AJ: Did you do aikido during your apprenticeship in Sendai and Osaka?
In Sendai, I trained under Hanzawa Sensei, and in Osaka I practiced at Abe Sensei’s dojo
AJ: Did you open a restaurant in Iwama as planned?
Yes, in 1978, but I was young and foolish and used to drink a lot with the customers at night, and did not train very seriously. I ran the restaurant for seven years, but began to fear I would ruin my health, so I talked with my father and he agreed that I should get out of that business. He went abroad often and needed someone to take charge of the dojo while he was away. That was 11 years ago and since then I have been teaching aikido full-time.
Eleven years ago I went to Denmark with Saito Sensei and participated in a seminar there. Last year was the 10th anniversary of the went, so I went back again with Saito Sensei and several people from Iwama, It was a great seminar with about 300 attendees.
AJ: What advice would you give aikido students on the fundamentals of training?
Saito Sensei says that all taijutsu, ken and jo techniques are based on hanmi. First you should master hanmi. Then, you have to learn how to do proper kiai. I think training without kiai is miserable. The founder had a marvelous kiai. If you want to learn true budo you cannot go wrong by trying to imitate O-Sensei. Unfortunately, people do not know much about O-Sensei, so I do my best to tell them more about him.
The foundation of aikido training is forging yourself You cannot do this if you start practicing ki no nagare (ki-flow techniques) from the beginning. The basic training consists in allowing your partner to hold you firmly. By doing so he is doing you a favor. Your partner restrains you and only then do you start practicing a technique.
This is the first step on the path. One of the founder’s instructions was to start with tai no henko. You should not neglect even one tai no henko practice. This is what we teach in Iwama.
To be continued…