Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Yanase sensei

I came across some old super 8 movies that had been transferred to vhs. These are from 1973 and show the teachers and training of the Shingu dojo of that period. I will be editing and putting some of this footage online. You will see Linda Holiday sensei and myself as pre-yudansha. These films were taken in late fall of that year, and we were promoted to shodan shortly after. Much of the footage was shot with the idea that Hikitsuchi sensei would teach some classes that would be filmed so that those of us returning to America could study them there. You will see footage of Anno, Tojima, and Yanase senseis training in these classes. With Hikitsuchi sensei leading the class, your training partner could well be one of these shihan.

The footage I am including is some of Yanase Motoichi sensei. At the time he was a 6th dan. He worked extensively with me both in and out of the dojo. Often times after class he would agree to work with me one on one. As I got to know him better, he would take me and other foreigners on special pilgrimages to shrines in the mountains. I again want to stress how important it is to realize that the amount of time training in the dojo, though important, ideally is to be complimented by work outside the dojo and also after class.

Working with Yanase sensei could be very intense. He was very patient and at the same time could be very explosive. He seemed to know what your real limits were, as opposed to your own self-imposed ideas of them. And he was very clean, so even though you
might be scared, a part of you felt a great trust. This is a combination of abilities that it is very rare to find then, today, or in any age. The Shingu dojo was blessed to have three such teachers: Anno, Tojima, and Yanase senseis.

My one claim to fame at the dojo was that I once took ukemi for Yanase sensei for 40 minutes after evening class. I trust the observation of the people watching, because I was in no position to watch the clock. One thing I want to make very clear is that I never managed to do that again, so that was a one time and very unique thing even for me. I also want to point out that I was around 25 years old and in the best shape of my adult life. But as he threw me I realized that I was getting energy, and, the best way to keep my alignment with the receiving of that energy was to go all out. I did not pace myself. Yanase sensei somewhat obliged by throwing me forward for awhile, then back, then into pins, then forward again. So it was like there was a giant wave or spiral that I could just ride. The only reason it stopped when it did was that he hit me in the face with an entering move and I thought he had knocked out a contact lens(many of my sessions with him seemed to end that way until I stopped wearing contacts to train). Linda Holiday sensei asked me recently what it was like after I had stopped. I was in no way tired or exhausted at all. In fact I was energized, and the whole dojo was like a living energy field, like something out of “Star Trek”.

I saw Yanase sensei again when I went to Japan in June. True to form, both he and Anno sensei saw me and my group off at the train station just like over 30 years ago.


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