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Kenzo Miyazawa: Aikido in Argentina

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by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #97 (Fall/Winter 1993)

Kenzo Miyazawa Shihan has been dedicated to the spread of aikido in Argentina for almost 30 years. Aiki Newsinterviewed this Aikikai 6th dan about his experiences as a pioneer of aikido in Argentina on his visit to Japan last fall.

Aiki News: Please tell us about how you got started in aikido.

Miyazawa Sensei: I had practiced some kempo before I started aikido. But I wanted to learn another martial art and a friend of mine told me about aikido, so I went to check it out. At that time aikido was not well known and there were only a few dojos. Hiroshi Tada Sensei was teaching at the Sankei dojo in Yurakucho, and I was very impressed by his throwing techniques. I enrolled in his dojo at the end of 1959.

All the instructors were still young and they taught Monday through Saturday. Sadateru Arikawa Sensei taught Monday classes, Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei taught on Tuesdays, Tada Sensei on Wednesdays, Koichi Tohei on Thursdays, and Seigo Yamaguchi taught on Fridays. The teaching system was different from the current method and I could learn a variety of techniques from a different teacher each day. Since there were not as many students as in today’s large classes I was able to learn many techniques.

How long did you practice at the Sankei dojo?

Until 1964. I continued practicing there until I left for Argentina.

Did you ever go to the Aikikai Hombu dojo to train?

I went to the Hombu Dojo several times, but I did most of my training at the Sankei dojo. One time the dojo was closed and we moved to a location under a bullet-train bridge. Later, when Seijuro Masuda Sensei was head instructor, we had to leave this new place and the dojo members dispersed.

Who influenced you the most technically while you were in japan?

I have learned from many different teachers, and I cannot point to a specific sensei because I have taken something from all of them. I was close to both Tada Sensei and Tamura Sensei. But for the most part, I digested the techniques and systematized them in my own way in Argentina. I learned the basics in Japan and completed them in Argentina. So I can’t say that I was influenced by any one sensei, or that my techniques are similar to anyone’s in particular.

Did you go to Argentina because of your work?

No, I just didn’t want to live in Japan. I was thinking of starting a trading business, but it didn’t go well because of inflation. Then I started to teach aikido because there were no other aikido dojos in Argentina. I first taught aikido as self-defense at a judo dojo and after a while I became independent.

Were you a professional aikido teacher from the beginning?

No. I started to teach because I wanted to study myself. There was no aikido dojo, so I said, “Let’s study aikido together.” After a while more and more people came to learn.

Did you maintain contact with the Hombu Dojo?

I finally established a connection in 1967 and formally received a menjo or license in 1968. Until that time I didn’t know how my dojo would do, but after three years it was stable.

When did you open your own aikido dojo?

I think it was about twenty years ago, in 1971 or 1972. There was a Bruce Lee boom and many people came to my dojo to learn martial arts. They were the first group. We moved out from the judo dojo and rented our own dojo at that time. I have opened two more dojos since then, and in 1981, I was able to build my own dojo instead of renting one. That’s my history in brief.

I have heard that you have a publication in Spanish.

I have published a magazine. Not a book. I can’t write a book, because I am not yet a dai-sensei; I am still a student.

Please tell us about your organization in Argentina and also about the organization of Katsutoshi Kurata Sensei, who came to Argentina after you did.

Kurata Sensei’s organization is called the Argentine Aikido Federation. The organization which I head is known as the Argentina Aikido Association. The number of branch dojos in my organization has increased to the extent that some of my third-generation students don’t even know me. When an organization becomes large, there are many problems. I try to prevent troubles to the extent that I can, and I think it is all right for branches to maintain direct contact with the Hombu Dojo.

I understand that you attended the meeting of the International Aikido Federation held in Taiwan last fall. How did the meeting go?

Well, as I have said, as an organization grows in size there is a tendency for more problems to emerge. These problems are difficult to solve. Finally, we made the decision to leave the problems unresolved until the next meeting. Politics become more important than techniques when an organization is so large.

For Japanese martial arts organizations the organization is frequently more important than training. Do you have any advice for professional teachers with regard to creating an organization?

It is all right to organize after one has become professional, but you will need more personnel as the organization grows, so I recommend that you find people who are not professional martial artists, but who have a good sense for management.

What do you think of the idea that there should only be one national organization with an official link to the Hombu Dojo in each country?

At previous meetings of the International Aikido Federation, a proposal was made to permit two organizations in each country, but the proposal was somewhat vague. There have been requests to allow a free market in the United States or in Europe, but this is a political issue which is not related to aikido.

Did you ever meet Morihei Ueshiba Sensei?

Yes, I met him several times. We invited Ueshiba Sensei to speak at the Sankei dojo.

Were you influenced by Ueshiba Sensei’s techniques or philosophy?

Yes. Ueshiba Sensei is the foundation; aikido could not exist without a base.

Ueshiba Sensei is the cornerstone, thus we must respect his techniques and ideas. It’s been a long time since Ueshiba Sensei died, so there are many students today who never knew him, and some of them have begun to misunderstand his ideas. Since I began aikido while Ueshiba Sensei was still alive, I maintain respect for him when considering my courses of action.

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