Mitsunari Kanai Sensei (1939-2004)
Portrait: Lyn Flitton

As March comes around every year I start to think about Kanai Sensei and his passing now almost 13 years ago. I was never a direct student of Sensei’s in terms of my day to day practice, but he always treated me as such, which meant a lot to me.

I started Aikido in the spring of 1973 at Toronto Aikikai.  My first teacher (Bruce Stiles) was one of Kanai Sensei’s first students, so I always had a great affinity for Kanai Sensei and interest in the physical style of his techniques. Over the years I have followed him to many seminars and summer camps. One special trip in particular I traveled to Japan with Kanai, Yamada and Tamura Senseis in May of 1989. It was a combination of North American students and also Europeans, so needless to say it was like oil and water trying to mix together or maybe like throwing gasoline on a fire?

Kanai Sensei for me represents the height of the development of Aikido. I believe he has really taken Aikido to a new and fascinating level so well explained in the articles he published and interviews he gave over the years.

Mitsunari Kanai Sensei
Waza: Ogoshi Uke: Shakoda Neil Videography: Lyn Flitton

Intuitively, I realized that in order to preserve Sensei’s techniques, we had to capture them for future generations and that is why in 1999 I decided to start videoing Sensei on Digital Video and to learn how to edit and make them available through my website online and now via streaming from our online searchable database of Aikido Techniques at: aikido-db.com

Fortunately, Sensei lived long enough to see the fruits of our labor and was particularly pleased with the quality of this new digital media. He too realized that it would be important for future generations to see this material in its original and unadulterated form. I am pleased that I have been able to keep Sensei’s legacy going in my own small way and I know that he was pleased with what we were able to accomplish.

To see and hear Sensei for yourself,  try the following link Kanai Sensei Lecture Series 1993. This is a lecture that Sensei gave at our first location on Pacific Avenue in 1993 about his ideas regarding Aikido techniques.

Kanai Sensei Lecture San Francisco Aikikai circa 1993
Ukemi: Joel Posluns, David Halprin, Claude Berthiaume Translation: Cynthea Bogel

I have so many fond memories and times I spent with Sensei and my video material is a constant reminder for me of what he was like. He was one of the most wonderful human beings, I cannot remember ever hearing him berate a student. I only remember one time his being mad at me for some issue of etiquette and I felt so bad that I let him down, I decided that I would never make that mistake again.

When I moved to Vancouver in July of 2003, I had decided to practice with my old friend Ishu Ishiyama Sensei and felt very fortunate to be so welcomed at his dojo. When I told Kanai Sensei about my choice he was very pleased and told me that Ishu-san was his first soto deshi (outside follower as opposed to live-in) and that he was the first person that he had taught sword to (Muso Shinden Ryu). I realized what a fortunate situation it was for me to be able to practice and teach within an environment where I wouldn’t have to explain why I practiced as I did and who had taught it to me.

I think Kanai Sensei was pleased at this turn of events even though we never got to talk about it again. I told Sensei in my last e-mail to him that I would see him in May at Claude’s regular seminar in Montreal and that I couldn’t make it this year to his annual spring seminar hosting T.K. Chiba Shihan for the first time since that seminar’s inception.  At that time, we were to discuss the possibility of him coming to Vancouver for a visit and to teach a seminar.  Ishu-san and I kept on conspiring to lure him here with the enticement of a salmon fishing expedition leaving from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.  But unfortunately that was never to be, it was too late!

Now of course I teach at North Vancouver Aikikai where I work every day to acknowledge the heritage of my Aikido.  They have a saying for those who practice Budo, you are never taught but instead you steal technique from your teachers.  That is what I have endeavored to do in my own practice and teaching.  I attempt to define and preserve what I find of interest and include in the curriculum of waza that I practice and teach.

Here is some examples of techniques that Kanai Sensei had as a focus in his classes:

Mitsunari Kanai Sensei
Waza: Tsurebegoshi Uke: Shakoda Neil Videography: Lyn Flitton
Waza: Tsurebegoshi Uke: David Halprin Photography: Lyn Flitton

Waza: Jujinage Uke: Joel Posluns Videography: Lyn Flitton


Waza: Maki Goshi Uke: Claude Berthiaume

Waza: Iriminage Uke: Fiona Blythe

Waza: Maki Otoshi Uke: Spiros Koyanis


Waza: Maki Otoshi Uke: David Halprin

Waza: Koshi Garuma Uke: Shakoda Neil

Waza: Hajiki Goshi Uke: Shakoda Neil

Waza: Bokken – Suriagi Men Uke: Joel Posluns

Waza: Bokken – Suriagi Men Kaeshi Waza Uke: Joel Posluns

Waza: Iriminage Uke: Lauren Mallas

Waza: Kaitenage Uke: Joel Posluns

Waza: Katahiki Otoshi Uke: Shakoda Neil

6 thoughts on “The Techniques of Mitsunari Kanai Shihan

    • Hey Andy so glad you liked the posting. Am trying to recycle some of my video material so that it is given context like this. I think may be interesting for people to see. JP

    • I think that is why Kanai Sensei was so pleased with the quality of the new digital medium, especially being able to distribute it over the internet really makes access for everyone in the world interested in this material. Glad you enjoyed it. JP

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