Tag Archives: aikido

Mr. Kimura’s Aikido Memories, Part 2

Morihei Ueshiba at the Noma Dojo

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba at the Noma Dojo, around 1936

 In 1938 the Prime Minister of Japan was Prince Fumimaro Konoe (近衛 文麿) – he was a patron of Morihei Ueshiba and served on the board of directors for Morihei Ueshiba’s pre-war Kobukai Foundation.

In 1938, when he began training with Morihei Ueshiba at the Kobukan Dojo in Tokyo, Mr. Kimura was a 19 year old Japanese exchange student from Dairen (大連 / Dalian), the Japanese occupied seaport in Northeast China. At the time the art was called “Ueshiba-ryu Aiki-jutsu”, and the students were a laundry list of influential political and military figures.

What follows is the second part of a two part English translation of his memories of that time dated June 24th 1987 which originally appeared in the tenth anniversary edition of “Aikido Kodaira” (「合気こだいら」十周年記念誌), published on October 30th 1988. You may wish to read Part 1 before reading this section.

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Mr. Kimura’s Aikido Memories, Part 1

Technical Manual Budo, Page 38
Morihei Ueshiba’s Technical Manual “Budo” – published in 1938 

1938 saw the continuation of the Japanese war in China, increased economic sanctions against Japan by the United States, and and the formation of the precursor to the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” (大東亞共榮圏), the “New Order in East Asia” (東亜新秩序). It saw the passing of the National Mobilization Law (国家総動員法) in the Japanese Diet, putting the national economy of the Empire of  Japan on a war-time footing.

1938 was also the heart of the golden years of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s Kobukan Dojo, known as “Hell Dojo” for the severity of its training.

Mr. Kimura began training with Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei in 1938, in an art called “Ueshiba-ryu Aiki-jutsu”, at the Kobukan Dojo that had been opened in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo in 1931. What follows is the first part of a two part English translation of his memories of that time from June 24th 1987 which originally appeared in the tenth anniversary edition of “Aikido Kodaira” (「合気こだいら」十周年記念誌), published on October 30th 1988.  Continue reading »

Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshimitsu Yamada, Part 2

Yoshimitsu Yamada in Hawaii 2011Yoshimitsu Yamada at Aikido Celebration Hawaii 2011
the 50th Anniversary of O-Sensei’s 1961 visit to Hawaii
Pat Hendricks taking ukemi

Yoshimitsu Yamada was sent to the United States in 1964 by the Aikikai in order to help spread and develop Aikido in America. He was followed by Mitsunari Kanai Sensei, Akira Tohei Sensei and Kazuo Chiba Sensei, whose cooperation eventually led to the formation of the United States Aikido Federation (USAF).

In the introduction to Part 1 of this interview below I spoke a little bit about my personal connection with Yamada Sensei, but there is one more personal connection that I have not yet mentioned.

Takeshi YamashimaTaking ukemi for Takeshi Yamashima
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden – 2011

Takeshi Yamashima was a long time student of Seigo Yamaguchi, and is famous for his soft, yet powerful, style of Aikido. He has been a regular at Hombu Dojo’s morning classes for many years and instructs at a number of dojo in the Tokyo area. He also holds a license in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu Kenjutsu.

I trained with him in Japan for three years, starting in 2000, and after returning to the United States I invited him to come to Hawaii. He has been visiting us in the Hawaiian Islands every year since 2004.

Takeshi Yamashima’s first Aikido teacher was….Yoshimitsu Yamada. As a young Hombu Dojo uchi-deshi Yamada Sensei was dispatched to oversee the instruction at the university dojo where Yamashima Sensei started Aikido!

This is the second of two parts of an interview that originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan. You may with to read Part 1 of the interview before reading this section

This interview was also published in a collection of interviews with students of the Founder published in Japanese as 開祖の横顔 (“Profiles of the Founder”) in 2009. There was a short introduction to this work in the article “Morihei Ueshiba – Profiles of the Founder“. A number of English translations of interviews from that collection appeared have appeared previously – Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Hiroshi Isoyama Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Shigenobu Okumura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), and Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshimitsu Yamada, Part 1

Yoshimitsu Yamada KauaiYoshimitsu Yamada on Kauai, Hawaii in 1966
seated between Hawaii Aikikai instructors Yukiso Yamamoto and Sadao Yoshioka

Yoshimitsu Yamada was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1938, entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo as an uchi-deshi in 1956 and was dispatched to New York to aid the development of Aikido in the United States in 1964, the year that I was born.

I last saw him in 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the 50th anniversary celebration of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s 1961 visit to Hawaii. He didn’t remember me then, but we had met previously at the New York Aikikai in 1982. Of course, he had no idea who I was then, either, but I had wandered into the New York Aikikai to ask about going to Japan to study Aikido at Aikikai Hombu Dojo. I was eighteen years old when I went to Hombu with him that fall, the same age that Yoshimitsu Yamada was when he began studying Aikido.

At the time I had been studying Aikido with Frank Hreha and Mitsugi Saotome of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba, with whom he had been having an ongoing, and sometimes acrimonious, dispute. I was blissfully unaware of the background drama, and he never mentioned it, instead offering to take me to Japan with him on his next trip. Despite having met me scant minutes before, he immediately set me up with his travel agent, who arranged a visa with Yamada Sensei’s mother as my guarantor.

When we got to Japan he set me up with a room in a small Minshuku (a boarding house) in Wakamatsu-cho, and then took me to help get enrolled at the dojo. After which….I didn’t see him for many years. I eventually returned to the United States, and continued to train with Mitsugi Saotome and ASU – but I will always remember his kindness to an unknown fifth-kyu walking in off the street with extreme gratitude.

This is the first part of an interview that originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan.

This interview was also published in a collection of interviews with students of the Founder published in Japanese as 開祖の横顔 (“Profiles of the Founder”) in 2009. There was a short introduction to this work in the article “Morihei Ueshiba – Profiles of the Founder“. A number of English translations of interviews from that collection appeared have appeared previously – Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Hiroshi Isoyama Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Shigenobu Okumura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), and Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Masatake Fujita, Part 2

Masatake FujitaMasatake Fujita sensei on the cover of the April 2000 Aiki News

Masatake Fujita (藤田昌武) was born in Japanese occupied Manchuria in 1937. Returning to Japan after the war, he enrolled as a student at Aikikai Hombu Dojo – some of that story is told in Part 1 of the interview that is concluded below.

Fujita sensei summarized his technical approach to Aikido in this interview with Aikido Journal:

My “theory,” as you call it, involves certain principles of physical bodily movement that I’ve discovered by studying and thinking about O-Sensei’s techniques and movements. These could apply to any martial art, actually, and are not necessarily unique to aikido. To begin with, the primary purpose of body movement is to prevent yourself from being in a position where you can be thrown, hit, or otherwise successfully attacked. One way to do this is of course to duck or move back to escape, but aikido suggests that “entering” or moving in a bit is also good way to avoid being hit; this is the principle of irimi (lit. “entering with the body”). My “theory” is that the three most important elements in accomplishing this entry are 1) posture, 2) body shifting, and 3) technique, in that order.

An important member of the staff at Aikikai Hombu dojo for many years, as well as the technical director of the National Cultural Aikido Bond of the Netherlands, Fujita sensei was struck down by a brain stroke several years ago and spent a number of years in hospitals and rehabilitation until he passed away on May 28th 2014, at the age of 77.

This is the second part of an interview that originally appeared in the March 2005 issue of Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan. You may wish to read Part 1 of this interview before reading this section.

This interview was also published in a collection of interviews with students of the Founder published in Japanese as 開祖の横顔 (“Profiles of the Founder”) in 2009. There was a short introduction to this work in the article “Morihei Ueshiba – Profiles of the Founder“. A number of English translations of interviews from that collection appeared have appeared previously – Nobuyoshi Tamura sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Hiroshi Isoyama sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Shigenobu Okumura sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), and Nobuyuki Watanabe (Part 1 | Part 2). Continue reading »