May-June Activity Report 2005

International Instructor Seminar Series 2005

Ali San Uludag Sensei
President of the International Uludag Foundation Aikikai

From Istanbul, Turkey
June 27-July 5th, 2005

Written by Emily Busch
Nippon Kan Vice President

Ali San Uludag Sensei at Nippon Kan.    

Ali San Sensei teaching at Nippon Kan. (photo album at end of article)

Ali San Uludag Sensei, President of the International Uludag Foundation Aikikai, headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey, visited Nippon Kan Headquarters in Denver, Colorado to instruct at a two day seminar event this past June 29th-30th.

Ali San Sensei’s visit to Denver was sponsored by AHAN (the Aikido Humanitarian Active Network) as a cross-cultural opportunity to share American and Turkish cultures through the practice of Aikido. Ali San Sensei teaches at his many dojos in Turkey, Iran and other former Soviet Satellite countries in the Middle East.

In May of 2004, Homma Kancho visited Ali San Sensei’s headquarter dojo in Istanbul, Turkey where he instructed an AHAN semina to benefit children with Leukemia in Turkey.

About Ali San Sensei’s visit to Denver, Homma Kancho said the following: “The purpose of Ali San Sensei’s visit to the United States is of course to share our practice of Aikido and to learn technique from Ali San Sensei, but this visit is also an opportunity for students at Nippon Kan to be able to touch another culture through Aikido. Especially in post 9-ll times, I think it is important for students to know in person teachers from Islamic cultures. This is an opportunity to reach across political boundaries through Aikido and understand each other on a personal level. I invited Ali San Uludag Sensei to the United States so that we could learn from him, and so that he could experience America and Americans on a one to one basis. It is my hope that he will take good experiences of America with him to share with his students at home in Turkey.

A few years ago in Denver I was coming out of a popular department store at the mall. Two young women passed me on their way into the store. They had their heads and shoulders covered with a black turban, as is customary in their country of origin. Behind them followed two young American boys. As they passed by me I could hear them as they loudly taunted the girls, “Hey” they shouted at the girls. “Where do you think you are? This is the United States! Why are you wearing those things on your heads!” the yelled. The girls looked frightened and huddled together for protection. The boys with their short-sighted understanding and tolerance made me angry, yet I said nothing as I left.

Outside of the store I regretted that I had not stood up for the girls. I should have said something to the boys even if an altercation landed me in jail. I knew through experience however that the repercussions of an altercation could be serious and the costs high. This I thought sadly was the reality of the situation.

I have not forgotten that day, and have thought deeply about what I could do to improve situations like the one at the department store in a productive way. It is within my lifelong study of Aikido that an answer came. By sharing our Aikido with others from far away places, my dream is to promote a deeper cultural understanding between students of all countries. This I decided was a loftier goal than chastising a couple of loud mouth kids at the mall.

The first step has been for me to go personally to countries around the globe to experience for myself the personal worlds of other Aikidoists. I have tried to go with an openness of mind and heart to experience their worlds beyond religious, cultural or lifestyle barriers. The second step has been to share my experiences with my students and to give them the opportunities to share in other cultures by inviting special instructors from other lands to come to Nippon Kan. The third step has been the development of AHAN to provide many opportunities for students to participate in humanitarian and cross-cultural exchange projects around the world.

In the early 1940’s, before the end of WWII, Japanese Americans living in the United States were having a very difficult time. Sixty years after the end of WWII however, most conflicts from that era have been solved, and time has healed most wounds. Today the relationship between the United States and Japan is on solid ground, as is the relationship between the United States, Germany and Italy. Throughout our history, the actions of a vicious few have caused hardship for entire countries and nationalities. Since WWII, the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia, the cold war with the USSR, and the fall of communism symbolized by the tearing down of the Berlin Wall are just a few examples of events in our history that have marked a time of struggle and hardship for those directly involved. Through action to right wrongs and with the passage of time, many of these struggles now belong to the past, belong to history.

In a post-9-11 world we face many new challenges; challenges that I hope we can meet with individual steps toward understanding. In our own small way, this seminar is a gift to peace in our world. Turkey is a country that physically and metaphorically lies between the worlds of East and West. It is our hope that Ali San Sensei will be able to take home to his country, a new and truer understanding of America directly from his heart.

Ali San Sensei’s classes were full of serious technique delivered with charm and humor. Ali San Sensei connected well with Denver students and everyone seemed to enjoy his classes immensely. Ali San Sensei and his assistant Banu had a chance to visit and talk with many students, advisors and staff at Nippon Kan, and also got a taste of the “Wild Wild West” with visits to the Colorado Rockies, the Royal Gorge and other attractions.

Ali san Sensei brought with him an abundant assortment of bokken, jo, weapons bags, hakama and towels that were made by Ali San Sensei’s company in Istanbul. Ali San Sensei distributes his popular line of Aikido gear widely in Europe and the Middle East. These goods he donated to AHAN and agreed to have a special sale for Nippon Kan students to raise funds for on-going and future AHAN projects in the Middle East and Former Soviet Satellite Countries.

Accompanying Ali San Uludag Sensei was his student and assistant Banu Alisverisci from the capitol city of Ankara Turkey. Banu was a delight to meet and everyone loved her energy and enthusiasm. Best of luck to Banu teaching children’s classes in Ankara!

This visit by Ali San Sensei was made possible through introductions by Nippon Kan Alumni uchideshi Scott Roney. Translation services were provided by Nippon Kan member Mehmet Kazgan and his wife Hande. Their help was an extraordinary, and we owe many thanks to Mehmet and Hande for their tremendous efforts. Many thanks also to Nippon Kan Instructor Scott Olson for helping to serve as tour guide, and to all Nippon Kan students for their support in attending the seminar and welcome parties.

Ali San Sensei’s thank you letter posted after the photo album.

Photo Album

In the Nippon Kan garden, back line from right; Ali San Sensei, Emily Busch AHAN President, Banu Alisverisci. front-center; Homma Kancho.

With U.S Karate Pioneer Shihan in Denver. from right; Shotokan Karate’s Yaguchi Shihan, Ali San Sensei, Homma Kancho, Wado Ryu Karate’s Kurobane Sensei.

Ali San Sensei with world reknown international Karatedo Enshin Kaikan’s Joko Ninomiya Kancho.

A baby says hi on the Boulder Mall.

A moment of song in Nippon Kan’s Mongolian ger at the staff welcome party for Ali San Sensei.
Student garden welcome party for
Ali San Sensei.

Welcome party toast; Ali san Sensei toasts with Coca Cola American style!
Children’s class with Ali San Sensei.

Ali San Sensei visits the Wild West.
Ali San Sensei and Banu with a real cowboy!

At the Cliff Dweller Native American museum outside of Manitou Springs.
Homma Kancho and Ali San Sensei relax at the Garden of the Gods!

With Scott at the Royal Gorge.

Comments on His Visit to the United States.
by Ali San Uludag Sensei
President of President of the International Uludag Foundation Aikikai,

From Istanbul, Turkey
July 10th, 2005

The time I have spent with Nippon Kan members has been one of my biggest experiences I have ever had. Even though I did not know English, there was not even a language barrier with people.

This was like a trip to a part of my heart. Sharing Aikido techniques with Nippon Kan members and getting their hospitality and smiles in return are the things that I will never forget.

Aikido was just a tool we have used to communicate with each other and exchange our cultures in a way.

We have seen lots of beautiful places, natural environments and many interesting views of United States. I have enjoyed every second of my trip.

I would like to thank first Gaku Homma Sensei providing me and my assistant this wonderful opportunity to meet great members of Nippon Kan, work together, and visit beautiful places. I would also thank to Emily Sensei for her time and assistance, and all members of Nippon Kan organization for sharing their time with me.

I wish to see everyone again soon with future AHAN organizations.

Homma Kancho Attends the Aiki Expo 2005.
May 27-29, 2005
Written by
Rick Thompson
Nippon Kan Instructor, Yama Dojo

From right: Nippon Kan Assistant Instructor Michael Barrera, center; Dento Iwama Ryu Hitohiro Saito Jukucho,Shin Shin Aiki Shuren Kai Tanren Juku, Iwama, Japan.
Left; Nippon Kan Instructor Rick Thompson.

Homma Kancho attended the Aikido Journal sponsored Aiki Expo 2005 this past May 27-29th, 2005 as an instructor accompanied by Nippon Kan Instructor Rick Thompson and Assistant Instructor Michael Barerra. Homma Kancho and assistants introduced Nippon Kan’s method of teaching to attending Aikidoka at the Expo held this year in Los Angeles.

Homma Kancho had the following reflections about the Expo this year. “The Aiki Expo this year fell on Memorial Day weekend, and as I entered the Expo I found myself thinking deeply about the current state of Japanese Martial Arts in the United States. As I looked around me during the opening of the Expo with a Japanese perspective, the Expo seemed to me unorthodoxly organized. As I looked around me with the perspective I have gained by living in the United States for thirty years, the Expo definitely had an “American marketing style”.

I felt a little frustrated and confused as events were getting started which I decided was the result of a clash between my own Japanese and American perspectives. My confusion was not the fault of the Aikido Journal planning committees, or Chief Editor Mr. Stanley Pranin; they all had worked extremely hard to make this exposition a reality. My frustration came from my awareness that I was not 100% of either point of view; it was my own identity and perceptions that I was questioning. This year, the Aiki Expo fell on Memorial Day weekend which is a time to honor the men and women, past and present who have served to protect the freedoms we enjoy in the United States. It is a time to recognize the men and women who have given their time, their innocence and even their lives to insure that we all are free.

For this Aiki Expo 2005, students from many places spent a great deal of time and money to enjoy a smorgasbord of Aikido and other martial art styles and technique. I wondered if the students I saw around me understood that truth in martial arts stands on the line between life and death, the same line that the men and women who are serving this country today stand on in dealing with life in battle every day.

I watched the demonstrations, and there were many wonderful instructors to see. There were also a few instructors who seemed to have their ukes performing stunt ukemi to “demonstrate” their power and expertise, all in the name of “peace and harmony”. Since there is no competition in Aikido to serve as a reality check, some of these demonstrations had an eeriness and unreality about them; like a pageant of Martial Artists on parade. Especially the demonstrations where five or six ukes armed with bokken attacked an instructor only to be continuously “thrown” into the air for up to ten minutes at a time! I felt like I was in the movie “King of Hearts” or at a European Renaissance Festival watching dreams being played out in an imaginary world. I too of course was one of the martial artists in the parade, which was part of my reflection. It made me think again of Memorial Day, and the true reality that day stands for. This I decided was to be my lesson to learn from the Aiki Expo; to reflect on what is REAL in Aikido, and the Aiki Expo was a great place to learn!

My demonstration this time reflected what I had been feeling. I worked with physical power, working with a partner’s resistance and pain. Some parts of my demonstration were soft and other parts did not even look like Aikido as I explored what is real in Aikido and what is not. My demonstration was a personal challenge; I was challenging my self and my own Aikido; it was not a show for the cameras filming for the next DVD. I felt like a painter scraping the paint off the canvas over and over to start again to try to capture the essence of an image. I felt like the potter who dashes to pieces a beautiful porcelain bowl only because it is not quite perfect. I am lucky. I am the chief instructor of an independent dojo which allows me the freedom to challenge my own views and my own understanding. This is how I learn about my Aikido and everyday I learn a little more; even if I have to argue with myself about it to grow a little more each day.

Also among the many instructors at the Aiki Expo 2005,was Dento Iwama Ryu Hitohiro Saito Jukucho, Shin Shin Aiki Shuren Kai Tanren Juku, Iwama, Japan. Hitohiro Saito Sensei generously donated $700.00 from sales of Iwama style bokkens he had brought with him from Japan to AHAN (Aikido Humanitarian Active Network) to support of AHAN’s many humanitarian projects world-wide. Sincere thanks to Hitohiro Saito Sensei for his generosity.

*If you would like to see a more explanatory demonstration of Nippon Kan Aikido, please see the Homma Kancho’s demonstration at the Aiki Expo 2003.

AHAN Domestic Activity Report

Consul General of Japan Mr. Yuzo Ota serves the 40,000th meal.
June 19th, 2005
Written by
Gaku Homma
Nippon Kan Kancho

Consul General Ota and Japanese Firms Association President Mr. Suzuki chat with outside guests.

Nippon Kan has been serving monthly meals to the homeless at the Denver Rescue Mission since 1991. On July 19th, 2005 a milestone was reached with the 40,000th meal served. To mark this special occasion, Nippon Kan volunteers were joined at the Mission by honored guests, Consul General of Japan, Mr. Yuzo Ota, and Japanese Firms Association President, Mr. Takayuki Suzuki for a special ceremony and meal service.
Before the evening service of 300 meals was served, Mr. Ota, Mr. Suzuki and Nippon Kan President Doug Kelly toured the facility with Mission staff members. The staff answered questions at length posed by Consul General Ota and Mr. Suzuki who as leaders in their own communities were interested in the solutions posed by the Denver Rescue Mission to the problem of homeless in Denver.

Listening to a staff member during the Mission facility tour, Consul General Ota, Japanese Firms President Mr. Suzuki and Nippon Kan President Doug Kelly.

After the conclusion of the tour, our guests joined Nippon Kan volunteer staff members in the dining room to prepare for the evening meal service. Consul General Ota served the meal trays personally to each outside guest as they arrived. The 40,000th meal was served to Mr. Allen Campbell who good naturedly allowed us to take a photograph for the occasion. Both Consul General Ota and Mr. Suzuki worked hard making sure each guest received a full meal. Mr. Suzuki served water vigorously, carrying a pitcher in each hand. “This is better exercise than golf” remarked Mr. Suzuki.

This special day was celebrated at the Denver Rescue Mission with a ceremony attended by our honored guests, and also Stacy Vlasicak, Director of Volunteers for the Denver Rescue Mission. Ms. Vlasicak presented a plaque to Homma Kancho from the Director of the Denver Rescue Mission, and Mr. Suzuki presented a framed official letter of thanks to Homma Kancho and Nippon Kan students from the Mayor of Denver, John Hickenlouper. Local television camera crews were on hand to record the event which was aired several times that evening.

Consul General Ota and Mr. Suzuki join Nippon Kan volunteers for meal service.

TV news crew on location at the Denver Rescue Mission.

The 40,000 meal served to Mr. Alan Campbell by Consul General Ota.

Scan of Mayors letter (Click to enlarge)

Scan of Denver Rescue Mission letter
(Click to enlarge)

For this special meal service, many of our seasoned and new Nippon Kan volunteers were in attendance. A reflection of their experience, one comment from a senior volunteer was, “and now we start with 40,001...”

Everyone worked together as an experience team to serve about 350 meals. It was quite a pleasure to have Consul General Ota and Mr. Suzuki join us for this special day, and we all were proud that they had taken the time out of their busy schedule to join us.

To have the 40,000th meal served by Nippon Kan delivered by Consul General Ota is an honor I will not forget. I appreciate very much Consul General Ota’s community mindedness and thoughtfulness in joining us on this day.

Thanks also to the early morning
student prep crew!

Nippon Kan staff shine with
smiles from the heart.

AHAN International Activity Report

2nd Shipment of Thirty Computers Arrive Safely in Mongolia.
June 4th, 2005
Written by
Emily Busch
Nippon Kan Vice President

Monk from Gandan Temple in Ulaanbaatar, happy to receive his first very own computer.

A thank you letter from Choijamts Hamba Llama, of Gandan Temple, the Highest Buddhist Llama in Mongolia (Click to enlarge)

More smiles…monks happy to receive!

The shipment of thirty computers that were shipped to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia last April arrived safely on June 4th. Fifteen computers in this shipment went to the Gandan Temple in Ulaanbaatar to be used in the temple’s educational facilities. Ten more computers were also donated to the Zorig Foundation, and five were distributed to local schools by the AHAN Mongolia staff. This time, the School named Hope received a shipment of other badly needed school supplies such as pens, pencils, paper, calculators etc.

In the past year, AHAN has now shipped 60 computers to Mongolia to different support organizations, schools and temples. Our first goal is to send a total of 100 computers, and at Nippon Kan headquarters in Denver our staff is busy preparing the next batch of computers for shipment.

As we near our goal of donating 100 computers to Mongolia, we are now looking to expand this distribution program to other areas in need. Support for this project by the Denver community has overwhelming, and we thank everyone for their donations of computers, and the time and expertise needed to ready them for shipment. Our biggest challenge in expanding this program to other countries is in the transportation of the computers. Currently our research staff is exploring new avenues of export for these important gifts.

AHAN Nepal Report
May 25th, 2005
Written by
Puja Rai

AHAN Nepal staff coordinator Puja Rai sent us word that the school supplies donated by Homma Kancho on his visit to Nepal in January of this year had been distributed to the Drubgon Jangchup Choeling Monastery. The supplies were received by Senne Missi Lama who sent a personal thank you letter, receipt and photos of the children using the new supplies. Senne Missi Lama ministers to children in many ways in Kathmandu and although his efforts so far have been on a very small scale, they have delivered with a very big heart. AHAN Nepal has officially chosen the Choeling Monastery as a beneficiary of future AHAN humanitarian support.

Japan Cross-Cultural Exchange Report
June 1st, 2005

Cold Weather and Warm Hearts
Written by Chris Abeyta
Nippon Kan student

Nippon Kan student Chris Abeyta has returned from a successful extended four month study over the New Year in AHAN’s cross-cultural program in Higashi Naruse Village of Northern Honshu, Japan. Since 1990 Nippon Kan has sent special students to participate in this long-term live-in study program in rural Japan. Qualified students are subsidized during their stay in Japan. Link here to Chris’s report on his experiences during the cold winters of Northern Japan. LINK HERE TO “Cold Weather and Warm Hearts” by Chris Abeyta.

Aikido Nippon Kan Dojo Activity Report

Nippon Kan in the News!

June 9th, 2005

On June 9th, 2005, Nippon Kan was in the news with a five-page center-section article written about Homma Kancho, Nippon Kan, Domo Restaurant and the Nippon Kan uchideshi (live-in student) program in Denver’s Westword Newspaper. The article seemed to have received a positive reaction with the Denver community, as the attendance in our recent beginning classes was close to double for this time of year. Link here to the article in Westword newspaper; “The Way of the Warrior” by Dave Kumamoto.

Summer Soran.
June 20th-July 5th, 2005

Under Homma Kancho’s guidance, a two week concentrated intensive series of practices were held June 20th-July 5th. This intensive two week challenge was held at the Nippon Kan dojo. Homma Kancho is aware that students have many responsibilities outside of the dojo with their families and careers, so this intensive was held during regular evening class times. Homma Kancho is also aware of delicate student finances, and there was no extra charge for these intensive weeks of training.

Of this soran, Homma Kancho said “ It is somewhat of a fad these days to hold expensive camps in resorts or even on cruise ships, but Nippon Kan’s philosophy is more down to earth. Everything we look for in our training; our personal challenges, questions and answers can be found on the mat at our dojo. The answers to our training are here, right under our feet. The dojo is sometimes hot, sometimes cold, there are always particular challenges right here, right now. It is not necessary to seek truth in training by traveling to the oceans or high mountains”.

Dojo Remodeling.
June 20-27th, 2005

Nippon Kan office takes on a more simple and clean look.

Homma Kancho’s new office.
The Nippon Kan office went through a transformation the week of June 20th-27th. Since the dojo’s new facility opened over nine years ago, all of the facility construction had been completed except for the Nippon Kan office. There have been so many new projects and activities at the dojo over the past decade that plans for the office always seemed to get postponed. Finally this week in June, Homma Kancho looked around at the office overflowing with project activity files and accessories and commented, “It is getting so full in here there is barely room to walk! It’s demolition time!” With that he ordered a commercial sized roll-off trash container and the clean-up began. For a solid week, from morning until night, (and a few days all through the night), Homma Kancho worked to transform the office. “Ali San Sensei is coming from Turkey soon, and the day he arrives is the day I want to have this office finished. I cannot stop until the work is finished. Without this kind of deadline, I think I probably would not be able tackle a job as messy as this one”, Homma Kancho admitted. As promised, the dojo office remodeling project was completed at least three hours before Ali San Sensei’s arrival!

Nippon Kan Official 2005 t-shirts Sell Out!
June 30th, 2005

Nippon Kan and AHAN sponsored a fund-raising t-shirt drive to raise funds for a very worthy cause this year. Funds raised by this year’s official Nippon Kan T-shirts sale have been pledged to support a very special member of AHAN Nicaragua; Armando who is battling cancer at the young age of 19. The shirts sold for $22.00 each, and although the price was high, all 150 t-shirts ordered sold out within a week. Thank you very much for everyone’s support!

This year’s t-shirt design was created by Homma Kancho with a touch of humor and food for thought!

Nippon Kan Office Topics.

Answering the Mail
June 18th, 2005
Written by
So Yoda

Part of Homma Kancho’s “funny” letter collection.
Nippon Kan and Homma Kancho receive many letters, phone calls and emails every week. Most are questions about Aikido such as; When do beginners’ classes start?, Where can I buy a keiko gi (practice uniform)?, What is a kototama?, How do I learn ukemi?, or my personal favorite; How long does it take to get a black belt?…

Some of the requests and questions are simple, and some are very complicated questions to answer. Sometimes the questions posed are just as a way to engage in conversation. Sometimes questions are posed to make the inquirer look knowledgeable. In either case, engaging in these kinds of conversations can be challenging!

On occasion we receive letters from authors that write volumes about their own Aikido philosophies or speak of their personal experiences of enlightenment sitting under a waterfall, “Just like the Founder”…

With experience, our staff has learned to deal with the different kinds of requests courteously and efficiently; but very few come to the attention of Homma Kancho directly. Most are answered and filed away in appropriate category files, some of the classics are saved in Sensei’s funny letters files. Homma Kancho says someday he will use the letters as a basis for research for a study of the sociology of martial arts in the 20th and 21st centuries!

Every once in a while however, there is a letter or e-mail that displays a great deal earnest sincerity asking for information on AHAN or advice from Homma Kancho. These letters, Homma Kancho answers personally, and sometimes in great length.
One such letter this past June came from Michael Difronzo, a loyal student to the late Mitsunari Kanai Shihan 8th Dan of Boston, Massachusetts. Kanai Shihan was one of the first USAF Pioneer Instructors to come to the United States to teach Aikido. He lived in the Boston area until his death March 28th, 2004.

Michael’s letter request for advice touched Homma Kancho, inspiring him to write the response linked to in this article. Also referenced in this letter is Aikikai Shihan Kazuo Chiba Shihan of San Deigo, California.

Link here to Michael’s Letter (click here)