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AIKIDO IN THE NEWS

Hiroshi Kato, 8th Dan
at ShinKiKan Dojo

Seminar Report
by Jorge Garcia

We have just ended a 29 day period of training at the ShinKiKan Dojo, in Houston with Hiroshi Kato, 8th Dan, from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo of Tokyo, Japan.

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Hiroshi Kato, 8th Dan

Photo courtesy of Eddie Martinez and Jorge Garcia
1999, Eddie Martinez and Jorge Garcia

This was the most intensive period of training I have
endured since I have been in Aikido. Of the 29 days, eight of the days were 5-hour days, four of the days were 4 hours in length, four of the days were 3 hours in length; the remainder were 2-hour training sessions. The temperature in our dojo was extremely warm, ranging above 100 degrees on most days, except for the morning sessions which were much cooler. I attended all of the sessions except for one day when I had to go out of town on business. I worked my way (as many others did)
through soreness, knee pains (from sitting in seiza), back problems (from taking some unusual falls), some dehydration, and overall weariness. Of course, the benefits of being able to train with a man like Kato Sensei outweighed (in my mind) the apparent drawbacks.

During the Seminar, we saw Kato Sensei perform some amazing throws on our instructor, Sasha Calderon, 3rd Dan. I gained a new found respect for my Sensei's ability to take some fantastic ukemi and for his skill in receiving Kato Sensei's full technique. I know Sasha to be a powerful man in his own right and it was amazing to see this 64 year old Shihan demonstrate such power when he was able to throw Sasha, no matter how hard he held on.

On the last day of the Seminar, Kato Sensei had us do a number of techniques where you concentrated in releasing all your energy through a single point. He had our instructor Sasha, hold him hard on a morotedori grab. Then Kato Sensei, with a loud "kiai", would release all his energy through his hand and fingertips, literally lifting our instructor 3 feet in the air and throwing him backwards for
an equal distance. It was almost comical when he asked the students to go ahead and practice that technique!

In many of his techniques, Kato Sensei emphasizes the total release of energy toward a given point such as in yonkyo. He will often also stress this point when using weapons.

While he was here, Kato Sensei also taught in a few independent dojos in the area. In a dojo north of Houston, he gave a powerful demonstration of Aikido with a local photographer from the newspaper snapping many action photos of Sensei for the Sunday paper. Afterwards, the Aikido group went to a lakehouse for a fried chicken dinner and we finished the evening by watching O Sensei videos with Kato Sensei giving us a running commentary of what O Sensei was doing on the videos. It was a great time!

During the last week of the Seminar, our class structure changed somewhat as we were planning to have testing on the last day. Kato Sensei began using the first hour demonstrating various test techniques everyday. This was very instructive as I learned some things I had never been told before by previous instructors (forgive my ignorance).
One example was when Sensei was showing us how to do katatedori iriminage three ways, he explained something that I had never been told.

The first way of doing iriminage was if uke was pushing on your arm. The second way is if uke was pulling and the third way is if uke was static. On several of the techniques, the particular technique chosen was based on what uke was doing. Some things finally started making sense to me! The greatest part of the last week was that everyday,
Sensei allowed the second hour for free practice in preparation for the exams. He would then walk around and give pointers to the different people in the room as to how to improve what they were doing. I found this personal coaching to be invaluable and very instructive.

At long last, the final day arrived. Sensei conducted a light
morning class in the first hour. Then we had free practice in the second hour, after which we all went to lunch at a spaghetti restaurant (we thought the carbos would help). The day was cool and we all got back in time for a hour long nap before the next training session.

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Hiroshi Kato, 8th Dan and Sasha Calderon, 3rd Dan performing a kiti kaesh technique

Photo courtesy of Eddie Martinez and Jorge Garcia
1999, Eddie Martinez and Jorge Garcia

Sensei allowed more test preparation before calling for the exams. He then took his seat in the Kamiza with our instructor, Sasha Calderon, to his extreme right and our assistant instructor, Eddie Martinez, to his extreme left. He then conducted one exam for 2nd kyu, one exam for 1st kyu and two separate exams for 1st Dan. The Dan testing ended with a demonstration of jiyuwaza followed by randori. The randori in both exams was very spirited with the observers being impressed with the sincerity of the attacks. One black belt who was observing commented
afterwards that he was inwardly thinking how glad he was not to be out there after observing one of the Dan examinees responding to the attacks with powerful throws and some irimi straight arms that decimated his ukes (one of which was me!)

Afterward, Kato Sensei announced that all participants had passed their exams and he presented everyone with some parting gifts from Japan. We concluded our seminar with a farewell banquet where we had a few speeches thanking Sensei for coming from Japan to teach us for this extended period of time. The members of ShinKiKan presented several parting gifts and tokens of appreciation to Kato Sensei for all he had done for us. It was truly a great privilege to be able to have this intensive training with a man who trained under the Founder for 16 years and to have him share so many insights of his experience with us. It was sad to see Sensei leave but many of us are planning to go and train in San Francisco when he goes there in November. We are also looking forward to his return to Houston in February of the year 2000.

Finally, a special word of thanks is due to Cheryl Matrasko of Aikido World Journal for her help and support in carrying these reports and photos of our Seminar. We at the ShinKiKan Aikido Dojo of Houston are eternally grateful. Until next time, best wishes to all.

Jorge Garcia
ShinKiKan Dojo
Houston, Texas

1999, Jorge Garcia

Photos courtesy of Eddie Martinez and Jorge Garcia
1999, Eddie Martinez and Jorge Garcia

  

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AIKIDO PHOTOS


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

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1/4/2002