In Memory of Yukio Kawahara Shihan

August 14, 1940 - June 2, 2011

Kawahara Sensei

Yukio Kawahara Shihan, 8th dan, was born on August 14, 1940, in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan. He began his Aikido training at the age of 17 in Osaka, and was uchideshi under Bansen Tanaka Shihan, an early disciple of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Kawahara Sensei was an assistant instructor at Osaka Aikikai from 1961 to 1972 and became one of the senior disciples of Bansen Tanaka Shihan. He was dispatched by Tanaka Shihan to Taiwan in 1972 and served as resident instructor at Taiwan Aikikai through 1973. In 1973 he returned to Osaka Aikikai where he became assistant instructor under Bansen Tanaka Shihan. Kawahara Sensei also taught at various university Aikido dojo in the Kansai area of Japan and served as Shihan at Okayama Aikikai from 1975-1976.

Kawahara Sensei moved to Montreal, Canada in 1975 at the invitation of F.I. Ishiyama Sensei. In 1977, he was promoted to the rank of 6th dan and Shihan and relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, to become the official representative in Canada of Aikikai Hombu Dojo, the Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan.

Kawahara Shihan was the Technical Director of the Canadian Aikido Federation and the British Columbia Aikido Federation, as well as a member of the North American Shihankai, a group of Hombu-dispatched Shihan to North America, consisting of: Y. Yamada, A. Tohei, T.K. Chiba, M. Kanai, S. Sugano, Y. Kawahara, Y. Kurita, and I. Shibata and also N. Tamura in Europe.

Kawahara Shihan travelled extensively, teaching Aikido throughout Canada, the United States, Mexico, Japan and Europe. He was known for a traditional approach to Aikido and his powerful technique. His teaching approach placed great emphasis on basic technique, correct posture, precision and accuracy in training. He held the rank of 8th Dan and the designation of Shihan from Aikikai Hombu Dojo.

Kawahara Shihan passed away peacefully in Victoria, British Columbia, on June 2, 2011, after battling liver cancer. He dedicated his life to Aikido and was held in great respect and affection by all who knew him. He will be deeply missed in the Aikido community.

"Preserving Authenticity in Aikido Training."

by Yukio Kawahara Shihan, 8th Dan"

This article was first published in the Fall 1985 issue of "Aikido Forum", a journal published by Victoria Aikikai.

The martial arts are a way of facilitating spiritual growth through training in martial techniques. Bujutsu or martial discipline is a physical education as a guide to the Way of Being. However, the traditional Japanese martial training developed out of the need for self-protection and overcoming the opponent. In this respect, I have a concern about Aikido students' attitudes toward martial training. I get the impression that some people neglect the martial aspect of the art and get carried away with the philosophical aspect. Without understanding the martial spirit inherent in martial training, some create a pseudo-martial art by simply seeking a feeling of harmony. However, you cannot dilute or disregard the strictly martial side of Aikido, including the manners by which you relate to your instructor and fellow practitioners.

Therefore, I wish to remind students of some basic manners on and off the mat, such as the following:

  1. Show respect to the instructor and senior practitioners. Some people seem to believe they are entitled to practice in their own way as long as they pay their fees. They forget that they are at the dojo in order to be trained.
  2. When visiting another dojo, introduce yourself and obtain permission from the instructor. Do not assume that permission will be granted automatically. The manner of presenting yourself to another martial artist must embody your utmost sensitivity to a potential life-or-death confrontation.
  3. Respect those with higher ranks even off the mat. Honour their expertise and accomplishments with respect, and try to learn from them as much as you can whenever you are with them. Similarly, do not treat teachers like buddies or peers and lose manners.
  4. Follow the instructor's directions during training. Do not engage yourself in unassigned instructions, personally modified (wrong) techniques, and verbal or physical conflicts with other practitioners. Do not step on or leave the mat without the instructor's permission during class.

I want to ask local instructors to train their students carefully in these manners, and to strive to maintain the order and unity of the dojo.

There are places where people unquestioningly practice pseudo-Aikido which is useless as a martial art. I think there are problems with the way Aikido is interpreted and practiced. If local instructors were conscientious and respectful enough toward Aikido as a strict martial art, they would be more careful about when and whether or not to start their own clubs by judging their level of expertise and readiness as a martial arts teacher.

By strict martial arts training, I do not mean rough practice. What is most important is your attitude toward training. You need to constantly ask yourself: What is "budo"? Budo training is a serious business.

Learning a Japanese martial art is, in a way, learning the Japanese culture. Some people disregard or distort this cultural background of Aikido by claiming that this is Canada and they should practice the way they feel like. I wish to suggest that we strive to preserve appropriate manners and seek to promote authentic Aikido as a strong martial art in Canada.

Kawahara Sensei Instructional Video

Winnipeg Aikikai Fall 1986

From the Editor:
This instructional video was shot in the fall of 1986 at a seminar Kawahara Sensei taught at Winnipeg Aikikai. As luck would have it, I happened to be at a work related conference in Winnipeg that week, so I managed to attend the seminar. It was an intense and fun time, as besides practice and being Kawahara Sensei's uke for the video, I also went fishing with him and enjoyed the warm and welcoming camaraderie of Tom Czyczko Sensei and the members of Winnipeg Aikikai, who ensured I sampled generous amounts of beer and bratwurst during the local Oktoberfest celebrations.

Video Part 1
Video Part 2

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