Kato Shihan and Suginami
Itten Suginami is an official branch of the Suginami Aikikai, Tokyo, Japan, which in turn is an official branch of the Aikikai So Hombu (International Headquarters). Suginami Aikikai was founded by Hiroshi Kato Shihan, who began training Aikido in 1954 at the age of 19 under the instruction of the Founder of Aikido, Ueshiba Morihei otherwise known as O-Sensei. Kato Shihan received 6 of his 8 black belts directly from O-Sensei.
Kato Shihan was a wellspring of inspiration to all and a teacher to Alec Corper Sensei, who trained with him in Japan, the US and Europe. Kato Shihan came to the Netherlands on many occasions to give seminars at the Itten Suginami Dojo, where students had the unique opportunity to directly experience his gifted and inspiring instruction.
Similar to O-Sensei, Kato Shihan did not teach according to a curriculum, but rather upheld the understanding that true Budo cannot be learned from other people, but instead has to be discovered and trained by oneself. He said, “Aikido is not something that can be taught, but must be developed with discipline. That is why I started to understand the things O-Sensei said. Things I have learned by myself are not easily forgotten, but things that have been taught by other people, without inquiry within me, and taught in the language like ‘it should be done only in one way, and no other way’ are all forgotten.”
Kato Shihan discouraged the idea of instructing others in what to do, but rather that practice is the place to begin by oneself and with comradeship. “Let us practice together,” he would say.
In describing Aikido, Kato Shihan said, “you can’t just like it, you have to fall in love with it. If you go so far as to fall in love with it, then even when it’s silent you’ll be training. If you like something then when you become exhausted you’ll stop. Of course, it’s tough, when I was young and even now, but even when it was tough it was enjoyable. Even now I enjoy it.”
In Memory Of Hiroshi Kato Shihan (Founder of Suginami Aikikai)
“On the 2nd of December Hiroshi Kato Shihan passed away after a very brief illness.
He had just returned from a series of seminars in Holland, Scotland and the U.S.A.. He kept a very active schedule right up to the last days of his life, spreading his very special aikido, and his vision of what O-Sensei taught. He was amongst the last of a dwindling number of direct students of the Founder.
He was a kind and generous human being as well as being highly skilled. He taught with joy and humour but always with an inner core of true Budo. He was a warrior in the best sense of the word.
It was an honour and a privilege to be associated with this great teacher and we will continue to practise in the spirit of what was given. We shall miss him deeply.”
– Alec Corper, Chief Instructor, Itten Suginami
For further insights please see this interview with Kato Shihan as recorded by Christopher Li: