Obituary: Kazuo Chiba, 1940 – 2015

Even though I no longer formally practice Aikido, it is a martial art that still matters to me, and one I often think of. I still miss it, and not just because of the hakama.

Recently, T.K. Chiba shihan passed away. He was one of the few living disciples of Aikido’s founder Morihei Ueshiba and his son Kisshomaru, having served as their uchi-deshi for seven years and taking his teachings abroad. He spent ten years teaching in Britain, and he ran a dojo in San Diego from 1981.

I am incredibly fortunate to have trained with two of his students, one of them being my Sensei Denzil Beukes in Grahamstown. Though he may have taught an ocean away, he had an influence on my Aikido, my beloved Rhodes Aikido club, and on my martial arts journey as a whole. His approach to personal development through adversity remains influential to this day.

“I try to stick to the traditional ways as much as possible. The martial, warrior spirit is something I admire greatly and is something I try to preserve. The combatative arts have a profound body history in them and I don’t want to lose it. But it’s more than that. We follow the art, which is struggle. And through the struggle, we transcend into the path of Aikido. Eventually, it brings harmony between you and the external world.”

As more and more of the few remaining disciples begin pass away from old age, regardless of style, it is important that we continue building a martial arts repository online. We are fortunate to have something as valuable as Youtube for preserving footage of how these great teachers trained, and taught, and inspired. So much has already been lost in martial history – the firebombings of Japan in WW2 and the invasion of Okinawa by Allied forces decimated valuable archives and killed numerous students and teachers. As we bid farewell to the giants of our different arts, let us ensure that their legacy and contributions remain long after they do.

Goodbye, Sir Terry, and Thank You

The first Discworld novel I read was The Fifth Elephant, and it wasn’t the one that got me addicted to Pratchett. No, not at all.

The novel that made me go back and devour more was, oddly, Snuff. Released late in Pratchett’s career, it was my gateway to the Discworld and there was nothing for it but to go and find every single Sam Vimes novel. I adore Sam Vimes, the majesty of the law himself, and Death is splendid and there are a hundred characters that I’ll be reading to my kids one day. The witches. Moist. Lu-Tze. The Patrician. Susan. Ridcully. Nobby Nobbs. Rincewind, Angua, Carrot and oh god, if I keep listing them my heart will break.

I have had so many happy hours with these books. When I have been sick, I have turned to them. When I have been shoulder-deep in depression, when I felt like every nerve was frayed and exposed and I couldn’t bear any human contact. Every night with insomnia, every lazy Sunday to chase away the Monday blues. My copy of Night Watch, gifted to me by my very best friend, is about to fall apart at the spine. I read Pratchett out loud to my beloved physicist and we have discussed the intricacies of the Discworld for many happy hours.

For the gods’ sake, I have the Ankh-Morpork board game.

He was only 66, and though we know all beloved authors must die, it is still vastly unfair that a writer of such prodigious talent went so soon. At the least, he died loved and in company, and in the end, that is all we can really hope for, for all of us.

I am grateful that there are so many Discworld novels to read, and that we have them at all. That any book’s birth is a combination of luck, talent and timing, and to have so many is wealth indeed. It’s hard not to mourn the books that will now go unwritten, but at least we can turn to dozens and dozens of novels and be glad that those books live now.

Thank you, Sir Terry Pratchett. Back to stardust we all must go, but at least you spent your time here making so many people happy.

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