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.”

Wilko found the demonstrations a clear improvement from the Beijing Combat Games. That may be the result of the many classes held for the participants during the days in St. Petersburg, bringing them together.

“In the end they were all like one team.”

He was very happy about the additional commitment from Hombu Dojo, with the participation of Waka Sensei Mitsuteru Ueshiba as official Aikido Ambassador of the 2013 World Combat Games. Wilko was also impressed by the support and good cooperation of the three shihans Ulf Evenås, Christian Tissier and Tsuruzo Miyamoto.

“They showed three aspects of aikido without disturbing one another.”

The good spirit among all the participants and the quality of their demonstrations made it clear to him:

“In spite of the sports surroundings, we managed to maintain the aikido ideals.”

Another benchmark for aikido at this event was the success in making the tatami a commercial-free zone. There was no advertising at all on it. That's quite unheard of in modern sports events.

Wilko Vriesman is also pleased with the added scope of the demonstrations, this time giving weapons techniques an official place.

“That's a good stepping-stone for the next Combat Games.”

Like all participants and so many aikido fans around the world watching the event by live streaming from the World Combat Games YouTube channel, Wilko was very impressed by the amazing professionalism of the IEC in Sports video production team. Their beautiful filming of the demonstrations was tremendous advertisement for aikido.

“We could never do that on our own power,” he states with certainty.

Substantial parts of the video coverage is still possible to see in almost all countries of the world. So, in spite of some complications, Wilko Vriesman regards the event as a great success, for which he most of all gives credit to the aikido participants and the spirit they conveyed:

“Although nobody performed aikido as a show, it was a good show.”

Then Wilko Vriesman and August Dragt both have to hurry to the shuttle taking them to the airport, and off to Holland – surely spending the flight planning for the next World Combat Games.

Text by Stefan Stenudd
Photo by Viktor Kazarin