|ShinKiKan 2000- Winter Intensive Training
Hiroshi Kato, Shihan and 8th Dan
This morning, Tuesday, March the fourteenth, we took our Shihan, Hiroshi
Kato and Kojima-san, a young blackbelt traveling with Kato Sensei, to the
airport and sent them on their journey back to Japan.
This training period with Sensei lasted 18 days and was very profitable
for everyone in our dojo. Kato Sensei was in excellent humor throughout the
training sessions and often laughed openly and freely as we trained together. He thought it was particularly funny when some of us who are
shorter would avoid the larger members of the dojo when he would call for a
morotedori kokyunage with uke holding as hard as possible! Kato Sensei's
style of aikido is different from most that I have seen in that it is a
staple of the way he trains to have uke hold as hard as possible at all
In general, the aikido teachers I have studied under have emphasized
the cooperative nature of the training relationship and the fact that our
practice is not a contest. While I do not think that Kato Sensei would
dispute this, it is my observation that Kato Sensei seems to stress that we
can only discover the force of Aiki when we find it in a hidden place somewhere in the technique. That place can only be found when uke attacks
sincerely and our training in this regard begins in static and proceeds to
the free flowing motion that has characterized Aikido in the eyes of the
public. Therefore, Kato Sensei would have us practice the techniques from a
static position first and then in a Ki-No-Nagare style.
Much of his teaching in this seminar was unspoken in this regard but was demonstrated time after
time. Sensei would have one and many times, even two ukes hold him in the
various techniques that he did. He would pick the largest and strongest
people present and then demonstrate how to move them from static with
proper technique. Then, he would have them attack him freestyle while he
moved about lightly and freely performing the same technique. He said to us
that his center was always firm, regardless of whether he was in a static
position or in a freestyle mode. Once, in order to demonstrate this
principle of firmness in the center, he had us do an exercise where we
pushed against nage from a standing position. He told us that the secret to
resisting the push was to keep your shoulders, arms and hands nice and
loose. After showing us how the upper part of the body was to stay loose and
flexible, he had our instructor, Sasha Calderon attack him with a tsuki and
Kato Sensei responded with a powerful kotegaeshi that lifted Sensei Calderon
as high as Kato Sensei's head and threw him quite a distance! He told us
that he could do this because he kept his center firm while his arms and
especially his shoulder area remained soft and flexible. For the first time,
I believe that I came to see what it means when I have heard it said (in
other places) that in aikido, our throws come from our center. It is definitely something I want to work on!
Our weapons work in this seminar, as in previous ones, generally focused
on basic paired exercises. This is principally because Kato Sensei's advanced weapons system is too difficult to teach in a seminar setting with
so many people who are unfamiliar with it.
Toward the end of the Seminar, we did a gruelling bokken exercise where one
person would stand in the middle of a circle with 4 to 8 people surrounding.
Sensei want the person in the middle to do a shomen strike as fast as
possible to each of the members in the circle 10 times. Soon the dojo was
filled with loud Kiai's as we did this exercise over and over. I believe
that anyone coming through the door would have instantly known they were in
a martial arts dojo. Kato Sensei always says that the second principle of
aikido is the building up of the body and that is definitely a feature when
you train with him!
I think this is what I can honestly say about Kato Sensei's style of Aikido.
It is very realistic and martially oriented and yet contains all of the
principles that aikidoists the world over recognize.
Kato Sensei ended the seminar with an amazing bokken randori where three
ukes attacked him with bokkens while he would either escape through his body
motion or would irimi in to do a technique. Once again, we were privileged
to see his calm and beautiful body movement that has taken a lifetime to
A small seminar party and proper gifts and expressions
of appreciation were given. I am very thankful to God for all of the blessings he has given me in my
life. I recall a time not too many years ago in another city when I trained
in a dojo where we did not have a black belt instructor. I remember reading
the Aikido magazines that were filled with stories of all kinds of great
aikidoists who were demonstrating their abilities and teaching great seminars in distant lands and places. How I longed for and dreamed of the
opportunity to be able to study with someone like that but never thought
that I would have it. I also remember wondering if the people who did have
the privilege to practise with high quality instructors appreciated it? I am
very thankful for the privilege to practice with our teachers here in Houston, Sasha Calderon, 3rd Dan and Eddie Martinez, 2nd Dan and for Hiroshi
Kato Shihan who is willing to give of his time and energy to travel so far
to teach at our dojo and to show us a glimpse of what he learned under the
Again, thanks to Cheryl Matrasko of Aikido World Journal for the opportunity to share our experiences in this forum.
Kato Sensei is expected to return to the United States in September of this year. Until next time, may all continue in good health and sincerely
enjoy your practice.
Jorge Garcia, 1st
© 2000 Jorge Garcia,
All rights reserved.