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2001 Winter Training at Shikikan Dojo 
by Jorge Garcia

We, at the ShinKiKan Dojo in Houston, Texas, are very fortunate to have Shihan Hiroshi Kato come to Houston twice a year to lead our summer and winter trainings. Every time that he visits, he will stay with us from 10 days to two weeks. During our March winter training, as always, he led all the classes Ė morning and evening and we were privileged to learn from this direct student of the founder once again.

Our dojo was founded by Sasha Calderon three years ago and this was Kato Senseiís 6th visit. At every seminar, we have progressively had more students as the school has grown. There have always been visitors who come and train with us as well, but this time, there was the greatest number of students from our own dojo than ever before. As always, not only did we have our students and local visitors in the trainings, but aikidoists from around the country were present also. Kato Sensei came from Japan with some of his students from the Suginami Aikikai for this U.S. trip and it was a pleasure to train with them as well.

Typically, Kato Sensei will usually begin each class session with a brief warm-up and then he will start the class by calling the highest-ranking student for kokyu-ho. Then, he will follow with some kind of pinning technique before getting into the regular practice time.

As the years have gone by, I have been able to increasingly appreciate the subtleties of Kato Senseiís teaching, as I have become more familiar with the various aspects of his aikido. As always, we heard him talk a lot about irimi or direct entry, the proper balance and motion of the body, and the flow of energy as we are doing the techniques. As I have listened to him instruct, I have come to realize that his understanding of this art is truly profound. Kato Sensei is much more than a teacher of technique; he is an instructor of the principles that make up aikido as a budo or martial way. These principles are 1) building the body, 2) learning the techniques, 3) going with the flow, 4) concentrating energy, and 5) taking away weapons. All of these are demonstrated during weapons practice and then are reinforced when we practice empty-handed techniques.

The highlight of our seminar this year was our embukai (demonstration). We were fortunate enough to have the Japanese consulate officer come and give his greetings. He commended Calderon and the ShinKiKan Dojo for using the occasion, not only to demonstrate aikido, but to show other aspects of the Japanese statement, thus demonstrating that Japanese budo does not stand alone, but is an integrated part of the Japanese lifestyle and culture.

The dojo was packed to capacity with over 150 observers present. A local Japanese Society came and performed the Japanese tea ceremony to start the evening. It was a marvelous exercise of precision and tedious training to watch these ladies perform this ancient rite. They served tea to our guest, Kato Sensei and our instructor, Sasha Calderon, and received a rousing round of applause at the conclusion of the ceremony. Craig Hocker of Houston Ki Aikido followed with a demonstration of Iaido and Deddy Mansyur from the Shotokan Karate Club of the University of Houston also gave a demonstration along two of his black belts. These demos were highly appreciated by the audience and served to make the evening a feast of the Japanese culture and experience.

ShinKiKan dojo gave its demonstration last, beginning with a demo of a regular aikido class for beginners. This is done to show the audience what an ordinary class they might attend would be like. Afterwards, we had Alicia Berlanga and Denise Quick give a demonstration of womenís self defense techniques. Alicia showed defenses against various kinds of grabs and holds. Denise showed defenses against the knife and the club. These all received a warm applause from the audience as the anticipation built for the final demonstrations.

After a number of quick demonstrations by the ShinKiKan black belts, Sasha Calderon gave the dojo choís demonstration. Calderon began by showing various basic techniques using several ukes. He went on to perform several of these same techniques and their movements with the bokken and then with the jo. 


 

 

He culminated his demo with a powerful freestyle against two attackers. Here, we were privileged to see Calderonís years of training under Kato Sensei come through. The triangular movements coupled with powerful entering movements highlighted this wonderful demonstration of aikido.  
 



 

As a student of Calderon, I can honestly say that I have never met a person as dedicated as he is to trying to learn and emulate the principles, techniques, and movements of Kato Sensei. This demonstration was living proof as to how far Calderon has come down that road. All of us at ShinKiKan consider it a privilege to have an instructor who has dedicated himself so thoroughly to aikido and to Kato Senseiís teaching.

Of course, the grand finale was the demonstration by our Shihan, Hiroshi Kato, from Tokyo, Japan. Kato Sensei showed his powerful entering movements which sent his ukes down in a blur.  


Characteristic of his style, these movements are initiated by turning the hips and entering ever so closely to the strike. Kato Sensei used triangular and back and forth movements that put him between his attackers so that, time after time, they would run into each other as they made futile attempts to grab him. Often, when they did come in on him, he was able to use the turning motion of his body to cause them to spin helplessly away.  

In the final part of the demo, Kato Sensei performed a series of weapons defenses against the jo and the bokken. Again, Sensei showed his speed and agility by using counter strikes, on both sides of his uke, even the difficult opposite side, which he entered with reverse strikes.  

 

In the final set, Kato Sensei showed the years of his training with an impressive bokken randori (freestyle). His concentration and focus were evident as he evaded strikes and then entered with his own strikes.

He then called for 4 ukes to attach him with jos and, again, we were all so impressed with his speed and incredible body motion as he evaded thrusts and strikes coming at him from all sides! It was truly an impressive performance. 


The demonstration ended with gifts of appreciation for all the participants and there were words of appreciation given by Calderon for all that have supported ShinKiKan and its development over the last 3 years.

All in all, this yearís winter seminar was the largest and most successful we have held to date. Everyone not only enjoyed the training, but we also enjoyed the camaraderie and fellowship of fellow aikidoka as we went out to eat together and shared our ideas and experiences with each other.

The upcoming Summer Training this September looks to be one of the most fruitful times in the history of our dojo as the word gets around of the tremendous opportunity we all have to train with a direct student of the founder who has spent the whole of his life training at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Please plan to come and join us. For more information, call the ShinKiKan Dojo at (713) 977- 5289 and, as always, best regards and we hope to meet you all in person soon.  

Jorge Garcia
ShinKiKan Aikido Dojo
Houston, Texas

© 2001, Jorge Garcia - All rights reserved

Thank you Jorge for taking the time write about your seminar and give us some insights into your dojo, and the training at Shinkikan.

 


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Michio Hikitsuchi 10th Dan 1978
(C. Matrasko as uke)
© 1978 C. Matrasko

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9/23/2001