Re: Seishiro Endo Shihan - Montreal April 7 - 9 2009
I have one or two comments; I have been in classes with Endo Sensei several times, and am familiar with his three teaching DVDs.
First of all, the aikido that Endo teaches is recognisably in the lineage of Yamaguchi Sensei, but at the same time Endo has very much made it his own, and has a particularly well-organised teaching methodology. He communicates very clearly what the essence of his aikido is about: relaxed body, instant contact with the partner, continous control of the partner's centre. I disagree strongly with Szczepan's assertion that Endo is teaching poorly-assimilated Yamaguchi aikido. In the 1980s I attended several of Yamaguchi Sensei's classes in the UK and took ukemi from him numerous times and, although Yamaguchi's aikido was unique and singularly impressive, I believe Endo's pedagogy is clearer and more suitable for Western comprehension.
It is interesting how Szczepan's description of Endo Sensei's class reminds me of my own teacher, Kanetsuka Sensei. He hardly ever teaches aikido techniques these days, concentrating on relaxation, posture and direct control of the partner's balance (and indeed we spend rather more time listening to him talking than we do practising ourselves!). I don't think anyone would criticise Kanetsuka as "non-martial", as he likes strong grips and solid attacks, and you are immediately aware of who is in charge once you grab him. He actually states that he isn't teaching aikido as such, but aiki, kokyu and other essentials that enable us to practise aikido. My opinion is that the essence of what Endo and Kanetsuka are teaching is one and the same.
I get the impression that at the seminar Szczepan attended Endo was trying to get particular points across. Many people in aikido repeat techniques in an almost robotic fashion, regardless of whose class they are in, and I think some teachers avoid teaching "standard" techniques in a "normal" way for very much this reason.
Echoing Carsten's point, I was present for a yudansha grading at Hombu Dojo six years ago at which Endo Sensei was officiating (I believe he is still the chair of the Hombu Examination Committee), and the grading was absolutely straightforward and clear.