Tokyobling's Blog

The Grave of Kenji Tomiki – Founder of Modern Aikido

Posted in People, Places by tokyobling on December 4, 2014

Aikido is probably one of the most famous of the many different forms of Martial Arts coming out of Japan. In the West it is often seen as the softest martial art, focusing on throws and using the opponents energy against him. Modern Competitive Aikido was founded in 1961 by Kenji Tomiki (1900-1979) who in his lifetime achieved 8th grade black belts in both Aikido and Judo. He studied under the legendary Morihei Ueshiba who was teaching Jujutsu and developing Aikido from it. Tomiki was the first of his students to reach the 8th level of the black balt, in 1940. He worked as a teacher at the university of Kenkoku in then Manchuria from 1938 to 1945 and spent three years in a Soviet “labor camp” after the war before returning to Japan in 1948 as part of a large prisoner release effort.

Master Tomiki died in December 1979 and his grave is the town where he was born, Kakunodate, in Akita Predecture. If you are one of the millions worldwide who study Aikido, be sure to look up this tomb the next time you visit Akita!

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Aikido – Meiji Jingu

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on November 6, 2014

I totally missed this year’s martial arts festival at the grand Meiji Shrine but I had lots of fun at last year’s festival. Aikido was well represented with dozens of practitioners from several countries. When we think of Aikido we don’t imagine the use of deadly blades but sword art is also a central part of Aikido.

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Ritual Archery – Kyudo at Yasukuni Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on April 12, 2014

More photos of the fabulous archers I saw at the Kyudo ceremony at Yasukuni shrine in the first few days of this year. January was bitterly cold but these steady hands never failed to hit the targets in this form of traditional archery called kyudo or often zen archery in the west. You can read more about the ceremony in my earlier post on the subject here. Enjoy!

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Iaido Performance at Yasukuni Shrine

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on March 26, 2014

Last weekend while visiting Yasukuni shrine to see the sakura trees I also spent a while watching the semi-annual iaido performance at the Kagura stage in the shrine grounds. There were iaidoka, practitioners of iaido, of both sexes, from young to old and including at least one foreigner. Iaido is a highly philosophical sport focused on the quick drawing of the sword, a resolute attack and a smooth withdrawal. Because it involves actual weaponry there is not competition aspect to it. There are three kinds of swords, a wooden boken that is used for kata (or set movements) with more than one person, iaito which is a blunt metal sword and a shinken, which is a sharpened sword. There are also kata for more than one swords, extra long swords and sneakier “stealth” kata that involves hidden daggers.

Originally iaido was a real practice for real combat situations but these days it is more like a very fluid form of zen meditation, similar to zen archery, kyudo, and not even remotely similar to the combat sports like kendo or naginata. It takes a lot of time and dedication to become reasonably good at iaido. There is something comforting about a sport where the best practitioners are also usually the oldest!

Despite this performance being free for anyone to watch it is not very well advertised apart from a line or two on a sub-page of the ever elegant and modest Yasukuni shrine official website.

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