Training with Inagaki Sensei.
I remember fondly the day I managed to get to train with Inagaki Shihan. Back in the late eighties I was a live-in student in the Iwama dojo under the tutelage of Morihiro Saito Sensei. Evening sessions were mostly very crowded and we lined up in two rows to bow in. The norm in the dojo was that the person you first bowed to became your partner for the whole class and if you wanted anyone specific to train with you had to be fast. Being a white belt at the time I was sitting in the back row quite far away from the Dai-Sempai (senior students) that always sat front right. Usually the higher graded students that sat closest to them were quick to bow into them making it difficult for us lower grades to pick them. Also some of Saito Sensei's senior students like Inagaki Sensei would not come to the dojo on a regular basis which made it even more rare to get a chance to train and firsthand experience their knowledge and skill. But one day I had my luck. I found myself sitting right behind Inagaki Sensei as we bowed in and after Saito Sensei finished his normal regular start with Tai no Henko I jumped over the first row of students and landed in seiza in front of Inagaki Sensei. I had him for the full hour. It was brilliant. Right on the limit. Sensei kept me stretched and never let me off the hook. The techniques were sharp but never excessive. Many of us students knew that Inagaki had a tough reputation and training was hard. My own experience of it was very rewarding as I knew not to try to resist and my ukemi was up for it. But it wasn't like I just managed to survive, Inagaki Sensei exercised precise control and he felt my limits to perfection. This symbiotic relationship made for a wonderful training and afterwards as I thanked him for practice he asked where I came from and who was my home teacher. I said Tomita Sensei from Stockholm and Inagaki lit up with a smile saying they used to be uchideshi together back just after O Sensei had passed away. Brothers in arms.
Inagaki Sensei's skill had been sharp and to the point, I had felt totally safe and respected but also knew I could not have ‘misbehaved' or I would have suffered for it. This was proper ‘Kotai' solid training forging a strong body. This sharpness I have felt from accomplished Iwama students to various degrees yet the ‘space' in the technique that Saito demonstrated and I experienced is a very rare thing. Now many years later from my time as uchideshi I've met Inagaki Shihan a few times only but each time he has been the gentleman described by others and always extended himself selflessly to help and encourage visitors to Iwama. I'm one being grateful and thankful having received his kindness during my short visits.
A I K I
L I V E