AHAN, Homma Sensei and the Garden at Okaeri dojo.

October 7-9, 2004

By Luc Leoni Sensei

There are moments like this. It is all. You can think about literature, philosophy or sculpture, but being close to creation is something else. What is it?

Maybe some moments you dream about, or perhaps are just flashes that came because somewhere a connection was made.

The power makes it all, the force create antagonisms. Gravity is power. You can’t describe it, it is just here when you realize it. When you don’t, it is still here.
Homma Sensei embodies this power. In the middle all the time, all the time conscious.

Whatever it is, is always surprising, such clear and simple solutions.

Solutions we all understand. It is like reading a book and each line is a description of yourself.

So we can talk about the seminar Sensei did in Rio de Janeiro, we can talk about the Japanese Garden we did under Sensei’s direction, we can also talk about humanitarian projects.

Yes we can talk.

But doing, yes doing that is the secret. Like the search of constant perfection, constant awareness, how can you talk about it?

It is best to just respect it. Respect this gift, and try to understand it.

A few persons in the world are so in touch with universal mind.

It is always a challenge to describe beauty.

I have to confess, I feel weak in describing happiness, love and human sense.
We could put some pictures in of what we did. The question is do we need to prove what we have done all the time?

Please don´t try to make me prove what love is. It is just too difficult. I have been around the world, it is always the same thing. You can do whatever you want, but being human is the source of human spirit.

Moments, smiles, efforts, joy.

Perfect knowledge of what you do and what you have to do.

Really do you think we can describe such moments?

These are the moments I feel alive. These are the feelings that make me realizing there is something else.

These are the moments where life is true. Do not forget them. They come if you are lucky to be in their path.

Experiencing life with Homma Sensei is a pure joy.

Now for some of the details of the AHAN Aikido seminar and the Japanese garden at Okaeri.

AHAN Awareness and Support Seminar in Rio de Janeiro.

For the 4th time, Homma Sensei conducted a seminar in Rio de Janeiro to support AHAN Rio de Janeiro. The seminar was held at the Urca facility. This facility is in the middle of Rio de Janeiro and respected as the origin of sport spirit in Brazil.

In continuity with Homma Sensei’s teachings, the focus of the seminar was the relation between Aiki techniques and weapons techniques.

At the end of the seminar a ceremony was held to deliver Aikikai Shodan certificates requested by Nippon Kan Brazil supported by Homma Sensei.

This was a special moment, showing the recipients their direct line to Hombu Dojo. The recipients also received a member card of the Aikido Headquarters in Tokyo.
It is important to remember the relationship that Nippon Kan has with Aikikai and other organizations. It is also important to remember that being independent is not being isolated. The recipients were selected and tested in Rio de Janeiro by Nippon Kan Brazil.

At the closing ceremony, Homma Sensei acknowledged AHAN activities in Brazil and worldwide; past, present and future. If you are asking why are we doing this, why are we helping, the question should be why not! Do we have to justify compassion? Helping others is just one of the higher human qualities. If you are asking why should one help others, ask your conscience why not?

In the past, AHAN Rio de Janeiro activities have been focused on helping orphanages, but this year we diversified to show it is always possible to help. Just look around you.

AHAN Rio de Janeiro projects for 2004:

  • Maintain help for the Obra do Barço Orphanage in Rio de Janeiro. (4th year)
  • Helped a young couple to remodel their house to reduce dust allergies for their kids.
  • Helped another orphanage (Lar Amar) to built bathrooms for their kids.
  • Planted trees (120) for future AHAN cultural center in Buzios, Brazil.
  • Convinced local authorities to include social/educative programs in their political programs.

The Japanese Garden for Okaeri dojo.
Homma Sensei had the vision to create a Japanese garden for Okaeri Dojo last year. This time he came to execute his vision. Okaeri dojo was created by Marco and Bernadette under the guidance of Luc Leoni. The name of this dojo was given by Homma Sensei. When I say “the name”, it is better to say “the spirit”. Although we have Okaeri dojo all the energy we had for it to survive, Homma Sensei gave the power of life to Okaeri dojo.

As part of the philosophy of AHAN and Nippon Kan, Aikido needs to be integrated with the community. There are many ways that can be helpful in integrating Aikido concepts beyond the mat.

Practicing Aikido on the mat is important; training is the key of being an Aikidoist. The technique becomes natural and the respiration deeper. But why keep the art only in the dojo? Some can say it is a way to preserve the integrity and essence of Aikido. This may be true, but the song of a bird in a cage can reach only the owner of the cage. Why not open the cage and let the song of the bird blend in harmony with the symphony of the nature and be accessible to all? Is it because the sound is not clear? Is it because we are only secure on the mat? Can we only express our art between walls and closed doors? If so, where is the harmony with the universe that some claim to be the essence of Aikido? Let’s open the door, LET`S BREAK THE WALL and we will see that the technique as no means, it is only one Aikido. Besides the talk, beyond the analogies, we have to show what our practice can do. What can our practice do? We seem to always be trying to convince others how beautiful and powerful Aiki is. We look like newborns, not knowing where to go, or what to do in this different world, a horrible world without Aikido! We forgot. The essence of any act is Aiki. Any action with grace, compassion and spirit cannot be done without Aiki. So is it that we just have to do something, anything? Where? What?

Homma Sensei is always giving new directions and new ideas. This time it was to do a Japanese Garden. As a symbol, as an act that reflects its origin and yet in the future, will be different than any Aiki movement that is limited to a few seconds; a Japanese Garden is only limited to human history. Time is not related anymore to personal concepts. Time after time Japanese gardens in Japan have been kept alive for hundreds of years. Making a Japanese garden is one thing, maintaining it is another!

The project became a challenge at all stages. Finding the equipment, materials…in the middle of the native hills and forests west of Rio de Janeiro, a small village called Santo Aleixo, in the district of Magé was becoming the center of a strange activity. Newcomers and native people lead by Homma Sensei were excavating rocks, breaking walls, moving dirt in a place where only bamboo, local native trees have been forever. First we couldn’t find a bobcat, so we rented a bigger machine from a different company. After waiting two days, one finally showed up.

We had to go for it. The only problem was that the machine didn’t go throught the gate of the property. With the help of the neighbor, we broke a part of the wall between Okaeri and the neighbor ´s property. The machine was heavy; and it entered the property like a monster from a horror movie. The machine was sinking in the mud which had once been a lagoon. Grating everything in its path, we had to pack the earth first before we would be able to do anything.

During this time, Homma Sensei, decided to make a small scale model of the garden to give all of us an idea of what he had in mind. Nobody had done this before, and it was quite helpful. At least we could show all the workers what we wanted to do. Everybody was skeptical looking at the land we had to start with, and what Homma Sensei had in mind to build. The task seemed impossible to many. Nobody believed it could be done, but appropriately soon everyone forgot it was impossible, because it was not.

Watching Homma Sensei make the model of the garden, the local kids begun to make their own. In a place where there is little in the way of toys, no video games, internet or phones, the kids are very hungry for new ideas. They are always eager to try and are very active if we show them what to do. In this case Homma Sensei didn’t say anything to them. They made their models the same way Homma Sensei did, using what was available in the backyard ie flowers, small tomatoes, dirt…The results were excellent and the kids were all so proud of the gardens they designed.

Homma Senseis message was received, because it was clear. I have to confess that we had to do mental exercises to follow directions at the beginning. Imagine, Homma Sensei speaking English to a Frenchman (myself) which was translated into Portuguese (learned from taxi drivers in Rio) to the local native people in the mountains…Sometimes it came out as just sounds; Hum!, Whoa!, Ooo!, or Yes, No, more, more, shovel, here…

With the model that Homma Sensei made, everybody understood, and we begun to work like ants, just smelling the direction. A sort of universal communication was in place, giving place to laughs and smiles. Was this not Aikido?

The work seemed to get done with less effort. The rocks seemed lighter, and a form was rising from the chaos. Every time a task was completed, it was a celebration, and another was coming. Everybody had a picture of the model in their eyes. We didn’t see anymore what was around us, but a transparency of the model Homma Sensei had made was present all the time.

When the nights came, the celebrations continued, always better sitting in front of fantastic meals cooked by our Brazilian team and Homma Sensei too. The bond between members of the team grew ever stronger. We couldn’t stop the growing happiness and the songs we sang at night, waiting now excitedly for the next day. The nights were short, but full of dreams. The day was long and full of realizations.
We are all waiting for Homma Sensei to come back.

And there will be another story, another experience to share with you.