Monday, August 27, 2007

Training with Tojima sensei

One of my most powerful influences during my training in Japan was Kumano Juku Dojo shihan Yasushi Tojima sensei. His unusual but charismatic prescence, his explosive power and abrupt sense of humor are still very vivid to me. In an earlier blog I mentioned that I feel his presence often.

What was it like to train with someone like him? You must realize that when Hikitsuchi sensei or one of the other instructors was leading the class, you might get an opportunity to train one on one with him. Seated kokyu ho with him was very challenging and entertaining. He was incredible relaxed and if you tried to muscle him over he had an incredible heaviness. He would often just let you push on his center without himself blocking you out. He said osensei would have him do the same to him and would instruct him:" Osaeshite age nasai", which, I suppose, could be interpreted as receive my letting you push on my center. And of course O sensei was probably immovable. Tojima sensei seemed to be to me as well.
He stressed openings in the technique and explained how to cover them. He had lightening fast atemi movements, which he showed when he explained the openings. He was not someone who would impress you with pretty technique or flow, although he could certainly do both. Rather, he stressed a kind of totalness through the body in the practice that could transcend just the practice on the mat. And while Hikitsuchi senseis sense of the energy was steeped in Shinto, Tojima sensei explained ki in very practical terms. He studied Koichi Tohei sensei's books and made these principles his own.

His weapons work was awesome. I intend to put some of his suburi with the bokken on video at a later date. He could generate relaxed,explosive power through his body arts and bokken and bo as well. And his sense of humor could be equally explosive. I still remember once when Anno sensei was talking about kami and Tojima sensei humourously shifted the conversation to "kame" or turtle. With a little mime action you could swear that he suddenly became a turtle. Here is a video of my working with Tojima sensei in 1973 in seated kokyu ho:


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