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On separate language editions, Seigo Okamoto and Hakko-ryu Jujutsu

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #83 (January 1990)

End of an era

This issue marks the ending of an era in the 15-year history of the publication of Aiki News. It will be our last issue appearing in a bilingual format. Aiki News has of late been commanding considerable attention in the world of martial arts publications and we wish to better address the specialized needs of our diverse readership. We will therefore publish separate Japanese and English editions starting with our Spring 1990 issue. Let me share some of the reasons behind this new approach.

We recently have sent out questionnaire to query our Japanese readers about their reactions to our magazine and products. When asked about the bilingual nature of Aiki News, the majority of readers felt that a Japanese edition would be more desirable. At the same time, many acknowledged that the presence of English gave them an opportunity to study the language and reminded them of the “international” status of present-day aikido. English readers too have often expressed in their letters that the magazine would be easier to read in a single-language format, but that they were “inspired” to learn Japanese by its presence on the page. Yet another determining factor in our decision has been that we will be able to offer more visually attractive page layouts having only one language at a time to deal with.

Readers will probably be interested in knowing how all of this will affect the “new” Aiki News. We plan to maintain our policy of parity of content in both editions of the magazine. Our exception will be that we will discontinue our serial presentation of the autobiography of Gozo Shioda Sensei in Japanese since his excellent book is still in print and readily obtainable. We will of course continue our translation of the book in the English Aiki News since it is not otherwise available. Furthermore, we will increase by one or two the number of articles and departments beginning with our next number. Thus, even though the first several issues will have slightly fewer pages than now, there will actually be greater content.

Roppokai - Seigo Okamoto Sensei

Our featured interview for this issue spotlights Seigo Okamoto Sensei who heads the Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Roppokai organization based in Tokyo. Okamoto Sensei was initiated into the techniques of Daito-ryu by Kodo Horikawa in the early 1960s in Hokkaido and became one of his leading students. This approach to Daito-ryu might be appropriately referred to as the “progressive” branch in that there is a great emphasis on the concept of aiki resulting in a more flowing style of movement. This stands in comparison to the conservative, technical approach of the traditional school whose main figures are Headmaster Tokimune Takeda and Soke Kyoju Dairi Katsuyuki Kondo. I was somewhat skeptical of this “soft” style of Daito-ryu until I had an opportunity to be personally thrown by Okamoto Sensei. Fine, subtle technique and superb control!

Unsolicited Endorsement

In this issue we also offer readers a look into the world of Hakko-ryu Jujutsu. This is yet another martial art whose technical roots spring from the Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu system. A major difference, however, is that very effective jujutsu techniques are combined with a sophisticatedshiatsu massage system. I can attest as to the efficacy of the latter. After an illuminating interview with present Headmaster Ryuho Okuyama, the Aiki News staff was invited to a nearby restaurant. When this editor recounted how he had suffered from an ailing back for the previous two years, Okuyama Sensei had me lying down on the tatami mats and proceeded to apply excruciating thumb pressure at seemingly unrelated points on my calves and thighs. I consider myself to have a reasonably high pain threshold from long years of being on the receiving end of aikido joint locks. Yet I must embarrassedly admit that on that occasion my voice reached levels of volume and intensity that would have done a kiai proud had that been my intent. After about five minutes of this “treatment” I was left shaking as though my body had been the conduit for a several thousand-volt electric shock! The remarkable thing was that the next morning the back stiffness I had been experiencing for so long had suddenly disappeared! And he didn’t even touch my back! I still can’t believe it. I now administer weekly “self” treatments and have had no reoccurrence.

I must thank Mr. Brian Workman of Portland, Oregon and Mr. Julio Toribio of Monterey, California for providing the proper introductions allowing Aiki News to interview Okuyama Sensei. The Hakko-ryu school in Omiya City has been frequented by many foreign students, particularly from the U.S. and Europe and is very well organized. This art has recently been receiving well-deserved coverage in other magazines such as “Karatedo” in Japan and “Black Belt” magazine in the U.S. and we hope to offer our contribution through the modest piece contained in this issue.

Aiki News publishes a book

By the time you read this editorial our new Japanese-language book entitled Morihei Ueshiba and Aikido will be at the print shop. This book consists of a compilation and careful reediting of 20 of the most significant interviews from our past issues, most of which have gone out of print. Among some of the outstanding names presented are Morihei Ueshiba, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Gozo Shioda, Kenji Tomiki, Minoru Mochizuki, Morihiro Saito, Kanshu Sunadomari and Shoji Nishio to name only a few, all in exclusive interviews. Numerous readers who missed out on obtaining these important articles have requested that we again make them available. We feel that this volume will take its place alongside the most important tomes published on aikido to date. Moreover, we are now seriously considering offering an English-language version of this work. What do our foreign readers think about this prospect?

Shimbukan Dojo anniversary book

While on the subject of books, let me mention the volume recently published by the Daito-ryu Shimbukan Dojo in Tokyo headed by Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei on the occasion of its 20th anniversary. This rare work contains hundreds of technical and historical photographs, most of which have never before been published. Out of a limited edition of 500 it seems only about 200 are left. If you are interested, refer to the “Heard in the Dojo” section for information. Until next time!

The above article was prepared with the kind assistance of Brian Workman of the USA.