Above, Koichi Kashiwaya
8th Dan and Chief Instructor
of Ki Society, USA, at the historic most successful seminar
the weekend of August 14th and 15th, 1999,
titled Harmony for All. Hosted
by Peter Bussell.
What sort of advice for those persons that start out in Aikido with the
idea of being an instructor? Some students get their shodan and start
out being an instructor.
(Many instructors with 15 years and many more years behind us – DO NOT
feel that shodan and nidan is instructor material.)
Starting out being an instructor . . . that’s really an interesting
concept. I also have some strong opinions on that. Because so many dojos
- 'Oh, congratulations – you’re a shodan – now you’re an instructor' .
You’ve met Jennifer. She’s a nidan now, as of two years ago (this
interview was done 2002 May, Jennifer at this writing is sandan). She is my only instructor that has a Ryurei Aikido instructor certificate. Gary is a nidan. Dan is a nidan.
They both have assistant instructor status. Jennifer doesn’t yet hold
the position of being a senior instructor. Gary and Dan cannot grade.
Jennifer as an instructor can grade to any mudansha level – she cannot
grade above that. To be a senior instructor she will have to be at least
a sandan and have a few more years experience. Before she received her
assistant instructor level she had been teaching for four years. Once
she’s a senior instructor then she can grade (promote) within two grades
of herself under the Ryurei Aikido system. This way – my ambition is to
maintain high standards. Both Gary and Dan, when they reach instructor
level will help with grading, as does Jennifer. They will be given my
blank examination sheets and they will mark them. I will then critique
those with them, so that I can say ' Why did you give this mark for that?
Because compared to what Jennifer and I have . . . '. So, I can compare
their gradings with what I have. It is at the stage now, that when
Jennifer and I mark a grading our sheets will almost be a mirror image
of each other. So, it is working."
Yes it is.
"The others will say ' Well, I did this because of this . . .' .
I would say – “Yes, but what about that --- did you see that?” You know,
from the grading instructor point of view it is the tiny little things
that they miss --- the important critical and subtle things. So they
have to learn to watch for those. You, I am sure, watch people doing
technique and you can correct it on the mat – on the fly because you see
something that most other people are missing. And it takes a long time
to learn this. It doesn’t happen overnight."
For a new instructor – I want to know where they come from. I don’t want
brown belt instructors (brown belts – 2nd and 1st kyu). I don’t want
shodan instructors particularly, you know. Maybe they can help out –
they need to start somewhere. So, at that lower level (ikkyu, nikyu),
yes they can help assist the instructor."
"For my dojo, the start of learning to instruct, they can start teaching
how to do ukemi, or the principles of Shinkido. We can fine-tune them
later, but that’s the start of learning how to instruct. And it takes a
long process. So, for a new instructor they’re really an old instructor
by the time they are a new instructor (ready to instruct by themselves)."
I remember so often just teaching, how much you learn about the
technique yourself. So, for me, I don’t know if I could ever use the
term “new instructor” - maybe a newly official instructor, but they have
a lot of water under the bridge by the time they are an instructor under
People have a misconception about the term “instructor”. Just because
you become a shodan (1st level black), nidan or sandan - doesn’t mean
you are an instructor or capable of instructing.
"Yes, this is so true. Some people will never be instructors. They may
not have the personality for it. (I agree with him). Or even the desire
Where do think your Aikido training has taken you?
(We both laugh.) I know this is an open ended or wide question to ask.
"It’s opened up so many different avenues and fields for me. Before I was
working for the City of Ottawa, for many years, I was an independent
self-employed person who was giving seminars and courses all based on
Shinkido principles. Before I was with the city, the municipal
government of this area was called the Regional Municipality of Ottawa
Carleton. For 6 years, I had a contract teaching stress management and
control, interaction with fellow workers and clients, and their own
personal safety. From that came similar work with Customs and
Immigration Canada a Federal government department, other municipal
government departments – welfare departments – all over Ontario.
Different non-profit organization dealing with mentally or physically
handicapped persons and all their workers. To companies such as Nortel,
we taught team building, stress management, and all from Shinkido
principles which emanate from Aikido. It made me a good living for many
years from that without having the Aikido dojo’s involvement. It’s taken
me far and wide in meeting so many different people, meeting different
businesses, and traveling to many different places of the world. I am
sure without Aikido, I would never have left New Zealand, if I had not
started doing Aikido. So, that means it has been responsible for me
having gone to different parts of Asia, including Japan. It’s taken me
to North America, Europe, etc. That would never have happened to me if I
had not started Aikido – guaranteed. I’d be an engineer somewhere in New
Zealand designing billboards! (He jokes jovially and we both laugh)."
What brought you to Canada anyway?
"I had been practicing in engineering in New Zealand and was dissatisfied
and went into technical sales within the construction industry. Then I
met a director of the US Company that owned the company in New Zealand.
I was looking after him in New Zealand for three or four days and you
don’t just talk about business. So he was asking about my aims and
ambitions. So, I said that my wife and I would really like to go to
Canada. He said, “I can guarantee a job in Canada. You write to me and
tell me what you really want to do. And if it fits - I’ll put you in
Canada.” So he did. And so we moved to Canada."
"Subsequently I left that company, I was with them for four years. I
started my own company based on their products but in the Ottawa area.
It was supplying specialized equipment in which I had taken their
original product, designed things from it, and utilizing it. It was in
the solar industry, but the sun went out. (He jokingly says this and we
chuckle). And that’s when I turned to Aikido and Shinkido for developing
these programs. And these programs developed for team building and
stress management are well sought after. They don’t want me to do it –
they want to get it."
Where do you
see your current direction in martial arts, specifically in relation to
In other words, where do you see yourself in
about 5 years?
see – if we include in martial arts; Aikido, Shinkido, and Shinki-Ryoho,
. . . in 5 years, ideally, I’d love to have a permanent dojo location,
combined with a holistic therapy place right in the same location. Here
we would teach Aikido, but we would also teach Shinkido just as one
would teach Chi Gung or something like that plus the holistic therapy,
being offered in two ways. One, as a teaching institution to teach
Shinki-Ryoho, and two, as a Shinki-Ryoho treatment center. That would be
ideal, a permanent place but not restricted to Aikido. In doing these
other things, they have much more potential impact for the betterment of
people, in general. Aikido is an interest. These other things have the
potential to be much more beneficial for mankind."
"We are doing many things with Shinki-Ryoho. The number of people that I
treat, who have been talking to western medicine or even physio-therapists,
or some of the other holistic therapists, who have done nothing for
them. They may have gone to them for three or four years spending thirty
thousand dollars on these other treatments, and still they were not
better off than they were fours year ago. Fifteen minutes of
Shinki-Ryoho treatment, and they exclaim: “I can’t believe this!” You
better come back for one more treatment. You go to some of these other
different therapies, you sign a blank check that goes on for years and
years. We usually say to people that if we can’t help you meaningfully
in three treatments, then we stop."
"And I would like to explore this further and further."
What do you think of today’s Aikido? What are the weaknesses we have out
there in Aikido? What can we do to remedy these weaknesses?
"I haven’t been out to see a lot of other Aikido. I’ve seen in recent
years, some lack of good instruction out there."
Peter expresses a genuine concern for instructors out there, that are
busy trying to cash in on Aikido --- large bank accounts instead of
building good Aikido. He examines his own integrity – personally and
within his own integrity with its relationship with Aikido.
"It starts at the top. If you don’t have good instruction and leadership
at the top, how can you build a base? There are a lot of wanna
be's (individuals all over the world that want to be 'sensei,
be called 'sensei', and want to have a following of students
calling them 'sensei'.)"
"You and I spoke earlier, saying that we are from a different era in
Aikido. I suppose every generation says the same type of thing, but I
seriously think that as we get further and further away from O’Sensei’s
era of teachings. You and I have observed what has happened to Aikido
from O’Sensei’s teachings to the next generation, to the next
generation. We are now in the fourth and fifth generation. You and I can
see the watering down of the technique in many instances. So, I feel it
logical when you hear of the kung-fu groups and they are 23 generations
old and you think that the guy that started it must be turning over in
"I know that when I get up and I teach my students, and I have some very
dedicated students – and I don’t want one clone of me let alone 200
clones of me. I want them to develop their own, but based on some
principles and ideals."
"We spoke earlier and I can teach ten people one technique and get ten
different aspects of that technique. So, the problem Aikido has per se,
is to keep that continuity genuine. And it’s not because people are
maliciously trying to change it, it’s just the way man is. So I see that
is a weakness in Aikido but I don’t see any solution for that either.
Other than better instructors and this may mean better students, too.
Look at all the different “forms” of Aikido that have evolved just from
the well-known uchideshi of O’Sensei and we can understand what is
likely to happen in another two aikido generations."
I think that Morihiro Saito Sensei, as rigid as he is in keeping
Aikido true – I understand
where he is coming from. He has criticized heavily numerous instructors
for changing Aikido. He has used O’Sensei’s manual as a guide for
keeping the structure the same. Saito Sensei has kept his Aikido
faithfully the same - since the time O’Sensei left Iwama Dojo.
"What I see though is – that O’Sensei was changing --- evolving his own
Aikido throughout his entire life, till the day he died. That’s the
nature of anything. It’s like a business, it’s either growing or dying.
It can’t stay the same. And in that term of “growth” with respect to
Aikido – it is evolving. It’s either evolving or stagnating. Shioda
Sensei kept pretty much to what he learned from O’Sensei too. But he
also allowed the Yoshinkai to evolve. Look how Tohei Sensei has evolved
from what he learned from O’Sensei, does this mean it is not as good as
Saito or Shioda, or does it mean it is different."
Sempai Kohai --- is it still alive? What do you see as its weaknesses and
"I see potential weaknesses in abuse of power. I see potential strengths
in its old fashioned oriental way but it is the old fashioned way of
“respect your elders”. Society per se could do with those old-fashioned
values. But you have to be careful of the abuse. That’s always been
around and always will be an issue. And some people will abuse it. Well,
there’s not much you can do about that. I think the benefits outweigh
"I’ve never specifically spoken of it in my dojo. But it happens. Its
there as a natural thing. It’s not based on ages, but based on their
Your seminar with Koichi Kashiwaya, Sensei of Ki Society 8th Dan, and
Larry Bieri, 6th Dan - chief instructor of Finger Lakes Aikido in
Ithaca, New York - where you brought in other instructors of other
federations to instruct together. That was phenomenal. And the very first
Aikido seminar of it’s kind! (Seminar August 14th - 15th, 1999, in Ottawa, Canada –
hosted by Peter Bussell and his organization Ryurei Aikido.)
When I agreed to do a joint seminar with you, a friend of mine and
fellow Aikidoka had asked me who was I doing this with and what
organization was this for. I had told him about you and that you were
the only one that had the gift to get two of the most respected
Aikidoists of different styles and federations together to instruct at
the same seminar – for the very first time in Aikido history! These
shared the spotlight together.
"The most remarkable thing about this was that here were two senior
instructors from different federations and not only did they 'share the
spotlight', as you said but the first class Kashiwaya was the instructor
of record – Larry Bieri was on the mat as a student. Then we broke for
fifteen minutes. Then Larry Bieri was the instructor of record.
Kashiwaya sensei, who out ranks Bieri sensei, was there on the mat as a
student! I have never, ever seen that! Even instructors of the same
federation never do that. You know two well-known East Coast Aikikai
Shihan 'do' seminars together, but they are never on the mat together.
Anyway, this went on for two days! Flip – flop, flip, flop (Kashiwaya
and Bieri, as they switched instructing classes, they would attend the
other’s class as a student actively participating on the mat with the
rest of the attendees). At one time, I practiced with Kashiwaya as uke/nage
and nage/uke for an hour --- I had never done that with him before. It
was unbelievable! He (Kashiwaya) wasn’t instructing me. (Peter smiled
and seemed to be tickled with the opportunity and sign of mutual
respect). Bieri was coming on and instructing us both. (We laugh). A
hachidan taking instructing from a rokudan – usually higher ranked
instructors won’t (we both agree). I thought that said so much about
both those men. And I sure respected them before --- and I respected
them even more after this."
Larry Bieri, 6th Dan at the historic most successful seminar the
weekend of August 14th and 15th, 1999,
titled Harmony for All.
You’ll rarely see this type of behavior where both instructors humble
themselves to show mutual respect. And this is a good example of
good will amongst Aikidoists. "True living Aikido". They are
setting examples as senior Aikidoka, in good standing. These may seem
like small contributions, however – it makes a big difference to everyone in
"This goes back to one of those questions you asked earlier, about what
was wrong with Aikido. And that’s one of the problems – the
politicization of it – and “this federation compared with that
federation”, 'this dojo compared with that dojo', and 'this style
compared with that style . . .' . Bieri Sensei and Kashiwaya Sensei went
out of their way to show that they were doing identical things. Even
though outwardly their style looked a little different, but when boiled
down --- they were identical! We all have the same grandfather (Morihei
Ueshiba – O’Sensei)! "
(I agree wholeheartedly).
"We really do! We may have slightly different
methods to get there but essentially the same thing! (We are very
Do you have any advice for anyone in good practice habits??
"Good practice habits start with good respect for the dojo and the art.
Set good standards of etiquette and for the dojo and practice them. You
know, the foundations are based on allot of tradition and cultural
things. They are all etiquette based. And if you maintain those – things
seem to follow. You have spoken about my students (I mentioned to Peter
that I found his students very proper, punctual in class, earnest, hard
working and study hard.) And we maintain etiquette in the dojo. Once in
awhile I have to call them out – even the senior students – getting
tardy in their arrival time. And they think they can walk on the mat at
any time. No! You wait. And if they’re consistently late – they’ll have
to wait fifteen minutes before coming on the mat. If that doesn’t work,
I take them aside and tell them that they know better – change your
habits. Then they know and they change instantly. From that comes about
respect for other students on the mat. Some people fool around on the
mat. You teach them good manners and everything falls into place."
What would you like to see from your Aikido students? What would you
like them to accomplish? What do you want them to get from your
instruction? Where do you see them going?
"Almost all of my senior students – universally say they can never see
themselves stopping Aikido. That says allot. We’re doing something that
they’re enjoying and they feel they are gaining something valuable from
it. That makes me feel good and I want to continue to be able to provide
something that I see of value and goodness. I would like to see them
grow, and grow so they can develop things themselves."
"We do have classes that are reserved for senior students. We’ll say:
'Cheryl, it’s your turn tonight. Show us a new technique or develop one.'
Or next week when we do this, we want you to have a new Shinkido
exercise for us to do. We’ll try it and we’ll critique it - and say,
'yeah this is something we’re going to put in the program' or 'no, I
don’t think so'. (We both laugh). It just won’t be me saying it --- it
will be us collectively. It encourages them to start thinking for
themselves. Using the principles we’ve got, but developing new ideas."
"I think this is part of the evolution of things, Aikido and as people in
development. And they are all so interested in developing their art and
Aikido, and taking it into other fields."
"Peter here (Peter Zorzella, an Aikido student), he’s taking the Shinki-Ryoho course and is very
much tied into reiki. He brought in a whole group of reiki people
including his instructor in taking a Shinki-Ryoho course. Here are 6 or
7 practioners of reiki using more Shinki-Ryoho than they do reiki, when
they are treating people. It’s not to say that it’s better, but they’ve
found value in it. Peter found value in it – he’s delighted and so is
the rest of the group. We’ve had Shiatsu people coming in – the same
thing. Cause there are certain things we can do that they cannot and
there are certain things that they can do and we can't."
I have a last question for the interview, I think I forgot to ask you
earlier --- if you could ask a question of O-Sensei, what would you ask?
"To answer this question, first I would like to say I have two scenarios
1. If I were to ask prior to his passing, it would be –
appear to allow your senior students to have a completely free reign
when it comes to teaching your art of Aikido. Do you think this may
cause the art to regress in its development, or do you see this as a
stronger way for the art to grow and develop?'
2. If I were to ask a question subsequent to his passing, maybe I would
ask: ' Who, in your judgment - really "got" what it was you were teaching
and showing us in the arts of Aikido. ' I doubt I would get an answer to
this one though . . . . I would still like to ask it. So which ever of us
gets there first - gets to ask "Okay?". And then has to get the answer back to
the one left here.
Peter Bussell, 4th Dan and Cheryl
Matrasko, 4th Dan
Ryurei Aikido - Ottawa
47 Humphrey Way,
Kanata, Ontario, Canada
like to thank Peter Bussell for his true friendship, comradery, help,
and generosity with helping us at Aikido World with maintaining good
will and communications with all styles of Aikido, and promoting
honorable conduct in the highest level of Bushido.
is truly an excellent instructor, an honorable martial artist of the
highest integrity, and is a tribute to Bushido and Aikido.
very proud to call him my friend.
Cheryl Matrasko, 7/4/2004
Permission received to display
the photographs from Peter Bussell.
Other photographs, © 2002, Aikido World, Inc. All rights
© 2004, Aikido World,
Inc. All rights reserved
Cheryl Matrasko is a Network
Analyst for the department of Networking and Communications at a
prominent Chicago hospital. Formerly the LAN Administrator for
Northwestern University Medical School - Department of Obstetrics and
Gynecology, and assistant LAN Administrator to the previous MIS of the
School of Law. Previous
to that, she was a Field Technical Engineer, for some
time with Northern Telecom.
She started Aikido in 1965, studying under Isao Takahashi as her first
instructor. She enjoyed working out under many well known Aikido
instructors during her tenure with Takahashi Sensei, and thereafter
following his death in 1971. Cheryl has dedicated time with instructors
in Northern Shaolin Long-Fist, Seven Stars Praying Mantis, and Daito-Ryu
Aikijujitsu to extend her martial arts education and perspectives.
Currently, she is instructing Aikido at Northwestern University's
Chicago Campus and supporting Aikido World Journal.
Literary materials, film clips, and pictures are copyrighted by
their respected authors and owners. Permission in writing to the owners
must be made for any duplication, display, or reprint.
Literary materials, film clips, and
copyrighted by their respected authors and owners.
Permission in writing must be made for any
duplication, display, or reprint.