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.

Aikido demonstration at the Opening Ceremony. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Aikido demonstration at the Opening Ceremony. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.The World Combat Games are all about the tremendous achievements of the athletes practicing year after year to triumph over their own limitations, reaching levels they could only dream about when they were beginners starting their quests. So, the Opening Ceremony was mainly devoted to this, giving plenty of room to the demonstrations of all the participating martial arts.

That had the wow-factor sure to remain in our memories long after this event is over. Extremely skilled Russian groups from all these arts performed swiftly and splendidly, one group after the other in quick succession. Wow after wow after wow. It would be difficult to add up all the hours they must have trained in preparation of this event. Honestly, the athletes performing in the days to come will have a hard time living up to it.

Aikido demonstration at the Opening Ceremony. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Aikido demonstration at the Opening Ceremony. Photo by Viktor Kazarin.Aikido was demonstrated by a group of St. Petersburg practitioners. They certainly knew what they were doing, showing a wide variety of the aikido curriculum with bokken and jo as well as unarmed, in a high tempo throughout, and with clear distinction in their techniques. It was also obvious in their demonstration how aikido stands out from the other arts – well, just as the other arts were competently doing the same.

There are many martial arts, and they all have their distinct characteristics. That means they all have their raison d'être. This was at the core of the Opening Ceremony, and what would be more suitable?

The Russian president Vladimir Putin gave a video-taped speech, where he stressed the character cultivating qualities of the martial arts. They were indeed evident in the performances of the participating athletes. And it's a safe bet that it will be proven again and again during the World Combat Games.

The aikido demonstrations will be held on Monday and Tuesday, but before that there will be preparations and a seminar where the three present shihan, Ulf Evenås, Christian Tissier and Tsuruzo Miyamoto, and Waka Sensei Mitsuteru Ueshiba, will teach one class each.

Text by Stefan Stenudd

Photos by Viktor Kazarin