Recommended reading: “Interview With Mitsunari Kanai Sensei (2)”

The interview below with the late Mitsunari Kanai Sensei of Boston has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

[O-Sensei] would throw the uchideshi, (live-in disciples), with very little in the way of explanation and we would grasp what we could of the feeling of the technique while we were flying through the air. We were budo people, so I think that’s the way it should be. Without trying to keep everything very rigid in our minds, like “1 plus 1 is 2”, we learned and progressed on our own by being thrown by the master and feeling his technique. Then we’d throw our partner with that same feeling. That’s how it should be, I think.

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  1. Aikido as a post-graduate education. And, in the day, there were no beginners in class. Everybody came from somewhere else on recommendation. I’m told that Saito Sensei was given an ‘entrance exam’ and required to show what he knew. After WWII the old system was in abeyance because of Occupation rules. Now that we take beginners, am grateful for the basic material that Saito Sensei preserved.

  2. From Aiki-Web….

    Shany Golan wrote: View Post
    The only training you need is going out to bars and pick up fights, 5 days a week. That’s the only way to know if YOUR Aikido works.
    Reminds me of a story I was told about my first sensei, Mitsunari Kanai, when he was uchi deshi for OSensei.

    Story has it Kanai went out one night for the sole purpose of seeing if his techniques were effective in a real fight. Picking a bar which was primarily frequented by American G.I.’s and which had a reputation as being a very tough place where Japanese were not welcome seemed to be just the place he was looking for.
    Once inside, Kanai stood having a drink by himself and was soon approached by a G.I. twice his size who told him to get the hell out and told him he wasn’t welcome there. Kanai chose to ignore this which resulted in the demand being shouted in his face again and louder, and then came a shove from the guy (not a punch, but a shove). Kanai just took another sip and ignored the fellow. This, if the story is correct, was followed again by another verbal demand to leave and another shove–both of which also were ignored by Kanai. At this point the G.I. was livid and charged Kanai to shove him even more forcefully which Kanai responded to and effectively put the G.I. down on the floor in such a way that the incident was ended. Thus completing the test he had hoped to perform.

    The next day someone told OSensei about what had happened at the bar so he called Kanai over for a talk. The story has it that OSensei spoke to Kanai quietly and without any anger saying only, “Even after all your training you still don’t know how to get out of the way”.

    End of story

  3. I recall when Kanai Sensei came to teach in Monterey in 1974 at the United Energy Center, I felt very fortunate to have been in the two weeks worth of classes with this great master. Katuaki Terrasawa was my partner for a hip throw Kanai was teaching during the class, and he was translating what Sensei was telling me about the part the uke played in this particular technique. Kanai Sensei must have thrown me about 20 times and I’ll never forget what it felt like to grab his wrist and all of the sudden find myself on the mat looking up. You could not feel any muscle movement, his wrist was as supple as a new born babe’s would be. Even though I had been flying over his back I never once touched his back. Katchan told me that Kanai has been trying to get across to me that you learn Aikido by being the uke, and naturally the movements are transfered from nage to uke, and this was how he had learned from O’Sensei. Years later while I was teaching a class in Montana, I was showing that same hip throw and it really struck me when one of the students I had been demonstrating on came to me after the class was finished and told me that she had trained in Boston for many years with Kanai and that the throw I taught that day felt exactly like how Kanai’s hip throw felt. She did not know that twenty years earlier I had been thrown 20 times by Kanai Sensei with that very throw. I then understood what he had taught me in that class those many years ago and I really felt connected with O’Sensei who had thrown Kanai who had thrown me. Aikido is transfered from teacher to student directly through the act of doing. A very valuable lesson I still recall almost forty years later.

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