View Full Version : On Arikawa Sensei
09-30-2003, 03:25 PM
This seems to be a less attended section here so I thought to add another entry to hopefully stimulate some discourse. I also thought this section might be a good way for me to reconnect with some old friends of mine I haven't seen for many years . . . . .
This is an essay I wrote for my own students whom seemed to enjoy it so I thought I might share it with you:
When I first went to Hombu Dojo and met Arikawa Sensei, his practice was almost terrifying. He had a reputation for being very tough and his kote-gaeshi and shiho-nage were particularly devastating. Up until that time, I didn't know someone could be thrown that hard into the mat, or that far across the room! It was almost scary. . . . . Even the way he looked (I shouldn't say this!) was kind of scary to me.
One day, he suddenly came into my room and really surprised me and I jumped up. He said, "While you are here at Hombu Dojo studying Aikido, you need to study Japanese culture as well, and sat me down and pulled out a book of Japanese poetry and began to explain it in great detail. . . . I was so impressed at how well educated he was. This ancient poetry collection, the Kokinshu, was very famous but very difficult to understand. I remember this incident very well.
Most people cannot understand it at all today. As a side note, to participate in the annual poetry contest held by the Imperial Family in Japan, you must master this collection of poems by heart or it is impossible to write traditional poetry. In ancient times, everyone was familiar with this famous collection of the most beautiful poems.
I was so surprised. He often came to visit me, bringing various books and magazines on Japanese culture to explain and introduce to me. One day, he even brought the Manyoshu - an ancient poetry collection, over one thousand years old, in which you need a very specialized Manyoshu dictionary just to read it! No one in Japan even speaks this ancient language today! I was so amazed again and again by Arikawa Sensei's great knowledge.
One day, he noticed that I was hungry because my stomach was making a slight growling noise (how embarrassing!) as he was talking to me - practice was so hard that sometimes we didn't even have time to eat. The very next day, he came and brought me a couple of oranges. Several days later, he brought me some Japanese cookies and another book. He did this many times over that I can't even remember.
I never mentioned this to anyone during my stay - on the outside in practice, he appeared so tough and hard and rarely spoke openly to us. At the same time, I found him to be such a well-educated and scholarly gentlemen, so very refined and educated. And indeed, so compassionate and generous to bring some snacks to one lowly student like me.
This is how teachers were in those days - there was no way to figure them out. We could never judge them so easily, we could only respect them and continually be surprised and impressed at their greatness. . . . .
09-30-2003, 05:54 PM
Arikawa Sensei has been making regular visits to Hiroshima in these last few years, since Yamaguchi Sensei passed away. Of course he has mellowed somewhat, but still occasionally does something breathtaking, which makes you wonder, "How did he do that?", especially if you are on the end of it!
Since I got to know Arikawa Sensei quite well, we would usually meet and talk during my visits to Tokyo and the Hombu. Once we met quite by chance in Kinokuniya. I had bought a book on the Kojiki and so we spent an hour discussing this text. Very illuminating. I usually meet him at the All-Japan demonstration and sometimes he gives a running commentary on the demonstrations. The comments are very enlightening, but perhaps not for discussion in a forum such as this...
Alas, Arikawa Sensei is not well and has been in hospital in the last few months.
Best regards to you (we met many years ago at the house of Chiba Shihan in San Diego).
09-30-2003, 07:24 PM
That was so long ago when we met, over 20 years ago now. I am so surprised you remember me! Yes, it is very sad to hear that Arikawa Sensei is not feeling well these days. Along with 2nd Doshu, I was very close to Yamaguchi Sensei and Ohsawa Sensei and even today, I miss them so very badly. Its their memories that keep me going these days. I hope you are well, and so nice to hear from you. Take care and keep in touch!
10-08-2003, 07:54 PM
Arikawa Sensei has not been feeling well of late, I hope everyone will take a minute to pray for his speedy recovery & good health and wish him all of the very best. In Gassho,
10-11-2003, 06:12 PM
Arikawa Sensei passed away on Saturday, October 11. The funeral will take place on October 15.
I had heard that Arikawa Sensei wanted his illness and eventual passing to be left unpublicized—and also heard that he was such a major figure in aikido that this wish would be somewhat diffcult to carry out.
So I post it here, in a quiet corner of this web site, so that those who knew him can mourn his passing quietly.
May he rest in peace.
10-13-2003, 08:54 PM
It is very sad news of passing. We all pray for his Peace and Eternal Rest. In Gassho,
10-14-2003, 11:46 AM
A Few Rememberances of Arikawa Sensei:
I didn't know Arikawa Sensei very well but I knew him as a student and his kindnesses to me during my training are burned strongly in my memory and, in my later years now, I think about them each day. I heard that when Arikawa Sensei was in training, he trained every minute of the day. Even while riding the train, he would use the rings to exercise his arms, not wasting even one minute to develop himself. I tried to do the same exercise myself in the train and couldn't last but only a few minutes!
To me, I remember that he always emphasized maximum flexibility in the arms and shoulders to be able to withstand a strong shiho-nage and kotegaeshi. Good ukemi was always emphasized for safety and self-protection in very strong practice. This is what he empasized to us every day and always tossed us around so easily in class.
I heard that Arikawa Sensei used to be the editor in a large newspaper before he gave it up to exclusively teach Aikido at Hombu Dojo and so he was extremely well educated. Many years ago, a newspaper published some fictionlized story which was not respectful of O'Sensei and Arikawa Sensei personally went to the newspaper to complain. I heard he slammed his hand on the editor's desk so hard and broke it and so was "impressive," that a big apology was in the newspaper on the very next day.
When I was at Hombu, Arikawa Sensei was in charge of the Aiki Newsletter. I remember in one issue, there was a mistake in the promotion section and one name for 1st dan was mistakenly published and was not supposed to be there. The majority discussion in the office and with Doshu was that it was not a big problem and to just let it go and make the correction notice in the following issue. But Arikawa Sensei said that it was his responsibility to let it slip in and so that he would take responsibility and correct it no matter how small and insignificant the error was. No one knew what he meant at that moment.
About a half hour later, Arikawa Sensei asked me to come with him to the Shihan's Room and he handed out black markers to three of his top students and myself and we all sat down and "x"ed out the incorrect name.
After he showed us what to do and exactly how he wanted the name marked out, he left the room. He was so specific and we had to do it exactly as he wanted it - not just "x"ing it out any old way we liked, but making a neat block with the marker as if it looked like the name was printed out with a printing machine. We had to do it very carefully and make a long, rectangular box to cover the name completely. The pages had to be flipped open to get to the error but he also cautioned us to handle each issue neatly so everyone will receive a nice new issue.
We were all upset because there were about 5,000 issues then as I remember, and this was going to take all night. Arikawa Sensei wanted it done just so and very neatly for each and every issue. I was rather honored and excited that he also asked me to help him but his young students were all grumbling at this impossible task when suddenly Arikawa Sensei reappeared into the room bringing us tea and Japanese sweets. Quietly, he sat down and began to mark out the offending name himself along with us.
We were all so impressed with his kind consideration that we all begged him to stop and that we would do it all ourselves and he doesn't have to trouble himself. But he simply told us that it was all his responsibility and we were only here to help him out, it was not really our job at all and he apologized to us for taking our time. We were all so ashamed with ourselves for grumbling but we, at the same time, were all so deeply awed with him. It was at this moment, I realized what it takes to be a truly great Aikido teacher.
This is one of many memories I treasure about Arikawa Sensei and I will never forget him. . . . I am so, so deeply saddened to hear of his passing. . . . . .
10-22-2003, 12:38 PM
These days since the passing of Arikawa Sensei, I have been thinking a lot about him, remembering the past and my experiences with him. As is often the case, we don't "truly" miss someone until they are no longer with us. When I was very young, all of these great Aikido teachers seemed like they will be around forever. But now, after many years, I have lost all my teachers, one by one in the last ten years or so. I suppose this is the inevitable passing of time and the changing of the seasons. I only mention this to the younger generation of Aikido students here and would like to recommend to you to get as much as possible from your sensei because they do eventually disappear and you will always say to yourself, "I could have learned so much more from him!" I know this from very personal experience.
To mention this now about Arikawa Sensei may sound too horrible and disrespectful but I mention this anyways as one of my very fondest memories of him. While I was young and training at Hombu, I was, outside of class, always afraid to spend much time with Arikawa Sensei! He was always grabbing our arms and showing us this technique and that technique and trying something and it really hurt so much! One time he grabbed me to show me how much more flexible my arm and shoulder should be to withstand a good shihonage or kotegaeshi (namely his!). All I will say here is "wow" and leave the rest to your imagination. Sometimes, when we saw him approaching us or entering the room, we would try to run away! Years later, as I reflect back, I miss these times, as "painfully" as I remember them. Arikawa Sensei seemed to be 100% Aikido, 24 hours a day. On the mat, off the mat, every minute of the day, it was nothing but Aikido for him. . . . . When I think about this nowadays, I really feel ashamed of myself. The other day, I was on a mini-vacation, just to take a break from my 7-day a week dojo work and teaching schedule - after all these years, I know I will never reach Arikawa Sensei's purity. . . . .
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