Tag Archives: profiles

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 »

Interview with Aikido Shihan Masatake Fujita, Part 1

Masatake Fujita taking ukemi for O-SenseiMasatake Fujita taking ukemi for Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba
Aikikai Hombu Dojo, 1969

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 the first section of the interview below.

Fujita sensei is famous for his powerful techniques. Here is what he said about the secret of those techniques when asked in Kuala Lumpur:

Of course there is a secret, but everyone is different. Even if I tell you what it is you may not be like me. It’s hard to talk about it. You have to experience it yourself. To watch someone do it and to do it yourself are 2 separate things. For eg., what you see through the lens of a camera may not be the same as what you see with the naked eye. You can’t learn just by copying someone else. You may be able to copy a technique but you may not grasp the essence of the technique.

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.

The following interview 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.

It 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).

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Nobuyuki Watanabe, Part 2

 Nobuyuki Watanabe SenseiNobuyuki Watanabe sensei (渡辺信之) at Aikikai Hombu Dojo

Nobuyuki Watanabe is a senior instructor at Aikikai Hombu Dojo and a Japanese bonesetter (接骨 / Sekkotsu – a form of joint manipulation similar to chiropractics). He was instrumental in making Isogai Dynamic Therapy (a chiropractic method of treatment to compensate for functional leg length differences) known in Germany, where he frequently travels to instruct in Aikido.

His famous “no touch” Aikido demonstrations at the annual All Japan Aikido Demonstration (全日本合氣道演武大会) are highly controversial, but always elicit an enthusiastic response from the crowd. The late Sadateru Arikawa used to watch those demonstrations each year with a scowl on his face!

This is the second part of a two part translation of an interview with Nobuyuki Watanabe sensei. You may wish to read Part 1 of this interview before reading this section.

This interview originally appeared in the August 2007 issue of Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan. It 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“. I previously posted an English translation of interviews from that collection with Nobuyoshi Tamura sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Hiroshi Isoyama sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) and Shigenobu Okumura sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).  Continue reading »