Rio De Janiero and Sao Paulo Seminar Report
By Rudy Landry
Nippon Kan Technical Instructor and Graduate Uchideshi
Nippon Kan is unique in the fact that it is staffed by volunteers who serve as instructors, office staff and organizers for the many community projects Nippon Kan is involved in. It has become a tradition for Homma Sensei to ask a student who has been a part of Nippon Kan’s instructor staff to accompany him as assistant on his journeys to teach Aikido and promote AHAN (the Aikido Humanitarian Active Network). All expenses for the trip are paid for by Homma Sensei. It is a wonderful opportunity, and also a way for Homma Sensei to show his gratitude and appreciation for his student staff.
This time, I had the honor of being chosen to accompany Homma Sensei as his uke and assistant in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Before we left for Brazil in September, I assumed we would have special training sessions to be ready for the trip...but we didn’t.
I have to admit I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to perform satisfactorily as his uke. My worries disappeared however the first hour of the first seminar held at the Fort Joao Brazilian Army training facility in Rio de Janiero. After Homma Sensei’s opening greeting, he proceeded to ask the attending students what they were interested in learning that day. I remembered in my own training as Instructor, that Homma Sensei always stresses that to teach effectively you always need to take into consideration what kind of students are in attendance, what level of experience they have, how many students there are and what their interests are. It dawned on me, that Homma Sensei had not planned a strict curriculum for the Brazilian students to adhere to. That he would “blend” his teaching to the moment at hand. Only an instructor with his experience can teach a seminar of his caliber “on the fly”.
On the first day of the seminar, we practiced relationships between bokken and jo and open hand Aikido movement. This is an area of specialty for Homma Sensei, and is a major part of the foundation for Nippon Kan’s teaching method. His instruction was well received, especially by yudansha and instructors from the Rio de Janeiro area.
On the second day, before practice began, Homma Sensei put on a CD and played Turkish Rondo, a fast paced brass selection. After removing his hakama, he began a solo jo demonstration. The music he had selected was about three and a half minutes long, and Homma Sensei demonstrated with his jo at full speed for the length of the selection. This was Homma Sensei’s way of introducing one of the themes for the day which was foot and hip movement. In order for students to be able to see more easily, Homma Sensei taught the rest of the day in his keiko gi, without his hakama. This seminar in Rio was an AHAN fundraising seminar for the Obra do Berco orphanage, so there were information pamphlets and before and after photos of the facility displayed at the seminar. A representative came from the orphanage on the second day and received the funds we had raised in person. All in all it was a great event, for a really good cause!
The following day, we visited two dojos in the countryside outside of Rio de Janeiro, where Homma Sensei instructed a select number of students. These dojos were private dojos, built by Aikidoists living in Rio as a special addition to their weekend retreats. What really struck me was the effect the dojos were beginning to have on the local villages. From what I could gather, the local village children had little or no activities planned for them, and the dojos were becoming a major attraction!
In Brazil the cost for a keiko gi is about $10.00 US, which is beyond the means of most of these children’s families. Homma Sensei decided that upon our return to Denver, he would make a children’s keiko gi drive a priority project for AHAN. The first goal is to send 50 sets of uniforms to AHAN Rio which will then be distributed to dojos in Rio and the surrounding areas. The uniforms are for the dojos to keep, for the children to use. The keiko gis will be distributed to as many dojos as possible, beyond style or affiliation.
Following our trip to the countryside, Homma Sensei taught a class at small dojo in downtown Rio. This dojo was definitely interested in “hard style” Aikido. Homma Sensei, adapting to the situation, concentrated on street style self defense techniques. On our way back in the van, Homma Sensei commented that the dojo reminded him of a scene from a Bruce Lee movie! “Aikido can be applied to any occasion and situation”. “While Aikido can be for everyone, its philosophy and value depends on the situation”. “Trying to confine the meaning and philosophy to one definition is difficult”. “It is better to make ourselves flexible in our practice, being able to blend with whatever situation we encounter. This will make our practice more valuable and us wiser for the practice”.
After spending a week in Rio de Janerio, we moved on to Sao Paulo, which was quite a contrast. In Sao Paulo, Homma Sensei taught at three dojos. Our first practice was coordinated by Jose Gomes Lemos Sensei, Chief Instructor of Palmeiras Dojo. The second pratice was held at the dojo of Paulista Aikido Federation Chief Instructor, Makoto Nishida Sensei. The third practice was held at the dojo of Paul Nakamura Sensei. Homma Sensei had taught at all three dojos the year before, so it was a good time for reinforcing communications and friendship. All totaled, there were about 170 students in attendance.
Sensei spoke at all three dojo about the efforts of the pioneer instructors who had developed Aikido in Brazil. He offered his appreciation and thanks to Nishida Sensei, Nakamura Sensei and
Shikanai Sensei for helping to build such a solid foundation of Aikido in Sao Paulo and many other parts of Brazil.
Homma Sensei and Nishida Sensei went to the same elementary school in Akita, Japan and Nishida Sensei was in the same class as Homma Sensei’s sister, who was along on this trip. There was a lot of “hometown reminiscing” between the two.
This seminar tour to Brazil gave me the opportunity to practice with many Brazilian Aikidoists, and has raised my perspective of Aikido to an international level. All of the Aikidoists I met and trained with in Brazil were very skilled and diligent, but also very friendly and hospitable.
It was a very good experience indeed.
My sincere thanks to Homma Sensei and all of our Brazilian hosts!
Nippon Kan Technical Instructor