Azikiwe Aikido Club

My heart is overflowing! I am back with my family – my Aikido family :-)!I don’t know these people beforehand but immediately they feel like my kind of people. Aikido really attracts certain kind of people where ever you are… Or then it just molds people in a certain way…

The Aikido dojo in Dar es Salaam is called Azikiwe Aikido Club (http://azikiwe.zatunen.com/index.html) and it was founded by Yukihide Katsuta some three and half years ago. Katsuta was sent by his company to work in Dar and since he wanted to go on with his Aikido and there was none it happened as so often that he ended up starting a dojo. Last month his company transferred him back to Japan and suddenly the dojo was without a high grade teacher. Katsuta then contacted me, told about the situation and welcomed me to teach his students if I had a chance. And of course I had a chance! I made a chance to happen :-)!

The dojo is a member of The Aikido Kenkyukai International (A.K.I.). Katsuta is a student of Takeda Yoshinobu shihan. Before I arrived to the dojo I checked Takeda Shihan in internet and found out that his technique resembles very much my teacher Endo Shihan’s technique. This is not so surprising since both of these shihans used to study under late Yamaguchi Sensei. I also liked very much Katsuta’s definition of Aikido on the dojo’s website: The goal of Aikido is not the defeat of others, but the defeat of the negative characteristics which inhabit your own mind and inhibit its functioning. I couldn’t agree more! And when you look at it this way I feel that I HAVE practiced Aikido the whole time I’ve been here in Africa even though not on tatami…:-)

Having seen Takeda Shihan do Aikido and read Katsuta’s touching definiton my expectations were quite high about the dojo. Katsuta gave me a phone number of a contact person from the dojo and advised me that the arrangements to help me to get to the dojo might be conducted in ‘a Tanzanian way’. Well, this was an unnecessary warning since I’ve been here long enough to expect things to be difficult, slow and unreliable anyway…

So, when I was still in Mtwara I called Akida, the contact person appointed by Katsuta, trying to speak as much of my broken swahili as possible… On the other end of the line was a very friendly voice talking in clear English: Welcome to Dar es Salaam! Just let me know when you have arrived and tell me where you are and I will pick you up and take you to the dojo and after practice I will take you back home. Not what I’m used to in Mtwara, not what I expected!

And so it went onwards; Akida picked me up punctually (african punctually, not the same as in western standards) and took me to the dojo. There I met about a dozen Tanzanian men and got to try out how they would accept a mzungu, a woman (and a middle aged woman at that) as their teacher… No problems whatsoever! One of the students, Richard, even told me it has always been his dream to have a female teacher. Everybody is sincere, respectful and very eager to learn! I also felt immediately this warmth and friendliness that is shared by Aikido people all over the world.

After the practice the guys impressed me even more by cleaning the tatamis with a wet cloth before stacking them neatly in one corner of the dojo. We practice in a school gym so the tatamis are always placed on the floor before the class and removed after. I was impressed because I haven’t detected such cleanliness and organized way of doing things here in Africa before. The laying of the mats is conducted in good time before the class starts and cleaning and piling of them after the class in a calm, self-evident way, everybody participating – Katsuta has really created wonderful atmosphere and attitude here!

On the way back after the practice I got even more convinced that Aikido really shapes us… I’ve written before on this blog about the traffic in Dar and what a challenge it is for the pedestrians to cross the street… Imagine my surprise when Akida, who is a professional and very skillfull driver, stopped the car and let the pedestrians pass – never ever have I seen that happening here before! It must be the influence of Aikido ;-)! Maybe the influence of Aikido can be seen also in that that in this dojo muslims and christians practice together in total harmony being open and friendly towards each other. This is peace work at it’s best and especially significant in a country where religion is an important part of people’s everyday life. When I leave the dojo saying to the guys Tutaonana Jumanne (translates about See you on Tuesday) the answer is Mungu akipenda (God willing) which to my secular ear sounds exotic but which is totally natural thing for them to say…

My only sorrow in this dojo is the lack of women. So far after teaching four classes I’ve seen only two girls, and both of them only attended one class. This is a great pity since in addition to benefiting women themselves if they practice Aikido, I think it is beneficial to the men too to do Aikido with women. When they work with women they are forced to use less of their muscle power, to listen more, and maybe they are able pick up something valuable in experiencing a different quality of doing Aikido…

Placing the mats before the practice

Placing the mats before the practice

Explaining the direction of ki

Explaining the direction of ki

After the practice

After the practice

The two senior students Juma and Akida (my wonderful chauffeur)

The two senior students Juma and Akida (my wonderful chauffeur)

Everybody participates in clearing the space; either by cleaning the tatamis or by collecting them.

Everybody participates in clearing the space; either by cleaning the tatamis or by collecting them.

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One Response to Azikiwe Aikido Club

  1. Marcel Maltzeff says:

    Hello Taina
    It is no diffrence about, how to share “aikido”. Feels good to see all those eager persons on Your webbsite. Africa needs “New unviolent impulses from abroad”, to replace older impressions.
    Kind regards,Marcel

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