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Old 04-15-2006, 10:00 AM   #38
Man of Aiki
Dojo: Aikido By The Bay
Location: Portland Texas
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 45
Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Let me show the board how easy it is for a guy to train off an on in Aikido for 8 years and have little to show for it.

1997 was the year I returned to Texas from living in the U.S. Virgin Islands for 7 years. I had developed an interest in Aikido while I lived in the Virgin Islands, and had purchased Kensho Furuya's Art of Aikido video series and trained with a few friends trying to copy techniques but of course that's not the same as being in a real dojo. All they had in the V.I. was Tae Kwon Do schools and Karate. Oh, one guy was teaching Savate. I took Tae Kwon Do for 3 months before Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 blew most of the island away.

On my return to Texas in late 1997 I looked around for an Aikido school to go to. I dropped in on Gilbert Fuentes at the Corpus Christi Aikikai and took about 3 classes. My brother came with me, and we were so out of shape in the 2nd class we both injured ourselves trying to roll. I pulled a muscle in my abdomen (dang, didn't even know I HAD a muscle there!) and my brother hurt his hip, so we stopped going intending to heal up and try again later.

Only now it's around April or May 1998 and I'm working out at the Portland Community Center to get back in shape, and I see this flyer on the door advertising Aikido Classes to be taught there. Oh great, I don't have to drive all the way to Corpus any more!

So I sign up. That is when I met Larry Salazar, who at the time I believe was claiming a 3rd Dan, and Hector Chavez, Allison Gatz, and Lauren Simpkins (who went by the name 'Michi' so much I think I rolled with her for a year before I found out what her real name was!)

At the time Larry was teaching in conjunction with some fat Tae Kwon Do guy who's name I can't remember, who was a certified instructor under something called Martial Arts America, Inc. You had to sign a contract to particpate in the classes. I don't remember how long the contract ran for; it may have been two years or just one year.

Anyway, the classes themselves were great. I learned alot in them and became good friends with everybody. Classes at the Portland Community Center continued on for about six months.

Then they began dropping off. I would show up and nobody would be there. Turned out Larry and the fat TKD guy were arguing. They ended up splitting up. So because the TKD had signed the agreement for them to use the Portland Community Center, he ended the classes there.

(He would be there teaching his classes in TKD before the Aikido classes started, and when I came early I got to watch him. He had a grand total of two students, and he would bark commands and watch them do kicks and stuff. He was so fat and out of shape he couldn't even get his legs above waist level, I kid you not. I think his wife was the real money-earner as she had a well-attended cardio-kickboxing workout that she did. On a side note: after the classes stopped being held at the Community Center, the guy kept trying to bill me for $200 worth of classes that were never held. I got letters from Martial Arts America for about a year and a half demanding their money. They never got another dime from me.)

So, Larry and Hector made an agreement with Gilbert at the Aikikai to start training there again. (They had left previously, as you mentioned). I think we all trained there for about 6 more months before Gilbert had to close it down.

During this time I believe I met a high-ranking Aikido Sensei at a seminar held at the Aikikai; I think the Sensei's name was Kato. The seminar was very good, although I overheated very fast due to the fact that I don't have sweat glands on 80% of my body.

About the time the Aikikai closed down, Larry and Hector arranged for Sensei Larry Reynosa to come to Corpus Christi and hold a seminar. It was a two day seminar, and it was fantastic. At least for me.

This is where Hector and Larry Salazar had their falling out. I think Hector had finally realized that Larry S. never being affiliated with anybody or testing under anyone meant he would never have a real Dan rank and if he didn't have one he couldn't give Hector a real one either.

Larry S. also didn't train much, had bad knees, and a weight problem, which made doing Aikido regularly a problem for him. And here came Larry Reynosa, direct disciple of Steven Seagal Sensei, a man who Larry S. admires greatly, and Larry R. had some harsh things to say to Larry S. while he was in town.

He told Salazar he needed to lose weight, since he had been expecting the ranking sensei of the local dojo to be his uke in the demonstrations, and instead Larry S. kept sending Hector up there.

So once or twice Sensei Reynosa made a point of directly calling up Larry Salazar to be his uke during the seminar, and it quickly became apparent in the 3 or 4 times this happened that Larry couldn't do ukemi very well at all.

The result of all this was, Larry felt Sensei Reynosa made him look bad, criticised him in front of all his students, told him he was fat and out of shape and needed to lose weight. Privately, I believe Sensei Reynosa also invited Larry to train under the auspices of Makoto Dojo, and he made the overture to Hector as well. Sensei Reynosa is directly under the authority of the Aikido World Headquarters located in Tokyo, Japan, and they recieve all Dan ranks directly from the Doshu.

The problem with that was Larry knew he'd have to start pretty much all over, put out a lot of effort to get into shape for ukemi, and then test for his Dan rank. That would be very humbling for a guy to do after he'd spent years gaining a following of students while claiming to be a 2nd and 3rd ranked Dan.

So instead, he adopted the attitude that Sensei Reynosa had ambushed him and disrespected him, and he became very upset when Hector decided to take Sensei Reynosa up on his offer to become affiliated with Makoto Dojo.

He kept turning it into a personal thing between him and Reynosa, saying things like "You can follow him if you want, but I won't follow him."

So at that point, Hector and Larry parted ways.

Now Hector held his classes in the West Oso Community Center for about 6 months, off and on, and then worked out an arrangement with Ric Ricard at Texas A & M University - Corpus Christi to hold classes there in conjunction with the TAMUCC Aikido Club.

We trained there for about a year and a half. For the first year, it was great. Larry even came out a few times and rolled with us. Then problems started to develop again. I don't think Hector and Ric were getting along too well. Both had learned different styles of Aikido and Ric just wasn't as advanced as Hector was, and he could sense people really wanted to train under Hector and so after awhile it got away from them.

They started cancelling classes a lot. Since I lived in Portland, and worked in downtown Corpus Christi, I'd get off from my job at 5:00 had until 7:30 when the class started, so I would kill an hour and a half eating dinner or something. I didn't want to drive all the way back to Portland, then have to turn around in an hour and drive all the way through Corpus to the far side of it to the University.

Of course, once class was over I still faced a 45 minute drive home. Still, the classes made it worth it.

When there was a class.

And man, let me tell you, that got to be a problem. The 3rd or 4th time I showed up when there was supposed to be a class, and several other students did too, only neither Ric or Hector showed up to unlock the door to the training room, I made sure that Hector had:

1. My phone number at work and at home
2. My cell phone number, a phone that I got just to make sure he could contact for cancellations.
3. My e-mail address

About the 12th or 13th time I showed up and no class was held, on the 45 minute drive home I just said "That's it. I can't take this any more." And I quit.

Oh, I still went back about 3 months later. Nobody home. Then another 2 or 3 months later and there was a class that night, and Gilbert was training there, which was a nice surprise. That lasted for two more classes and then two cancellations in a row and two long drives home in a row.

I quit again.

This time two years roll by in which I don't do any Aikido at all. Finally I decide to start training again, and so I do a Dojo search on the internet for Aikido schools in Corpus. The TAMUCC Aikdio club pops up. No thanks! Joel's school pop up, and I decide to give that a try. But there's also another Aikido school listed called Sanban Kaigan Aikido. So I decide to try that one too.

Aikido by the Bay is up first. I go and drop in on a class. Joel Molina, 2nd Dan is there, and I enjoy watching the class. He has two students that night and they are doing good Aikido. He interacts well with the students. I really like what I'm seeing.

But then I decide, well let's go see this other place. So I drive out to Sanban Kaigan Aikido World Headquarters and meet Dan Vella Shihan, 5th Dan.

I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker. Gee, this guy is a 5th Dan, he's affiliated directly with the 'Hombu Dojo', he's got 10 people in his class and a bigger training area. I compared that to Joel, who was 'only' a 2nd Dan, had only 2 or 3 students in the 2 times I observed his class, and was tucked away in the back of a bigger school teaching other arts.


Appearances can be decieving. As we all know now, Dan Vella was not a 5th Dan. In fact, I honestly confess that he did some impressive kata with weapons, but I never really saw him do empty-hand techniques much there. He may not even be a 2nd Dan in skill.

He just took stuff that he learned in the 10 years or so he took Aikido in other dojos and formed his own 'system', promoted himself to Dan rank, then found a Mail-Order Grandmaster that would sell him Dan ranks and opened up a school.

I spent just under 5 months training there. Then discovering I had been hoodwinked, I dropped out.

Oh, I had the idea of going to him in private and asking him what the heck he thought he was doing but since I liked the guy I decided not to confront him.

I didn't jump right back into looking for a school right away though, so since last August I've been working out in a gym and taking it easy. But sooner or later that Aikido bug starts biting me again, and I think at last after my past experiences it's time to train under somebody who's not misrepresenting himself and who actually is affiliated with a legitimate Aikido authority.

If I'd done that a year ago with Sensei Molina, I'm sure I'd be a lot better off now.

And there you have it. The Complete Aikido History of Brian Cates.

Started: Early 1998
Number of Years Since Then: 9
Years Inactive: 2 (you could say 3 with the final year of TAMUCC futility with all those cancelled classes)
Kyu ranks attained: 0
Dan Ranks attained: 0
Number of Senseis That Lied To Him About Their Ranks: 2
Number of Senseis Trained Under With USAF or Other Legitimate Affiliation: 0

Don't let this happen to you. Check out your Sensei's lineage and affiliation carefully.

Last edited by Man of Aiki : 04-15-2006 at 10:04 AM.