“Historical photo: Sadateru Arikawa, 8th dan, in action… mind blowing!”, by Stanley Pranin

“I really don’t know what to do about all of these tapes. Historically, they are very important and contain a lot of ‘bombshells!’”

Let me start out by saying that technical photographs of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei are very rare. It’s ironic because he filmed and videotaped virtually every important aikido figure repeatedly during his long career. His collection of aikido and martial arts documents is legendary.

I had the “fearful” pleasure of meeting him in 1969 when I first went to Japan to train at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. But our real interaction began in the late 1970s when I moved to Japan, and lasted until shortly before his death in October 2003.

Arikawa Sensei was very interested in what I was doing research-wise. Who did I meet? What did they say about this or that? Did I get any interesting documents? He visited me many times in Iwama and Tokyo, always privately for lengthy talks. He loved doing this, and so did I. He would walk into my apartment where I had many books and videotapes on shelves. He would scan my collection, and say, “That’s new. Show it to me. Koopi chodai! (make me a copy).” He was a real character!

Arikawa Sensei was also THE world authority on all things aikido-related. He knew a great deal about Daito-ryu as well, and would chum around with Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei just like he did with me. He was a walking encyclopedia about every aspect of budo and its history.

He was difficult to understand when he spoke because he had a whispery, hoarse voice due to an injury he suffered as a boy. Many people avoided him because of this since it was so hard to understand what he was saying, and he loved to talk and talk!

Almost every time I met him, I would tape-record the conversation. Sometimes he would make me turn off the recorder when the conversation jumped to a sensitive topic. I was always trying to turn it back on! Eventually, he would get so involved in what he was saying that he would forget about it. I really don’t know what to do about all of these tapes. Historically, they are very important and contain a lot of “bombshells!” Yet another project awaiting.

I could go on and on about him because he was such a man of contradictions. He once injured me quite severely so that I couldn’t train for several months. Still he came to see me, but I never let him touch me on the mat after that.

Arikawa Sensei was a very suspicious person. He once told me that he was a “spy” for the Hombu Dojo to keep tabs on what I was doing. He attended all of the Aiki News-sponsored Friendship Demonstrations of the 1980s, but would sit in the back of the auditorium. But I really didn’t care. In his own way, he showed a lot of affection toward me, and I genuinely loved the man.

I believe that Peter Goldsbury and I were the last ones to visit him in the hospital when he lay near death. He was by himself when he expired. Someday, I will write what I know about him after I have had an opportunity to review the tape-recordings.

In any event, take a look at this photo. Have you ever seen anything like it in aikido? Look at how he is using his leg as part of a Daito-ryu pin! He was always secretly studying Sokaku Takeda’s art. We have a wonderful heritage to protect. Join me in bringing as many of these treasures as possible to light. Believe me, your role is very important!


  1. Nicolas noe says:

    brilliantly inventive.

  2. Basil Rozells says:

    Arikawa Sensei is showing a very unusual technique, using his foot. These days, they use those techniques quite alot. He must be an amazing man. I always learn by watching how others move & plagarise into my repertoire. Stan, you must have really enjoyed yourself, meeting these unique humans. At the moment, Saito Sensei & krav maga intrique me.

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