On May 17th, Bertram Wohak passed away in Munich (Germany). Bertram Wohak was the co-founder of International Aiki Peace Week, a world event gathering dojos from the entire world to practice for peace during the week of September 21th the UN international day of peace.
International Aiki Peace Week gathered in 2011 more than 300 dojos unifying their energy with in mind one idea: PEACE.
As a member of IAPW committee during these years, I cooperated with Bertram as well as with all the committee members (Paul Linden, Robert Kent, Quentin Cooke) to develop IAPW. We met in 2012 in Belgium in my dojo (the kimochi aikido dojo of Namur-Belgium that became recognized as PEACE DOJO in 2014), in Germany in 2013 then in UK in 2014. It was a new dynamics to develop a european network of people interested in the development of aiki out of the mat applications like Aiki Extensions is doing for the USA.
Bertram and I shared the same vision. The vision of aikido as a way to promote peace while taking into account the diversity. And Europe is certainly a beautiful example of it. And it was not easy to make our US friends understand this specificity. Language is a beautiful illustration. If more and more people understand and speak english, taking into account our native language is a necessity. That’s why I developed for IAPW a multi-lingual, multi-national website. It was not an easy task but we manage to make an operational website, Bertram and I mainly.
My cooperation with Bertram was intense, in the way we agreed and disagreed. Working with Bertram was very straightforward. But it was discussions, debates between friends. We were making a clear difference between the ideas we were defending and the person. And each time we met (and I keep a so deep souvenir of our laughs and humor in this english pub) we could feel the quality of our friendship.
When Bertram announced he had a cancer, in july 2015, I remember how I felt moved and shocked.
As Bertram has resigned as chair from IAPW committee, nothing happened for IAPW 2015. It was very sad for Bertram. He explicitly asked to set up a new structure for IAPW, an autonomous structure:
Concerning the future of Aiki Peace Week, which I regard as something most meaningful in my life and a legacy I leave for the future, I have some thoughts. Even when I´m not able to realize them any more, they are big and very different from the past five years. International Aiki Peace Week will only flourish with a completely new organizational approach independent from AE, with a new and well motivated group of people behind it, with own funds, a completely new website etc. My experience with the “old” structure last year was more than dissapointing. May be there are some years neccessary without IAPW before something really new is emerging. This is my hope and my wish, but I will be in another dimension then and do my best there.
Touched by Bertram’s declaration I proposed to set up this new organization but Aiki Extensions decided to keep Aiki Peace Week as an AE project. I hope they will succeed to give IAPW a new life.
for my part I keep Bertram’s souvenir deep in my heart and will try to develop new initiatives to make his initiative last for the future. Our world is desperately in need for peace and the aiki spirit can modestly contribute to it.
Good bye Bertram