From what I’ve observed, Harry sensei’s Aikido is really, really old school, because in an Embukai December last year, I get a feeling in the crowds that they really have no idea what the hell that white-haired old man is doing. It doesn’t look anything like the Aikido they ‘know’, or they think the know.
That is the very issue challenging in Aikido. to the untrained eye, including those long time Aikidokas (myself included) Harry sensei’s form seems so collaborative. He even remarked that after his demonstration in Thailand, he was approached by some student Aikidoka and asked if he’d choreographed the movement!!!
The Aikido he practices is very subtle, and sensitive. for someone his age, he has long figured out the insanity to go force on force with his students, it does not make physics sense to do so. So how does he do the Aikido he do? You have to train with him to know how he does it. The comprehension and understanding of how he does it will come long after the knowledge.
So for those looking at what he does, they be skeptical, critical, simply because their vision is clouded by their ego, that desire to see dramatic moves, impressive throws and flying bodies. Unfortunately, Harry sensei has long past that level of ‘stage performance’. During those rare Embukai he gives, he does what he always do in the dojo, and it is not always action packed. He likes to stick with the usual Ikkyo pins, with a couple Kokyu nage, which he will always allows his ukes to roll or fall away safely. Seldom was there a need for the uke to take a break fall, or slam hard on the mat. He does a very comfortable level of Aikido, and unfortunately comfortable Aikido is does not attract prime time audience.
So we have to rethink what do people think about Aikido nowadays, perhaps it is something we can ask ourselves as well, what is our idea of Aikido TODAY? I constantly reinvent the wheel in this aspect, because what i hold dear 10 years back might not be the same today. I may not do the ‘contemporary’ style of Aikido or agree with it, that doesn’t mean that the ‘old school’ style i practice is irrelevant today. In the practices i had with younger, newer generation of Aikidokas, and i can conclude for now that old school is just as relevant.