We, at the ShinKiKan Dojo in Houston,
Texas, are very fortunate to have Shihan Hiroshi Kato come to Houston
twice a year to lead our summer and winter trainings. Every time that he
visits, he will stay with us from 10 days to two weeks. During our March
winter training, as always, he led all the classes Ė morning and
evening and we were privileged to learn from this direct student of the
founder once again.
Our dojo was founded by Sasha Calderon three
years ago and this was Kato Senseiís 6th visit. At every
seminar, we have progressively had more students as the school has
grown. There have always been visitors who come and train with us as
well, but this time, there was the greatest number of students from
our own dojo than ever before. As always, not only did we have our
students and local visitors in the trainings, but aikidoists from
around the country were present also. Kato Sensei came from Japan with
some of his students from the Suginami Aikikai for this U.S. trip and
it was a pleasure to train with them as well.
Typically, Kato Sensei will usually begin each
class session with a brief warm-up and then he will start the class by
calling the highest-ranking student for kokyu-ho. Then, he will follow
with some kind of pinning technique before getting into the regular
As the years have gone by, I have been able to
increasingly appreciate the subtleties of Kato Senseiís teaching, as
I have become more familiar with the various aspects of his aikido. As
always, we heard him talk a lot about irimi or direct entry, the
proper balance and motion of the body, and the flow of energy as we
are doing the techniques. As I have listened to him instruct, I have
come to realize that his understanding of this art is truly profound.
Kato Sensei is much more than a teacher of technique; he is an
instructor of the principles that make up aikido as a budo or martial
way. These principles are 1) building the body, 2) learning the
techniques, 3) going with the flow, 4) concentrating energy, and 5)
taking away weapons. All of these are demonstrated during weapons
practice and then are reinforced when we practice empty-handed
The highlight of our seminar this year was our
embukai (demonstration). We were fortunate enough to have the Japanese
consulate officer come and give his greetings. He commended Calderon
and the ShinKiKan Dojo for using the occasion, not only to demonstrate
aikido, but to show other aspects of the Japanese statement, thus
demonstrating that Japanese budo does not stand alone, but is an
integrated part of the Japanese lifestyle and culture.
The dojo was packed to capacity with over 150
observers present. A local Japanese Society came and performed the
Japanese tea ceremony to start the evening. It was a marvelous
exercise of precision and tedious training to watch these ladies
perform this ancient rite. They served tea to our guest, Kato Sensei
and our instructor, Sasha Calderon, and received a rousing round of
applause at the conclusion of the ceremony. Craig Hocker of Houston Ki
Aikido followed with a demonstration of Iaido and Deddy Mansyur from
the Shotokan Karate Club of the University of Houston also gave a
demonstration along two of his black belts. These demos were highly
appreciated by the audience and served to make the evening a feast of
the Japanese culture and experience.
ShinKiKan dojo gave its demonstration last,
beginning with a demo of a regular aikido class for beginners. This is
done to show the audience what an ordinary class they might attend
would be like. Afterwards, we had Alicia Berlanga and Denise Quick
give a demonstration of womenís self defense techniques. Alicia
showed defenses against various kinds of grabs and holds. Denise
showed defenses against the knife and the club. These all received a
warm applause from the audience as the anticipation built for the
After a number of
quick demonstrations by the ShinKiKan black belts, Sasha Calderon gave
the dojo choís demonstration. Calderon began by showing various
basic techniques using several ukes. He went on to perform several of
these same techniques and their movements with the bokken and then
with the jo.
He culminated his
demo with a powerful freestyle against two attackers. Here, we were
privileged to see Calderonís years of training under Kato Sensei
come through. The triangular movements coupled with powerful entering
movements highlighted this wonderful demonstration of aikido.
As a student of Calderon, I can honestly say
that I have never met a person as dedicated as he is to trying to
learn and emulate the principles, techniques, and movements of Kato
Sensei. This demonstration was living proof as to how far Calderon has
come down that road. All of us at ShinKiKan consider it a privilege to
have an instructor who has dedicated himself so thoroughly to aikido
and to Kato Senseiís teaching.
Of course, the
grand finale was the demonstration by our Shihan, Hiroshi Kato, from
Tokyo, Japan. Kato Sensei showed his powerful entering movements which
sent his ukes down in a blur.
Characteristic of his style, these movements are initiated by turning
the hips and entering ever so closely to the strike. Kato Sensei used
triangular and back and forth movements that put him between his
attackers so that, time after time, they would run into each other as
they made futile attempts to grab him. Often, when they did come in on
him, he was able to use the turning motion of his body to cause them
to spin helplessly away.
In the final part
of the demo, Kato Sensei performed a series of weapons defenses
against the jo and the bokken. Again, Sensei showed his speed and
agility by using counter strikes, on both sides of his uke, even the
difficult opposite side, which he entered with reverse strikes.
In the final set, Kato Sensei showed the years
of his training with an impressive bokken randori (freestyle). His
concentration and focus were evident as he evaded strikes and then
entered with his own strikes.
He then called for
4 ukes to attach him with jos and, again, we were all so impressed
with his speed and incredible body motion as he evaded thrusts and
strikes coming at him from all sides! It was truly an impressive
demonstration ended with gifts of appreciation for all the
participants and there were words of appreciation given by Calderon
for all that have supported ShinKiKan and its development over the
last 3 years.
All in all, this yearís winter seminar was the
largest and most successful we have held to date. Everyone not only
enjoyed the training, but we also enjoyed the camaraderie and
fellowship of fellow aikidoka as we went out to eat together and
shared our ideas and experiences with each other.
The upcoming Summer
Training this September looks to be one of the most fruitful times in
the history of our dojo as the word gets around of the tremendous
opportunity we all have to train with a direct student of the founder
who has spent the whole of his life training at the Aikikai Hombu
Dojo. Please plan to come and join us. For more information, call the
ShinKiKan Dojo at (713) 977- 5289 and, as always, best regards and we
hope to meet you all in person soon.
ShinKiKan Aikido Dojo
© 2001, Jorge Garcia - All rights reserved
you Jorge for taking the time write about your seminar and give us
some insights into your dojo, and the training at Shinkikan.