The year 2022 marks 30 years since the first aikido seminar organized by Aikido Society Zagreb. It took place on February 8/9, 1992, held by the master Aleš Leskovšek.
Marijan and Dobroslav, then students of the Faculty of Kinesiology, were still wearing their uniforms as volunteers to a war in Croatia that had begun in 1991. The turbulence and dread of the war had given a significantly greater meaning to aikido and all that it represented. That itself is not surprising, considering that aikido was created on very intense warfare experience of its founder, Morihei Ueshiba.
The historical first seminar was held in a cold sports hall of a gymnasium in Zagreb, on a few leather mats filled with animal hair. Aleš was teaching in his shoes on the concrete floor so the ten of us could have more space on the mat. Truth is, no circumstance could have diminished the eagerness with which we absorbed this very strange martial art. Strange in the sense that it dealt with problems but avoided conflict.
Having experienced various other martial arts such as Burmese boxing and Taekwondo, this to us was a revelation. But the moment we saw a video of Morihei Ueshiba throwing young men to the ground at a very old age, without even punching or kicking them, we were won over.
Aikido Society Zagreb – the beginning…
These first years were also marked by seminars with Roman Tomaževič. So many other people have helped us in the very beginning, as we would train newcomers to this martial art, being beginners in it ourselves.
Slowly, through Aleš we were introduced to the teaching of Kenjiro Yoshgasaki, and started attending his seminars. The vast amount of wisdom, knowledge and insight of this man’s aikido and life philosophy has remained our inexhaustible and invaluable source of development and growth to this day.
We are honoured to have been able to live in the same time as this unique, brilliant and authentic teacher, and to have been able to learn from him in person.
House of Aikido – the home / center / oasis of Aikido Society Zagreb
Finally, in 2013, after years of rented halls and dreams of our own oasis, the House of Aikido was created. The former ruins of an ancient factory became our dojo with the help of many loving hands. We are thankful to every individual who helped rebuild this house and build it into a dojo, in whatever way possible. Without all of you this house wouldn’t have been our home today. The House of Aikido is our center from which we do our best to share what we consider to be valuable everyday life lessons that aikido has to offer.
Where we are today
Aikido Society Zagreb has been a platform that enabled us to venture into many experiences we are proud of:
- Teach aikido to all that come to our dojo, first and foremost, for 30 years
- Teach children in trainings and camps for almost 20 years
- Teach aikido as an optional subject to students at the Faculty of Education and Rehabilitation in Zagreb
- Organize free aikido workshops for students living in dorms / children in foster care / individuals with physical disabilities / azylants
- Organize aikido seminars in our dojo as well as summer seminars beneath the Velebit mountain in Croatia
- Translate and publish all of Yoshigasaki sensei’s books
- Support the founding of aikido dojos in other Croatian cities
As well as…:
- Organize free workshops of several different skills for young people (drumming, psychology workshops, kyudo)
- Be the cofounders of the Initiative of the House of Japan (an initiative to gather all associations that promote and teach Japanse skills, such as origami, kyudo, bonsai, nanbudo, calligraphy, kendo…)
- Host events in our dojo (African drumming and dancing, Yoga events, Kirtan, Shamanic drumming, sound baths…)
- Volunteer to the Nature Park Medvednica (Zagreb) with forest cleaning and forestation
- Volunteer in areas of Croatia that have been struck by floods and earthquakes in the past years
… and so much more that we can’t even remember anymore, because, let’s face it, 30 years ago we were 20-ish years old 🙂
The journey of Aikido Society Zagreb continues
We would like to thank everyone who crossed our path on this very interesting journey. It wasn’t always easy, there were difficult moments, there were tears – but there was also laughter and smiles and insights and sooooo many beautiful people our lives have been endowed with.
We thank you all for your support and the hours, energy and assets you invested in us and our vision.
We will continue doing our best to justify what we believe in, and what those who stood by us believed in all along.
Sometimes straying from the narrow path, because, after all, we are only human… but that also gives us an opportunity to grow, and transfom, and be the best that we can be.
We are thankful for the 30 years that shaped us, and hope for many more.
Marijan & Dobroslav
Aikido Society Zagreb