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-   -   Training at Hombu - is it worth it? (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9449)

Josh Reyer 12-16-2005 10:31 AM

Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Hello, folks.

The general thrust of this post is probably likely to start a style/flame war, which is the last thing I want. So please forgive me if I'm a bit long-winded in an attempt to explain exactly what my concerns are without stepping on any toes.

In a little over a year, my current work contract here in Toyota City will be completed, and the chances are likely that I will seek other work elsewhere. That seems a fair ways off, but these kinds of things have a way of sneaking up on you, and I don't want to put things off until the last minute. It's my hope and desire to go to a place where I can train often in Aikido. As Stanley Pranin mentioned in his interview with Jun Akiyama, the majority of dojos here in Japan are weekend affairs, with a few places having a week day thrown in. The Aikido only dojo is also pretty rare; most places I've found rent a local community judojo for practice, and different days may indeed be in different community centers.

As you can imagine, I find this highly unsatisfying. Not only because at most I can only train twice or three times a week, but because as of right now due to my work schedule I can only go once a week! And actually this month two of the classes I can go to were cancelled, and I'll miss a third because I'll be in Tokyo this weekend. So for all of December I'll train...one day.

Were I an old hand who got his shodan training everyday in a university club, this might be so bad, but I'm not. I don't think without some serious near daily (thrice a week or thereabouts) training, I'll never make serious improvement. Not at my age. In retrospect, I never realized how good I had it at Twin Cities Aikido Center. Nice facilities, multiple classes a day, affordable rates, weapons classes, and an eclectic group of teachers, teaching, and students. What a missed opportunity.

So anyway, from this prospective, when the opportunity for a move comes up, I'd like to go someplace where I can train frequently. But not just frequently, but with a proper mindset. By which I mean, ukemi where uke doesn't take a dive, and technique that has martial application, including atemi.

I'm giving serious thought to moving to Tokyo. For one thing, I'm highly intrigued by this Akuzawa fellow Rob John has brought to our attention. But for another, there's Hombu Dojo, which provides more opportunities for training than I'll likely ever need. But I have some concerns...
  • First, the quality of the aikido there. Training and effectiveness is the big topic in aikido today, and Hombu has drawn some fire for being less than applicable. E.g., paring down of techniques, lack of atemi, and no weapons training.
  • Second, some years ago I observed a class at Hombu, and from that and by many accounts it seems quite crowded. I wonder how that might effect training.
  • Third, the high cost. Actually, cost wise Hombu seems pretty reasonable for the amount of classes they offer. I'm currently paying 5,000 yen a month for a dojo that only trains on the weekends. The flipside, though, is related to the previous points. I'm looking for quality, not just quantity.

Now, let it not be thought I'm putting down Hombu dojo or the people that train there. I'm just trying to see if it's the right place for me, personally. I imagine, in fact, that on the training at Hombu is pretty variable; some teachers being better than others. And certainly if I need to I can supplement my Hombu training with smaller, more independent dojos (in terms of training). Like anywhere, there's sure to be benefits and drawbacks.

Really, what I'm seeking is people with personal experience training there, to give me a bit of perspective, to better make any future decision. And if anyone has other suggestions, I'd be highly keen to hear them. I've read, here and there, that there's some good aikido in Osaka, but I don't know anything specific.

Thanks in advance for any info.

BC 12-16-2005 11:52 AM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Quote:

Joshua Reyer wrote:
Hello, folks.
But for another, there's Hombu Dojo, which provides more opportunities for training than I'll likely ever need. But I have some concerns...
  • First, the quality of the aikido there. Training and effectiveness is the big topic in aikido today, and Hombu has drawn some fire for being less than applicable. E.g., paring down of techniques, lack of atemi, and no weapons training.
  • Second, some years ago I observed a class at Hombu, and from that and by many accounts it seems quite crowded. I wonder how that might effect training.

I'm not sure where you get your information, but all of the instructors from Hombu that I've trained with have made generous use of atemi in their demonstrated techniques.

I have been told that certain classes at Hombu tend to be crowded more than others (ie, Doshu's classes). YMMV.

Regards,

Josh Reyer 12-16-2005 05:39 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Quote:

Robert Cronin wrote:
I'm not sure where you get your information,

Well, here, frankly. And Aikido Journal blogs and forums.

Quote:

but all of the instructors from Hombu that I've trained with have made generous use of atemi in their demonstrated techniques.
That is reassuring.

Upyu 12-16-2005 06:44 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Quote:

Joshua Reyer wrote:
Well, here, frankly. And Aikido Journal blogs and forums.



That is reassuring.

I do remember my friend down in Osaka saying he didn't care for the Hombu training since it was more technique oriented, with no explanations as to the deeper power development being given. Which is why he ended up training w/ Abe sensei.

Btw, training in a crowded place isn't bad at all. You learn how to take Ukemi effeicently extremely fast ;)

Peter Goldsbury 12-16-2005 09:38 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
I would like to make a number of points.

The Hombu is a very large dojo/organization and many expatriate friends of mine were intially disconcerted by its impersonal, factory-like atmosphere. It is definitely not a 'local' dojo, so you should not expect to encounter a similar atmosphere. I myself preferred training there when the teachers I know/knew well used to teach there: Yamaguchi, Arikawa and Tada. I do not know the present generation of instructors so well. Of course, I know them to talk to and pass the time of day with, but I do not know their keiko as well as I knew that of Kisshomaru Doshu and the deshi I mentioned above.

When I came to Japan in 1980, I had limited choice concerning where I would work. Tokyo was not an option and I had to choose between Hiroshima, Sendai and Oita. Training-wise, the least attractive option would have been Oita, since the nearest aikido shihan whom I knew was any good was Morito Suganuma in Fukuoka. Sendai is part of the Tohoku federation and had massive technical input from Shirata, Saito and their advanced disciples. I chose Hiroshima and was fortunate to meet the local aikido instructor, a no-nonsense technician who also dabbled in DRAJJ and who had little time for theory. The people with whom I trained over the years are now good friends and, also, have opened their own dojo. I think this is part of what happens when you train for a number of decades and keep at it. So, apart from training in my own dojo, I could train somewhere, with friends whose training regime I like and accept, on any evening of the week.

I would not pay much attention to Tokyo/Osaka rivalry. This has been a tradition since long before aikido was created and aikido has added to it here as it has with Mito/Iwama .However, I am not advertising Hiroshima as a place to live and train. It is an 'average' provincial city and the aikido 'politics' here are as intrusive as they are unwelcome. But you will encounter 'politics' in any dojo, certainly in the Hombu. Of course, there are a number of very good places in Tokyo to train, in additon to the Hombu.

batemanb 12-17-2005 01:29 AM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
When I lived in Tokyo, I had few problems training at Hombu when I went there, I aways found pleasant people to train with and enjoyed the classes (mainly Doshu and Endo sensei). EVeryone who goes there has different experiences, some good, some bad, but that can happen at any place. If you really want to know, you should go try yourself, go up for a couple of days one week and try it out.

However, if I had a choice (I didn't, my company was based in Tokyo), you found some info yesterday on the Seibukan dojo's website in Kobe, I'd be training there in the blink of an eye. Nakao Sensei is one of the best proponents of the art I've ever had the pleasure of training with. This year is the first in the last 10 that I haven't been able to make a visit to his dojo :(, am so looking foraward to my trip over in March 2006.

Regards

Bryan

Josh Reyer 12-17-2005 06:59 AM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Rob - Good point about ukemi and the crowded mat. As for technique vs. power, at this point focusing on technique would be good for me. And as you know there are a number of places to develop inner power. :D

Mr. Goldsbury, thanks for your response, I was hoping you'd reply. I'm all too aware of Tokyo/Osaka, Kanto/Kansai rivalries, so no worries on that account. :) You mention other good places to train, besides Honbu. Could you give some examples? I've poured through pages upon pages of dojo websites via Aikikai's dojo search, but I really need some way to pare it all down.

Bryan, thanks for the input. Food for thought. (Chew, chew.)

Gustaf Rydevik 12-17-2005 03:28 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
FWIW re: other places to train.
Kyoto and Osaka is quite well-supplied with aikido.
The Kyoto Budo Center has two or three groups of aikidoka's, at least one of which is led by a Shihan (sorry, don't remember his name) and trains three times per week. It was a very nice and open community there when I trained, and I can recommend it! Then there's the Osaka aikikai hombu dojo, which apparently have training some five times per week, though I never had the oppurtunity to train there.
Anyhow, Good luck in deciding where you're moving. I'll envy you no matter where you end up :-).

Best

Gustaf

Peter Goldsbury 12-17-2005 03:39 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Quote:

Joshua Reyer wrote:

Mr. Goldsbury, thanks for your response, I was hoping you'd reply. I'm all too aware of Tokyo/Osaka, Kanto/Kansai rivalries, so no worries on that account. :) You mention other good places to train, besides Honbu. Could you give some examples? I've poured through pages upon pages of dojo websites via Aikikai's dojo search, but I really need some way to pare it all down.

Hello Joshua,

Well, my very first aikido teacher came from the Shiseikan, which is located in the Meiji Jingu complex. Tanaka Shigeo and Inaba Minoru are the resident shihans and their association with Kisshomaru Ueshiba goes back a long way. Tanaka Sensei goes right back to the Founder and Inaba Shihan trained with the late Seigo Yamaguchi. You can also practice Kashima Shinryu there.

Yamaguchi Sensei is also the reason why Nakao Shihan in Kobe is so good to practise with. Nakao-san used to visit Hiroshima when Yamaguchi Sensei came down to teach here. In the Hombu, some link with Yamaguchi Sensei's aikido can be seen in the keiko of Shihans Endo and Yasuno.

nekobaka 12-17-2005 05:37 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
A friend of mine, who is 5 dan, had to move to tokyo for his job and often talks about how great training at hombu and other local dojos is. The doshu usually only teaches the morning class. Osaka has it's share of good places to train, but like you said they are all about twice a week. if you want to train elsewhere as a visiter you pay 1000 yen a practice. I've never practiced at hombu, but it's very small. people I know that practice there seem happy enough though. my dojo is rare in that we have 5 practices a week, but unfortuanately there are few serious yudansha. We do have weapons class on saturday morning which is also rare in osaka. Osaka aikikai recently fired the shihan, angering a fair number of people including me, so I'm not really thinking to favorable of them lately.

Jorge Garcia 12-17-2005 06:41 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Quote:

Joshua Reyer wrote:
Rob - Good point about ukemi and the crowded mat. As for technique vs. power, at this point focusing on technique would be good for me. And as you know there are a number of places to develop inner power. :D

Mr. Goldsbury, thanks for your response, I was hoping you'd reply. I'm all too aware of Tokyo/Osaka, Kanto/Kansai rivalries, so no worries on that account. :) You mention other good places to train, besides Honbu. Could you give some examples? I've poured through pages upon pages of dojo websites via Aikikai's dojo search, but I really need some way to pare it all down.

Bryan, thanks for the input. Food for thought. (Chew, chew.)


The others know more about what's good in Japan than I do, but you may want to look at the Suginami Aikikai in Suginami-ku with Hiroshi Kato 8th dan. Their website with directions, fees,training times,etc. is at this link.
http://kawatok-web.hp.infoseek.co.jp/aikido/

Kato Sensei is a very nice person with a relaxed training style. Some of his students have been with him for decades but they are welcoming to newcomers. They do regular group events like hiking,outings, and special trainings. Some people really like it. He is my Sensei and I have had the best experience with him than anyone I have known so far.
Best,

Chad Scott 12-17-2005 11:42 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Joshua,

You can do what I did: Go to the foreign floor of a major bookstore like Kinokuniya or Maruzen and look through the English edition of the Tokyo Yellow Pages. There are lots of "smaller" aikido dojo to choose from. Personally, I chose Hombu because..... well, it's Hombu. Good luck in your search.

kokyu 12-18-2005 12:29 AM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Here's another thread on Hombu Dojo

batemanb 12-18-2005 01:43 AM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Joshua,

If you do wind up in Tokyo, I'd also recommend the Nakano ku Aikido Renmei headed by Koyama Kenji Shihan. I used to be a member of the Honcho dojo (they have 4 dojo in Nakano ku). The dojocho is Nojima Masao, 6th Dan, he was originally a student of Tanaka Shigeo, and a member of the Yoshinkan before joining the Nakano ku renmei.

He's great to train with. very solid aikido and very martial :)

rgds

Bryan

Joe Bowen 12-18-2005 05:47 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
There are other organizations in and around Tokyo that you might consider as well. Two that I personally have trained with Kobayashi Yasuo and Kazuo Igarashi, are well worth your interest. Check out their websites, or you can look them up on the Aikiwiki. Several of Kobayashi's student's train at Hombu Dojo as well as at his dojo.

http://www.cup.com/kobayashi-dojo/english/index.html

http://home.att.ne.jp/moon/igarashid...h/english.html

joe

Rupert Atkinson 12-18-2005 06:03 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Quote:

Peter A Goldsbury wrote:
Hello Joshua,

Well, my very first aikido teacher came from the Shiseikan, which is located in the Meiji Jingu complex. Tanaka Shigeo and Inaba Minoru are the resident shihans and their association with Kisshomaru Ueshiba goes back a long way. Tanaka Sensei goes right back to the Founder and Inaba Shihan trained with the late Seigo Yamaguchi. You can also practice Kashima Shinryu there.

I also trained with Shiseikan. Meiji Jingu is worth checking out. There are people of long experience - with whom you would train - and the place itself, well, you will have to look hard to find a better looking dojo.

kokyu 12-18-2005 06:13 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
You also might like to check out Tada Sensei's dojo at Kichijoji - it's a short walk from the Kichijoji station on the Chuo line.

http://www.h5.dion.ne.jp/~aiki-dou/

Charles Cunningham 12-18-2005 09:29 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
I echo Joe Bowen's recommendations. When I visited Japan in June, I had the opportunity to train at Kobayashi's dojo in Kodaira (Tokyo) and at Abe's dojo in Suita City (Osaka), thanks to introductions arranged by senior students at the University of Iowa Aikikai. Both had lots of senior students who were great to train with. The atmosphere at Kobayashi's dojo struck me as more joyful, while that at Abe's dojo appeared more serious, but I'm not sure how much confidence I would put in observations based on just one practice. I would recommend both dojos to you.

Charles Cunningham

ikkitosennomusha 12-23-2005 04:41 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
I can only relay what I was told by someone highly ranked and respectable in the aikido world. I was told that training at Hombu dojo was not all it was cracked up to be. Is this true? I have no idea!

I was told that the Doshu was more of a buisness man now and that aikido in america was more powerful/brutal. This could be a sham and something that the person relaying this to me felt like saying for reason peculiar to him but, this would proviide a great oppotunity for someone to clarify this.

I suppose a good question would be is, "How does aikido in Hombu compare to that of aikido in the USA"?

batemanb 12-24-2005 01:27 AM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Not much different than the difference between a dojo in New York and a dojo in Seattle, or a dojo in Milton Keynes and a dojo in Manchester. I've trained with some very strong teachers in Japan that made some western teachers look tame, I've trained with some western teachers that made some Japanese teachers look tame, it's all horses for courses.

As an inidvidual, you have the choice to go to any location and try it out, if it does for you, then you can choose to continue, if it doesn't, look elsewhere. It doesn't matter whether it's Aikido or Karate, judo, whatever, different dojo's have different appeals too the individual, whether that be the "style" they are teaching or the sensei that's teaching. It serve's no real purpose to pooh pooh any dojo or any Instructor (unless they are blatantly out of order - brutal, ripping people off, claims of grandeur etc.), your experience will not be the same as mine.

Personally, I enjoyed training at Hombu whenever I went there, had some good partners and some not so good. Had good instruction too. As for Doshu being more of a businessman, I don't know, but does it matter? I've been in his classes and I've uke'd for him, I like his Aikido very much, as long as he continues to teach I really don't think his business accumen is an issue, nor is it really my business, remember, I can choose to go elsewhere.

There's no problem asking peoples opinion, but take them in context, like I said, time to stop pooh poohing places, if you're intrerested in training somewhere, go try it, make up your own mind from your own experience.

Merry Christmas to all.

Bryan

Peter Goldsbury 12-24-2005 05:21 AM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Quote:

Brad Medling wrote:
I can only relay what I was told by someone highly ranked and respectable in the aikido world. I was told that training at Hombu dojo was not all it was cracked up to be. Is this true? I have no idea!

I was told that the Doshu was more of a buisness man now and that aikido in america was more powerful/brutal. This could be a sham and something that the person relaying this to me felt like saying for reason peculiar to him but, this would proviide a great oppotunity for someone to clarify this.

I suppose a good question would be is, "How does aikido in Hombu compare to that of aikido in the USA"?

I would not like this thread to generate into a discussion based solely on secondhand impressions. It is best to make a personal comparison based on hands-on experience. Thus, I cannot make any judgment about aikido in the USA since I left in 1975.

Attendance at the first Aiki Expo gave me no impression of aikido in the US generally, but I have practised often at the Hombu. However, I do not live in Tokyo and I do not train at the Hombu regularly. Thus my impression of training might be quite different from that of (a) a beginner who is beginning training at the Hombu and who is therefore establishing a dojo 'culture' based on Hombu training customs, and (b) a yudansha who has already established a training culture and is faced with that of the Hombu.

Like Bryan, I think it is best to base a website discussion on real experience and not on impressions gained secondhand.

Best wishes to all for 2006

Josh Reyer 12-24-2005 06:36 AM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
First, thanks to all who have offered their thoughts, publicly and privately. The response is much more than I hoped for, and highly intriguing. When it comes time to make my move, I'll have a lot of leads to check out.

Second, let me vigorously agree with Mr. Goldsbury. My desire in starting the thread was to get some first-hand impressions and knowledge. I'd already heard second hand accounts decrying the training at Hombu, but I wanted, as I said in my first post:

Quote:

Really, what I'm seeking is people with personal experience training there, to give me a bit of perspective, to better make any future decision.
FWIW, I was in Tokyo last weekend with extra time on my hands, so I took the opportunity to participate in a beginners' class at Hombu. I left with some concerns, but I'm certainly not going to judge the whole dojo based on the one class. I look forward to trying some different classes when next I have the opportunity!

odudog 12-27-2005 01:22 PM

Re: Training at Hombu - is it worth it?
 
Joshua, what were your concerns from the beginners class at Honbu? I practiced there for about a month on a daily basis about 3 years ago while on vacation to Japan. I practiced in the beginners and main hall. I'm just trying to see if your recent experience links up with my previous experience. I'm hoping to get over there again in 2006 for another months worth of training. Hopefully I won't be late to see the tests like I was last go 'round.


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