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We want to teach and show what Japan has to offer.

We're bringing you Aikido and Iaido demonstrations from the Kyouseikan Dojo. They will also show and teach about traditional Japanese Tea Ceremonies.

You'll hear the convention halls filled with the sound of traditional Taiko Drummers on Saturday as well.

We are offering a host of educational panels from Grand Rapids' very own Omihachiman Sister City Committee, as well as from the well known anime anthropologist Charles Dunbar.

Kyouseikan Dojo will be demonstrating the martial arts of Aikido and Iaido. Here is their tentative schedule for Saturday:

10:30 - Aikido demonstration

11:00 - Tea ceremony with Q&A

12:00 - Iaido demonstration

1:00 - Aikido demonstration (interactive)

2:00 - Tea ceremony with Q&A

3:00 - Iaido demonstration

4:00 - Aikido weapons demonstration

What is Aikido?

Aikido can be translated from the Japanese as “the way of harmony with the forces of nature.” It is a modern martial way developed by Morihei Ueshiba in the early part of the 20th century. Ueshiba (also called O-Sensei, or “Great Teacher”) developed Aikido out of his study of numerous martial arts, including grappling, swordsmanship, and spear arts, as well as his spiritual grounding in the Omoto-kyo religion. The focus of Aikido is not on dominating an opponent with strikes or kicks, but rather on using the energy of an opponent’s attack to gain control of them or to throw them. It is not a static art; it involves a great deal of motion, and the dynamics of movement are an integral part of Aikido study. Some schools incorporate weapons into their practice of Aikido, particularly wooden sword (bokken), staff (jyo), and dagger (tanto).

Ueshiba had many disciples, and many different styles of Aikido developed as a result. The Aikikai style of Aikido is affiliated with the direct familial line of Morihei Ueshiba. Aikikai Aikido is currently under the direction of Aikido Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba, the grandson of the Founder. Birankai North America, an Aikido organization established by T.K. Chiba Shihan, maintains a direct connection with the Aikikai Hombu (main) Dojo in Tokyo, Japan.

What is Iaido?

Iaido, a form of Japanese swordsmanship, involves the study of kata (forms) in which the practitioner draws a katana from its scabbard in a smooth, controlled movement; cuts down an imaginary opponent; removes the blood from the blade; and then replaces the sword in the scabbard.

The word “iaido” (居合道 i-ai-dō or just i-ai 居合) approximately translates into English as “the way of mental presence and immediate reaction.” The art is almost entirely practiced using forms, or kata. Though some schools of Iaido do hold competitions in which participants are judged based on their performance of kata, the art does not include sparring practice. Because of this non-fighting aspect, and Iaido’s emphasis on precise, controlled, fluid motion, it is sometimes referred to as “moving Zen.”

Iaido was developed by Hayashizaki Shigenobu in the late sixteenth century. Though it is an established fact that some Iai-jutsu was practiced within other schools prior to Hayashizaki’s birth, he is credited with the creation of the system we know today as Muso Shinden Ryu. Hayashizaki’s traditions and forms were transmitted through successive generations of swordsmen, eventually reaching Nakayama Hakudo Sensei, who organized and codified the forms into the Muso Shinden Ryu.

Meet the instructors!

David Mata

David Mata Sensei, chief instructor of Grand Rapids Aikikai and founder of Kyoseikan Dojo (2005), has been recognized as yondan (fourth-degree black belt) by the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan, and is a fully certified instructor (shidoin) through Birankai North America. Mata Sensei began his aikido training in 1995, spending a full year as a live-in student (uchideshi) and four years as a teacher trainee (kenshusei); he also led an Aikido program for youth for fifteen years.

Mata Sensei spent four years in the US Marine Corps and then became a Michigan state police trooper, where he served until his retirement in 2012. In that capacity he introduced the first Women’s and Children’s Self-Defense Programs to the Michigan State Police and trained hundreds of women and children in self-defense through the RAD program. He also spent seven years as a State Police Defensive Tactics Instructor. Mata Sensei has also studied both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Kendo, and is currently training in Iaido.

Roo Heins

Roo (Katherine) Heins teaches Iaido at Kyoseikan Dojo. She began practicing Iaido and Aikido in New Mexico in 1995, and in 1999 moved to California to train directly under T.K. Chiba Shihan, founder of Birankai North America. Chiba Sensei studied Iaido in Tokyo under Mitsuzuka Takeshi Sensei, a direct student of Nakayama Hakudo Sensei, the founder of the Muso Shinden Ryu style.

In 2004 Heins Sensei moved to Tokyo, where she studied Iaido under Kikkawa Hisashi Sensei (8th dan kyoshi, Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei [ZNKR, the All-Japan Kendo Federation]) and competed at least twice a year in regional and city-wide tournaments. She passed her yondan (fourth-degree black belt) test under the ZNKR in 2013 at the all-Kanto examinations held at the Tokyo Budokan in Ayase, Japan.

While in Tokyo, Heins Sensei practiced Aikido at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo under Aikido Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba and other instructors, and currently holds the rank of rokudan (sixth-degree black belt). In addition, she has studied the Japanese tea ceremony with Yamada Kazeharu Sensei since 2005, and offers classes in tea ceremony at Kyoseikan Dojo on a limited basis.

We are proud to include Michigan Hiryu Daiko as part of JAFAX 2019. Stay tuned for more info about when you can see (and hear) them!

Grand Rapids Sister Cities - Omihachiman Committee

Come to a traditional Kimono presentation by the Grand Rapids Omihachiman Committee on Saturday at 11:30 in Panel Room 1.

Hear Ken Marotte's lecture: "Hissatsu! The Origins, Practice, and Legacy of Kamikaze Warfare in the Pacific War" on Saturday at 1:30 in Panel Room 3.

Japan's reliance on suicide attacks during World War II is well-known. But what were their philosophical foundations? How effective were they? What is their legacy? Join us as we explore an often oversimplified but fascinating era of U.S.-Japan history.

Ken Marotte earned his M.A. in East Asian Studies from The Ohio State University, where he specialized in history and earned a Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowship. His academic interests include nationalism, historical memory, and regional security, and he has written on these topics in The Diplomat as well as The Korea Times. He additionally serves on the Grand Rapids Sister Cities International committee for Omihachiman, Japan.