Saturday, November 11, 2006

Shingu dojo 1973

I am including a short video clip of training at the Kumano Juku(Shingu ) dojo taken in late fall of 1973. Hikitsuchi sensei was teaching and leading the class. You’ll see short clips of Yanase sensei simply training in the class. There are 2 separate segments of this. One at the very beginning and another later. You’ll also see him being uke for Hikitsuchi sensei. Other ukes include Mary Heiny. There are 2 brief clips of me being uke for Hikitsuchi sensei. Towards the end of the clip, Tojima sensei makes a brief appearance.

The class appears to be well attended. Being a dojo in a small coastal town, class size could go up and down. Even though they were shihan level, as far as I remember, Anno, Tojima, and Yanase senseis still paid monthly dues to support the dojo. There was in those days no set schedule for who taught what class. If Hikitsuchi sensei were there, as dojo-cho, he would take the class. If one one or more of the shihan came to class, they would then train. If Hikitsuchi sensei was not there, generally the first of the shihan to appear at the dojo would then take the class. Sometimes in multiple shihan classes they would each take a sub-group: black belts, adult non-black belts, and children. The dojo went through periods where there was no separate children’s class, so they trained at the same time as the adults.

As you will see, the pace was very brisk and could be very intense. Drawing Yanase sensei as a training partner was always quite a challenge. Ditto Anno sensei and Tojima sensei. Hikitsuchi sensei often demonstrated the techniques very rapidly with little or no explanation. Part of the training was to train yourself to perceive what was going on. Hikitsuchi sensei would often lecture in class about the true meaning of aikido. Themes he often stressed were that aikido was not a sport, but rather a true budo(martial art), that training involved the mutual teaching between training partners of each others openings(suki) and moments of inattention. On a deeper level it was stressed that aikido was a path built and sustained by kami(divine energies) and was, in fact, a path of kami. Also, that one’s own true or kami nature could be clouded by less clear energies, and, therefore, aikido involved misogi or a spiritual cleansing of the senses, body, and spirit. All of this, it was stressed, was to be found in one’s day to day training. Past the level of training was that of shugyo, that life was a process of constant inner growth and transformation, and that there was indeed a bridge between the dojo and life itself.

I intend to fish through the old vhs footage I have and see if I can find more such moments.


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