From The Land of The Rising Sun

After accepting an administrative position at a small college in Nagoya, I found myself living virtually next door to the dojo. I clearly remember hearing these odd slapping and banging sounds as I was finding my way around my neighborhood the day after in arrived in Japan, May 11, 2002.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Joe J.

I took a short walk around the neighborhood and quickly realized that the noise was coming from the dojo.  Now, of course, I had heard of aikido; however, everything I had seen on the Internet and read online and learned through various other media lead me to believe that aikido was merely dojo dancing with little realism or practical (martial) application in the real world.  Still, there was elegance to what I witnessed through the windows of the dojo that fortuitous first Saturday evening.

Unfortunately, because of an extremely hectic work schedule and a tremendous lack of self confidence in my Japanese language skills and cultural understanding, I was reluctant to even enter the dojo to observe a class.  I was content to watch the action from outside the dojo and mimic the movements I was observing.  I must admit that I was genuinely spying on Sensei and my future dojo-mates and what I saw those first months of undercover surveillance changed my life.  The effortlessness of Sensei's movements, the economy of Sensei's technique and the smiles on the faces of his uke forced me to revisit my earlier notions of what aikido was. Now, I must also admit that I did indeed visit several other dojo around Nagoya before finally finding the nerve to walk through the doors of the Kokikai world headquarters.  What I saw at these other dojo was, sadly, junk.  I knew that what I was watching through the windows in the darkness on those late spring evenings was something truly special...and that something special was Sensei!  On Monday night, July 22, 2002, I found the guts to walk through the dojo doors only to learn that Sensei was in The States for Summer Camp!  I was disappointed, to say the least; however, once Sensei returned, he proved to be even more incredible, more magical that I could have ever imagined.  And I have never looked back; I have been with him ever since.

Sensei had never failed to astonish or overwhelm me with his power in my first 2 years in Kokikai but in May 2004 I was completely, utterly and totally blown away.  As most of you know, the first international Kokikai convention took place in Nagoya in May, 2004.  It was such an amazing event!  Sensei's highest ranking and most dedicated students from The United States, Australia and Canada came to the event.  There was no shortage of talent and expertise but watching Sensei throw so many big, strong men (Dave Comi, Glenn Needs, Gary Snyder, Dave Nachman, Dan McDougall, Mike Sinagra and many others) made such an unbelievable impression on my and the other Japanese.  I decided then and there to dedicate myself to Sensei's teachings and follow him on the Kokikai path.  I have been fortunate to participate in several Fall Camps and all three international conventions.  I also have the honor and privilege of hosting many of Kokikai's finest students and teacher and, consequently, my appreciation of Sensei's art deepens with each passing day.

What Sensei does on the mat is the physical manifestation of his teachings and our Kokikai principles:

  • minimum effort/maximum effect‚
  • catch the correct feeling,
  • "If Sensei can do it, you can do it",keep one point to develop calmness,
  • relax progressively,
  • find correct posture in everything,
  • develop your positive mind,
  • nurture common sense in all that you do,
  • have dreams and the strength to achieve them,
  • help one another to reach your full potential,
  • and never stop growing and challenging yourself.

Kokikai aikido is real.  What Sensei does is real.  Beyond the corporeal application of technique is the integration of the mind and the body.  Sensei is proof of this.  Sensei has proven -over countless occasions - that the seemingly impossible is, indeed, possible.  We can all do it!  We have to follow Sensei example and strive to apply Kokikai's principles in our everyday lives.  Let's help each other achieve Sensei's reality.

As always, my home is open to all Kokikai member and I strongly encourage anyone who is interested, please come to Nagoya and experience Sensei in Japan.

Thank you very much.

Joseph Pielech
Shushinkan Dojo
Nagoya, Japan