The great masters: Virginia Bailey (Part 6)

Part 5.

Then, in 1964, I came to New York for the World’s fair. The plan was for me to go with Tohei Sensei to the Japanese Pavilion and perform a demonstration. But he was unable to go on that trip. So I came by myself.[…] I met my friends in New York and went to the New York Aikikai. I spoke to the members and became Chief Instructor.
Yamada Yoshimitsu4

The World Fair aikido demonstration took place at the Japanese Pavillion in Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York and a video was shot. Glimpses of Virginia are visible in the bottom right of the frame, as she is providing a commentary over a microphone during the demonstrations.

Now free from the responsibility of running the dojo, and recently separated from Hagihara, Virginia travelled back to Japan in the aim of studying aikido as a full time Honbu Dojo student. On her way, she stopped in Hawaii for three weeks during the winter of 1964. She got the chance to practice with a number of instructors there, as well as Tohei Koichi.
When she eventually arrived in Tokyo in December 1964, she became acquainted with Henry Kono, a Japanese-Canadian who had serendipitously ended up at Honbu in October 1964.

The two forged a close friendship that would last a lifetime. Being both in their mid to late thirties, they shared a particular interest in the overarching principles that were behind the aikido movements, rather than the physical side, unlike many of the younger students. Still in the pursuit of spiritual growth, Virginia also regularly engaged in zen meditation.

In 1966, the pair reconnected with Alan Ruddock, an Irishman who had come back to Japan after a brief first stay in 1965. His goal was also specifically to learn aikido from the founder. They formed a relatively close group of foreigners along with Kenneth Cottier, Terry Dobson, Joanne Shimamoto, George Willard, and a few others.

While she could not be an official uchi deshi because of the fact that she was a woman, she did have unprecedented access to O Sensei because she helped out in his household by cooking and cleaning for him.

Source: Aikido Journal

To be continued…

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