Minoru Kanetsuka, 8th Dan Aikikai Shihan (1939-2019)
AFSA’s first Technical Director 1979-1997
I have been a close student and colleague of Kanetsuka Shihan during the period 1977-1997.
As my first aikido teacher he had a tremendous influence on my early development. This left a lasting impression on my understanding of the Art.
Kanetsuka sensei was a gifted and most unconventional teacher. His instruction and administration greatly influenced AFSA’s history and its development. -- Paul de Beer
After Chiba Sensei's departure from Britain in 1977, Kanetsuka Sensei became the Technical Director of the (renamed) British Aikido Federation. As such, he was Britain's official representative of the Aikido Hombu (the World Aikido Headquarters, Tokyo) until his passing.
Minoru Kanetsuka was born in Tokyo in 1939. He began studying Aikido in 1957 while he was a student at Takushoku University (Tokyo) under Fujita Sensei and Shioda Sensei. After graduating, he went to Nepal and during his eight year stay there, gave instruction to the Nepalese royal family and the Nepalese police force. In 1972 Kanetsuka Sensei came to Britain and became the assistant instructor to Chiba Sensei (then the Technical Director of the Aikikai of Great Britain).
Kanetsuka Sensei was appointed as the Technical Director of The Aikido Federation of South Africa between 1979 and 1997, while AFSA was under the guardianship of the BAF. This happened on recommendation of David Buchanan, the AFSA Chairman, a former student of Chiba Sensei and previous executive member of the Scottish Aikido Federation.
Sensei visited South Africa in 1978 and again in 1979 when he was accompanied by Matthew Holland. He also visited Johannesburg in 1981 on invitation of Southern Cross Steel. (I also had the privilege to train and follow Sensei around Great Britain and to various dojos when I visited there on a private 3-week study tour in 1986.)
During the period that Chris Smart (1981-83) and Ken Cottier Sensei (1984-1995) were involved in South Africa, they reported directly to Kanetsuka Sensei, AFSA’s Technical Director at the time.
Sensei’s visits were unfortunately interrupted when he fell terminal with cancer. He sent two emissaries to South Africa to represent him during this time. (Tanaka Sensei in 1985 and Matthew Holland Sensei in 1993 and again in 1994. -- Holland later made a private visit to SA in 1996.)
His sickness had a huge impact on the later development of his Aikido. It forced him to acquire a very unique, extremely subtle and soft style, the signature of his Aikido.
Paul de Beer
Toby Kanetsuka to British Aikido Federation (BAF)
The Kanetsuka family announces with great sadness the loss of Minoru Kanetsuka. He passed away peacefully on Friday 8th March 2019.The family will be working with the BAF to make arrangements for a memorial service/celebration of life for anyone in the Aikido community wishing to pay their respects, the details of which will be announced once they are finalised.
We ask that the privacy of the Kanetsuka family is respected at this sensitive time
SOME MEMORIES FROM VARIOUS PEOPLE WE KNOW WHO TRAINED WITH KANETSUKA SENSEI
MINORU KANETSUKA SHIHAN
It is with deep sadness I find myself writing this about our Sensei.
Although Sensei has been unwell for some time it came as a shock when Mami San informed us of his passing on Friday.
To many of the seniors in the BAF, Sensei’s passing is more than a loss of their instructor, it is the loss of someone with whom they have walked a long road together. From the times when they shared the practice with him in classes with Chiba Sensei, through the hard times of his cancer, after which his thoughts and practice developed and would continue to develop for the rest of his time.
As Sensei developed, so we would try to climb that mountain with him, but he would have to come back again and again to show us were we where going wrong. But this he did and he made that part of his practice.
Kanetsuka Sensei has lived a very full life.
In university he trained with Shioda Sensei and was a Nidan in Yoshinkan Aikido. During those time he also met Fujita Sensei who would become an important part of his and the BAF in the future! Life took Kanetsuka Sensei to many places. To Katmandu where he not only opened a restaurant, he also became friends with the Royal Family! He worked in many jobs in India. In fact, sitting with Sensei and listening to his stories made you wonder how he managed to fit so much into his life.
After Chiba Sensei’s departure from the UK, Sensei became BAF Technical Director and from then he also spent time travelling to Greece, the Netherlands and South Africa and in all these countries he held a similar position. He visited many countries during those years and importantly built special relationships with Russia and Poland which have lasted through to today.
Kanetsuka Sensei gave his life to Aikido and he will be missed, leaving an empty space not only in the BAF but in the hearts of many.
An important part of history has passed in losing Kanetsuka Sensei and it is for us to carry on with Aikido as Sensei would wish!
I know you will all join me in sending our condolences to Mami, Masaki, Miyuki and to the whole Kanetsuka family!
Peter Gillard Shihan
10th March 2019
Short Biography of Minoru Kanetsuka (1939-2019)
Shihan, 8 Dan (Aikikai Foundation, Tokyo)
Born in Tokyo in 1939, Minoru Kanetsuka took up Aikido while at university (1957 – 1961) under Gozo Shioda and Masatake Fujita. In 1964 he travelled to India and then to Nepal, where he spent 6 years during which he taught Aikido to bodyguards attached to the royal household. On leaving Nepal he spent some time in Calcutta, where he taught self-defence at a police training school.
In 1971 he moved to Britain, becoming the assistant of Kazuo Chiba, who was at that time the Technical Director of the Aikikai of Great Britain (later to be renamed the British Aikido Federation). When Chiba Sensei left Britain in 1976 Kanetsuka Sensei became the Technical Director of the British Aikido Federation, and as such was delegated responsibility from the Aikikai Foundation for developing Aikido in the UK.
There is no doubt that Kanetsuka Sensei's teaching is highly individual, though this individuality does not stem from a desire to depart from main-line Aikido so much as upon his insistence on mastering basic, orthodox Aikido principles. His emphasis is always on controlling one’s partner (i.e. attacker) with the minimum of physical force, from the very first moment of contact to final submission.
35 YEARS WITH KANETSUKA SENSEI(Some reminiscences by Peter Megann)
I first set eyes on Kanetsuka Sensei in early 1973, when he appeared at the doorway of the Oxford University dojo. His appearance was so striking that I stared in amazement. He looked very different than he does now. Long hair, a moustache curling down from his upper lip and a goatee beard, quite massively built (I remember being struck by his muscular arms) and wearing traditional Japanese wooden geta on his feet. He looked to me like a character out of a samurai film.
What had brought him to Oxford? Well, a little background to the Oxford University Aikido Club. I had been practising Judo for quite a number of years, and after graduation I had become the instructor of the O. U. Judo Club. I had been fortunate in having as my Judo instructor in Paris someone of south-east Asian provenance, who said to me one day: you know, we should treat everyone outside of the dojo as we would treat them on the tatami: we should show them the same respect. That simple statement had a great effect on me; and in the years that followed I felt increasingly dissatisfied with Judo. There was something missing. I understood that traditional Japanese martial arts had a cultural and ‘spiritual’ dimension, but this was not much emphasized in Judo which was overly concerned, in my opinion, with winning contests. I remember being very uncomfortable when the term ‘playing’ Judo was introduced around the late 60s (How can you play at a martial art?). A French au pair girl had appeared at the Judo club in 1966 and told us she had been practising something called ‘Aikido’ in Switzerland. She asked if we would be interested in learning some Aikido at the end of our usual Judo practices. We were very happy to experience this unusual art and Annie Pochat came regularly and taught us some techniques. I was completely taken by Aikido but the time came when Annie returned home and I was bereft of a teacher.
Sometime later I met the legendary American Terry Dobson, who had come to Oxford in connection with the publishing firm of the infamous Robert Maxwell based in the city. We met once a week for Aikido practice, one to one. He was quite immense and I was particularly impressed by how gentle he was. He told me about this old and frail Aikido teacher he had in Japan, who was capable of incredible feats – this was O-Sensei – but I did not at that time appreciate the significance! But Terry returned to Japan and again I had nobody to practise Aikido with.
Then one day some years later I saw a notice at the University Sports Centre announcing the creation of an Aikido club. I eagerly went along to sign on. The club was started by an Oxford post-graduate, Phillip Harries, who had just returned from Japan, where he had taken up Aikido. He soon made contact with the Hombu representative in Britain, Chiba Sensei, who was at that time based in London, and requested some support for the newly fledged club. Chiba Sensei readily obliged. Not only did he visit the club a couple of times each term, but he arranged for some of his more senior students to come and instruct each Saturday morning. The club went from strength to strength over the next year or so, but unfortunately Philip left for further research in the US, and despite my limited Aikido experience I was obliged to act as the club instructor.
Kanetsuka Sensei came fairly regularly on Saturday mornings to take a class. Even though I was at that time at a very lowly level of Aikido, because I was the senior student after Philip left I was usually Kanetsuka Sensei’s uke. Of course, it’s a valuable experience acting as uke to such a sensei. But in those days Sensei’s Aikido was quite robust and powerful. He had studied under Shioda Sensei for seven years, then during his stay in Nepal (1965 - 1969) he had instructed the bodyguards of the royal household, and later in Calcutta he had taught at a police training school. Then when he came to England he became assistant to Kazuo Chiba, who is famous (or should one say notorious?) for saying that the dojo was a battlefield and Aikido was a matter of life and death.
I remember I was a bit apprehensive when the technique he was demonstrating was hanmi handachi shiho-nage (very fast and tight! – and as with all his techniques it was quite impossible to escape) and even more scary was juji-garame-nage! But I survived. Kanetsuka Sensei eventually moved from London to take up residence in the quiet Oxford suburb of Iffley Village. I remember occasions when he hosted dinner parties for Aikido students at his home, when the ‘Mongolian pot’ was prominent. There would be piles of raw vegetables prepared and we would cook them in the boiling water that surrounded a central chimney stack, emptying them on top of rice or noodles. It was a very sociable meal. Of course, Kanetsuka Sensei was an adept cook: he had run a restaurant in Kathmandu for a number of years.
Besides taking weekend courses all over the UK, Kanetsuka Sensei had numerous engagements abroad, and I had the great good fortune of being able to attend many of these: in Belgium, France, Spain, Morocco, Poland, Sweden, Greece and Turkey. Sensei got on tremendously well with everyone: he took a real interest in people and greatly enjoyed socializing. I remember a course in Brussels when he suddenly recognized someone he hadn’t seen for some years. He called out her name (he has always had a fantastic memory for people’s names) and said "I didn’t recognize you. You used to have long hair".
Once in Athens when he was conducting a grading examination, he asked the candidates their names. There was the usual Spiro, Kostas, Mihalis. Then he asked another student. “Anaximander “(the noble name of a 6th century BC Greek philosopher) was the reply. Sensei found it a bit difficult to get his tongue around that one! Talking of Athens, where he gave courses every year at Easter time, I remember one of the Greek students telling me that one time when Sensei was having a meal with a group of them, he insisted on having raw eggs over the pilaf. Of course raw eggs with rice is quite usual in Japan, but it is not something which appeals to Greeks and they felt almost physically sick in eating it, though they could not reveal this to him.
Kanetsuka Sensei always appreciated food of any nationality. Once Matthew Holland and I were with him in Madrid on the occasion of a European Aikido Federation congress. One evening we were walking along a street when he suddenly exclaimed ‘I can smell garlic prawns (gambas al ajillo). I had them somewhere around here a few years ago and they were fantastic’. He followed his nose and we soon came to a tapa. It was the same one where he had eaten them before…and the owner recognized him and gave him a warm welcome.
Kanetsuka Sensei always showed a great responsibility for his students. In 1985 a number of BAF students accompanied him to Düsseldorf to attend a big course to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the German Aikido Federation. The former Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba was there, and numerous other celebrated Japanese sensei. At the end of the course there was an announcement in German which we didn’t understand. Other students were being directed here and there, and eventually our group found itself abandoned with no idea where we were going to spend the night. Sensei came over to us, and when he learnt of our plight he was very concerned. Soon he found a couple of sympathetic German students to whom he explained our predicament. They offered us accommodation at their house near Cologne (about an hour’s drive away). Kanetsuka Sensei insisted on coming with us, even though accommodation was reserved for him at a hotel in Düsseldorf with the other Japanese sensei. The German students found this quite extraordinary. I think they could not believe that their sensei would show such concern for his students.
While Kanetsuka Sensei was living in London, Sekiya Sensei came to stay with him for a year. I believe that this had a profound influence on the development of Kanetsuka Sensei’s Aikido. Sekiya Sensei, then in his sixties and of quite frail build, had been studying under Yamaguchi Sensei for many years. I remember that one particular term began to crop up: atari. This means something like ‘to hit the mark’, ‘to catch’ (as in catching a fish with a line or rod). As I understand it, in Aikido it means taking control of your partner at the first instance of contact. This contact is first made through the point of contact – through the wrist, for example, with kata-te dori. This can only be achieved with completely relaxed shoulders and arms, but with a strong centre. The strength of your centre must radiate through your relaxed upper body.
Sekiya Sensei introduced Kanetsuka Sensei to the traditional Japanese sword school of Kashima-shin-ryu, which he had studied under Yamaguchi Sensei. The action of the body in Kashima is very relaxed, though your centre is filled with energy and you posture is low and strong.
A few years later Kanetsuka Sensei moved with his family to Oxford. He established his own dojo in the Iffley Village hall, and started classes based on kashima. These were quite hard work. The first two thirds of the classes were concerned with sword-work. The bokken used for kashima are much more robust and heavy than the normal kata-bokken. They have to be, since kashima entails the direct, forceful striking of uke’s bokken. The degree of concentration is considerable. The last third of the lesson was the practice of Aikido based on the principles of kashima swordwork … on a solid wooden floor. One’s ukemi improved no end!
In 1986 my destiny and that of Kanetsuka Sensei converged. Throughout the summer of that year Sensei suffered severe headaches and fainted several times – once during Summer School, which caused a good deal of consternation. Despite various examinations and tests the cause of the problem remained a mystery and he continued his exacting programme of daily teaching in London and Oxford. At the beginning of the year I had suffered a ‘cardiac incident’ and was rushed to the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford. While I was lying in a cubicle waiting to be examined I heard a voice that I recognized saying ‘Peter Megann, what are you doing here?’ It was Kim Jobst. He had been one of my Aikido students while studying medicine at Oxford University. After graduating he had moved to London to continue his medical studies and had continued Aikido under Kanetsuka Sensei. To cut a long story short, I went for a check-up at the hospital later in the year and my consultant was Kim. He asked about Kanetsuka Sensei and I told him about Sensei’s problem. Kim was concerned and decided to visit Sensei in Iffley, where he gave him a thorough examination and suggested that Sensei request that he should be transferred from his doctor to his own care.
One Saturday a little while after, I returned home around noon and my wife told me that Sensei had phoned to say that he was in a bad condition. I rushed round to his house (his wife was away and he was alone), and I saw that he really was very unwell. I decided not to waste time and I drove him to the casualty department of the John Radcliffe Hospital and he was admitted immediately for an examination. While a doctor was examining him, Kim Jobst entered the examination room and was quite annoyed. “Why did you bring Sensei in today?” he asked. “It’s not my day to be on duty here”. “Kim, I had no choice,” I said. “Sensei was really in a bad way”. Happily, Kim managed to arrange that he would be in charge of Sensei while he was kept in and various tests would be carried out.
About a week later Kim phoned me and broke the bad news. It had been discovered that Kanetsuka Sensei had a massive cancer in the laryngo-pharyngeal region (the upper nose behind the throat). It was surprising that it could have escaped detection for so long and was now far advanced. Kim asked me to come into the hospital that evening and be present when they broke the news to him. I recount all this because it casts a light on Sensei’s strength of character and his continuing concern for his students. When Kim explained the situation to Sensei and indicated that the outlook for his recovery was not good, Sensei took it very calmly – stoically, you might say. Then he said to Kim "Kim, you look very tired. When I get better I'll give you some shiatsu (Sensei was very proficient at shiatsu and had even given shiatsu treatment to the late Doshu)".
The cancer was too near to vital arteries to permit surgery and in the weeks that followed Kanetsuka Sensei underwent radiotherapy and chemotherapy. He realized that the heavy doses of morphine that he was being given to cope with the pain were upsetting his digestive system. He was certain that it was vital that his digestive system at least was working properly and so he chose not to take morphine, even though this meant tolerating a constant acute headache. He had great faith in carrot juice and made his own juice in large quantities. Whereas the visitors of other patients received the traditional grapes and chocolates, Sensei received sacks of carrots! After a week or so his face was glowing – though there was perhaps a rather orange look about it.
I remember visiting him one day and thinking to occupy his mind I started to discuss ikkyo with him. I asked him about the timing of the initial shomen attack of the irimi version. He whispered hoarsely “Make shomen”. He was lying on the top bed of a twin-bed unit. I made a shomen-uchi attack, and the next moment I found myself on the floor besides the bed. He had lost none of his speed and vigour!
When he was dismissed from hospital and returned home, Sensei took over his own destiny with great determination. Diet, he believed, offered the best chances of survival. He became 100% vegetarian, drank copious amounts of carrot and beetroot juice, and followed a Japanese traditional regime of herbs. As soon as he had recovered some of his strength he resumed Aikido practice. He was so thin that his keikogi swamped him and so he resorted to wearing a tracksuit. With his shiny bald head (as a result of the chemotherapy), he looked like a Buddhist monk.
In late 1986, as BAF General Secretary, I was faced with a big dilemma. Earlier in the year, Kanetsuka Sensei had been booked to conduct a weekend course in Lille in Northern France, and I was asked to confirm that he would take it. Would he be strong enough to undertake such a strenuous undertaking, I wondered. Should I suggest cancelling the engagement? I contacted Mr. Yuzuru Mizuno, the managing director of Panasonic Finance UK. Not only was he evidently highly qualified in financial matters but he was also an Aikikai 5 Dan.
When I phoned him and explained the situation he immediately agreed to come to Lille and help out if necessary. At all events he would drive us to Lille. Because of a delay on the way to Dover we missed the 10pm sailing and had to wait in a cold and draughty waiting room for the midnight ferry. I remember marvelling that despite the discomfort Kanetsuka Sensei didn’t utter a word of complaint. We eventually reached our destination about 4 o’clock in the morning. Could Kanetsuka really manage to take the course that started at 10am? He looked dreadfully weak and tired.
At about 9.30am I knocked at Sensei's door. There being no response, I tried the handle and it was not locked so I opened the door to go in. There was a bang, and when the door was open there was Kanetsuka Sensei unconscious on the floor behind the door. I was distraught: what had I done to Sensei? Happily he soon came to. I suppose that the door had struck him on the leg and in his weakened state the shock had caused him to faint. Fortunately, Mr. Mizuno offered to take the first session. After a few more hours’ sleep Kanetsuka Sensei was ready for action and gave a revelatory demonstration of how, essentially, Aikido did not depend on physical strength. I recall him effortlessly dealing with a particularly large and fit young Frenchman, who was a P.E. instructor.
How prophetic had been the advice that Sekiya Sensei had given him all those years before. After observing him practice with his customary vigour Sekiya Sensei had remarked "No, no, Kanetsuka-san. When you become my age it will be impossible for you to practice like this".
It has been an immense privilege for me to follow Kanetsuka Sensei’s development over all these years. I say ‘development’ because his Aikido is being ever refined, even though the basic elements remain the same: the principles of tori-fune and furi-tama, of performing zarei, (kneeling bow), of the makko-ho stretching exercises which he includes in every class. He says that the dojo is his laboratory and he shares his discoveries with us his students. We are very lucky to be part of this process.
To return to my quest for another dimension to a martial art, which I mentioned at the start of this article, I certainly found it in Kanetsuka Sensei’s teaching. He has always emphasized the values of traditional Japanese martial arts. Correctness of behaviour and respect for the dojo and everyone using it has been tantamount. This starts at the entrance of the dojo.
Whereas other martial arts groups using our dojo cast their footwear in no order around the entrance, the Aikido footwear is always neatly lined up outside the dojo. Sensei recounts that he was present when Robert Kennedy visited Shioda Sensei’s dojo in Tokyo in 1962. He took it upon himself to place the senator’s shoes tidily at the entrance of the dojo. He can spot an incorrectly tied belt from 30 yards! And he checks that at the end of the practice everyone is sitting upright in seiza, with straight backs, and with their jackets properly adjusted so that no bare chest is exposed.
Of course, all this is routine in the BAF and we take it for granted; but that is because Kanetsuka Sensei (and Chiba Sensei before him) insisted on these things. One particular remark which I heard him make struck me as particularly unique and enlightened: in Aikido, in our defence against an attack, we must avoid being injured ourselves and avoid injuring the attacker. That has become a key feature of Kanetsuka Sensei’s Aikido.
© The Oxford Aikikai - All rights reserved
Minoru Kanetsuka (1939-2019)
Article by Prof PETER GOLDSBURY under the heading “Following in the footsteps” and published in the AikiWeb during 2013
Kanetsuka sensei (we usually called him MK or KS) had begun his aikido training at Takushoku University in Tokyo. This was known as a center of hard martial arts training, and the aikido club was affiliated to the Yoshinkan. Fujita Masatake also attended Takudai, but he trained exclusively at the Aikikai Hombu. Kanetsuka sensei had moved over to the Aikikai after a few years spent in Nepal and had finally settled in Britain. The point is that he had trained at the hands of people like Shioda Gozo and Inoue Kyoichi and this was evident in the training at Ryushinkan. When I was there, the emphasis was very firmly placed on slow, careful training, with uke applying power and with posture checked with the full-length mirror placed in the dojo. I saw Kanetsuka sensei, too, occasionally checking his own posture as he threw or pinned his ukes. The staple fare was repetitive kokyu ryoku training, with or without ukemi and usually done from a morote-dori grip, and also much, much suwari-waza ikyou from shomen uchi and suwari-waza kokyu-ho. Kanetsuka sensei was a stickler for accuracy and exactitude and so was quite hard to please. We were continually being corrected for ignoring the fine details.But the model he gave us was always superb. He was strong but very soft. The solo training before doing waza always included two items that I still consider impossible. One was separating the legs until they were a full 180 degrees apart and then completely flattening the rest of one's body forwards on the tatami. The other was to sit with legs bent so that the soles and heels of the feet were touching, and then to push forward and balance on the soles and heels, with the back of the hands gently resting on the tatami. We also did a form of deep funakogi, which involved a much wider hanmi stance than for usual funakogi, and with the hips square, such that it ceased to be a real hanmi stance (as I understood this at the time) but became a stance wherein all parts of the body were in equilibrium. In the forward movement the arms went right down to the ground, with the hands adjacent to the front foot. In the backward movement the arms made a wide arc and back of the hands reached the shoulders. The aim in both cases was to keep the torso straight, aligned with the back (straightened) leg for the forward movement and the front (straightened) leg for the backward movement. This exercise was (and still is) very difficult to do properly, but Kanetsuka sensei seemed not like mortal men: he was clearly fashioned of soft but toughened rubber. Other instructors have privately expressed to me their envy at Kanetsuka sensei 's physical endowments.Kanetsuka sensei had a superb sense of balance and timing. If I compare taking ukemi from KS with taking ukemi from Chiba, Tada and Yamaguchi, Kanetsuka sensei 's waza seemed less distinctive, in the sense that you did not need to take special preparations or precautions. Both Tada and Yamaguchi had a distinct style of training that was immediately identifiable and Chiba could be fearsome at times, but Kanetsuka sensei was far less obtrusive in the way he stamped his personality on the waza he performed. You never approached Kanetsuka sensei with any apprehension that you might not emerge from the encounter in one piece.The years I spent at Ryushinkan under Kanetsuka sensei 's tutelage were something of a primer on ukemi. I think initially ukemi is understood as simply falling, being pinned or undergoing joint manipulation and the whole process—from the initial grab or strike or punch to getting up again from a throw or pin—is rarely analyzed in great detail. Being relaxed in this process is a constant refrain, but no practical guidance is usually given on how to do this, with the result that relaxation can become the locus of an anxiety complex about one's aikido. The value of the training at Ryushinkan was to instill an awareness -- as continuous an awareness as possible -- of what was happening to both uke and tori throughout this entire process and also to plant the seeds of an increasing awareness of the possibilities entailed by repeated ukemi training, both solo with a partner. Kanetsuka sensei 's physical endowments were matched by very strong self-discipline and I believe that only Hiroshi Tada overtly showed such discipline (I do not state that other instructors lacked it: simply they did not show it so openly). Kanetsuka sensei once injured his shoulder—quite severely in fact, but insisted on training through the injury. He stated that if you injure some part of the body, you must train that part more intensively than you would usually. Palliative measures like RICE seemed quite alien to him.Kanetsuka sensei tried to model his training on that of Morihei Ueshiba, as far as he understood this, and the constant practice of two fundamental waza—kokyuu training from a ryote-dori or morote-dori grip, and suwari-waza shoumen-uchi ikyou—enabled the study of ukemi to take place in a situation shorn of any irrelevancies. Kanetsuka sensei always gave the well-founded impression that he was as much interested in pursuing his own training as in teaching students and sometimes he would take an uke and go on for several minutes. I think his model here was Shioda Gozo, since he did other waza for which Shioda was renowned and which appear in Shioda's early books. However, when I arrived back from the USA in 1975, Saito Morihiro Shihan was publishing his books on aikido and weapons and I tended to partner Kanetsuka sensei for weapons training, especially when he was learning Saito's ken awase and kumitachi. A year later Sekiya Masatake came to stay in the UK and practiced the basic kata of Kashima Shinryu. Kanetsuka sensei immediately began to learn this and eventually invited Seigo Yamaguchi to the UK. This was after I had come to Japan, but I gather that some years of fruitful cooperation followed.A major watershed for Kanetsuka sensei occurred in 1986, when he was hospitalized with cancer. However, by this time I had come to live in Japan and my training with him had virtually stopped. Kanetsuka sensei made a remarkable recovery and opened another chapter in his training history, but I leave that to someone else, more capable of recording it than I am. However, I am very happy to have had the chance to practice aikido -- and especially to be introduced to the subtleties of ukemi -- at the hands of a very remarkable human being.
Sat, 16 Mar,
I have a fun memory of Kanetsuka Sensei I thought I would like to share. As you know, a few years before I met you I trained up at the Aikido club at Southampton Uni. During that time there was an open to all weekend course with Kanetsuka Sensei in Oxford. This would probably have been around 2003/2004. I remember there being many quiet serious looking yudansha in their hakama and a lot of us fresh kyu grades, for whom this was probably the first time being in the presence of such a senior teacher. We were asked to line up and then out trotted a very chirpy Sensei, no hakama, just gi and belt, and with him a lady, who i later was told was his wife, and two young children who set up camp in one corner of the mat. The whole time we were training the children played with their mother and Kanetsuka Sensei would go and chat and play with them. When he wanted a tanto he would ask the older of the children the bring it over - they were both quite young, still toddlers I think. “See,” he said “my son knows how to offer it properly.” He was smiling and laughing the whole weekend, and thinking back now, was a great example of practicing with joy.
I trained under Kanetsuka sensei for 12 years from 1998. I had met him briefly at my university dojo 3 years previously. I was learning Japanese and used the wrong greeting for the daytime to sensei although it was already the evening. Sensei proceeded to give me a very long lecture on why what I said was wrong.
I was boxing 5 days a week at the time and was quite confident in my ability. In the class sensei called me out to do tsuki and I remember feeling sorry I would do him damage. The next thing I knew I was looking at him but didn`t realize I was on the floor and he was standing over me.
It was refreshing how although Kanetsuka sensei had a very traditional background in aikido he was never one to stand on ceremony when it came to teaching and practising. One seminar in France he had 2 high dan grades out the front, one bent over, one behind holding onto the man in front like a pantomine horse and sensei climbed on the top with his belt around the head of the man in front and proceeded to ride as if he were a general in the field.
The first seminar I went to in France I turned up without telling sensei. As soon as he walked onto the mat he noticed me. After bowing to everyone he told me to translate for him from Japanese. I started to translate what he said into English and he suddenly shouted, `no, in French!!!` Sensei didn`t know I knew some French but i think he assumed if I could speak some Japanese I should be able to handle it.
After a day`s training in France the organisers arranged us all to eat at a Chinese restaurant. Sensei walked in and looking around suddenly got up to inspect the kitchen much to the dismay of the chefs. `No good` was his only comment and everyone had to move to a different restaurant.
I started training under sensei after his cancer and remember how meticulous he was with diet and exercise. It seemed anything that could even slightly negatively impact his aikido he would dismiss.
Kanetsuka sensei used to often say, `forget about aikido!!` Quite a statement when it`s your only job. However it really impressed on me how serious he was about us not getting stuck on the outside appearance of specific moves or techniques. For him it didn`t matter where or how the connection was made with the partner, he could move you regardless. Of all the teachers I was fortunate enough to train with, sensei had what I would call the purest contact, meaning you could not detect anything was going to happen beforehand and he had total control over your body. Many people could talk about the effectiveness of aikido but he was the only teacher I ever met who could actually prove it. Other teachers could move you but you always knew they relied on some degree of strength or power. For the whole 12 years of training with sensei his sublime contact always remained a mystery to me.
In 12 years I never experienced the same class twice. If Sensei walked into the dojo after we had already started training he would invariably notice something not to his liking and you could bet the rest of the class would be devoted to correcting that particular fault.
Sensei said he was just training and if people wanted to come along and train together that was their choice. He never just went through the motions and each class had such a live atmosphere. In one class there would be moments of great seriousness followed by uncontrollable laughter at another one of sensei`s insights. He would say how we were his teachers because he knew how to learn from our mistakes.
I remember sometimes I would get into a pushing/pulling match with training partners who were strong. Immediately sensei would tell us you cannot do good aikido with a fighter`s mentality. He said we needed to become completely weak, become zero. He emphasized the importance of the traditional bow and also bowing in the practice of makkoho exercises. Sometimes there would be people in the dojo who were particularly flexible when doing makkoho but sensei would always say it`s no good to just copy the movements. The bow must express the humility in our heart.
Sensei likened the rising of your arms to the rising of the cistern of a toilet and recommended we go home and study its movement. The next time we were at the dojo he asked how many of us actually did it.
In his later years we trained in a church hall near his home in north London and the wooden floor meant lots of bokken work. One day he brought in an old car tyre and he would use it in all sorts of ways. Soon after we had stored lots of tyres there and I remember sensei standing on about three stacked up horizontally. Now much taller than any of us we would grab his arms and he would throw us at will, all the time moving on top of the tyres as if he was on a boat at sea.
At the same dojo there was a karate club that had their practise before us. The instructor was a tall heavily built ex army fella. Next to sensei it was like David and Goliath. He mentioned to sensei that if nobody turned up to practice he would go home and sensei suddenly bellowed at him saying if nobody turned up for aikido practice it would make no difference and he would train by himself. Sensei literally looked larger than this man who just said “you`re right.”
Nobody could be in doubt as to sensei`s unparalleled skill in aikido but more than that I`ll always remember his zest for life and breadth of spirit. He was not just a martial technician. You felt better being around him and his enrgy and cheerfulness was infectious. It was a privilege to have shared time with him.