View Full Version : Kisaburo Ohsawa Sensei

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Kensho Furuya
09-12-2003, 12:23 AM
This is a story about Kisaburo Ohsawa Sensei of Hombu Dojo. I think not many people here know of him because of his very quiet and retiring nature but in my own mind, I think he was one of the great Aikido masters of all time. He kept his promise to O'Sensei's last wish and stayed by 2nd Doshu's side and became his close advisor and right-hand man, always supporting Hombu Dojo his whole life. One day, when I was watching his demonstration at Hombu, I happened to be standing next to a very high ranking teacher whom I knew quite well at the time. I turned to him and asked, " How can Ohsawa move like that?" - referring to Ohsawa's wonderfully smooth yet dynamic technique.

"Well, afterall, Ohsawa Sensei is enlightened!" he replied to me very simply.

My friend told me this story of this teacher. He was travelling in Japan and Ohsawa Sensei said that we would meet him at the train station upon his arrival back into Tokyo. Unfortunately, my friend was greatly delayed and by the time he returned he was already over five hours late. I didn't know what to say to Ohsawa Sensei or how to apologize - he was sure he kept Ohsawa Sensei waiting so long and he must have finally went home. Much to his surprise, however, when he stepped off the train, he saw Ohsawa Sensei sitting there still waiting for him.

"Sensei, I am so sorry to be so late! Why are you still here waiting for me?" he cried.

"I knew you would come eventually without fail," Ohsawa Sensei said very calmly.

This is the way great Aikido teachers were in those days. I heard this story about 35 years or so ago but never have forgotten it. I thought you might enjoy it here. Thank you very much.

09-04-2009, 12:54 PM
The Ohsawa Sensei I had the extreme privilege to know and interact with, was a simple, and quite an ordinary man. It was what he accomplished, and what he continuously stood for, that made him into an indispensable giant of Aiki.

My first meeting with Ohsawa Sensei, then Hombu Dojo-Cho at Aikikai Headquarters, was in 1973, when my then wife and I had a meeting with him regarding the shenanigans of one Koichi Tohei.

We had brought all kinds of first hand proofs of Tohei Sensei;s perfidy and ill advised attacks on Hombu Dojo, the Doshu and of the Founder himself. Throughout the entire presentation, Sensei sat unmoved and appearing to be uninterested, but patient nevertheless.

Frustrated, I turned to my wife and demanded that she translate what I wanted to say. "Tell him that I came to Japan and to Hombu Dojo to see if Aikikai leadership had any balls!" She did so, and we both awaited an explosion, or at least some sort of denial.

Ohsawa Sensei sat there as before, then suddenly burst into uncontrollable laughter saying, "yes, we have no balls at all!"
It was then I knew I had found a mentor I could trust, respect and to love for being all I expected from a true martial arts teacher.

History goes on to prove that Ohsawa Sensei did indeed influence the Doshu to eventually come to the United States on behalf of his loyal students there, and begin the turn around for the fate of Aikido in the United States, and for the entire Aikido world.

In 1974, after the departure of Tohei Sensei from Aikikai, I returned to Hombu dojo for a summer training visit. I was an "isoroo", a sort of live in student/apprentice whose main job was to clean the dojo before each morning's training at the Doshu's 6:30 am class. I was also extremely privileged to accompany both the Doshu and Ohsawa Sensei on training trips around Tokyo, Kii Tanabe, Iwama and other sites as well.

At one training venue with a group of high ranking Self Defense Force instructors, Ohsawa Sensei revealed to them that he had a pulled muscle in his shoulder for foolishly attempting to move this "big guy next to me". This was all for effect, but I did marvel at how he was so inventive as to how he would conduct his teaching of class.

Yes, Ohsawa Sensei may never get his true due as a key architect of the Aikido we are privileged to have today. In the mind and hearts of those who knew him, however, he was, and always will be, an undisputed cornerstone of the legacy of the Founder's Aikido.

In Oneness,

francis y takahashi

05-25-2010, 05:21 AM
I agree that Osawa Sensei was one of the great aikido masters. His aikido was beautiful. We use that word a lot but in his case it was true. Simplicity and perfection.

Osawa Sensei was a friend of my first aikido teacher Asoh Sensei and so I had the chance to meet him a couple of times. He was a very kind and warm man. I didn't to go to his morning class very often but it was always filled with warmth and positive energy. Seki Sensei was his uke usually.

He did a special training every year in the mornings for a few days while the hombu was officially closed for vacation (I thought it was the year-end vacation but in my memory somehow every day was sunny so perhaps it was the obon summer vacation). I attended if I was in Japan and usually I was the only foreign student. It was a unique atmosphere - many older people came in their seventies and eighties even and also many of the hombu shihan attended as students. It was cool to see teachers like Fujita Sensei or Watanabe Sensei being the uke. And so you sometimes had the chance to practice with the teachers too.

Although the other teachers treated him almost with reverence Osawa Sensei was funny and relaxed. Once he gestured to an older man to take the ukemi and the guy did his best to follow the technique but his glasses fell off. Osawa Sensei promptly picked them up and wore them himself while he did the technique again.

He was a great aikidoka and a great man.

05-26-2011, 11:42 AM
I noticed at the bottom of the forums page this week's upcoming events shows Shirata Sensei's death day on 29 May but not Osawa Sensei's death day on 26 May 1991.

At the time it seemed that Osawa Sensei must have deliberately fought for one more day's breath so that the All-Japan Aikido demonstration on 25 May wouldn't be disturbed.