View Full Version : Dennis Hooker Passes Away

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AikiWeb System
05-21-2014, 06:05 PM
Posted 2014-05-21 18:04:59 by Jun Akiyama

I have just been informed that Dennis Hooker (7th dan, Shindai Aikikai) has passed away.

The following is from Dan Linden: "It is with heavy heart that I need to inform one and all that Dennis Hooker passed away at his Winter Park home. He is survived by his wife Connie, his daughter Michelle and his son Dennis, along with their children.

"Dennis had recently retired after a long career with Metro Plan Orlando. He was a Viet Nam era veteran of the United States Army and was a 7th dan in Aikido (Aikikai). Dennis Hooker founded Shindai Aikikai."

On a personal note, Dennis was also a friend of mine who supported AikiWeb by being part of two AikiWeb Workshops. He also wrote at times on AikiWeb as well (e.g., http://www.aikiweb.com/training/hooker5.html). Lastly, here is an essay written about him for the "It Had To Be Felt" column series: http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22437.

My condolences go out to his family, friends, and loved ones.

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Janet Rosen
05-21-2014, 06:30 PM
Oh, damn. I don't often tear up at deaths anymore but this got to me. Before Aikiweb he was a wonderful presence on the old aikido-L and generously taught at a couple of our seminars...quite a teacher and quite a guy. Rest in peace, man, you deserve a good rest!

Ellis Amdur
05-22-2014, 01:28 AM
I admired Dennis so much. I often tell some stories of his early childhood when doing consultation with psych folks who believe that the past is one's destiny. If that were so, Dennis would have grown up to have been a terrifying man, because he had, in many ways, a tragic, heartbreaking childhood. Instead, he grew up to be a splendid man, gentle and strong. He proved that the heart makes its own choices, and despite what one may have suffered, the heart can choose good.
Ellis Amdur

05-22-2014, 02:04 AM
I remember Dennis from the Aikido-L days - always a presence. The passing of one of the greats.

Cady Goldfield
05-22-2014, 07:53 AM
Meeting Dennis at the first Aikido-L seminar in San Antonio, in 1998, was an unforgettable opportunity to get to know a person I'd only known through exchanges on the old pre-Internet listserv. His online persona was only a tiny fraction of the man, I found. Curmudgeonly gruffness and biting wit were merely a ruse to distract the eye from a deeply intelligent, soulful and utterly charming human being.

Paul Schweer
05-22-2014, 07:55 AM
The last of the four stories at the following link is "Just How It Was".

It's Dennis in his own words.


Mark Uttech
05-22-2014, 08:39 AM
Onegaishimasu, I have only taken a few classes from Hooker Sensei while at camp, but his classes were very compelling teaching and I made sure to record those classes in my ever present aikido notebook. Condolences all around.
In gassho,

Janet Rosen
05-22-2014, 08:59 AM
Paul, thank you for linking back to that.
Dennis' own essay on Grinding and Polishing continues to be an inspiration for me. http://www.aikiweb.com/training/hooker5.html

05-22-2014, 09:45 AM
"Behold the Man", with a warrior's heart, a poet's soul, and a martyr'd body, giving all to the art he loved.

This is the way I choose to remember Dennis Hooker Shihan, as I sadly learn of his untimely passing. Yet, he suffered much, including the clueless souls who woefully misjudged the man.

His was a tragically heroic magnificence, one that I will long honor, as a man truly worthy of respect and appreciation.

My sincere condolences to his family, beloved inner circle of friends, and all who tried to know him.

May he rest in Eternal Peace , so well deserved.

05-22-2014, 11:03 AM
Rest in peace Hooker Sensei, while we have lost a great teacher in the Aikido world, you will now be sharing your knowledge on a different realm.

05-22-2014, 11:30 AM
Hooker sensei was an inspiration to me, an exemplary human being. What sad news.

Fred Little
05-22-2014, 01:17 PM
He was kind to me when it was most unfashionable among his peers to so much as give me the time of day. Yes, of course I'm grateful for the kindness, but as the years go by, I'm more grateful for the example: for whatever reason, he opened his heart with utter disregard for the fashion of the day, the political correctness of the moment, or the longstanding hierarchical imperatives in which he was enmeshed. He was a complicated beast, and more fully human because he owned it. Thanks be that we met. Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha.....


05-22-2014, 03:34 PM
Compassion and condolences ...

Robert Cowham
05-22-2014, 04:04 PM
I've only ever known him virtually, since Aikido-L days - a sad loss to our community.


05-22-2014, 05:33 PM
Susan just did the article on accurate aikido. When I think of Sensei Hooker that is what comes to mind. In the seminars I attended from him, he was at exactly the right spot every time. there was no effort just presence. I would be happy to even approximate how he moved. I was lucky accurate to have Sensei Hooker on the testing panel for my Shodan test and that he passed me is one of my proudest accomplishments. I had wished I could have one more session with him!:sorry:

05-23-2014, 11:02 AM
Wow, that is very sad. I had the pleasure of visiting the Shindai dojo several times for seminars and he was always polite to me and the other members of my dojo from Tampa. He was a very good teacher as well. Rest in peace good Sir!

05-23-2014, 08:23 PM
This is indeed sad news... A true and passionate aikido man to the end. His dedication will live on through his students.

Susan Dalton
05-24-2014, 02:50 PM
I'm so sad to hear this news. My condolences and deepest sympathy to Dennis' family, both his biological family he was so proud of and the Shindai family he created. Dennis forged bonds and friendships across styles and affiliations and made space for anybody to learn from not only him but from the people he respected. He was a dear, dear man. RIP, Friend.

Matt Fisher
05-27-2014, 10:28 PM
I met Dennis Hooker Sensei once, at an ASU Winter Camp in DC, probably in 1992. It was shortly after Aikido Today Magazine published an article by him that described his experiences with myasthenia gravis and how aikido training and Saotome Sensei helped him through that.

I had passed my shodan test in May of 1991, about five months after being diagnosed with FSH muscular dystrophy. Not surprisingly, I was still struggling with all this...was it worth my continuing to train, was there ANY reason to believe that I would make progress, would it be possible for me to develop any real understanding of aikido? And then I read this article about a senior student of Saotome Sensei, the same teacher I was connected to, who had:
1) struggled with health issues just as significant as mine
2) had continued in his aikido practice
3) was the chief instructor of an aikido dojo
4) clearly had a deep understanding of aikido.
Hooker Sensei's article with its honestly, directness, and passion for aikido was EXACTLY what I needed at that point in my life. At that Winter Camp, someone pointed him out to me, I introduced myself, and quickly told him how much that article had meant to me.

We never communicated again, and unfortunately I never had the opportunity to take a class with him. But if one responsibility of senior students of a teacher is to set an example for those who come after them, then Dennis Hooker provided an incredibly powerful example for many of us of what is possible when aikido is pursued with heart, dedication, and passion. That example has remained with me for over 20 years. I can only hope that the way I tried to practice and teach aikido was an appropriate tribute to what Hooker Sensei gave me.

Rest in peace, Sensei. You ran the good race and fought the good fight. We are all richer for that.

Matt Fisher
Allegheny Aikido
Pittsburgh, PA

Paul Schweer
06-08-2014, 09:55 AM
Dennis was my aikido teacher.
Which is an intimate way
to not know somebody.

I know Dennis taught aikido,
but I know next to nothing about his work.

I know when I grabbed his wrist
it felt spongy and soft,
and cold sometimes.

I know what his keiko gi smelled like.

But I don't know what he wore to go hunting,
or what he might pack for a lunch.

I don't know what sunglasses he preferred
when he and Dan went fishing.

I do know
that if his truck is in the dojo parking lot,
but he is nowhere to be found,
he's probably in the tea room,
taking a nap,
or hearing somebody out,
or just being alone.

I don't know if he played Monopoly with his grand kids.
I don't know if he and Connie liked to dance.
I don't know if he had a favorite chair
when he sat at home alone.

But I do know
that some of my most vivid memories of Dennis
all start out the same way.
He's teaching an aikido class.
Everybody's lined up and sitting in sieza.
I'm standing with him up front,
and Dennis has a hold of my gi.
Or maybe he's resting a finger tip
on that notch at the bottom of my throat.
He pauses, turns slightly to address the class,
and says:

"Now, I'm just going to show you this
so you'll know it's there if you ever need it.
But I want you to be very careful.
And if you're afraid to try it, that's okay.
But if you do try it, don't hurt each other!"

But we do hurt each other.


Dennis was my teacher.

He taught me to grab on.
To hold on to somebody.
To take the fall.
To get up.
To grab on again to somebody
and hold on.


The last time I saw Dennis,
he didn't look well.
There were a lot of people ahead of me,
so I had to wait my turn,
but I did get a moment with him.

I hugged him.
I held on long as I could.
I said that I loved him.
And then I let him go.

Janet Rosen
06-08-2014, 03:33 PM
Dennis was my aikido teacher.
Which is an intimate way
to not know somebody....
I hugged him.
I held on long as I could.
I said that I loved him.
And then I let him go.

Many thoughts and feelings race through my own mind and heart on reading your post, Paul...dim memories of Dennis, the few times I met him, and vivid ones of my own late teacher...all I can say is thank you for writing/posting this.

06-15-2014, 04:12 AM
Hi all. I joined this forum after my dad's passing. I found it by chance and started reading what you all wrote about my dad. I always knew he was respected in the Aikido community. The outpouring of love and condolences has really helped me during this heartbreaking time. My dad was a good man and father. Thank you all for thinking so highly of him. He was not an easy person to get to know and yet, I feel like you all "got" him. Perhaps it's the shared experience of Aikido. Whatever the reason, I'm happy to know he had so many people who cared about him. Thank you!

Stephen Fasen
06-16-2014, 06:52 PM
The man that was my Sensei (Dennis Hooker Shihan) for over a quarter century has stepped away from the conflict of life. He was not my first teacher or my last, but he will forever be the greatest influence and the teacher I attribute my allegiances to. I was not his first student, his most talented or his best. Like everyone he touched however, he treated and challenged me that way. He inspired me and so many others beyond the limits they set for themselves. I believe his legacy will prove in fact that his best student has yet to be seen, because the ripples of his life will continue to reach out through all he has inspired.

Sensei was a hard man to know, but I think I knew him better than most on many levels. He was an intensely private and proud individual. He told me many times that he had students, acquaintances, associates, but that I was one of his best friends. It was hard to balance Sensei and friend. After 25 years, much to his annoyance, I still had a hard time calling him by his first name outside the dojo, never inside. I never did in the presence of any other student. Being his friend was as hard as being his student, but I will always treasure the gift of both. Another gift he gave me was his endorsement and his trust. He trusted me with his dojo. The weight of this does not pass with him. His example and passion will be continued as best we can. The door to his Shindai Dojo will always remain open so that others will always be able to enter his heart.

Aikido teaches principle commonalities to the human condition in that we all have strengths and weakness, loves and dislikes, accomplishments and failures, and ultimately we all share life's end. Hooker Sensei wasn’t afraid of death as long as it had meaning. We agreed that our lives are ultimately framed by the friends we have, what we were able to give, and what the positive influences we were able to provide. Well, he always wanted to go out on his own terms too. Maybe that happened. I look at Sensei this way, mourning his loss in part for those who will not hear his voice directly, but I also celebrating his passing through, and what he gave to all of us. To know Hooker Sensei off the mat was a difficult thing, just to catch him after he left the mat was difficult the last few years was an accomplishment. On the mat however, he bared his soul and shared all he was. For most that was enough. He had more challenges than most men I have known or ever will, and he inspired all by dealing in them with stoic Herculean effort .

Sensei was complex, a bit of an enigma at times, but he always gave in full measures, sharing and inspiring passion in the dojo for Aikido, Budo, sword. He will be remembered for this as well as his legendary perseverance. We watched him stumble to the mat on occasion barely being able to walk, laboring to breath or stand straight, but when his feet touch the mat decades of spirit straightened his spine and propelled everything that was left. He did this until he could no longer walk to the mat. Sensei was at times gruff and seemingly emotionally opaque, but I knew intimately the integrity of his Budo, which was illuminated by how much he kept others from knowing the pains that ultimately took him. It was a warrior thing.
The warrior persona is sought and much claimed in the martial arts, but in my experience few walk the walk. Sensei was a warrior. In aikido guidance along the path is often sought in the principles and philosophies of Budo. He made Shindai a budokan 25 years ago. Someone described sensei as an old school Budo man. So true. He was a true and principled warrior. He showed those who could see that being a warrior was not a matter of rank, branch of service, power, speed, the ability to dominate or destroy, any organization or affiliation, campaign or circumstance, but how you balanced the engagements with the battles you had to fight. He was without question martially superior, but that was rarely his message. He exemplified a standard that showed, despite difficulty, injury or circumstance, it was how you chose to endure that proved your metal. You never questioned that he would put himself in harm's way or die for his convictions and the ones he loved. He will be remembered as a warrior for the right reasons.

Mata Aimashou Sensei