Paul Sensei is very unique in that although he has trained with many well-known Aikido instructors over the years, including Matsuoka Sensei, Hiroshi Ikeda Shihan, and others, he is overwhelmingly self-taught. So, unlike myself, Paul Sensei must have an incredible innate aptitude for Aikido.
The students at Inazuma were so welcoming to me I almost felt like I was in the Castle Rock dojo. They genuinely seemed excited to have a visitor over the Christmas holiday.
One of the things I am most impressed with about Paul Sensei is his humble, non-egotistical disposition. To symbolize this attitude at Inazuma, all of the students wear a white belt and black hakama regardless of their rank or how long they have been training. Even Paul Sensei, the chief instructor of the school, wears a white belt during class! He says, "It's a constant reminder to me that I, too, am always a student and am always learning."
INAZUMA is a Japanese word meaning "thunder." So, their name is Thunder Aikido Dojo. As the name implies, the students have a powerful style that reflects well on Paul Sensei. One thing that really stood out about the Inazuma students was their UKEMI (falling and rolling ability). I was extremely impressed with their skills and how comfortable all of the students were about taking some rather sophisticated breakfalls - even the newest students.
The etiquette of Inazuma was extremely similar to the way we train at Castle Rock with a few, fairly subtle differences. For example, Inazuma claps four times during the REI-HO at the beginning and end of class, while we only clap two times. This was not completely foreign to me. Many years ago, I trained at another dojo in Rock Island, Illinois that also clapped 4 times before class, so the variation didn't "throw" me (pun intended).
Something else I found of interest at Inazuma dojo was the slight differences in names of techniques. For example, what we call KOKYU-NAGE or "breath-throw," Paul Sensei calls SAYU-NAGE. They are exactly the same technique, but simply have different names. Interestingly, another instructor who visited Castle Rock AIKIDO a few months ago, also called this technique SAYU-NAGE.
As another example, what Castle Rock calls KATA-DORI, or a one-handed "shoulder grab," Inazuma refers to as MUNE-DORI. At first I was thrown off a bit by the differences. However, I quickly realized that I could decipher what Paul Sensei meant since another attack we call MUNE-TSUKI means "front" or "chest" punch. Therefore, I could deduce that MUNE (pronounced 'moo'-'nay'), in this context, also meant chest, which of course, is anatomically proximal to the shoulder. I already knew that DORI meant "grab." So, MUNE-DORI simply means "chest-grab," which is exactly the same as KATA-DORI. Aikido students may also hear this attack called KESA-DORI since the KESA is word referring to the "diagonal lapel" portion of a martial arts uniform.
I have extended an invitation for Paul Sensei to come to Castle Rock AIKIDO in the spring of 2011 to teach a Saturday workshop and introduce us to his powerful style and interpretation of Aikido. I think Castle Rock students will be very impressed with the diversity of his skill, the differences between his style and ours, and will also notice many similarities.
Paul Sensei has offered an open invitation to Castle Rock students to train at Inazuma anytime they might be visiting Steamboat Springs. Inazuma dojo trains in the Monson Building on the Colorado Mountain College campus of Steamboat Springs atop the hill near 12th street. They are officially part of the college's martial arts program and college students are permitted to study Aikido as a course in their curricula. Currently Inazuma dojo trains Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6:00pm - 8:00pm. They also hope to add a Sunday class in the near future. Be sure to call first before you visit. Paul Sensei can be reached at (970) 629-8545.
Thank you, Paul Sensei. It was a great visit to your dojo. I hope to train with you again soon.