Osensei and Me
So we go onto the summer before my senior year. Still practicing karate. But I came upon an article in Psychology Today titled "The Psychology of the Samurai". It was about the psychological and spiritual growth of the Japanese samurai warrior. And much of the article focused on Ueshiba Osensei..I was fascinated and I remember actually saying to myself,"I wish I could study Aikido!"
Well Summer ends and the Fall semester 1969 is about to start. I go back on campus for orientation and am amazed to see posters up for the formation of an Aikido club on campus. There was a demonstration held on the Cowell College courtyard which I of course attended. And I was present at the first club meeting.
Later, after one of the club practices I approached Frager sensei and told him one of the main reasons I had taken up Aikido was this article in Psychology Today. His reply? "I wrote it...".Another Wow! So that was the chain of events that led me into Aikido. I will always be grateful that I started with these teachers who had a deep connection to Osensei and sort of passed onto me a sense of their love and devotion for him and dedication to pursuing this path. Also the fact that they were not Japanese gave them a perspective on Osensei that many(not all) Japanese seem to miss about the founder and his art.. It has strongly shaped my particular approach to the art to this very day.
After that one academic year I graduated from UC Santa Cruz. I was accepted into Phd programs at several UC campuses, but I chose a Master's Program at UC Davis. I needed to get a graduate degree for my parents, but I really wanted to go to Japan(a dream) to study Aikido. I wound up in 1973, after I had finished my Masters in the fall, going to Japan for a short year. And I trained at the Kumano Juku dojo in Shingu city, Wakayama Prefecture in Japan. This was a dojo started by Osensei and headed at the time by Micho Hikitsuchi sensei, whom Osensei awared the rank of 10th dan. My other teachers there of shihan caliber: Motomich Anno, Motoichi Yanase, and Yasushi Tojima.senseis.
Whereas I felt I had gotten a good feel for Osensei's teachings from Frager and Nadeau senseis, in Shingu the sense of the Founder was not just Japanese, but extreme in that regard. I found out that Osensei seemed to have framed everything through Shnto mysticism. On a daily basis Hikitsuchi sensei would chant norito,formal Shinto purification prayers. Twice a month there would be formal ceremonies to honor him.For me it was an intense period of study. I had no language skills. My Masters had been of all things in the Russian language. So here I was struggling to learn a new language but also to assimilate the Founder's teaching from this perspective. Even without the language skills thanks to Mary Heiny , who was fluent in Japanese, and Linda Holiday, who picked it up very fast, I was able to absorb a bit of what was taught to us until my language skills improved.
I made 2 more major trips to Japan and the Shingu dojo. Finally in 1978 I settled into teaching full time at the San Jose dojo and in 1980 became chief instructor of that school. I continue to have connections with Frager sensei, Nadeau sensei, and Anno sensei, who comes to the states in July to teach at the Santa Cruz Summer Retreat. Yanase sensei I saw in my last visit to Japan in 2015. I took and group to personally accept a promotion. We visited World Headquarters in Tokyo. Then spent a few days in the Shingu area. Of course we visited the grave of the Founder in his home town of Tanabe.
Nadeau sensei and I meet once a week to try to decipher Osensei's process and bring it into this time period. Osensei hung out with very original deep energies in an archetypal place. What has come out of the work is the Osensei Revisited weekends held in Occidental California. The 6th will be held April 21, 22, and 23rd.
I am probably of a minority now, but I believe that to truly get the essence of Aikido on has to develop a relationship with the Founder. While they are still around try to connect with those who directly studied with him. There are a number of books that have been translated by John Stevens sensei that make much of his work and history accessible. So the journey continues!