Tag Archives: profiles

Interview with Aikido Shihan Kanshu Sunadomari – Part 2

Kanshu Sunadomari at Ueshiba DojoKanshu Sunadomari (砂泊 諴秀) in front of Ueshiba Dojo – 1954

Kanshu Sunadomari’s family had close ties to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba through their belief in the Omoto-kyo religion. His older brother, Kanemoto Sunadomari (砂泊兼基), was one of the early students of O-Sensei and the author of the first biography of the Aikido Founder ever published. His sister, Fukiko Sunadomari (砂泊扶妃子), served for many years as the “Fujin Bucho” (婦人部長 / “Head of the Women’s Section”) of the Aikikai.

He became an Uchi-deshi to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei shortly before World War II, and upon his return to Kyushu after the war he gave the first public demonstration of Aikido there in 1953, after which he opened the Manseikan Aikido dojo in Kumamoto. 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.

Sunadomari Sensei’s book “合気道で悟る” has been published in English as “Enlightenment through Aikido“.

This is the second part of a two part 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. You may wish 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), Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) and Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Kanshu Sunadomari – Part 1

Sunadomari and Ueshiba
Kanshu Sunadomari and Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei around 1960

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).

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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 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. 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 »