[Editor's note: This message was first posted in response to Ellis Amdur's It Had to be Felt #4: Arikawa Sadateru: "Please, put your hand Down!" column.]
Ellis I understand that this series is just your subjective reminiscences. It was many years ago and you were certainly inexperienced in aikido and apparently you gave it up soon afterwards. But this article about Arikawa Sensei is misguided. I feel a responsibility to his memory to add some truth. By the way I saw your post
linked below this thread. I thought it was a nice tribute to Arikawa Sensei. You should have used it verbatim for this article.
I will just stick to facts. I knew Arikawa Sensei and trained with him for twenty years. I was almost exclusively his uke at the hombu dojo for the last 13 years of his life. So I was at almost every single class he taught at the hombu dojo during that time. I never saw him deliberately injure anyone. Ever. His control was superb - the most precise I have ever seen or felt. So perhaps you meant danger when you said violence.
I'm going to disagree with you about actual ukemi also. I never ever moved in the direction I expected the technique to go. He hated that. He also disliked tobu ukemi - I assume that's what you mean by breakfalls - when it wasn't necessary. I probably never used tobu ukemi for shiho nage and only rarely for kote gaeshi. His technique was so fast and powerful that you usually didn't have time to take a big ukemi.
Also you are quite wrong about Arikawa Sensei and zanshin. Again I'm going to have to assume that you were too inexperienced to recognize it. He never - ever - left any opening that was not deliberate before or during or after a technique. Sometimes I attacked him from behind or while he was speaking because I thought I saw a chance. But he had always left the opening on purpose.
It is true that some people were frightened of him. I remember one day getting back to Tokyo from a trip one Wednesday and arriving at the hombu with only moments to spare before the 5.30 training. When I didn't get there at the usual time one of the uchi deshi thought he was going to have to take the ukemi. When he saw me his face lit up and he hugged me with relief. He's a 7 dan shihan now. I don't think he was scared of violence. I think he was scared of not being able to take the ukemi and of Arikawa Sensei getting angry. Arikawa Sensei's standards were very high. He expected you to be able to handle the ukemi or not to waste his time. If a deshi had bruises from forearm smashes he would learn how to block forearm smashes fast. And if Arikawa Sensei could bury his fist in your throat as you said in that earlier post there is something wrong with your ukemi.
As a person he was kind and thoughtful. He was very knowledgeable about all martial arts and I sometimes met him at kobudo and other budo demonstrations. Like at Meiji Shrine.