THE SPEECH PRESENTED BY FUTAO MOTAI
at the Kenshiro
Abbe Jubilee Celebration
Saturday May 14th, 2005
Futao Motai is the Councillor for the
Japan Information and Cultural Centre
Embassy of Japan, 101-104 Piccadilly,
London W1J 7JT
Submitted By Henry Ellis, Sensei
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you very much for inviting me to the
memorable occasion of the 50th anniversary
of the introduction of Aikido into the
United Kingdom. It is my highest honour to be with you to celebrate
50 years of Aikido in the UK. I am also thrilled to see so many
guests from the whole range of Budo disciplines, including of course
Aikido but also Judo, Kendo, Karate and so on.
May I also say how happy I am that these celebrations have been
included under the banner of the 2005 EU-Japan Year of Exchanges.
More than 100 events have been arranged for the UK so far, which
shows a healthy level of interest in this initiative.
As we meet today, it is clear that relations between Japan and
the United Kingdom have never been better. This is not something
that has come out of the blue, but reflects the tireless efforts
and dedication of numerous people and organisations on both sides.
Perhaps we can gauge the extent of the progress in our bilateral
relations, and the significance of the achievement we are celebrating
today, by considering what the world was like 50 years ago, just
10 years after the end of World War II.
In Japan at that time, people were living from hand to mouth, quite
literally. The country had still not recovered from the devastation
of war, and relations with the outside world were at rock bottom.
There were no smooth lines of communication between here and Japan.
Air travel linking the two countries was almost non-existent. It
must therefore have required a tremendous amount of energy and time
for Mr Abbe to plan and realise a trip abroad. Nonetheless, despite
such trying circumstances, he did whatever it took and made his
way to the UK.
I understand that his trip was made possible thanks to an invitation
from the London Judo Society. It must have required enormous courage
for the Society, in such acrimonious circumstances, to issue an
invitation to someone from a country with which the UK had recently
been at war. I would therefore like to pay tribute to the perseverance
and determination of both Mr Abbe and the London Judo Society in
making his visit possible.
The fact that the London Judo Society identified Mr Abbe and nobody
else as the person to be invited shows the extent to which he already
stood out at that time. And no wonder.
Born in 1915, he started Judo at the age of 3. He was awarded the
5th Dan when only 18. His progress continued, and in 1945 at the
age of 30 he reached the level of 7th Dan in Judo and 6th Dan in
Kendo. In 1949, he took up the position of Chief Instructor to the
Kyoto Police and Doshisha University.
After Mr Abbe came to London, his road was by no means smooth.
On the contrary, it was full of ups and downs.
First of all, he was obliged to sever his links with the London
Judo Society due to a disagreement concerning their approach to
martial arts. Then, during his absence between 1964 and 1969, his
Judo Council embarked on a course that was contrary to his philosophy.
However, during such a turbulent life, he constantly adhered to
the philosophy underpinning all the martial arts, whether Judo,
Kendo, Karate or Aikido, which emphasises spiritual harmony.
Mr Abbe promoted Aikido in word as well as in deed. He has left
quite a legacy here in the UK, where the traditional martial art
of Aikido is in such rude health.
I am sure he would be delighted to see you all, chips off the old
block, celebrating the 50th jubilee today. In fact, if I may paraphrase
a Japanese expression, I daresay he is smiling in his grave.