Contributed by Dan Rubin
Every spring, Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan hosts a weekend seminar at his Boulder Aikikai dojo in Boulder, Colorado, usually inviting a guest instructor to share the teaching duties. This year, Ikeda Sensei invited Katsuhiko Uzawa Sensei as his guest, and Uzawa Sensei taught the entire seminar (Thursday evening through Sunday morning, April 19-22, 2007). Boulder Aikikai student Jun Akiyama served as translator.
Katsuhiko Uzawa Sensei and Ikeda Sensei were school-mates at Kokugakin University in Tokyo in the 1960s. Ikeda Sensei went on to become the student of Mitsugi Saotome Sensei and followed the latter to the United States. Uzawa Sensei stayed in Tokyo and went on to his present position as shihan-dai for the Jyushinkan-ryu Aiki Jujutsu (Sokaku Takeda Daito-ryu). He is also shihan-dai for Mugen Shinto-ryu Iai-jutsu. Over the years, Uzawa Sensei has also studied Ueshiba Aikido and Yagyu Shinkage-ryu Kenjutsu.
Uzawa Sensei taught in a very organized manner. It was obvious that he came to the seminar with a plan. He taught us only a few techniques (although with more than a few applications) and stressed the principles behind them. At the beginning of each segment of the seminar he reviewed what he had taught us thus far, and then built upon that.
The first principle that Uzawa Sensei taught was that of unbalancing uke by moving uke's centerline off his or her base. We practiced this first from seiza with uke's arms extended and knees touching, where nage simply moved uke's elbow to the outside. This caused uke's "central axis," as Uzawa Sensei called it, to move to the outside of uke's narrow base, the legs, and fall. By narrowing uke's base, the effect on uke's central axis was quick and obvious.
Another principle Uzawa Sensei stressed was for nage to draw uke in to the point where uke's weight was slightly resting on nage; that is, to "float" uke over nage to the point where nage was holding uke up. Upon reaching that point, nage drops out from under uke, uke's support suddenly disappears, and uke falls.
Sometimes nage disappeared by moving off uke's line of attack. But Uzawa Sensei spent a lot of time teaching how to pull uke straight down without moving off the line. Of course, "pulling" is not the right word. Instead, Uzawa Sensei taught us how to grasp uke's collar with both hands to take out any slack, then draw uke's weight onto ourselves. At the point where we feel uke's weight on us we drop out from under him.
Uzawa Sensei spent a lot of time teaching us how to keep our backs vertical while we dropped. It seemed to me as if our backs were sliding down a wall. The technique is pretty simple, yet difficult to perform. For it to work, Uzawa Sensei said, we must abandon any intent to affect uke; instead, we must focus on performing our movement without regard to uke. When Uzawa Sensei performed the technique there was no question of its effectiveness. Uke dropped like the proverbial ton of bricks, with a suggestion of whiplash to boot.
Uzawa Sensei made some important points about uke's role. He stressed that uke must perform his or her attack without regard to what nage's technique will be, and that uke must attack in that exact same way every time. If the attack is not accurate and sincere, the technique that nage has been assigned to practice might not be appropriate to what uke has done, and nage's training will be compromised. The same is true if uke changes subsequent attacks in response to nage's technique.
We also practiced some suburi with bokken. Uzawa Sensei emphasized that we should not pull the bokken down, but instead allow the bokken to fall all by itself as we drop our hips.
As Uzawa Sensei did not fly home until later in the week, he was kind enough to teach the regularly-scheduled dojo classes on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Tuesday he reviewed what he had taught during his seminar, and added to it. Wednesday night's class was devoted to iaido; he taught us a several-step iaido kata as he emphasized the relationships between movements with a sword and empty-handed.
Although Ikeda Sensei did not teach, he actively participated in the seminar as a student, working with other students and taking suggestions from Uzawa Sensei as the latter walked around the mat. Uzawa Sensei let Ikeda Sensei feel the techniques just as he did all of the students on the mat. And Uzawa Sensei made a point to giving personal instruction to Jun as the rest of us practiced; often, the translator seems to be forgotten as a teacher gives instruction (through the translator) to everyone else.
In fact, Uzawa Sensei's personal instruction is one of the things that I'll remember most. In class he gave attention to every student of every ability. And at the end of his last class, on Wednesday, he invited everyone to stay late and ask questions; about a dozen students jumped at the chance, and Uzawa Sensei spent about another hour responding to their questions about aikijujutsu and the sword.
Mrs. Uzawa accompanied her husband on this trip to the United States, and while she did not participate in the seminar she watched from the side. Although Mrs. Uzawa does not speak English, it was obvious from her always smiling demeanor that she enjoyed her stay, as did we all.