Bulgarian Aikido Federation (BAF) is established by Mr. Georgi Yordanov Ivanov in 1990. At the beginning, the Federation consists of 4 clubs. At the end of 1990, BAF established contacts with the European Aikido Federation (EAF). Not long after that, the President of the International Aikido Federation (IAF) Giorgio Veneri (5th dan) has visited Bulgaria and has held a 5-day Aikido seminar.
On 29th April 1991 in Luxembourg a Congress of EAF has been held, where delegates from BAF have participated. These delegates have also taken part in the seminar held parallel to the Congress. Two months later in Bulgaria, a seminar has been held with Yoshiaki Yokota (6th dan), instructor from Aikikai Hombu Dojo. In the beginning of next year (1992) Bulgaria is visited by the General Secretary of Aikikai Hombu Dojo – Masatake Fujita (8th dan) and he held a seminar for several days. In the same period the number of clubs in BAF grows further to reach 10 in the entire country. At the Extraordinary Congress of EAF held in Brussels in May 1992, BAF has been accepted as a regular member of EAF and in the autumn of the same year – for a member of IAF and Aikikai Hombu Dojo.
Regular seminars are held in Bulgaria, which are led by masters sent from the European and International Aikido Federations. At least three times a year the aikidoists from all over the country gather and practice Aikido under the competent guidance of Japanese shihans (senior instructors).
In 1993, in Hague, the World Games were held where Bulgarian aikidoist took part. The skills shown by the Bulgarian aikidoist have put them side by side with the best ones in this martial art. A Congress of EAF has been held there parallel to the Games. The good performance of the BAF students and the entire activity of the Federation have been a prerequisite for nominating Sofia as a host of the EAF Congress in October 1995. At the Congress held in park hotel Moskva, aikidoists from 44 countries on 3 continents took part. At this Congress, the President of BAF – Georgi Ivanov – has been nominated member of the Managing Board of EAF and Vice-President of the Commission for development of Aikido in Europe. The feedback about the organisation of the Congress and the seminar, which is held parallel to the Congress, is very positive.
At the end of 1996, BAF has 24 member clubs from all over the country, and the instructors have obtained their dan degrees in front of authorized Japanese masters (shihans) from Aikikai. The holders of first dan are more than 20, second dan is owned by 10 aikidokas and the President of BAF Georgi Ivanov has a third dan, obtained in front of Fujita Sensei.
On 1st December 1996, in a tragic road accident Georgi Ivanov Sensei passed away. In this accident the eldest son of Ivanov Sensei and two young aikidoists from aikido club Aikiken, Rousse, have died as well. This has been a grave loss not only for the Bulgarian and the European Federations but for the whole Aikido world as well. Meanwhile, people from all over the world have already started to talk about Bulgarian methods of teaching Aikido. At the additional Congress on 8th February 1997, the first students of Georgi Ivanov Sensei took up the baton.
It doesn’t take long the lost contacts throughout the country to be restored and the organization and the new management of the Federation to start hard work in three main directions – direct contacts with Japan, funding of new Aikido events and opening of new dojos in the country and abroad. The results follow soon after and on 21st March 1997 an official delegation from Hombu visits Bulgaria. Ten Japanese masters under the guidance of Shoji Seki Sensei (Shihan, 7th dan) hold a 3-day seminar together with a demonstration in the National Palace of Culture. At the end of the seminar, Georgi Ivanov Sensei was awarded posthumously 4th dan.
After receiving a request from FYROM, on 3rd April 1997, two instructors from BAF made an operational visit to Skopie. The conditions turned out to be favorable and in Skopie the foundations of a new dojo were set up. 20 days later, at the General Assembly of the delegates of BAF, Aikido club AIKIKAI SKOPIE has been admitted as regular member of the Federation.
After purposeful work covering the entire country, on 22nd May 1997 in Sofia, a General Assembly of the delegates of all Aikido clubs in Bulgaria was held. New Managing Board and Technical Commission were approved and the membership of new Aikido clubs from the country and abroad was ratified. Meanwhile, an invitation for participation in the World Games of the non-Olympic sports in Lahti 97 was received from the International Aikido Federation.
Just before the departure for Finland, on 3rd August 1997, for holding a seminar and dan grades examinations, the person responsible for Bulgaria – Masatake Fujita Sensei (shihan, 8th dan), arrived in Sofia. On 12th August 1997, a delegation of 9 members left for Finland and took part not only in the World Games, but also in a seminar of Moriteru Ueshiba Sensei (dojocho and currently doshu) – grandson of Morihei Ueshiba.
On 2nd December 1997, Masatake Fujita Sensei, Arthur Bakas Sensei and representatives of BAF commemorated the memory of the founder of the Bulgarian Aikido Federation and on 4th December 1997, again in the National Palace of Culture, hall 2, an Aikido demonstration in memory of Georgi Ivanov Sensei was performed. Representatives of all Aikido clubs from the country took part in the demonstration and the accompanying seminar.
A documentary film about the life and work of Ivanov Sensei was shot and broadcasted on the national television. Representatives of almost all martial arts in Bulgaria participated in this film. One year after the tragic death of its founder, the Bulgarian Aikido Federation has recovered from the big loss…
From the very beginning of 1998, BAF started its public events with the organization and the holding of a Budo-Gala in the sea capital of Bulgaria – Varna. Representatives of all Aikido schools from the country took part in this biggest ever demonstration of martial arts in Bulgaria. The marvelous reactions from audience and media were the main reason why this festival has become a traditional event, marking the official start of the Budo life in Bulgaria every year.
On 4th June 1998, Hiroshi Isoyama Sensei (8th dan, shihan), Hideo Yonemochi Sensei (8th dan, shihan) and the accompanying Yoshinobu Irie (4th dan) from Japan, came to Bulgaria for the purpose of holding a several-days long seminar. Simultaneously, an Aikido presentation was held in the National Sports Academy. The establishment of a postgraduate qualification with this Bulgarian university was the first step towards raising Aikido to an academic level.
In the next month, on 11th July 1998, the technical director of BAF Masatake Fujita Sensei visited Bulgaria in order to hold a summer Aikido camp and examinations for dan degrees. The practice and the discussions with Fujita Sensei and the accompanying Bakas Sensei, clarified the problem with the official status of BAF and the inevitability of the existence of alternative Aikido organizations in the country. During these talks, the details about the forthcoming symposium “Aikido and Energy” in December 1998 for the East European countries – a co-initiative of BAF and the Foundation for Promoting Aikido in Europe, have been clarified. Unfortunately, due to organizational problems, the symposium didn’t happen.
Due to some conceptual differences, in 1998–1999 contradictions between the management and the members of BAF occurred, resulting in the establishment of the National Aikido Union in the beginning of 1999. In 2000, several clubs left BAF to set up Iwama Ryu Aikido – Bulgaria. The period 2000–2004 has been very dynamic for BAF. The admission of new members in the Management Board of BAF resulted in a stabilization of the situation and in a solution of the existing problems. A brand new policy of the organisation was established and the results followed shortly after. The contacts with Hombu Dojo have been renewed as a result of which Hiroshi Isoyama Sensei (8th dan) visited Bulgaria again in June 2000 (and later in 2002) and had been elected an Honorable Chairman at the Extraordinary Congress of BAF. A month later Isoyama Sensei represented Bulgaria at the Congress of IAF in Tokyo, Japan. In 2000–2004 many seminars were held with masters such as Isoyama Sensei, Yokota Sensei, Kanazawa Sensei, Kobayashi Sensei, Fujita Sensei, Terry Ezra Sensei, Fujimaki Sensei, Minegishi Sensei etc. In September 2004, BAF took an active part in the Congress of IAF held in Tokyo. In the same month, the Technical Commission of BAF represented by Mr. Hr. Mihaylov and Mr. Al. Alexiev visited Hombu Dojo and Ibaraki Dojo. Both of them have been presented to the entire Aikido community in Japan as personal students of Isoyama Sensei, keeper of the Aiki shrine in Iwama. In the end of September, a delegation of BAF consisting of 6 persons visited Italy (on the occasion of 40th anniversary of Aikikai Italy). The delegation took part in a seminar with Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba and has been received by the latter at a short audience. Another event of great significance for BAF was the license, which the organization has been granted in September 2004. By now BAF is the only licensed organization in Bulgaria.
In the summer of 2005, at the World Games in Duisburg, Germany, there were a number of seminars held with masters such as: Kobayshi Sensei, Asai Sensei, Fujimoto Sensei, Christian Tissier Sensei etc. The participation in the World Games ended by training held by Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. The presence of the Bulgarian delegation didn’t remain unnoticed. After the demonstration by the Bulgarian delegation, the positive comments flooded the event.
In 2006, for a second time Bulgaria was a host of a Congress of EAF held in Sofia. A couple of very significant decisions were reached about the further development of the organization, since its standstill situation in the recent years. At a meeting of the Congress, the President of BAF Mr. Plamen Yurukov was elected member of the Managing Board of EAF.
With regard to the technical issues, BAF continued to follow its aims. In 2004–2007, a series of examinations for kyu and dan degrees have been organized, as well as meetings and seminars with masters such as Philip Grange Sensei (member of the Technical Commission of the French Aikido Federation), Koribayashi Sensei etc., as well as seminars in Iaido and Jodo.