FACE to FACE with Yoshiaki Yokota (横田愛明)  Sensei

Yokota Shihan is a professional Aikido Instructor at the Hombu
Dojo, Japan where he teaches on Thursday and Friday. He led the
2002 South – east Asia Junkaishido tour during which he stopped
by and taught a seminar at our Dojo. He was assisted by Hiroyuki
Namba Shidoin (4th Dan).

Now ranked 7th Dan, Yokota Shihan spoke to Raymond

Some excerpts from the interview which first appeared in the 2003
issue of the Kuala Lumpur YMCA Aikido Club Magazine:

RK  : You started Aikido in 1970 and entered the Hombu Dojo in 1977.  
        Why did you choose Aikido?

YY   : First, I started Judo at the age of 12. I became Captain of the Judo
        Club while I was in Junior High School. I could not make the
        minimum weight limit required. My coach was constantly asking me
        to eat more but that was difficult and I couldn’t make it. So that
        made me think of choosing something else.

        I loved Budo, so I did Karate. Now at that time, I was also a little
        interested in Aikido. At my High School, there was an Aikido Club. I
        was about 15 then and I wanted to do Aikido. So I did both - I did
        Aikido in the day and Karate at night. I did Karate for about 7 years.

        Later, I became  Captain of the Joosai University Aikido Club in
        Saitama - ken. At the University my teacher was Masando Sasaki
        Shihan. 7 years after I started Aikido I entered Hombu Dojo as an

RK :  But why did you choose Aikido  as a career?
YY  :  I liked it. Aikido technique is difficult - that fired up my interest in

RK :  In spite of the fact that it was difficult, you were interested in it?

YY     Well, Judo was difficult too; and in Karate, we were always training
        for tournaments - I found studying the difficult Aikido technique more
        challenging; the Karate I was doing always concentrated on winning
        in tournaments. Aikido has plenty of techniques ... it is challenging
        because its origins as a Budo requires study. I started Aikido
        because it fascinated me..

RK  : What level did you reach in Karate?

YY  : Shodan, but I stopped doing it after I entered Hombu Dojo.

RK  : For how long were you an Uchi deshi at Hombu Dojo?

YY   : A long time, even now I am an Uchi deshi, but I only lived in the
         Dojo for 2 years. “Uchi deshi” means one is a professional - a
         private student. We are Doshu’s private students; the regular class
         student on the other hand, is “soto deshi”.

RK    : Where do you teach Aikido?

YY   :  I teach 7 days a week. I teach at the Tokyo Merchant Marine
         University on Monday; at the Medical Defence Centre on Tuesday;
         at the Asahi Culture Centre on Wednesday; the Fuji Film Company
         Club on Thursday;  at the Hombu Dojo on Friday and Saturday;  
         and at the Culture Centre in Funabashi city on Sunday. I also teach
         a special private class at the Hombu Dojo.

RK  : What is private class?

YY  :  Special practice ... well there is actually nothing special about the
         waza - its just different from the ordinary class - there are about 20 -
         30 persons.

RK     Do you travel overseas often?

YY  :   Yes, I have been all over, to Europe - England, Italy, Holland,
         Belgium, East Europe - Bulgaria Rumania, Hungary. I have been to
         Yugoslavia too, although not anymore because of the war.

         I have been sent on Junkaishido tours to the Baltic States of
         Estonia, Latvia apart from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan.

         I have also been dispatched on JAICA visits overseas to Australia,
         New Zealand; Papua New Guinea, China.

         On some trips I have accompanied Kisshomaru Doshu.

RK  : Your technique is fast, powerful and effective. In this aspect, who
         influenced your approach to Aikido?
YY   : (Chuckles). No, no…When I started Aikido as an uchi deshi, Chiba
         Sensei was teaching at Hombu Dojo. Shibata Sensei was my
         sempai. Miyamoto Sensei too was also training and living together
         at Hombu Dojo that time. So, when we trained together, I learned
         from Chiba Sensei, Tada Sensei, Arikawa Sensei ... these
         teachers influenced my Aikido. Chiba Sensei’s influence on me
         was very strong. Technique wise - it was a mixture of what I learnt
         from various teachers like Kisshomaru Doshu, Osawa (Kisaburo)
         Sensei, Tada Sensei, the late Ichihashi Sensei. In fact I knew
         Ichihashi Sensei from my University days. I also learned all kinds of
         Aikido technique on my travels all over.

RK   : Do you think Aikido is capable of being used for self-defence?

YY   : Of course, some of it can be used as such. From the Budo point of
         view it can be used for fighting of course.

RK : Some people criticize Aikido because they say that there are too
       many movements ... that therefore it is not effective for self-defence.

YY  : Like a dance?

RK  : Yes.

YY  : Movement is good for health ...   The more movement there is, the
         better it is from the health point of view. But in Aikido the
        “opportunity” to attack is just in an instant. That is included inside the
       waza. Training is done slowly. But in reality where fighting is
       concerned the opportunity to attack is just in an instant ... for
       example in Irimi Nage the moment of entry is that instant.

        I teach Aikido slowly, then quickly. The Irimi - entry ---for example in
        Ikkyo --- first you pin the opponent slowly, then you pin the opponent
        in an instant after entering. A lot of training is required for that.

        People who don’t know Aikido just see what appears to be a
        dancing movement. They don’t know what is inside the technique.  
        People who don’t know Aikido cannot understand this.

        Like in Irimi Nage, you go round and round and then “pow” you
        throw him. But in reality, you can’t turn. Once you have entered
        “pow” you throw him. All this is included in Aikido practice. The real,
        effective elements are in there, but because people who don’t know
        Aikido, don’t see it, they think it is just a dance.

        So for example when you teach a student, it is difficult for him to turn
        initially. But gradually with training you can go faster.

         Because of that, in Aikido, we  don’t have kamae.

RK :  That means - when you train in Aikido ... the “issatsu no shunkan”
         is something you have to detect yourself.

YY   : Yes.

RK  : In self-defence, that is the one moment you have to find and
         take advantage of....

YY   :Yes, that is difficult. Therefore sometimes, we practise slowly,
         sometimes we practise quickly. So in ukemi, you have to feel, you
         have to learn to avoid being hit.

         Ukemi is about escaping. If you are no good in ukemi, if you cannot
         take ukemi, you cannot understand Aikido. Receiving ukemi and
         throwing (technique) are both equally important. I always do it
         slowly, gently ...
         With different teachers like Miyamoto Sensei, Seki Sensei, the
         technique will be slightly different. All of us are from the Hombu
         Dojo but because of the difference in personality, this will be
         reflected in our Aikido. You can’t be a carbon copy of someone
         else, that would be boring because of the difference in body size

RK  : How has Aikido changed your life?

YY  :  Well, having chosen Aikido, I have made lots of new friends
         everywhere. If I had became a sarariman   instead my circle of
         friends would only be confined to those in my office.

         It is a good thing to get to know so many people.

RK  : No regrets?

YY   : No, I am very happy in fact.
RK  : What is your ambition in life?

YY   : To do a bit more Aikido. I am 47 now. I have only about 13 years
         more to do good Aikido. When you reach 60, you become weak.
         Arikawa and Tada Sensei of course are exceptions, they are still

                                                  The End
Yokota Sensei in deep thought
   Yokota Sensei at YMCA
      Yokota Sensei with
Interviewer at the K.L. Tower