Nippon Kan, located at 1365 Osage Street, Denver, CO., is the largest Aikido dojo in the Rocky Mountain region. The school was founded in 1978 by Gaku Homma Sensei, who was a student of Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba, as well as other high-ranking instructors, at the Iwama dojo in Japan. Homma Sensei was the last official uchideshi (live-in student) at Iwama dojo and is the best testimonial to the founders private life at Iwama during the last years of his life. After the founders death, Homma Sensei moved to the United States and opened his independent dojo. Homma Sensei is the creator of Nippon Kans unique teaching method that combines kenjutsu (sword techniques) and jojutsu (staff techniques) with taijitsu (open hand techniques). Since the schools inception, more than 20,000 students have attended Nippon Kans beginners Aikido classes, and today more than 250 continuing students practice at this traditional-style dojo. Homma Senseis teaching style combines his extensive Aikido background with his knowledge of other martial arts as well as his knowledge of Japanese and American cultures. He is also the author of five books about Aikido The Structure of Aikido Volume 1, Aikido for Life, Children and the Martial Arts: An Aikido Point of View, and Aikido Sketch Diary: Dojo 365 Days as well as a cookbook: The Folk Art of Japanese Country Cooking: A Traditional Diet for Todays World.
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An Introduction to Nippon Kan
name is Gaku Homma. I first came to the United States from Japan about 33 years ago. Since
my arrival I have been teaching the Japanese martial art of Aikido. Including my studies
in Japan, I have been practicing Aikido for more than 45 years. I would like to give you
a bit of history about Aikido as I have experienced it during my lifetime.
The practice of Aikido, founded by Morihei Ueshiba 1883-1969 (commonly referred to as “O’Sensei”) has spread from Japan to all corners of the globe. Aikido, as with any sophisticated art, was not created by magic. O’Sensei and other Japanese masters developed Aikido following years of intense training and research in other styles of self-defense.
Aiki Jujitsu and Daito Ryu Jujitsu were two martial arts O’Sensei, studied to develop Aikido. Today the organization founded by Ueshiba is called Zaidan Hojin Aikikai, or the Aikido Foundation, which is based at Hombu Dojo in Tokyo.
Names such as Aikikai Aikido, Hombu Aikido and Ueshiba Aikido refer to this same organization. In the United States, the highest percentage of dojos (martial art schools) are affiliated with Aikikai Hombu Dojo. The United States Aikido Federation (USAF) is the largest of these Aikikai federations in the United States.
A few of O’Sensei’s students broke away from the Aikikai Foundation after his death in 1969. They formed their own organizations, such as Tomiki Aikido, Yoshinkan Aikido, and Ki Aikido.
As a child in Akita, a small city in Northern Honshu, I studied Judo, which for Japanese kids was as popular as baseball and basketball in the United States. At that time, Aikido was a new martial art. Before World War II Aikido was restricted to the elite and practiced by military leaders, Imperial dignitaries and top executives. It did not become generally popular until after World War II.
Most of the television heroes I watched as a child studied Judo and wore a hakama (the outer garment worn as part of an Aikido uniform). These TV supermen inspired me just as Bruce Lee films motivated Americans to learn more about Asian martial arts. In that way, my path was probably not much different than yours!
I, however, had the good fortune to become O’Sensei’s student. I also served as his last live-in student. After O’Sensei’s death, I studied with many other high-ranking Aikido instructors.
Before the end of World War II, O’Sensei moved from Tokyo to the town of Iwama, which is two hours northeast of Tokyo. There he built the Aiki jinja (Aiki shrine), and lived the rest of his life dedicated to the development of the art of Aikido.
During this time, Hombu dojo, located in Tokyo, was overseen by O’Sensei’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. O’Sensei visited Hombu dojo about once a month, spending most of his time at the Iwama Aiki shrine. In his final years, O’Sensei received very few visitors at Iwama, keeping company mainly with his wife, Hatsu, and Morihiro Saito 1928-2002). O’Sensei became somewhat isolated with only his maid, Kikuno, and myself in attendance.
For the last year of his life, O’Sensei was moved to Tokyo, where he stayed until his death.
It has been my belief that all Aikido organizations are part of
the same family under the Founder, O’Sensei. After his death,
I was not able to choose one organization over another. Instead,
I studied Aikido independently.
I founded Aikido Nippon Kan in 1978 as an independent dojo. I created and developed my own system of study based on what I learned from O’Sensei.
Although Aikido Nippon Kan remains an independent organization, my loyalty will always remain with the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba. I maintain a close relationship with Aikikai’s Hombu dojo and Iwama’s Aiki shrine dojo. Both are part of the heritage of my youth.
In the years since O’Sensei’s passing, Morihiro Saito, 9th degree black belt, become a world-renowned Aikikai Shihan (master instructor) and also the chief instructor (dojo cho) of the Aikishrine Dojo in Iwama. He often spoke of the early days at Iwama and my relationship to the Founder. He has also attested that I am the last official uchideshi, or live-in student, of the Founder and the only person in the United States who can testify so personally about the O’Sensei’s final years.
Until his death in the spring of 2002, Morihiro Saito was a special advisor to Aikido Nippon Kan.
Because Aikido Nippon Kan is an independent organization, the ranking
certificates given for kyu (beginning through brown belt
levels) and black belt levels are signed by myself as Nippon Kan’s
founder. To acknowledge especially hard-working or gifted students,
ranking from Aikikai Hombu dojo may also be issued. Though
we are an independent school, our roots are the closest to the Founder’s
of any dojo in the United States.
More than 20,000 students have attended our beginner classes and we currently have more than 250 full-time members.
Aikido Nippon Kan offers 18 classes a week, instructed by myself or and my highly trained staff. All instruction is given under close supervision and is delivered with patience, kindness and humor. All students are trained to help each other, focusing on cooperation as a successful tool for learning. Beginning classes are tailored to the brand new student’s level, with great consideration given the student’s feelings and capabilities. This unique teaching method has been developed by my-self and is outlined in my books: The Structure of Aikido, Vol. 1; Aikido for Life; Aikido Sketch Diary—Dojo 365 Days; Children and the Martial Arts: An Aikido Point of View; and The Folk Art of Japanese Country Cooking.