The Early Days

The following interview took place on June 12, 1999, in between classes at a seminar that Kanai Sensei taught at Toronto Aikikai.


R. Zimmermann (RZ): Sensei, you have been living in the US for over thirty years. Can you tell us about the early days and about how it was that you went to Boston ?

Kanai Sensei (KS): When I was at Hombu, I got a letter from the President of Aikido of Boston, Mr. Ray Dobson, Terry's younger brother. The letter said there were about 60 people practicing Aikido, that they needed an instructor, and that they could offer the airplane fee, an apartment and a salary. I forget how much it was, but it was in the letter. At that time, Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, who we used to call Waka Sensei, had gone to New York and stopped in Boston. There he saw a dojo, which was quite small, but with lots of young people inside. So he decided "OK, we will send an instructor." That's how I went to Boston.

Kanai Sensei Interview I

Like most students my view of Sensei Kanai has been from a distance. Through seminars and classes he has seemed to be a powerful, direct and quiet presence; a man who guards his privacy. Although these impressions still seem valid, throughout this conversation Sensei smiled warmly, laughed easily and graciously allowed me all the time needed for the interview. Despite his apology for difficulty with English, Sensei eloquently answered all questions with care, clarity, and precision.

A Thought about Reigi Saho by Mitsunari Kanai

The motivating principle of human survival, based upon the instinctual needs of food and sex, is power. The ability to effectively use power is crucial for the sustenance of life itself. The technology of fighting, pre-modern and modern, is an expression of this power, and the human race has survived to this point in history because of the ability to properly use this power. In fact, the development of this technology has given rise to new ideas, scientific advances, civilization, and culture. The basic principle of power is deeply rooted in life itself, and it is still the basis of human society as we know it today.

My Life with Kanai Sensei - By Sharon Kanai

A young Turkish woman, Zeynep Yukselen, visited us at New England Aikikai last year. She brought with her a message from Mustafa Aygun, her Sensei in Istanbul (, a request that I write about my life with Kanai Sensei. That is when I began to write down some of my memories of our life together. It was not easy to write this article and I thank Aygun Sensei and Zeynep for their interest and encouragement.

Remembrance by George Mokray

I remember when Kanai Sensei had black hair. He wore it long in the front and would flip it back out of his eyes with a toss of his head. It was a very dramatic gesture.

His technique was always fierce and mysterious. I've heard that people in other dojos feared him more than Chiba Sensei because they couldn't understand where his technique was coming from. He did all those kokyu throws and they couldn't figure him out. We knew that it was that little hip thing he did, shifting his hips a little back and then forward again as he breathed out and threw. Such a small move and such power! Beautiful, subtle, and so effective.

Remembrance by Robert C. Carroll

The first time I ever saw Kanai Sensei was in the summer of 1986 at Roger Williams College in Bristol Rhode Island. I was thirteen years old. It was the twentieth anniversary of The New England Aikikai. At the time, My best friend, Steve, and I had been practicing Aikido for nearly a year. we were students at Newburyport Aikido, which was a small dojo. Our instructor, Bob Tobae told us about summer camp, and strongly encouraged us to go. This week long seminar would feature Doshu Kissamaru Ueshiba and his son Moriteru Ueshiba (then known as Waka Sensei). The whole idea of seeing the son and grandson of O' Sensei seemed very exiting to us. We talked to our parents and they gave us permission to go.