Voronezh is a city about 6 hours south of Moscow by car, an hour by plane it is located in south east of Russia about an hour from the Ukraine. Voronezh is where Peter the Great started the first Russian Navy.
Aikido is new to Russia, having only been introduced in the mid 80's. Vlad had read many books on Aikido and found that no one he trained with could do the things he had read about. He then read Sensei's biography on the Kokikai website and the description of how Sensei can throw anyone without effort intrigued him enough to email everyone listed on the Kokikai.org website. After a few emails back and forth we were invited to come to Russia to demonstrate the Power and Beauty of Kokikai Aikido.
As it turned out, Voronezh is the hometown of a Russian student at Kokikai Silicon Valley. I had her check to see if they were legitimate and help with travel arrangements. She told me they were really interested in finding out if Kokikai Aikido "is for real" and were willing to pay all the expenses for us to travel to Russia. At this point I checked with Sensei and after getting some good advise on getting extra training at Quantico, I booked a flight to Moscow.
We landed in Moscow, drove to Voronezh, and after a comfortable nights rest had the first class. The response was overwhelming. They could not believe that Chad and I could throw them with such "minimum effort!" They were also fascinated by how Kokikai technique is effective against other fighting arts such as karate and boxing.
After the first class, the instructor asked if he and his students could join Kokikai Aikido! We had 4 more classes together, with various instructors from different styles of Aikido including Aikikai, Yoshinkai, and Ki society attending. All the instructors of the other styles were fascinated by our technique and how it was impossible to resist. On Sunday, another of the instructors asked to join or organization!
The Russian students train hard and are very serious about practice. They are also very serious about Aikido being effective for self-defense and the quality of their practice. One of the students said that he had read in books about KI, and how you could throw people in Aikido without effort, but I was only now that he saw it with his own eyes and he believes it is possible.
One of the things Chad noticed working with them was how quickly they picked up on the techniques and concepts that were being taught, even with the language differences. They saw an idea and it didn't take a lot of explaining for them to incorporate the idea, Chad felt this was a clear demonstration that they an open mind and were eager to learn this "new" type of Aikido.
Our host in Russia treated us very well. The put us up in a one bedroom flat (apartment) and acted as a tour guide of Voronezh. It was difficult getting around because Dmitri Medvedev and Vladimir Putin (President and formal president of Russia) were in Voronezh for a summit that weekend. Some of the roads and access to tourist areas were blocked and there was lots of security, but there were fireworks on Saturday night! There was a group lunch after the Saturday class and a party on Saturday night at a Russian bar where I had some excellent beer (Russian, of course) and pizza (which was better then pizza in California).
At the airport asked Vald about (so called) "Real Aikido", which is a mixture of aikido, judo, karate and jujutsu techniques developed by Ljubomir Vraarevi, a self-defense instructor from Serbia. It seemed for "Real Aikido" to be effective against other fighting styles, they had to add fighting techniques and include punching and striking. The newly formed Kokikai Russia felt that Kokikai was REAL AIKIDO, effective against other martial arts, but still true to the sprit of Aikido. Our techniques have been modernized by Sensei to be effective against modern fighting styles, the fact that they could not resist, yet I didn't have to resort to punching or some mixed martial art really impressed them.
During the next trip Paul and I helped them learn the basic testing techniques up to 3rd kyu. Paul wrote a small piece on his experience during the last trip to Russia. Kokikai Russuia BELEIVE in Kokikai Aikido and think it will do well in Russia. We have already scheduled another seminar in Russia for this June.
Sensei would like some of the Kokikai Russia Students to come to the United States for Summer Camp. I discussed this with Sensei, and explained that because their salary is so low compared to ours ($500 a month is considered a good salary for a computer programmer), it would be difficult for them to come. Sensei suggested I reach out to our Kokikai Community to help these students come to the US for camp. We have a Paypal donation page set up at www.snjkokikia.com/russia.html, if you would like to contribute. Thank you for your support!