Re: It Had to Be Felt #36: Clyde Takeguchi: Ecce Homo
"Just have fun", are words that ring in my ear constantly. Another is "connect to your-self". Then there's "you have to take the uke". One of my favorites is "LOOKS simple", which usually means we ain't got it yet.
Takeguchi Sensei is a gifted teacher, no make that a gifted individual- in that he knows how to give each person just what they need at a particular time. Another one of his sayings is "time in", meaning that we have to put in more time to understand certain things through the body. There's no rush to get it now. He gives seemingly simple advice. I would say he is very measured. It took me a while to figure out that Sensei actually likes to discuss aikido and things related. At first I didn't want to be a bother. Now I'll even email him a question. Often after class or seminar you can spot him working with someone who may not have taken their first kyu test. Everyone gets the same attention and care.
My impression is that he is always striking but his aikido is not dependent on the strike. Rather he is in position to strike and his ‘intent' displaces you in subtle ways that have an obvious impact on your structure. For me, I don't try to intellectualize this. I have to feel it and fortunate for me Sensei teaches via direct transmission through the body. He is a scientist and he takes a rational approach. I've found that by taking ukemi from Sensei and staying connected as long as possible (not bailing out) I get every bit of the complete "statement" he is making physically. It has also changed my ukemi over the years. Sensei is a very up close and personal martial artist. His aikido to me is close quarters combat. Even when he takes ukemi, he stays close to put himself in position to counter or to protect himself. He is very efficient, a minimalist.
His body is a bit banged up but still he takes ‘the uke'. He has done a lot of solo weapons work over the years and it informs his aikido to a large extent. Because of his Hawaiian roots he employs a lot of Tohei Sensei's methods but it is integrated within the application of his technique. At the same time he is a big fan of Muhammad Ali's use of distance, timing, and body shifting. I don't get the impression he's attached to any particular ryu. He's more interested in finding methodologies that are rational and transferable. He works on principles not rigid kihon waza.
So what does he feel like? I suppose you will get different answers depending on what day it is One way for me to describe his feel would be the stability of Tamura Sensei, the subtlety of Endo Sensei, with the grip of an eagle. Sensei NEVER gives up his posture. His elbows are typically close to his body. His execution is direct. The nature of his technique tends to be up and down as opposed to circular on a horizontal plane. Physical contact is ‘soft' and sucks you in rather than uke struggling to stay connected. Usually when someone pins me, I can find some space at some point in the encounter to slither or find space. I have not been able to find that wiggle room with Sensei yet but he often ‘invites' me to try. Because he is so connected to his self, you become an extension of his movement…like a ken or jo. Sometimes when he applies his technique (even static) there is the feeling of air under my feet. Other times I am pinned in place, immobilized for a moment.
And no matter how fast you are or how quick you attack, he time warps you…sucks you into a hole and your physical assets are not worth much at that point. He does this by connecting to you before physical contact. Once I came at him extremely fast and I thought I had him but in the midst of the interaction we both smiled because we both knew he had me. He just made a subtle shift and I was on my back.
One of the more telling things about Takeguchi Sensei in my opinion is that whenever one of my students or I visit a dojo and the dojo-cho finds out that we are affiliated with Sensei, the first words are ALWAYS, "Clyde is such a great guy"…before any mention of his aikido it is always about Sensei the person. I think that says a lot. Nice people also gravitate around him. I think all of us who have access to Sensei or have been affiliated with him for some time feel quite fortunate and protective. I do envy my seniors who've been with Sensei for many many years. In my case I started at Capital when I moved to Virginia, then spent a few years training a different dojo, then found my way back. So I have a very good idea of how fortunate I am to be JUST one of his students. In the 16 years that I've been affiliated with Sensei, he has been the model (Shihan) that I aspire to as martial artist and as a person.