Why Aikido Nippon Kan is the largest Aikido dojo in the Rocky Mountain Region.
Nippon Kan offers four different sessions of beginning Aikido classes six times a year. Our January sessions for 2001 have now ended successfully with over 120 new beginning adult students participating in the four sessions offered. The March sessions are now beginning and over 100 new students are expected once again.
Anywhere in the United States, for a martial art school to have this many beginning students is unusual. For Colorado, Aikido Nippon Kan is the only martial art school with this many beginning students. We have found that most of our new students find Nippon Kan through referrals from friends. Good recommendations are very important for a healthy dojo.
Maintaining a good reputation can be a challenge, especially if you have over 600 new beginning adult students and over 200 regular adult members to take care of each year! As holds true anywhere, not everyone stays and there have been a few students who did not understand Nippon Kan’s philosophy and left. We feel we have been able to maintain a good reputation because high quality instructors and a high level curriculum makes for high level training. This high level training makes for a healthy circulation of students.
Nippon Kan’s instructor and office staffs are all volunteers. Every instructor and staff member takes time from their own busy professions and daily lives to volunteer their time. It is this effort from our Nippon Kan community that keeps Nippon Kan operating. It is the good reputation of Nippon Kan’s staff that finally makes a good reputation for Nippon Kan. This reputation is what makes our beginner classes as popular as they have been.
I have had martial art instructors from other schools ask me why Nippon Kan has so many beginning students. I have used a Zen term to answer; Kan Kyakka, which means, “to look where you are standing”. Sometimes someone with a big dream opens a dojo only to have no students come. I have seen instructors in desperation put on a lot of demonstrations, offer free lessons or try group seminars with other instructors. All to little avail…students still don’t come. Trying to make ones own way is good, I agree with someone working hard, and putting in a lot of effort but not being able to see the problem, understanding ones own level, is a problem.
I would like to explain a little more about my philosophy. In Zen philosophy, people have two kinds of dreams. One kind of dream is written in cursive lettering, the other kind of dream is written in block or gothic lettering.
Dreams that are written in cursive lettering are sometimes not even legible. Dreams that are written in gothic lettering can be read by anyone. “Cursive dreams” are not based in reality and the dreamer is in the dream. “Gothic dreams” are clear visions that can be understood by others.
I have met people that are “cursive dreamers”. In my dojo, I have asked two such people to leave. People that are “cursive dreamers” don’t know themselves or the reality about their technical ability. They camouflage themselves and their weak points by donning Aikido clothes…even Sensei clothes. (Sensei is the word for instructor).
Some Aikido instructors camouflage themselves by preaching philosophies based on magic powers that can’t be proven. Having skilled ukes (practice partners) fly through the air at their “command” only deepens an illusion that can be seductive to beginners. Promising that Aikido will improve your relationships, your business or even your golf game is a dream not based in reality. I have met instructors that claim the Founder was a god and that they were in possession of nature’s powers as his special messenger. I have read about a Sensei that felt the need for bodyguards while claiming that his Aikido technique was the strongest in the world. He even claimed he was the reincarnate of the Founder. I was very surprised to receive that letter in the mail! These kinds of people have drowned themselves in their “cursive dreams” and are trying to sell their dream to others.
My teacher, the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba 1943-1969, talked at length about Misogi Waza toward the end of his life. Some believe that Misogi Waza is a form of training using cold water and loud voices. Actually Misogi is a term for Shinto training. Mi is the word for body and mind, and sogi is the word meaning to shave or peel. Waza is the word for training. Peeling away human illusions and attachments, Jaki, or as called in Buddhist theory, Bonno, is the purpose of this training. The Founder taught that shugyo or the practice of Aikido was the practice of peeling away illusion. He never taught that Aikido could cure diseases, would give you magic powers or make you a better businessperson. Shugyo is the practice of peeling away such illusions, not adding more layers! Shugyo is becoming free, lightening the body, and not burdening it with falsehoods.
The Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba is no longer here, he has already passed away. Like a butterfly taking flight, leaving its shell behind, the Founder has gone and left his teachings of Aikido behind. As a metaphor, there are many that have tried to grind up the “shell” that was left behind and sell it as the essence of Aikido. It seems that instructors that new him the least, even generations apart from him, have used his name the most.
On a more positive side, there are direct students of the Founder in Japan who do not sell “cursive dreams”. Aikikai Headquarter Instructors in Japan and USAF Instructors here in the United States such as Yamada Sensei, Kanai Sensei, Chiba Sensei, and the late Akira Tohei Sensei do not sell “cursive dreams”. Morihiro Saito Sensei 9th Dan, the longest uchideshi (live-in student) to the Founder at Iwama Dojo also does not sell “cursive dreams”. Saito Sensei has been to Denver for three successful seminars at Nippon Kan and he was never heard to talk about “cursive dreams” of supernatural powers of nature. Aikikai instructors do not sell “cursive dreams”…those who can’t rely on illusion. An Aikido publication editor such as Stanley Pranin from Aiki New is another source for those pursuing gothic dreams.
The reason why Nippon Kan is the largest Aikido dojo in the Rocky Mountain Region is that Nippon Kan does not sell “cursive dreams”. Nippon Kans philosophy is based on a “gothic” vision or dream of Aikido practice. Nippon Kan has developed its own teaching methods, and holds a major focus on community involvement. Our hope is to give Nippon Kan members a sense of pride in their involvement in the community project that Nippon Kan sponsors. Nippon Kan has attracted many students because American people know what is valuable in their community and enrolled students know what is positive and healthy in their lives.
In the Rocky Mountain region, I am the only instructor that was a direct student of the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba. Not only was I his student, but also drew his bath, massaged his feet and made and served his meals. I have been practicing Aikido for over 36 years. In the twenty-seven years I have been living in Denver, I have instructed over 9,500 beginning students. My goals and ambitions have changed over the years. I am no longer focused on how many students I have, how many branch dojos I have or how big a seminar I can put on. If someone wants to learn from me here at Nippon Kan I will gladly teach him or her. But if I become uncomfortable with a student I am comfortable asking them to leave. My main purpose is my practice of Aikido, not in being an Aikido Sensei or instructor. As part of my own misogi waza, I sometimes reflect on not being a Sensei. The title is another layer to peel away. Even Aikido itself in the end is another layer in itself. Keeping this in perspective I believe allows me to be a “gothic” instructor. This is closest to the Founder’s teaching, and I am proud to be a direct student of his.
What kind of dojo is the best place to practice Aikido? Basically you can measure a dojo by how many students it has. If there are three dojos in your town, visit each of them. Don’t be confused by the instructor’s words, take a look for yourself. Nippon Kan welcomes you to come down to visit.
At Nippon Kan we practice Kan Kyakka, looking where we are standing, step by step, striving to teach the highest quality “gothic” vision of Aikido possible.
My staff and myself support your new challenge. Come join us!
Gaku Homma Sensei
Nippon Kan Kancho
In the State of Colorado, Nippon Kan headquarters is located at 1365 Osage Denver, Colorado 80204 and does not have any officially affiliated branch dojos or instructors. If an instructor says they are affiliated, please call for references.