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Sorin Despa Sensei on the World Combat Games 2013: A memorable experience. A show of impressive „force”!
This year the World Combat Games event (WCG) took place between 18-26 October at the grand Sankt Petersburg Sports and Concert Complex building. It was organized by Sport Accord, an organization which gathers 107 sports, olympic and non-olympic federations, including International Aikido Federation (IAF), which also has as a full member the Romanian Aikidio Aikikai Foundation (RAAF), wich also participated this year’s World Combat Games. During the WCG on the days of 21 and 22 October, the Aikido demonstrations took place. Romanian Aikido Aikikai Foundation was represented by Sorin Despa Sensei, 4 Dan Aikido Aikikai and Oana Stan Sensei, 3 Dan Aikido Aikikai. About Romania’s first participation at the WCG and the impressions from this event we talked about with Sorin Despa Sensei.
Paula Alexandrescu (P.A.): Sensei, who formed the enthousiastic Romanian delegation?
Sorin Despa (S.D.): The Romanian delegation was formed by 2 athletes: Oana Stan, 3 Dan Aikido Aikikai and Sorin Despa, 4 Dan Aikido Aikikai.
Though, I’d like to point out the fact that we had with us 2 passionate aikidoka supporters, colleagues and friends from Romania: Mihai Ghencea and Mihaita Deleanu Sensei, 3 Dan Aikido Aikikai.
P.A.: How many demonstrations supported the Romanian delegation? Who was uke and who tori, among them?
S.D.: Romania was chosen to hold 4 demonstrations during those 2 days reserved for the Aikido delegations. Both Oana and I were uke as well as tori during those 4 demonstrations.
P.A.: Did the organizers “impose” any specific theme for each demonstration?
S.D.: The demonstrations were performed after an extremely rigurous program established by the leading authority of the IAF, Shihan Christian Tissier and Shihan Tsuruzo Myamoto. There were 5 blocks of demonstrations, each with different themes, postures (suwariwaza, hanmihandachiwaza, tachiwaza), attacks (with and without weapons) and/or techniques imposed.
Practically each country which participated at these blocks had to respect the theme communicated by the IAF during the allocated timeframe as well. For example, the first theme was basic techniques. Romania entered the tatami together with Ireland, each country having a maximum of 2 minutes for their demonstrations. 4 minutes was the total time accorded these 2 countries. These demonstrations can be seen on youtube.com and you can get an idea of how things happened. (smiles)
P.A.: Sensei, please list the most notable persons of Aikido who participated at the Combat Games 2013.
S.D.: It was an extremely important event for the entire Aikido Aikikai breath, considering the fact that we had the pleasure of being next to great masters from all over the world.
Among them are: Ulf Evenas Shihan, 7 Dan Aikido Aikikai (Sweden), Tony Smibert Shihan, 7 Dan Aikio Aikikai (Australia – Member of the senior council at IAF), Wilko Vriesman, 6 Dan Aikido Aikikai (Holland – Part of the Technical Delegation of the IAF at Sankt Petersburg), Peter Goldsbury Shihan, 7 Dan Aikido Aikikai (President of the IAF), Christian Tissier Shihan, 7 Dan Aikido Aikikai (France), Tsuruzo Myamoto Hombu Shihan, 7 Dan Aikido Aikikai (Japan) and, of course, Waka Sensei. I’d like to point out that Waka Sensei, the great grandson of O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba, was the Aikido Ambassador to these games!
P.A.: How did things actually took place at the WCG, since I saw some kind of ceremony at the end? What kind of ceremony was?
S.D.: Before I answer this question, I’d like to point out a few things about our schedule at the World Combat Games. All national delegations arrived in Sankt Petersburg on the 19th of October. Thus, between 20-22 October I had the pleasure of participating at 7 sessions, practices organized by the IAF which were not part of the World Combat Games schedule.
These practices were held by Ulf Evenas Shihan, 7 Dan Aikido Aikikai (Sweden), Tony Smibert Shihan, 7 Dan Aikio Aikikai (Australia – Member of the senior council at IAF), Wilko Vriesman, 6 Dan Aikido Aikikai (Holland – Part of the Technical Delegation of the IAF at Sankt Petersburg), Peter Goldsbury Shihan, 7 Dan Aikido Aikikai (President of the IAF), Christian Tissier Shihan, 7 Dan Aikido Aikikai (France), Tsuruzo Myamoto Hombu Shihan, 7 Dan Aikido Aikikai (Japan) and, of course, Waka Sensei.
The IAF was present at these event with a series of demonstrations held by the representatives of the 32 member countries (chose by the IAF itself), obviously without any competitional nature (a fact mentioned by the IAF President Peter Goldsbury, both at the opening ceremony during the days dedicated to Aikido and the closing speech). However, at the end of the 2 days of demonstrations, the organizers awarded each country a certificate of participation.
P.A.: Which would be the top 3 most impressive things, as well as the top 3 persons at the Combat Games 2013. And, of course, why?
S.D.: The first thing that impressed me truly at this event was the „show of force” of the hosting country for organizing these „games”, especially the location where the demonstrations took place. I felt like I was at a small Olympics (again Sensei Despa smiles generously). I also was impressed by how the IAF organized the aikidoka from 32 countries for this international event.
As for the persons who impressed me….I think there are more than 3. First of all I was pleasantly surprised to see for the first time on the tatami the President of the IAF, Peter Goldsbury Sensei. He was very jovial with all the members of the delegation present at Sankt Petersburg.
Wilko Vriesman Sensei was there the whole time by us and sometimes did even the impossible to make sure we lacked nothing, starting with drinking water and ending with the practice gyms each day. Christian Tissier was always at the disposition of the athletes with any advice of a technical nature.....Tsuruzo Myamoto Sensei impressed me with regards to the exactness, the martiality and at the same time with the relaxed state with which he entered the tatami.
Last but not least is Waka Sensei, Mitsuteru Ueshiba, because, although I visited Japan 4 times, it was the first time I felt that the “distance” imposed by the position and status of his person was smaller, compared to the other occasions during which I met him.
P.A.: What conclusions did you reach after this experience?
S.D.: For our country it was the first time it participated at the World Combat Games and this is because we are full members of the IAF starting with 2012. The first edition of the WCG took place at Beijing 3 years ago, but we didn’t participate back then.
The experience was unique and very interesting! What the IAF succeeded in doing at this event was extraordinary! It was a real pleasure to meet, socialize and exchange ideas with 80 aikidoka from 32 countries! I think that, after these 3 days I have new friends at least in Ireland, Germany, Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa, Norway, Slovenia, Slovakia and Poland. Can you imagine if the event lasted a week? Two? (asks rhetorically laughing with mirth Sensei Despa)
Also, it was a great opportunity to spend 3 days in the presence of great masters of this special martial art, to learn from them, to talk with them in an informal setting and to be able to toast a mug of ale, or more, in the last night, at Sayonara Party! (the last bout of loud laughter during the interview)
I think that these moments will always remain in our memory, because in my memory they will definitely remain forever! For this kind of experience it is worth continuing to practice, to be part of the Aikikai family, moments which we all come across, even on to a lesser extent, at every international seminar where we meet.