Hiroshi Tada Sensei with Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu as Yoji Fujimoto receives promotion to 8th Dan Aikikai Hombu Dojo, Kagami Biraki 2010 Fujimoto moved to Italy in 1970 to assist Tada in developing Aikido in Italy
Never read books on archery. Never criticize another persons technique.
This is part 6 of the English translation of an interview in Japanese with Hiroshi Tada. You may want to read the previous sections first:
Tada:The official name of the Aikikai d’Italia is the “Associazione di Cultura Tradizionale Giapponese” (日本伝統文化の会), authorized as a non-profit organization, number N.526, by the President of the Italian Republic on July 8th 1978. It’s really quite something to be recognized as an Italian government organization. It’s one thing for Japanese people to create an organization that promotes Japanese culture and think about applying for recognition as a government corporation, but such permission is not often received.
Uchida: However, it is an impressive foundation.
Tada: Currently there are around 5,000 members, it was created through the yearly dues paid by the membership. In foreign countries, since this kind of organization does not receive any kind of external funding to support the expenses incurred for its maintenance and development, independence is achieved through the considerable yearly fees paid by the membership. Such feelings of enthusiasm for the association are strong.
Uchida: Other than those associated with Mergé Sensei, what kinds of people came?
Tada:Well, there were many different types of people. Of course, many people had an interest in Japan. Doctors, lawyers, students, and those related to physical education. Ballet dancers, people who saw the demonstrations, and those who came via introductions. If I had to say, most of them were intellectuals. This is just related to Aikido, it is the same in any country.
Uchida: Why is that so?
Tada: Isn’t that because they come after hearing the rumors of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, reading some of the books, and knowing something about what Aikido is? Also, Aikido has a particular rhythm. The foundation of this rhythm is the free spirit (とらわれない心), and they get a strong sense of this. After watching a demonstration, a university professor said, “To me, it seems that Aikido is the same as music”.
Uchida:What kind of mental attitude do you ask for in your students (deshi)?
Tada: Well, there are many different classes of students. I can’t summarize it in one word. Not everybody will become a professional. There are also those who practice to some extent as a health method.
However, you cannot keep looking here and there. Long ago, when my father began to study archery, my great-grandfather warned him of two things.
“Never read books on archery. Never criticize another persons technique.” – those two things. “Never read books on archery” – in large part this is because it will lead one to doubt. For example, “My Sensei said this, the other Sensei said that. It’s completely different. Which one is best? Perhaps if I take the best parts of both methods…”. This is a prime example of someone who will never improve.
Uchida: I don’t think that there are many books about Aikido.
Tada: Books are for people who have already learned so that they will not forget, or for people who only see a teacher once a year, a reference for those kinds of people. First of all, you will never get better by reading.
Uchida: What about when various experienced people discuss an art, for example, a book on the theory of an art, how about something like that?
Tada: Something like that is fine. However, if you make a mistake in how you read it you will be, as they say, “bitten by the secrets” (極意にかぶれる), in the past those kinds of books were disliked.
Uchida: You have read “The Mysterious Technique of the Cat” (猫の妙術). I had never read a book on Budo before, but after hearing about it from you I thought “Ah, maybe it’s OK if I read something like that”. I read a lot of things after that, was that a bad idea? Was I “bitten by the secrets”? (laughing)
Tada: Also when training in Aikido, if you are not careful sometimes you “leap over” something. At the time when a beginner should be doing solid training they try to do something that is only possible for an adept, and ruin their training. In the end, the basics become a mess.
Oshou-san (the chief priest at Gesouji) wrote “Kyakka Shouko” (脚下照顧 / “Watch carefully what comes under your feet.”), “Watch your step!”). That point also gets missed.
Uchida:Today there are periodicals such as “Hiden-Koryu Bujutsu” (秘伝・古流武術), and various articles on technical theory and the secrets of the arts can be read in periodical form, as a form of “Kobudo Journalism”, do you recommend that beginners avoid reading things like this?
Tada: People who want to look at it should look at it. However, for those who are serious about pursuing a path earnestly this will often lead to a detour along the way.
Uchida: What about someone like me?
Tada: You won’t improve very much. You’ll just burden yourself with a lot of unnecessary baggage.
Uchida:There is a “new wave” movement in Kobudo with people a generation or two younger than you such as Hiroyuki Aoki (青木宏之 / Shintaido), Yoshinori Kono (甲野善紀), Tetsuzan Kuroda (黒田鉄山 / Shinbukan Kuroda Dojo), and Kajo Tsuboi (坪井香譲 / Kiryuho) who are doing some interesting things. Thanks to them enthusiasm among young people is rising, what do you think of them?
Uchida: What do you mean when you say “Why not?”?
Tada: I spoke about this earlier, about what the traditional methods were like in my father’s time. And that was with the intention of training as a professional. There are also people who have no Sensei. The worst case is when someone wants to learn but there is no Sensei. Someone who cannot find a Shihan of their own.
Uchida:If a teacher is present then one can progress without reading books or making comparisons, is that what you mean?
Tada: Something like that. The same but different. (laughing) It’s not all that difficult. However, now it is extremely difficult. From childhood one would recite the Shishogokyou (四書五経 / the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism) and execute that mindset. I was raised in that world, but now it is completely different. Critical analysis in the modern European or American scientific style is in favor, and is how the world is raised. It may be possible for one to reach a certain point, but I wonder if the emergence of a truly great Budoka is possible or not. I think that it will be difficult.
Uchida: How do you think that the path of Aikido will be governed in the future?
Chris is an instructor at the Aikido Sangenkai, a non-profit Aikido group in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the island of Oahu. He has been training in the traditional and modern Japanese martial arts since 1981, with more than twelve years of training while living in Japan.