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Old 02-19-2007, 10:36 PM   #102
saltlakeaiki's Avatar
Dojo: Salt Lake Aikikai
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Join Date: Jun 2004
Posts: 76
"I've always liked to fight"

Forgive me for somewhat selfishly wanting to post my own, sorta,
eulogy to Arikawa Sensei, along with a bit of catharsis

During the 90s I was a member of a Hombu satellite dojo,
a "company club", and Arikawa Sensei was our chief instructor.
I arrived as an 1-kyu, already with a lot of my own, very much
American-influenced ideas about what aikido is supposed to be
(most of which I still hold to this day). Arikawa Sensei
seemed to be the antithesis of all that. What's more, his
classes were rather unpleasant, not, interestingly enough,
because of his brutal technique, but because he would make us sit
in seiza for interminable periods and listen while he mumbled on about
something, and when he would finally let us get up and practice,
it would last about one minute (or less!) and bang, we'd be back
down listening for another 10 minutes. I'm a bit surprised to
hear from Goldsbury Sensei that his teaching style in Hiroshima
was apparently the polar opposite, all throw and no talk.

And in spite of the fact that our dojo was an enclosed area in
a fairly small room, Sensei's mumbling was so soft that even
my Japanese sempai would often have trouble understanding him
(as has been reported by others).

At our place, it was usual that only a particular daisempai
was the one who took Sensei's ukemi. If he had to work late
or wasn't able to attend for some reason, there would be a
certain amount of frantic finger-pointing in an attempt
to determine who would take ukemi ) (it was never me).
And yet even so, Sensei generally did not treat us the way
he did the ukes at Hombu.

Sensei only came to teach once a month, and I'm now a bit
ashamed to admit that after I got the idea of what he was
about, I started avoiding his classes. In fact, I rarely
attended his classes for many years, after the first year
or so at that dojo. I was a young guy who thought he knew
better, and anyway I wanted to train, not just listen (my
Japanese even then was pretty good but not good enough to
get very much out of Sensei's talks, esp. with the mumbling)

Sensei even once agreed to break his rule of "no seminars"
and gave us a weekend seminar up in the mountains. I went
along because it seemed like it might be fun, but after the
first class turned out to be "same old same old", I started
"cutting" and spent most of the time taking walks with my
wife. I'm really not proud of it, and at this point (more
than 10 years later) it's hard to clearly remember what
I was thinking.

The question came up in this thread about Arikawa Sensei's
desire or lack thereof to create a legacy. From my experience
it certainly seems that he had no concern for that at all.
It is clear if you look at my (former) dojo. No one there
practices like him. They all respected him and followed his
directions - no one resented him as far as I know - but no one
actually emulates his style either. In fact, the aforementioned
ukemi-taking daisempai, who has been with the club for
decades, is one of the softest, gentlest stylists I've ever
seen - far softer even than me )

After Arikawa Sensei died (by which point I was back in the
US), I started hearing people (as in this thread) saying all
kinds of nice things about him. It makes me wish I hadn't
been quite so headstrong, and had tried to get more out of
the opportunities I had to learn from him, even though there
were no doubt very many places where I would have disagreed
strongly with his teachings. One thing I believe I recall
correctly was that he insisted that atemi was an integral
part of pretty much every technique, and although now I
would accept it in more cases than I did then, I still
don't buy it as a kind of universal. Still... you've gotta
respect a guy who had trained hard for so many years, been
through so much, and pursued his vision of the aikido ideal
so sincerely, even though you might not share the vision.
And when you've gained a little maturity, as I have, and
realize that these guys who learned directly from the Founder
are a resource that's being lost forever as they die off,
you regret not having paid more attention

Speaking of resources, as many of you may know, Arikawa
Sensei was known for having an enormous collection of
documents, photos and other memorabilia related to aikido.
His job as the editor of the Aikikai's newspaper no doubt
put him in a good position to get his hands on that sort of
thing. I heard from my daisempai that the only family that
Sensei had when he died was a brother, who had no interest in
the collection at all. Last I heard (shortly after his death)
the brother was prepared to chuck all of it out in processing
Sensei's estate, and Hombu wasn't necessarily going to put up
a fight for it. I haven't heard how it turned out.

Interesting anecdote: once at the April 29 festivities at
Iwama, several of us were sitting with Sensei on the grass
eating lunch and talking, and Sensei made the comment
(although I can't recall the context) "I've always liked to fight."
(俺は喧嘩が好きだ or something very similar to that)

I feel sorta honored to have been able to be the one to
create his article on Wikipedia (at least the English one).
It's still a very short stub, though, and I'd like to
encourage anyone here with good information to contribute
to do so. And I feel more honored than I used to that his
name is listed as examiner in my yuudansha passport next
to my shodan and nidan. No matter how I felt about him
personally, though, I have always enjoyed the looks of
sudden apprehension that I would sometimes get from people
(not knowing me well) who would happen to open the passport
and see his name there


If it wasn't for the goat, you couldn't get in here for propaganda!
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