Finding Aiki – and Aikido – in Hawaii

1964 Aikido Hilo

 September 1964 Aikido Seminar at Andrews Gym in Hilo Hawaii Second Row: Meyer Goo, left, seated next to Sadao Yoshioka Front Row: Koichi Tohei, Yukiso Yamamoto, Gyokuei Matsuura, Yorio Wakatake Aikido arrived in Hawaii with Koichi Tohei in 1953, its first expansion to the United States after the war.  One of the students that Koichi […]

Flow Like a River: Takashi Nonaka and the Hilo Ki-Aikido Club

Tohei and Nonaka

 Takashi Nonaka, Yasu Iwasa, Koichi Tohei, Kazuo Takaki, Kiyoshi Nagata 1955 – Hilo, Hawaii at the teahouse in Liliokulani Park (Photo courtesy of Dr. Mitsuo Adachi Sensei – orginal photo by Bernie Lau) The oldest of eight children (three boys and four girls), Takashi Nonaka was born on the Big Island of Hawaii on May […]

Aikido’s Harry Eto: The Wisdom of ‘Slow and Steady’

Harry Eto

Harry Eto Sensei Harry Eto, promoted to eighth degree black belt in 1998 at the age of 92, was one of Koichi Tohei’s first students in Hawaii. Here is a section of the article that appeared in the local Honolulu Advertiser newspaper when he passed away in 2001: Harry Setsuo Eto, a barefoot Kaua’i plantation boy […]

OSensei’s Otomo on his 1961 visit to Hawai’i

Aikido Celebration 2011 Hawaii

Cover from the commemorative brochure for Aikido Celebration 2011 in Hawaii
To quote the brochure whose cover appears above:
"Aikido Celebration 2011 is an organization dedicated to the public commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the first and only visit made to Hawai’i by the founder of Aikido, OSensei Morihei Ueshiba. It is also an opportunity to recognize the efforts of the people in Hawai’i and elsewhere who made that 1961 visit possible, and to perpetuate the practice of Aikido in Hawai’i for future generations."
The cover of this commemorative brochure was modeled on the poster created for the event by local phtographer and Aikido student Ric Noyle – Ric also created an early mock-up that never saw the light of day.
The main event of the actual celebration was a seminar in Honolulu, on the island of Oahu, at McKinley High School – the same place where Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba OSensei gave a public demonstration in 1961.
Some 500 people from around the world attended the seminar, which featured instruction by Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu, Mitsuteru Ueshiba Waka Sensei, Yoshimitsu Yamada sensei from the New York Aikikai, Seijuro Masuda sensei from Aikikai Hombu Dojo, and a number of local instructors and instructors with local ties.Nobuyoshi Tamura had already accepted an invitation to instruct at the Aikido Celebration 2011 seminar, but passed away in July 2010, seven months before the seminar actually took place in Honolulu.In 1961 Morihei Ueshiba OSensei visited Hawaii in order to dedicate the newly completed Honolulu Aiki Dojo, the first Dojo outside of Japan built specifically for the practice of Aikido.Included here is the text of a short article that I wrote for the brochure about the two students of Morihei Ueshiba who accompanied him from Japan in 1961 on that journey – Koichi Tohei and Nobuyoshi Tamura. The photograph of Morihei Ueshiba with Koichi Tohei and Nobuyoshi Tamura at Honolulu International Airport that appears at the start of the article also appeared in the brochure. The other photographs have been added for this article.Koichi Tohei had been coming to Hawaii since 1953 – there is a small room in the Honolulu Aiki Dojo that was originally planned so that Tohei would have a place to stay when he came to visit Honolulu from Japan.
Nobuyoshi Tamura was one of the young instructors at Aikikai Hombu Dojo, and this was his first trip to Hawaii. You may also be interested in reading these two articles in which Koichi Tohei recounts some of his experiences in coming to Hawaii, "Morihei Ueshiba: Untranslatable Words" (Nobuyoshi Tamura also appears in this account of the Founder’s visit to Hawaii) and "Koichi Tohei: Aikido Comes to Hawaii".There is also a two-part interview with Nobuyoshi Tamura (part 1 and part 2) if you are interested in learning more about Tamura’s history in Aikido.Lastly, Ni-Dai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba speaks about his first trip to Hawaii, in 1963, in "Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Mangos and Johnny Walker Black: Ni-Dai Doshu Comes to Hawaii".

Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Mangos and Johnny Walker Black

Chris Li with Moriteru Ueshiba

Chris Li, translating for Moriteru Ueshiba DoshuAikido Celebration 2011 Banquet at the Manoa Grand BallroomJapanese Cultural Center of Hawaii in Honolulu
2011 marked the 50th anniversary of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei’s visit to Hawaii in 1961 to dedicate the opening of the Honolulu Aiki Dojo (for an interesting story from this time see "Morihei Ueshiba: Untranslatable Words"). Many of the local Aikido dojo cooperated in the effort to hold a commemorative seminar and event.
Moriteru Ueshiba (San-Dai Doshu and grandson of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba) and his son Mitsuteru Ueshiba (Waka-Sensei) came to Honolulu to help celebrate this event, along with almost 500 Aikido students from around the world.