Re: It Had to be Felt #6: Tada Hiroshi: "Like an Eagle"
Like Yamaguchi Seigo Shihan, Hiroshi Tada had a long and lasting relationship with the Hiroshima Dojo.
Tada Shihan is still going very strong at the age of 83 and I took ukemi on his visits to Hiroshima for about twenty-five years, a longer period than for Yamaguchi Shihan. More recently, Tada Shihan stated that he prefers young students as uke when teaching because their period of intense training and totally committed focus at a relatively young age enables them to understand some of what he is doing more easily and quickly than older, non-students, who also have to occupy themselves with family matters. Thus on his recent visits to Hiroshima, he has been accompanied by one or two members of the Waseda University Aikido Club. [The club that Tada Shihan looks after is celebrating its 50th anniversary, with a three-part commemorative DVD, recently produced by Baba Japan.]
By comparison with Yamaguchi Shihan, Tada Shihan seems much more austere and remote. He does not smoke or drink and once stated that excessive consumption of alcohol would certainly affect the ‘sharpness' of one's training regime—and one had to have a carefully planned and monitored general training regime if any real progress was to be made. It was not enough just to turn up at class and practice. It is obvious from the way he moves and demonstrates aikido that Tada Shihan's own personal training regime and self-discipline has been both extensive and beneficial. I use the word ‘demonstrates' rather than ‘practices' because a distinction is sometimes made between demonstration and ‘ordinary practice': for Tada Shihan there seems very little difference between the two.
In another column, I mentioned the way in which irimi nage was done by Mitsunari Kanai. Hiroshi Tada's way of doing this waza is somewhat different. Tada Shihan is very light on his feet and invariably moves to intercept uke well before the actual waza is executed. The men-uchi is received in the usual way, and uke is unbalanced. Then, however, a sharp change of direction occurs. It is if the waza is a continuous projection, interrupted very briefly by the initial breaking of balance, and with the change of direction coming right after. There is no circular movement here and Tada Shihan remains in posture well after uke has received the projection. The difference with Masatake Fujita's irimi nage, for example, is quite striking. Fujita Shihan always followed a relatively low-level circular spiral movement, culminating in a highly vertical downward projection, with the atemi hand still a few inches from uke's face after the projection. An uke who is not accustomed to such a projection is liable to hit the mat quite hard and possibly be concussed. With Tada Shihan, the projection is outwards, it is achieved and uke is disengaged earlier, but the projection continues well after uke's disengagement. In this respect irimi nage is similar to the other contents of Tada Shihan's extensive repertoire.