Philip Lee Shihan Joins Newport Beach Aikido to Celebrate the 9th Annual Sugano Shihan Summer Camp

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As the honorary guest of the 9th Annual Sugano Shihan Summer Camp, Philip Lee Shihan, Aikido leader in Singapore opens up with an exclusive interview at Newport Beach Aikido.

Phillip Lee Shihan Joins Newport Beach Aikido for the 9th Annual Sugano Shihan Summer Camp

Photo credit: David Takata

"I was attracted to the gracefulness of Aikido as well as the philosophy of Aikido. The way the movements are executed, the way how a partner can be easily thrown off effortlessly and as well as the effectiveness and practicality of every lock." - Philip Lee Shihan

On June 1-2, 2019, Newport Beach Aikido welcomes Philip Lee Shihan, founder and chief instructor of the Aikido Shinju-Kai network of dojos in Singapore as the honorary guest for the 9th Annual Sugano Shihan Summer Camp. During the two day seminar, the students of Newport Beach Aikido were fortunate to experience the highest quality of Aikido training from both Chief Instructors, Gentil Pennewaert Shihan (6th Dan) and Philip Lee Shihan (7th Dan). With over 30 years of Aikido experience, both Shihans carry a strong commonality - they are both passionate about teaching Aikido and have dedicated their lives to furthering the growth of Aikido locally and internationally.

Nestled among the majestic mountains in Big Bear, Newport Beach Aikido students and their families were in for a treat with a full schedule of Aikido training, yudansha (black belt) testing, and weapons training like samurais among the fresh pine trees. Pennewaert Shihan offered an exclusive Shiatsu class during the last session where students learned how to apply Shiatsu onto their partners.

“Our students look forward to this special seminar every year which started as an event to commemorate the late Seichii Sugano Shihan. Every year, we invite top Aikido masters (Shihans) from around the world to join us and bring their unique experience to enlighten our students. We are so thankful that this year that Philip Lee Shihan was able to join us with his son, Aloyseus Lee, also a remarkable Aikido instructor in Shanghai, says Gentil Pennewart Shihan of Newport Beach Aikido.”

Philip Lee Shihan carries an impressive record of Aikido experience dating back to when his Aikido journey started at age 17. With a growing number of 56 training centers in Singapore and many other affiliated dojos throughout Southeast Asia, Philip Lee Shihan took a moment for an exclusive interview following the seminar to answer some questions for our Aikido community.

Q: What attracted you to Aikido?

A: I was brought up in a family with 8 other sisters, and being the only “son” in the family, you can imagine how much “rivalry” I had back at home. As a young boy then, my decision to pick up a martial art has always been a necessity – to be able to “protect” myself.

Then again, it was the “Bruce Lee Era”! Many of my peers including myself were drawn into martial arts. Hence, my journey into the world of martial arts began at the age of 9 years old.

Personally, I started off with Chinese Wushu and then I did 4 years of Judo before moving on to Taichi, Karate and Kodachi Goshindo (defense against weapons attack – now widely known as Sports Chanbara) for the next three decades. I started Aikido at the age of 17.

It was through my Judo instructor back in those days that I have observed the very first Aikido class. Immediately, I was attracted to the gracefulness of Aikido as well as the philosophy of Aikido. The way the movements are executed, the way how a partner can be easily thrown off effortlessly and as well as the effectiveness and practicality of every lock.

Q: Tell us about your successful construction company and why did you choose to put it aside to pursue Aikido full time?

A: The benefits of Aikido over the years of training builds character. You become more confident and positive. Aikido allows us to be genuine and sincere towards people. This virtue helped my construction company business grow and become successful.

However, over the years my commitments in the growth of my dojos had reached beyond my expectations. I found that I needed more time to fulfill the needs of my students and my passions continued to grow stronger each day. Through the constant positive feedback from my students on their encounters and experiences after picking up Aikido, I felt more confident to give up my construction business and commit to a full-time Aikido teaching schedule since 2003. I found it to be much more meaningful. Of course, I am not saying that it does not mean there’s not the same amount of stress in working life. However, through my Aikido training, I could trust that we can handle stress and solve problems in a better way!

Q: Tell us how you first met Gentil Pennewaert Shihan and your relationship?

A: I first met Gentil Shihan through a seminar in Australia. Then it was the 40th Anniversary of Aikikai Australia with Seiichi Sugano Shihan.

Looking back, getting to know Gentil Shihan, as well as the relationship we have right now, has always been really a stroke of luck - where two individuals simply just feel so at ease with the companionship of one another, that we immediately became best of friends. Since, this relationship carried on through all the way till the exact same event – Celebrating the 50th Anniversary celebration of the Aikikai Australia.

Q: Tell us what hopes you have in passing on your Aikido knowledge to your family’s generation.

A: I want my family to always stay positive and follow the flow of nature. With a strong understanding of the basics and the roots of Aikido, it’s only then that they will be confident to go up to another level in life and to be able to propagate Aikido further.

Q: How important was it to you to bring your children into Aikido? How do you think it has helped them through the development of their character?

A: I got them started on Aikido at the age of 6 years old and it’s non-negotiable! I believe and know it’s the best gifts that I can ever give to them in life as a father. Knowing that through regular Aikido training, they can protect themselves when the time comes is important. I am very sure they will be well behaved and disciplined, able to learn to take care of and to love one another.

Q: How important is Aikido in daily life? How can we practice aikido outside of the dojo?

A: Since I started my Aikido journey in 1971, and Aikido somehow became a way of life for me! It’s not just an effective form of martial arts but a good form of culture to follow. We meet and deal with people of different walks in life daily and we are able to blend and harmonize with them. Knowing oneself and always maintaining a clear and positive mind inside and outside the dojo should not make any difference.

Q: What are some key points you want your instructors to understand?

A: One must not stop learning and training. Be humble!

Q: How do you see the future of Aikido Shinju-Kai?

A: The growth of Aikido Shinju-Kai cannot be done by me alone. I am fortunate that I have a team of dedicated instructors who support me and believe in the same ideas and goals. I consider myself very blessed as both my two sons, Aloyseus and Alexander are following my footsteps to become a full-time professional Aikido Instructors after their graduation. In its future, Aikido Shinju-Kai’s goal is not only to ensure that Aikido is one of the leading Aikido organizations in South East Asia but also to continue to grow and spearhead the growth of Aikido further and beyond our local boundary.

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Charn Pennewaert
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