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News from the Sensei : Hiroshi Kato Doshikai
Posted by JGarcia on 2011/12/7 15:31:09 (8662 reads)

General Information of the Hiroshi Kato Juku - Doshikai

(This organization is optional for those Shudokan Aikido Association students seeking to deepen their knowledge of Hiroshi Kato Sensei's teachings)

The Hiroshi Kato Juku is an extension of the Shudokan School of Aikido in Houston, Texas. It is sponsored by the Shudokan Aikido Association for the purpose of preserving, promoting, and teaching the methods, the style and principles of Aikido espoused by our former master and beloved instructor, Hiroshi Kato Shihan.

The word Juku means a training academy associated with hard training or intense training. A Juku is also a form of a private school or one led by a particular individual. With reference to Aikido, a Juku would be a school not of all styles but of one style.

The word Doshikai means "a group pursuing the Way". Another definition of a Doshikai is "a collective of individuals who share a vision and have a purpose that is greater than their personal aspirations." As such, the Hiroshi Kato Juku-Doshikai is a group of people, coming together who share the vision of Aikido that Kato Sensei embodied. These people, like Kato Sensei, have a vision and purpose of honoring, preserving and spreading Aikido with the methods, principles and with the spirit that Kato Sensei lived before our eyes. This Doshikai then is a group or club of people who transcend distance as well as national and political boundaries. The people who unite themselves to this Doshikai are those who have a desire to remember Kato Sensei by keeping and living the values that he believed in.

The primary mission of this Doshikai will be to serve to honor and preserve the principles and example of Aikido as shown to us by Kato Sensei in his daily life, on the mat and through his words to us.

Those joining this Doshikai also will have the following responsibilities:

Primary responsibilities
1. To always honor and respect the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.
2. To honor and support the Ueshiba family and their claims to legitimately preserve, promote, and present the art of Aikido to the world.
3. To hold legitimate the right of the Doshu of Aikido to issue all Yudansha certificates and to honor those certificates.

Additional responsibilities
1. To honor, to respect and never forget the memory of our beloved master, Hiroshi Kato Sensei.
2. To support the Hiroshi Kato Juku-Doshikai with an annual membership contribution of $50 to be paid every January.
3. To wear the Logo patch on the uniform displaying the name of the Doshikai whenever possible.
4. To study and seek to learn, preserve and develop the teachings of Aikido as taught by Hiroshi Kato Sensei.
5. To attend at least one Transmission Seminar per year of the teachings of Hiroshi Kato Sensei, conducted by the colleagues, advanced students and the successors of Kato Sensei.
6. To train and learn the Weapons system as taught by Hiroshi Kato Sensei (or his successors) in order to preserve it for future generations.
7. To seek to honor the memory of Kato Sensei by training hard, improving and developing our Aikido, so that the memory and teachings of Kato Sensei will live forever.

What this Doshikai is not.
1. We are not a political organization.
2. We are not a testing or degree granting organization.
3. We are not a Federation of dojos.

What this Doshikai is.
This Doshikai is an international club of friends who remember, trained with, respected, appreciated or loved Kato Sensei, who are seeking to honor him and remember him by supporting the practice and teaching of the art Aikido in the style of Kato Sensei, publishing articles by or about him, and supporting the development of DVD's of his teachings and other audio visual materials in our possession, so that his teaching, wisdom and sayings will be available to Aikidoists in the future.

Requirements for Annual membership
1. Pay an annual membership donation of $50 every January.
2. Promise on your honor not to copy or distribute the Doshikai's DVDs of Kato Sensei or the logo of the Doshikai that will be given to you.

Benefits of the Doshikai
1. You will receive a new Hiroshi Kato Juku-Doshikai patch or a Doshikai T-Shirt every year that you pay your dues

2. Every year that you pay your dues, you will receive a different DVD, taken from a portion of one of the Seminars sponsored by the Shudokan Aikido Association where Kato Sensei was teaching.

Funds of the Doshikai
The funds collected for the Hiroshi Kato Juku-Doshikai will be used to buy equipment to create and produce DVD's of Kato Sensei, to create a website for the Doshikai , to pay for incidental costs related to the work of the Doshikai such as buying supplies and doing mailings, and helping to pay for the costs of any travel related to the teaching of Kato Sensei's style to other groups at various places in the world


Shudokan Aikido former Master Instructor - Hiroshi Kato, 8th Degree Black Belt

Born in Tokyo 1935, Kato-sensei began Aikido training in 1954 at Aikido World Headquarters under the instruction of the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, otherwise known as O’Sensei. Introduced to the Aikikai Hombu Dojo through his mother’s network of connections when he was 19, he trained there daily as well as spending long hours perfecting his personal practice. Working during the day as a printer, he attended classes at night. (For this reason he was unable to be an uchideshi, and does not appear in early photographs with them.) He continued to train for over 58 years at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo; although in later years, he primarily taught at his Suginami Aikikai dojo, but still attended special events at Aikido World Headquarters.

After his first 10 years at Hombu Dojo, Kato Sensei occasionally had chances to personally serve the Founder. He was grateful for those opportunities to have had personal interaction with O'Sensei. Throughout his life, he continued to realize new and very real implications of what the Founder told him many years ago. He always continued to see Aikido through the Founder’s image, as Kato Sensei would always say, “To me, the Founder is not dead. He is still alive in my mind and in my heart.”

Kato Sensei attended the Doshu's class for three generations: the Founder, the second Doshu, and the current third Doshu. He received his first 6 black belts from the Founder and his next 2 black belts from the second Doshu.

His self-training in Aikido has been ascetic. In his early years, he often used to practice weapons by himself through the night, greet sunrise the next morning, and then go to work again.

Kato Sensei's Aikido had a measure of personal spirituality to it. Before every class, Kato Sensei had the practice of coming early to the dojo to meditate and pray. Since he was a youth he visited mountain shrines and stayed up all night practicing weapons and meditating.

Kato Sensei regarded O’Sensei with utmost respect and considered him to be his only teacher. He states that the Founder didn’t teach him directly, rather that he learned from the Founder. Kato Sensei believed that others cannot teach us Aikido, it is something we must learn ourselves from others. He sumed this up by saying, "Aikido is not something to learn from others, but to learn by oneself. Ideally, the practice should be for oneself, and it should be rigorous and sternly self-disciplined, by one’s own choice."

In 1965, an informal practice group named Yagyu-kai was formed under his guidance and direction. Most of the members were black belt holders and he enjoyed teaching, hard training, and lively conversation after practice.

In 1987, he formally established Suginami Aikikai in Ogikubo, Suginamiku, as a branch dojo under Aikikai Hombu Dojo. The former Yagyu-kai was then incorporated into Suginami Aikikai. At this time, he continued to train at the Aikikai Hombu dojo.

In the 1990's, he retired from his work as a printer and began teaching Aikido full time.

In 1994, he received 8th dan and in the same year, he began to teach Aikido in the US. By the end of the decade, Kato Sensei was traveling to North America to teach Aikido at his branch dojos in California, Texas, Arizona, and Mexico twice a year. He also began offering seminars at other Aikikai affiliated dojos as a guest instructor such as his visits to Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela in South America. Kato Sensei was also petitioned by dojos in other nations as well and received dojos in Mexico,Indonesia and Holland as his affiliates. Kato Sensei finshed his Aikido journey with over 80 affiliate dojos throughout the world.

From 1999 through 2001, he received commendations for his contribution of promoting Aikido in Houston from the Mayor of Houston, Texas.

In 2001, “Suginami Aikikai” received commendation from the Governor of Tokyo as an Excellent Organization. This year, he also began to teach Aikido at the OASIS Sports Center in Tokyo. That program continues, and is expanding.

Reflecting its depth and maturity as a dojo, Kato Sensei's original dojo, the Suginami Aikikai developed several high level yudansha (such as 6th, 7th, 8th dans) and new members continually joined. As in his early days, Kato Sensei always enjoyed intense training with everyone. Members both in Tokyo and abroad had brisk international exchanges, as visitors from various dojos came to train with him in Tokyo.

Truly “every person’s" aikidoist, Kato Sensei exemplified one who had persevered in his own practice, was recognized, and rose to high rank on his own merit. Like most of us “normal people,” he was a person who worked a regular job and trained in what spare time was available, persevering by training hard and never giving up.

Kato Sensei was a living resource as an authentic link to modern Aikido's
origins. That was attested by the fact that his Aikido World Headquarters card number was the number 6.

Succinctly, Kato Sensei served as a superb and creative guide for his students in establishing “Wa” (harmony), both in spirit, in daily life and in Aikido.

On December 2, 2012, after returning to Tokyo from an overseas trip, Kato Sensei was taken to the hospital because of a sudden illness. He peacefully passed on later that day. We, his students all over the world seek to honor the legacy that he left us by continuing to train in the teachings that he left us. We all miss him very much and he will live in our hearts forever.


On Kato Hiroshi Sensei by Peter Ralls (From Aikiweb.com)
My teacher passed away last Sunday. I had seen him the Saturday before, and he had a bad cold, and I was a little worried, but I had seen him shake colds off before. So I wasn't too concerned. I flew back to California on Wednesday, and Saturday night I got the call that he was gone. I still can hardly believe it.

I first met Kato Sensei in 1979, when I was a very young man studying at Hombu Dojo. Robert Frager had told me stories before I went about this guy at Hombu that used to go up into the mountains and practice bokken and jo all night, then come to the dojo and do this incredible aikido. So I asked about him and he was pointed out to me. Kato Sensei wasn't a member of the Hombu teaching staff, but he was senior and higher ranked than many that were. He had started aikido at Hombu Dojo in 1954, and was a seventh dan. He would come to class three or four times a week, train in class, and then stay after class and work with a small group. I went over to watch them, and Kato Sensei asked if I wanted to join in. I did, and took to joining his group after class every so often. I could have trained with him a lot more than I did, but I was young and not very disciplined, and wasted the opportunity then to really study with him.

Kato Sensei back then had a striking appearance. He had a pale complexion, huge black circles under his eyes, and a frequent maniac grin. At that time training at Hombu was pretty harsh, and the quality people really respected then was power. Kato Sensei had power in great quantity. His technique was very non-orthodox, using a lot of foot turning and twisting and rapid body direction change very different than anyone else's aikido I have ever seen. Through this he developed a kind of force that I can only describe as tornado like. When I attacked him, I never knew where I was going to end up, I would just feel this force pick me up and hurl me across the dojo. A couple of times taking falls from him I actually did land on the top of my head, which was painful and frightening. But I never felt he was deliberately trying to hurt me, unlike some people I trained with, and I was scared a lot of the time at Hombu back then, so Kato Sensei's stuff didn't discourage me too much. Indeed, I liked taking falls from him, as although Kato Sensei was very physically strong, it was clear when he threw you that there was a lot more going on than just strength and technique. Kato Sensei was always very welcoming and helpful whenever I chose to go over and participate in his practice, and when I left Japan and went home in 1980 I had very positive memories of him.

I didn't go back to Japan until 1989, but when I did go back I made a point of reconnecting with Kato Sensei, and accepting his invitations to go train with his group on the weekends. But as I now had a career in the States and could only go once in a while for a few weeks, I couldn't train with him the way I wanted. So I was quite pleased when my buddy Jimmy Friedman came back from Japan one trip in 1994, and told me he was inviting Kato Sensei to California to teach. So Kato Sensei started coming to the San Francisco Bay Area twice a year, and teaching seminars, and pretty soon, Jimmy told me that he wanted to become Kato Sensei's student. That sounded good to me, so I jumped on that wagon too, and we became Kato Sensei's first branch dojo.

Kato Sensei was a wonderful teacher for me. He was very relaxed and straightforward, and not at all a rigid authoritarian. This was good for me, as I never could bear to be told what to do. As I got to know him better, I found him to be very kind and generous. He himself was a rebel and non conformist, and was willing to tolerate a lot of that in his own students. He even made me cringe some times. I went with him a few times to the Taisai in Iwama, the formal ceremony commemorating O Sensei. Everyone, including me, would be dressed up formally for the occasion, except for Kato, who invariably wore a t-shirt, and jeans with holes in them. I would stand next to him thinking "Great! maybe I can just pretend not to know him." But that was who he was. He revered O Sensei, but had no use for ceremonies, and didn't mind letting anyone know.

His aikido at this point, in my opinion, had solidified. He was as powerful as ever, but instead of flying through the air now, when he threw me he directed me straight down. His vitality was incredible. He was sixty years old. He would get off the plane, go straight to the dojo, start teaching and throwing us around like bowling pins, drink all night, wake up early in the morning so we could do "special practice" and keep this up for two weeks. Jimmy and I would be utterly exhausted when he left, and we were in our mid thirties. Kato Sensei's aikido kept it's unique twisting footwork. But even before he moved, he was able to take my center the instant I grabbed him. As soon as I took hold of his wrist, I would feel myself lose connection to the ground. Then he would move and apply the technique and bury me. He also had a system for using the bokken and jo that used the same footwork. If I could compare it with anything I would say that it seemed almost like the Chinese martial art Bagua. But when we asked Kato Sensei, he told us he had never studied any martial art other than Aikido. He said that he had developed his aikido by trying to figure out how O Sensei did what he did. But he made a point of saying that he did not learn it from O Sensei, he developed it trying to do what O Sensei did. The same for his weapons work. He said O Sensei never taught him weapons, he developed his own forms trying to catch the feeling of what O Sensei did. And this was an important part of his own teaching philosophy. He said that you should never be a "copy" of your teacher. He thought the role of the teacher was to inspire the student to figure out stuff on their own, because that was the only way they could really get anything worthwhile. And he said that was the way O Sensei taught. He said that when O Sensei taught class, he would walk around, and if he didn't like what the student was doing, he tell them they were doing it wrong, but he wouldn't explain to them what was right. they had to figure that out for themselves. Still, when I would ask him for something specific, he would laugh, and show me or explain it to me anyway.

As he got into his seventies, he lost the raw overwhelming force and speed that he once could generate. Instead, he got more subtle, drawing his uke off balance earlier and moving around his uke's force in a way that made his throws look comically easy. Even though he was going about it a different way, he was getting stronger in some ways rather than weaker. I started traveling with him a lot, and I would laugh to myself sometimes in South America when I would see some young hot shot latch on to him and he would just bury the guy, and the guy would get up with the "deer in the headlights" look, like he was thinking "What just happened." And Kato Sensei used to tell us, "I can't use force the way I did when I was younger, so I have to learn other ways to do things" I guess when he said younger, he meant when he was in his sixties!

Now, Kato Sensei wasn't a perfect person, by any means. Like a lot of his generation in Japan, he drank too much. He loved to be the center of attention, and had a hard time when he wasn't. And he very much wanted to have a lot of dojos under him in his association, and I couldn't understand why that was so important to him. But for all of that he was one of the kindest people I have ever known. He knew his aikido was better than the vast majority, but he never thought that made him a better person than anyone else. I never saw him talk down to anyone, or treat anyone as less than an equal to him. His students were his friends, and really, his family too. I was with him in Venezuela as his attendant one year, and we were at the airport with a few of the Venezuelan aikidoists, and he was explaining what he thought Aikido was all about. He said Aikido was about having good relationships and friendships with people, and he looked over at me and said to the group, " You know, Peter's my student, but he is also my friend, and that's how I should regard him, and that's Aikido."

Kato Sensei told us that when O Sensei died, Kato Sensei felt that he didn't have any guidance anymore, and that it was now up to him to try and figure out what aikido was, and though he lamented that he felt he only understood a fraction of what O Sensei was doing, that is what he was trying to do. I am already missing the guidance that Kato Sensei gave me, but I am missing my friend Kato Sensei more. I love you Kato Sensei, rest in peace.

Peter Ralls


Re: It had to be felt # 31; Kato Hiroshi Sensei
That said it all. Thanks Peter. As I consider Sensei's departure, I realize now how big his presence was in my life. He had a subtle presence that was always filling all the space in the room. It was pleasant, gentle, friendly and yet commanding. When I realized he was gone, that space seemed really empty. Those of you who knew him longer have a real challenge as we all do, to a lesser extent, in finding the way to negotiate that vacuum. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.

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