On the 20th October, just six months after the scheduled date, I arrived in Japan for the presentation of my seventh dan certificate from Doshu.
This was my sixth visit to Hombu (the Aikikai headquarters dojo), but this time I was only accompanied by my lifelong friend and student Alan Smith, not the full contingent of twenty two UKAI (United Kingdom Aikikai International) members that arrived with me last November. Unfortunately my recovery was not complete enough to enable me to train as much as I would have liked and I spent more time sat on the hard floor than training on the equally hard mat. Not so for Alan, who practised twice a day, a real achievement for a 74 year old!
On the Tuesday of the presentation, we duly arrived at Hombu each dressed for the occasion, as requested, in a dark suit and conservative tie. We were met by Tani san, the international secretary, a remarkable man whom I have grown to regard as a good friend. He explained that the presentation would take place in Doshu house at the shrine to O Sensei. While we waited in the meeting room we looked at the library of books that filled one wall; although most were in Japanese, they clearly chronicled the history of aikido from the very beginning. It is astonishing to learn that the Aikikai Foundation now has over one million members in 120 countries.
When we were shown into Doshu’s private office, Doshu apologised as the builders had just arrived to start work in his house, so the presentation would have to take place in his private room in front of the pictures of Kisshomaru Ueshiba and O Sensei. It was a solemn and emotional experience to be presented with the 677th seventh dan award. With it came the overwhelming sense of responsibility to preserve the art with honesty and integrity, as I understand it, and to pass it on to those that follow me. It was an occasion that would have been beyond my imagination when I began my aikido career 50 years ago.
We discussed the current position of aikido in the United Kingdom. They were particularly interested in the progress of the JAC (Joint Aikido Council) and the interest shown by other United Kingdom groups to join it. We talked about Waka sensei’s visit next year and Doshu seemed very pleased that we have invited him over to help celebrate our 30th Anniversary. I took with me details of the event so far, pictures of the Manor House Hotel and the Lillishall sports complex.
On the Thursday, Tani san invited us to lunch at a very exclusive tempura restaurant; it was a fitting end to a very rewarding and successful trip. My thanks to Alan for his company and support.