1921 ~ 1999

Dear Aikido students,

Last Tuesday, January 5, 1999, after the evening class, I received a Fax from Waka Sensei who informed me of a sad news. It was the passing away of Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba on January 4, in Tokyo. Holding the piece of paper in my hand, I read it again and again. In shock, I dropped into a chair in front of the computer and sat there, immobile, my mind numb with sorrow. Yes, I simply cannot believe Doshu could leave us so soon. This happened at a time when all Aikido practitioners, more than ever, need His leadership to hold us together. With His passing, I am afraid Aikido will fall into a state of disarray as it did in 1969 when O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba also died. Today, we gather here to remember Doshu, the man who, in following O-Sensei's path, has dedicated his whole life to the cause of Aikido an led us through the past several decades. When I think of Him, I cannot help but remember the love and generosity he extended not just to me personnaly but to Aikido Tenshinkai as a whole.

I first arrived at Hombu Dojo one day in late 1967. Upon entering the office to inquire about registration, I was greeted by a female secretary whom I later learned to be from California, and who was at the time helping out with the school's administrative chores. Fifteen minutes later, Mr. Kisshomaru Ueshiba came out to meet me.

I introduced myself and told him about my background: I had had 9 years of Aikido training and, on behalf of Vietnam Aikido, I had traveled to Japan with the hope that I would have the opportunity to train under the Founder. Upon learning of my endeavor Kisshomaru Ueshiba welcomed me, his face glowing with love and joy. We exchanged a few words, then he advised me of the school's training program. The following day I returned to Hombu Dojo. Beside a uniform, I brought with me a large photograph I had taken with my Vietnamese students before I left Vietnam, to present to O-Sensei. In the first session, Doshu introduced me to O-Sensei in the front of the whole class. Holding the photograph with both hands and hoisting it high above his head, O-Sensei prayed in long sentences. He prayed for Peace to come to my country, and for the its people to no longer suffer from a fratricidal war. He prayed for the Vietnamese people to live together in Love and Harmony. During my stay at Hombu Dojo classes were taught by O-Sensei, but Doshu also led the instruction several times, and I learned a great deal from Him.

One day after a training session, Doshu led me on a tour to the new school that was under construction. He showed me where O-Sensei's future office would be, the administrative quarters and the classrooms. The gestures of kindness He extended remained in my memory to this date, and they shall never fade...

Two years after my arrival in the United States in February of 1986, I rebuilt the Aikido Tenshinkai system. Five years later, Doshu awarded me with a Certificate that officially endorsed the Aikido Tenshinkai Federation as an organization operating in the United States under the Aikikai system. The same year, which was 26 years after my visit to Japan, Doshu still had not forgotten me. He sent me an invitation to come to Tokyo for the celebration of Fiftieth Anniversary of the founding of Aikido, which was being attended by over 1,200 members from all over the world. He was so kind as to grant me a great honor, which was to be invited by the Organizing Committee to come onto the stage and be introduced to the public alongside great Japanese Shihans. That day, I was the only Non-Japanese guest to be acknowledged in the presence of thousands of attendees. Having received no advance notice, I was absolutely overwhelmed and I had no idea what to do. Furthermore, my name was the first to be called. Everything being said in the Japanese language, all I could understand were the words "Dang Thong Phong". I was standing about 5 meters away from the announcer when I saw Shihan Masatake Fujita. Waving, he gave me the signal to step onto the stage. I was followed by several Shihans like Nobuyoshi Tamura, President of the French Aikido Federation; Akira Tohei, Representative of the US West Coast Aikido Federation; Yoshimitsu Yamada, President of the US Aikido Federation; etc. They were all Aikikai representatives in foreign countries. When everyone was about to raise their glass of Champagne in celebration, Doshu came and kindly signed his name on my glass to commemorate our meeting on that date. The following day when I came to his office to deliver the greetings from all Aikido Tenshinkai members, he extended me yet another great favor, which was an invitation to attend a very special banquet that exclusively honored Japanese Shihans who had returned from their assignment as Aikikai Representatives abroad. In the year 1995, Doshu once again sent me an invitation to Tokyo, this time to attend a Ceremony in which the Japanese Government bestowed on him Japan's most prestigious award. As a faithful Aikido practitioner, I am extremely honored to have worked under Doshu's guidance for the past many years. Today, although He has followed O-Sensei into the Land of Eternity, His image and His love will forever be engraved in my memory and the memory of all Tenshinkai members.

Westminster, 10 January, 1999.
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