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Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 2

 Hiroshi Kato and Morihei Ueshiba
Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei in 1961, directly before leaving for Hawaii
Hiroshi Kato Sensei by the door next to Kisaburo Osawa Sensei

Hiroshi Kato was born in Tokyo on March 24th 1935, and entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1954 at the age of 18.

He was one of the early post-war Aikido students at Aikikai Hombu Dojo, but chose to work as a printer rather than making a full time career of the martial art. Known for his strict self-training in Aikido, in his younger years he would practice weapons by himself through the night, greet the sunrise the next morning, and then head off to work at the print shop.

In 1975 he formed an informal practice group at the Suginami Ward Koenji Gymnasium near his home, and then in April 1987 he established the Suginami Aikikai (杉並合気会) dojo in the Suginami Ward of Tokyo, Japan as a branch dojo of the Aikikai Foundation.

This is the second part of a two part interview with Hiroshi Kato that originally appeared in the April 2007 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), Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) , Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) and Kanshu Sunadomari (Part 1 | Part 2).

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 1

Kato HIroshi Sensei
Hiroshi Kato Sensei (1935-2012)

Hiroshi Kato was born in Tokyo on March 24th 1935, and entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1954 at the age of 18.

In 1975 he formed an informal practice group at the Suginami Ward Koenji Gymnasium near his home, and in April 1987 he established the Suginami Aikikai (杉並合気会) dojo in the Suginami Ward of Tokyo, Japan as a branch dojo of the Aikikai Foundation.

This is the first part of a two part interview with Hiroshi Kato that originally appeared in the April 2007 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) , Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) and Kanshu Sunadomari (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 Shoji Nishio

Nishio and UeshibaShoji Nishio sensei (西尾 昭二) and Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei

Shoji Nishio was one of the major post-war students of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei. Born in 1927, he entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1952, becoming one of the early students of the post-war era.

A multi-talented man,  he was also a student of Karate (5th Dan Shindō jinen-ryū), Judo (6th Dan Kodokan Judo) and Iaido (7th Dan Nihon Zendoku Iaido) as well as other arts. This multi-faceted innovative approach is reflected in this excerpt from an interview with Nishio sensei from 1997 (this quote previously appeared in “Aikido and the Unknown“):

Q: Why has the substance (of Aikido technique) been lost?

A: Nobody listened to what O-Sensei was saying. They just tried to remember the outer form of the technique. Even though O-Sensei said “What use is it to just copy my technique? If you do a technique once it’s already finished.”. Because he spoke like a Kami-sama (God) they thought that nothing he said could be understood, and didn’t even try to pay attention when they were listening. Much later on when they’ve forgotten everything sometimes they’d remember “Ah, so that’s what that meant”. That’s why most people’s practice today is empty. They don’t look at other types of Budo.  Right from the start, the value of a Budo is determined by comparisons with other Budo.For the most part, if you set up Kokyu-ho between two Aikido people it’s just useless. That will only be effective in the dojo. I guess that those people say things like “Even though you do Aikido you’re also doing Karate and sword. If you want to do Karate then go to Karate. If you want to do the sword then go to Kendo. If you’re doing Aikido you don’t need to do other things.”. Even in other Budo, everybody is working hard, you know. When we see that we should make an effort to surpass them with our Aiki. That is the mission of Aikido as a Budo. Unfortunately, the senior students who had that as a goal are gradually dying away, and the loss of substance just progresses.The re-education of the younger instructors is necessary for people in the present time who would have the goal of reconstructing (Aikido) as I have discussed. This is not something that can be done in a single morning and an evening. Because this is a path that takes 30 or 40 years, I grow increasingly concerned for the future.

What follows is the English translation of an interview with Shoji Nishio sensei that took place at the Warabi Aikidokai on February 9th, 1999.

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