“My Way,” life of Kato
(1940 – 2013)
Kato Sensei had liked Martial arts since he was a child. Even though he looked very tiny and fragile, not tall, and in relatively frail health in his youth, he was in love with Budo, practiced Sumo, and fought against bigger boys.
In 1966 he had his first encounter with Daito Ryu, and in 1967 enrolled full time in the Daitokan Dojo. He started attending the dojo every day, twice a day, per the advice of his Sempai, Suzuki Sensei, he started practicing Shodo in 1968. As a result of these extraordinary efforts, in 1969 he achieved the rank of Shodan!
In those days, 5th Dan was the highest rank in the Daitokan ranking system. Examinations were very strict. To advance even to Shodan, it was necessary to master Nihon Kendo no kata, and from the Second Dan up – Ono ha Itto Ryu Kenjutsu. There were only a few schools in Daito Ryu to have Ono ha Itto Ryu as a mandatory part of the curriculum, but in the Daitokan Abashiri Dojo it was (and still is) a mandatory discipline of the curriculum, because it is considered of great importance for skill development.
By 1975 Kato Sensei obtained the title of Shihan in Daito Ryu and Shodo. In 1983 Kato Shigemitsu was awarded the highest degree inside Daitokan, 5th Dan, by Takeda Tokimune Soke, as a testimony of his great abilities.
In 1992 Honbu Dojo of Nihon Daito-Ryu Aikibudo was given “new life and a new beginning” by testimony of masters. Sano Sensei at that time assumed the responsibilities of Soshi of Seishinkai, but Technical direction was left to Kato Sensei and Arisawa Sensei.
In 1994 Kato Sensei along with Okabayashi Sensei and 4 other masters visited Europe. The branch dojo in Milan under Antonino Certa was selected as a base .Just couple of years ago Kato Sensei was still practicing with the same rigor as 40 years ago.
In 2002 because of age of some of the older members and decision of others to separate, Kato Sensei united the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daitokai with other dojos and assumed title of Soshi.
On November 20, 2013 Kato Shigemitsu died at his home in Kyosato (Hokkaido).
道 – “MICHI” – “MY WAY“
by KATO SHIGEMITSU SHIHAN
“Michi” (道 ) The book – written by Kato Shigemitsu, year 2000
“After a long matured consideration, I decided to entitle this book “Michi” [also read DŌ]. Among many possible ways I chose, because of my poor health during my youth, the one of Budo, especially the old one and I got to the Daito-ryu. At the beginning the engagement and the hardness of the lessons induced fear to me but, learning to training like everybody else, I started going to the dojo both during the daytime and evening time. Then, one day Shinpachi Suzuki Sensei recommended me to study also the Shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and although, at the beginning I was not particularly skilled in calligraphy I convinced myself the Budo and the Shodo had the same aim, so I began to improve almost both bujutsu and literary arts. After obtaining, in the year 49 of Showa era (1974), both Shodo and Aikibudo degrees, I started to teach these two arts and became Technical Director of Daito-Ryu Aikibudo´s headquarters, while in the Shodo practice I reached the Shihan degree an in the National association of Shodo culture (Zen-Nihon Shogei Bunkain) I was nominated Executive Director. My life, then, was so full of energy and activity (in addition to my regular job) and it was very challenging. In occasion of the Shunseiki foundation (Shodo association) by my master Suzuki Shinpachi, in the year 51 of Showa era (1976) I became his Deputy Director and I started to teach the Shodo all over the country and also maintaining in parallel the Budo teaching . In the year 53 of Showa era (1978) I became General Secretary at the Daito-ryu Aikibudo´s headquarters and assumed the full responsibility in teaching this art [the Daito-ryu]. The following year 54 of Showa era (1979) upon the City request I accepted the Managing Director position in charge of Sport in Abashiri….During the same year I attended the constituent meeting of National association promoting the Ancient Arts and assumed the position of Deputy Director of the City young athletes association, thus contributing to the development of the sport activity in the city [Abashiri]. During the year 55 of Showa era (1980) I participated to the foundation of the Budo promotional association of which I became Executive Director and I remained so until now . In the meanwhile, because of family reasons, I moved to Kyosato city [about 40 km from Abashiri] were I constituted a local dojo of Daito-ryu Aikibudo, responding to the demand and becoming its director. In addition to this Daito-ryu development I also tried to extend the Shodo practice as the Director of the Koinshowin association. During the year 56 of Showa era (1983) I took the position of Executive Director of the Abashiri Shodo Federation. At that time I was already living in Kiyosato but I accepted because I was already working in Abashiri and so I remained there for sometimes as main organizer. Then, in order to hand down the teaching of the late Soke Takeda Tokimune and to carry out his wishes, I gave a new life to the Nihon Daito-ryu Aikibudo Seishinkai Association [a new association with a new dojo called Nakagawa Ise Budokan; together to Matsuo Sano Sensei], in the year 4 of Heisi era (1992.)
In the year 6 of Heisi era (1994), upon request of the Italian Headquarters of Nihon Daito-ryu Aikibudo Seishinkai, the six of us, including myself, reached in Italy and tried to spread the art in several places [Milan, Vicenza and Rome] keeping basis in Milan’s main dojo. For example, we had the opportunity to give a demonstration of Daito-Ryu at the elementary school in Noventa Vicentina and I believe that good results were achieved. In November of the same year, in the occasion of the first anniversary of Tokimune Sensei’s death  I attended the Buddhist ceremony of commemoration at the invitation of the 37th family successor who inherited the title of Soke in Tokyo [Takeda Masanobu]. Then we gave a demonstration of Budo in the ex-Daitokan and altogether we deeply reflected on the past. I realize that my present behavior is overall due to the example of the past 36th Soke Takeda Tokimune and to my partners and masters too. As far as Shodo concerned, I received so many advices from the past Suzuki Shinpachi Sensei, from Sensei Bundo Iwata and Sensei Sokaku Matsuhashi and so many others that I want to thank the people who brought me their support.”
“Meeting with the Daito-ryu” (“Hiden magazine” interview)
“As a child I was passionate about martial art and everyday I was practicing the Sumo or the fight with tough boys,” so was telling Kato Sensei (Administrator Director of the Seishinkai headquarters of the Nihon Daito-ryu Aikibudo), when he was recalling the days of his childhood. However the first meeting with the Daito-Ryu dates back to the time when he started working. Kato Sensei is, in fact, a public officer and still now works at the Prefecture of Abashiri. In the year 41 of Showa era (1966), he visited for the first time the Daitokan Dojo, there he found a world completely different from the one seen before in his previous experiences in martial arts matter. A small sized practitioner could make flying a much larger one. It seems to me that the Sensei Kato is not physically a huge man, but when they told him that the founder Takeda Sokaku was even frailer that him, his curiosity towards the Daito-ryu became stronger. So in January of the following year 42 in Showa era (1967) Kato sensei became a student practitioner of Daito-ryu.
“It was very hard, not as light as today,” he says about lessons and practice at his time. For example nagewaza (projections) were preformed in such a manner that the opponent could not act properly take ukemi, and this scene was played everyday with someone fainting, hitting their head when falling and for a lot of ukemi achieved bruises, almost always were tending to be blanked colored rather than gray to light blue. Kato Sensei went to practice intensely the Daitokan dojo, every day after work [Tokimune Soke gave lessons in the morning, lunchtime and evening]. After a couple of years of this practice he obtained the Shodan degree. It is clear that maintaining a continuous attention and commitment in both work and martial art is very tiring and unfortunately a lot of people often stopped or reduced their practice after obtain the dan degrees, but he worked hard and went on practicing more intensively even during lunch break. This behavior shows how great was his passion for Daito-ryu.
道– “MICHI” – MY WAY
by KATO SHIGEMITSU SHIHAN
One day the Senpai and first assistant instructor of the Honbu dojo and also Master of Shodo, Suzuki Sensei suggested to him to start practice of calligraphy [Japanese]. Suzuki Sensei was famous for his excellence in the literary arts and bujutsu. His motto was “the Shodo is essential for the Samurai” and he convinced definitively Kato Sensei to start studying during the year 43 of Showa era (1968) and soon demonstrated a great ability also in this art. He became Master of the National Association promoting the Shodo practice.
This event dates back to the year 50 in Showa era (1975). I would say that Kato Sensei is surely a human being full of a singular energy; it is already, as yet, difficult to face a job and bujutsu in the same time and still managed to get also beautiful results in Shodo practice. So becoming more noted for his dedication in Daitokan, he reached the Second Dan and became Deputy Technical Director; Technical Director in Third Dan of Honbu dojo of Abashiri.
Let’s try explain the System of Dan in the Daitokan. The Fifth Dan is the highest one. Who gets the Fourth Dan is a Shihan, and who gets the Third Dan become Delegate Shibucho and his degree is equivalent to that of Director in a detached dojo [Dojo-Cho]. This system is based on an evaluation of competence and personal ability for the one who has a higher degree compared to Shihan. His technical capacity, only, is important in the bujutsu.
“The case of Seishinkai is even more valuable today because now there are a lot of Associations that grant diplomas and degrees in a frankly exaggerated way. Of course, for us, it is very difficult to ride on a higher Dan grade and the examination is strict. Kenjutsu is also requested to obtain the First Dan. To become a Shodan “Nihon Kendo-no-gata” learning is required; while for the Second Dan the study and practice of the “Ono-ha Itto-ryu” is required. It should be emphasized that the kata present few small difference respect to the “Ono-ha Itto-ryu”, [main line of Soke Sasamori Takemi], because kata were directly handed down by Takeda Sokaku [Takeda-den style]. The Daito-ryu gives a great importance to the way they move and to the practice deriving from the sword use, but, today, a few schools of Daito-ryu still practice Kenjutsu. Personally, I find that the obligation of sword handling for the dan test makers clear how in the Daitokan, takes a great dealing in this basic principle.” On his Third Dan, after he had become Technical Director of headquarters [Honbu Dojo],
Kato Sensei was going along with a Deputy Director, to give demonstration in various places in the country. Once while visiting a displaced dojo, he realized that a strange atmosphere were gliding and that Yudansha [group of black belts] students looked at him with suspicion as to mean it would be a nonsense to receive lessons from such a small sized man like Kato Sensei. The assistant Director was disappointed, but Kato Sensei trying to keep him quiet decided to leave. At that point, one of the present students asked him to accept a challenge and immediately Kato Sensei proved his capacity. All the present students paled seeing the victory of Kato Sensei on the young student. Let’s tell another episode: there was a implicit consensus the practice sessions of the Honbu dojo should not be seen by other outside association members, but once a practitioner belonging to another branch had the opportunity to observe him and discovered that the practice in this honbu was very tough. When he came back to his dojo, repentant he referred to his companions “we act to softly, it’s a shame to call our practice Daito-ryu, it is definitely too light”. Telling these episodes I would not want Kato Sensei to be put in a bad light, like a rude man; his fidelity to the Honbu dojo was so deeply rooted in him that for each biannual election of the General Secretary he was elected for 14 consecutive years. But unfortunately he now refers to these facts like memories of the “old good” time and is distressed thinking about the present perception of Daito-Ryu.
The Daito-ryu handed down from Takeda Tokimune is rooted in Abashiri
I have seen some video-recordings of schools that were claiming they Daito-ryu practice but I was amazed because some of them are not even deserve to be called jujutsu. Currently there are a lot of schools that claim to be representatives of Daito-ryu but unfortunately only few students convey the true techniques of the 36th Soke Takeda Tokimune. How did we arrive to such a situation?
The Kato Shihan says <<students personally instructed by Soke in Honbu dojo of Abashiri had not the same level of those who were instructed in the central the headquarters. The Soke was teaching very particularly the students of the headquarters while he was less detail the outside ones. Consequently, the opinion was that in the Seishinkai only, the exact techniques could be learned. Because of his illness Soke Takeda Tokimune, in the year 66 in Showa era (1991), was not always he was teaching on a daily basis, consequently the entire organization experienced a period of great confusion. For this reason some fake Daitokan began to rule the roost declaring to be Seishinkai with a great sense of duty and in order to protect the force and to pass on the old techniques reached by Soke Tokimune, some members, full of good intentions established their headquarters of the Nihon Daito-ryu Aikibudo Seishinkai in Abashiri where Takeda Tokimune had founded the Daitokan [a new binding with a new dojo called Nakagawa Ise Budokan]. Because the intent was to transmit the orthodox teaching of Tokimune, it was decided to go a Tokyo and show the techniques to the public. The Daitokan was already known among other Daito-ryu school but I regret the Seishinkai was not as well known as the one where the spirit of the Soke Tokimune was handed down.>> In the meantime Kato Sensei reached to known Noboyuki Hirakami who had founded the Daitokan Shinkikai and was a scholar researcher in ancient Japanese arts. With his consent and cooperation a seminar was organized in Tokyo in March of the 7th year Heishi era (1995)[directed by Kato Sensei]. The day when good results will be obtained is not so far. Results earned with passion and determination, to educate, in Abashiri, sensitive people able to keep alive the spirit of Budo and the teaching handed by Soke Takeda Tokimune.
The article, including the Preface and the excerpts from the Book “道– “MICHI” – MY WAY”, by Kato Shigemitsu Shihan, was first published on the “Official Website European Daitokai Daito ryu Aikibudo Association”.
The permission / approval for the following reprint of the contents , including the pictures, is granted by:
Antonino Certa Shihan – President and Chief Instructor of the European Daitokai Daito ryu Aikibudo Association”. author of the book “Daito-ryu Aikibudo, History and technique”