An expirience with Yamamoto Sensei by Kurt Von Quintus

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Front L-R Yukiso Yamamoto,Kurt Von Quintus

Back Row L-R Mr. Kohashi, Eugene Watanabe, and Mr. Obayashi.

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Kurt Von Quintus on the end of Yamamoto Sensei’s infamous Nikkyo.

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Nikkyo again!

I was introduced to Kurt Von Quintus Sensei through Susan Brantz, a longtime practitioner of Shin Shin Toitu Do Aikido. Mr Von Quintus was gracious to provide his experience and some pictures of Yukiso Yamamoto.

An experience with Yukiso Yamamoto

I came to the island of Oahu in April 1978 with the explicit purpose of studying aikido and Filipino martial arts (and whatever else I could find). I grew up in Austin, Texas, and have been studying martial arts since I was 15 years old. I stopped training in aikido in early 1990’s. I still train in Shindo Muso Ryu Jo.

During high school and college, I studied Danzan Ryu jujitsu (aka Kodenkan Jujitsu), an art developed by Henry Okazaki, a Japanese-American Hawaiian. Around 1975, I began transitioning into aikido and for a while studied both arts simultaneously. My teacher was named Bill Lee (Susan Branz is also an old friend and student), who had studied aikido in Hawaii and California starting in the early 60’s. He was one of the people who inspired me to travel to Hawaii. I was ranked ikkyu by the time I left for Hawaii and really wanted to travel to another dojo to earn my shodan. I was restless after college so I earned enough money to see me through for about three months and I left for Hawaii.

I lived in the Kalihi District (Kam IV Rd) of Honolulu and worked for Freeman Guards, an agency that contracted out security guards to various businesses. Most of the time I worked at Honolulu Construction and Dredging. Since I worked all night, I would typically train during the following morning then go to bed in the early afternoon. Yamamoto Sensei’s class was at 8AM. It was a small but loyal group of people who trained with Yamamoto Sensei at the Palama Gakuin dojo. The address was 620 A Waipa Ln.

The participants shown in the attached group photo include (from left to right starting with the front row) Yamamoto Sensei, myself, then Mr. Kohashi, Eugene Watanabe, and Mr. Obayashi. I never learned the first names of Mr. Kohashi and Mr. Obayashi. Yamamoto Sensei and both of these gentlemen were well into their 70’s but trained like much younger men. Mr. Watanabe was an ex-karateka who had switched to aikido (a gentle giant). He was probably in his mid-50’s. I was 23. Despite our varying ages, we had lots of fun mixing it up.

I studied with many of the other teachers at the Palama Gakuin dojo (aka Hawaiian Ki Society), including: Seichi Tabata, Minoru Shibata, Frank Fujishige, Harry Eto, and Clayton Naluai. I also studied with Kawawaki Sensei (outstanding massuer), but I can’t remember his first name. I also got to study with Suziki Sensei from Maui and Nonaka Sensei from the Big Island. I also had two opportunities to study with Koichi Tohei when he came to Oahu from Japan.

The thing I liked about Yamamoto Sensei’s teaching was that it was a bit more practical than the rest. Not that the other teachers were lacking, it was just my personal preference. With my jujitsu background, I tended not to just fall unless I felt the need to do so. No problem for Yamamoto Sensei. He was the first person to throw me without feedback, that is I hit the ground and for a bit, I didn’t know how I got there (no prelimary movements). He did this with his magnificient yoko sutemi waza. He would drop underneath me and I was gone. Even though I knew what he was doing, I still couldn’t stop him. He had this impish twinkle in his eyes and would emit a happy chuckle after throwing me. I just enjoyed the ride. Now I was very good at taking falls and Sensei liked this alot. He could play and I could take it. What fun we had. At one point, I was even showing Mr. Kohashi and Mr. Obayashi how to do side falls. They picked it up real well and we had fun until Mr. Obayashi threw Mr. Kohashi on his head (he had to wear a neck brace for a couple of weeks). I received a severe lecture from Tabata Sensei and had to curtail any rambunctious training with those guys.

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5 thoughts on “An expirience with Yamamoto Sensei by Kurt Von Quintus

  1. Thank you for sharing this interesting article. So this experience shows us how important it is to learn how to fall and to think about the head to learn to fall on the shoulders, I think the most important and first thing to learn by newbies

  2. Yamamoto Sensei was often a guest instructor by us in Kaneohe. Instictly he was super strong but at the same time super soft. You were lucky to have him as a regular sensei.

  3. Stumbled upon your blog, and what memories it brings back! I just found out about Sensei Bob Aoyagi’s passing and regret I never made it to the Hombu to reunite with a man who had made a lifelong impression on me. I was a student at the Manoa Dojo from ~1968 thru 1975. Started in the Saturday morning, 7am beginner kids class, with Yamashita Sensei. As you advanced, you went to the 8am, 9am, then to the 6am class. The 6am class was for the advanced teens and adults, and would often be graced with Yamamoto and Aoyagi Sensei’s presence. That led into the Tuesday and Thursday evening classes, 7and 8pm, led by Aoyagi Sensei. Often, Yamamoto Sensei would be there. So, yes, I got to experience the steel behind this gentle, old man’s grip!

    Before I (regretfully) stopped going, due to a part time job that had me working after school and weekends, I was practicing Saturdays, 6-10am, and Tues/Thurs, 7-9pm. I was often the Uke for the lesson demonstrations–I think they just liked to use me, because I wouldn’t just blow over with a breath. I had the honor of meeting Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and being Uke for Tohei Sensei–because Aoyagi Sensei–because all the Senseis– took us under their wings. The Ki was strong in with all of them!

    At the old Deville Dojo, Tohei Sensei knocked me on my butt with a wave of his hand–but it felt as if someone had shoved both my shoulders back. He did other amazing demos–3 big, burly guys were unsuccessful at pushing him over, while he nonchalantly chatted with onlookers–then he sent all 3 flying. Then he got down on the tatami and did an arm wrestling match–while the guy struggled to budge Sensei’s arm, he again chatted. Then instantly pinned his opponent’s arm. Talk about totally disrupting the other’s Ki! I’m a believer, I experienced it.

    And then the Oceana thing. I was there. But I was young and unaware of the politics. To me, it was all about the art. Life took over and I drifted off just before going for that coveted black belt. Got a job, moved to LA. Years later, tried to get back, but it wasn’t the same without the old Masters. Work, again, got in the way and I wasn’t able to reconnect. I may need to try again…

    • Thank you for your contribution!! If you have any other experiences with any other Aikido in Hawaii please message me we can write a post on this blog. I regretfully have never had the chance to touch hands with Tohei Sensei. I heard he was an amazing person on and off the mat. Aoyagi Sensei was a really nice guy and had so much power. I only met him once but he was really impressive.

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