The Aikido Sketch Diary, first published in 1994, is a hand illustrated chronology of a year of activities at Nippon Kan Dojo in Denver. Originally in Japan, the word dojo was used for the place where Buddha (Shaka) meditated and found enlightenment. Still today in Japan, the place where the Buddhist monks practice and meditate is called the dojo.
Especially in the practice of Zen Buddhism, the daily activities and seasonal routines of the priests in training are all considered part of shugyo or practice in the dojo. A delightful book illustrating the life of a young monk in training has been written called Unsui Nikki (Diary of a Young Priest). This book is well illustrated and depicts the life of a monk in training with humor and honesty.
The Aikido Sketch diary is similar in style and content as Unsui Nikki, only it depicts the daily and seasonal activities at Nippon Kan dojo in Denver. It is not coincidental that life in a traditional Japanese martial art dojo is very similar to that of a Buddhist temple. Nippon Kan’s daily activities are based on the very same underlying traditional Japanese philosophy, and are reflected in life at Nippon Kan as chronicled in the Aikido Sketch Diary.
The dojo is not a gym or a sports club, but I also want to make it clear that Nippon Kan does not copy or imitate the activities of a Buddhist temple, or any religious center. The activities at Nippon Kan are a reflection of my philosophy and the ongoing evolution of a lifetime of personal study. My life has been spent in study to understand what the true place and purpose of our practice of Aikido and it’s relation to our greater communities and world societies. The Aikido Sketch Diary is based on actual practice at Nippon Kan in 1994. Nippon Kan dojo is not a fantasy or a dream, but an ever evolving reality that has it’s roots in tradition and it’s emphasis on community service, inner development and practice, always practice. With this focus, our activities today have evolved and developed into Nippon Kan’s Aikido Humanitarian Active Network; AHAN with projects in countries around the world.
We receive many inquiries about our uchideshi or live-in student program, but the ratio of applicants to actual graduates of the program are about 10 to 1. The uchideshi program at Nippon Kan is not easy. Uchideshi students are not guests and there is no red carpet laid out for them during their stay. Uchideshi students are in training 24/7 while they are at Nippon Kan and those who dreamed of becoming an instant martial art hero like they have seen in the movies either withdraw their applications or do not last very long into their training.
I have decided to share this book on our website because it is a good representation of what daily practice is like at Nippon Kan Headquarters in Denver. The Aikido Sketch Diary was written in 1994 so Nippon Kan AHAN international activities are not illustrated in this book. It is a glimpse of the tradition at Nippon Kan, a tradition that still remains as we move forward in scope and scale as our activities develop world-wide. Reading this book again brings back fond memories of a time when Nippon Kan projects were smaller in scope but never smaller in vision.
Today, Aikido is popular all over the world. Technique is taught in many styles and in great detail. I believe however, that there is not enough focus today on what truly makes a dojo. I worry that the traditions of dojo life are fading into history and that the value of the dojo itself is becoming less recognized. For this reason, I have chosen to share the Aikido Sketch Diary as a way to share what I believe makes a true Aikido dojo thrive and prosper. I hope that if you are truly interested in learning Aikido you will think more deeply about the value of the dojo itself and include it in your own shuygyo or practice.
This book has copyrights and all rights reserved. If you wish to obtain a copy of this text please contact Nippon Kan Headquarters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nippon Kan Founder
Author of Aikido Sketch Diary, Aikido for Life, Children and the Martial Arts, an Aikido Point of View, The Structure of Aikido and The Folk Art of Japanese Country Cooking; a Traditional Diet for Today’s World.
If you are interested in becoming an uchideshi at Nippon Kan, please refer to the uchideshi application and enrollment procedures under uchideshi program.