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In Remembrance of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei

by Peter Goldsbury

Published Online

I got to know Arikawa Sensei after being elected to membership of the IAF directing committee in 1984. Arikawa Sensei was a member of the IAF Superior Council and took his duties very seriously.

During this period the Aikikai Foundation began the task of revising its international regulations and I was asked to translate these revised regulations into English. Arikawa Sensei was deeply involved in the task of revision and so I had regular contact with him. This contact came initially through the late Yamaguchi Sensei on the latter’s regular visits to Hiroshima, but later on, my regular visits to the Hombu always had to include a long session with Arikawa Sensei, to work on the text and translation. In addition to being a formidable historian of aikido, Arikawa Sensei also had an exquisite grasp of the subtleties of the Japanese language and he was especially anxious that all the nuances of the Japanese original should be expressed in English, which is extremely difficult. I am not sure whether he was entirely happy with the result, but what merit it had was in large part due to Arikawa Sensei’s persistent questioning and attention to detail.

As a member of the IAF Superior Council, Arikawa Sensei took a keen interest in a long-term project to revise the IAF constitution. The original constitution was drafted in some haste and discrepancies between the Japanese original and the English & French translations eventually came to light. Arikawa Sensei was especially concerned that any revision should not fail to take account of important concepts relating to the spirit of aikido, which he believed were best expressed in Japanese and sometimes this led to heated exchanges at IAF meetings. On one occasion I was chairing a meeting and I had a particularly rough time at the hands of Arikawa Sensei. With some exasperation I consulted a Japanese colleague, who replied that meetings for Arikawa Sensei were just the same as training on the mat: it was crucial to be relaxed, to attack hard, and to keep one’s centre. Later that day, I was called to the telephone and it was Arikawa Sensei. He explained his anxieties rather more gently and in greater detail, but in a way which also conveyed his support for what I was doing.

Arikawa Sensei will be missed in many ways. He was a regular at the All-Japan Demonstration and sometimes came to sit next to me and give trenchant comments about some of the demonstrations. He was a regular at IAF meetings, whenever these took place in Japan, and could always be relied upon to know exactly what was going on and to produce some tough questions and comments. Finally, for the last few years he was a regular visitor to Hiroshima, where he combined the tough questions and comments with the equivalent on the tatami. On his first visit everyone was a little anxious: what would he do; would we survive. On later visits, when we had got to know each other better, the training was always laced with humour.

May he rest in peace.