Morito Suganuma Shihan, Aikikai 8th Dan, is the founder and chief instructor of Shohei Juku Dojo in Fukuoka, Japan and its' 80 branch dojo. He was born in 1942 in Fukushima, Japan. He attended Juntendo University in 1962 and in the following year he attended Asia University. It was here that he was first introduced to Aikido and trained under Nobuyoshi Tamura Shihan. After graduation from university in 1967, he became the last Uchi-deshi (live-in student) of the Founder of Aikido, Morehei Ueshiba, until the latter's death in 1969.
In 1970, Suganuma Sensei was sent by the late Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba to Fukuoka as the shihan in charge of the Kyushu district. Currently, Suganuma Sensei conducts Aikido seminars all over the world. His other interests include calligraphy, Zen meditation and Yoga. The Chief Instructor of Shohei Juku Aikido Canada, Tamami Nakashimada Sensei, is a direct student of Suganuma Sensei.
Aikido: Morito Suganuma
I feel deeply honoured to receive a Martial Arts Distinguished Service Award. I thank all the masters and instructors who guided me and the people who supported me through, especially Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba Sensei, from the bottom of my heart.
It was 1963 when I first contacted with Aikido, exactly 50 years ago. It was the year I entered into Asia University. I was already 20 years old, after dropping out from the school I previously enrolled and taking a year out, because of my ill health.
I had regained my health, and had been thinking of starting some kind of physical exercise. I was just walking about near the budojo, when a senior student started talking to me and suggested me to join the Aikido Club at the university.
I had been interested in Aikido, but never seen the actual practice. When I asked the senior student about Aikido, he grabbed my wrist and put some pressure there. I felt a severe pain on my wrist right away. It was a technique called ‘Yonkyo’ (Wrist Pin). I pretended that it didn’t hurt that much, but it left a bruise on my wrist, that didn’t go away for 4 to 5 days. I joint the club soon afterwards.
There were about 40 members at the Aikido Club. The practice started at 7:00 in the morning. Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei came from the Honbu Dojo once a week to teach us. At that time, he was about 30 years of age, of medium height and built. His height and weight could have been about the same as mine. However, it was really amazing how he had the power from the body that small.
I was hooked on Aikido from then on. I moved to a rented apartment near the Honbu Dojo. My typical days were spent as practicing at school in the morning and at the Honbu Dojo in the evening. One day during the spring break, after the end of the first year at the university, Tamura Sensei suggested me to become an apprentice at the Honbu Dojo. I made excuses not to, giving reasons as my inexperience and small physique. Although he assured me that I didn’t have to worry about my physique as he was small himself, I declined the offer a couple of days later.
Tamura Sensei went over to France the following year to popularize Aikido in France and the region. Sadly, he passed away 3 years ago.
I become serious about concentrating on practicing Aikido, when I was in my 4th year at the university. I was introduced to the Second Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei, through Kisaburo Osawa Sensei. I started serving apprenticeship under the Second Doshu in April 1967.
At that time, the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, was still alive. He taught us during the morning practice starting from 6:30, when he was at the dojo. The Founder hardly ever taught apprentices directly, but he always told us to steal his techniques. His teaching principles for us were to look at his techniques and take them in. Although the Founder was very strict, he had a sense of humor and was kind at the same time. He sometimes practiced on me and I used to accompany him on his outings. Those are my precious experience with the Founder.
After the Founder passed away, Mr. Kansyu Sunadomari who had been teaching extensively in the Kyushu area left Aikikai. I was chosen to be sent to Kyusyu in his place. It was April 1970 and I was only 27 years old, having been given an important role. We practiced at the dojo of Hakata Suijo Police Station. In the fall of the same year, we opened our new dojo ‘”Fukuoka Dojo” under the direct control of Headquarters’ in Haruzumicho, Hakataku, which was in 70tatami mat size, renovated from a sake brewery. It became a base for our activities in the area.
Some instructors who had been active in the various dojos in Kyusyu gradually started to cooperate with me to found the basis of what we have now.Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei, the Second Doshu, kept me in his activities such as seminars and exhibition practices, requiring me in demonstration of brake falls, even after I was posted to Kyushu. I had privileges to accompany him on the trips to the places such as United States, Europe, Taiwan and Australia. They have become precious treasures of mine.
‘Shohei Juku’ was launched with a permission from the Second Doshu, in Takasago, Chuoku, Fukuoka City, in April 1977. All the activities have been operated under the same organization, ‘Shohei Juku’, ever since. Its dojo used to be an iron factory, which was converted into a dojo. It is on the smaller side, with the floor size of only 45 tatami mats. It is called ‘Takasago Dojo’ and we have been practicing there in the morning, the afternoon and the evening. The number of members at ‘Shohei Juku’ as well as the number of dojos have increased gradually, and we currently have about 110 locations for practice in and outside of Japan.
As the number of dojos increased, more students practicing Aikido in the area wanted to have clubs at their own universities. The number of clubs has increased one by one, and we have 12 universities that have formed All Kyushu Students Aikido Association. They regularly have seminars and exhibition practices.
I turned 70 last year. It has been 50 years since I started practicing Aikido. I believe that I have been able to keep it up, thanks to every master and instructor who taught me and all the people who have supported me all these years. I will devote myself to spread Aikido, for as many people as possible to feel that they are happy to have encountered Aikido and met people through Aikido, day by day and one by one, with the deepest gratitude for those who taught me and supported me.