Leong Sensei

Q: How did Dr Leong Sensei get involved in Aikido?

Since young, I have always wanted to be able to defend myself if and when I am attacked. I grew up in notorious Chinatown in the late 1950s where triads and gangsters roamed freely in Kuala Lumpur. My neighbourhood consisted of opium dens, mahjong tables and hawker stalls. Fortunately my mother was able to keep me from joining the various gangs around that time such as the "Loong Fu Tong" and "Sap Bat Chye" just to mention the more popular ones, and ensured I got a good education.

My first encounter with Aikido was at the YMCA in Brickfields (where I lived after fire gutted the shophouse where I lived in Chinatown). Of course that time, I was already a General Practitioner, and partner in a 24 hour clinic. Due to sheer 'softening' and sense of weakness ( I was a school athlete and soccer/ hockey/ volleyball player), I decided to whip my body back to shape. I walked into Tee Sensei's class one night and decided to give it a try. I don't think anyone would think I'd last more than a month but lo and behold I was hooked into it.

Q: At the time Dr Leong Sensei started Aikido, were there many other students that were like you?
There were not many students when I joined but I remembered there were 1 or 2 talented ones (they got double promotions once or twice). Eventually nothing was heard about them - I don't think they reached shodan!. I think Ng sensei also joined around my time. Low sensei was my senior by a few notches. Tony sensei came in about a year later.

Q: How was it different in training when you started and now?
With no disrespect meant to my seniors, it was different then as we do not have a reference (as in your own shihan). We just followed as best as we can, and nobody could say for sure if you are doing it correctly. The Hombu shihans came for a day or two annually, spoke in Japanese that nobody could translate (then), and each shihan has his own unique skills. Without a system, we learnt by memorizing each and every technique! I'm sure you will not be too keen to learn this way.

Q: How did you developed the Bukit Jalil Dojo and others that you have under your wing?
Firstly, I start out by saying that I have never planned to be an instructor. I was roped in as there was a dearth of instructors those days. Low sensei told me that to improve, I have to start teaching - that was enough to lure me into being an instructor. And Tee Sensei later passed the MMU Malacca dojo to me.

Actually all I wanted to practise good aikido. In order to do that, I realized the group (my senseis and organization) needs to be strong, recognized and expanding. So I started to dig deeper and deeper into the hole!

Q: Please tell us on the different experience that you had with other senseis, and whom leaved the largest impression on you
Actually, I have the privilege to be advised and trained by practically all the seniors in Aikikai Aikido at the YMCA, namely Foo Sensei, George Sensei, Tee Sensei, Lai Sensei, Leong Sensei, and last but not least Low Sensei. I liked all of them as they were all sincere and passionate practitioners. In fact, I sort of inherited from each of them some of their virtues.

The single most influential factor in my Aikido experience surely must come from the late Seiichi Sugano Shihan. In him, I saw a real Master -knowledgeable, deep thinking, far-sighted and skillful, and a man of confidence and iron will. It was indeed my honour and good fortune to be able to serve such an extraordinary person.

Q: What do you think is the most important thing in Aikido?
Aikido is about self-improvement. It is a unification of the body, spirit and mind to achieve universal harmony and peace. It is not about winning.

Q: What is your advice for people that are beginning their journey in Aikido?
There must obligation and commitment (to practise aikido and adopt it as a way of life). You must be patient and keep on training. You must be sincere, loyal and listen to your teacher.

Q: Please tell us what motivates you the most in practicing aikido.
Finding someone like Sugano Shihan who is worth following. Now that he is gone, I would like to maintain his legacy so that he continues to be a part of my life and that of my students. Meeting other top experts, taking ukemi for them (difficult to get the opportunity) or just  having fun in their class.
The other motivation is seeing the students progress, some fast, others slow and leading them to feel the flow or chi in aikido. Basically, it is sharing a good thing in life!