Tuesday, July 30, 2013

aikido anniversary

This year marks Seichi Tabata's 60th anniversary of teaching shin shin toitsu aikido in Hawaii. Tabata, 87, is the last original student of ki aikido founder Koichi Tohei to still actively teach the Japanese martial art here.

This year is also the 60th anniversary of Tohei's introduction of ki aikido to Hawaii and the U.S. mainland in 1953.

"Shin shin" in Japanese refers to the duality of the mind and body. "Toitsu" means "to bind or unify." So "shin shin toitsu aikido" could be translated as "aikido to realize the original oneness of body and mind."

Tohei's teachings also stress being at peace with the "ki" (similar to the Chinese "chi") — or flow — of the universe, so they are also often referred to as "ki aikido."

"Ki is very difficult to master," explained Tabata, a former Wai­alae Iki resident who now lives in a Hawaii Kai retirement community. "There's nothing visible to attach to; it's all emotional. But it's very important for everyday living. When I was doing sales for the Household DeVille discount retail chain on Keeaumoku Street in the '70s, they would send me for aikido training in Japan two or three times a year because they could see how aikido would help in selling and how it was a ‘plus.' It involves a lot of positive thinking, a lot of creativity, and it benefits others as well as yourself. And it's nonaggressive.

"Using aikido principles, I can compete with anyone in sales, and, in fact, I was a top salesman wherever I went."

After spending about 20 years with Household De­Ville, where he rose to become company president, Tabata sold life insurance for 15 years. He retired in 2006.

Born in Lahaina, Tabata was sickly as a child, so his father enrolled him in judo classes when he was 5 years old to strengthen him. Tabata pursued judo until he was 18, when he joined the Army during World War II, becoming a motor pool staff sergeant. Three years later, Tabata returned home to Maui from Japan with a new bride, Emiko, who would be his loyal and hardworking wife for 64 years. (She died four years ago. Tabata now has four children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandsons.)

To help out his parents and their family of six boys and three girls, Tabata continued to work at the family grocery store on Lahainaluna Road after the war and started to teach judo classes on the side.

When Tohei was invited to Maui to teach his method of ki aikido in 1953, Tabata started gradually to adopt the ki principles and then to teach them to his own students in lieu of judo.
Tabata moved to Oahu a few years later to open his own dojo in Honolulu.

"For all my classes since the very beginning, I've never charged for my time," he said. "All my instructors have never gotten paid either. If the students pay any dues, all the money goes back to the dojo to pay for the dojo's expenses.

"I could make a lot of money at what I teach, but I want to return it to the community, to help people out."
Internationally, the ki aikido movement has blossomed to numerous schools in 24 countries, including the U.S., Japan, Brazil, Singapore, Great Britain, Russia and Australia.

The founder's son and president of the Ki Society headquarters in Japan, Shinichi Tohei, will be a special guest at the Honolulu Ki Society's celebration of the 60th anniversary of ki aikido in Hawaii this weekend. There will also be workshops that the public may observe to celebrate Tabata's 60 years of teaching thousands of students in ki aikido in the islands.

"I still teach at the dojo every Saturday, though of course I don't move as well as I used to," he said. "And I've had so many students, I can't remember them all. Recently, a man in his 60s came up to me and introduced himself. … he told me I had taught him judo in Lahaina when he was 12 years old!"

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