Tribute to Takaji Ishida Sensei

Tribute to Takaji Ishida Sensei (1906-1996)

Takaji Ishida Sensei was born in Niigata, Japan, in  October,1906.  He worked for the then Waialua Agricultural  Company in 1923 and retired from the Waialua Sugar Company in 1971. He died on 9 August, 1996, at the age of 89.


During his younger days, Ishida Sensei exhibited great interest in the martial arts.  He practiced sumo with former Hawaii Governor George Ariyoshi’s father.  At age 18, he began training in judo.  In 1944, he overcame tremendous obstacles to acquire permission to reorganize judo classes in Hawaii which were banned during the war years.  About 60 judo students trained under him at the Waialua Hongwanji Mission social hall.  He later expanded judo classes in Kahuku, Wahiawa, Mililani, and Kona.


Then, in the early 1950’s, Ishida Sensei witnessed an Aikido demonstration by Koichi Tohei Sensei and was smitten with Aikido.  He had the honor to have studied with Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei in Japan and Hawaii, and had faithfully shared O-Sensei’s teaching with his students.  Through his leadership and tenaciousness, he overcame tremendous obstacles  and worked tirelessly to establish and stabilize Aikido in Hawaii.  To this end, Ishida Sensei served as the 2nd Vice President of the Hawaii Aiki Kwai. He personally taught Aikido throughout Honolulu and occasionally on the neighbor islands.  Through the Central Pacific Aikido Association which he established, Ishida Sensei opened Aikido dojos at various locations including Waialua, Wahiawa, Waipahu, and Mililani.  For these and his many other achievements and contributions, Ishida Sensei was awarded his 8th Dan rank in Aikido on 9 January 1994.  


His selfless devotion to Aikido serves as an inspiration to all those who follow in his footsteps.

Dennis Oka remembers....


     My memories of Ishida sensei begin in 1973.  The year I started aikido.

At the time, Ishida sensei was 67 years old.  He was teaching aikido and judo in Waialua.  He would later stop teaching judo and concentrate on  aikido.  He once told a story of an aikido demonstration.  The aikido sensei was attacked by several judo black belts.  Each black belt was thrown several times.  An event that greatly influence his outlook of Aikido.


     A man small in stature but having tremendous amount of ki.  No matter how hard a uke would hold him.  His technique was always done in a relaxed and smooth movement.  Students thrown by Ishida sensei, are amazed that a  man his age can have such powerful technique.


     Ishida sensei dedication to aikido led him to form the Central Pacific Aikido Association.  At the age of 85, Ishida sensei was teaching 5 nights a week, at 3 different dojo’s.  He also attended several seminars each year.  Aikido of Honolulu, Hawaii Aikido Federation, and Hilo Aikikai are some of the organizations that invited him to be a guest instructor.


     As he grew older, his appearance remained the same.  He would credit the Nishi Health System for his ability to teach in his late 80’s.  A system he would practice everyday.


     On this day of celebrating the 50th anniversary, we should remember the different sensei’s contributions to aikido in Hawaii.  It will be 15 years since Ishida sensei passed away.  Even now his influence on aikido can be felt.

Don Kurihara reflects....

How does one truly measure another’s contributions of a lifetime?  Do we measure his sacrifices for his family, his achievements at his workplace, or his service to his community?  Did he make a difference?


All I know is that Takaji Ishida was my Sensei for about five years at the Mililani Aikido dojo.   During that period, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, I could expect to see him conduct training as much as I could expect the sun to rise in the East.  He was a constant in my life.  I could count on him.


During his classes, his verbal instructions were soft to the ear and often cryptic.  In some cases, it took me many years to understand what he meant, and even then, I am still learning how to apply them in my techniques.  His movement on the mat was almost indiscernible to me, yet powerful and true.  I was amazed how Ishida would walk unto the mat with an aged man’s shuffle (he was already in his late 80’s) and then suddenly transform into a pillar of strength and stability.  And his wrists!  They appeared larger than I would expect for his stature.  No matter how I tried to get a good grip on his wrists, it made no difference as I found myself flying in the air.  In all of his instructions, his heart spoke louder than his lips. I know I don’t understand it all, but I suspect Ishida spoke in the language of the Aikido Spirit.


During the times before and after practice, Ishida would sometimes reminisce about his past.  He told me he used to compete in Sumo in the plantation camps.  He also mentioned how he used to practice Judo until he saw an Aikido demonstration.   From then he was hooked!  I vaguely recall he said he was well into his 40’s at the time, which gave me some hope as I started Aikido training while middle-aged.


Ishida Sensei was humorous on occasion.  Once when I hurt my neck in practice, he gave me a massage.  Surprisingly, my neck muscles became relaxed.  He told me to do some forward rolls, which I did without pain.  Then he laughed and said, the reason the massage worked was because he doesn’t charge money for it.  If it did, he continued, then it wouldn’t work!  Till today, I wonder if there was an Aikido lesson in this exchange.


So, going back to the question as to whether Ishida Sensei made a difference.  If it were not for him, we would not have had Aikido dojos at Waialua, Wahiawa, Waipahu, or Mililani.  There would not be a Central Pacific Aikido Association, and most importantly, there would not be the hundreds of students who remembered Ishida Sensei fondly.  While many of his students continue to train actively, many more inactive students continue to practice the values, morals, and ethics of his Aikido instruction in their daily lives.  I am fortunate to be among those who had the benefit of his instruction.  I was the last to receive a Shodan promotion from him.  With that promotion came a self-inflicted obligation to help carry on Ishida Sensei’s lifetime work to share Aikido with everyone.  It is astonishing to find how many of Ishida Sensei’s former students have the same self-infliction.  So, yes, Ishida Sensei made a difference, a big difference.