WAILUKU - The president of the World Ki Society in Japan has named the acting head instructor of the Shushinkan Ki-Aikido dojo in Wailuku a hachi dan, or eighth-degree black belt - the 16th person in the world to reach the rank.
Christopher Curtis, who is also chief instructor of the Hawaii Ki Federation, received the hachi dan certificate awarded by Shinichi Tohei at a banquet at the dojo on Jan. 24. He received the certificate from the retired head instructor and founder of Maui Ki-Aikido, Shinichi Suzuki.
In other news at the dojo, two teenagers have been awarded their shodan, or first-degree black belts. Lyman Franco, 17, of Kahului and Aaron Villanova, 16, of Wailuku passed their shodan tests under the direction of Curtis.
Christopher Curtis (standing) was presented his hachi dan, or eighth-degree black belt, certificate by his longtime teacher Shinichi Suzuki. Curtis became only the 16th person in the world to reach the eighth-degree rank.
Aaron Villanova (left) and Lyman Franco (right) became shodans, or first-degree black belts, at the Shushinkan Ki-Aikido dojo last month. Between them is their instructor Christopher Curtis.
"We are very proud of these young men," said Curtis, who made the promotions on Jan. 25.
Lyman is the son of Alex and Leticia Franco and is a senior at Maui High School. Aaron is the son of Roy and Denise Villanova and is a junior at Baldwin High School.
Last year, the two newly promoted black belts were the recipients of the Shinichi Suzuki Ki-Aikido Youth Awards that sent them to Japan, where they won gold and silver medals in the June International Taigi Competition, Junior Division. The competition was held at the World Ki Society headquarters in Tochigi.
Franco and Villanova also assist in youth aikido classes.
Their instructor, Curtis, is a recognized Ki-Aikido sensei or teacher worldwide. He was appointed by the world Ki-Aikido governing body to be the official representative of Ki-Aikido in the Netherlands and Germany. He travels there twice a year.
He has also run seminars throughout the state and on the Mainland.
The new hachi dan black belt has authored two books, "Ki-Aikido on Maui" and "Letting Go."
"I never had a student who entered into the training to the degree that Curtis did," said Suzuki, Curtis' instructor. "He was by my side always and wanted to know everything I experienced from my teacher, master Koichi Tohei. Where he is today, and the fact that our teacher in Japan has awarded him this kind of high rank, is simply the result of the many years of this kind of single-minded effort."
Suzuki himself was recently named kyudan, or ninth-degree black belt, making him the highest ranking Ki-Aikido instructor outside of Japan and the first non-Japanese citizen to receive the honor.
In broad terms, the martial art of Ki-Aikido involves the unification of body and mind, Curtis wrote in "Ki-Aikido on Maui."
"If we perform the arts of aikido with only physical strength, our power is limited, and we will not be able to throw a bigger or stronger opponent," Curtis wrote. "If we master the principles of Ki, we will have the strength of mind and body unified and will be able to throw even big men easily."
Ki-Aikido techniques, which are to be used in "extreme emergencies" only, have practical applications in everyday life, he said.
"It hopes to lead many, many people to practice mind and body unification," he wrote. "It hopes to open the eyes of people to their own real, natural power and to send them to a happy, healthful life, helping them to build a more peaceful society and nation."
For more information about Maui Ki-Aikido and the Hawaii Ki Federation, go to the Web site www.hawaiikiaikido.org.