T. K. Chiba Shihan passed away on June 5th, 2015, in his house in San Diego, the most southern city of the State of California near the Mexican border, where he had lived since 1981. His demise marked the end of a distinctive idea of Aikido and of the way if not to teach it, at least to try to pass on its basic principles.
I first met Chiba Sensei during my early years as an Aikido student (1973 or 74 if I recall correctly ) and I remained closely in touch with him from 1977, when I moved to Japan untill his passing, although I never was an uchideshi or a kenshusei in any of his dojos.
Except for Saito Morihiro Sensei, Chiba Sensei was one of the few post-war Aikido students to be closely associated with the Founder of this art, Morihei Ueshiba.
He entered in Hombu Dojo as an uchideshi in February 1958 and left in March 1966 to settle in Great Britain where he was hired to teach Aikido, an art he was far from having mastered. Right away he encountered a lot of difficulties : first the lack of an easy communication with Japan and of any basic tool of information (personal computers and internet had not been invented yet), then the problems inherent to his own situation (he did not speak the language) or to personal relationship with the British at the time (still resentful toward the Japanese for the way they treated their prisoners during the war), and finally the political conflicts among Great Britain Aikido leaders (his contract was soon to be canceled). In spite of all this Chiba Sensei successfully overcame all obstacles and succeeded in developing and deepening the basic knowledge and know-how he had acquired during the short eight years period he had spent at Hombu Dojo, in order to become one of the most fantastic aikidoka and one of the most productive teachers of his time.
I personally learned greatly from Chiba Sensei’s experience in Great Britain and when I felt dispirited during my training years in Japan I tried to remind myself of his struggles, of the hardships he had to overcome, alone and away from all the sources he could have referred to, in order to pursue his studies and stick to his search the way that O-Sensei had shown him.
The following texts tell the story of a life solely dedicated to the development and the teaching of Aikido in the words of Chiba Sensei himself, collected by one of his students (Lori Stewart) and translated in French by myself. These texts were published at various times in the Sansho and Biran newsletters of the dojos belonging to the Birankai group established by Chiba Sensei during his days in the United States.
A complete biography of Chiba Sensei has been written by Liese Klein, one of his students, and published by Summit Aikikai in 2018. Currently out of print, this biography should be soon available again in a new digital edition available online.
Chiba Sensei’s ashes rest in the cemetery adjoining the Chōgenji Temple situated in Kannami, Prefecture of Shizuoka, Japan, of which Yamahata Hogen, a lifelong friend of Chiba Sensei, was the head abbot.