Little House In Ise

Yokota Sensei
March 1, 2010, 17:47
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: ,

Recently, I have lucked into more opportunities to train with Yokota sensei than my normal schedule permits. Each time, I have found myself more and more in awe of his Aikido. When I first attended one of Sensei’s classes, I felt as though I had reverted to being a beginner again. Every move I made was awkward or, at best, a mis-interpretation of what he was doing.

At first, I attributed my inability to perform at what I *felt* was my skill level to both sensei’s waza and the way he presented them. Which is to say, the waza he demonstrates are subtly (and unsubtly) different to what I was familiar. Also, Sensei frequently will demonstrate two or three techniques, all based on the same fundamental entry or dynamic and then have the class try to do what he just had. I would then furiously try to replicate what I thought I saw — often only his final technique — but then perform it as I understood not as he demonstrated. In other words, I kept missing his point.

From the way Sensei groups his techniques in a demonstration, it is clear that the common movement linking them is major part of his point. Details of individual waza are important but his overwhelming, uke dominating movements are the basis of his teaching and, I think, must be understood before trying to actually copy his techniques. Fortunately, Sensei will patiently demonstrate his footwork and frequently throws students as he wanders about the mat.

This may seem obvious but, when in Yokota sensei’s class expect to move. Expect big movements (even suwariwaza seems bigger) and dominant positioning to be explored. I know that when I first stepped onto the mat with him my attempts at replicating what he was teaching were very tentative and so, again, missed the point.

Now, I’m looking forward to my next chance to train with him!


8 Comments so far
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Hi Eric, I wish I could see him on video. Your description sounds like every workout I have! Seriously, I know exactly what you mean. There are a number of the upper belts(5th dan and up) who move differently and seem to specialize in different areas of aikido. The strange thing is that it all works for them. Maybe one day our kohai will say the same about us.

Good training, Eddie.

Comment by Eddie deGuzman

Hey Eddie,

The first link I had was broken but the second goes to a youtube video of him. Take a look and let me know what you think.

I am also a fan of his Uke, Suzuki Toshio sensei.


Comment by Eric Holcomb

Hey Eric, I didn’t even notice the links! His movement is interesting. I can see he’s into posture and center lines and his hands seem very connected to his center. He could use a new translator, though. Thanks for posting.

Comment by Eddie deGuzman

The translator is a buddy of mine too. He’s German and didn’t know he would be doing that job until right then. Needless to say I gave him a heaping helping of shit about it (in fun of course) but his response is pretty simple, “I’m German!”


Comment by Eric Holcomb

Fair enough:)

Comment by Eddie


I have just read this post about Yokota Sensei and would like to comment on it. First of all let me tell you that I like his style of Aikido a lot, and I started joining his classes a little over a year ago. I would like to say here that one thing is to like one’s Aikido style and another thing is to like a Sensei or this class. In my case I feel that I am closer to Miyamoto Sensei in general since I like both his class and Aikido style, but on the other hand I also like Yokota Sensei’s style. With that said, I have to tell you that Yokota Sensei has a background in Karate and all of his techniques and movements are always thinking of the possibility of a kick or punch in other words his style is at a level that he wants to explore and play with any kind of attack not only the ones we can practice in other classes (leaving his style at a high level). This is the reason why I started to like his class and Aikido style which I find to be very effective in a real life situation and as a self defense. There is a guy from USA whom is his deshi and his name is DJ.

Concerning the class itself, I have to say that the environment is totally different from other classes and I feel some kind of distance between Sensei his deshis and new comers. This does not happen in other classes where Sensei is very nice to everybody.

In any case I think that at a certain level an Aikidoka needs to decide to follow only one or max 2 Sensei styles for future training and as a matter of fact Yokota Sensei’s deshi only go to his class alone and follow him to his other classes out of honbu’s schedule same as Miyamoto Sensei or other Sensei. I have not reached that level for choosing one Sensei only and for now I am enjoying 2 or 3 different styles.

Maybe at your level you could make the choice?

Anyhow I hope this helped a bit

Take care and see you soon


Comment by Miguel

Hey Miguel!

Regarding your statement about liking a teacher’s Aikido and liking them or their teaching being different things: I agree completely. In this particular case, though I’m not particularly close to Yokota Sensei as
person, I do find him to be quite a likable fellow as well as being a powerful Aikidoka. Also, though I have met some of his students, they aren’t really my crowd.

At any rate, I don’t feel a strong urge to “follow” any particular teacher right now but if I did Yokota sensei would be on the short list of teachers I’d consider.

Take care and see you on the mat!

Comment by Eric Holcomb

Hi Eric

There is a special class of Yokota Sensei on Saturdays in case you didn’t know about and can join. This class is one of his extra classes and it is not included in honbu’s fee it’s called NHK class and I understand one has to be a regular student of him to join but in any case I talked to DK (Sensei’s deshi) and they let me join to try. After the trial I realized the class was too advanced for me and had to tell DJ I would like to join once I get Shodan level at least.

If you want you could talk to DJ and see if maybe he can talk Yokota Sensei into letting you join. (If you are really interested)

Take care


Comment by Miguel

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