Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
Location: Hiroshima, Japan
Join Date: Jul 2001
Re: Dobson and Arikawa Sensei
I don't know about a book, but one of the most interesting memories of Arikawa Sensei for me was his participation at the annual All-Japan Demonstration, held at the Nippon Budokan on the third Saturday in May each year.
I have written about this event before. Basically, it is the aikido equivalent of the undoukai (sports day, but this is a bad translation), which is an essential part of the calendar in every school and neighborhood center in Japan. Everybody gathers and 'does' something. And, this being Japan, the event is carefully structured vertically, with demonstrations given by Hombu shihans, shihans from the Aikikai Instruction Department (the two are not the same), other shihans, military dojos, company dojos, dojos in local government etc etc. Even the amount of lighting depends on one's place in the pecking order.
Anyway, Arikawa Sensei had long given up actually demonstrating at this event, but used to wander around, camera in hand, giving advice on occasion. Of course, everyone knew him, but also treated him with a certain awe. He had no fan club of vociferous students, such as greets Watanabe Sensei every year, when he does his seemingly miraculous non-contact demonstrations. As IAF Chairman I wore a suit and sat in the area just in front of the red and white bunting and Arikawa Sensei would sometimes come and talk. I remember some lengthy discussions about the meaning of shoumen (towards the Imperial Palace, actually not far away) and some very trenchant comments about the poor quality of the participants.
Actually, it is a sad thing that Arikawa Sensei had such immense prestige in the Hombu, but he has left virtually no legacy. Yamaguchi Sensei and Tada Sensei have created a generation of deshi, but you will find no one at the Aikikai Hombu who practises 'Arikawa' aikido.
In an earlier post, Ellis talked about Arikawa Sensei being autistic in some sense. I do not believe this to be true. Earlier, I mentioned an IAF meeting where I crossed swords with Arikawa Sensei. I did not tell the whole story.
Basically, Arikawa Sensei wanted to create a special place within the IAF for those shihans like Tamura, Yamada, Chiba, Sugano et al, who were immediate postwar students of O Sensei. I said No, on the grounds that the statutes could not legislate for special cases. The argument became very heated and I was severely attacked. Arikawa Sensei publicly called into question my whole personal commitment to aikido. I was very depressed and asked a Japanese friend what to do. Later that evening I had an urgent telephone call. It was Arikawa Sensei and he wanted to see me. We met and spent 30 minutes talking. I was gently reassured that he had absolute faith in my judgment and would accept whatever I decided. He had a duty to his kohai in the Hombu, but he also understood that I had a duty to perform. Actually this is the whole foreigner thing again, but I think that Arikawa Sensei respected what I stood for and I admired him for that. So I am prepared to forgive his excesses on the tatami.
Actually, I believe that Arikawa Sensei was not so much autistic as someone trying to do what O Sensei himself did. In Hiroshima he showed waza, but did not really teach. After practice ended he was very happy to answer questions, but occasionally told us not to give students certain explanations. They should be required to find out for themselves. The shihan could guide and prevent bad waza, but should not give verbal explanations.
In my experience, the closest anyone comes to Arikawa Sensei is Kazuo Chiba Sensei and I have crossed swords with him on many occasions.
Finally, Clark, you could ponder the question: why would anyone want to become an uchi-deshi in a martial art like aikido? I have met Don Angier and Toby Threadgill, and also Ellis, at the 2002 Expo. They all were deshi of senseis in koryu budo, but did not experience the rough and tumble of a being in a large group of Japanese deshi in a martial art with no real history. Unless I am quite mistaken.