It Had To Be Felt #16: Ichihashi Norihiko
Back in the 1970's, I walk around in the area near the Aikikai, and sometimes in the distance, I'd hear an angry whine, like a swarm of wasps, coming closer, coming closer, and then down the street, a shape would appear, a round blob at first, buzzing, floating just above the ground, and then it would coalesce into a large man, almost sumo-size, sitting on the air, levitating, so it seemed, carried on a carpet of buzzing hornets. Finally, he was close enough to see that he was riding a tiny motor-scooter, his feet up on the pegs, and his knees almost at his ears, a big grin on his face.
You don't know him, do you? Ichihashi sensei. He rarely went abroad to teach. He was an uchi-deshi of the Aikikai from 1960, but oddly, his name is often left off the list when people enumerate who was an apprentice during those days. Maybe he was simply too normal to be noticed, I don't know. Perhaps it's a good thing when stories don't stick to your skin or your reputation.
There are few films of him, and it seems, few memories, at least written down, and that is a shame, because he was kind, he was warm and he was decent. Furthermore, he was an excellent technician; he was a big man, and did big man's aikido. His footwork and use of angles was very precise. Nonetheless, he often broke perfect form to add a little oomph to throws with pure physical power, like heaving a bale of rice. No matter: his technique was as clean and decent as he was. People might hit the mat very hard, but they were not hurt. Above all else, he was a really fine teacher -- he broke things down in detail, and could articulately explain what he was doing, in a way that made it easy for others to learn as well.
I have written this introduction merely to lay the groundwork for this wonderful essay by Maurice Gauthier, who was at the Aikikai Honbu form 1976-1983 (see his essay about Nidai Doshu in IHTBF#1). I very much hope that others who had a chance to know him far better than I did will be inclined to add to this archive. Ichihashi sensei was too good a man to be forgotten.
For those inclined to post, please re-read the introductory column before doing so. The rules for contributors, in short:
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