In June of 1996, the United nations High Commission of Refugees was ending support to Vietnamese refugees in the South East Asia. Upon hearing of the plight of his fellow countrymen, Sensei Dang Thong Phong, 6th Dan Aikido and President of the International Tenshinkai Aikido Federation, himself once a refugees, knew he had to do something before the eminent repatriation to Vietnam took place. The Philippine Catholic Archdiocese would be allowed to assist in helping the refugees to settle there but this would take money. Phong Sensei quickly rallied the support of five other highly distinguished Aikido Instructors who generously donated their time and expertise, by holding a two day Aikido seminar, and donating all proceeds to this worthy cause. So on November 2nd and 3rd, 1996, approximately over hundred aikidokas from Southern California converged on the mat of the Westminster Aikikai On Saturday, November 2nd, 1996, Sensei Phong opened the first day of the seminar with a hearty welcome to the participants and later shared his expertise and grace of execution with various kokyu and combination techniques. After a short break, we were delighted to welcome Sensei Kensho Furuya, 6th Dan Aikido, Aikido Center of Los Angeles. Sensei Furuya duly impressed the aikidoka with his mastery of aikido, with a compelling display grace and power. Shortly after lunch, Sensei Dan Mizukami, 6th Dan, Los Angeles Aikikai was very impressive with his teaching of importance of proper stance in the execution of shiho nage. Day two, on Sunday, November 3rd, 1996, was started with welcome words from Sensei Phong, who then proceeded to introduce Sensei Frank Mcouirk, 5th Dan Aikido, Aikido-Ai of Southern California. Mcgouirk Sensei won praise for his talented instruction of Ikkyo techniques. Next Sensei hoa Newens, 5th Dan Aikido, Oakland Aikido institute, shared his mastery of various techniques with great emphasis place on the proper way of receiving attacks and the importance of continued contact, to the delight of the attendees. Right after lunch break, Sensei Francis Takahashi, 6th Dan, Aikido Academy, skillfully lead the aikidoka through techniques to remind us of the importance of proper stance, breathing, and the need to stay centered at all times.

To bring these wonderful two days of learning and sharing to a close, the members of the Los Angeles Aikikai, the Aikido Academy and the Westminster Aikikai performed outstanding Aikido demonstrations, as a special thaks to all instructors, participant, guests and others who donated their time and money to help in this wonderful cause.

The best news came at the closing ceremonies, when Sensei Phong proudly announced to the crowed that over $5,100 had been raised by everyone’s efforts and that said sum would be sent to Bishop Ramond Arguelles of the Philippine Catholic Archdiocese for the relief of the Vietnamese refugees. What better examples of harmony could one ask for!

Sensei Phong hands over a check for over $5,000 to Reverend Mai Khai Hoang of the local Catholic Archdiocese.

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