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AIKIDO Shudokan Malaysia recently celebrated its two prominent figures in "100 Years of Aikido".
KUALA LUMPUR: In total, Thamby Rajah and his nephew Joe Thambu have dedicated 100 years of their lives to practising and spreading Aikido around the world.
Sixty years ago, Thamby sensei studied under the founder of Yoshinkan style Aikido, Soke Gozo Shioda, in Japan.
Shioda gave Thamby the name Shudokan (which means the place to learn the way) and this was the name he gave his dojo (academy) in his hometown, Seremban.
As he is the first Malaysian to practise and receive a black belt in Aikido, Thamby is known as the father of Malaysian Aikido.
Joe Thambu was 11 when he started learning Aikido from his uncle in 1972.
Eight years later, he migrated to Melbourne.
He travelled to Japan to train with prominent teachers, sometimes spending up to several weeks at a time.
In 1983, Thambu set up an Aikido Shudokan school, named after his uncle's dojo and became the first person to teach Yoshinkan Aikido in Australia.
Famous for his suwari jiyuwaza (seated freestyle Aikido) demonstrations, Thambu began to teach outside Australia in 2000, at the invitations of teachers from other countries. In 2007, he was awarded the shihan (master) title.
The four-day celebration, which had the support of Kuala Lumpur City Hall, included grading ceremonies, training camps and a public demonstration that involved aikidoka (practitioners of aikido) from Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, Australia, England, Indonesia and the Czech Republic. They demonstrated the basic movements in Aikido, their integrated applications and usage in real life situations.
Little aikidoka stole the show. They were heard counting their steps before the curtains opened. Despite their age, the children showed a high level of focus as they countered attacks that came from all directions.
The youngest aikidoka was the three-year-old son of Aikido Shudokan Malaysia's chief instructor Dr Ramlan Ahmed.
"I teach them to be aware, not to fight," said Ramlan, adding that self defence began with awareness.
He said he encouraged parents to stay and watch so that they understand the lessons that are being taught to their children.
Thambu gave demonstrations of his famous suwari jiyuwaza moves.
"As martial artistes we do not think like fighters but like men of peace, not how to kill but how to stay alive," he said.
"All martial arts are the same in that they preserve values."
Thambu said he was impressed by the standards of Malaysian aikidoka.
"They have a lot of passion. How far a practitioner can go in Aikido depends on how far he wants to develop in life and be the best person that he can be," Thambu said, explaining that unlike some martial arts, there were no tournaments or competitions in Aikido.
Ramlan said that he wanted to reach out to the ministries and non-governmental associations to make Aikido a compulsory programme.
"Because of our good intentions and efforts, we get support from other martial arts groups like silat schools and the Malaysian Martial Arts Foundation," he said.