Matsuoka Sensei’s Aikido Journey: Part 3
The emergence of an aikido style with the impact to captivate hundreds of millions on the big screen…
Josh Gold: Sensei, a lot of the hand movements and throws we’ve practiced over the years – I’d not really seen them anywhere else, so were they developed around this time?
Yes. Seagal Sensei applied sword technique very clearly. He met one Kenjutsu master and was inspired by him, so since then he changed. At the beginning when I joined his dojo in 1976, we were doing a lot of Ki Society types of exercise.
Yes. Like unbendable arm and those kinds of things. And then so quickly we changed and added more realism and application to the movements. Gradually ukenagashi became famous here because of Above the Law. And I became the chief instructor around that time, and then Sensei stopped coming to the dojo often. So I taught ukenagashi many times.
So there was a huge transformational change in the technique from when you started until you moved to America…
Yes, that’s right.
So did you like the changes that the style went through?
Yes. I believe adapting to that is why I have a more flexible brain now than before. You have to be physically flexible to take the ukemi and mentally flexible at the same time to pick up and learn a new technique immediately. I could do that because I was young.
After you would take ukemi for Seagal Sensei during class or a demonstration, were you totally exhausted?
Exhausted. After we moved to America, he was really only teaching variations of a small number of techniques. It didn’t matter if there was a black belt there from another dojo, or white belts. It would always be the same. And then he would throw me so fast. Afterwards, people would always look at each other like, “What should we do?”
Didn’t you have your nidan test around 1980?
It was actually before I came to this country so I’m not sure exactly. It was probably in 1981. And Abe Sensei was there.
So was that a lot of pressure? You had a 10th dan sitting there watching your test?
Yes, I felt very pressured with the two of them sitting, watching, and staring.
And how was this test? Do you remember anything from this one or was it the same as your shodan test?
Very similar. I do remember that someone tore my hakama during randori. This I remember, and that’s all…
And your test was held at the dojo?
Yes. Ten Shin Dojo. It was a big dojo. Maybe 80 tatami. It was very unusual to have such a big dojo in the city of Juso.
There’re some videos we found from the early 1980s. You’re teaching class, I think, and there are many people on the mat.
I think 1983, right before I came to America. My father came and shot that video. Some of the films with Seagal Sensei in Japan, they were filmed by my father.
I see. And then, the year after this, Seagal Sensei moved to America, right?