Interview with Tadashi Komenoi Sensei, 6th dan
Tadashi Komenoi Sensei (6th dan) was the instructor at the Makati Aikido Club from August 1988 to November 1993. He had come to the Philippines as an expat executive with a Japanese company. In the classic fashion, Komenoi Sensei started attending the classes at the old Makati YMCA as a regular practitioner. After a short while, the leaders of the MAC at the time recognized Komenoi Sensei's value as a teacher, and offered him the chief instructorship of the MAC. He accepted with some reluctance; but when he did, he threw himself into the training and teaching, alongside his work responsibilities. His was a period of significant growth for the MAC and Philippine aikido as a whole.
After his Philippine tour ended, his company sent him to be its country manager in Sri Lanka, where he spent the rest of his career until his retirement in 2011. Komenoi Sensei built a major aikido organization in Sri Lanka, and led the group until his return to Japan at retirement. Today he lives in Tokyo.
(Unforeseen developments necessitated changes from the original arrangements, which are shown on this page as crossed-out text.)
Komenoi Sensei comes to Manila in October 2012 as a special guest at the Makoto Ito seminar celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Aikido Philippines federation.
The Makati Aikido Club recently took the opportunity to pose some questions to Komenoi Sensei.
How long have you been doing aikido? How old were you when you started aikido training?
I started aikido at 18 years old so it has been about 46 years now.
What motivated you to start doing aikido?
I wanted to do a Japanese Budo at my university, then I discovered Aikido there.
Who was your first sensei? How long did you train under him? Did you train under other senseis who influenced you greatly? Who were they?
My [first] sensei was Shihan Kosaku Iwakiri who was O-sensei's Uchideshi.
I have [trained] at Honbu-dojyo and met many sensei who influenced me.
What was your first dojo? Where was this located geographically?
My first dojo was at my university's aikido club - at Tokyo Merchant Marine University, at Echujima, Tokyo.
When you were starting out in Aikido, did you have expectations? What were some of them and have they been met?
When I started Aikido, I learned many things - not only Aikido technique but also important things for my life, such as harmony in the group, [dealing with] life challenges, etc.
What is the name of the aikido organization (or organizations) that your students put up in Sri Lanka?
I started my dojo in February 2001 and named it Sri Lanka Aikikai (Sri Lanka Aikido Association).
How many years has aikido been practiced in Sri Lanka as of now?
As I said earlier, it has been about 11 years.
We are of the impression that you introduced aikido to Sri Lanka. What made you decide to introduce aikido to Sri Lanka?
One of the reasons I started to teach aikido [in Sri Lanka] was my experience in the Philippines.
In fact, there were [already] aikido dojo in Sri Lanka when I arrived [there].
But I wanted to start my dojo afresh in order to avoid any influence in the past.
You say you "wanted to start my dojo ... in order to avoid any influence in the past." Please elaborate.
The reason why I wanted start afresh was that:
I wanted to start my dojo free from any color and any bondage and any responsibility and any debt.
So I have been freed from any responsibility and debt since I started my dojo.
Since I started my dojo, I have been asked to come other dojo to teach aikido but I told them, please come to my dojo if you want to learn from me.
Then most of them came to my dojo.
What was the biggest challenge, or biggest difficulty, in teaching aikido in Sri Lanka?
The first difficulty was to find [a place for a] dojo, which took about 6 months.
The second difficulty was how to teach reigi (manners), [such as] bowing when starting and finishing, cleaning the dojo before starting, cleaning [away] food before entering the dojo, and seiza.
The first deshis were mostly experienced Karateka or Judoka, but although they knew techniques, they did not know reigi.
You considered it very important to teach Reigi to the aikido students. Please explain for our own younger students why Reigi is so important.
Reigi makes a human being modest. When a human being becomes modest, he can smoothly and naturally respect his training partners even if they are beginners and still weak.
Reigi gives a human being peace and calm and makes him free from a snobbish and haughty attitude.
Similarly, what was the biggest challenge, or biggest difficulty, in teaching aikido in the Philippines?
When I started [doing] aikido in Philippine , [the art] was [well-]populated already in Philippines and there were many dojos , and each dojo had their own way and did not interact very much with each other. It was hard for me [to encourage] harmony and communication among the dojos.
Who is the senior aikido teacher in Sri Lanka now that you've returned to Japan?
One is Mr Ajith Goonatileke (4th dan). There are three 3rd dan and seven 2nd dan.
What would you consider to be the most important thing you have gained from aikido?
Those are not only bodily [skills] but also mind [skills].
It is very very hard to [attain] self control of the mind; I still cannot self-control my mind perfectly, and so I continue to practice aikido.
Even top athletes can not win, and [can end up] losing at the final match, [if] they are unable to practice self-control to suppress wicked heart and malicious intentions.
It is not only top athletes but also top businessmen who [at times] can not release [themselves] from their desires.
What in your opinion are the important benefits that aikido gives its practitioners?
First, to love aikido and enjoy aikido, and if it gives [any additional benefits] to you in your life, then all the better, I think.
When did you realize that you have a calling to teach aikido?
Teaching aikido is learning aikido.
Children and bigginers are very good teachers to me because it is more difficult to smoothly harmonise with them.
What advice or what message can you give to the aikido community in the Philippines?
The first is: to love aikido and enjoy aikido and continue a ikido without any difficult rules and regulations.
What do you think is your biggest contribution to the development of aikido in the Philippines?
Aikido is one realistic budo which trains the body and spirit; and [it is] very deep and [there are] many things [the student can] learn from it.
I trust that aikido contributes to brush up and help Philippines people not only their life but also their world.
Its spirit becomes even more important in today's money-centered and materialistic culture.
Komenoi Sensei, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. We look forward to training with you in October.