The International Aikido Federation (IAF) is a federation of Aikido organizations, which are directly affiliated to the Aikikai Hombu in Japan, the “mother house” of Aikido.
It is the only worldwide federation of such Aikido organisations and at present it has 46 members.
The organisational structure of IAF is a unique blend.
The IAF President is always the Aikido Doshu and a body called the Senior Council has the power to monitor the decisions taken by the IAF Congress, in order to ensure that the federation does not deviate from the “way” of Aikido, as taught by the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba.
These decisions are taken at the Congress by the delegates from each member organisation. The Congress meets every four years under the presidency of the IAF Chairman and makes its decisions by means of the democratic process of debate and voting. Each member organisation has one vote.
Membership of the IAF is open to national organisations which have recognition from the Aikikai Hombu.
There are currently over 100 organisations which have recognition from the Hombu, but not all of these organisations can be members of the IAF.
At present the IAF has a rule that only one organisation from each country may be a member. It is important to understand that recognition by the Aikikai Hombu is quite different from the IAF membership.
An important task of the Congress is to elect the officials who manage the day-to-day operations of the IAF and who are responsible for the holding of the Congresses themselves. The federation is managed by the following persons: the Chairman, General Secretary, Treasurer, and a non-voting Technical Council, who is appointed by the Aikikai Hombu.
These elected officials are all accountable to a Directing Committee, which meets every two years. The Directing Committee, in turn, is accountable to the Congress.
Many IAF Congresses have been held in Japan and an Aikido training course has usually been held to run parallel with the Congress.
This training course is an important part of the IAF Congress, for it allows delegates and ordinary aikidoists to practice the art under the guidance of high-ranking instructors directly affiliated to the Aikikai Hombu.
The IAF held its first Congress in 1976, in Tokyo, Japan. In 1984, the federation became a Full Member of the General Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) and the International World Games Association (IWGA).
Admission to membership of GAISF and the IWGA was an important milestone for the IAF, for membership of these two associations gives international recognition to Aikido, to Doshu and to the Aikikai Hombu.
As a member of the IWGA, the IAF has participated in the World Games. Although Aikido does not hold competitions, participation in the World Games is an important way of making Aikido better known.
Since its foundation in 1976, the IAF has also been able to fulfill several important functions:
- The IAF has provided a means whereby Aikido practitioners from all over the world can meet and practice the art together under the direction of high-ranking teachers, especially those teachers directly affiliated to the Aikikai Hombu.
- The IAF has provided an open forum in which Aikido organizations affiliated to the Aikikai can meet in friendship and discuss matters of common interest.
- The IAF has provided a forum for discussion between these Aikido organizations and instructors affiliated to the Aikikai Hombu who reside abroad.
- The IAF has provided an official channel of communication between Aikido organizations and the Aikikai Hombu.
- At a national and a continental level, the IAF has helped to sow the seeds of Aikido on new ground: to introduce and spread the art of Aikido in new countries where it did not exist.
- The IAF has engaged in official contacts with various officially recognized sports bodies and has thus shown the face of Aikido on occasions like the World Games, where there is a significant risk of Aikido being misunderstood. The risks of misunderstanding exist, because Aikido is not a sport in one commonly-accepted sense of the term, for it does not hold competitions.
- The IAF’s status as a recognized international federation has been of great assistance in enabling some member federations to gain recognition from their own government authorities.
Not all members need such recognition, but some do – and this is a fact which is of some importance for IAF.