Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

The end of the year has always been a signal to pause and take a brief moment of introspection, to look back on significant events that shaped the dojo. Unfortunately 2017 ended on a low note, not just for Aikido Shudokan but for the world of yoshinkan in general as we saw the departure of two titans – Hiromichi Nagano Sensei and Kyoichi Inoue Kancho.

Nagano Sensei is credited for spreading yoshinkan aikido throughout Europe, but that barely begins to describe the man I recall as warm, charismatic and always with a smile on his face. Nagano Sensei was a frontiersman in the days of the old yoshinkan, and in his wake left students who loved and adored him.

Inoue Kancho was the head of Aikido Shudokan, but we shared him with the world. Kancho Sensei’s legacy is not just the students (and now teachers) we know, such as Joe Thambu Shihan and Ramlan Ortega Sensei, but almost everyone who passed through the yoshinkan in some form or fashion in the years he was there. As uchi-deshi for Gozo Shioda, then later instructor and head of the yoshinkan, Kancho Sensei was a stoic gentleman of the martial arts who lived a full life of achievement, and was most well-known for fathering the modern-day practice of yoshinkan aikido that everyone is familiar with now. In that way, we are all his students.

Bringing the focus back to Singapore, I am thankful the year was not all doom and gloom – in fact our kids’ class has seen tremendous growth in the second half of 2017 from six mainstays to a thumping fourteen young ones at last count. Of these, a small percentage was students migrating from our Aikido ECA at ISS International School (Paterson Campus) which we have been teaching since 2015. Singapore has always been dominated by the aikikai, so as the first yoshinkan school it speaks to success on our part and hopefully a change in attitudes as parents consider Aikido Shudokan Singapore an equally viable alternative amongst the other aikido schools. The discipline and focus we impart, combined with a healthy mix of fun and character development, is our winning formula and one that has not failed us yet.

Our adults’ class has seen many come up the ranks, such that we have a unique mix of mostly senior belts in the class which by itself is no small feat. The yoshinkan system has the unfortunate label of being a “hard” style, but all labels and categorisations are relative – we may come across more martial and regimental than other styles of aikido, but this does not make us brutal. The hallmark of yoshinkan aikido has always been its technical aspect and its efficiency, and that is a value we impart to all aikidoka, be they experienced, beginners or even trial students.

I believe the focus in 2018 will be on growing our core so that yoshinkan aikido can be more accessible to the people of Singapore. One of our precepts is the belief that aikido is for everyone, and it is my hope that more people will come by for trial classes to discover yoshinkan aikido for themselves. Whether they stay or whether they go has never been the issue – what’s important was giving us the chance to show you what we can offer.

And on that note of optimism, I shall end this post. Here’s to a great 2018 everyone; train hard, train true, and be good to yourself. Osu!

Kelvin Kong