Shindai Dojo is saddened beyond words at the passing of Dennis Hooker Sensei 7th Dan (ASU Shihan), founder of Shindai dojo.
Sensei left the teaching floor on 2014, but remains with us in every class. His teaching lives on in his students, dedicated to maintaining his legacy.
Dennis Hooker Sensei, ASU 7th Dan
Shindai has also lost Dr. David Jones Sensei in 2016.
Dr. David Jones Sensei, ASU 6th Dan
Both men reside symbolically in our Kamiza. Their memories are heralded at the beginning of every class, every day, with the ringing our our temple bell. Their voices will forever reside within Shindai Dojo and the generations of students they created.
Dennis Hooker Sensei.
Our teacher, our patriarch, our Sensei died of natural causes on May 20th, 2014…after a long valiant battle with life.
The world of Aikido and Budo has lost a great teacher and champion without peer. His perseverance, Bubo spirit, phenomenal martial ability, inspiration and the encouragement he gave his students will forever be etched into the hearts of his students and the future of his Shindai Dojo.
Shindai Dojo, his dojo, will mourn his loss always.
–S. Fasen Sensei
Hooker Sensei was a graduate of Indiana State University with degrees in Sociology and Urban Planning and a budoka for over 45 years. He began his budo training in the mid 1960’s. Dennis started his Aikido training with Phil Minton at the Terre Haute Indiana Judo School. At that time they would often drive 170 miles one way to Chicago in order to train at the Chicago Aikido Club which was under the direction of the late Isao Takahashi Sensei. The teachers and students of the Chicago Aikido Club were a profound influence upon his Aikido and life.
After nearly dying of Myasthenia Gravis in the late 70’s Mitsugi Saotome Shihan took over the direction of Dennis’ training and began to work with him on his failing health. Instrumental in returning him to physical integrity, Hooker Sensei continued to train and teach as a principle student of Saotome Shihan (ASU) until his passing. Hooker Sensei was awarded his 7th dan in Aikido by Saotome Sensei in 2012. His rank was announced internationally through Aikido Hombu in Japan at Kagami Baraki 2013. He was awarded his certificate by Saotome Shihan on April 20,2013 and named ASU Shihan.
Dennis Hooker was also an active student of sword. In the art of Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu Iaijutsu he was presented with a honorary 4th dan directly from the Jikishin-kai and the late Masayuki Shimabukuro Shihan. His sword training heavily influenced his Aikido. Hooker Sensei always believed that the two should be practiced together, their nature and principles inseparable.
Hooker Shihan was Master Instructor of the Shindai Aikikai Aikido Dojo in Orlando, which he established not only as a premier Aikido dojo, but also as a budokan, bringing together most of the arts Dennis had been active in at some point during his life. While the arts supported at the Shindai include: Aikido, Toyama Batto Do, Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, Iaijutsu, Kenjutsu, Judo and Karate… Hooker Sensei only taught Aikido and Iaijutsu.
M. Saotome Shihan & Dennis Hooker Shihan (ASU) at the presentation of the 7th Dan cerficate on April 20,2013.
The man that was my Sensei (Dennis Hooker Shihan) for over a quarter century has stepped away from the conflict of life. He was not my first teacher or my last, but he will forever be the greatest influence and the teacher I attribute my allegiances to. I was not his first student, his most talented or his best. Like everyone he touched however, he treated and challenged me that way. He inspired me and so many others beyond the limits they set for themselves. I believe his legacy will prove in fact that his best student has yet to be seen, because the ripples of his life will continue to reach out through all he has inspired.
Sensei was a hard man to know, but I think on many levels…I knew him better than most. He was an intensely private and proud individual. He told me many times that he had students, acquaintances, associates, but that I was one of his best friends. That is a treasure to me. It was hard to balance Sensei and friend. After 25 years, much to his annoyance, I still had a hard time calling him by his first name outside the dojo, never inside. I never did in the presence of any other student. Being his friend was as hard as being his student, but I will always cherish the gift of both. Another gift (burden) he gave me was his endorsement and his trust. He trusted me with his dojo. The weight and implications of this is daunting, but will not pass with him. His example and passion will be continued as best we can. The door to his Shindai Dojo will always remain open so that others will always be able to enter his heart.
Aikido teaches principle commonalities to the human condition in that we all have strengths and weakness, loves and dislikes, accomplishments and failures, and ultimately we all share life’s end. Hooker Sensei wasn’t afraid of death as long as it had meaning. We agreed that our lives are ultimately framed by the friends we have, the family that defines us, what we were able to give, and what the positive influences we were able to provide. Well, he always wanted to go out on his own terms too. I hope he held the moment. I look at Sensei this way, mourning his loss in part for those who will not hear his voice directly, but I also celebrating his passing through in our time, and what he gave to all of us. To know Hooker Sensei off the mat was a difficult thing, just to catch him after he left the mat the last few years was an accomplishment. On the mat however, he bared his soul and shared all he was. For most that was enough. He had more challenges than most men I have known or ever will, and he inspired all by dealing in them with stoic Herculean effort.
Sensei was complex, a bit of an enigma at times, but he always gave in full measures, sharing and inspiring passion in the dojo for Aikido, Budo, sword. He will be remembered for this as well as his legendary perseverance. We watched him stumble to the mat on occasion barely being able to walk, laboring to breath or stand straight, but when his feet touch the mat decades of spirit straightened his spine and propelled everything that was left. He did this until he could no longer walk to the mat. Sensei was at times gruff and seemingly emotionally opaque, but I knew intimately the integrity of his Budo, which was illuminated by how much he kept others from knowing the pains that ultimately took him. It was a warrior thing.
The warrior persona is sought and much claimed in the martial arts, but in my experience few walk the walk. Sensei was a warrior. In Aikido, guidance along the path is often sought in the principles and philosophies of Budo. He was Budoka, making Shindai Dojo a budokan over 25 years ago. Someone described Sensei as an old school Budo man. So true. He was a true and principled warrior. He showed those who could see that being a warrior was not a matter of rank, branch of service, power, speed, the ability to dominate or destroy, any organization or affiliation, campaign or circumstance, but how you balanced the engagements with the battles you had to fight. He lived his life that way. He was without question martially superior, but that was rarely his message. He exemplified a standard that showed, despite difficulty, injury or circumstance, it was how you chose to endure that proved your metal. You never questioned that he would put himself in harm’s way or die for his convictions and the ones he loved. He will be remembered as a warrior for the right reasons.
Dennis Hooker Sensei / April 13, 1946 – May 20, 2014
Dr. David Jones Sensei
Dr. David Jones Sensei has passed away on Sunday January 31st, 2016. Jones Sensei was a primary influence and senior instructor in the evolution and development of Shindai Aikido for over two decades. Along with Dennis Hooker Sensei he helped to craft the perspectives and spirit of Shindai… which will always resonate withing the heart and spirit of its Aikidoka. His influence is an indelible part of Shindai Dojo and will always exist in its DNA.
“Doc” Jones was a remarkable man. He stood above many not only in height, but as a husband, father, scholar, teacher, musician, author, mentor and martial artist. He wore many hats and filled them all.
We miss you both. Your voices will always resonate within the dojo and the students you created.
Stephen A Fasen Sensei
Chief Instructor, Shindai Dojo