Monday, 18 January 2016

The Challenges of TK Chiba Shihan


Chiba Sensei

Well a gangster attacked me with a knife once in Japan. He lunged for my belly, so I blocked him
with Gedan Barai, and broke his arm with Kata Katamae. On another occasion I was in Paris with Noro Sensei, and we visited a night club together. I was having a drink in one room and Noro Sensei was sitting in another room playing cards, or something. Suddenly there was a terrible commotion from where Noro was, so I went in to see what was happening. It was a fight. An old gentleman was lying on the floor and a young man was kicking him. It was terrible there was a lot of blood on the floor. I think he would have killed him, so Noro Sensei said to me “Chiba, sort that out!” He did not want to get involved. (Laughter). I took hold of this man, and stopping his attack, I asked him what he thought he was doing. He spoke to me in French, so neither of us understood and so I pulled him outside… then something happened. My body reacted and I threw him down with Osoto Gari, the judo technique. He hit the ground very hard and I heard a clatter of metal. It was then I realized that he had pulled a knife. My awareness had been such that I reacted to the situation from my subconscious. This guy was a gangster from the Pigalle area and that was why no one stopped him. He was well known apparently . . . but not to me! It made no difference who he was”.



Chiba Sensei

When I returned to Japan from England, in 1978, a man issued a challenge to us. But Hombu Dojo refused it, despite his persistence.
(…) As I said he was persistent, and every few weeks he would return to challenge us. Each time I had to explain that we could not accept. I think that the man was not quite “right” in the head. Anyway, eventually I personally had enough of him and accepted his challenge. We arranged to meet and sort it out. I insisted that we agree not to press charges in the event of serious injury and we exchanged letters to that effect. I told him as a martial arts teacher I was prepared to die if need be. Well we met and I initiated with offence, moving directly to him and I struck him first. This threw him back against the wall and as I came to him he jumped on me: he was like a tiger. I then finished him with Nikkyo. He had had enough by then. There was much blood and he was on the floor screaming. That was the last challenge he offered us – it seems that he did not expect an Aikidoist to initiate an attack.


The Mysterious Fate of O'Sensei's Dog.

3 -  Chiba Sensei.

There are lots of amazing stories about the founder of Aikido Morihei Ueshiba, some really incredible and bordering with folklore – O’Sensei moving faster than light, O’Sensei pulling pine trees from the ground and similar. Therefore we thought to add another metropolitan legend to the saga, relaying to you the presumed story of Chiba Sensei and the sad fate of O Sensei’s dog

It is the typical story of a man who told another man that another man had done such and such, so take it for what it is: a funny story. Apparently Morihiro Saito let it slip with one of his students after a serious sake session, and this man then told the same to a student of his, probably during another pub night.
The story goes that O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was ready to leave Iwama to go on one of his teaching trips. He was going to be away for a while, therefore Morihiro Saito and T.K. Chiba were left in charge of the Iwama dojo.
The fact is that at the time O Sensei enjoyed the company of a little lively dog – a shih tzu it would seem – which Chiba hated with all his guts. Shortly after O Sensei left, the dog ran up to Chiba and started yapping and making a fuss around him, which was really driving Chiba insane. So what does he do? He took hold of a boken that someone had left against the wall and hit the dog in the head.
Unfortunately the dog decided to die! Morihiro Saito was totaly freaked out: Chiba had killed O Sensei’s dog! Ueshiba was going to be 100% angry about it, throwing one of those tantrums he was famous for.
A solution had to be found! So the future founders of Iwama Ryu and Birankai crawled under the dojo, and buried the dog in a shallow grave. Eventually O Sensei returned from his teaching trip, saw that the shih tzu wasn’t around and asked the two boys about his dog. Chiba told his teacher that he had been sick worried for days, because the dog ran off the day after O Sensei had left…
Supposedly O Sensei’s dog is still buried under the Iwama dojo!



Interview with Arthur Lockyear .

As we are talking about challenges would you mind telling me about your confrontation with Mr. Wang, the Tai Chi master from China?
(…) I was in a big demonstration of martial arts in Tokyo in the early 1960s, and Tai Chi Chuan was being shown by Mr. Wang. He was from Taiwan and he was very big indeed. He became quite famous later in Japan. Well, at the end of his display he had a number of Karateka line up in front of him, and each of them punched him in the belly. It had no effect on him. I was not impressed. I would have done something else (Sensei demonstrated a groin kick and face punch whilst saying this). So, anyway two of my private students were also studying Tai Chi under Mr. Wang, and they were very impressed with him. They invited me to come along and see him. Eventually I accepted and went to watch his class. At the Dojo my students introduced us, and he politely asked me to show some Aikido. Even though his words were warm it was still a challenge! Well, we faced each other, and Master Wang made something like a Sumo posture with his hands outstretched. I stood and waited for an opening. This went on for some minutes until he moved forward to push me. So I met him, made Tai Sabaki (body evasion) and took his wrist with Kote Gaeshi, (wrist crush/reversal) … his wrist made a loud snapping noise as I applied it. Even though I applied Kote Gaeshi strongly and injured him, he did not go down. Master Wang snatched his wrist from me, and challenged me immediately. So this time he pushed me with both hands in the belly, and threw me quite a distance across the room. I landed, but I also did not go down. It was an amazing throw. My students then came between us, and that was that.



Interview with Arthur Lockyear.

On your voyage from Japan I believe there was an incident…?

Chiba Sensei.
Ah yes, we had a party on the ship when we crossed the equator, and I was asked to demonstrate. So I agreed, however there was no-one on board with any Aikido experience to act as my partner. (…) So one of the ship’s crew was asked to assist me, and he attacked me with a knife. At Hombu Dojo, in knife work, we made a positive attack with a Tanto (a dagger). But this guy was crouched low, moving around me, changing the knife from hand to hand. This was difficult, as when he made his attack I would not know which hand had held the weapon. So when he came at me I made Gedan Barai (the low sweeping block) with both arms, and I was able to deflect his attack. The point of his blade actually went through my Obi (belt) and just touched my flesh. From Gedan Barai I moved to a counter technique and broke his arm.


TK Chiba Shihan - Aikido Journal Interview.

This is the most interesting interview I have ever read by TK Chiba Sensei 

Thanks to Aikido Journal. - Henry Ellis.

Aikido Journal - Interview with Kazuo Chiba.

As a young man of eighteen, Kazuo Chiba took one look at a photograph of Morihei Ueshiba in a book and knew that his search for a true master of budo had ended. Now 8th dan and chief instructor at the San Diego Aikikai, Chiba recounts episodes from his years as an uchideshi, and provides a detailed explanation of the concept of shu-ha-ri, as well as explaining his own view of the modern aikido world.

Aikido Journal: Sensei, I understand that you began martial arts with judo and later switched to aikido. Perhaps you could tell us about the way things were in those days?

T.K. Chiba Sensei
Kazuo Chiba: Well, I liked budo quite a bit, especially judo. One day I happened to find myself in a situation where I had to fight a match with one of my seniors who was a nidan. He was a fine person who had taught me quite a bit about judo ever since I first entered the dojo, and he had been good to me in matters outside the dojo as well. He had a small body but he did marvelous judo, and could throw larger opponents without using any power. He used a lot of taiotoshi (body drop) and yokosutemi (side sacrifice) throws of a caliber you don’t see much anymore. He was very fast, too.
He used to beat me all the time, but then, for some reason I won a match during a kachinuke shiai (match in which the judoka keeps fighting until he is beaten; he is then replaced by whoever beat him). He was mortified and said, “I can’t beat you in judo anymore, but I still have kendo!” (He was also a nidan in kendo.)
Then one night he showed up at my place and told me to come out because we were going to have a kendo match. Now, I had done judo and karate, but never kendo. I figured something would probably work out, so I went along and we found ourselves an empty lot. My sempai allowed me a handicap by letting me use a wooden bokken while he used only a bamboo shinai. He was so fast that I couldn’t even touch him, while his shinai smacked into my body again and again. I ended up taking quite a beating - For the full very interesting article visit this link - Click link -> TK Chiba Interview


" Tadashi Abe Sensei was my Hero "  

by TK Chiba Sensei

During one of our last meetings at the `Hut Dojo` - we were in the Hut Pub having lunch when we spoke of the 1950s, a time when Tadashi Abe Sensei came over from France to visit Kenshiro Abbe Sensei. This made Abe Sensei the first Aikido teacher to be invited to the UK by Abbe Sensei. 

Chiba Sensei was rather impressed that we had actually trained with Abe Sensei who probably had the greatest fighting spirit of any other Japanese Aikido master.

I asked Chiba Sensei what he thought of Abe Sensei ? - he replied  " Abe Tadashi Sensei was my all time hero " .

Sensei told us that Abe Sensei had trained as a one man suicide submarine pilot on the  `Kaiten` ( Turn to the Wind ) just as Abe Sensei completed his training, the war ended - Abe Sensei was devastated as it was his wish to die for the Emperor and Japan.

In the late 1960s Tadashi Abe returned to Japan, he visited the Hombu Dojo - he was horrified at the then modern Aikido being taught at the Aikikai, he called for the attention of everyone there, he then publicly stated " I wish to apologies to the ladies who are present today, but this is not the Aikido I was taught and know as Budo - This soft Aikido is only fit for women " - with that he threw his Hombu diploma's on the tatami and walked out, never to return again.

Henry Ellis


A story by Henry Ellis from the Aikiweb Article 

Click here for full article -> `` Two Handsome Young Men ``

"Too Friendly with no Forgiveness"

In 1968, I assisted Chiba Sensei at a week-long summer course in the far north of England. This boded well as many students from around the country gathered for this special event. I had just begun the morning preparation session when Chiba sensei called me to his changing room. Sensei said, "Mr Ellis, the students from the north are very good and loyal, but they do not have your strict etiquette and discipline. Can you speak with them now, please."

I asked Sensei what the problem was, and he explained that some of the senior students would put their arms around his shoulders in an overly friendly manner. They would refer to him as `Kazuo.' I tried to ease the problem by explaining that people in the north of England were known for their friendliness, but I added that I was sure that this was not going to be a problem once I explain the etiquette.

I rejoined the class, calling for their attention for what I thought would be a simple friendly chat. I was totally unprepared for their hostile reaction as I began to explain the etiquette for the event, which included Chiba Sensei's concerns. I was taken aback by their collective response. The group stood up as one, and in a defiant manner, they told me they would continue to call Chiba sensei by his "Christian" name as they always had. One guy said that at his place of employment, he worked closely with his CEO, a director of a national company, and he always called his boss `Bill.' I replied that if he could not differentiate between budo and business, then he should not be on this mat. Now, the northerners were not so friendly any more; my discussion had hit `Hadrian's' wall.

It was obvious that this discussion was going nowhere. Chiba sensei expected me to resolve it so I ended the confrontation by finally stating, "This is not a debate. You will refer to Sensei at all times as Sensei or `Chiba sensei.' If I hear differently, I will personally remove that person from the mat and take them outside to resolve their problem, and I mean it."

From that point on discipline and etiquette was maintained, but at a cost. It was obvious from their hostile attitude that my Christmas cards would be few next year.

There was an amusing aftermath to this story. Some thirty years later, I was being interviewed by Arthur Lockyear the correspondent for the popular martial arts magazine, "Fighting Arts International" (FAI). After the interview, Arthur and I went to the local pub, and as we talked of the early days of aikido, he said "Henry, can I ask you something that I have heard about you for many years?"

I smiled and said "yes," wondering what was coming next. Arthur repeated the above story, almost word for word. He asked if it was true. I replied, "Yes, it is true, but that was over thirty years ago. I'm sure they've forgiven me. "Arthur laughed and said "Henry, they will never, ever forgive you. " I thanked Arthur for making me laugh so much that I bought him another beer.


Another story by Henry Ellis from the Aikiweb Articles - click here for full article -> 

Stars of Stage Screen and Radio

I will never forget in 1968 when Chiba sensei and I were asked to take part in a 30 minute BBC world radio broadcast; this was followed by a call inviting us to give a demonstration of Aikido on national TV. To my embarrassment, at one point I did something that I condemn in others; I actually made an exaggerated, longer than necessary, break-fall, Sensei was not at all impressed, as he held me in another vice-like technique, he snarled in my ear "Mr Ellis, I am capable of throwing you without your help! "The next technique proved Sensei's point.

Later in the hotel lounge across the road from the TV studios, Sensei and I sat in the bar, and suddenly several people pointed at us saying that we were on TV. There we were, two handsome young men.

     Articles of Interest involving K Chiba Sensei 
by Joe Curran Shihan.

Interview with Joe Curran Sensei by Guillaume - Click here ->  `Interview with Joe Curran Sensei `
Joe Curran Sensei `President of the British BiranKai ` details his more that 50 years as a dedicated and loyal student of TK Chiba Shihan.

Aikido - Then and Now - 1955 - 2016

Henry Ellis - I am often asked the following question.

 What is the difference between the Aikido of the 1950s and the Aikido of today ?"

1950s - This was a time when all kyu and dan grades were highly respected, simply because everyone knew that even the lowest grade had been honestly earned through blood sweat and tears, not like today, often given as a Christmas present by your own students, or ordered online from the inept British Aikido Boards website for a modest fee.

Students never handed out titles to their own teachers, such as Shihan - Grandmaster - Soke - Hanshi - Doctor - Professor and any others you can think of.  - Just imagine being at school and the kids informing the teacher that the class had jointly awarded him/her a PHD, now that would be worth six strokes of the cane on both hands in my school days.

One UK teacher claimed in a newspaper article posted on the internet " Sensei Blogs was so proud when his senior students promoted him to 7th dan - he is now one of the highest graded professional Aikido teachers in the world.
As I type this, I am thinking that by now his students will have probably graded him to 8th dan.  Its enough to make an old man cry.

Photo Left: Kenshiro Abbe teaching - Henry Ellis centre.

Kenshiro Abbe Sensei taught that uke should always attack on balance - today it is more often a ukemi attack with uke being overly compliant and acrobatic. 

If you attack on balance, then the techniques have to be good to control the attacker - the nod of the head, and no touch throws would then be comical, sadly, many students show as much resistance as an unattached piece of string.

Importantly, it was a time when students did not grade their own teachers as so many do today.
It was also a time when there was no Aikido with ribbons, if anyone had been daft enough to come into the dojo with a bundle of coloured ribbons ?  they would have been found hanging by them from the Hut Dojo roof beams.  

It was a time when Aikido was a respected martial art, respected by all the other m/a.
If Abbe Sensei thought his teaching wasn't getting through - no words were spoken - Sensei would `tap` the offending body part with a crack of a Shiinai - this was a very successful method of teaching, it gained immediate attention, it would be a reminder and an indicator to the student what their problem was, no one ever complained - The Ki people would be in tears today.

It was a time when students would train hard, and the techniques would be strong and effective, everyone attacks a little different, therefore you cannot plan what your defense would be, the attacker makes your defense ( or not ) It was a time when people trained hard to understand the techniques - if, as so many do today, trying to scientifically analyze Aikido with engineering and physics, Aikido is natural movement, not for some,  for example, if a student asked Kenshiro Abbe or Mutsuro Nakazono anything of a technical nature, they were told to practice with an ` empty mind ` only a clear mind will adsorb the  knowledge.

Left: The 4th dan certificate presented to Kenshiro Abbe Sensei by Emperor Hirohito of Japan in the 1930s.


This was a time when Kenshiro Abbe sensei was the only 8th dan in the UK .

We now live in a different age, a crazy age, where 7th and 8th dans are like post-boxes, with at least one in almost every town and village in the UK,  thanks to the inept - " BAB   -  you can grade yourself, or ask your students to grade you - and simply add ``British Aikido Board Approved ``. It is like ordering a doctorate online.

Aikido training In those early days by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei and with a little encouragement of a Shinai, the training  was very physical, building fitness, fighting spirit, and physical and mental strength, after the warm up, there was always a session of kicking and punching techniques, this was followed with push-ups, depending on grade, with between 20 for beginners and two hundred for dan grades of push-ups on the back of the wrists. 

It was also a time when all Aikido came under the respected `British Aikido Council` [BAC] overseen by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei and Ken Williams Sensei.

In later years we would see the creation of the so-called governing body for Aikido, the ` British Aikido Board` [BAB] - a body that started with good heart and honest intentions, only to become a an overly bureaucratic body that would recognize its own grandmother as an ` approved ` Hanshi or dan grade,  an organisation that would later offer online dan grades for money.

The BAB would knowingly recognize well known fraudulent practitioners grades, publicly promote the offenders profile to its membership and the genral public. 

The BAB allow the endless use and abuse of `` BAB Approved `` for the promotion of self appointed titles of Shihan - Hanshi - Grandmaster - Professor - Doctor - Soke .

The British Aikido Board has now become a home for the homeless Aikidoka, the established organisations such as the JAC and the BAA, which are creditable organisations who are all associated with their Japan HQ - these organisations have resigned from the BAB.

Times change, people change, and Aikido will change - but sadly it is not always for the better.

Admin - Henry Ellis

Co-author of Positive Aikido`