Matthew Materazzi wrote:
In regards to the original question:
From the facts most of the public Aikidoka knows, yes Seagal Sensei is a representation of a true Aikidoka because of his history: He ran the Ten Shin dojo in Osaka, he holds the ranking of 7th Dan in the Aikikai, plus his aikido outside of the movies is pretty amazing. In fact it is so impressive that I was actually going to relocate, leave my job, family, friends, etc…to move to one of the dojo's affiliated with the mighty name of Steven Seagal Shihan.
I went on a visit to a dojo about 2 months ago. I was thoroughly impressed with the teacher's application of technique. It was unlike anything I had previously experienced, and I have been in and out of several dojo over the course of the last eight years of my life. I've been to Colorado, Georgia, California, Michigan, and Florida, visiting different schools, and eventually settled in Michigan (this is my home state) and thought I found a great dojo. And I did, however, after experiencing one of "Segal's" dojo, I saw things that were very different, and I wanted to learn them. For instance, at my previous school, if uke threw a mid-level strike (chudan tsuki), we would tenkan, sort of pull uke around with gravitational force, and then as uke came around, apply a kote geishi. Well, at this particular school, the first thing they did was deflect the tsuki, not even moving, then do a tenkan, and as Uke came around on his own, you would slide forward with your lead foot to a "corner" away from uke's open hand-side, then step in the other "corner" with your opposite foot, cutting with the kote geishi at the same time, all while keeping uke's hand very low. This opened my eyes to a whole new kote-geishi, and there was no way of "fighting" or resisting the technique. Either you fell or you would end up with a damaged wrist. All of the techniques of this school were based on deflections first, similar to kenjutsu (which Seagal claims himself to incorporate into his "version" of aikido.) Their philosophy was to not be there when the attack comes. And it's all based on those deflections.
Well, I was so excited to tell my Sensei about this…and while I was there, the teacher started talking to me about opening up an affiliate dojo here in Michigan. I was very excited to hear that as well. They seemed very open to me. I got back home and showed the guys in my dojo the new techniques I had learned and they all had the same reaction as I did. We all wanted to learn more. Our sensei was not open to the idea at all, and I saw his ego at work. I then left the dojo to pursue this "different" aikido for myself. I got in contact with my first aikido teacher (who had stopped teaching due to an illness) and told him about it, and he was very interested in learning the "TenShin" style of Aikido, now that his illness had settled a bit. So, we had some phone conversations, emails, etc.. with the teacher of the TenShin school and one of his associates, and we were going to start an affiliate dojo here in Michigan. We wondered how we would do this, for several reasons:
1. We didn't know how to do "TenShin Aikido." With none of them coming to Michigan to train us for a set period of time, how would we learn? They told us we would learn a few days each month, by visiting their dojo (not a problem) or at seminars.
2. Because they said that we would have to start over as white belts, learn each kyu level step by step so that we could teach others the same way, and everyone would be learning the same aikido. This bothered me a little bit, not because of wearing a white belt again, but because they stressed that everyone would look the same, from ukemi to technique…well, didn't O'Sensei specifically say that everyone's aikido will be their own? We all have different bodies, different strengths and weaknesses, and while the basics should all be the same basics, where is the room to blossom into your own aikido?
Still, we thought it would be worth the effort. Then, my old teacher went to his doctor and the doc told him that if he took any hardfall ukemi, he might permanently damage his body, due to the fact he has a certain disease. So, he had to decline the offer, and I figured I would do it on my own. The teacher at the "TenShin" school all of a sudden didn't seem interested in helping me out. He was very enthused about this whole endeavor, and the enthusiasm I showed, until he found out that I wouldn't be bringing a whole dojo with me. He said it wouldn't be worth my time, and it wouldn't be fair to his students, because I would be visiting them once or twice a month, for a few classes, and he would have to take time away from their training to teach me how to do things…then when I got back, I wouldn't remember the things he taught me from last time, so he would have to go over them again. I said that I understood, and maybe I would simply move there for a few years to study. Well, my old teacher found this out and he was concerened that it was simply a money-making machine they were interested in. If you started a dojo with these guys, you had to pay yearly dues, plus each dojo has to host 2 seminars per year, which costs $3000.00. This is the standard for every school. Each student had to pay $75 per year, the dojo-cho had to pay $150 per year, then the dojo itself had to pay a certain amount each year, all to the head of this "federation." On top of that, all students were highly encouraged to attend all seminars (which cost $75 per person, plus hotel and food) but were only required to attend 2 a year. I just thought that it was to keep the teacher paid for traveling and what not…so that this could be his full time job. My teacher told me to really think about this, and to start doing research on anyone else who went this route. My research led me to Larry Reynosa. I actually called his dojo, and the man spoke with me for about a half-hour. Anyone can call him and find out from him personally what his side of the story is, you don't have to take my word for it. Just go to the Makoto website and look for the number. He told me very, very disturbing things about the dojo I wanted to join…along with several others, all claiming to be "direct students" under Steven Seagal. Things beyond money issues. Very nasty things indeed…involving young girls. I do not feel that I am the person to write what we discussed, because Larry Reynosa might not want that information to be out there, but any of you can feel free to call him up yourselves. He was not shy at all to talk about it with me…and he didn't know me from Adam. I am no longer pursuing any of that Aikido. I still think that what Seagal's style does as far as technique is the best I have experienced, but it is not worth it to me to be involved with men like that. Even if Larry Reynosa was lying about these guys, there were reasons he left Seagal's side, which were disturbing reasons from what he told me. Matsuoka Sensei also left Seagal's side due to his own reasons…it all seemed so secretive...
I am now training with my old teacher again, the one I started my aikido career with. He can't take falls, but he can still teach very well. And if all of this led to me finding him again, and getting him back into teaching again, then I am thankful.
I just throw a word of caution to anyone interested in learning "Seagals' style" of aikido…because you might be dealing with dangerous men.