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Old 04-13-2006, 01:52 PM   #26
MaryKaye
Dojo: Seattle Ki Society
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

A useful question for instructors is "How do you feel about your students attending seminars outside your school?"

If they say, "That's fine" or "That will be fine once your ukemi skills are up to it, but not initially" those are reassuring answers. If they rant about how bad other teachers are, that's not. You'll have to make up your own mind about "I don't encourage mixing of styles" but I personally find that response disturbing. It can serve as a screen for "I don't dare allow you to compare my aikido with anyone else's."

I am very comfortable with my style and association in part because I've been able to train at a variety of other schools, and I know that what I'm being taught holds up. I can't always make things work (I wouldn't be a kyu rank if I could) but I don't feel myself to be at a disadvantage in learning compared to rankmates elsewhere. And I am still comfortable with my teachers' aikido and teaching, having compared them with some of the best people around.

Mary Kaye
 
Old 04-13-2006, 02:11 PM   #27
James Kelly
Dojo: Glendale Aikikai
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

ASU also lists new dan promotions on their website annually. (But it doesn't really help if the person you're looking for hasn't tested in the last year.) I agree, an aikikai wide, or an organization wide list of all active members above, say, 3rd Dan would be good, but it may be too much work.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 02:45 PM   #28
mriehle
 
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Exclamation Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
James Kelly wrote:
I agree, an aikikai wide, or an organization wide list of all active members above, say, 3rd Dan would be good, but it may be too much work.
Well, it occurs to me that most organizations (that I know of) have some sort of hard listing of all dan ranks. In New School Aikido it's a printed list protected by clear plastic on the wall of the dojo.

It's a lot of typing, but it seems to me like a database like this would be useful on a lot of levels.

But...

...it can't be generally searchable. Privacy issues would start to come into play. It's fine to look up an instructor and check his credentials, but what about some guy just walking in off the street? Who should be allowed to search his name?

Offhand, I think it should only be a prospective instructor. Even then, there needs to be a good reason. One good reason, of course, would be that they have a desire to recognize previous rank for a new student. But I can see an unscrupulous sort searching for shodans at nearby schools and trying to lure them away. (It doesn't make sense to me, but I've heard of similar stunts.)

I'm an instructor and a dojo cho, so I don't particularly care who knows what my rank is (Nidan, if you care) or where I got it (New School Aikido in Stockton, CA). But there are a lot of shodans (and nidans and sandans and ...) at my teacher's school that would just as soon not advertise their rank.

 
Old 04-13-2006, 02:58 PM   #29
giriasis
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

For me it's not so much that you advertise your rank, but whether a person is straight forward about it. It's the puffery or defensiveness that I look for in the response.

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 03:38 PM   #30
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
Marc Kupper wrote:
From what I can see on his web site, Dan Vella is a USAF shodan than for some reason hooked up with Glenn R. Premru who "promoted" Vella to 5th dan. Vella did not try to hide any of this and now seems to be out of business.
I'm afraid you have fallen victim to the terminology on Dan Vela's website!
Dan was not only not a USAF shodan, he may never even have been a member of the USAF!
He attended a seminar with Akira Tohei but he never tested under him at all. Dan was a white belt when I joined the dojo in 1995.His teacher (there were two in our dojo) told me that Dan didn't believe in testing (By the way, his teacher who told me that has also never tested for any Aikikai rank I know of, although he was and is an excellent Aikidoist).
Then there was a split in the dojo. Half was USAF and half was studying Steven Seagal style and didn't like the USAF. Dan left the dojo with the Seagal group and reappeared at the Corpus Christi Athletic Club as the weapons teacher. That's why many of us were surprised to see that Dan was using Akira Tohei on his website years later since when we were there, some of us were under the impression that Dan didn't care for him.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 
Old 04-13-2006, 04:16 PM   #31
Marc Kupper
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
James Kelly wrote:
ASU also lists new dan promotions on their website annually. (But it doesn't really help if the person you're looking for hasn't tested in the last year.) I agree, an aikikai wide, or an organization wide list of all active members above, say, 3rd Dan would be good, but it may be too much work.
I agree that some organizations posts lists of recent promotions. Something that would not seem like "too much work" would be to start a new web page for each year. For example, the current year can be Promotions.html and at the end of this year you'll rename it to Promotions-2006.html and start a new Promotions.html for 2007. If you keep the page layout consistent then someone could then import the pages into a database or spreadsheet to look for trends.
 
Old 04-13-2006, 10:11 PM   #32
Man of Aiki
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Thanks for all the great comments, people.

I am looking forward to training again, and for the first time with an affiliated school headed by a Sensei that has an actual ranking by a legitimate Aikido organization.

I know I learned a lot in my 4 1/2 years of training, and probably would be at 2nd Kyu level in most systems. Still, I'm aware that I am essentially starting over and going in at 5th Kyu level.

Which is great, because I need to work my way back into shape anyway.

I just can't help wondering how many other students out there that have invested years in their training don't know they've been mislead.

How many 'maverick' teachers out there are like Dan or Larry, the guys I trained with? They hang around aikido dojos, have a problem with authority, don't believe in testing (for themselves, at least) and after a few years just decide they must know enough to teach now and go off and start their own school and claim an advanced Dan rank?

Corpus isn't that big and I already met two.
 
Old 04-14-2006, 08:34 AM   #33
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

There are a class of people attracted to martial arts that don't care for authority and yet desperately want to be an authority. They want the prestige, recognition, and high rank of an authority. Being under authority is a prerequisite to being a good authority. There is an insipid pride and love of self in that kind of a person that should scare the kigeebees out of you. Regardless of how good they are, no one would want an instructor that has those kinds of internal motivations. That's why they hide behind something that isn't real. They hide behind a high rank that looks legitimate says to the world that they got under authority and legitimately proved themselves worthy by other qualified people. That's what they wanted you to think. The truth is that these kinds of people actually self promote themselves or they find someone who will, so they can have what they didn't earn, by being under a real authority. It's base self promotion.If they had the confidence that they were really that good, they wouldn't need the fake rank. They could just have said, "I have never tested or earned any high rank through an organization but I will show you my skills and you be the judge."
Listen, by not doing that, they have already self evaluated themselves and told you what they really think of their own skills.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 
Old 04-14-2006, 03:46 PM   #34
aikidoc
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

At least by not inflating their ranks, they are being honest. No matter how good you are, awarding yourself or inflating your ranks only puts your credibility or ego in question. It's sore that instant reward mentality society suffers from.
 
Old 04-14-2006, 04:27 PM   #35
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

OTOneH, I guess if all you are after are the physical techniques then rank or affiliation don't really matter. But at least people could be up front about it. I know a few independents who are very honorable that way. If you just want to fight, I know some great fighter without rank or affiliation at the local bar and they are honest about it.

OTOtherH, if they have to lie or falsify your credentials, buy rank, or steal an organizations, styles, or affiliations name without permission, than they must feel pretty bad about themselves, and wait in fear to be exposed. If they are lying to themselves and the general public, they will lie to you. Its who they are. No matter how good their technique is, they are still liars and thieves.

O'Sensei never want Aikido taught to people of low character, and it is my understanding that both O'Sensei and Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba believed that Aikido was about building better people and a safer world. That can never be done with a lie.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
 
Old 04-14-2006, 07:12 PM   #36
Man of Aiki
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Here's a cached link at Google.com about Dan Vella Sensei I managed to find:

http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:...en&lr=&strip=1

The site is down, but you can view a cached text verison of what it was displaying.

here's what it said:

"Shihan Dan Vella began his formal Aikido training in his early 40's with Shihankai Akira Tohei, founder of the Midwestern Aikido Federation and head of the USAF and MAF, at Corpus Christi, Texas Aiki Kai. After receiving his Shodan (1st degree black belt) at the age of 47, he enrolled in the Okinawan Karate-do Federation (Japanese Aikido, Kendo and Iaido Division) as a student under World Soke Grandmaster Glenn R. Premru 10th Dan. He received his Ni dan (2nd degree black belt) in 1996 and was promoted to San dan (3rd degree black belt) upon receiving his teacher's license in 1999, shortly after the passing of Shihankai Akira Tohei 8th Dan.

Having become a full time professional Aikido instructor by the fall of 2000, he established Kuden Shugyo Dojo School of Aikido in Corpus Christi, Texas and was promoted to Yon Dan (4th degree black belt) in 2002. Shihan Dan Vella in March of 2003 founded and assumed his responsibilities as CEO of the Sanban Kaigan (3rd Coast) Aikido Association and was titled "Shihan" by Soke Grandmaster Premru. He was promoted to Go dan (5th degree black belt) after being appointed by Soke Premru in 2004 to the Post of "Texas State Representative for the Okinawan Karate-do Federation"."

Note how this cleverly leaves out who gave him his first Dan rank. It says he began his formal aikido Training under Sensei Tohei, but it doesn't say Tohei was the one who promoted him to 1st Dan.

All of his subsequent rank promotions came from Glenn R. Premru, who he claims to have been a student under and to have been promoted to his subsequent 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Dan levels by.

The impression is given that the Okinawan Karate-do Federation is so huge, it has it's own Japanese Aikido, Kendo and Iaido Division. A study of the various Glenn R. Premru bios easily found on the web demonstrate that while he was noted for his karate in the early 1970's, even being inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame, he has absolutely no ranking in Aikido, Iaido or Kendo.

And as was discovered back in 2002, Premru's entire huge Okinawan Karate-do Federation consisted of the mail order business he ran in his house whereby he sold a substantial number of fake ranking certificates to people by mail. That's how he ended up being a wanted felon after he was arrested by the US Postal Service and then never showed up for his court appearance to answer to the charge of mail fraud.

I can only wonder how much money Dan had to give to Premru to keep the ranks coming so he could continue to live out his fantasy of being a highly ranked Aikido Sensei.
 
Old 04-14-2006, 08:09 PM   #37
Jorge Garcia
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Brian,
That is my point. Dan only did a Seminar or two with Akira Tohei. Dan only wore a white belt in our dojo before he left for the Athletic Club dojo (which was independent). That was what prompted me to ask our teacher why that was because I knew he was ahead of me. That's when I was told he had never tested because he didn't believe in it (We wore colored belts in our dojo). That means that from 1995 when I arrived, he wasn't a member of any Federation.
In the article, he mentions Shihankai at the beginning and Shihankai at the end conveniently saying,"...was promoted to San dan (3rd degree black belt) upon receiving his teacher's license in 1999, shortly after the passing of Shihankai Akira Tohei 8th Dan."
1) No one ever called Tohei Sensei Shihankai. That was the designation of the group of Shihans in the USAF. Skihankai is an organization in Japanese, not a title for a person.
2) The passing of Tohei sensei had nothing to do with Dan Vela's 3rd degree "promotion". Dan was in Corpus and Tohei was in Chicago and to my knowledge, Dan was not a member of Midwest (not Midwestern) Federation.
3) He couldn't have been promoted by Tohei because the only person in Corpus Christi, Texas to ever receive a black belt in Corpus from Tohei sensei was Eddie Martinez, one of the teachers. There were students there that were 2nd kyu when Dan was unranked who never received the black belt because the dojo eventually closed. The only students from there to ever receive an Aikikai black belt were Jorge Garcia, John Stephen Garcia, Joel Molina and Gilbert Fuentes (in that order) and none of those were from Tohei Shihan because he had died by then.
4) at one time ,Glenn Permru had been in Corpus and had run a few events there but got in trouble for not paying the bills for those events so he moved on but apparently, Dan kept in touch with him.

The worst sentence there is the opening one,
"Shihan Dan Vela began his formal Aikido training in his early 40's with Shihankai Akira Tohei, founder of the Midwestern Aikido Federation and head of the USAF and MAF, at Corpus Christi, Texas Aiki Kai. After receiving his Shodan (1st degree black belt) at the age of 47..." I am certain that Tohei Sensei never even noticed Dan. He didn't begin any training with Tohei- he attended a seminar. That is an intentional misuse of words. If the day I start Aikido, I attend a seminar with Yamada Sensei but I never see him again, I can't say I started my training under Yamada who probably didn't know I was alive!
It's bad. I'll calm down now.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 
Old 04-15-2006, 10:00 AM   #38
Man of Aiki
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Let me show the board how easy it is for a guy to train off an on in Aikido for 8 years and have little to show for it.

1997 was the year I returned to Texas from living in the U.S. Virgin Islands for 7 years. I had developed an interest in Aikido while I lived in the Virgin Islands, and had purchased Kensho Furuya's Art of Aikido video series and trained with a few friends trying to copy techniques but of course that's not the same as being in a real dojo. All they had in the V.I. was Tae Kwon Do schools and Karate. Oh, one guy was teaching Savate. I took Tae Kwon Do for 3 months before Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 blew most of the island away.

On my return to Texas in late 1997 I looked around for an Aikido school to go to. I dropped in on Gilbert Fuentes at the Corpus Christi Aikikai and took about 3 classes. My brother came with me, and we were so out of shape in the 2nd class we both injured ourselves trying to roll. I pulled a muscle in my abdomen (dang, didn't even know I HAD a muscle there!) and my brother hurt his hip, so we stopped going intending to heal up and try again later.

Only now it's around April or May 1998 and I'm working out at the Portland Community Center to get back in shape, and I see this flyer on the door advertising Aikido Classes to be taught there. Oh great, I don't have to drive all the way to Corpus any more!

So I sign up. That is when I met Larry Salazar, who at the time I believe was claiming a 3rd Dan, and Hector Chavez, Allison Gatz, and Lauren Simpkins (who went by the name 'Michi' so much I think I rolled with her for a year before I found out what her real name was!)

At the time Larry was teaching in conjunction with some fat Tae Kwon Do guy who's name I can't remember, who was a certified instructor under something called Martial Arts America, Inc. You had to sign a contract to particpate in the classes. I don't remember how long the contract ran for; it may have been two years or just one year.

Anyway, the classes themselves were great. I learned alot in them and became good friends with everybody. Classes at the Portland Community Center continued on for about six months.

Then they began dropping off. I would show up and nobody would be there. Turned out Larry and the fat TKD guy were arguing. They ended up splitting up. So because the TKD had signed the agreement for them to use the Portland Community Center, he ended the classes there.

(He would be there teaching his classes in TKD before the Aikido classes started, and when I came early I got to watch him. He had a grand total of two students, and he would bark commands and watch them do kicks and stuff. He was so fat and out of shape he couldn't even get his legs above waist level, I kid you not. I think his wife was the real money-earner as she had a well-attended cardio-kickboxing workout that she did. On a side note: after the classes stopped being held at the Community Center, the guy kept trying to bill me for $200 worth of classes that were never held. I got letters from Martial Arts America for about a year and a half demanding their money. They never got another dime from me.)

So, Larry and Hector made an agreement with Gilbert at the Aikikai to start training there again. (They had left previously, as you mentioned). I think we all trained there for about 6 more months before Gilbert had to close it down.

During this time I believe I met a high-ranking Aikido Sensei at a seminar held at the Aikikai; I think the Sensei's name was Kato. The seminar was very good, although I overheated very fast due to the fact that I don't have sweat glands on 80% of my body.

About the time the Aikikai closed down, Larry and Hector arranged for Sensei Larry Reynosa to come to Corpus Christi and hold a seminar. It was a two day seminar, and it was fantastic. At least for me.

This is where Hector and Larry Salazar had their falling out. I think Hector had finally realized that Larry S. never being affiliated with anybody or testing under anyone meant he would never have a real Dan rank and if he didn't have one he couldn't give Hector a real one either.

Larry S. also didn't train much, had bad knees, and a weight problem, which made doing Aikido regularly a problem for him. And here came Larry Reynosa, direct disciple of Steven Seagal Sensei, a man who Larry S. admires greatly, and Larry R. had some harsh things to say to Larry S. while he was in town.

He told Salazar he needed to lose weight, since he had been expecting the ranking sensei of the local dojo to be his uke in the demonstrations, and instead Larry S. kept sending Hector up there.

So once or twice Sensei Reynosa made a point of directly calling up Larry Salazar to be his uke during the seminar, and it quickly became apparent in the 3 or 4 times this happened that Larry couldn't do ukemi very well at all.

The result of all this was, Larry felt Sensei Reynosa made him look bad, criticised him in front of all his students, told him he was fat and out of shape and needed to lose weight. Privately, I believe Sensei Reynosa also invited Larry to train under the auspices of Makoto Dojo, and he made the overture to Hector as well. Sensei Reynosa is directly under the authority of the Aikido World Headquarters located in Tokyo, Japan, and they recieve all Dan ranks directly from the Doshu.

The problem with that was Larry knew he'd have to start pretty much all over, put out a lot of effort to get into shape for ukemi, and then test for his Dan rank. That would be very humbling for a guy to do after he'd spent years gaining a following of students while claiming to be a 2nd and 3rd ranked Dan.

So instead, he adopted the attitude that Sensei Reynosa had ambushed him and disrespected him, and he became very upset when Hector decided to take Sensei Reynosa up on his offer to become affiliated with Makoto Dojo.

He kept turning it into a personal thing between him and Reynosa, saying things like "You can follow him if you want, but I won't follow him."

So at that point, Hector and Larry parted ways.

Now Hector held his classes in the West Oso Community Center for about 6 months, off and on, and then worked out an arrangement with Ric Ricard at Texas A & M University - Corpus Christi to hold classes there in conjunction with the TAMUCC Aikido Club.

We trained there for about a year and a half. For the first year, it was great. Larry even came out a few times and rolled with us. Then problems started to develop again. I don't think Hector and Ric were getting along too well. Both had learned different styles of Aikido and Ric just wasn't as advanced as Hector was, and he could sense people really wanted to train under Hector and so after awhile it got away from them.

They started cancelling classes a lot. Since I lived in Portland, and worked in downtown Corpus Christi, I'd get off from my job at 5:00 had until 7:30 when the class started, so I would kill an hour and a half eating dinner or something. I didn't want to drive all the way back to Portland, then have to turn around in an hour and drive all the way through Corpus to the far side of it to the University.

Of course, once class was over I still faced a 45 minute drive home. Still, the classes made it worth it.

When there was a class.

And man, let me tell you, that got to be a problem. The 3rd or 4th time I showed up when there was supposed to be a class, and several other students did too, only neither Ric or Hector showed up to unlock the door to the training room, I made sure that Hector had:

1. My phone number at work and at home
2. My cell phone number, a phone that I got just to make sure he could contact for cancellations.
3. My e-mail address

About the 12th or 13th time I showed up and no class was held, on the 45 minute drive home I just said "That's it. I can't take this any more." And I quit.

Oh, I still went back about 3 months later. Nobody home. Then another 2 or 3 months later and there was a class that night, and Gilbert was training there, which was a nice surprise. That lasted for two more classes and then two cancellations in a row and two long drives home in a row.

I quit again.

This time two years roll by in which I don't do any Aikido at all. Finally I decide to start training again, and so I do a Dojo search on the internet for Aikido schools in Corpus. The TAMUCC Aikdio club pops up. No thanks! Joel's school pop up, and I decide to give that a try. But there's also another Aikido school listed called Sanban Kaigan Aikido. So I decide to try that one too.

Aikido by the Bay is up first. I go and drop in on a class. Joel Molina, 2nd Dan is there, and I enjoy watching the class. He has two students that night and they are doing good Aikido. He interacts well with the students. I really like what I'm seeing.

But then I decide, well let's go see this other place. So I drive out to Sanban Kaigan Aikido World Headquarters and meet Dan Vella Shihan, 5th Dan.

I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker. Gee, this guy is a 5th Dan, he's affiliated directly with the 'Hombu Dojo', he's got 10 people in his class and a bigger training area. I compared that to Joel, who was 'only' a 2nd Dan, had only 2 or 3 students in the 2 times I observed his class, and was tucked away in the back of a bigger school teaching other arts.

BIG MISTAKE.

Appearances can be decieving. As we all know now, Dan Vella was not a 5th Dan. In fact, I honestly confess that he did some impressive kata with weapons, but I never really saw him do empty-hand techniques much there. He may not even be a 2nd Dan in skill.

He just took stuff that he learned in the 10 years or so he took Aikido in other dojos and formed his own 'system', promoted himself to Dan rank, then found a Mail-Order Grandmaster that would sell him Dan ranks and opened up a school.

I spent just under 5 months training there. Then discovering I had been hoodwinked, I dropped out.

Oh, I had the idea of going to him in private and asking him what the heck he thought he was doing but since I liked the guy I decided not to confront him.

I didn't jump right back into looking for a school right away though, so since last August I've been working out in a gym and taking it easy. But sooner or later that Aikido bug starts biting me again, and I think at last after my past experiences it's time to train under somebody who's not misrepresenting himself and who actually is affiliated with a legitimate Aikido authority.

If I'd done that a year ago with Sensei Molina, I'm sure I'd be a lot better off now.

And there you have it. The Complete Aikido History of Brian Cates.

Started: Early 1998
Number of Years Since Then: 9
Years Inactive: 2 (you could say 3 with the final year of TAMUCC futility with all those cancelled classes)
Kyu ranks attained: 0
Dan Ranks attained: 0
Number of Senseis That Lied To Him About Their Ranks: 2
Number of Senseis Trained Under With USAF or Other Legitimate Affiliation: 0

Don't let this happen to you. Check out your Sensei's lineage and affiliation carefully.

Last edited by Man of Aiki : 04-15-2006 at 10:04 AM.
 
Old 04-15-2006, 10:14 AM   #39
Josh Reyer
 
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
Brian Cates wrote:
I fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker. Gee, this guy is a 5th Dan, he's affiliated directly with the 'Hombu Dojo', he's got 10 people in his class and a bigger training area. I compared that to Joel, who was 'only' a 2nd Dan, had only 2 or 3 students in the 2 times I observed his class, and was tucked away in the back of a bigger school teaching other arts.

BIG MISTAKE.
Ouch, man. Just, ouch. To me, the chance in a small, hands-on environment of just the teacher and two other students seems fantastic, but with your previous experiences of repeated cancellations I can understand why you wanted to go with the more stable-looking school.

Well, don't let it get you down! I wasted 10 years purely on my own laziness, but it's never too late to get back in the game.

Josh Reyer

The lyf so short, the crafte so longe to lerne,
Th'assay so harde, so sharpe the conquerynge...
- Chaucer
 
Old 04-15-2006, 02:32 PM   #40
crbateman
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

What you did yesterday is all well and good, but what you do tomorrow is more important. Try to bury the cynicism, open your mind up, and put the hammer back down a wiser man. If you care enough to be pissed off, then you care enough to succeed.
 
Old 04-15-2006, 03:47 PM   #41
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
Brian Cates wrote:
Let me show the board how easy it is for a guy to train off an on in Aikido for 8 years and have little to show for it.
Ditto, I first took up Aikido in around '99. Rank: Mukyu. I just started BJJ, though. I hear I'll be eligible to get a blue belt in a couple years!
 
Old 04-15-2006, 04:45 PM   #42
giriasis
Location: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
Clark Bateman wrote:
What you did yesterday is all well and good, but what you do tomorrow is more important. Try to bury the cynicism, open your mind up, and put the hammer back down a wiser man. If you care enough to be pissed off, then you care enough to succeed.
I know what it's like to be duped. And I totally understanding the cynicism. Because I have been there. Does Juko-Kai mean anything to you? All I have to say at some point you need to ask yourself a question, "did you learn any aikido from this guy at all?" If so, even if it is something as basic as standing in hanmi then thank him for that, let go and move on. I took me a while to get past the hard feelings but eventually you do.

[ETA: I'm not saying this directly to you Clark, but your words sparked these thoughts as words of advice to our original poster.]

Anne Marie Giri
Women in Aikido: a place where us gals can come together and chat about aikido.
 
Old 04-15-2006, 05:21 PM   #43
aikidoc
Dojo: Aikido of Midland
Location: Midland Texas
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Wow. What a journey. The posting on the Sanban Kaigen Aikido stuff is very misleading and vague. As Jorge pointed out, he carefully words it so he never really comes out and says he was promoted by Tohei yet makes it vague enough to infer he was. It would be like me saying I studied under Koichi Tohei, 10th dan, Ki Society founder because I studied in his organization. I have been to seminars for over 40 different instructors and have been in ASU, AAA and am now with Kato Sensei. To be perfectly honest, even though I was directly under Toyoda in AAA, I really can't say I was ever a "student". I attended his seminars and was promoted by him and his organization but I never really directly studied under him. Kato sensei is the first sensei where I feel I'm actually a student and learning from him. While in AAA, I trained myself for all my tests.

The journey this young man took really stresses the importance of checking out your school and instructor. The criteria I developed as a result of my fraud thread on this site is a good place to start. (http://members.cox.net/aikidoc1. Go to the instructor page and scroll down to the link on chosing a school). It was developed with the input of a lot of people. With overly inflated grades starting to pop up in the art, trace your lineage and save yourself some money and embarassment by going with someone legitimate. As most people who stick with the art realize, if not in the beginning, is that their curiosity starts them looking at other sites, information, etc. If they are doing something not legitimate, they will realize it as they explore the art. One of my students experienced the same thing, trained to the equivalent of a 4th kyu and found out it was not legitimate at least as far as we are able to tell. I came along and he's now a good aikidoka with legitimate credentials and still a little pissed he wasted a year plus. He sincerely felt conned and was getting ready to quit before I started teaching in the area.
 
Old 04-15-2006, 06:15 PM   #44
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
Brian Cates wrote:
Started: Early 1998
Number of Years Since Then: 9
Years Inactive: 2 (you could say 3 with the final year of TAMUCC futility with all those canceled classes)
Kyu ranks attained: 0
Dan Ranks attained: 0
Number of Senseis That Lied To Him About Their Ranks: 2
Number of Senseis Trained Under With USAF or Other Legitimate Affiliation: 0

Don't let this happen to you. Check out your Sensei's lineage and affiliation carefully.
Gilbert was a decent Aikidoist and my sempai but I got my black belt before he did when I moved to Houston and met Kato Sensei at a Seminar. Larry,Hector and Dan were at the Athletic Club but were ejected from there for holding religious services or at least that's what I heard. I believed it because when I went there to visit, everyone was wearing the Mala beads they had gotten from Seagal Sensei. He did have some kind of a Buddhist ceremony going on there too. You filled in a blank for me when you said they were at the CC in Portland. That's the part I didn't know. Dr Ricard is a good guy and a friend to our family. I saw him recently at Kato Sensei's last Seminar in Corpus. I heard he and Hector had some problems. Gilbert was there too for a while but didn't like either of their styles. He has since dropped out of Aikido completely and hasn't trained in years. Ricard still has a club going but I don't think he has many students if any at all.
I saw Dan doing weapons. I didn't think he was very good and I don't think he knew what he was doing. Larry knew a lot about Seagal weapons but Dan may have gotten his stuff from Saitos book because that's what it looked like.
The fat guy was Rene Garcia. He used to have his dojo next door to the CC Aikikai.
Brian, I have to tell you that Corpus Christi has a very long history of bogus martial artists. I know of dozens and dozens of people there who have dabbled in this and that who claim ranks and organizations they don't have. From Kendo to Judo to Iaido. I was there not too long ago watching a "master" at Iaido leading about 20 wannabe practitioners through some Kata's. Here in Houston, I train in Iaido with Craig Hocker Sensei, nidan. Our Shihan is a real 6th dan in Iaido who lived and trained in Japan. That "master " I saw was bogus. He was terrible but those poor guys were dutifully following him. I think this thing of bogus MMA there goes back 20 years. I am sure there are some legitimate guys there but I don't know who they are. Martial arts in the small towns tend to be like that.
There was a Mixed Martial arts tournament of some kind in a nearby city. A nice young man presented some sword katas and got a 100% score from the judges in Iaido. I know the young man. He is a great guy but has no training in the art. While he has a mind for katas, from an iaido perspective, he was terrible and knows zero about the art and yet a group of small town martial artists gave him a 100 % score. There wasn't a real swordsman in the judging panel either but that didn't seem to make a difference to anyone. I think that's where Dan Vela comes in. He had teachers who were of a certain quality. Maybe Dan thought they were great but in the grand scheme of things, they may have been ordinary. If Dan too was convinced and thought they were great, that would make him think he was great once he knew all they knew. The problem was that a person doesn't know what he doesn't know. Gilbert was a good Sempai but when I met Kato Sensei, hs Aikido revolutionized my Aikido life. Knowing a real master, I know I'm nothing compared to him. Knowing a fake master, you'll soon think you're a master too!
Best,

Last edited by Jorge Garcia : 04-15-2006 at 06:18 PM.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 
Old 04-15-2006, 06:20 PM   #45
Man of Aiki
Dojo: Aikido By The Bay
Location: Portland Texas
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

I thank you all for your kind words.

John, I had one seminar with Sensei Kato in Corpus Christi around 1998 or 1999. It was my first seminar with an advanced Sensei, and I still remember it fondly.

I think this is the same Sensei you are under now.

I remember he laughed several times during the seminar, very fun to be on the mat with him.

I checked out your link and it looks very informative. Thanks for posting it.

Even though it is kind of embarassing I decided to post my history here because I think there are probably more people than we realize out there right now laboring away and training hard who have been deceived and are not receiving what they believe they are receiving.

This is fraud. Even if money never changes hands, people still make the committment of time, which is still very valuable.

Larry Salazar may have misrepresented his Dan rank to me, but he never claimed to be affiliated with the USAF when he wasn't, or with the Hombu Headquarters in Tokyo.

I forgot to point out that Larry never really wanted to charge anything for his classes, it was that fat TKD guy and his Martial Arts America thing that insisted on it, and once Larry and Hector broke off from him, they had plenty of classes where money was never even discussed. When we met at the Corpus Christi Aikikai for about 6 months we chipped in voluntary donations to help Gilbert Fuentes meet his expenses. The year and a half that we met at the TAMUCC Aikido Club I think money was mentioned twice in regards to getting equipment and dues paid once a year, around $30 or $40.

So I never felt cheated or defrauded by Larry or Hector. Larry misrepresenting his Dan rank wasn't a big deal since he very likely is very close to a 3rd Dan in his knowledge of Aikido, but he never tested for the rank.

What Dan Vella did was far worse. He not only claimed a 5th Dan, he was asking for hundreds of dollars up front for his classes. At the following link, you can find the 'Finally Talked To The Sensei' thread on this board started by Johnathon Lyons. Vella actually dropped his prices by the time I visited his school around 2 years after Johnathon did.

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showth...ighlight=Vella

At the time Mr. Lyons was considering joining, prospective students had to pay up front for their first semester and their last semester; association fee, and it all came to $395.

I think he realized after watching alot of people walk out the door and not come back that was too high, so in March of 2005 when I signed my agreement with him the price was $250 a semester, and he only asked for one semester up front at the time. He also asked for a $70 'Association Fee' and now it's apparent since he wasn't really associated with anybody, this was a totally bogus fee.

I don't really consider what Larry did to be fraud, but what Dan did certainly was.

Now I'm not VERY angry at Dan Vella. I confess I still like the guy. Every class when you walked in he come over and give you a hug. People after class would hang out and talk about stuff and Dan was nice to talk to on a range of subjects.

But it was still fraud, so there is some anger. I can only imagine what happened to the 9 or so regulars who trained there, if they ever learned what Dan had done.

I'm a Christian, so of course I have forgiven him for doing this, and if I ever see him again I'll tell him so. But it hurts to find out a guy you liked was taking hundreds of dollars from you that you agreed to give him because you thought he was a legitimate Aikido instructor, not some guy who bought his ranks from a long-since-busted-up mail order fraud ring run by a phony 10th Dan Grandmaster.
 
Old 04-15-2006, 06:42 PM   #46
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Larry has never been about money-that's true. In fact, he always hated to charge. He has a big heart and is a great guy. I have always respected him and his Aikido but it's true, he holds no rank in Aikido. He doesn't need any in my eyes but he did tell people he was a black belt if they asked him. They just never asked in what art.
Dan was probably a nice man. I know he had good relationships with his guys. A really good Aikidoist was with him ,Mike Rains, whom I also respected very much. The pity is that Larry could have easily been a 3rd or 4th Dan and Dan Vela would be a Ni dan or San dan in many groups. He just didn't have the discipline to go through the paces like everyone else. Larry and Eddie were my teachers. Gilbert Fuentes, Matt Crocker, Laura Stucky, Jerry and Gail Thompson, Hector Chavez, Mike Rains and Joel Molina were all my sempai. I loved them like brothers and sisters and they were a great group to train with. Like many families, they had a few problems but I don't regret my time with them. They had my respect and deep affection. It was home and I miss those days very, very, much.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 
Old 04-15-2006, 08:54 PM   #47
Man of Aiki
Dojo: Aikido By The Bay
Location: Portland Texas
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Mike Rains had left by the time I got there, Jorge. So had most of his original students.

One of the first things that tipped me off that something wasn't right was how Vella's 3rdCoastAikido website had a page with with a bunch of pictures of students that he was supposed to have.

Since the photos of the two people that joined right before I did were up on that page, a father and his young son, I wondered who all these other people were who's pictures appeared there, with their names under their picture.

Mike Rains was one of them. There were about 30 pictures up on that page, and only around 7 of them were currently training there when I started.

If the pictures of the latest people to join are up on the page, why are there so many people who don't train here anymore?

What I think happened is that when he launched his school Dan got a whole gaggle of students all at once (this would have been around 2000 or so) and that's where most of these pictures came from.

As time went on it got harder for Dan to hold on to those original people like Mike Rains since over time if they really knew anything about Aikido Dan's misrepresentations would become evident to them. That's what I suspect. When I joined last year he never had more than 8 or 9 people on the mat at one time; most classes consisted of around 4 or 5 people, myself being one of them.

I think it started big and then got smaller and smaller as time went on. After I left I don't think it continued on for much longer.

I wish I could really find out what Hector is up to these days. I hope he didn't do what Gilbert did and just stop training altogether. Why didn't Gilbert go train with Joel at his school?
 
Old 04-15-2006, 09:01 PM   #48
aikidoc
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Brian: Yes, I'm under the same Kato sensei as Jorge and it has been a blessing. He does enjoy his time on the mat and has fun. Joel is a part of our group as well and a student of Kato sensei.

The high prices are interesting. Here's another link that charges high prices for bs. What's interesting about this one is that it is so bizarre that it is almost a mockery of the other frauds. I present to you the Grand Celestial Do, the alien martial art. Enjoy.

http://cosmicfighting.741.com/
 
Old 04-15-2006, 09:29 PM   #49
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
John Riggs wrote:
Brian: Yes, I'm under the same Kato sensei as Jorge and it has been a blessing. He does enjoy his time on the mat and has fun. Joel is a part of our group as well and a student of Kato sensei.

The high prices are interesting. Here's another link that charges high prices for bs. What's interesting about this one is that it is so bizarre that it is almost a mockery of the other frauds. I present to you the Grand Celestial Do, the alien martial art. Enjoy.

http://cosmicfighting.741.com/
This guy has way too much time on his hands!

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 
Old 04-15-2006, 09:41 PM   #50
Jorge Garcia
Dojo: Shudokan School of Aikido
Location: Houston
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Re: Watch Out for Aikido 'Shihans'..........

Quote:
Brian Cates wrote:
Mike Rains had left by the time I got there, Jorge. So had most of his original students.

One of the first things that tipped me off that something wasn't right was how Vella's 3rdCoastAikido website had a page with with a bunch of pictures of students that he was supposed to have.

Since the photos of the two people that joined right before I did were up on that page, a father and his young son, I wondered who all these other people were who's pictures appeared there, with their names under their picture.

Mike Rains was one of them. There were about 30 pictures up on that page, and only around 7 of them were currently training there when I started.

If the pictures of the latest people to join are up on the page, why are there so many people who don't train here anymore?

What I think happened is that when he launched his school Dan got a whole gaggle of students all at once (this would have been around 2000 or so) and that's where most of these pictures came from.

As time went on it got harder for Dan to hold on to those original people like Mike Rains since over time if they really knew anything about Aikido Dan's misrepresentations would become evident to them. That's what I suspect. When I joined last year he never had more than 8 or 9 people on the mat at one time; most classes consisted of around 4 or 5 people, myself being one of them.

I think it started big and then got smaller and smaller as time went on. After I left I don't think it continued on for much longer.

I wish I could really find out what Hector is up to these days. I hope he didn't do what Gilbert did and just stop training altogether. Why didn't Gilbert go train with Joel at his school?
Our original Sensei was Eddie Martinez who everyone said was Larry's cousin. They still see each other and talk all the time. Eddie moved to Houston and left Laura Stuckey in charge. Laura couldn't handle it from a leadership point of view and she resigned and Eddie appointed Gilbert to replace her. At the time, Gilbert wasn't in practice much and the job reignited him but it was then that my family moved to Houston and the dojo lost 3 people. Joel was a part of Gilbert's dojo and Gilbert was his sempai. Gilbert and the others felt the dojo wasn't growing because Gilbert was a brown, not a black belt and the general public wants black belt instruction. As a result, the dojo floundered for about three years. Gilbert put in a lot of money from his pocket to keep it open. When he couldn't handle the money part, he had to shut it down. Gilbert's wife didn't want to ever do that again and I think he was burnt out for sure so that was it for him and Corpus lost the prettiest little dojo they ever had. I think Gilbert was just spent and after being the boss for three years, I think he didn't want to become a foot soldier again.

"It is the philosophy that gives meaning to the method of training."
 

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