For many Greater Bay Area martial artists Jack Wada’s name is synonymous with much that has occurred over the years with Aikido and in the martial arts community.
I was excited when Wada Sensei, who is Dojo Cho at Aikido of San Jose, agreed to answer questions I submitted. So here we go:
Q: I asked Sensei what teachers influenced him over the past years.
A: The teachers who have influenced me the most came in two waves. The first was Robert Frager and Robert Nadeau, who were my original teachers when I started in 1969.They are both pioneers, Americans who studied with the founder during the mid-sixties in Japan.
And I have always been grateful for this because from the beginning I got a much more cross-cultural sense of the founder and his teachings than I would have if I had gone directly to Japan and started there. And to this day they both remain very important parts of my life and my aikido journey.
The second wave came in 1973 when I went to train/study in Japan. I became a student at the Kumano Juku dojo in Shingu Japan. There I studied under Hikitsuchi Sensei and the other senior teachers: Anno, Yanase, and Tojima Sensei’s. And this was a school that really stressed the connection between the spiritual message of aikido and very intense training. So those are my seminal influences in the art.
Of course as you move forward what you have leaned initially deepens and becomes a part of you inside and life experience itself both in and out of the dojo becomes your teacher. But those first meaningful contacts really shape you.
Q: What did you specifically learn from this teachers?
A: Hikitsuchi Sensei gave me a good functioning sense of Osensei’s philosophy and it’s vocabulary. He taught using Osensei’s words. From him I learned the ancient chants and rituals of purification. The other three instructors showed me a good embodying sense of the Founder’s philosophy and art.
Anno Sensei embodied and still does today openness, creativity, and most important, humility. Yanase Sensei had this stamina/endurance/strength that he impeccably put into precise and powerful technique. Tojima Sensei had explosive power and a magical air as well as an incredible sense of humor. Many of his lessons left you in stitches.
Currently I am exploring music and a great teacher for me has been the music of the jazz legend Chet Baker. His fluidity, beauty, and the ability to touch the heart have opened new vistas of power and expression for me.
Q: Did you see any differences between Aikido here in the States and what you experienced in Japan?
A: Initially my sense was that through Frager and Nadeau Sensei’s the deeper message of aikido was passed on to me. When I got to Japan those lessons were sort of pounded into me daily. But over the years that dichotomy has disappeared. Both Frager and Nadeau Sensei are world-class aikido practitioners. As are many other instructors in the bay area.
For me personally I highlight Frank Doran Sensei and my dear friend Linda Holiday Sensei. There is no gap between the training you get in Japan and what you can now get here.
Okay, more in my next column with my questions and Wada Sensei’s answers. And, this is important, let’s see what Wada Sensei has to say about Aikido and the San Francisco Giants– and how Aikido can help our home team recapture that World Series pennant.