Australia, who took part in several of the demonstrations. He was practically born into aikido, being the son of Seiichi Sugano Shihan, who passed away in 2010.

Jikou Sugano found the experience of the aikido Combat Games participation quite enjoyable.

“People from all the different countries could discover each other naturally through training,” he tells us.

In addition to the demonstrations and preparations for them, the days in St. Petersburg also contained several morning classes from different high grade instructors and a one-day seminar with the three shihan teachers Evenås, Tissier and Miyamoto, as well as Waka Sensei Mitsuteru Ueshiba.

It was quite a demanding schedule. The dedication of the participants was also visible in the quality of the demonstrations.

“It was evidence of a lot of effort,” he says.

Jikou Sugano regards the interaction and communication between the participants as particularly important when they go back home.

“It's a spirit that will attract new students.”

Sten Frödin (left) at practice area of the Peterburgsky arena. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Sten Frödin (left) at practice area of the Peterburgsky arena. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Sten Frödin from Sweden is a 24 years old 3rd dan who started to practice aikido already at the age of six. His Wednesday flight was in the evening, so he had a chance to stroll around in St. Petersburg during the day.

He was pleased with the whole experience of the Combat Games, but not overly so. What would have made him more enthusiastic?

“If things had worked more smoothly with the logistics,” he says. “And if we had the opportunity to do more at the demonstrations.”

He appreciated the morning classes and the Saturday seminar very much. There he got to meet and interact with the Japanese as well as people from many other nations.

“It was a bit crowded, but still rewarding.”

For the next World Combat Games he primarily hopes there will be more live-streaming. Far too little of the aikido event was aired. Sten Frödin shares this opinion with many others – participants as well as their aikido friends back home – who have tried to watch it online.

Ranya Iqbal at the athletes restaurant in the Pulkovskaya Park Inn hotel. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Ranya Iqbal at the athletes restaurant in the Pulkovskaya Park Inn hotel. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Ranya Iqbal is a 1st dan from Chile. Although she has practiced aikido for six years, she is the one of all the participants who started most recently. So, it was not a small thing for her to step onto the arena in front of an audience of hundreds – and a broadcast reaching all over the world.

“Of course I was nervous,” she says, “but within a few seconds of doing aikido I forgot everything.”

She is amazed by the size of the event.

“This was so big, and I did it. Now I can handle the rest.”

Part of that rest is playing the cello, which she has done for over 20 years. So she has experience both with the stage and with sincere training to prepare for it. Still, she found the packed schedule difficult, starting already with super-early morning training, and not always getting food when needing it.

Read more: Aikido Participants Comment the World Combat Games Experience

Aikido Videos From the World Combat Games

bruno gonzalez, photo goska smierzchalskaBruno Gonzalez demonstrating. Photo Goska Smierzchalska The whole World Combat Games were filmed by a big professional crew from IEC, with six hours of live streaming each day. These broadcasts can be viewed in their entirety also after the live streaming. The material contains a total of 1,5 hours from the aikido demonstrations.

UPDATE 16 Dec 2013: A new IAF YouTube channel is live where we are uploading hours of new materials shared with us by IEC in Sports and SportAccord. 

UPDATE 12 Nov 2013: Tom Dijkman's edited videos (of the official broadcasts) are now linked.

UPDATE 4 Nov 2013The video entitled 'Slow and Beauty' of Naoto Uchida and Toshio Suzuki as ukes for Miyamoto Tsuruzo Sensei is now embedded on this site. This video was shot by August Dragt and edited by Jieshi Shan.

UPDATE 4 Nov 2013: Check again!  The videos can now be seen in USA and Brazil. More about it here: Videos Now Accessible...

The collection of videos we have uncovered so far follows: 

 

Read more: Aikido Videos From the World Combat Games

The Second Day of Aikido Demonstrations at the World Combat Games

Tuesday was the second and last day of aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg. In an escalating level of complexity, it ended with demonstrations of the three Shihan teachers Ulf Evenås, Christian Tissier and Tsuruzo Miyamoto.

Ulf Evenås Shihan aikido demonstration at the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Ulf Evenås Shihan aikido demonstration at the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

The four hours of aikido demonstrations at the Peterburgsky arena were divided into two two blocks separated by a two hour break. They displayed the great variety of techniques, tempos and training forms, as the groups performed their designated tasks.

All three levels of training were demonstrated – suwariwaza where both sit, hanmi handachiwaza with seated defense against a standing attacker, and tachiwaza where both stand. So were the basic tempos – gotai, from static positions, jutai when the aikido technique begins before the attack is fully completed, and kinagare when both participants move continuously.

Christian Tissier Shihan aikido demonstration at the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Christian Tissier Shihan aikido demonstration at the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

The demonstrations also showed examples of one, two and several attackers. The traditional weapons were explored by several of the demonstration groups: ken the sword, jo the staff, and tanto the knife. Unarmed defense against these weapons, as well as techniques with ken against ken, or jo against jo, were demonstrated.

The final part of the day, the three Shihan teachers had their demonstrations.

Tsuruzo Miyamoto Shihan aikido demonstration at the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Tsuruzo Miyamoto Shihan aikido demonstration at the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

Ulf Evenås Shihan from Sweden started with the very fundamental aikido exercise tai-no-henko, where the energies of both participants is blended. From there he moved to exercises showing the principles of the sword and staff in aikido and how movements with those weapons relate to aikido techniques. At the end he increased speed considerably, showing full-power unarmed applications of the techniques.

Christian Tissier Shihan also started from the very basic steps in aikido, showing how they set character to the meeting between the two participants and lead into aikido techniques of lower to higher complexity of movement. He also displayed the great difference between slow training and the same movements in very rapid execution.

Tsuruzo Miyamoto Shihan also showed how basic movements lead to advanced ones, and the importance of attitude and entrance, irimi, in aikido. He went on to show variations on the basic throws and pinning techniques in a continuous and improvisational manner of training. When showing defense techniques against sword attacks, he used a tanto, knife, to clarify the relation between the two practitioners in the dynamics all through each aikido technique.

Award ceremony with IAF Chairman Peter Goldsbury and the Russian Aikido President Sergey Kirienko, at the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Award ceremony with IAF Chairman Peter Goldsbury and the Russian Aikido President Sergey Kirienko, at the World Combat Games. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

After the completion of the demonstration program, each participant received an award from the IAF Chairman Peter Goldsbury and the Russian Aikido President Sergey Kirienko.

The night was spent at a much deserved sayonara party for all participants.

Many more photos of the event are being published on the IAF Facebook account.

Text by Stefan Stenudd
Photos by Viktor Kazarin

The First Day of Aikido Demonstrations at the World Combat Games

Monday was the first of the two days of aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg. Eighty aikidoka from 32 countries  around the world showed a multitude of aikido techniques and training forms for a total of four hours. Tuesday will have even more.

Aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in Russia. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in Russia. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

The aikido demonstrations took place in the Peterburgsky arena, on a great stage and with hundreds of spectators. It was also broadcast live worldwide. Highlights and parts of the demonstrations are available at the SportAccord World Combat Games YouTube account.

The demonstration was divided into two blocks of two hours each, where the national teams performed in quick succession according to a given program. At the live airing of the first block, IAF Senior Council member Tony Smibert Shihan was the expert commentator.

Aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in Russia. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in Russia. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

The first block was devoted to basics, whereas the second had a theme of higher speed and intensity, as well as some more advanced techniques and attacks. Each team had been given specific tasks for their parts of the demonstrations, to make a total representing the variety and wide curriculum of aikido.

This exploration of the many aspects of aikido will continue Tuesday, ending with demonstrations by the three Shihan teachers Ulf Evenås, Christian Tissier and Tsuruzo Miyamoto.

I checked with several of the senior aikido teachers present, who all agreed about the overall sharpness and quality of the demonstrations, even exceeding what had been seen at the Combat Games in Beijing 2010.

The video filming, shown also on big screens in the arena, contained several slow motion highlights after each team's demonstrations, adding to the awe of it all. No wonder the audience applauded frequently.

Aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in Russia. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in Russia. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

I caught three Russian teenage boys as they were leaving the arena, and asked them if they liked the aikido demonstrations.

“A little,” one of the boys said with a rascal smile, showing a moderate space between his thumb and index finger. Then his fingers closed in on each other as he continued: “Very little.”

The boys were more into boxing and wrestling. On the other hand, they had sat through more than an hour and a half of aikido demonstrations, so something must still have caught their attention.

More photos of the event will be posted at the IAF Facebook account.

Text by Stefan Stenudd
Photos by Viktor Kazarin

International Aikido Seminar at the World Combat Games

The aikido participation in the World Combat Games held in St. Petersburg also included a one-day international seminar, where the three shihan teachers of the event and Waka Sensei Mitsuteru Ueshiba were teaching one class each.

Ulf Evenås Shihan from Sweden teaching the first class at the international seminar in the Volleyball Academy Platonov, St. Petersburg. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Ulf Evenås Shihan from Sweden teaching the first class at the international seminar in the Volleyball Academy Platonov, St. Petersburg. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

The seminar took place on Sunday in the Volleyball Academy Platonov, with around 200 participants – the 80 aikidoka who are to have their own demonstrations on Monday and Tuesday at the World Combat Games, and a great number of aikido students from several Russian aikido organizations and dojos.

Christian Tissier Shihan from France teaching the second class at the international seminar. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Christian Tissier Shihan from France teaching the second class at the international seminar. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

The tatami was very crowded indeed, which did in no way affect the enthusiasm of the many aikido students. They managed to find room for their techniques, sometimes with a skill comparable to that of completing a jigsaw puzzle.

Tsuruzo Miyamoto Shihan from Hombu Dojo in Tokyo teaching the third class at the international seminar. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Tsuruzo Miyamoto Shihan from Hombu Dojo in Tokyo teaching the third class at the international seminar. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

The three shihan teachers present at the Combat Games – Ulf Evenås, Christian Tissier and Tsuruzo Miyamoto – were teaching one hour-long class each in quick succession. After a much needed short break, the Combat Games Aikido Ambassador Mitsuteru Ueshiba, known in the aikido world as Waka Sensei, held the final class of the seminar, where his zest made the students muster renewed energy and vigor.

The crowded tatami was equally full of aikido students and wide smiles.

The World Combat Games Aikido Ambassador, Waka Sensei Mitsuteru Ueshiba, teaching the final class at the international seminar. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.The World Combat Games Aikido Ambassador, Waka Sensei Mitsuteru Ueshiba, teaching the final class at the international seminar. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.

After the seminar, the World Combat Games participants were transported by shuttle buses to the Peterburgsky arena for a late lunch and additional training in preparation of their demonstrations to be performed on Monday and Tuesday. Arriving to Peterburgsky, though, the troop discovered that there had been a mix-up in bookings, so that no lunch was prepared and the tatami at the arena was occupied by a judo event.

So, the aikido group got to have the afternoon and evening off. Actually, that was quite fortunate, since the intense seminar had taken its toll and little need of additional exercises remained. Instead, they will have possibility to prepare for their demonstrations on both Monday and Tuesday.

Many more photos from the aikido seminar will be posted shortly on the IAF Facebok account.

Text by Stefan Stenudd
Photos by Viktor Kazarin

Aikido Ambassador Meets Children at Hospital

Saturday morning, several of the World Combat Games Ambassadors visited the Republican Clinical Hospital in St. Petersburg, where orphan children with HIV are treated. So did Aikido Ambassador Mitsuteru Ueshiba.

Aikido Ambassador Mitsuteru Ueshiba visits orphans with HIV at the Republican Clinical Hospital in St. Petersburg. Photo by Kei Izawa.Aikido Ambassador Mitsuteru Ueshiba visits orphans with HIV at the Republican Clinical Hospital in St. Petersburg. Photo by Kei Izawa.While the children are in treatment, the hospital staff also works to get them adopted by families and to help them adjust to normal life. When HIV was new, there was great fear of it and adoptions were few, but lately there has been a growing trend of the children being welcomed into families in spite of the disease. Also, with modern medicine, they can live normal healthy lives and have the same life expectancy as other children.

Still, the children need a lot of support, which they get at the Republican Clinical Hospital, funded by the city of St. Petersburg and private donors.

It was evident to all that the children, who are from ages two to the early teens, were delighted by the visit from the Combat Games Ambassadors. They showed a keen interest in the martial arts and some of the visiting Ambassadors were well known sports heroes of theirs.

Aikido Ambassador Mitsuteru Ueshiba held a short speech about aikido and its non-competitive nature. Also, a security guard who practices aikido gave them a demonstration.

In return, the children performed karaoke singing and played the drums.

The Ambassadors had gifts for the children – the mascot figures of the Combat Games. SportAccord President Marius Vizer invited them all to the Games.

It was a joyous and touching event. IAF General Secretary Kei Izawa, who accompanied the Aikido Ambassador on the visit, says:

“It was clear how happy the children were to see their sports heroes. Their eyes were shining, and it made me feel that there is so much more we can do.”

Text by Stefan Stenudd
Photo by Kei Izawa

The Day of Arrival to the World Combat Games

400px arrivals-to-park inn photo by viktor kazarin -4Participants arriving to the Park Inn Pulkovskaya hotel. Shihan teacher Tsuruzo Miyamoto to the right. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Saturday was the day when most of the aikido participants at the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg arrived, some of them after more than 24 hours of travel.

All the aikido participants stay at the same hotel, Park Inn Pulkovskaya, where a big team of volunteers have been constantly ready to receive them and help with the many practical matters. They were swiftly transported from the nearby St. Petersburg airport by shuttle buses.

Although many of the participants had traveled for very long, they were in good mood, if not to say cheerful, immediately taking the opportunity to get acquainted with aikidoka from all the corners of the world.

They have a tough schedule in front of them. Sunday activities start early with a seminar in a sports center, to which the shuttle buses go already at 7:30 AM. Classes will be held by the shihan teachers Ulf Evenås, Christian Tissier and Tsuruzo Miyamoto. The Aikido Ambassador to the 2013 World Combat Games, Waka Sensei Mitsuteru Ueshiba, will also teach a class.

Read more: The Day of Arrival to the World Combat Games

The World Combat Games Opening Ceremony

The Opening Ceremony of the World Combat Games was held yesterday, Friday evening. The duels on stage were not just between martial artists, but also two pianists battling it out with all kinds of music.

Aikido Ambassador Mitsuteru Ueshiba at the Opening Ceremony. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Aikido Ambassador Mitsuteru Ueshiba at the Opening Ceremony. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.At the Ice Palace in St. Petersburg, a delighted audience watched the more than two-hour long opening ceremony, consisting of all kinds of spectacles. We saw the many participating nations parade, and so did the sports. A whole symphony orchestra played and a choir sang, ballet dancers on light feet practically hovered over the stage, vicious electric guitars were played, a DJ used his body movements to create some heavy grooves.

It was a daring mixture of old and new, sweet and raw, soft and hard. Well, just like the martial arts.

Ballerinas at the Opening Ceremony. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Ballerinas at the Opening Ceremony. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.All the participating martial arts were shown in short and explosive demonstrations by very accomplished Russian athletes, who had obviously trained very hard indeed to excel the way they did this evening. And they were not the only ones dueling.

Two accomplished pianists worked their grand pianos from opposite sides of the big stage, in a duel of music. It was quite a spectacle, where they comfortably mixed classical music with 20th century evergreens and rock tunes we all know by heart. A veritable recap of our musical history, full of surprises and humor.

They must be martial artists at heart.

Read more: The World Combat Games Opening Ceremony

Arena for the Aikido Demonstrations at the World Combat Games

400px-Peterburgsky-aikido-stage-photo-by-Stefan-StenuddThe Peterburgsky arena stage for the aikido demonstrations, as well as the judo and wrestling competitions. Lots of craftsmen still work on the finishing touch. Photo by Stefan Stenudd.The aikido demonstrations at the World Combat Games in St. Petersburg will take place in the Peterburgsky arena on Gagarina Avenue. It's a very impressive building, bigger than any dojo you ever came across.

In addition to the aikido demonstrations, it's also the place for competitions in kendo, judo, wrestling, sumo, and fencing. Its huge space has been cleverly divided into three stages. The aikido stage, with a large number of spectator seats, will also be used for judo and wrestling – at separate days, of course.

Fencing, appearing for the first time in the World Combat Games, has its own stage with room for seven simultaneous fencing matches. The stage for sumo will be swiftly rebuilt to house the kendo competition, once sumo is over.

We got a tour together with one of the major Russian organizers, who told us that the sumo representatives were afraid that the stands for medalists did not seem sturdy enough to carry the weight necessary, but they need not worry. It has been tested and found to manage 600 kilos, which should suffice. The organizers even went through the trouble of going to the World Games in Colombia recently, to have the medalist stands tested.

Read more: Arena for the Aikido Demonstrations at the World Combat Games

The Aikido Demonstrations at the World Combat Games

Toshio-Suzuki-photo-by-SonobePhotoStudio-400pxToshio Suzuki Sensei. Photo by Sonobe Photo Studio.There is no competition in aikido, so the IAF aikido participation in the World Combat Games consists of demonstrations only.  These are divided into five blocks with separate themes for the national teams to demonstrate. At the end, the three Shihan expert teachers give their aikido demonstrations.

In addition to giving the participants the opportunity of showing the skills they have reached by dedicated training, the demonstrations set out to show the depth and breadth of aikido and at the same time make it dynamic as much as possible. Also there is special attention to demonstrate that women and men can effectively practice aikido together as equals.

The succession of themes is such that they increase the levels of dynamics and skills needed, as the programme progresses from the first to the last block.

Monday, 21 October 2013
Block One, 14:00 – 16:00

Objectives:

  1. Basic aikido taisabaki, body movements in the techniques
  2. Response to specific attacks
  3. Basic techniques in free style

The block starts with demonstrations by the Japanese team, then the Russian one, and it ends with the same two nations.

Read more: The Aikido Demonstrations at the World Combat Games

Wilko Vriesman IAF Technical Delegate for the Combat Games

Vriesman-400pxWilko Vriesman, IAF Technical Delegate to the Combat Games. Photo by Satomi Ishikawa.Wilko Vriesman was born in Amsterdam 1958. He started to practice aikido in 1981 under Minoru Kanetsuka Shihan and then Masatake Fujita Shihan. In 1991 he was invited to stay in Hombu Dojo as a student.

“That became a turning point in my aikido life,” he says.

Returning to Europe, Wilko Vriesman was introduced by Seigo Yamaguchi Shihan to Christian Tissier Shihan in Paris, were he trained from 1993 until 2000, by commuting to Paris once or twice a week.

In 1993 he opened a dojo in Amsterdam and in 1995 founded the Dutch Aikikai Federation, which at this moment consist of 56 dojos and 300 yudansha (black belts). He is its president and Technical Director. He also founded Aikido Nederland, the all-style aikido organization of the country, in 2009, where he is the General Secretary.

In addition to his work for Dutch aikido, Wilko Vriesman holds many seminars in several other countries, helping them to develop their aikido practice. He's the Technical Director of major aikido organizations in Slovenia, Dubai and Saudi Arabia.

At the 2012 General Assembly he was elected to the Directing Committee of the IAF and appointed as Technical Delegate for the IAF 2013 World Combat Games participation. His current aikido rank is 6th dan.

Miyamoto Shihan Coming to the World Combat Games

Miyamoto-400pxMiyamoto Shihan. Photo by Sonobe Photo Studio. Tsuruzo Miyamoto Shihan was born in 1953, which means that he reached Kanreki this year, i.e. 60 years, which is celebrated in Japanese tradition. He celebrates it as usual for him, with aikido practice:

“I would like to spend the rest of my life practicing aikido hard and continue exploring my potential.”

He was 18 in 1971 when he enrolled in the Aikikai and started his aikido practice. What attracted him was the continuous training in accordance with traditional budo, without the competition format.

In 1975 he entered in the services of Aikikai Foundation, with intense study of aikido at the Hombu dojo as well as instructing at universities, enterprise aikido clubs, and other dojos in Japan and overseas.

He holds seminars in several countries, such as the USA, Israel, France, Spain, Germany and the UK. His first visit to Russia was in 1995 in a Hombu Dojo delegation led by Ichihashi Shihan. Since 1997 he teaches annually in Russia.

In 1998 Tsuruzo Miyamoto was awarded 7th dan in aikido.

IAF Senior Council Member Narrator at the Combat Games

SmibertIAF Senior Council member Tony Smibert. Photo by Helene Rasse.Tony Smibert, born 1949 in Australia, is a 7th dan aikido shihan, member of the IAF Senior Council and before that for many years its Vice Chairman. He is also president of Aikikai Australia and a trustee of the Sugano Foundation. His home and dojo are in a tiny Tasmanian town beneath the mountains and very near to a world famous wilderness.

He started training aikido in 1964, at age 15. Next year, Seiichi Sugano Shihan arrived in Australia and Tony Smibert soon became his student, remaining with him until his death in 2010, assisting in the development of aikido around Australia.

“I can’t really remember 'life before aikido,' because I've been fully engaged in it since I was a kid,” he says. “Even though, sadly, Sugano Shihan has passed away, I’m still very much his student and trying hard to learn what he was teaching.”

Read more: IAF Senior Council Member Narrator at the Combat Games

IAF General Secretary Preparing for the Combat Games

Izawa-400pxIAF General Secretary Kei Izawa. Photo by Larry Armstrong.Kei Izawa began his aikido practice in 1969 at Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, under the late Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. In 1976, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he studied under Mitsunari Kanai, 8th dan, of New England Aikikai.

Kei Izawa has taught aikido at New England Aikikai (1977-1978), as well as in the United Kingdom (1987-1990) and Germany (1997). Presently he teaches at Aikikai Tanshinjuku in Colorado.

In 2008, he was elected General Secretary of the International Aikido Federation. He was re-elected in 2012. He was also the Technical Delegate for the IAF at the Beijing Combat Games in 2010.

Kei Izawa translated, in collaboration with Mary Fuller, the biography of O-Sensei, titled A Life in Aikido, published by Kodansha International in 2008.

Kei Izawa is a 6th dan black belt in aikido.

IAF Chairman Heading for the Combat Games

Goldsbury-400pxIAF Chairman Peter Goldsbury. Photo by August Dragt.Peter Goldsbury was born in 1944 in the UK. After the usual school sports of soccer and cricket, he took up cross-country running as a university student – until he discovered aikido in 1970, attracted by its absence of competition. He is still training aikido and his current rank is 7th dan.

It was due to a growing interest in Japanese martial arts that he moved to Hiroshima in 1980, where he now lives and teaches aikido. His dojo is one of very few in the country where one of its martial arts is taught to Japanese people in Japanese, but by a foreigner.

Peter Goldsbury gives regular aikido seminars in the Netherlands and has also taught in the UK, Ireland, Malaysia and Brunei.

He began working for the International Aikido Federation (IAF) around 1980, soon becoming its General Secretary, and was elected IAF Chairman at the 7th Congress in 1996.

Read more: IAF Chairman Heading for the Combat Games

Swedish Shihan to the Combat Games

Evenas-400pxUlf Evenås Shihan. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Ulf Evenås was born 1946 in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he still lives. After training karate he turned to aikido in 1968. He was one of the first western students to have an extended time as uchideshi in Iwama, 1973, under Morihiro Saito Shihan. He remained a close student of his for 29 years.

The last ten years of Saito's life, Ulf Evenås was his personal representative in Europe, Russia and Australia, even co-teaching with him at a seminar in Australia in 2000. Ulf Evenås continues to teach aikido as it was taught to him by Saito, at countless seminars around the globe.

His first Russian seminar was in St. Petersburg 20 years ago, in 1993. Back then, Russian aikido had little means, facing many difficulties.

“I slept on somebody's couch, and even payed the travel costs myself,” he recalls.

Read more: Swedish Shihan to the Combat Games

Christian Tissier to Make a Demo at the Combat Games

Christian Tissier Shihan. Photo by Maria Polevaya.Christian Tissier Shihan. Photo by Maria Polevaya.Christian Tissier is a French aikido instructor born in 1951. He took his first aikido class in 1962, which made him, barely 11 years old, one of the youngest practitioners in Europe. He soon became a student of Mutsuro Nakazono at his Paris dojo.

Christian Tissier was quickly recognized for his talent in aikido, which was confirmed when he received 2nd dan at the age of 17. In 1969 he realised his dream of going to Japan to practice aikido. Although he initially intended to stay for six months, he remained for seven years.

He practiced for all the masters, mainly Kisshomaru Ueshiba Doshu and Seigo Yamaguchi, the latter of whom came to regard him as a favorite student, Mitsugi Saotome and the revered Kisaburo Osawa, Technical Director of the Aikikai. He also practiced kenjutsu and even kickboxing for fun, just to add a "contact sport."

Read more: Christian Tissier to Make a Demo at the Combat Games

Mitsuteru Ueshiba, Ambassador for the 2013 World Combat Games

Mitsuteru UeshibaMitsuteru UeshibaUnlike most sports, Aikido does not hold competitions and so has no world champions. Of course, technical expertise is taken for granted as being essential, but the IAF appoints its Aikido Ambassadors for additional reasons.

As Ambassador for the first Combat Games, held in Beijing, we appointed a wheelchair athlete, holding dan ranks in karate as well as aikido, in order to show the wide scope of aikido as a martial way.

For the 2013 World Combat Games in St Petersburg, we have returned to the source of aikido and appointed as our Ambassador a direct descendant of the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.

The traditional organization of Japanese martial arts is based on the founding family, and Mitsuteru Ueshiba is the Founder’s great-grandson.

Born in 1981, Mr Ueshiba is Deputy Head of the Headquarters Dojo in Tokyo. As such, Mr Ueshiba follows an intensive programme of training and teaching aikido. He gives many overseas seminars and last visited the Russian Federation in 2010, when he gave a seminar in Moscow.

The IAF is very pleased and honoured that Mr Mitsuteru Ueshiba has consented to act as Aikido Ambassador for the 2013 World Combat Games.

Aikido Demonstrators at the World Combat Games 2013

aikido-pictogram2The WCG Aikido PictogramWe are delighted to announce the Aikidoka selected to demonstrate Aikido at the World Combat Games in St Petersburg, October 2013

Click here for the official event website.

Click on 'read more' below to see the full list of participants.

Read more: Aikido Demonstrators at the World Combat Games 2013