From “The Sligo Champion”, 01/04/2001
Three days of great Martial Art action where held at the beginning of this month in Sligo with the long awaited Aikido Organisation of Ireland Spring Course 2001.
The course was held by top Japanese Master Yoji Fujimoto, a 7th Dan Aikido Sensei from the Aikido World Headquarters. Fujimoto Sensei was the highest ranked martial artist to have visited the West of Ireland and he is amongst the few top Aikido Instructors in the world. Fujimoto Sensei is based in Milan, Italy, where he is in charge of a 300-member club. He is also Chief Instructor of the Italian Aikido Federation, the Italian Aikikai, an organisation with over 100 clubs registered and about 6000 members.
Fujimoto Sensei, now 53 tears old, has an outstanding career in martial arts that stretches for over 40 years of training in Aikido. He trained thousands of students in Aikido and his name is well known amongst martial artists of all styles. A student of Tada Sensei, Masuda Sensei and the Doshu Ueshiba Kisshomaru, Fujimoto Sensei is resident in Europe since 1970. He has taught innumerable courses all over the world, from South Africa to the former Yugoslavia and up to Germany and Wales.
His seminar in Sligo was hosted by the Sligo Aikido Club in the Sligo Regional Sports Centre. There were 150 practitioners gathered on the mats for this huge Martial Art event that resulted to be the Aikido course with the highest attendance ever in Ireland. Students travelling to Sligo included a 25 people strong contingent of Italian Aikido practitioners of high rank to make the course even more interesting. Respected 5dan Italian instructor Roberto Foglietta from Pesaro shared his experience with local practitioners along with 3rd Dan Valentino Guzzinati from Ferrara and Giorgio Rizzi from Verona.
Advanced Aikido students from all over Ireland met in Sligo for the week-end with Fujimoto Sensei. An incredible variety of Aikido styles was easily spotted during training. Irish Aikido students travelled to Sligo from Dublin, Swords, Belfast, Enniskillen, Donegal Town, Galway, Limerick, Cork, Drumshanbo and despite the obvious differences in their approach to Aikido, harmonised together under the experienced guidance of Fujimoto Sensei turning the occasion into an unprecedented success and a real Martial Art celebration.
The course was open by Sligo Deputy-Mayor Mr. Tommy Cummins, who welcomed the large attendance to Sligo. Mr. Cummins pointed out his appreciation of the work that Sligo Aikido instructors Simone Chierchini and Lara Natali carried on since their coming to Sligo in 1996. He said he understood the value of a discipline like Aikido, centered on mutual respect and control and appreciated the commitment the Sligo Aikido Club always shown towards the local youths. Mr. Cummins said that as a sportsman himself he would like to see more people picking up sports and enjoy the true values present in them of which Aikido was an outstanding example. He thanked Great Master Yoji Fujimoto for coming to Sligo and offer his unvaluable knowledge for the common growth of both local and national Aikido practitioner. He finally showed to be a great sportman himself by sitting on his knee the Japanese way for a group photo with the students in attendance.
The seminar with Fujimoto Sensei was actually the largest Aikido Course ever organised in Ireland and, of course, the most important event organised so far by the Aikido Organisation of Ireland. We remind that the AOI – of which the Sligo Aikido Club operates as Central School – was set up in 1996 by Italian Aikido Instructors Simone Chierchini 4th Dan and Lara Natali 2nd Dan. Registered clubs of the Aikido Organisation of Ireland now include – beside the Sligo Aikido Club – Enniskillen, Sligo Institute of Technology, the Drumshanbo based Leitrim Aikido Club and Ballinamore Youth with over 100 members.
At the end of the Spring Course Fujimoto Sensei held a Dan Grading test for the Aikido Organisation of Ireland’s students. Sligo members Declan Bray, Eamon Coyne and Trevor Pigott will underwent their 1st Dan black belt grading and were successful, to the satisfaction of their Instructor. Declan, Trevor and Eamon are the first black belts to come out of the Sligo Aikido Club. Their achievement was as good as their commitment to Aikido, strong and constant over their five years of Aikido training in Sligo. Dan Grades given will be now registered by the Aikido World Headquarters, Tokyo, Japan and the new black belts will be entitled to instruct classes.
The Italian guests spent a week in Sligo and surroundings areas, with lots of entertainment for them, including a trip to Westport and Croagh Patrick, and a boat trip along the Shannon on the Moon River. A social was held on Saturday night after the training, with a dinner in Rosses Point open to all the participants and sympathisers, with celebrations continuing locally.
All in all the course was a huge and unexpected success. What is more, Fujimoto Sensei already announced he will be back to Sligo again in 2002 for another great course.