Aikido Hashimoto dojo in Hashimoto,Sagamihara-shi,Kanagawa
pref.Everyday many members sweat and train at this residential
area dojo.The instructor of this group of students is Kazuo Igarashi,7th
dan.As a deshi of Kobayashi shihan,he now travels the world teaching
Aikido.We have asked Igarashi shihan the following about his Aikido
A Retiring Childhood Disposition
Aiki News:Kobayashi Shihan had trained Igarashi
Shihan since he was a university student.After that,Igarashi Shihan
worked for Kobayashi sensei as an instructor for a long period
I heard you came from Niigata Prefecture,is this correct?
was born in Mikawa-mura Higashi Kanbara-gun Niigata prefecture,which
is near the border of Fukushima Prefecture.I lived there until
I was 4 years old. The neighboring village to mine is Tsugawa,which
is where Shiro Saigo (Judo ka) was born. I was born in 1946 right
after the Second World War.During my childhood I moved frequently
as my father worked for a life insurance company.Since I was 5
years old,the longest period we stayed in one place was 2-3 years;the
shortest period was 6 months.During elementary school we moved
three times,and in junior high we moved three times.With every
move I had to transfer to a new school.During Elementary school
I was in Niigata.Junior high was in Sapporo,Hokkaido.
Do you think I was a good skier because I grew up in a snowy country?
I was living in Takada,Jo etsu city around my third year of elementary
school.Takada is where skiing originated in Japan.In my physical
education classes in the winter,we skied from the top of the mountain.In
my generation we wore long rubber boots that were tied to the
skis.It didn't look good.
At an early age moving was okay,but as I got older changing schools
many times made it difficult to make friends.As a result I kept
to myself,keeping only a few close friends throughout junior high.
Aiki News:So you started martial arts.The
martial art wasn't Aikido ;it was Judo,is this correct?
I entered Tsurumi High school in Yokohama,I was shy,and wanted
to change my personality.That's why I started Judo.Until then
I wasn't doing much sport activities and was an especially poor
player in ball sports.That's why I chose Judo.I received Sho-Dan
in Judo in three years
There was hilly Mitsuike Park behind the school and running was
part of our training.It was so hard.In my case,I had a small body
being only 160 cm tall and 50 kg in weight.That's why I couldn't
compete right away.Because of Judo my attitude changed from being
shy to becoming more outgoing and confident.Judo was fun and yet
the training was hard.It was a good experience to learn other
martial arts,other than Aikido.
Encounter with Aikido
Aiki News:Did you go to Meiji University?
in April 1964.I entered the faculty of politics and economics.I
saw Aikido for the first time at the University.Although I graduated
from the faculty,I proclaim I actually graduated from the Meiji
University Aikido club and not as a political and economics graduate
of the Meiji University. (Laughing)
There was an Aikido club around 1955 at the university,which Kobayashi
Sensei established when he was a university student.I didn't know
about Aikido until I completed high school.At that time Aikido
was not a popular martial art.I didn't see any publication of
Aikido,but maybe there were some.The first time I saw Aikido was
during a beginner's introduction demonstration of Karate Shorinji
Kempo and Aikido.That was when Aikido attracted my heart.
Aiki News:Is it true that Kobayashi sensei
was an instructor at Meiji University when he was younger?
Kobayashi sensei was exactly 10 years older than me with plenty
of energy.Though he was young he was not filled with aggression.But
after talking to his students of many years, they say that he
use to be very aggressive and rough.Anyway,I trained 6 days a
week excluding Sunday for 2 intense hours a day.The hierarchy
between the teacher and students were very strict.
Aiki News: What aspect of Aikido attracted
instance, in Judo a person who is small will never win against
someone who is larger.However,in Aikido there was more to it than
the size of your body.Looking at Kobayashi sensei and myself,we
are both small individuals.Not only was Kobayashi sensei small,instructors
such as Tohei Koichi sensei and Ueshiba Kisshomaru sensei and
other sensei's at the time were small as well.While their body
structure was small,when they wore their Aikido gi they appeared
larger than they really were.Sensei's who were my size were actively
involved which impressed me.Another aspect that attracted me to
Aikido was that there were no competitions whereas Judo competed.If
there was one word to describe Aikido it would be ¡Èfun¡É. I was
interested in how to create,grasp, and use Ki.Aikido has mysticism
that Judo does not posses,which drew me into it. When I was a
student I had the opportunity to attend class where there were
several sensei's.Now many of these sensei's have dispersed to
many countries around the world. Prior to attending Meiji University,there
was a senior student,Asai sensei, who has committed himself to
teach Aikido in Germany full time. He was 4 years ahead of me
so as I entered, he graduated. We just missed each other.
Aiki News:Was O¡Çsensei (founder Morihei
Ueshiba) still alive back then?
have seen him several times while was training.I thought Waka
sensei (former doushu) was incredible,but O'sensei,I thought was
beyond belief.I thought he was a God;he had a Godly presence around
him.Whenever O'sensei entered the dojo,you would hear someone
yell,¡Èstop¡É and clap their hands, then the students would seiza
and welcome him.In front of us,he would throw the uchideshi (resident
student) and then tell us philosophical stories.
Aiki News:Have you ever been thrown by O'sensei?
I haven't,it is really unfortunate.If I had known I would be doing
this as a career I would have taken the initiative to be thrown
even if it meant forcing myself upon him.
Are you asking me about his techniques?
His movements were performed in a way that seemed as though there
was no contact when they were thrown like iriminage.It was unusual
to see teachers who threw me,being thrown by him.
Aiki News:Do you have any other memories
of when you were a student attending the Aikido Club?
remember the Aikido camps,which were tough but exciting.Half of
the time at these camps was spent weight training and running.They
did this to weed out some of the students because the class sizes
were too large.
How about the demonstrations at the University?Often at demonstrations
I used a real sword to show the technique of tachidori.It gives
me the shivers after thinking about it.Today I wouldn't even consider
doing that.It's way too scary.It's nice to be young and fearless.
In my third year of University I started to train in Iaido and
Jodo at a near by university.After taking Judo and several other
martial arts I understood the greatness of Aikido.
Living at Kobayashi Dojo
Aiki News:So you started working after University?
started to work as an editor for a publishing company that specialized
in topics related to engineering.In the mid 60's the growing economy
forced me to work day and night making it impossible to practice
Aikido for a while.I would attend special events at the dojo like
etsunen geiko (year end training).After five years of working,I
started to wonder if this lifestyle was right for me.I was so
caught up in working that I didn¡Çt have any free time.I knew this
was not right for me, since I was still young and needed to explore
new things.As a result I quit my job and decided to pursue Aikido
in a more serious sense.I then pleaded to Kobayashi sensei at
the Tokorozawa Dojo opening banquet to allow me to become a student
Aiki News:So an Uchideshi?
freeloader (laughing).After working for five years I had saved
enough to enjoy myself for at least two years without working,so
I asked Kobayashi sensei to accept me into his dojo.Tokorozawa
Dojo opened in November of 1972,and I was planning on living there.However,I
was given an opportunity to stay at Kodaira Dojo where Kobayashi
sensei resided instead.I moved in January 1 of 1973.Of course
I paid for my living and training expenses.
Young students today often come and ask me how much I was paid,and
how much they will get paid to become an Uchideshi.They are often
shocked to hear that students pay the sensei.
The publishing company I worked for allowed me to work anytime
I was free;which gave me the opportunity to work during the day
and return to the dojo in the evening.
In 1973,Bruce Lee released a blockbuster movie that led to a boom
in martial arts.Sensei's were extremely busy;and as result I was
confronted by Kobayashi sensei and asked,¡ÉWhat do you want to
do?Do you want to become a professional instructor?¡É I was put
in a situation where I could take this on as a career,but I was
still unsure about the security of this job so I attended an acupuncture
school as a back up plan.In three years I received my acupuncture
license,and to this day I have yet to use it, but I feel it benefited
me.Pressure points and meridians that I learned could be used
in Aikido. As Kobayashi Dojo expanded to different areas, I started
to teach.The experience I had living with Kobayashi sensei doing
things together like eating,drinking, taking baths,and talking
to him until the early mornings was a great.
Kobayashi sensei said that with every meal came alcoholic drinks.I'm
sure I was a burden on Kobayashi sensei's wife.This lifestyle
continued until I got married in 1976.
Instructing in Europe
Aiki News:So in 1978 you taught in Europe?
Igarashi:Yes,Toshikazu Ichimura Sensei
invited me to teach in Sweden,Finland,and surrounding Scandinavian
countries.Before leaving Japan,Kobayashi sensei gave me advice
on how to relax when teaching for the first time in another country.His
suggestion was to first seiza, bow and then look at the face of
each student from one end of the room to other.I was also told
to begin class with suwari waza to ushiro waza.I found that what
he told me was great advice and really works.At first when the
students were sitting I didn't realize how big everyone was until
they stood up and I couldn't see the back wall.I thought I was
in trouble,(Laugh) and understood the reason why I was told to
start with suwari waza.I found that foreign students were very
serious and respectful.They were really enthusiastic and I noticed
that the students were well educated about Aikido and O'sensei.I
returned to Japan after traveling the Scandinavian countries for
Aiki News:Did you notice any difference
when you returned to Japan?
my confidence and I was also told my teaching had improved.Since
I couldn't communicate well with my broken English I had to find
a different way of teaching using gestures and actions.I think
my teaching improved because I had to think of ways people would
understand better.Kobayashi sensei also has a very proper teaching
style and even now each year I travel to Scandinavian countries
twice a year.
I am who I am because of Aikido
Aiki news:Thank you for offering your time.I'd
like to ask you one final question,What benefits have you had
benefits?Who I am now is because of Aikido.I had no intentions
of becoming an instructor but after dragging on for many years
in 1983 I opened my own dojo.I feel I didn't put too much effort
into becoming who I am today,but everything has worked out perfectly.To
this day I still travel to Scandinavia,Australia,Canada,etc.,but
being 54 years old,traveling has taken a toll on my body and I
was considering lessening it.I was told by Asai sensei that it
is a privilege to be invited,that if I was disliked by others,I
wouldn't get invited anymore.I continue to put my effort into
teaching because I still have to teach in other countries.If I
had nothing to teach the students,I would feel insecure,so I also
practice.Until I am told that I have nothing more to offer,I will
continue to work.