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News from the Sensei : About our Instructors
Posted by JGarcia on 2011/12/7 15:34:46 (58600 reads)

Shudokan former Master Instructor (Deceased) - 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.


Shudokan School of Aikido Chief Instructor - Jorge Garcia, 5th Degree Black Belt

Jorge Garcia began his practice of Aikido in 1995 at the Corpus Christi Aikikai under Sensei Eddie Martinez in the Midwest Aikido Federation led by Akira Tohei Shihan, 8th Dan. Jorge was privileged to train in seminars under Tohei Sensei and was received his early kyu rankings directly from him. In 1998, the Garcia's moved to Houston,Texas where Jorge first attended a seminar taught by Hiroshi Kato Shihan. After experiencing Kato Sensei's powerful Aikido, Jorge decided to dedicate himself to Kato Shihan's teachings and he continued to train under Kato Shihan's supervision since.

In January of 2004, Jorge received permission from Kato Shihan to establish the Shudokan School of Aikido and Kato Shihan personally approved the name "Shudokan" for our dojo. In the same year, Jorge founded the Shudokan Aikido Association as an organization through which other dojos could join in order to pursue Kato Sensei's teachings.

In February of 2005, at the invitation of Dojo-cho Michael Wise, Jorge began teaching Aikido at the Shindokan dojo in west Houston. This dojo became a satellite dojo of the Shudokan School of Aikido and it eventually merged with the Shudokan School of Aikido to make one dojo out of the two.

In the spring of 2005, Jorge also began studying Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido in the Houston San Shin Kai with Craig Hocker Sensei. The Houston San Shin Kai is under the auspices of the North American San Shin Kai directed by Shihan Roger Wehrhahn who was under the guidance of the late Grandmaster Takeshi Mitsuzuka of the San Shin Kai of Tokyo, Japan.
Jorge no longer trains in Muso Shinden Ryu Iaido officially but continues training what he learned in this art privately.

In May of 2007, Jorge resigned his "day job" as a school teacher and became a full time Aikido Instructor.

In November of 2008, Jorge found a new location in West Houston for the dojo and he moved his Aikido group to the current Kieth Harrow location. It is in this new location that the dojo began anew with a different class schedule, new Kids program and daily philosophy study along with vigorous training in Aikido thus ushering in a new day for the Shudokan School of Aikido in Houston. This Aikido group now has its own location, secure in its pursuit of Aikido in the future. After 6 years at the new location, the dojo has grown an average of 100 students and is on its way to becoming one of the premier dojos in the Houston area.

Since 1998, Jorge has been privileged to have studied in 42 seminars led by Kato Shihan, each ranging from 10 days and up to 29 days at a time. In total, Jorge has attended over 70 Aikido training seminars, all with master level instructors and in the last decade, he has trained in seminars with most of the leading instructors of the art in this country.

On March 19, 2009, the Shudokan Aikido Association met for their 5th Anniversary dinner in Houston, Texas. At that dinner, Jorge was presented a special black belt by Yasuhiro Sakahara that had the words "Shudokan" on one side and on the other side, the words "Garcia Kansho". Jorge was deeply honored by this special gift. That weekend, the Shudokan Aikido Association received Hiroshi Kato in seminar in Houston, Texas for the 8th time. At this seminar, Jorge was tested by Hiroshi Kato Shihan and was awarded the 4th degree black belt in Aikido. Jorge has received his 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th degree black belts directly from Hiroshi Kato Shihan.

Sadly, Hiroshi Kato Shihan passed away on December 2, 2012. One of his collogues, Seiji Ido, 7th dan took the responsibility of making the annual visits from Japan to Houston, in Kato Sensei's place, in order to continue teaching the members of the Shudokan Aikido Association in Kato Sensei's tradition.

In the Fall of 2014, Seiji Ido, Shihan-dai recommended that Jorge be promoted to the 5th degree black belt in Aikido. On January 11, 2015, Jorge's promotion to 5th dan was granted by Moriteru Ueshiba, the world leader of Aikido, at the Kagami Biraki gathering of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan.

Still in pursuit of Kato Sensei's teachings, Jorge trains every day of the week and does advanced training with his senior students while he endeavors to present the basics of Kato Sensei's Aikido to all of the students of the Shudokan Aikido Association, who are traveling on this path along with him.


Shudokan School of Aikido Assistant Instructor - Joe Cavazos, 4th Degree Black Belt

Joe started Aikido in April of 1991 under Bill Sosa Sensei, 6th dan and trained under him for a number of years. For many years, he also was active in his study of Aikido by attending many seminars from other styles other than his own. After Sosa Sensei's death, Joe continued his training under Lynn Fabia Sensei in a new organization called the Society of Aikido Centers. In 2005, Joe was granted the 4th dan by the SAC.

Eventually, after leaving that group, Joe sought the help of Jorge Garcia Sensei, and he was introduced to Shihan Hiroshi Kato and petitioned to become a personal student of his.

In 2007, Joe was able to join the Aikikai with the help of Hiroshi Kato Sensei and after some time passed, he was started off in his new home by being awarded the rank of 2nd dan Aikikai directly by Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba, as per Kato Shihan's recommendation.

In October of 2010, Joe received notice from Japan of the approval of Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba (upon Kato Sensei's special recommendation) that he was being advanced to the 3rd degree black belt.

In May of 2014, Joe Cavazos Sensei took his exam for 4th degree black belt under Shihan-dai Seiji Ido, 7th dan of the Suginami Aikikai. The exam was grueling and long, lasting more than an hour. The exam was well received and praised by all as a very impressive display of his Aikido knowledge and skill.

Joe Sensei is also the founder and Chief Instructor of the Aikido Center of Mission, Texas. He is also now one of the two Regional Directors of the South Texas-Mexico Region of the Shudokan Aikido Association which has 8 dojos in South Texas and Northern Mexico. He is also serving as an Assistant Instructor at the Shudokan School of Aikido in Houston.

Joe teaches adult classes in the dojo every week and does his personal training on other days.

Joe Cavazos Sensei is Vice President of the Shudokan Aikdo Association. As Vice President, Joe assists Garcia Sensei with his advice and support in the administration of Shudokan Aikido Association activities.


Shudokan Assistant Instructor - Debbie Chambers, 3rd Degree Black Belt

Debbie Chambers started Aikido in 1995 in Corpus Christi, Texas. While there, she trained in all aspects of the art, attended seminars under Akira Tohei and helped host and plan the some of the final Tohei seminars in Corpus Christi, Texas before his death. After moving to Houston in 1998, she trained under Tom Oreck Sensei and Rick Laue Sensei in the Tumbleweed Aikikai. She also briefly trained under Nelson Andujar Sensei in the Nations Aikikai and finished her Houston training at a local dojo, which was then affiliated with Hiroshi Kato Sensei, until August of 2000.

Debbie then left Houston to attend a university on the east coast where she earned her bachelors degree. She went on to graduate school where she earned her masters degree as well. After marrying and having her first child, she returned to the Houston area after a 10 year absence and joined the Hiroshi Kato Juku where she began training 5 days a week for over a year. In April of 2013, she took her Shodan exam and afterwards was appointed as the Children's Instructor.

Since then, Debbie has taken the lead to work with the kids and she uses her extensive skill as a manager to organize and operate the kids' program and she does so in an excellent way.

Debbie has made a remarkable comeback and has rehearsed and reviewed all aspects of Aikido since her absence from the art. Since April of 2012, she has learned all 4 levels of Kato Sensei's weapons system and on September the 20, 2015, she sustained her 2nd degree black belt under Seiji Ido, 7th dan from the Suginami Aikikai, Tokyo, Japan.

Debbie is now Assistant Dojo cho (Dojo Director) and is in training to run the dojo in the absence of Garcia Sensei during the times he has to travel to promote Aikido or work on other projects that he is managing .

Debbie took her 3rd degree black belt exam in October of 2018 under Shinjiro Yokoyama, 6th dan and she sustained the exam and was promoted.

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