I trained for bit with Thierry Diagana Sensei in the Bay Area. He told me of the dojo he helped start in Singapore and insisted I visit. To my surprise when I contacted them they were having a seminar featuring Yasuno Masatoshi, a 8th dan Shihan from Hombu Dojo in Japan. He has been teaching Aikido since 1973. (An interesting interview with him: Click Here)
I arrived early and Serge Beraud Sensei greeted me at the door. Close to a hundred people packed into sports center to receive instruction from Yasuno Masatoshi. He was spry and energetic. He was the first one on the mat stretching, and by the time everyone else got on the mat was was practicing with another instructor. He struck me as being the type of person who was always one step ahead of everyone else.
There were three reoccurring themes of his two hour class:
The power of standing. When the attacker’s grip is firm and seeming unmovable he explored squatting, moving into the attackers center while rotating wrist and arm in such a way to make it difficult for the attacker to maintain their grip. Then standing quickly and applied a variety of techniques. The force of standing magnifies the effect of the technique.
The Power of getting of the line. By blending and using the attackers momentum the force applied upon them was magnified. This reduced the amount of energy required to dispel the attack.
Power of rotation: Like a baseball pitcher’s windup, rotation can be used to magnify the atemi. Several techniques here illustrated how winding up and releasing the kinetic energy could magnify the impact on the attacker.
Yasuno Masatoshi Shihan infused kernels of wisdom throughout the lesson. “Take Shiho Nage seriously!” To illustrate this he showed a reversal whereby when falling you can grab the nage, and trip them to initiate a counter throw. By take it seriously, I believe he meant initiate a proper grip, turn promptly, stay grounded and balanced when executing the throw.
There were quite a few shihans and senseis on the mat, and he did very little 1:1 corrections or instructions. On several occasions he would stop the class and have pair demonstrate the technique and then show what happens or what could happen depending on how the attacker reacts to the technique. In short, don’t focus on executing the full technique you begin with. If there is an opportunity (or circumstance changes), be flexible enough in your Aikido to adapt and do something different.
He was serious, but good-natured, joyful, and sincere in his efforts to impart lessons he has learned doing Aikido: “These are not just lessons for when someone attacks, but how to carry yourself in everyday life. Posture. Awareness. Blending.”
I trained with at least two dozen different people. I also trained with Serge Beraud Sensei. He was strong, precise, and kind with his direction. Everyone was eager to learn and worked hard during the training. It was a worthwhile way to spend time in Singapore.