Born into a family of Omoto-kyo believers in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1923, Kanshu Sunadomari (砂泊 諴秀) became an uchi-deshi to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei shortly before World War II. Returning to Kyushu after the war he gave the first public demonstration of Aikido there in 1953, and opened the Manseikan Aikido dojo in Kumamoto shortly thereafter. Promoted to 9th Dan by Morihei Ueshiba in 1961, he became independent from the main Aikikai organization after the death of the Founder in 1969. He passed away in November 2010.
His book “合気道で悟る” has been published in English as “Enlightenment through Aikido“.
After a number of years in the relative obscurity of Kyushu, Sunadomari Sensei emerged to participate in the 1st Aiki News Friendship Demonstration in 1985. Here is a short account of that participation written by Aiki News (now Aikido Journal) Editor Stanley Pranin:
When Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei and his entourage of about 15 students who had come all the way from Kyushu took the stage at the Friendship Demonstration, no one knew what to expect. He began with a rather long introduction where he spoke for nearly 30 minutes. I was becoming quite nervous because this was obviously going to throw off our schedule. As I recall, we asked each sensei to prepare about a 20 minute lecture-demonstration, knowing that they probably run over. Then the Manseikan students performed a couple of martial art inspired dances replete with fans and music! Everyone was becoming antsy because the demonstration had still not started. Even the audience of 900 people was becoming restless not knowing what to expect next.
It turns out we needn’t have worried because Sunadomari Sensei gave one of the most unusual and polished performances I had ever seen. His aikido was totally different from any other. Kanshu Sensei’s technique was dynamic and flowing with a great emphasis on the principle of kokyu. He had a peculiar way of using his wrist and forearm to break uke’s balance with impeccable timing. Kanshu was a small man, but it was obvious he had discovered some subtle ways of generating power that no one had seen before. He also showed bokken and jo kata that were completely original. Kanshu capped off his demonstration with several spectacular multiple-attack defenses that were superbly executed. When Sunadomari Sensei’s performance had concluded, he and his students received a resounding round of applause. I am very thankful that we captured his unforgettable performance along with those of the other teachers that day 27 years ago. It is even more gratifying to know that aikidoka today can witness for themselves what happened on that special spring day long ago.
This is the first part of an interview that originally appeared in the August 2004 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), Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) and Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).