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Shogen Okabayashi

by Medhat Darwish

Published Online

We wish to thank Medhat Darwish for his kind permission in allowing us to post this interview.

Shogen Okabayashi

Darwish: Sensei when and where were you born?

Okabayashi Sensei: I was born on June 27, 1949 in Ashiya City, Japan

When did you first get involved in martial arts?

I started training in Shito Ryu Karate when I was about 15 years old, and trained in that style for about six years.

When did you begin training in Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu?

I was about 21 years old when I started training with Takuma Hisa Sensei. So it was in 1970.

Why did you stop your karate training and how did you begin your training in Daito Ryu?

There was an incident I had with some a yakuza fellow. I was out one night with my girlfriend, and he started being rude to her. I intervened and asked him to stop, after which he became aggressive and attacked me with a bokuto. Since I practiced karate, I was quiet strong with my fists and knew I could make a serious injury if I punched, but I did not want to hurt him badly, so all I could do is block the strikes of the stick with my arms. Finally he gave up and left me alone. However, after this fight my arms were swollen and hurt for two months.

After this incident I thought hard to myself, what if that was a sword and not a stick I was attacked with, I would have lost my arms. So I began to search for a martial art that would teach me how to defeat the sword. After about a year of looking for a school I came across Hisa Takuma Sensei’s group, I found the things they were practicing very interesting, Hisa Sensei had traditional technique so I asked him if I could study under him. He accepted me and so I began my training.

How long did you train with Hisa Sensei?

I trained under him until the late 1970s, up to the point when Hisa Sensei became frail and his son asked him to move to Tokyo so he could take care of him.

How was your training with Hisa Sensei?

With time Hisa Sensei became frail and he could not move very well. So he would usually teach by speaking and explaining how to do the movements, and demonstrating them slowly. Senior students of Hisa Sensei’s and I came together and formed what is now know as the Takumakai, and practiced the techniques, working them out under Hisa Sensei’s direction. The training was good and we worked hard. At the same time, I felt there was something missing in the movements; there was some element that wasn’t there. I endured these feelings and continued my training. After this period Hisa Sensei moved to Tokyo upon request of his son, so his son would be able to take care of him. When this happened I was going to quit my training. So I went to see Hisa Sensei to ask him his permission to quit. When I told him of my feelings, he told me, “No, you must continue to practice, I will introduce you to a very good teacher,” and he wrote me a letter of recommendation to go see Takeda Tokimune Sensei in Hokkaido.

When did you receive your kyoju dairi from Hisa Sensei?

I received it in 1976.

So after the recommendation from Hisa Sensei, you went to train with Takeda Sensei?

That’s correct. I went to Abashiri, Hokkaido to learn from Takeda Sensei. From him at first I learned basic techniques, the shoden. The Takumakai did not have these basic ones; they practiced more advanced techniques.

When did you first meet Takeda Sensei?

25 years ago, so it must have been 1977.

So at that time you were part of the Takumakai?

That’s correct. Because I went with to study under Soke (Takeda Tokimune Sensei) with Hisa Sensei’s recommendation, in Japanese thinking it was as if I was learning from both teachers at the same time. I took the shoden waza and brought them back to the Takumakai.

How was your training with Takeda Sensei?

I was in pretty fit shape at that time because I did a lot of skiing and played a lot of soccer. Although feeling strong, I put myself on a 100-day program before going to see Soke (Takeda Sensei) to prepare myself for training with him. When I went to see him, I was fortunate because Soke quit his work right before I got there. We would have one on one training in the morning, from 5 am to 8 am, then a break until lunch, more one on one training after lunch until the evening. And then there was an evening class with other students.

The first morning I came to the dojo at 5, and Soke was already there, so the next day I decided to come 15 minutes earlier, at 4:45, to be there before Takeda Sensei. The following day, I came to the dojo at 4:45 and Soke was already there. So, next morning I showed up at 4:15, and getting there before Soke I felt some pride about this. However, the next day, I came at 4:15 and Soke was there before me again. I did not know the reason for this, but this continued to go on until we started training at 3 a.m. At this point, Takeda Sensei’s wife came out and said to me, “You can’t come into the dojo before Soke, he needs his time to train and it is the only time he can train by himself before teaching.”

When training with Soke, I was never allowed to throw or apply a technique on him, I was always the uke in our one-on-one training. Takeda Sensei taught me by doing the techniques on me over and over again. This was very hard on me at first. Can you be uke for 1 hour? One on one? But it was 3 hours in the morning and more after lunch! In the evening Soke had a class with other students, and I got to practice and apply techniques on others that I learned during the day with Soke.

After the third day with Takeda Sensei, I started to feel the toll of the training because it was so severe since I was always the uke. Although growing quite weary, I decided I was there to train and persevered, and in a short time I got used to this kind of training. Practicing with Soke, I was given permission to teach the Takumakai up to the nikajo level, sixty techniques.

At the time we were about 15 students at Soke’s dojo, some of the known names being: Arisawa Sensei, Kato Sensei, Saito Sensei, the sempai was Akimoto Sensei who passed away at the age of 85.

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