A brief biography
Yukio Kawahara-shihan was a vital force in Canadian Aikido for many years. During his 36-year career in this country, Sensei undertook a heavy, nation-wide teaching schedule and was instrumental in establishing the Canadian Aikido Federation as a strong, national organization. Ranked as 8th dan, he was Hombu Dojo’s official representative in Canada.
Born in 1940 in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan, Sensei trained in various martial arts in his youth. He began his Aikido career at the age of 17 in Osaka as an uchideshi (personal student) of Bansen Tanaka-shihan, a prominent early disciple of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, O-Sensei.
Sensei served as assistant instructor at Osaka Aikikai from the early 1960s to 1972. O-Sensei would often visit Osaka for long periods during this time, when Sensei had regular, personal experience of O-Sensei’s teaching.
In 1972, he went to Taiwan to serve as chief instructor at Taiwan Aikikai, an assignment he much enjoyed. However, as a consequence of political disagreement at the national level between Japan and Taiwan, he was forced to return to Japan in 1973.
In Osaka once again, he served as a senior instructor at Osaka Aikikai as well as teaching at various dojos in the area including university dojos. He was also chief instructor at Okayama Aikikai.
Invited to Montreal in 1975, he taught at Aikido Kensankai and began a long career of teaching seminars across Canada and the U.S.A. In 1977, he moved to Vancouver, B.C., and became chief instructor at Vancouver Aikikai.
He worked tirelessly to spread Aikido throughout Western Canada, also teaching in the eastern part of the country and instructing at seminars in the U.S.A., Japan, Europe and Mexico. The participants well remember his powerful technique, his traditional view of Aikido and his intense focus on correct practice of basics.
Sensei was responsible for creating the annual B.C. summer camp, which debuted in 1979. As a highlight of the Canadian Aikido calendar, it routinely drew participants from across Canada, North America and internationally. Over the years, many notable senior shihan taught at this camp, including the Aikido Doshu (leader), Moriteru Ueshiba, the Founder’s grandson.
Sensei served as the first technical director of the B.C. Aikido Federation and in 2005 was named the Canadian Aikido Federation’s first technical director. He was also a member of the North American Shihankai, an organization composed of several of the most senior international Aikido instructors.
Despite becoming ill with cancer early in the decade, he persisted with an active teaching schedule and in his efforts to strengthen the CAF. He expressed great determination to be present at the 2011 B.C. summer camp, but unfortunately, it was not to be. He passed away in Victoria on June 2, 2011, surrounded by loyal and affectionate students.
A sign of his great generosity and dedication to Aikido in Canada was a large bequest to a trust fund intended to help in further improving technical standards in Canadian Aikido.
Kawahara-shihan had an encyclopedic knowledge of martial arts. He was a deeply private man who had little interest in celebrity or ceremony. His Aikido was for his students, and he taught them as a mentor, with great attention and patience.
He is deeply missed by the Canadian Aikido community, which now faces the challenge of continuing his Aikido legacy.