An era came to an end on August 28, 2017. After 33 years, Katsumi Niikura Sensei said goodbye to his students and closed International Budo Ryokukai in Sterling Heights, Michigan. For 27 of those years, I studied and trained with Sensei, earning a second degree black belt in Aikido, and learning his Ki healing methods. I am full of love, respect and gratitude for the man. A model of single-mindedness, focused intent, devotion, and discipline, Sensei is passionate about martial arts but he lives to serve humanity with his Ki healing techniques and teachings.
A mystery when I met him in 1990, Sensei would come out of his office five minutes before class, sit in the corner, rise and teach class, and return to his office. I felt “there is something more to this man.” Almost two years later, I returned to the dojo after a vacation and a video was playing on the television. There were three black belts charging Sensei. While they’re still three feet away, he sweeps his hands upwards with a shout and they all go flying backwards through the air. With a quiet laugh I said to myself, “that’s it.”
As he taught us his Ki healing techniques, warmth, humor, and friendliness filled the dojo. Smiling, he’d instruct us to help each other, to be “like family.” With his limited English, he’d have me answer the question people asked over and over again, “what is Ki?” with the simple answer: “Ki is Love.”
Like a magnet, people were attracted to the dojo. They came in droves to receive Ki energy for their health and well-being and/or to learn his Ki healing methods. Of all the ailments brought to the dojo, and there were many, Sensei was most devoted to helping people with cancer. His daughter had had seven bouts with brain cancer. Before her last surgery, he secretly used Ki energy with her and made a promise: if she healed, he’d devote his life to using Ki to help people with cancer. She recovered fully.
I’ve never witnessed devotion like Sensei’s. His devotion was matched by his heart-fulness. At the funeral for a four year old child with a congenital terminal condition, while most of the people stood away from the casket, Sensei stood by himself right in front of it sobbing. His Ki energy could not reverse the course of nature.
That was many years ago. Since then, people from many backgrounds, ethnicities, religions and geographic regions, came to the dojo in Sterling Heights to receive help and to learn. Sensei’s dream was for 1000 people to learn Ki energy techniques so a 1000 more people could help those in need. His teaching sprouted learning centers, especially in New York City and in Japan, where Sensei would travel regularly to teach and help people. Sandwiched between, Sensei continued to teach martial arts, especially Aikido, Iaido and Karate.
The time came for 78 year old Sensei to return home to Japan. As we said good bye with tears in our eyes, I thanked him for all that he’s taught me, done for my family and friends, and for all the people he’s served. I told him I will never forget, I’ll remain at his service and always remember the three phrases he repeated constantly to me: “practice . . . practice . . . practice,” “don’t worry . . . don’t worry,” and “Ki is Love Ted . . . Ki is Love.”