ODU Dedicates Garden to Hiroyuki Hamada
Martial arts students and alumni gathered with the rain clouds around a graveled patch of cherry trees and azalea bushes to dedicate the garden to Hiroyuki Hamada on Monday, Sept. 21.
Hamada founded the first accredited martial arts school in the United States at Old Dominion University 50 years ago. Hamada flew from his home in Japan for the ceremony and to celebrate the special anniversary of his branch of Dai Nippon Butoku Kai with his ODU martial arts family.
Stephen Downs meticulously planned and constructed the small, rectangular garden in Hamada’s honor. Every boulder, azalea bush and cherry tree in the small rectangular plot was thoughtfully placed. For the project, Downs studied and followed the Japanese traditions of Sakuteiki or “the art of stone setting.”
Downs spoke at the dedication ceremony about the principles exhibited in the garden.
“There is asymmetry,” said Downs. “Because imbalance is what creates all movement and energy.”
He continued by emphasizing the characteristics of simplicity, venerability, mystery, otherworldliness, stillness and peace in Hamada’s garden. Downs, along with Patricia King, the landscape coordinator at ODU, travelled to North Carolina to handpick 5 specifically shaped boulders, which symbolize the 5 decades of Hamada’s teaching at the university.
Hamada hopes to see the small, simple garden expand. As a symbol of the landscape’s future, Hamada led a panel of university leaders in a tree-planting ceremony. He announced that he and ODU President John Broderick have discussed planting more cherry trees and azaleas in the area. Hamada dreams of eventually converting the flat, grassy landscape behind the Diehn Center into a small forest of philosophizing and reflection.
“I hope that this will become a special place for the campus to enjoy sublime serenity and self reflection,” Hamada said.
Hamada first opened his school of martial arts training in 1975 at Old Dominion University. After years as a martial arts instructor and faculty emeritus of exercise science sport, physical education and recreation, Hamada retired and returned to Japan. There he serves as president of Dai Nippon Butoku Kai in Japan and Chairman of the DNBK International Division.
Even after seven years, Hamada’s love and influence still resonates with his students and the ODU campus.
“Training day after day I realized that what I was learning was far greater than kicking and punching,” said Kimberly Baylor, a past student of Hamada who hosted the dedication ceremony. “I was learning a way of life. How to excel and go beyond mediocracy. How to serve for the greater good. How to be determined and persistent. How to cultivate my mind, body, and spirit to a higher level so that I can overcome obstacles, handle adversities, and to elevate my total being.”
Students at the event echoed Baylor’s sentiments. Many of them described training with Hamada with the word “intense” as they smiled at each other in reminiscent agreement.
Hamada too expressed his own reminiscence of his time at ODU during his speech set to crescendoing violin and piano music.
“I feel the invisible tears in my heart joy at seeing them here on this beautiful campus,” Hamada said as he looked out on the gathering of students sporting blue blazers with the school’s emblem on their chests.
Hamada’s students have stepped up to continue teaching through Dai Nippon Butoku Kai on the ODU campus. The new garden now joins with them as a symbol of Hamada’s dreams and legacy.