The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Mike Collins of the USA.
During the last two months, Aikidoists in Northern California have enjoyed an extraordinary series of opportunities to train with some of the most outstanding figures in the Aikido world.
Our most recent guest instructor was Michio Hikitsuchi, 10th Dan from the city of Shingu, in Southern Japan. Hikitsuchi Sensei traveled extensively in the region visiting some ten dojos. Several hundred students were exposed to his personal charm and dynamic style of Aikido.
Hikitsuchi Sensei is particularly effective performing at demonstrations and thousand of Californians experienced Aikido for the first time as a result of several well-planned shows organized on the occasion of his visit to the U.S.
There were many highlights during his 28-day tour. Of special note were the weekend activities of May 18-19 at Stanford University. A gasshuku (training camp) was organized through the efforts of Sensei Frank Doran, which attracted some 100 Aikidoists, many among them black belts. The intensive training included classes devoted to study of the jo and bokken, the staff and the wooden sword. Following the last training session on Sunday afternoon, Hikitsuchi Sensei graciously consented to participate in a question and answer period. Students queried the articulate Sensei on a variety of topics ranging from the philosophical implications of Aikido to early episodes in the life of O’Sensei. Rare, indeed, is the opportunity to engage in a dialogue with an individual so knowledgeable in these areas as Hikitsuchi Sensei.
On May 26, at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Hikitsuchi Sensei conducted a Shinto service in honor of the death of O’Sensei. An ordained Shinto and Buddhist priest, Hikitsuchi has made this ceremony a monthly exercise of devotion since the passing of the Founder. It was a scene not to be soon forgotten by those in attendance.
Following a well-attended exhibition in Santa Cruz and a highly successful workshop at Aikido of San Francisco, Hikitsuchi Sensei climaxed his visit to Northern California with a show-stopping performance at Monterey Peninsula College. A crowd of some 250 spectators was on hand to see a lecture/demonstration, which included sword and jo techniques as well as randori.
At this point, we must express our debt of gratitude to Mary Heiny for her outstanding efforts in organizing Hikitsuchi Sensei’s visit. In addition, Mary’s talents as an interpreter served to bridge the language barrier as she was continuously at her teacher’s side allowing communications to flow freely in both directions. We also extend our thanks to Sugawa Sensei who accompanied Hikitsuchi Sensei from Japan and to Jack Wada for their services as “uke”, a job requiring great skill.
All in all, these have been a most exciting two months, and seem to have marked the beginning of a new era of person-to-person contact and open dialogue between practitioners of Aikido in Japan and the United States.