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Interview with Hiroaki Kogure Sensei: Part One

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #82 (October 1989)

Hiroaki Kogure Sensei studied under Kenji Tomiki Sensei at Waseda University in the 1950’s. An 8th dan, he is now contributing to the spread of Tomiki Aikido and guidance of the Japan Aikido Association as its Chief Director. Kogure Sensei talks about the JAA and its continuing efforts to develop Aikido in the spirit of Jenki Tomiki and Hideo Oba Senseis. This is the first of a two-part interview.

Hiroaki Kogure Sensei

There are several major organizations which control most of the flow of information in the aikido world. these organizations seem to have been the source of most practitioner’s impressions of Tomiki Aikido and I believe that this has led to some misunderstanding and prejudice against the style. One of our tasks is to contact each aikido group directly in order to understand the views of its leadership and then to present our readers with information about their activities.

Yes, I know. We appreciate the effort you are making to introduce different styles of aikido such as ours. We hope that such information will be valuable for the further development of the aikido, towards which we have always kept an open mind.

Would you please tell us about Kenji Tomiki Sensei, the Founder of the Japan Aikido Association (JAA)?

Tomiki Sensei was an 8th dan in Judo and studied with Jigoro Kano Sensei. He was also active as a member of the Judo club when he was a student at Waseda University. Kano Sensei originally practiced Tenjin Shinyo-ryu and Kito-ryu Jujutsu and he picked out the throwing (nagewaza) and pinning (osaewaza) techniques from these arts and combined them to create “Judo”, together with a curriculum which met the needs of the educational system. Kano Sensei wanted to include in his Judo striking (atemi) and joint (kansetsu) techniques along with the throwing and pinning techniques, but he passed away before he was able to accomplish his intention. Tomiki Sensei began to practice aikido in order to help carry out Kano Sensei’s plan. So, in fact, tomiki Sensei was originally a Judoka. This is how tomiki Sensei came to study under Ueshiba Sensei. later he went to Manchuria and taught aikido at Kenkoku University and other places. However, since he was originally a Judoka, he could not forget Judo and he wanted to mix aikido with Judo in order to bring the art closer to the ideal that Jigoro Kano had in mind. However, he found it difficult to do so because of conditions in the Judo and aikido worlds. this is why he decided to study aikido thoroughly in order to introduce competition into the art. His theories were the result of much trial and error, but unfortunately Tomiki Sensei passed away before he could complete his work. Hideo Oba Sensei then carried on Tomiki Sensei’s work, and now that task has been passed on to us. Although the art is still imperfect, I believe that there is always room for progress as long as we continue to study the art.

There must have been many problems and difficulties in introducing competition into the art. Would you tell us about some of them?

The greatest difficulty was how to handle atemi since in aikido it is hard to execute an effective joint technique without using atemi. For a time we used protective gear, and we also tried using Judo left-sweep techniques. In the end we decided to focus on the point where Judo theory and aikido theory overlapped, and we also concentrated on creating a useful educational system. Instead of attacking anatomical weaknesses like in karate, we found it more effective to attack the mechanical weaknesses of an opponent. For ecample, if I take two steps forward while my opponent takes only once step back, he will naturally fall backward. In other words, power is not necessary since he is in position to fall if I move my hips straight towards him. Then he will naturally try to use his hands to prevent himself from being pushed backwards and this will result in him making physical contact with me. We thought we could execute various techniques at this precise point of contact. this is how we started our study. Although in aikido we usually move in circular motion, in matches we tend to move along a straight line. When fighting in an empty-handed competition, a technique can only be effective if there is a great difference in ability between the two players. In a match between two strong practitioners, it is rare to see truly decisive technique. When there was criticism of this fact, Tomiki Sensei commented, “We rarely see decisive techniques in Judo competition, either. There are only about seven effective techniques in Judo matches. In karate, there are only a few variations such as punching and kicking techniques. In Kendo, there are only four scoring techniques, , kote, isuki, and do. Although in aikido it is said that there are around 3,000 techniques, there is nothing strange about the fact that there is only a limited number of technique which can be used in a practical situation. So, naturally it is more difficult to execute decisive techniques in matches.” But his remark sounded strange to other martial artists. Then he develops a form of competition where an opponent thrusts freely with a knife. Nowadays, we use a rubber knife. That way, an opponent usually attacks with a straight thrust and this makes it easier to handle his attack and execute techniques. This form attracted the attention of teachers in the Metropolitan Police University and Tomiki Sensei and the University instructors together created the foundation of present-day police tactics. This is the way we have been studying aikido, and I believe that we will continue to make progress in the future. The problem is that since the content of the art is always changing as a result of our studies, those practicing abroad are left behind because the teachers who originally taught them have returned to Japan. Also, we are always trying to improve our judging methods in competition, and rules concerning decisions about effective techniques or illegal actions change over the years. We have recently, among other foreign affiliates, had a little bit of difficulty over the ranking system and fees. It might be best if each country agreed unanimously, but in reality each group, even within a country, has its own situation. Therefore, we primarily use our JAA fee schedule for shodan, nidan, and so on, while taking into consideration the condition of each country. if the fee is too high and not acceptable to a group, then we recalculate it in terms more suitable to that country and then convert that amount into yen. Just as with Judo and karate, if we Japanese insist that we are the best and do everything our way, we must be able to meet all claims from other countries. Therefore, we explained our intentions concerning the international development of Tomiki aikido at the International Aikido meeting held at the end of last month [June 19th, 1989]. We suggested that Japan should continue to lead for the next five years, because we have no completely worked out the problem of referees in aikido. We also decided to hold an international meet once every four years here in Japan, while holding an international event once every two years in each country in turn. We have all agreed that the decision to participate in these events should be left to each group.

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