Interview by Isao Tokuhashi & Jennifer A. Hoff
Edited by Jennifer A. Hoff
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Renato Riberti (Italy)
Shiatsu Operator, Martial Artist
There is a traditional Chinese medicine clinic in Tokyo that has been attracting the attention of people from overseas. It’s run by an acupuncturist/martial artist and Chinese herbal medicine specialist. One day this spring, Hiroshi Yamamoto, the co-owner of the clinic “Kakikofu (和氣香風)”, let us know that a group of people from Italy would be undergoing training from him. He suggested to us that we interview the leader of the group and we graciously took up the offer, as it was to be our first lengthy interview with a person from Italy.
Let us introduce you to an Italian Renaissance man who will stop at nothing. His words will encourage those who are trying to acquire new areas of expertise.
*Interview at Kakikofu (Meguro-ku)
*Photos without credit: Taken by M.Iwakubo
Martial arts and bodywork
I came from Genoa, the north-western part of Italy. It’s similar to Kobe, Western Japan, because both have the sea and mountains. Actually, the city I visited when I came to Japan for the first time is located near Kobe.
I’ve been interested in Japanese things since I was a child. I liked manga and Japanese video games, and then I got attracted to Japanese martial arts. I guess I was fascinated by the culture because it has both tradition and modernity. Also I like Japanese people’s mentality and values, such as for respecting others.
I began learning judo at the age of 11 or 12, then I started with ju-jitsu when I was 15. Since then, I’ve also been a trainee of “Hontai Yoshin Ryu (本體楊心流)”, a traditional school of Japanese martial arts founded in the Edo Period. I was looking for a holistic martial arts that was not focused only on techniques or on competitions. And I thought that I would need to learn not only martial arts but also about other things in order to improve my martial arts practice. I discovered that the deep principles of martial arts, shiatsu and acupuncture are almost the same. So I started to learn about Japanese bodywork around 2013.
Encounter with a master
Finally I landed in Japan for the first time in 2015. I visited to see Mr. Hiroshi Yamamoto, a Japanese acupuncturist and martial artist. I happened to find Yamamoto sensei on Facebook when I was in Italy. He posted about his activities in English and I became interested in seeing him in real life.
So I flew to Japan and had my first encounter with Yamamoto sensei in a city near Kobe, called Nishinomiya, in 2015. The headquarters of Hontai Yoshin Ryu are located there in the city, which is where some instructors including Yamamoto sensei taught us their martial arts.
Yamamoto sensei has been my teacher of bodywork and martial arts since then. I saw him every time he came to Italy, and also followed him when he visited Poland just to brush up my techniques and knowledge. Also I’ve come to Japan 3 times so far in order to learn the essence of all the things that I was engaged in from him.
Students from Italy undergo bodywork training and are taught basic principles of martial arts and traditional medicine.
*Photos provided by Renarto Riberti
To spread the master’s methods at home
I have my own small dojo now, and have about 15 students who range from 16 to 60 years old. Some of them became professional shiatsu operators.
A few of my students have their own dojos as well. Eventually, I started coming to Japan with some of them to take training from Yamamoto sensei. Introducing my students to my sensei has been one of my dreams, so I can now say that my dream has come true. I hope that I can bring more students here in the future.
Another dream that I have is to hopefully let more people in Italy know about Yamamoto sensei’s practice, knowledge and philosophy. But I’m not interested in introducing him to tons of people. I only want to spread knowledge about his principles and methods to the “right” kinds of people.
What is Tokyo to you?
It’s too big to be called a city. To me, it’s like a planet.
I love to explore it by walking around areas such as Shinjuku and Shibuya. Even though there are so many people here, it’s very well organized. I love the modernity of places like this, while I also appreciate the tradition in Kyoto and Nara.
What is Japan to you?
It’s a source of many beautiful things! Japan is a small country, but it’s rich in art, culture and history.
Ju-Jutsu e Arti Giapponesi – CIDAO Genova (Facebook): facebook.com/artigiapponesi