Matsuri: Japan in the Park 2001

Just like the Rolling Stones, the British Shorinji Kempo Federation's history is marked by an important and iconic event that was held in London's Hyde Park. Among others, the Japan Society and the Japan Foundation sponsored Japan 2001, a year of events to promote Japanese culture in the United Kingdom. This was no small beer, with The Crown Prince of Japan and The Prince of Wales as the joint patrons. There were many and varied different events in the calendar. For example the Victoria & Albert Museum had a programme of exhibitions.

The martial arts are, of course, an integral part of Japanese culture, and no Japanese cultural event would be complete without their being represented. Just a few months earlier, Mizuno sensei had been awarded with the Year 2000 Ambassador's Commendation by the Japanese Ambassador in London for his contribution to Japanese-British friendship. So, it was natural that Mizuno sensei and the BSKF were invited to participate in Japan 2001. We took part in several events, but the biggest one was Matsuri: Japan in the Park, held on 19th and 20th May. The word matsuri can be translated to mean festival in English. The BSKF's demonstration of Shorinji kempo was one of several martial arts on display. Others included archery (kyudo) and swordsmanship (kenjutsu).

The BSKF was timetabled to perform six demonstrations over the weekend. This was split into two each day on a special martial arts stage, followed a another on the main stage. The martial arts stage could be seen by about a thousand spectators, while the main arena attracted up to ten times that number. A quarter of a million people attended over the weekend.

Many BSKF members worked very hard to perfect demonstrations for the event. It was a great opportunity to show Shorinji kempo as fully as possible. There were demonstration of pre-prepared sequences of techniques, Shorinji kempo's distinctive embu. We showed sequences performed single-form, either solo or in a group. We showed demonstrations of self-defence techniques against a knife attack (tanto dori). We showed demonstrations of sparring (randori). But, we wanted to do more than just show off. We wanted the audience to experience training for themselves, so we also brought them to the stage to try to learn a very basic technique, where a defender releases themselves from a grab to the wrist. This part of the demonstration proved to be very popular. BSKF members who put on demonstrations included Cailey Barker, George Hyde, Nicholas Darlow, Ben Mee, Stuart Tatlock, Andrew Garner, Angus Penrice and Afira Memon.

Around that time, Mizuno sensei had made a role for himself as the head of an international Shorinji kempo demonstration team. He encouraged the members of the team to each develop their own style and make distinctive demonstrations. He invited some of the members of the team to participate in the Matsuri that day: Kazuhiro Kawashima, Hideaki Maki, Hiroyuki Sakata, Akimasa Yamamoto, Shinya Mikado and Michiru Matsuura. The commentary on the day was provided by the late Russell Jenkins, branchmaster of the Bournemouth branch. Sensei Russ had narrated several previous BSKF events, and he took his Mick Jagger moment with aplomb.

The World Shorinji Kempo Organisation's newsletter of August 2001 carried a report of the event. They were obviously happy with it, concluding "the mission abroad, we could glimpse the magnetic attraction of Shorinji kempo in the great number of spectators who asked to shake the team members' hands". Whatever that means.

Last modified: Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 12:09:24 AM

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