About the year 1953, a representative of Aikikai, and of the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba,
was invited to introduce this nascent art of Aikido to Hawaii. The vehicle was the Nishi System of Health Engineering, called the Nishi Kai,
with its headquarters in Japan, and a branch in Honolulu. The person who negotiated this invitation was one Noriyasu Kagesa
, my grandfather. As the president of the Hawaii chapter, he also took it upon himself to see to it that this representative from Japan was properly treated and kindly looked after. For the remainder of his life. Mr. Kagesa and his wife did just that.
Being nine years old at the time, details are sketchy at best, and we would all benefit from the input and corrections of others who were more mature and active at that point in time. It is my hope that this will happen in the not too distant future. For now, this is what I remember, so please understand, and bear with me, as I attempt to give only a brief historical perspective of this time.
The whole story definitely needs a book to adequately chronicle all important details of the beginning, the selection process for the initial instructors, and the subsequent development of Aikido's popularity in the Islands. Again, I will defer to future researchers to finish the job correctly. You are sadly getting a very restricted viewpoint from a kid who happened to be present at the time.
This memorable representative was Koichi Tohei,
who was regarded as the "Shihan Bucho
" at Aikikai headquarters. This meant that he was the chief instructor of the other instructors at headquarters, called "Hombu Dojo".
Both he, and the Founder's son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba
, were married to sisters, probably cementing the official relationship at Headquarters.
was, and remains the singular individual credited with introducing Aikido to the world, via his initial introduction in Hawaii. An extremely charismatic and physically talented man, he became an overnight superstar,
and was unconditionally loved and accepted by those who joined Aikido during those amazing years. The Aikido landscape in Hawaii today still has certain oldtimers and their students, who maintain their loyalty and love for this historic and vitally important figure in Aikido, not only for Hawaii, but internationally as well.
Nearing the end of my recollections, I do recall that he appointed three indigenous martial artists in Honolulu to head start the Aikido program there. The names of Yukiso Yamamoto
and Kazuto Sugimoto
, represented men of a Judo background. An Isao Takahashi
was added, who had a sound Kendo background. Together, these men were referred to as the "big three",
and did their level best to represent the Aikido taught by Koichi Tohei Sensei
. Later on, Tohei Sensei
appointed other personalities to monitor training, most notable of which was the late Shinichi Suzuki Sensei
In 1961, the Founder himself disembarked on Hawaii's shores to commemorate the opening of a new concrete dojo in Honolulu. This was a major event, not only for Hawaii, but for American Aikido as well. Again, Mr. Noriyasu Kagesa
generously offered his Japanese style home in Honolulu for both the Founder, and his otomo, Nobuyoshi Tamura
, to enjoy a traditional Japanese setting.
Next year, 2011, the Hawaii Aikido faithful are commemorating a 50th year anniversary
of the Founder's visit. The current Doshu
, Moriteru Ueshiba
, will be a featured presence, along with other celebration events scheduled.
I highly advise the attendance of any and all aikidoka worldwide to join this momentous occasion, and to affirm the international brotherhood of Aiki we now share, which had its humble beginnings in Hawaii.
Hope to see you there!!!
Francis Takahashi was born in 1943, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Francis began his Aikido journey in 1953, simultaneously with the introduction of Aikido to Hawaii by Koichi Tohei, a representative sent from Aikikai Foundation in Tokyo, Japan. This event was sponsored by the Hawaii Nishi System of Health Engineering, with Noriyasu Kagesa as president. Mr. Kagesa was Francis's grandfather, and was a life long supporter of Mr. Tohei, and of Aikido. In 1961, the Founder visited Hawaii to help commemorate the opening of the new dojo in Honolulu. This was the first, and only time Francis had the opportunity to train with the Founder. In 1963, Francis was inducted into the U.S. Army, and was stationed for two years in Chicago, Illinois. He was the second instructor for the fledgling Chicago Aikido Club, succeeding his childhood friend, Chester Sasaki, who had graduated from the University of Illinois, and was entering the Air Force. Francis is currently ranked 7th dan Aikikai, and enjoys a direct affiliation with Aikikai Foundation for the recommending and granting of dan ranks via his organization, Aikikai Associates West Coast. Francis is the current dojo-cho of Aikido Academy in Alhambra, California.