I am very happy to share this interview with Kaname Ariga Shihan with the whole Aikido community. I am proud to consider Ariga Sensei a guide and a beloved friend. Thanks also to Mrs. Fumie Sato for her help with the translation
by FABIO BRANNO
About Ariga Shihan
Kaname Ariga was born on October 22nd, 1973 in Funabashi City, Chiba prefecture. Before entering elementary school he lived in Hokkaido and took the last name “Horii”, which is his father’s family name. When he entered elementary school, his family moved to Funabashi and he changed his family name to “Ariga”, which is his mother’s family name.
He joined Funabashi Aikido doyu-kai when started high school in 1989 (15 years old), and met Endo Shihan. He then entered Shukutoku University, where he organized the Aikido group and lead it for three and half years. After graduating from university, he did not try to get a regular job but spent the most of time mainly doing Aikido Keiko for 6 years. In particular, he saved money and tried to attend Endo Shihan’s seminars abroad. Kaname Ariga moved into the Saku Dojo when he was 28 years old and started working full time as an Aikido professional until the present.
He currently holds the rank of Aikikai 6th dan, received in January 2015.
Is your Aikido changed since your beginnings?
The place where I grew up is a fishing village where people tended to have strong tempers. among us young people there was often violent and quarrelsome attitudes. At the beginning, therefore, my attitude on the tatami was also quarrelsome. I was trying to prevail, trying not to fall down during Keiko, trying not to surrender… I was obsessed with “Winning”, which is just something superficial. I was training in a way which built a clear border between my partner and myself, and trying to defeat my partner was my number one priority.
I met so many people and had some shocking experiences, thusI went through a few turning points. Aikido means to become one, that is what I am thinking now and I focus on that during Keiko. It is not a struggle between Red and Blue, one can produce Purple from these two. I am aiming for a kind of training where there are no borders and where to be able to connect with the “World Peace” that O Sensei was talking about.
However, I really appreciated that time when I was able to practice as much as I wanted, which is only possible when you are young, and all my teachers and all my Aikido friends.
How can one develop a practice that generates from the center?
I think that the meaning of “Center” also includes Hara, Tanden, Jiku (Axis), Seichu-sen (Central line), Kokyu, “Hajimari” (Source of the movement). I have come to think , however, that the most important thing is not to set an object outside of yourself.
We would rather seek an object, evaluation or value in the outside world. I believe that it is important to have your own self-evaluation for the things which you create by yourself. You set your values, and afterwards you do not let yourself being affected by value judgment from outside. It is a waste of your time. I think when you seek inward, it becomes SELF, and when you seek outward, it becomes EGO. We can learn the above through Aikido Keiko, which I think is the best type of culture for this learning.
What can you tell us about your way of teaching Aikido?
When I started Aikido, “Kata-Keiko” was the main Keiko. There was almost no explanation: we just watched the demonstration and tried to imitate and repeat. I think it is important to observe during Keiko, and to let your body learn how to move. However, doing automatic Kata-Keiko routines makes people’s feelings and thinking degenerate. The pace of understanding and the parts where you are interested are different from person to person. I would like to offer movements and words that can inspire each of them. I believe that the meaning of “Shido-sha” is not only teaching, but also guiding, suggesting and leading.
Saku Dojo has a very peculiar energy. It is a special dojo-community where everything is Aikido and Aikido is in everything. What is its secret?
A “Dojo” is different from a gym or a sports hall. It is a place where people gather together with composed mind and body for one purpose. Recently there are fewer places like this. It has become easier for people to come and go, and people who have different purposes visit the dojo that is a cultural and spiritual place, and I think that makes the energy disturbed. Saku Dojo is an Aikido exclusive dojo and also it is a place for people who are pursuing Endo Seishiro Shihan’s way of Aikido to come together. This is a place that has a clear purpose.
Saku City is a local town in Japan with a population of less than 100,000 people. People gather here from all over the world in order to pursue one purpose. Saku Dojo has been formed by the energy from those people.
The passion of Endo Shihan’s in his decision to build the dojo, the passion of those who supported it and made an effort to follow Endo Shihan, the passion of dojo members training day after day, the passion of the people who love Endo Shihan and gather together, all these passions are spirits in the vessel of Saku dojo. “Passion” is the key, I think.
How much will Aikido change after Covid?
It has been four days since I saw this question. Every day I have been receiving much different information from friends from all over the world, TV and internet. What it is happening right now, what it’s going to happen in the future and many thoughts are all mingling with each other right now. If you say it will change, it will. If you say it won’t change, it won’t . This means that the number of people who realize what they really had originally, will increase. If the number of people who don’t expect so much and try to wish for a simple life will increase, I think it will be a good change and I hope it will be like this.
Being “Chisoku” (knowing contentment), I am thinking about this deeply in my heart.
What is your aim for your Budo Life?
I would like to become a nicer person and I would like to live my life so that I will be able to say at the very last moment of my life, “It was a fun!”
Gasshou (Sincerely, with much gratitude).
Thanks again to Ariga Shihan for the above insights. Ariga sensei is often around Europe for his always very interesting seminars, in which the substantive topics are never reduced to new forms of waza execution. Soon it will be possible to meet him in Italy as well. In the meantime, those interested in learning about his method of practice and that of Endo Shihan, there are already several teachers in the area to turn to. Among them our association, purely addressed to this method, has several dojos in many regions.
Copyright Fabio Branno ©2020
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