Frager Sensei, a friend and student of Kato Sensei’s for many years from when they were introduced before a class at Hombu Dojo, remarked before we bowed in that this was probably the saddest class for him, ever. For those attending, this statement summed up what everyone was feeling.
I walked down the hall before the training began and looking in the dojo’s door near the front thought I saw Kato Sensei for moment sitting there on the floor doing his usual warm-ups with his legs stretched out. Then I realized he wasn’t there. It took me a second to realize that indeed he wasn’t there. I was just so used to seeing him there, doing his ritual before class I just expected he’d be there. Or, maybe I did see him for a moment?
The class emphasized the core principles that Kato Sensei taught in his workshops at the Sofia Dojo in Palo Alto. The one this writer always remembers and is working on is that of bringing both hands into play with every technique.
And Kato Sensei emphasized time and time again that the hands must be in a koku position. I experienced this first hand the first time Kato Sensei threw me. We were in seza position and I grabbed him and the next thing I knew I was almost flying.
In an interview with Kato Sensei titled “Profile of a Master,” done by the editor fro “Aikido Tankyu” magazine and translated by Takanari Tajiri, Ph.D. of Sofia University, in response to the interviewer asking Kato Sensei if he had “any last words of advice,” he replied:
“…practicing Aikido is to keep believing in and searching for something. Aikido, in the end, is belief. It is not a religion. But while you practice it, you gain strength in that type of awareness. I believe in the founder an his words. Still now, he lives in me. If I keep practicing Aikido with that attitude, it naturally fosters spirituality in Aikido. If it weren’t there, it would end up only at the level of physical strength.
“I feel it is important to practice it peacefully, without fighting each other. Also, I do not like of the concept on instructing others in what to do. I am very adamant about that (smile). For me, rather than teaching, I think practice is the place to begin by oneself and with comradeship. Let us practice together.”
What was evident is that we have this incredible legacy from this wonderful man and teacher. And fortunately many hours of his workshops and classes were videotaped and there, for future reference for all.
Sofia University is in the process of setting up a permanent Aikido Center that will be named after Kato Sensei. As soon as more information is available, I’ll make it available here along with information about the various programs and offering that will be happening through the Center.
For those of you who are interested, Kato Sensei’s insights into the Founder’s Art will continue after the first of the year when Frager Sensei’s Monday night classes resume at the Sofia University dojo.
All martial artists are welcome regardless of association or affiliation. The class time each Monday is 6:00 – 7:30 PM.
And thank you Kato Sensei, for the gifts you have given us all—the gifts of yourself, your love of Aikido, your humor, you patience and your love of life.