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Hiroshi Kato, Shihan at ShinKiKan Dojo

A Mid-Seminar Report 1999
by Jorge Garcia

Hiroshi Kato Shihan arrived in Houston on Thursday, the 22nd of July.

The following day, we had a non-scheduled class for ShinKiKan members only. The class was very spirited and fast paced. As one of the participants, it seemed to me that Kato Sensei was testing our conditioning on his arrival from Japan.

Our Seminar officially began on the weekend of Saturday, July 24th. The Saturday classes were two hours in the morning, with three hours for lunch, and two hours of practice following. Every Saturday class had the participating group eating lunch with Kato Sensei at a local restaurant. The Sunday classes were three hours in length and the weekday classes were two hours in evenings
(although, Sensei called for morning practices everyday which ran from 7:00 - 9:00 a.m. for those who could attend).

One of the remarkable things about Kato Sensei, is his great humility. He is very personable, friendly to everyone and willing to share as well as answer questions. Sensei loves to sit with the group and have exchanges with everyone present. All sessions have one hour of free handed techniques followed by an hour of weapons practice. We generally alternate the jo and bokken on opposing days.

Kato Sensei's aikido is based on several principles that he emphasizes more than most. He is very strong on the concept of being grounded and immovable in some portions of techniques. He teaches the rotation of the body, emphasizing hips leading the leg movement and turning from side to side in almost all of his techniques.
He also centers strongly on the concept of irimi, calling for powerful entering movements in many of his techniques.

Rather than being a technique machine, Kato Sensei is a teacher of the principles of body movement along with understanding how your energy moves within you as
you are executing techniques. Since Sensei does not speak English, it took me a while to begin to understand these concepts from him. We had several people fly in from out of state to train with Sensei as well as one of his students who came from Japan and was able to do some great translations for us in the mornings. In was in these morning sessions where there were only a few of us practicing with Sensei that I began to realize the genius of his thought and system.

Premise of his weapons practice is closely tied in with the techniques that he teaches. Our daily weapons practice included individual training and exercises with the weapons to strengthen wrists, arms, hips, and legs. These were
quite grueling for the uninitiated.

Kato Sensei is in tremendous physical condition. He has powerful forearms, wrists like telephone posts and not an ounce of body fat on him. (He can do the splits like a ballerina. He is 64 years old.)

The second part of our weapons training included paired interactions that demonstrate and help the participants to practice body movements with technique. The third part of our weapons practice involved something they call, in Japanese, kiti kaish, which is when both partners are doing the same thing. These appear to be exercises in body movement. The fourth part of our weapons training involved memorizing and learning the way to do all of the basic techniques with the weapon (ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo, yonkyo, gokyo, iriminage, and shihonage). This was with both jo and bokken. The fifth part of our weapons training was learning to move fluidly and naturally with the weapon and how to handle it properly. The last part of our
weapons training was reviewing the basic kata that O-Sensei taught which contains all of the technique's motion and correct body movement.

We had an embukai or a demonstration this last Friday night. Kato Sensei gave a powerful performance, demonstrating the principles of Aikido. His ikkyos literally swept his ukes off their feet. His body movement would draw their attacks in and sweep them around him in a
circular motion as he threw them effortlessly.

Kato Sensei emphasizes that uke should always attack strongly and our basic training is for holding hard at all times. Sensei insists that his ukes resist his techniques if possible (I haven't seen it happen yet). The randori by
Kato Sensei was impressive to me in that he was so fast, it was difficult for the attackers to even get a hand on him and I love to see them run into him and bounce right off. I've never seen anyone do that before. At any rate, lest we make him sound like superman, Kato Sensei does get tired and needs to sleep and eat like other human
beings. I suppose that it is such a privilege to train with someone of his caliber, that a glowing report like this can seem like an exaggeration, and maybe it is; but from my perspective, it seemed this way to me. I am told that many of the people at Hombu Dojo say that of all the senseis, Kato Sensei reminds them most of O Sensei. After
having seen my share of O Sensei videos, I must agree. Many of his mannerisms and motions are the same and particularly with the weapons, I see many of the things O Sensei demonstrated in Kato Sensei.

He certainly lets out loud "Kiai's" during his techniques. His Aikido seems more martially oriented than most, although I wouldn't call it old style, since he has continued to practice at Hombu Dojo as a member for 46 years. Believe it or not, he trained with us in the mornings last week. When he first grabbed my wrist, indicating I should do the technique to him, I was stunned. On most of the mornings, he would show a technique and train with us for 30 minutes before he began his official teaching. I think that might account in part for his tremendous conditioning. This afternoon, we practiced for an hour and a half and then he allowed us to ask him any questions that we had,
sitting in a circle on the mat. It was a great privilege to be there.

God's blessings to all.

Jorge Garcia
ShinKiKan Aikido Dojo
Houston, Texas


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Michio Hikitsuchi 10th Dan 1978
(C. Matrasko as uke)
1978 C. Matrasko

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