Henry Kono ar Shí na Firínne
Henry Kono ar shlí na firínne. (1927-2016). Henry Kono our friend, our teacher, our mentor passed away in Toronto early Saturday morning. Our condolences go to his son Doug who was with him when he passed away.
In Gaeilge, the Irish language, to say that someone has died the phrase “..ar shlí na firínne..” is often used, translating literally as “.. gone the way of truth.” With Henry this seems so fitting, for he did not deny that he was dying.. last year when a few of us went to visit him in Toronto, he told me clearly that he did not expect to have more than 6 months left.
Over the past weeks and days our friends in Toronto and the states who have been visiting him have relayed messages which told us about how Henry was accepting of his end, not fighting, not retreating but wanting to stay open and aware in his last days and hours, even at this time, giving all present and those in contact much to ponder. Still the teacher in his thoughts and actions.
Henry had been welcomed to Ireland by his long time friend, the late Alan Ruddock, another teacher of ours. I was delighted to meet him as were so many others, seeing something special, experiencing something special in what he was doing from the outset, with no doubts a really good core group of us became dedicated students. Henry rewarded us with his time and attention, helping us and directing us along the way. Although Henry wasn’t big on personal stories.. he was kind.. he had his way of giving advice or direction with issues we had, always coming back to apply the principle of what he was teaching, he would say over and over “..watch the center..” At times he could be fierce too.. he did not suffer fools well and anyone who came with silly questions or ideas heard all about it. But bit by bit he drew us out, brought us into attention, showing us a new way to be.
With Henry we did not need to abide by the usual formalities which are common in martial art traditions, particularly in how we referred to him, no need to call him sensei or bow to him in any way. For us to show interest and seeing that we were keen for what he was teaching was enough for him, always thankful to have people around who were interested and who were finding their way to getting a grasp of what he was teaching, he would often take time at the end of classes say how grateful he was.
In the more than twenty years since Henry started to come to Ireland so much has happened in all our lives.. when we first me him a bunch of us were just finishing college, mostly single. Since then we have married, had children, in a sense we grew up in this time. In all of this a closeness developed.. we so loved how genuinely hard he worked to teach us but also we just loved how he was, the way he had about him, so contented in himself. If someone took off to do something other than his class he was perfectly happy to let them go.. he would say “get this”, (what he was teaching) “and go have a cup of coffee.” One time when we were on an aikido trip to Florida we couldn’t find where we needed to go, Robert who was driving, drove around in circles, well we all had such a laugh over something so silly, but that how it was with Henry.. it didn’t matter what we were doing, he was happy to have fun.
As we say goodbye to a man who as affected so many lives in the most positive of ways we are left with our grief as our own. So many people say we are better for having met him, for having known him.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam. May he rest in peace.
Alan Ruddock Sensei founded the Aiki No Michi, and attained the rank of 6th Dan in his studies of Aikido during his lifetime. He was born in Dublin in 1944, and after many travels, and living in the Isle Of Man for many years died in Dublin in 2012, on his journey home from one of his many aikido courses…….
Read more about Alan here.