Aikido Sangenkai Blog http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog Honolulu, Hawaii - Oahu Sat, 01 Aug 2015 20:49:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=433 Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 1 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/kimura-tatsuo-aiki-transparent-power-part-1/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/kimura-tatsuo-aiki-transparent-power-part-1/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 20:49:54 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1945 Tatsuo Kimura demonstrates Aiki-age Stretching his right hand upward, Morihei Sensei said, “Those who practice Aiki should understand the heart of faraway America.” I immediately thought to myself, “Please come and throw me,” expecting that Morihei Sensei would read my thoughts. Of course, this was merely something I thought in my own mind. However, at that … Continue reading Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 1 »

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Tatsuo Kimura - Aiki-age

Tatsuo Kimura demonstrates Aiki-age

Stretching his right hand upward, Morihei Sensei said, “Those who practice Aiki should understand the heart of faraway America.”

I immediately thought to myself, “Please come and throw me,” expecting that Morihei Sensei would read my thoughts. Of course, this was merely something I thought in my own mind. However, at that instant, Morihei Sensei, who was looking out the window, turned to me. To my surprise, he started to walk in my direction. He was small, about 150 cm tall, but at that time I felt he was very big. It seemed to me that there was a big wall in back of Morihei Sensei and it was approaching me powerfully. Since I had never taken a fall for Morihei Sensei up until that time, I became very tense. I thought to myself, “Oh no! What shall I do?” as he approached very close to me. He raised his right hand up as if to execute an iriminage throw and shouted, “Eii!” I fell backward. Then, turning to me, Morihei Sensei said, “That was good!” Then, I bowed down with both hands touching the tatami mumbling, “Ha-ha.”

I was really surprised by this. I felt that he read my thoughts at that instant. He had a powerful aura about him and an amazing kiai.

Morihei Sensei often appeared in the Hombu Dojo during Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei’s practice. One day, Morihei Sensei started to explain the kotegaeshi technique while holding Yamaguchi Sensei’s right hand with his left hand. Then Morihei Sensei applied a pressure on Yamaguchi Sensei’s right hand with his right hand. Yamaguchi Sensei hesitated an instant and then took the fall by himself. Suddenly, Morihei Sensei, who was smiling until then, shouted at us, “Do not practice so that if someone moves a certain way, the other person falls in a certain way!” Morihei Sensei’s voice had a metallic sound that could be heard far away.

His eyes flashed and I suddenly felt thunder coming down from the fine blue sky. I was really surprised. In this sense, Morihei Sensei was not a normal person. His spirit and kiai were really extraordinary I had never seen such a person up until that time.

The atmosphere was completely different when Morihei Sensei was performing techniques compared to the other instructors. When I look at the videos of Morihei Sensei I cannot feel his “ki” and more than half of the information is lost. It seems that the camera cannot capture the atmosphere or the feeling of the dojo. Actually, there was a certain tension in the air when Morihei Sensei was present.
…..

Frankly speaking, when Morihei Ueshiba died, I felt Aikido was finished. It disappeared from the world because the Aikido of Morihei Ueshiba and that of his students are completely different.

Tatsuo Kimura
from “Discovering Aiki My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei

Tatsuo Kimura (木村達雄), born in Tokyo Japan in 1947, is a well known mathematician and professor at Tsukuba University. He was also a long-time student of the famous Daito-ryu instructor Yukiyoshi Sagawa (佐川幸義). He published two books about Sagawa Sohan (宗範) that have been translated into English (the latter one only partially) – “Transparent Power (透明な力)” and “Discovering Aiki My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei (合気修得への道―佐川幸義先生に就いた二十年)”. He also holds a third-dan in kendo and a fifth-dan in Aikido, which he studied under Seigo Yamaguchi (山口清吾).

This is the first part of a two part interview that appeared in Japanese in the book “Daito-ryu Aiki Bujutsu Sagawa Yukiyoshi, Divine Techniques of Aiki – Signposts to ‘Aiki’, a miraculous technical method that surpasses strength” (大東流合気武術 佐川幸義 神業の合気 力を超える奇跡の技法“合気”への道標), which was published in March 2015 by BAB Japan publishing company (BABジャパン出版局), which also publishes the popular martial arts magazine Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”).

Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan in his youth

Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan in his youth

Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Part 1

Interview with Tatsuo Kimura

Meeting Sagawa Sohan

Q: When was it that you first met Sagawa Sensei?

A: It was on November 28th of Showa year 53 (1978). I had been practicing Aikido day in and day out since the third year of middle school, had taught it overseas, and had established an Aikido club at Nagoya University – that was how soaked in Aikido my existence was. At the time I was an assistant instructor at Nagoya University, and I learned of Sagawa Sensei through a book called “Hiden Nihon Jujutsu” (by Ryuchi Matsuda / 松田隆智, published by Shin-jinbutsuraisha / 新人物往来社). So I wrote a letter and went to meet him.

Hiden Nihon JujutsuHiden Nihon Jujutsu (秘伝日本柔術)
by Ryuchi Matsuda (松田隆智)

In the dojo I was taken to the reception room, but at the time I wasn’t aware that Sagawa Sensei was such an important person so I spouted off about the things that I had done in Aikido and about how great Ueshiba Sensei had been in front of him! When I think about it now I break out in a cold sweat… (laughing)

Then Sensei said “try holding down both of my hands!”, so I did as he told me and held down both of his hands from above while he remained sitting on the sofa. At the time Sensei was around 76 years old, so speaking from the common sense of the Aikido that I had practiced I thought that there was no way that such an old man would be able to do anything if I held him down seriously, but when I held him down lightly he said “Is that all the strength that you have? What a pitiful fellow…hold me down seriously!”, and since he insisted I held him down with all my strength. As I did that, before I could understand what was going on I was shooting backwards. Normally, if one holds someone down firmly from above then no matter what their strength will collide with you, but there was nothing like that, I was destabilized in an instant. Then Sensei stood up and said “try grabbing my collar”, but when I grabbed the collar of the sweater that he was wearing I was thrown to the floor with just a slight movement of his body.

Then I said “one more time please” and tried grabbing both of his arms with all my strength, holding onto his legs, just trying whatever I could, but no matter how many times I tried I fell just the same. I was really shocked. But when I took his hand right there and said “please allow me to become your student” he refused me with “Dame da!” (“No!”) right away.

The Reality of Sagawa Dojo

Q: What is the truth behind the strict selection of students?

A: It was certainly strict. In any case, as far as I was concerned my heart was filled with joy that I had finally found the real thing, and I thought that I wanted to gain entrance no matter what. Once more I wrote a polite letter, but then I was told “I will allow you to become a student, but I won’t teach you!”. What he meant was that in Sagawa Sensei’s dojo the beginners were taught by the students, and Sensei wouldn’t give them any direction. As one’s capability and dedication was recognized they would become able to be taught directly by Sensei.

For that reason I was left alone in the beginning, and I was extremely jealous of those people who were able to take Sensei’s hand and be taught. But I thought that I should be grateful just to be allowed to become a student, and somehow continued my training through worries and impatience. Then gradually I became able to receive direction and instruction in technique, and became able to take his hand and be taught directly.

Tatsuo Kimura and Yukiyoshi Sagawa

Tatsuo Kimura being thrown by Yukiyoshi Sagawa
at a seminar for the 3rd Gen techniques, May 1982

Q: What was training in the dojo like?

A: In the case of Sagawa Dojo, the beginning student’s techniques had absolutely no effect on the older students. It wasn’t a matter of using strength to resist, the partner’s arms came down as if they were dangling and they weren’t even intimidating. Their bodies were completely different. I did Aikido for fifteen years, but in the end my body was no different from a novice. We would fly for each other, so my body was essentially unchanged.

In Sagawa Dojo technique cannot be applied at first, and as one trains their bodies gradually become stronger. So the toughness in the bodies of those who have trained three years, five years, ten years, or twenty years is completely different. They look the same, though. In any case, it is a kind of toughness of the body that I had never seen in Aikido – I thought that they were a group of monsters! (laughing) But that is the way that they would train and without realizing it they would certainly become strong.

Q: At Sagawa Dojo the training was primarily the repetition of technique, wasn’t it?

A: That’s so, but if the technique didn’t work it was okay not to fall – I think that it may have been a strength that came through taking that as a pre-condition for training. So, when one reached a certain level the techniques become ineffective between the students. Sagawa Sensei could apply technique to them extremely easily. For example, Nikajo – in Aikido one would say Nikyo – at some point this would stop working, but when Sagawa Sensei applied it no who it was or how hard they struggled they would crumble straight down. Watching that really started my aspirations boiling.

However, and this is something that I have gradually come to understand, no matter how much one conditions their body that kind of thing is something that is normally not possible. It was about five years after I started that I became convinced that there lay the technical principles of Aiki.

A Miraculous Conditioning Method

Q: Is it true that Sagawa Sensei did an enormous amount of solo training?

A: Yes, he would think up a variety of conditioning methods and then continue training in them for a long time. Sensei said that everyday solo training is about 70%, and training in the dojo is about 30%. I believe that is the reason that he was able to reach the level that he did. One will never become like that just by training in the dojo. In any case, he was on a completely different level from other people. How he was able to do such a thing was something that I just couldn’t understand – in any case, conditioning one’s body and always being original and inventive. Then, testing that research in the dojo. It’s not simply teaching, he taught while conducting his own research.

For that reason, and this is something that left an impression on me, the day before he passed away I was thrown by Sensei for the first time in a week and the end of his techniques was especially sharp. It may have been that in just one week of not meeting he had made new discoveries and research – in any case the deepening of his technique was faster than our progress forwards.

As one ages it is inevitable that they become unable to move in the same way that they once did, but what I thought was admirable about Sensei was that he invented methods of conditioning in response to that. For example, if it were difficult for one to stand and move then he would think of methods that could be employed from a seated position.

Q: You touched on Sensei’s conditioning a little in “Transparent Power” (透明な力)…

A: In the past he never showed anybody the contents of his solo training, but but he gradually began to teach it after he passed ninety years old. Among his conditioning tools were something like iron hammers, and they were extremely heavy. He would hold them by the end of the handle and swing them with one hand, but he thought that if one were to suddenly pick them up and swing them without knowing how that one would injure their arms.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa and Yoshio Ohara

Yukiyoshi Sagawa demonstrating two sword techniques
throwing Yoshio Ohara (小原良雄)

Q: In Sagawa Dojo Kogen Itto-ryu (甲源一刀流) is taught separately, does that happen after the 3rd Gen?

A: Yes, that’s right. However, although we call it Kogen Itto-ryu, in Sensei’s case it is a distinct entity that includes Aiki and tai-sabaki. Here is one thing about kenjutsu that left an impression on me – Sensei said “come strike me”, so I aimed at his head and moved to strike, but just before the bokken struck it seemed as if Sensei’s body had suddenly disappeared and he somehow appeared diagonally behind me with his sword overhead in a posture ready to cut me at any time. I couldn’t understand at all how he could have moved like that. We did it several times, but although I watched him with eyes as large as saucers I couldn’t understand it. It was incredibly refined tai-sabaki. When Sensei held a bamboo sword it moved as if it were a separate living thing. I did kendo up until san-dan, but I never saw anything like that.

In Sensei’s case there were other weapons such as short sword, staff, spear and two swords, but whatever the case the source of the techniques was Aiki, so it would depend on whether or not one could grasp that. If one were to collect all of the techniques that Sagawa Sensei taught, from 1st Gen to 10th Gen, it would be more than two thousand techniques, so just collecting the outer technical methods would be like spreading out a catalog and they could not possibly be used.

When I was learning the Aiki Kenpo (合気拳法) of the 8th Gen Sensei said “strike me in the face”, so I put on boxing gloves and punched him in the face as strongly as I could. In the next moment Sensei moved in a flash and I was blown backwards. The movement itself is simple, but if one’s Aiki is not developed enough than it’s not something usable. I had a hard time writing it down in my notes later!

When the methodology of the technique is clear it is okay, but the higher the level of Sensei’s techniques the simpler they became. “I punched and then I was thrown” isn’t something that makes much sense in one’s notes! (laughing)

To be continued on Part 2…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Tokimune Takeda – Aiki Kuden and Hiden http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/tokimune-takeda-aiki-kuden-hiden/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/tokimune-takeda-aiki-kuden-hiden/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 00:23:37 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1920 “Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo Shugyo-kun (“training rules”)” Posted in the Daitokan dojo of Tokimune Takeda The training rules at Tokimune Takeda’s Daitokan dojo: The Dojo is a place of the spirit, we begin with courtesy and end with courtesy. The Way becomes profound, single-mindedly condition and train yourself – never give up. Pride is the beginning of inattention, … Continue reading Tokimune Takeda – Aiki Kuden and Hiden »

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Daitokan Dojo-kun

Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo Shugyo-kun (“training rules”)”
Posted in the Daitokan dojo of Tokimune Takeda

The training rules at Tokimune Takeda’s Daitokan dojo:

  1. The Dojo is a place of the spirit, we begin with courtesy and end with courtesy.
  2. The Way becomes profound, single-mindedly condition and train yourself – never give up.
  3. Pride is the beginning of inattention, and the origin of destruction.
  4. Always be serious, sincerity is first.
  5. The ultimate level of the Way is Harmony, that is the goal of this Ryu.

愛と和
“The essential principles of Daito-ryu are Love and Harmony”
“The goal of spreading Daito-ryu is ‘Harmony and Love’, keeping this spirit is what preserves and realizes social justice. This was Sokaku Sensei’s dying wish”
Tokimune Takeda, Soke of Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo
son of Daito-ryu Chuku-no-so Sokaku Takeda

Tokimune Takeda was born in Shimo-yubetsu, Hokkaido in 1916. The oldest son of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s teacher Sokaku Takeda and Sue Takeda, he was groomed to succeed his father starting around 1925. In 1954 he established the Daitokan dojo in Abashiri, Hokkaido, changing the name of his father’s art to “Daito-Ryu Aikibudo” and assuming the title of “Soke”. He taught Daito-ryu there until his death on December 2nd 1993.

Tokimune Takeda and mother Sue

The young Tokimune Takeda with his mother Sue Takeda

Yoshihisa Ishibashi (石橋義久) was born in Tokyo in 1938 and started training in Daito Ryu at the Daitokan dojo in 1964. He learned Daito-ryu Aikibudo and Ono Ha Itto Ryu Kenjutsu directly from Tokimune Takeda. In 1969, together with Yoshimi Tomabechi (苫米地芳見) and Katsuyuki Kondo (近藤勝之), he opened the Katsushika Branch Dojo in Tokyo and was its first head instructor. He received an Ono Ha Itto Ryu license from Junzo Sasamori (笹森順造) and has a breadth of experience from zen to judo, kendo, Shorinji Kempo, and Chen Tai Chi.

The “118 techniques” in Daito-ryu cover the techniques contained in the Hiden Mokuroku (秘伝目録) certificate , from Ikajo to Gokajo, and were taught as the core curriculum of Tokimune Takeda’s Daito-ryu Aiki Budo. The book “Daito-ryu Aiki Budo 118 Techniques” (大東流合気武道百十八ヶ条) was written by Yoshihisa Ishibashi and published in Japanese in 2015 by BAB Japan publishing company (BABジャパン出版局), which also publishes the popular martial arts magazine Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”).

This is the English translation of a section from Ishibashi Sensei’s book in which he reveals some of the Kuden (“oral teachings”) that he received from Tokimune Sensei, and also includes some excerpts from Tokimune Sensei’s personal notes. Another section of this book appeared in the article “Solo Training for Kokyu-ryoku and Ki in Daito-ryu Aiki Budo“.

Yoshihisa Ishibashi and Tokimune Takeda

Yoshihisa Ishibashi and Tokimune Takeda

Tokimune Takeda – Aiki Kuden and Hiden

In this section I will introduce oral statements from Tokimune Sensei concerning Aiki, as well as statements from his personal notes. The following will discuss the whole of Aiki. Please read it carefully and repeatedly in order to understand it fully.

What is Aiki?

1) Aiki contains the Okugi (“Inner Secrets”).

“Aiki” is to throw the opponent using their own strength.

The core of Daito-ryu Aikibudo is Aiki-jujutsu, but it also contains the Okugi of the sword, the spear, the staff and other arts.

2) “Aiki” is neutral (*Translator’s note – oral teaching of Tokimune Takeda: “Aiki is an absolute neutral, therefore the neutral possesses In and Yo”)

The universe, phenomena, environment, conditions – all have counter actions, and have no normal form. In/yo, front/back, long/short. Water flows from the mountains, but in the same way it always changes in order to respond to conditions.

The Entire Body is a Weapon

Aiki is is something that is applied at the necessary time to a specific part of the opponent’s body using the necessary areas of our bodies.

One uses every part of their body – Ki and power are focused in the necessary part.

Aiki and Moving First (先)

Aiki is moving first, Sen-sen-no-sen.

“Aiki-age” contains sen-sen-no-sen and go-go-no-sen.

Defense is the greatest attack, this is Daito-ryu, this is “Aiki”.

There is no stance in Aiki, no first attack.

Aiki, Kokyu and Ki

Aiki is enacted by concentrating Ki through the unification of the mind and the breath.

The power of Aiki is relaxation and Kokyu.

Aiki-waza: Human life exists through Ki, it is the cultivation of Ki. Fill the Seika-tandan with Ki through Kokyu-ho, unify your mind to concentrate the power of Ki. Cultivate the Immovable Mind (“Fudo-shin” / 不動心) that is without doubt, without fear (不迷不怖), reach the divine realm that is free from worldly thoughts (“Munen-muso” / 無念無想). Match to the Ki of all things in the universe, and becoming enlightened to good and bad fortune (“Kikyo-kafuku” / 吉凶禍福), reach the secret methods of seeing the future, the relative weighting of the body and insight into the human mind. Master this by tempering your Ki through Zazen (“seated meditation” / 座禅) and Ritsuzen (“standing meditation” / 立禅).

Aiki Kokyu-ho: Grip your five fingers and inhale – In (“yin”). Open your five fingers and exhale – Yo (“yang”).

Aiki Inyo-ho: Two people practice Aiki Inyo-ho together. When the partner grasps both wrists, one fills their Tanden, underarm and fingertips with Ki and, opening both hands, pushes up towards the partner’s underarms to destabilize the partner and throw them in all directions. The conditioning in Kokyu-ho uses no forced strength, you are both practicing. It is the same with one hand. There will be exquisite advances in Shin-ki-ryoku (心気力). Oral teaching – “Asagao” (朝顔).

(*Translator’s note:”Shin-ki-ryoku-icchi” / 心気力一致 is a popular phrase in Japanese kendo and is usually translated as “unification of mind, spirit and technique”, although “ryoku” actually means “strength” or “power”. Some people see this as a rephrasing of the “three internal harmonies” from Chinese internal martial arts. “Asagao” means “morning glory” and refers to the way that the hand is opened and held in Daito-ryu, which is similar to the way that the morning glory flower opens..)

Aiki-nage

No stance (natural stance / “shizentai”).

One matches their Ki with the Ki of the attacking opponent as water flows without stagnation. Using the opponent’s power softly we destabilize the opponent’s body and throw them in all directions through changes in our body.

Aiki-nage is an applied technique of Aiki-jujutsu. Without using striking or choking techniques,without opposing their Ki, we steal the opponent’s Ki by making swift changes within our bodies.

Kokyu and timing are extremely important. When one uses strength it becomes impossible. One always matches the opponent’s movements, breathing and Ki while throwing.

Aiki-jujutsu

One name for this is Goten-jutsu (御殿術), an Otome-waza (御止技 / “secret technique”) of the Aizu Domain used when one was not carrying the two swords.

Yoshihisa Ishibashi - destabilization through painYoshihisa Ishibashi shows examples of destabilization
Right: focus (“kime”) on the outer pulse of the wrist
Middle: attacking a vital point (“kyusho”) on the elbow
Left: atemi (striking)

Shinken Shobu no Kata (真剣勝負の形 / “Combat Forms”): Matching to the flow of the opponent’s Ki, one combines striking, choking and throwing techniques, therefore the forms of defense and control are accompanied by danger. In this training one must be especially careful to make no mistakes (the instructor must have the courage to use discretion). From Ikajo to Gokajo, 108 techniques, Shoden Mokuroku. Here is the complete transmission of all the mysteries.

“Aiki”

Constantly admonishing and being aware of oneself, strive to reach the mysteries of Aiki.

There is no first attack in Aiki-jujutsu. Endure as much as you should endure. Even when it becomes necessary, neutralize the opponent without causing injury through Aiki.

There is no stance in Aiki-jujutsu. One matches with the enemy at all times, in all places, front and back, left and right, four directions, eight directions, thirty-six directions and changes freely, so to stop one’s mind in a stance is to lose the mysterious effect of the changes. By always keeping one’s mind calm and open one will become able to change freely. (*Translator’s Note: this is a paraphrase of a teaching from Ono-ha Itto-ryu)

The entire body is Aiki

Head, hands, shoulders, elbows, feet, to the end of the fingers one’s entire body must be “Aiki”. One’s entire body matches with the opponent’s movement. To match is to remove the opponent’s power, to use the opponent’s movement and power (“Nuki-aiki” / 抜合気). Without resisting, one drains away and annihilates the opponents Ki through Nuki-aiki. (“De-aiki” / 出合気, “Hiki-aiki” / 引き合気, “Nuki-aiki” / 抜き合気)

Opportunity is important in “Aiki” – it is not something that develops at random, or for everybody.

Coordination and Changes in technique:

A) Use of the technique applied by the opponent.
B) Undo the opponent’s technique, or ward off and use the opponent’s destabilized posture.
C) Take the opponent’s technique into a reversal.

“Aiki” is to use the opponent’s power to throw.

Tokimune Takeda's personal notes

A section of Tokimune Takeda’s personal notes

Secrets of Aiki

1. Use of the Fingers (from Tokimune Sensei’s personal notes)

Little Finger Outside

Spiral, rotation, power leading up and down.

Ring Finger Outside

Push forward. The power of Aiki-age.

Extend the Index Finger

Spiral power.

“Kakete”

(*Translator’s note: there is more information on “Kakete” in the article “Hakaru Mori on Kakete and Aiki no Jutsu“) 

Gripping hand (“tsukami-te” / 掴み手) in Kakete concentrates the consciousness in the thumb, index finger and little finger.

2. Stickiness (“Kuden” – “oral teaching”)

“Stickiness” is an extremely important element of Aiki technique. The following two points are important for mastering this:

a) Cultivating softness.

Ceaselessly train the arms (from the tips of the fingers to the shoulders) to be soft. Particularly, stiffness in the elbow is something that persists until the end.

b) When one is fortunate enough to be grabbed don’t separate from the grabbing hand until the opponent is controlled.

Release your strength and allow the opponent to grasp you completely. Then it is necessary to build a body with soft musculature that can follow the movements of the opponent wherever they go.

3. Returning

“Use of reaction” – this is an extremely important component of Aiki technique. Use the reaction to the direction of the pushing and pulling power. Forward and back, up and down, left and right.

4. Stretch out the opponent’s arms.

When grabbing the opponent, the power of their arms is enabled by their ability to bend their wrists and elbows.

5. Omote Aiki, Ura Aiki (“Kuden” – “oral teaching”)

Omote Aiki: fingertips pointing upwards
Ura Aiki: fingertips pointing downwards

6. Salmon Fishing (“Yamame-tsuri” / やまめ釣り)

Move your hands slowly up and down, lead the opponent and throw.

Tokimune Takeda teaches Daito-ryu Aikibudo

 

Tokimune Takeda teaches Daito-ryu Aikibudo

 


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Solo Training for Kokyu-ryoku and Ki in Daito-ryu Aiki Budo http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/solo-training-kokyu-ryoku-ki-daito-ryu-aikibudo/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/solo-training-kokyu-ryoku-ki-daito-ryu-aikibudo/#comments Sat, 16 May 2015 16:42:37 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1842 Daito-ryu Aiki Budo 118 Techniques (大東流合気武道百十八ヶ条) by Yoshihisa Ishibashi (石橋義久) Yoshihisa Ishibashi (石橋義久) was born in Tokyo in 1938 and started training in Daito Ryu at the Daitokan dojo in 1964, learning Aiki Budo and Ono Ha Itto Ryu Kenjutsu directly from Sokaku Takeda’s son Tokimune Takeda. In 1969, together with Yoshimi Tomabechi (苫米地芳見) and Katsuyuki Kondo (近藤勝之), he … Continue reading Solo Training for Kokyu-ryoku and Ki in Daito-ryu Aiki Budo »

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Daito-ryu Aiki Budo 118 Techniques

Daito-ryu Aiki Budo 118 Techniques (大東流合気武道百十八ヶ条)
by Yoshihisa Ishibashi (石橋義久)

Yoshihisa Ishibashi (石橋義久) was born in Tokyo in 1938 and started training in Daito Ryu at the Daitokan dojo in 1964, learning Aiki Budo and Ono Ha Itto Ryu Kenjutsu directly from Sokaku Takeda’s son Tokimune Takeda. In 1969, together with Yoshimi Tomabechi (苫米地芳見) and Katsuyuki Kondo (近藤勝之), he opened the Katsushika Branch Dojo in Tokyo and was its first head instructor. He received an Ono Ha Itto Ryu license from Junzo Sasamori (笹森順造) and has a breadth of experience from zen to judo, kendo, Shorinji Kempo, and Chen Tai Chi.

The “118 techniques” in Daito-ryu cover the techniques contained in the Hiden Mokuroku (秘伝目録) certificate , from Ikajo to Gokajo, and were taught as the core curriculum of Tokimune Takeda’s Daito-ryu Aiki Budo. The book “Daito-ryu Aiki Budo 118 Techniques” (大東流合気武道百十八ヶ条) was written by Yoshihisa Ishibashi and published in Japanese in 2015 by BAB Japan publishing company (BABジャパン出版局), which also publishes the popular martial arts magazine Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”).

This is the English translation of a section from Ishibashi Sensei’s book that deals with solo training exercises for the development of breath power (“Kokyu-ryoku”) and Ki development.

You may also be interested in “Sagawa Yukiyoshi, Masaru Takahashi and Breath Training in Daito-ryu” for a look at breath training in the tradition of Yukiyoshi Sagawa.

Daitokan Dojo in Hokkaido

Tokimune Takeda’s Daitokan (大東館) Dojo in Hokkaido, Japan

「陰陽合気法」は呼吸法によって臍下丹田に気を充実させ、気力集中をはかって精神統一をするというもので、五指を握り、静かに入息するを「陰」、五指を強く開き、出息するを「陽」と呼ぶ、とあり、この呼吸法を続けることによって、頭脳明晰となり、眼力は鋭く、「心」「気」「力」一致し、大勇猛心を養い、特に両手十指それぞれの活用により、神通力を高める。

“In-yo Aiki-ho” fills the Seika Tanden with Ki through Kokyu-ho and strives to concentrate Ki-ryoku through mental concentration. Closing the five-fingers, inhaling quietly is called “In” (“Yin”), opening the five fingers strongly and exhaling is called “Yo” (“Yang”). Through the continuation of this breathing method the mind becomes clear, the vision becomes sharp, the “spirit”, “ki” and “power” are unified, a courageous spirit is developed, and especially – the various practical applications of the ten fingers of both hands gives rise to superhuman powers.

– Tokimune Takeda – son of Sokaku Takeda, and Soke of Daito-ryu Aiki Budo

Solo Training for Kokyu-ryoku and Ki in Daito-ryu Aiki Budo

Kokyu-ryoku (呼吸力)

Training in Kokyu-ryoku (“breath power” / 呼吸力) is a method of practice that is required for the mastery of superhuman power and martial technique.

As I have mentioned previously, Aiki-age is an important training method for Kokyu and Ki. It is through training while focusing one’s awareness on the tanden (丹田) and Kokyu that one becomes capable of developing a power that is not muscular force.

Now I will introduce methods of training Kokyu and Ki other than Aiki-age.

Breathing Methods and Tanden (呼吸法と丹田)

(1) Abdominal Breathing and Reverse Abdominal Breathing
(腹式呼吸と逆腹式呼吸)

Abdominal breathing (normal abdominal breathing) is a breathing method in which one expands the abdomen when breathing in and contracts the abdomen when breathing out.

Reverse abdominal breathing is a breathing method in which one expands the abdomen when breathing out and and contracts the abdomen when breathing in.

The first priority for one training is to build a body that constantly employs abdominal breathing unconsciously and naturally. The mastery of abdominal breathing is an absolute requirement for entering the martial world and the world of Ki.

Without mastery of normal abdominal breathing, even if one learns various technical methods one cannot expect them to be very effective.

Awareness of the Lower Tanden (下丹田の意識)

Through reversing the order of the abdominal breathing method one awakens the lower tanden and becomes capable of breathing deeply.

The tanden is the source of energy. “Ta” (田) is the place where one raises food, but it is not something that exists naturally. It becomes a fertile field through human cultivation. Tanden is the same as that character, it is something that is built through self-cultivation.

Therefore, from times past it has been said that abdominal breathing is “the origin of health” (健康の素). I recommend that you master it quickly.

(2) It can be done anytime

Breathing methods (“kokyu-ho” / 呼吸法) can be practiced anytime that one realizes that they are in the appropriate environment, without choosing a particular time or place. For example, when one is riding the train by themselves, or in your bed, before you fall asleep. When one’s lower abdomen always moves up and down when one breathes naturally and unconsciously then one can be said to have mastered this breathing.

A – Abdominal Breathing (Normal)

  1. Inhaling slowly, expand the lower abdomen (the area from the navel down). At the same time, draw your anus upwards.
  2. Keeping your anus loose, draw in the area from your stomach to your lower abdomen while breathing out slowly.

Repeat the above without straining.

B – Abdominal Breathing (Reverse)

  1. This method of breathing is the complete opposite of normal abdominal breathing. Draw in the area from your stomach to your lower abdomen while keeping your anus loose and inhaling slowly.
  2. Expand the lower abdomen (the area from the navel down) while breathing out slowly. At the same time, draw your anus upwards.

Through the activity of Ki, and the power of Kokyu and vocalization, superhuman techniques become possible – these steps are required in order to realize this.

Tokimune Sensei’s Breathing Method

I will introduce the reverse abdominal breathing method of training contained in Tokimune Sensei’s personal notes.

Tokimune Takeda's Kokyu-ho Method 1

Tokimune Takeda’s Reverse Abdominal Breathing Kokyu-ho Method 1

Kokyu-ho 1 (from Tokimune Sensei’s personal notes)

  1. Stand in shizentai (“natural stance” / 自然体), close both hands around their thumbs and place them on your hips.
  2. Drop your hips while performing reverse abdominal breathing (draw in your abdomen while inhaling, draw your anus upwards) . At the same time squeeze your fists strongly and grip the surface of the ground with your five toes.
  3. Expand your abdomen while exhaling, return your hips to their former position. At the same time, loosen your fists and loosen your five toes. Repeat the above 300 times.

Tokimune Takeda's Kokyu-ho Method 2

Tokimune Takeda’s Reverse Abdominal Breathing Kokyu-ho Method 2

Kokyu-ho 2 (from Tokimune Sensei’s personal notes)

  1. Stand in shizentai and drop your hips slightly. Close both hands around their thumbs. Squeeze both fists and drop both underarms naturally.
  2. While exhaling raise your right fist (palm inwards towards you) up and to the right. (perform this as if assuming that a straight punch is coming from an opponent directly in front of you)
  3. Continuing, raise your left fist (palm inwards towards you) up and to the left while exhaling. At the same time drop your right fist down and to the right.
  4. Continuing, raise and lower your left and right fists in alternation. During that time breath strongly “Ha!” “Ha!” (reverse abdominal breathing) while lightly raising and lowering your hips. Repeat the above 300 times.

Ki Training (気の鍛錬)

(1) Concentration and Relaxation

Ki begins to take root throughout one’s body, begins to move, through relaxation of the mind and the softening of the entire body.

Ki is concentrated in parts of the conscious body. In our Ryu, we concentrate Ki in the necessary places of our bodies at the necessary time and apply techniques, or defend, parry, deflect or otherwise remove the power of the opponent.

When this can be done, Ki becomes a sharpened sensor in battle, and the opponent’s body can be felled through the use of one’s entire body as a weapon.

Aiki-age and Kokyu-ho, which I have discussed previously, are also effective as training methods for Ki, but here I will introduce a separate method for solo training in Ki.

(2) Use of the Fingers in Ki Training

Increased awareness of the fingers (the little finger and the thumb) is important in jujutsu and sword techniques. Either of these exercises can be done easily anywhere at any time. By all means, please try them.

Tokimune Takeda's Ki Training Method 1

Tokimune Takeda’s Ki Training Method 1

A – Thumb and Little Finger Ki Training 1

  1. Stand in shizentai and loosen your elbows. Hold both hands out in front of your chest with the palms up.
  2. Close both fists inward tightly, from the index fingers to the pinkies. Place your thumb horizontally above the index and middle fingers and grip particularly strongly with the thumb and little finger.
  3. Remove the tension from your shoulders and elbows and pull your arms lightly while inhaling. While concentrating your awareness on the tips of your fingers grasp both fists tightly and then loosen them.
  4. Repeat this exercise rhythmically about 300 times.

Tokimune Takeda's Ki Training Method  2

Tokimune Takeda’s Ki Training Method  2

B – Thumb and Little Finger Ki Training 2

  1. As in steps 1 and 2 above hold both of your hands out in front of your chest, but with the palms down.
  2. Remove the tension from your shoulders and elbows and grasp both fists tightly. While exhaling strongly thrust your thumb out to the front.
  3. Repeat this exercise rhythmically about 300 times.

(3) Ki Training with the Teppo (“wooden pole”)

Teppo Training, the wooden pole in Sumo

Here I will introduce a Ki training method employing the teppo movements used in sumo training. The following two methods differ in their breathing and the forces used when thrusting the hands forward.

When one turns their awareness to the focus of their Ki and stretching and loosening they can learn of the relationship between the movement and the breath.

Tokimune Takeda's Teppo Training Method

Teppo Ki Training Method

A – Teppo 1

  1. Posture: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and turn your toenails towards the front. Slightly loosen your knees, pull in your chin and stand up straight. Open the five fingers of both hands and pull both elbows into your ribs. Make an asagao (“morning glory” / 朝顔) with your hands and fix your gaze to the front center. While inhaling slowly expand your lower abdomen and drop your awareness to the lower tanden (continue to observe closely).
  2. While exhaling “Ha—” as slowly as possible, step forward with your right foot and move your upper body at the same time, slowly thrusting your right hand up and towards the center line (concentrate your awareness in the tips of your fingers).
  3. Return your right hand and right foot to their former positions while inhaling slowly, expanding your lower abdomen and dropping your awareness to the lower tanden (continue to observe closely).

Repeat the above on both right and left sides for about 15 minutes.

B – Teppo 2

  1. Posture: Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and turn your toenails towards the front. Slightly loosen your knees, pull in your chin and stand up straight. Open the five fingers of both hands and pull both elbows into your ribs. Make an asagao (“morning glory” / 朝顔) with your hands. Inhale slowly while maintaining an awareness of your tanden.
  2. While exhaling strongly in one burst “Ha!” – thrust your right hand strongly forward and up towards the center line while stepping forward with your right foot. Pull your right foot back while inhaling.
  3. While exhaling strongly in one burst “Ha!” – thrust your left hand strongly forward and up towards the center line while stepping forward with your left foot. Pull your left foot back while inhaling.

Repeat the above on both right and left sides for about 15 minutes.


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Interview with Yoshio Sugino of Katori Shinto-ryu, 1961 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-yoshio-sugino-katori-shinto/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-yoshio-sugino-katori-shinto/#comments Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:24:59 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1804   Director Akira Kurosawa observes Yoshio Sugino and Toshiro Mifune on the set of “Yojimbo”, around 1961 Sometimes called “the Last Swordsman”, Yoshio Sugino (杉野嘉男 / 1904–1998) began his martial arts training in Kodokan Judo around 1918. Becoming dissatisfied with Judo he began to train in traditional Yoshin Koryu jujutsu. Around the same time, in 1927, he also … Continue reading Interview with Yoshio Sugino of Katori Shinto-ryu, 1961 »

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 Yoshio Sugino and Toshiro Mifune

Director Akira Kurosawa observes Yoshio Sugino and Toshiro Mifune
on the set of “Yojimbo”, around 1961

Sometimes called “the Last Swordsman”, Yoshio Sugino (杉野嘉男 / 1904–1998) began his martial arts training in Kodokan Judo around 1918.

Becoming dissatisfied with Judo he began to train in traditional Yoshin Koryu jujutsu. Around the same time, in 1927, he also began to train in Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu with the four Katori Shinto-ryu shihan dispatched to the Kodokan at the request of Judo Founder Jigoro Kano.

Around 1932 or 1933 he began training with Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, and received a teaching license directly from the Founder in 1935. After the war his Aikido dojo in Kawasaki was the second official branch dojo of the Aikikai (Kuwamori Dojo was the first).  Below he talks about his time with O-Sensei and with O-Sensei’s instructor Sokaku Takeda:

I didn’t consider aikido to be just an ordinary art…..Those practicing aikido today say that Ueshiba Sensei was really amazing but also wonder if what he did was actually true or not. They say such a thing because they have never seen his technique directly….I am lucky because I saw Ueshiba Sensei directly.
……………
Although Sokaku Takeda Sensei seemed to have the type of body which could be easily knocked over, his demonstration was extraordinary. He was capable of easily throwing 4th and 5th dan holders of the Kodokan.
 – From “Interview with Yoshio Sugino” by Stanley Pranin

Sugino Sensei would later become well known for his work as a choreographer of fight scenes for many famous movies and plays, including Akira Kurosawa’s “The Seven Samurai” and “Yojimbo”.

What follows is an interview with Yoshio Sugino (杉野嘉男) and his son Shigeo Sugino (杉野茂男) that originally appeared in Japanese in “Kengo Retsuden-shu” (Biographies of Kendo Masters) number 67 Futabasha Publishers Ltd. (剣豪列伝集 67号 双葉社 1961年), 1961. This is the same year that the movie “Yojimbo” was released.

Yoshio Sugino demonstrates Katori Shinto-ryu

Yoshio Sugino (杉野嘉男)

Interview with Yoshio Sugino of Katori Shinto-ryu, 1961

A visit to the “Gyaku Nuki no Tachi” (“Reverse sword draw”)

Morikawa: You showed us a variety of Ken-jutsu. That list of techniques, starting with Gyaku Nuki no Tachi (逆抜きの太刀), Torii no Kamae (鳥居の構え), Ko-gasumi (小霞), O-gasumi (大霞), Shin no Kamae (心の構え) and others, are completely distinct from other schools, aren’t they? They eliminate the two steps of deflecting a sword coming to strike and then counter-attacking – you feint a reception and then the opponent is stabbed or cut directly in that same movement.

“In one startling early scene in Yojimbo, for example, Mifune’s samurai character provokes three local rogues into drawing their weapons, whereupon he explodes into action and cuts all three down, using movements so swift that the eye can barely follow. The technique Mifune used in this scene (called gyakunuki no tachi) is a particularly difficult one in which the blade is drawn with the right hand using a reverse grip, brought over the head, reversed and brought down again in another cutting motion. But Mifune carried it off with such explosive precision that even Sugino could not help but be impressed.”
– The Last Swordsman: The Yoshio Sugino Story, by Tsukasa Matsuzaki

 逆抜きの太刀

Gyaku Nuki no Tachi /  逆抜きの太刀

Yoshio Sugino: That’s right. That is a specialty of Katori Shinto-ryu, one of the inner teachings. One feints a reception and the sword of the receiver cuts the attacking sword directly with that same movement. In actual combat the attacker is controlled that much faster, with that little waste.

Morikawa: Ken, yari, kodachi, bo, shuriken – you use many different things, are they all from Katori Shinto-ryu?

Shigeo Sugino: That’s right. In all Shinto-ryu there is only one foundation, that just changes depending upon the weapon being used.

Morikawa: Previously I met Shimizu Shihan (Translator’s Note: Takaji Shimizu, the 25th Soke of Shinto Muso-ryu) of the Tokyo Police Department. Shimizu Shihan did many different things, such as jo, kusari-gama (鎖鎌), and hojo-jutsu (捕縄術 – police techniques for tying with rope), but they all came from different schools.

Yoshio Sugino: That’s right, in the case of Mr. Shimizu. He has already been an acquaintance of mine for more than thirty years, and he has mastered each school. In my case the difference is just in Judo, Aikido and kusari-gama. Judo was with the Kodokan, and of course Aikido was with Ueshiba Shihan – when I was studying it was still called Daito-ryu Aiki-jutsu.

Morikawa: I was astonished that you could learn so many really different things at one time. If we studied for a lifetime it’s likely that we wouldn’t be able to do it. Does your family have a heritage of generations of Katori Shinto-ryu swordsmen?

Yoshio Sugino: No, sword is something that I just built in my generation. I have heard that there was a master of the sword some generations ago, but my family were farmers from Naruto-machi Sanbu-gun (武郡成東町) in Chiba Prefecture. We had a large estate and were given the right to a take a surname and bear a sword (苗字帯刀), so we took the name Sugino.

Torii no Kamae

Torii no Kamae / 鳥居の構え

Iizasa Choisai Ienao (飯篠長威斎), Founder of Japanese Kendo

Morikawa: What kind of Shihan did they have in Katori Shinto-ryu?

Yoshio Sugino: They were all top class famous swordsmen. I was trained by four Shihan named Ichizo Shiina (椎名市蔵), Narimichi Tamai (玉井済道), Tanekichi Ito (伊藤種吉) and Sozaemon Kobuki (久保木惚左衛門) (Translator’s Note: these were the four Shihan dispatched to the Kodokan at the request of Jigoro Kano). I went to the dojo in Chiba myself or had them come to my home, I also learned Shinto-ryu bo-jutsu at the Kodokan. After I opened a Judo dojo in Kawasaki I had them come there and trained seriously. For generations the Soke took the name Iizasa Shuri-no-Suke, but at that time Shuri-no-Suke Kinjiro had passed away in his youth and there was no other Shihan. Now the son of Mr. Kinjiro has succeeded him, but he is still a youth in his twenties. However, in the end breeding will tell, so I believe that he will become a top class swordsman worthy of being called a master.

Morikawa: Speaking of Iizasa Choisai, he is someone who left behind achievements great enough to call him the founder of Japanese Kendo, you must think that he was a great swordsman.

Yoshio Sugino: Of course, that’s so. Any historian would call him the founder of Japanese Kendo. Correctly he was Iizasa Iga-no-Kami Ienao (飯篠伊賀守家直), Choisai is the name that took after he secluded himself in the mountains and became a Buddhist monk. He was born in Shimo Katori-gun Iizasa Mura (下総香取郡飯篠 – currently Tako-machi in Chiba Prefecture). In the beginning he served the Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimasa, but his opinions were ignored so he resigned and went to Kanto. There he served the Chiba family, but after they declined he rejected the world, retreated to the mountains and set his sights on Buddhist training. While he was serving the Chiba family he built a small castle in Katori and became its lord. There were only around a hundred retainers, it was a very tiny lordship. At that time he divided all of his lands, assets and monies among the retainers and, penniless, left on his religious training. He was already past 60 years old. He prayed in Katori for one thousand days and one thousand nights, around three years, and then mastered the Way of the Sword.

Katori Shrine

Katori Jingu / 香取神宮

During this time he experienced a miracle in a dream, a divine message from the Kami “You must become a house for swordsmen, the Interim Reviver (中興の祖 / “Chuku-no-so”) of Japanese Kendo.”. His eyes opened to the secrets of the sword, he developed many students until he passed away in Chokyo year 2 (長享二年 / 1488) at the age of 102 years.

Among those students appeared many master swordsmen, such as Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami (松本備前守), Tsukahara Tosa-no-kami (塚原土佐守 – father of Tsukahara Bokuden), Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami (上泉伊勢守), Morooka Ippa (諸岡一羽斎), Iba Zesuiken (伊庭是水軒), and Itori Kyoun (井鳥巨雲). These each became top class pioneers, and that is why he became, literally, the Interim Reviver of Japanese Kendo.

He moved his residence to Baibokuzan Fudansho (梅木山不断所), on the grounds of Katori Jingu (香取神宮) and prayed earnestly for the divine protection of the great diety. Practicing sword day and night with the plum trees as opponents and shouting vigorously, he devoted himself single-mindedly to his training.

The correct name is Tenshin Shoden Shinto-ryu (天真正伝神道流). Because it began in Katori it is called Katori Shinto-ryu (香取神道流).

Morikawa: It is said that Choisai’s teacher was Kabuto Gyobu-no-sho (鹿伏兎刑部少輔), also there is a legend that his teacher was a Kappa (goblin) who lived in the ocean and was known as Tenshinsho (天真正). This is a kind of legend, but it goes to show just how strong Choisai was.

Shigeo Sugino: In any case, the schools that came from Shinto-ryu dominate most of the Kanto area, it was called the “one bird of Kanto” (関東一羽). In Kansai there was Chujo-ryu (中条流) and others that had formed separate schools.

Morikawa: Is that so? When looking at the line-up of students, Tsukahara Tosa-no-kami was succeeded by his child Bokuden, and from Bokuden-ryu Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami founded Shinkage-ryu (神影流). Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami Naokatsu founded Jikishinkage-ryu (直心影流), Morooka Ippa learned Shinto-ryu, and famous swordsmen like Iwama Oguma (岩間小熊), Tsuchiko Doronosuke (土子泥之助) and Negishi Tokaku (根岸兎角) came from among his students.

In any case, among the schools started after the middle of the Ashikaga period it can be said that there were none that escaped the influence of the three founders Chujo, Iizasa and Matsumoto.

Katori Shinto-ryu's Lineage

Katori Shinto-ryu’s Lineage

Sugino Ko-tengu

Morikawa: Watching your son’s skills with the sword previously, I see that his sharpness is in no way inferior to yours. You must have trained him hard from the time of his childhood. How old is he now?

Shigeo Sugino: I was born in Showa year 6 (1931). I picked up the sword from the time I was around four or five years old. I trained with my father.

It was certainly difficult and strict, ferocious training. I would be awakened every morning while it was still dark, and doused with water in the winter. Sword, bo, naginata, kodachi, jujutsu, iai, shuriken, kusari-gama, I received training in it all. For that reason, before I entered elementary school I swung my sword in front of Prince Nashimoto-no-miya, and after that gave a demonstration of Katori Shinto-ryu to the Governor of Nara Prefecture. When the Hitler Youth group came a Nazi film crew recorded my presentation of Shinto-ryu kata in detail and took it home with them. That was when I wasn’t even yet ten years old. The pictures in this Katori Shinto-ryu manual come from that time.

Morikawa: Is that so? It’s truly a beautiful, wonderful kata. The kata of Budo are truly beautiful, aren’t they?

Katori Shinto-ryu Kata

Part of a Kata in Katori-Shinto-ryu

Yoshio Sugino: Yes, they are. In ancient jujutsu they would say “Three years of randori, three months of kata”. It may be that a beginner who knows nothing will become strong after three months of randori. However, in the end that is no more than being the strongest of the beginners. Rather than that, they were saying that someone who does kata diligently for three months will be much stronger.

One can understand this if they consider the case of Go or Shogi, no matter how much a complete beginner can win at Go without studying tactics at all, a person who has researched a little bit of tactics will quickly become much stronger.

That’s how strong the tactics, or kata, of our predecessors are in absolute terms.

Etiquette (礼儀作法), flowers, tea, these were all the fruits of the study of the geniuses of the past, born from kata that seek the perfection of skill.

Life is all like that. If one doesn’t study this kata than nothing will develop. Even in baseball, tennis or golf I think that it is the same. In the end, the secret is to concentrate on one basic kata.

For that reason, those who disdain the kata of Budo, saying that they are old, that they have no meaning, are not qualified to discuss Budo. In that vein, art, sports, poetry, literature – all of these things require some qualifications to discuss them, don’t they?

Study the kata completely, and the move freely without being hindered by the kata. However, all of that is kata. This is perfection.

Morikawa: Perhaps this can be understood as Confucius’ “I follow all the desires of my heart without breaking any rule.”.

It may be that Confucius also arrived at that state of mind through intense life studies. In the end fencers must begin from Kata and pass through hard training in order to reach the perfection, beauty and flow of sword that is free of impediment.

Shigeo Sugino: That’s right. In sword as in life, if one is not serious then there will be no way that they can master the Gokui (“secret teachings”) that surpass life and death.

Katori Shinto-ryu Training

Katori Shinto-ryu Training

Yoshio Sugino: If we put it another way, tactics and Kata are the shortest route to reaching the Gokui. In order to learn and master this “mystic law” or “occult method” I had to go through very hard training in the past.

It is because Kendo is something psychological that those of the past who were called “Kensei” (“sword saints”), whether it was Tsukahara Bokuden, Isobata Banzo or Ito Ittosai, they all spent time alone in the mountains. Those swordsmen seeking to learn this all went to the mountains, first hauling water and gathering firewood. Serving their teacher earnestly they purified themselves and united their body and minds before becoming enlightened to the Okugi (“secrets”), inheriting them and passing them on to later generations as Kata.

Because there are profound depths inside each of these Kata they must not be neglected. They are absolutely something that should be cherished and passed on to future generations.

Next in importance is how one masters those Kata inside of oneself, in other words, how to digest them and make them your own.

Morikawa: In the end there is an individual personality within oneself, so one could say that the foundation is digested into one’s personality, or that one manifests their personality standing upon that foundation, couldn’t you?

Katori Shinto-ryu Kodachi

Katori Shinto-ryu Kodachi (short sword)

Modern Budo is Sports

Morikawa: Speaking of the kind of Budo training upon which one stakes life and death, the spirit, mindset, and composition of the Budo of the past and the Budo of the present are completely different, aren’t they?

Yoshio Sugino: That is what I am trying to say! As far as I am concerned, Judo and Kendo are not Budo. They are sports. They have gone far away from the most important spirit of Budo.

Dan ranks, competitions, championship – the very existence of terms like these is ridiculous. They are clear proof that these are sports.

When one began to train in the past competitions were strictly prohibited, a violation meant that one would be expelled immediately. Further, the absolute secrecy of the methods extended even to brothers, fellow students. There was a Sempai/Kohai order among fellow students, the Sempai treating the Kohai with kindness, connected by humanity and justice (仁義), and by etiquette.

I wonder how it is today? One often sees XXX 7th Dan or 8th Dan written even on people’s business cards. Then, when they receive a higher Dan rank by recommendation – from that day they puff up their chests and put on a teacher’s face towards others. Things like that are not Budo.

Thinking of it from the fundamentals, in competition rules are defined in order to eliminate threats to one’s life. In Kendo one wears protective gear. Face, hands, torso, however much one strikes outside of the specified areas – in other words, in the areas with no protective gear, one can never score a point. For that reason one can fight freely, with complete freedom, safely and without feeling fear for one’s life. In Judo one wears a Judo-gi and engages in matches limited to a single form. One cannot hold a weapon. What is limited by rules is already a sport. In the end, because there is no danger to one’s life, any cowards can relax and throw each other at ease.

But the true nature of Budo is different. Keeping in mind crossing live sword against live sword, this is the foundation from which it was born, originally one’s life was in danger. For that reason, one was always confronting life and death. In that instant one leaps to grasp a mental state in which the mind is completely focused on one point. In religious terms one reaches a mental state of release from the bonds of birth and death (生死解脱), and one can swing the sword free of impediment. For that reason, competitions were not encouraged, or possible. If one did then there were no alternatives other than taking the other person’s life or dying oneself. At best, one would be crippled. Fights with live swords from this period, with the exception of cases with an extreme difference in skill, usually ended in a single breath. It was certainly nothing like what is seen in movies or on the stage. There is no doubt that it was simple, with very little movement.

Shigeo Sugino: That must be true. For example – even if one wears protective gear on their face and hands like Kendo, when they face off with a bokuto they will suddenly become unable to move. That is because they feel the danger to their life. Further, the final deciding fact in Shinto-ryu is kesagake (“diagonal cut from the shoulder”). Under the rules of Kendo one cannot score a point with kesagake. There are these kinds of absurdities. Everyone aims for the head, and in order to aim for the hachigane (“forehead protector”) they lift their heels. Doing this they will be unable to seat their hips at all, it is unusable in a real fight. In other words, when one imposes the limitations of rules they become captive to them. One becomes obsessed with scoring points, and the root of Budo technique is destroyed. Actually, rather than aiming at the hachigane, aiming for the face guard is far and away more effective.

Yoshio Sugino: As I said before, in Shinto-ryu one does not receive the other’s sword, the moment of receiving is left out and one just cuts directly. If one thinks of facing off in a real fight with live swords then perhaps they may understand. If one actually draws a live sword and thrusts it in front of the eyes the tip of the blade is very frightening. There one discovers how to get through this. In an actual fight there is no time to receive. One does not know how the opponent will change and come at you next. Therefore, we cut the opponent directly from a receiving posture. I taught it just like that in “Yojimbo”. If you observe the flash of the sword when Toshiro Mifune (三船敏郎) cuts Jerry Fujio (ジェリー藤尾) you will understand. I think that it is because he cut without receiving that it has the impact and flavor of an actual confrontation.

Training in Katori Shinto-ryu

Training in Katori Shinto-ryu

Great Actors (名優) and Sword Saints (剣聖)

Morikawa: It came back to me with Yojimbo, but I heard that you have taught sword techniques for many movies and plays.

Yoshio Sugino: Yes, the first time was at the Zenshinza (Translator’s Note: 前進座 a Kabuki theater in Tokyo, built in 1935), when they were performing “”Bansuiin Chobee”” (幡随院長兵衛). Kanemon (翫右衛門) was playing Jurou Zaemon (十郎左衛門) in the scene when Chobee was stabbed and killed in the bath, and I taught them their stances. Next was in “Takadanobaba no Adauchi” (高田の馬場の仇討) at the Zenshinza, with Kanaemon playing Nakayama Yasubee (中山安兵衛). By the way, their sword techniques were exactly the same as those performed by Shodai Danjuro (初代団十郎) and Kikugoro (菊五郎), not even a little bit close to real sword. The Shodai Danjuro of that time felt that preserving the sense of the past was what he wanted, preserving the spirit of the first Danjuro. But if the spirit is not there, then no matter how much you watch all that is left is the old form. That was no good, so I taught them an actual Kata. Then their own style of fighting must have emerged. Not just sword Kata, their own individual spirit was infused wonderfully. As one would expect, I admired them as great actors. At that time I also taught the Naginata of Nagatsugawa Yuhan (中津川祐範) to Bando Choemon (坂東調右衛門). More recently, I taught the sword techniques for the cutting of Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬) at the Zenshinza.

Morikawa: Did you have a difficult time with the movies?

Yoshio Sugino: During the time of “The Seven Samurai” (七人の侍). At the time there were no fight scene choreographers, so the Director Kurosawa did it all by himself. I thought that was really difficult. Especially, Seiji Miyaguchi (宮口精二) was doing a period drama (時代劇) for the first time, and didn’t even know how to hold a bamboo sword, so he came to my dojo by himself. I taught him specially, and Miyaguchi-san’s sword technique ended up receiving the best reviews. In “The Last Princess” (隠し砦の三悪人), Susumu Fujita also came to visit me, and here you can see his enthusiasm.

Morikawa: Many of them were from the Kurosawa group, weren’t they?

Yoshio Sugino: Yes. Inagaki Sensei’s “Ganryujima” (巌流島), “Duel at Ichijoji Temple” (一乗寺決闘) and “Yagyu Secret Scrolls” (柳生武芸帳) were as well.

Morikawa: Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule.


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Mr. Kimura’s Aikido Memories, Part 2 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/kimura-aikido-memories-part-2/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/kimura-aikido-memories-part-2/#comments Sat, 14 Mar 2015 19:11:51 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1704 Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba at the Noma Dojo, around 1936  In 1938 the Prime Minister of Japan was Prince Fumimaro Konoe (近衛 文麿) – he was a patron of Morihei Ueshiba and served on the board of directors for Morihei Ueshiba’s pre-war Kobukai Foundation. In 1938, when he began training with Morihei Ueshiba at the Kobukan … Continue reading Mr. Kimura’s Aikido Memories, Part 2 »

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Morihei Ueshiba at the Noma Dojo

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba at the Noma Dojo, around 1936

 In 1938 the Prime Minister of Japan was Prince Fumimaro Konoe (近衛 文麿) – he was a patron of Morihei Ueshiba and served on the board of directors for Morihei Ueshiba’s pre-war Kobukai Foundation.

In 1938, when he began training with Morihei Ueshiba at the Kobukan Dojo in Tokyo, Mr. Kimura was a 19 year old Japanese exchange student from Dairen (大連 / Dalian), the Japanese occupied seaport in Northeast China. At the time the art was called “Ueshiba-ryu Aiki-jutsu”, and the students were a laundry list of influential political and military figures.

What follows is the second part of a two part English translation of his memories of that time dated June 24th 1987 which originally appeared in the tenth anniversary edition of “Aikido Kodaira” (「合気こだいら」十周年記念誌), published on October 30th 1988. You may wish to read Part 1 before reading this section.

“Kamae” from the technical manual “Budo”, Morihei Ueshiba 1938

Aikido Memories (合気道の思い出)

4) Sensei’s Teachings

A – Kamae

Do not face the enemy straight on. Always, take a Hanmi-Irimi stance and make the area facing the enemy as small as possible.

(Translator’s Note: see “Morihei Ueshiba, Budo and Kamae” – Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 for a discussion of Kamae in the 1938 technical manual “Budo”)

B – Walking

In walking step with six directions (“roppo” / 六方) – lift your thighs when you move, just like the Kabuki actors walk.

(Translator’s Note: see the above articles “Morihei Ueshiba, Budo and Kamae” for more on six directions. Here is a short explanation from William Gleason Shihan, 7th Dan Aikikai and founder of Shobu Aikido:

“Stretching the spine upward and down to become rooted in both Heaven and earth, you establish yourself at the center of the six directions. This is Irimi, the spirit of Aikido; sending your ki out in all directions to infinity; our own intention meeting and merging with the universal will. O-sensei called it the “Divine Cross.” This is the kototama of Tou or Tao, in Japanese pronounced Dou. It is the fulfillment of Michi, the highest level of Aikido. It is also the elimination of duality, or separation. It is called Gokui, “exteme will” or “radical faith.””)

C – Opening the Body

When avoiding the enemy’s sword one does not just open their body, one must always rotate far enough to match the enemies back. If one doesn’t do that then even though they think that they are avoiding the sword it will not be enough and they will be cut.

D – The Principle of Aiki and Kokyu-ryoku

In Aiki one stretches thin spider webs between oneself and the enemy, these must not be cut. In other words, if the enemy comes to cut your head then cut their head, if they come to cut your body then cut their body. Regarding this, I was told not to do things like cutting their body when they come to cut my head. Then, when I aked “Doesn’t that become Ai-uchi (“mutual-striking/kill”)?”, Sensei said “No it doesn’t. The person with the strongest Kokyu-ryoku will cut down and win.”. In other words, the strength or weakness of one’s Kokyu-ryoku decides the contest.

E – The Distance for Live Swords

In the case where an enemy comes at you with a live sword first grab some dirt off the ground (actually, it’s OK even if there’s nothing) and throw it in the enemy’s eyes at the same time leaping forward. One must turn their eyes towards them with the feeling of actually cutting the enemy. If you don’t have the feeling of cutting the enemy then their line of sight will not move.

Even when you face each other with live swords from a distance of 15-20 feet one feels as if the enemy is directly if front of their eyes, so take a sufficient distance. If one fights from a distance of three feet than the contest has already begun, one or the the other has been run through and died. For that reason, one must not do that kind of training.

F – Move before Sen-no-sen

(Translator’s Note: “Go-no-sen” – moving after the attack reaches you, “Sen-no-sen” – moving at the same time as the attack but before it reaches you, “Sen-sen-no-sen” – moving before the attack even begins).

In a contest, move before the opponent’s Ki. Moving your body after the opponent has cut is too late. It is because one makes the opponent think to cut that they move their body!

G – Training Kokyu-ryoku (“Breath Power”)

One of the Sensei’s favorite phrases when working with students was “we develop our breathing with each other”. The meaning of these words is that both Sensei and the students worked together to help each other to develop Kokyu-ryoku. This is not the muscular power that everybody knows of, it means the Ki-power (気力), the power of the Mind (心力), that is unique to Aikido.

警視庁の三郎三傑

警視庁の三郎三傑
The “Three Swordsman of the Metropolitan Police”, 1939
From left: Kyotaro Takahashi (高橋赳太郎), Takano Sasaburo (高野佐三郎)
Kawasaki Zenzaburo (川崎善三郎)

5) Sensei’s Extraordinary Skills

A – A contest with Sasaburo Takano and live swords

This is a story that I heard from Ishii-sempai.

When Sasaburo Takano-san, who I mentioned previously, became a student he asked Sensei “Please teach me a move – what should I hold?”. Sensei said “Hold this!”, and gave him a Japanese sword. When Takano-san asked “Sensei, what will you be holding?” Sensei replied “I’m OK with bare hands”. When Takano-san heard that he said “I am the world-famous Sasaburo Takano. Do you think that I’m an idiot, to give me a live sword and tell me that you’re OK with bare hands? I’ll cut you down and kill you!” while brandishing the sword. At that moment, Sensei advanced and  halted Takano-sans dominant arm with his bare hands, hitting it so hard that Takano-san dropped the sword without realizing it.

It was just like something out of a story book.

Field Marshal Shunroku Hata

Field Marshal Shunroku Hata

(Translator’s Note: 畑俊六 – Shunroku Hata was commanding general of the Central China Expeditionary Army and served as a Senior Aide-de-Camp to Emperor Showa as well as Minister of War.)

B – Demonstrations

Sensei would sometimes give demonstrations. Whenever there were demonstrations we’d get wooden bento lunch boxes from Isetan and a lot of Sake, so it was really something to look forward to for a student like me living in a boarding house. One time his excellency Field Marshal Shunroku Hata (元帥陸軍大将畑俊六) came for a demonstration. What’s more, at the time this person was the commanding general of the Central China Expeditionary Army (中支那派遣軍), a person of unbelievably high position, so the other rank and file army officers were all on pins and needles.

The content of the demonstration was so varied that it would be impossible for me, with my limited writing skills, to express, but I would like to explain just one part of it, as best I can.

Tenryu Saburo

The Sumo wrestler Tenryu, around 1929

It was the part of the demonstration with Wakuta-san (Translator’s Note: the Sumo wrestler Tenryu), whom I spoke of previously, as the opponent. First, Sensei stood in front of Wakuta-san and said to the seated spectators “Now I will throw Wakuta-san without touching him”. At that point a commotion arose in the hall. That is to say, how in the world would one be able to throw the large and robust Wakuta-san with a weight of 33 kan (approximately 274 lbs) and a height of 6 shaku (approximately 6 feet) without touching him? Everyone swallowed without thinking about it.

The one who seemed the most surprised was Wakuta-san himself. Later Wakuta-san said “I didn’t plan anything with Sensei, so I was bewildered as to how I would be thrown without being touched. That being said, I didn’t want to embarrass Sensei.”.

To get to the point – Sensei, with his tiny body, stood in front of the large Wakuta-san and turned towards him. “Wakuta-san, grab this” he said, offering his left lapel. Wakuta-san did as he was told – since he was taller he stretched out his right hand from above and tried to grab the left lapel. At just the same speed, Sensei turned his body to the back left, and as Wakuta-san’s right fist came down Sensei was suddenly sitting in seiza on the tatami. At that moment the position of Wakuta-san’s right fist froze in mid-air, and with the right fist as the center Wakuta-san’s body described a large circle and he was thrown forward with a thump. He looked just like a large whale thrown up on the beach.

Let us say that this is a glimpse of correct Aikido technique. In brief, it is to manipulate the opponent like a puppet. This is really not something that can be done by ordinary people.

C – Sword Training

One day Sensei said to me “Kimura-san, let’s train with the sword today. Go get that shinai.”, so I hurried over to the rubber bag in the corner of the dojo and brought back two shinai. I gave one to Sensei, then held the other and took my Kamae.

At first Sensei cut my shinai lightly from the left, so the tip of my sword swayed widely to the right. Then Sensei said “No good. Hold the sword firmly.”, so this time I gripped the hilt of the shinai strongly. When I did that he cut my shinai from the left again. How would it be this time? Before I realized it, I fell from my hips with a thud.

Sensei said again “No good. Stand with your hips firm.”. Determined not to fail and be scolded again I took a solid stance with both my hands and hips. This time Sensei took his sword, wound up my shinai in a spiral and threw it some fifteen feet behind him. I was dumbfounded.

In a word, I understood that Aikido lightly attacks the unpreparedness of the opponent. Then Sensei said “Training is over for today.”, and I didn’t get a chance to have anything to hold onto.

Prince Kaya Tsunenori

Prince Kaya Tsunenori (Kaya-no-miya-tsunenori-o) in the 1930’s
for whom Morihei Ueshiba’s technical manual Budo was compiled 

D – Kaya-no-miya-sama (賀陽宮様)

This is a story of a time when Sensei took Shioda-san and Okubo-san  (of the nobility, son of Tadayori Okubo and a student at Gakushin University) to the residence of Kaya-no-miya-sama for training.

Sensei would first use Shioda-san as his partner and explain the Aikido technique, and after observing that the Prince would partner with Okubo-san for training.

Then, and this a story from Shioda-san, Sensei got excited at being in the home of the nobility, the blood rushed to his head and his face became bright red. Wanting to show his skills, he grabbed Shioda-san’s left shoulder with his right hand and threw him the length of 8 tatami (about 48 feet).

Then, as one would expect from Shioda-san, when he returned to the dojo he grabbed me in revenge and threw me the length of 3 tatami mats (about 18 feet). As I was gliding through the air at the time I felt as if my breath were going to stop. I was young, and a san-dan in Judo. I was accustomed to being thrown so I got through it without a problem, but if it happened now I’m sure that my bones would shatter.

I don’t know whether or not someone like Sensei, who can grab a person with one hand and throw them 48 feet is a master or not, but I can certainly say that they are someone to be respected.

E – Suburi

Sensei was always swinging his oak bokuto. Of course, at those times there would be a hum in the air from the sound of the cutting, but what was surprising was that with each cut the last 6 inches of the bokuto would bend down about 6 inches. Seeing that, we’d whisper to each other “If I could do that it would be out of this world!”. When we stood up to face Sensei both of his eyes would shine – it was very frightening.

F – Sharp Intuition

When Sensei went into the back room Shioda-san would have me try out Judo techniques on him and research into counter techniques. Each time Sensei would stick his head out from the back and scold us “Judo is something that came from China, so it’s filthy!” (「柔道は支那から来たものだからケガラワシイ。」Translator’s Note: the term used here for “China” by Morihei Ueshiba is often considered to be derogatory.). It was always mysterious to us how he could know what we were doing from the back room.

G – Techniques are Unnecessary

Sensei would sometimes say  that techniques are unnecessary. He would rest his palm flat on top of one of the student’s shoulders and their face would suddenly become bright red, their hips would break and they would fall down to the tatami. I think that this was an effect of Kokyu-ryoku.

6) What I Liked About Learning Aikido

I worked at a construction company for many years, and when I was young I walked around inspecting job sites for eighteen years. In the metropolitan areas the workers were quiet, but in the mountains and the remote areas they would display their ferocity. There were many fights and I was attacked a few times with knives, but thanks to learning Aikido I used Hanmi-Irimi to open my body and was always able to control them without injury.

7) Aikido in the Old Days

A – The monthly tuition was 5 yen.

We would be scolded if we just handed over a 5 yen note in the open.  We’d always place it in a an envelope (“noshibukuro” / 熨斗袋) and one of the uchi-deshi would place it on top of the Sanpo (三宝, a small stand). Then the uchi-deshi would raise it above their eyes and place it reverently before the altar.

B – We had to wear a hakama over our keiko-gi from the beginning.

We were scolded and told that the close fitting trousers of the Judo style were impolite.

C – There was no training from Shikko (膝行).

Aikido in the old days was to throw them down and kill them, everything was throwing techniques, I was told to throw them at an angle that would drive their head into the ground. When it was time to be thrown by Sensei during training we’d scramble away. We didn’t train until the throwing was over. so we didn’t get taught.

D – There were no ranks.

There was only the Menkyo Kaiden (免許皆伝). When I asked Sensei what kind of a person could become a Menkyo Kaiden he said that ordinarily two people with exceptional skills would face each other in front of him holding real knives (tanto) and cross swords. If Sensei acknowledged their skill then he would grant them Menkyo Kaiden. In other words, this was a discussion about something that I would never able to become, so I gave up on such overambitious things.

Also, I have never heard of anyone becoming a Menkyo Kaiden. However, I have heard that there was one of Matsuhei Mori-san’s juniors who started in Showa year 18 (1943) that became an Aikido tenth dan.

I think that it was around Showa year 30 (1955) that I saw an article in the newspaper about Aikido ni-dans and so forth, so I went to Aikido Hombu in Wakamatsu-cho and spoke to Kisshomaru-san – “Recently there was something written in the newspaper about there being dan ranks in Aikido, please correct them.”.  When I did that Kisshomaru-san said “Actually, Kimura-san, we made dan ranks in Aikido after the war in order to stimulate growth.”, and that was the first time that I ever learned of the establishment of  a dan ranking system (段位制度).

Until recently, in my pride as part of the pre-war group, I had continued to wear a white belt, but when a white belt throws a black belt they usually get a really hateful look, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. It’s hard to swim against the tide, so I got a black belt from Hombu.

E – Names

In the old days it was called Aiki-jutsu, and like Bi-jutsu (art), Ken-jutsu or Nin-jutsu, it seemed as if the training was centered around technique. Nowadays it has become Aikido, and what was practiced until now has the added seasoning of training the mental aspect, I offer my congratulations on the development of such a broad based training. I pray that the population of world Aikido will increase in the future.

In conclusion, I wish for the continued prosperity of the Kodaira Aikido Renmei (小平市合気道連盟) from the bottom of my heart.

With many thanks,

木村 果

Written on June 24, Showa year 12 (1987)

Editor’s Note: As the writer has noted in the text above, they called directly on Ni-Dai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba at Hombu, and received a sho-dan directly from Doshu. As proof, I have in my possession a business card from Ni-Dai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba on which he wrote that they practiced together before the war, and and that a sho-dan had been issued to Mr. Kimura.


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Mr. Kimura’s Aikido Memories, Part 1 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/kimura-aikido-memories-part-1/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/kimura-aikido-memories-part-1/#comments Sun, 01 Mar 2015 16:32:17 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1702 Morihei Ueshiba’s Technical Manual “Budo” – published in 1938  1938 saw the continuation of the Japanese war in China, increased economic sanctions against Japan by the United States, and and the formation of the precursor to the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” (大東亞共榮圏), the “New Order in East Asia” (東亜新秩序). It saw the passing of the National Mobilization … Continue reading Mr. Kimura’s Aikido Memories, Part 1 »

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Technical Manual Budo, Page 38
Morihei Ueshiba’s Technical Manual “Budo” – published in 1938 

1938 saw the continuation of the Japanese war in China, increased economic sanctions against Japan by the United States, and and the formation of the precursor to the “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” (大東亞共榮圏), the “New Order in East Asia” (東亜新秩序). It saw the passing of the National Mobilization Law (国家総動員法) in the Japanese Diet, putting the national economy of the Empire of  Japan on a war-time footing.

1938 was also the heart of the golden years of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s Kobukan Dojo, known as “Hell Dojo” for the severity of its training.

Mr. Kimura began training with Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei in 1938, in an art called “Ueshiba-ryu Aiki-jutsu”, at the Kobukan Dojo that had been opened in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo in 1931. What follows is the first part of a two part English translation of his memories of that time from June 24th 1987 which originally appeared in the tenth anniversary edition of “Aikido Kodaira” (「合気こだいら」十周年記念誌), published on October 30th 1988. 

Morihei Ueshiba in 1938

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba around 1938

Aikido Memories (合気道の思い出)

1) My Current State

This year (Showa year 62 / 1987) I have reached “Koki”. Counting years I have already become an old man of 70. Now I’d like to look back 50 years to my younger days and talk about my memories of Aikido.

(Translator’s Note: “Koki” is an older way of saying “seventy years old”, from the classic poem by the Chinese poet Tufu (Toho, 杜甫, in Japanese) – “Jinsei nanaju korai mare nari” (人生七十古来稀なり), meaning that to reach 70 is a rare occurrence.)

2) Initiation

I began Aikido in March of Showa year 13 (1938), at the age of nineteen. At the time there was no such name as “Aikido”, it was called “Ueshiba-ryu Aiki-jutsu” (植芝流・合気術) and the dojo was called the “Kobukan Dojo” (皇武館道場).

As to the reason why I began Aikido, at the time I was training in Judo at my school’s Judo club, but the Judo contests weren’t divided into weight classes as they are now – everybody competed in the same division. That put smaller people like me at a disadvantage when competing.

Matsuhei Mori Kyokushin

Matsuhei Mori demonstrating Kyokushin Karate
with Kenji Kurosaki (黒崎健時), Tadashi Nakamura (中村忠)
and Hirofumi Okada (岡田博文)
Title reads: “The toughest man in the Diet”

So it was at the point where I was wondering if there were some method in which a smaller build was not a disadvantage. He has already passed away, but I had an acquaintance named Matsuhei Mori (毛利松平) who had a 5th Dan in Judo from the Keio University Judo club. He later became the Minister of the Japanese Environmental Agency. This person told me “There is an incredible master of Bujutsu in Tokyo, a man called Mr. Ueshiba. If five of us actively training 5th dans grab a person at the same time then we can almost always defeat them. But even when we grab onto that Ueshiba Sensei at the same time, Sensei just sends everybody flying with one shake of his hips. And when using the sword, he is number one in Japan.”.

(Translator’s Note: Matsuhei Mori, July 16 1913 – May 24 1985. Matsuhei Mori was a member of the Japanese Diet and served as the Minister of the Japanese Environmental Agency. He was student of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba,  Judo, and Kyokushin Karate, and was a mentor to Kyokushin Karate’s founder Masatatsu Oyama (it was at his suggestion that Choi Yong-I took the Japanese name of “Masatatsu Oyama”). He also served as the Director of the Nihon Budokan.)

At the time I was an exchange student at a school in Tokyo from Dairen (Translator’s Note: 大連 / Dalian – leased by the Japanese as a port city from the puppet state of Manchukuo, Japanese occupied Manchuria) in China. Since I had the good fortune to be studying in Japan I thought that I certainly wanted to train under one of the world’s masters and applied to become a student.

At that time in Aikido nobody could become a student without an introduction. So I asked Mr. Matsuhei Mori to write me a letter of introduction, then I went to the Kobukan Dojo to visit Ueshiba Sensei for the first time and ask for permission to become a student. At the time, somewhere in the back of my mind I had a sense of unease. Actually, in my mind I had imagined Sensei as a frightening figure who could crush ogres, but the Sensei that I met was an affable white haired grandfather around 50 years old who was even slightly smaller than me. In any case, I politely asked for permission to become a student, and Sensei told me that it would be alright. Even now I remember that warm and peaceful spring day with the spring sunlight filling the dojo with light.

After that I made a written oath. I was told not to speak to others about the content (“otome-ryu”) of the oath (Translator’s Note: 御留流 / “otomeryu”, an Edo era practice of restricting members of a Ryu from matches outside of their Ryu, also used to refer to Ryu that were sworn to a particular domain or a Ryu that did not permit interaction with the general public.). After doing this I was permitted to become a student.

At the time I was living in Toyama-so, in the Totsuka san-chome area of Takadanobaba, but it was quite far from the dojo in Wakamatsu-cho, so I moved into a place called the Chouseikan (長生館) boarding house in Okubo ni-chome where the artists lived, just 300 meters from the dojo. Everyday after I got out of school I would practice Judo with the Judo club, then go back to the boarding house and then on to the dojo. After Aikido training I would go back to the boarding house in the evening to have dinner and then return to the dojo for more Aikido, and that was my daily life.

At that time my brother, who was also an exchange student in Japan, often scolded me “You put a lot of expense into coming all the way to Japan to study, but you never study – what the hell are you doing?”, but in this case I just retorted “If I can learn Aiki-jutsu then it’s OK!”. I’m a little embarrassed to discuss a personal matter, but I was job hunting after graduating from school in Showa year 15 (1940), and if one was captain of their Judo club almost all of the companies would pass you on their tests. Thanks to that, I received offers of employment from the top ranked companies Mitsui & Co., Ltd. and the Southern Manchurian Railway on the same day – I gave a cry of joy!

Ueshiba Dojo Eimeiroku

Eimeiroku from the Ueshiba Dojo, dated 1926
Sankichi Takahashi and Eisuke Yamamoto’s names appear
along with the name of Admiral Isamu Takeshita

From “Aikido Kaiso Ueshiba Morihei-den” (合気道開祖植芝盛平伝)

3) The Face of the Deshi

A – The Monjin-roku (門人録 / “Record of Students”)

I was told that after becoming a student one was recorded in the Monjin-roku. When I opened that Monjin-roku I was astonished.

Sasaburo Takano and Nakayama Hakudo

Sasaburo Takano (left)
with Morihei Ueshiba’s close friend, Nakayama Hakudo

The first name was Sasaburo Takano (Translator’s Note: 高野佐三郎 – Itto-ryu’s Sasaburo Takano is considered to be one of the fathers of modern Japanese Kendo).

He was the Ken-jutsu shihan of the Metropolitan Police Department. There was something written in an old serial novel published by the Asahi Shimbun – one day this Takano Shihan was put upon by a large number of gamblers on a bridge above the Sumida River. It was said that, facing them with his bare hands, he threw them off the edge of the bridge into the river.

Sadao Araki

Right wing theorist and general Sadao Araki

The second name was Sadao Araki (Translator’s Note: 荒木貞夫 – a general in the pre-WWII Imperial Japanese Army, and one of the principal nationalist right-wing political theorists in the Empire of Japan. He served as the Minister of War and then the Minister of Education, and was a member of the pre-war Supreme War Council (軍事参議官会議)).

He was an army general and later became the Minister of Education – as I recall, for a period of time he was a member of the Cabinet.

Sankichi Takahashi

Admiral Sankichi Takahashi in 1935
as Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet

The third name was Sankichi Takahashi (Translator’s Note: 高橋三吉 – commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy. He was instrumental in crushing the Treaty Faction of the Japanese Naval command that accepted limitations imposed by the Washington Naval Treaty agreed to by Japan after WWI. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Aikido and invited Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba to become an instructor at the Naval Staff College where he trained Imperial Japanese Naval officers for some ten years.).

He was a naval admiral who had served as the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy (連合艦隊指令長官).

Admiral Eisuke Yamamoto

Admiral Eisuke Yamamoto

The fourth name was Eisuke Yamamoto (Translator’s Note: 山本英輔 – an admiral and commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy. During the February 26th Incident (二・二六事件), an attempted coup d’état organized by a group of young Imperial Japanese Army officers attempting to install a military-centered cabinet, he was part of a failed compromise solution to form a new cabinet under his supervision.).

He was a also naval admiral who had served as the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

That is to say, it was all top class people, compared to them I was nothing, a student – but as I said before I added my name while filled with embarrassment. I don’t think that there are other dojo anywhere that restrict membership like that. I think that is part of the tale of Ueshiba Sensei’s fastidiousness.

B – My Brother Students

– Ishii-san (石井さん)

About fifty years old and an executive at Kewpie Mayonnaise, every day we would hear the sound of his wooden geta as he walked to the dojo from Nakano in his kimono. He didn’t look very strong, and sometimes we’d try arm wrestling, but at those times I’d be defeated easily. Then he’d always scold me, hitting my shoulders and saying “Kimura-san, you’re putting power into your shoulders again, please relax.”, but in the end I just couldn’t relax.

– Ito-san (伊藤さん)

In his thirties and working for the Japan Railways at Shinagawa Station. This person said that Sensei told him that he would split the dojo with him and always trained as hard as he could. (Translator’s Note: this may be Hitoshi Ito / 伊藤等)

Gozo Shioda - Budo, 1938

Gozo Shioda taking ukemi for Morihei Ueshiba – “Budo”, 1938

– Shioda-san (塩田さん)

A student at Takushoku University (拓殖大学), throughout the year he’d spend all of his time in the dojo, and even eat his meals with Sensei’s family in a room in the back. He was Sensei’s favorite pupil, and went with him wherever he went as Sensei’s O-tomo (“attendant”). He was the only one who could remain comfortable, no matter how far Sensei threw him. His grip was incredibly strong, it was called the “Takudai Punch” (Translator’s Note: “Takudai” is short for “Takushoku University”). You couldn’t move when Shioda-san grabbed you.

Now he has opened a dojo in Koganei City and is protecting Ueshiba Sensei’s teaching, spreading and promoting Aikido.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba with his father

Kisshomaru Ueshiba with his father, Morihei Ueshiba

– Kisshomaru-san (吉祥丸さん)

Ueshiba Sensei’s son, at that time he was in the third year of junior high school. I remember working on Kokyu Undo with him.

I trained with the four people above from March of Showa year 13 (1938) to February of Showa year 15 (1940).

Saburo Wakuta / Tenryu

The Sumo Wrestler Saburo Wakuta – Tenryu

Outside of that there was Saburo Wakuta-san (Translator’s Note: 和久田三郎 – the real name of the Sumo wrestler Saburo Tenryu / 天竜三郎, who became a student of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba after encountering him in Manchuria.). This person was the Director of Physical Education for Manchukuo (Translator’s Note: the name of the Japanese puppet nation established in pre-WWII Manchuria) and had come to visit Ueshiba Dojo in order to master Aikido – he was the Sumo wrestler Tenryu Ozeki-san. He was very large, and during the breaks Shioda-san would lie down next to him and rest his head on his abdomen.

Continued in Part 2, “Sensei’s Teachings”……


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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A Leap of the Spirit – Moritaka (Morihei) Ueshiba in 1932 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/leap-spirit-moritaka-morihei-ueshiba/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/leap-spirit-moritaka-morihei-ueshiba/#comments Sun, 08 Feb 2015 16:23:27 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1662 “Kami no Keshin” (“Embodiment of God” / 神の化身) Kanzou Miura (三浦関造) – Ryuo Library (竜王文庫), 1960 Kanzou Miura was born in Fukuoka, Japan on July 15th 1883, just five months before Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei was born in Wakayama Prefecture. After graduation from Aoyama Gakuin’s Theological School he spent one year working as a Methodist minister in … Continue reading A Leap of the Spirit – Moritaka (Morihei) Ueshiba in 1932 »

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Kami no KeshinKami no Keshin” (“Embodiment of God” / 神の化身)
Kanzou Miura (三浦関造) – Ryuo Library (竜王文庫), 1960

Kanzou Miura was born in Fukuoka, Japan on July 15th 1883, just five months before Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei was born in Wakayama Prefecture.

After graduation from Aoyama Gakuin’s Theological School he spent one year working as a Methodist minister in the southwest of Aomori Prefecture, in Hirosaki City. He became active in the Rikugo Zasshi (六合雑誌), a Christian magazine started in 1880 by the Tokyo YMCA, and went on to publish a large number of books and translations, including translations of works by Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. He also become interested in researching India’s first Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.

Rabindranath TagoreRabindranath Tagore in Tokyo, 1916
seated, middle of the first row

After the Second World War he organized the Ryuo-kai (Dragon King Society) and introduced theosophical teachings (including Alice Bailey and Agni Yoga) to Japan with his Synthesis Yoga practice (綜合ヨガ団体竜王会). He also translated “The Voice of the Silence” by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and a number of other works.

Mokuroku issued by Moritaka UeshibaMokuroku (目録) issued by Moritaka Ueshiba in 1934
Stamped “Aiki-jujutsu”
From “Aikido Kaiso Ueshiba Morihei-den” (合気道開祖植芝盛平伝)

What follows is a section of a book published in 1932 by the publishing company Nito Shoin (日東書院) called “The Spirit Leaps Forward – Emergence of the Superhuman” (心霊の飛躍 – 現出の超人”/ “Shinrei no Hiyaku – Genshutsu no Chojin”). In this excerpt from that work  Mr. Miura interviews Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, who was then using the name Moritaka (守高).

Shinrei no Hiyaku“A Leap of the Spirit” (“Shinrei no Hiyaku”) – Showa Year 7 (1932)

Mr. Moritaka (Morihei) Ueshiba’s Budo and the Way of the Kami

植芝守高(盛平)氏の武道と神ながら

Miyamoto Musashi is long deceased, and so it may be that the secrets of that extraordinary Budo have not been received by the ordinary people of today. Accordlingly, I would like to speak just a little about a modern figure who is thought by some to have surpassed Musashi, Mr. Moritaka (Morihei) Ueshiba.

Ueshiba and Deguchi, Budo SenyokaiUnder the Dai-Nippon Senyokai (大日本武道宣揚会) banner
Morihei Ueshiba (left) with Sumiko and Onisaburo Deguchi in 1932

Aritoshi Murashige standing back right

Mr. Ueshiba currently has a dojo in the Ushigome area of Tokyo. This gentlemen was hidden from the public eye until two or three years ago, and that this astonishing True Budo (真の武道) existed in the world was unknown. It is rare for an authentic personage to appear in the world – in this world there are useless people who take over the country and teach their evil ways. Regardless if it is the past or the present, inside or outside the country, a righteous rule has never been realized from the beginning of things, military rule always dominates nations.

陸軍士官学校The gates of the Imperial Japanese Army Academy (陸軍士官学校)

Few people know that in the early spring of Showa year 5 (1930) Mr. Ueshiba participated in contests at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy (陸軍士官学校). No matter how many powerfully built 5th and 6th Dan Judo-ka stepped up they were broken and played with like kittens. Even when the contest began with three strong men grasping his neck and arms they would be blown away like pieces of paper. No matter their rank in Kendo, whoever came was unable to touch him with their swords and they’d be struck and fall with a thud.

The young representatives of the Kodokan were like children before Tengu, handled without issue. Jigoro Kano, when questioned as to just what it was that the Kodokan was teaching, is said to stated “Kodokan is not Budo. It is simply physical education.”. That is how astounded he was by Mr. Ueshiba.

Letter from Jigoro Kano to Morihei UeshibaLetter from Jigoro Kano to Morihei Ueshiba
introducing Minoru Mochizuki and Jiro Takeda,
sent by the Kodokan to train at the Kobukan – October 28 1390

From “Aikido Kaiso Ueshiba Morihei-den” (合気道開祖植芝盛平伝)
According to Kisshomaru Ueshiba,
after meeting Morihei Ueshiba Jigoro Kano said:
これこそ私が理想していた武道、すなわち正真正銘の柔道である。

“This is my ideal budo, that is, genuine Judo.” 

A top-ranked American boxer named “Congamu” was travelling through Europe on a “Musha Shugyo” (“Warrior Pilgrimage” / 武者修行), winning wherever he went. He appeared before Mr. Ueshiba, who was only 157cm tall, with his massively powerful 193cm frame and lunged right in with a jab – he went flying through the air upside down as if playing with a child and landed with a thud, handled without issue. He withdrew while expressing his extraordinary amazement again and again.

It was due to events like these that the world at last became aware of the person Mr. Ueshiba, and that respect for him as a superhuman Budoka and Kendoka came to be expressed. In the beginning Mr. Ueshiba was taught by Sokaku Takeda, a Budoka hidden from the world, and at the time that he parted from his teacher he had not yet reached the sacred grounds of Budo. However, it is said that Mr. Ueshiba was later taught those secrets in a dream. Moreover, the secrets of Kendo, Judo, Sumo, Boxing and more came with them, all becoming one in a demonstration of the true Way of the Kami.

Morihei Ueshiba and Isamu TakeshitaMorihei Ueshiba next to Admiral Isamu Takeshita, around 1926
Center rear: son of Gonnohyoe Yamamoto*
Lt. Colonel Kiyoshi Yamamoto
Kenji Tomiki, standing back right, next to Kiyoshi Yamamoto

Right: nephew of Gonnohyoe Yamamoto*
Vice Admiral Eisuke Yamamoto

*Admiral Gonnohyoe Yamamoto was
the 16th and 22nd Prime Minister of Japan

One day, I asked Mr. Ueshiba three questions.

“I have been researching Miyamoto Musashi starting from the problem of mysticism. As far as Japan goes, there are those great philosophers, artists and men who understand things in a purely mystical way, such as Musashi and other great Kenjutsuka. In that vein, there are three things that I would like to ask you. First, to the eyes of an observer your Kendo appears to be completely electric, like the lightning movements of the Tengu. Is there a method to it? Or do you attack the opponent instinctively through some hidden power?”

This was Mr. Ueshiba’s answer:

“There is a definite method.”

“Can that method be learned by everybody?”

“It can.”

“Even so, where does that quickness come from? Your lightning movements, the sword that strikes like a flash of light, avoiding the powerfully strong hands striking at you and tossing the opponent upside down – these lightning movements?

Here Mr. Ueshiba did not answer my question, and instead made this wild statement:

“Bullets from a gun will not touch me.”

“Why is that? Does it have something to do with the power of the occult (隠秘力)?”

“No. The marksman takes aim, then at the moment that they release the safety, before the actual bullet an ethereal bullet strikes me somewhere on my body. At that moment, if I move my body slightly then the actual bullets fly in the next instant and all pass by.”

“I understand. Really, is that right? Bullets also have an ethereal form. This the first time that I’ve ever heard such a thing. I see. So, it’s as I was thinking, you are divinely inspired. I would like to ask something else, whatever method one has, however fast they shift their body, in order to play with a large and powerful man like a kitten one must have a great deal of physical power. How much power can you muster?”

“Normally, the same as a normal person, but when I put some effort into it I can carry around two bags of rice while wearing geta without a problem.”

“Really!”

As I said that he summoned one of his students. He turned to the student, who weighed between 83kg and 86kg:

“How many people was it yesterday? That got on here?”

By “here” he meant on top of his extended right arm, with the index finger supported by a chopstick stuck into the hibachi.

“It was three people.” answered the student.

“What? I don’t even need the chopstick then!” said Mr. Ueshiba. In any case, three men climbed on top of his extended right arm, which he held out with no noticeable strain. It would be as if we were doing the same with a bag of rice – times a factor of ten!

Seeing my surprise, this is what Mr. Ueshiba said:

“However strong the opponent is, when I stand to face them the power to overcome them, power that I don’t myself understand, comes forth. Moreover, I don’t know anything about what kind of an art Shinto-ryu (神道流) is, but when I contest with Shinto-ryu’s Mr. Otsuka, my hands become completely Shinto-ryu hands. When I meet with a Judo-ka my hands become the hands of Judo”

“What do you mean?”

“I become completely transparent, the opponent is transformed into their ethereal body and I am possessed by my guardian spirit. The other person disappears and I am just attacked by their hands and form. The more that the other person’s Shugyo has progressed the greater their ethereal body and the guardian spirit, so I must also become greater. In any case, the state of my heart when facing an opponent is as transparent as a mirror, so in this state the other person’s spirit is perfectly refelected.”

“I see, that is the the secret of the Void in Miyamoto Musashi’s Nito-ichi Ryu. Here also you are in agreement with Miyamoto Musashi.”

“Wherever he went and whatever contests he participated in Musashi would be victorious in the challenge, so I am told.”

Book of the VoidThe Yoshida family copy of Miyamoto Musashi’s “Book of the Void” (空の巻)

The secret of the Void in Miyamoto Musashi’s Nito-ichi Ryu is the secret if every great religion, and also the secret of the Way of the Kami, the secret of Christ who became divine at the age of thirty. This is how Musashi explains it:

(*Translator’s Note: the text given here is from Musashi’s “Go Rin no Sho” (“Book of Five Rings”), I have included the classic translation by Victor Harris)

“The Ni To Ichi Way of strategy is recorded in this the Book of the Void.

What is called the spirit of the void is where there is nothing. It is not included in man’s knowledge. Of course the void is nothingness. By knowing things that exist, you can know that which does not exist. That is the void.

People in this world look at things mistakenly, and think that what they do not understand must be the void. This is not the true void. It is bewilderment.

In the Way of strategy, also, those who study as warriors think that whatever they cannot understand in their craft is the void. This is not the true void.

To attain the Way of strategy as a warrior you must study fully other martial arts and not deviate even a little from the Way of the warrior. With your spirit settled, accumulate practice day by day, and hour by hour. Polish the twofold spirit heart and mind, and sharpen the twofold gaze perception and sight. When your spirit is not in the least clouded, when the clouds of bewilderment clear away, there is the true void.

Until you realise the true Way, whether in Buddhism or in common sense, you may think that things are correct and in order. However, if we look at things objectively, from the viewpoint of laws of the world, we see various doctrines departing from the true Way. Know well this spirit, and with forthrightness as the foundation and the true spirit as the Way. Enact strategy broadly, correctly and openly.

Then you will come to think of things in a wide sense and, taking the void as the Way, you will see the Way as void.

In the void is virtue, and no evil. Wisdom has existence, principle has existence, the Way has existence, spirit is nothingness.”

These words did not in any way come from Zen Buddhism, they are an astounding state of mind coming from Musashi’s personal experiences. Since these words from the four dimensional world are far above and beyond the domain of logical philosophy, if one reads them with normal common sense they will not be able to grasp the secret. One will be able to grasp their intent even less when considering them philosophically or scientifically. The words are simple, but they reach the meaning. It is the world that appears from polishing, deepening, lifting up the Way, Strategy, Art, and actual life to its limits.

Musashi Miyamoto's Fudo MyoFudo Myo (“Immovable Wisdom” / 不動明王)
carved by Miyamoto Musashi

“Void as the Way, the Way as Void” is the Way that appears from the transcendent world, and the transcendent world appears from the perfection of the Way. That which does not exist in this world appears through the perfection of the Way, that is to say the manifestation of the Kami.

Until now Mr. Ueshiba has devoted himself not only to Kendo, but also to the Way. His strenuous efforts to the present day have actually been the Shugyo of the Way.

He spent many hard years in training the Way through certain ersatz religions, but in the end it was through Ancient Shinto that he reached the Way of the Kami and realized the secrets of Kendo. When his training in Kendo reached the stage of the Way of the Kami, entering form and escaping form, he attained the realization that all schools of Kendo become one. It is because Mr. Ueshiba’s Budo has actually reached this realm of the Kami that the forms are not set. Actually, even now, in the Way of the Kami, secret methods are being created one after the other. Progress is made day after day. This is the Way of the Kami. One can know the Way of the Kami through form, but one cannot enter there without surpassing form. For that reason, in Miyamoto Musashi’s Strategy and the secrets of Kendo the mind is the ruler, the rest are methods for learning the way directly to the mind. Materialism crumbles before this amazing truth.

In Mr. Ueshiba’s contests the opponent becomes an ethereal body, and a guardian spirit possesses Mr. Ueshiba’s empty heart. This type of language is something that someone who does not practice spiritual philosophy or spiritualism will not understand, but that this would be clear to someone researching Japanese ancient Shinto cannot be doubted.

When the 157cm tall Mr. Ueshiba faced large and powerful opponents of 193cm and more, the other people were also quite strong. However, in the midst of the engagement he was able to see a white body that had fallen on the ground and the opponent would fall into that white body without being pushed or controlled (the opponents ethereal body had separated from their physical body and could be seen on the ground by Mr. Ueshiba’s spiritual eye). In a manner of speaking, his soul had already broken out and been defeated.

So, the matter of the physical body is clothing for the ethereal body, the ethereal body is clothing for the spiritual body. If the physical body dies then we live as the ethereal body, but at some point as it progresses along the way the ethereal body dies and melts into the spiritual body. Humans living in the physical body can also open themselves to consciousness of the soul as the ethereal body as they progress mentally, and as they further refine themselves they can open themselves to consciousness of the spirit. Further, consciousness of the soul or spirit surpasses the normal consciousness of human beings, and brings with it great power and wisdom.

When the literary giant Goethe said “I met myself” it was that he saw his own ethereal body that had broken free from his physical body, there are many actual examples even in Japan today. The consciousness of the spirit in the spiritual body more easily senses artistic beauty, and is an even further refinement over the consciousness of the ethereal body in the soul. As in Plato’s conception of music as stirring the soul, the correct perspective is to think of the world of ideas setting our spirits on fire. Through this one can truly understand that all true philosophers and great artists are mysterious.

When one reaches the level of Moritaka (Morihei) Ueshiba in Kendo, one’s goal is not to conquer or kill others. Further, it is not simply a matter of protecting one’s own body. Mr. Ueshiba’s Kendo is not a process of competition of the physcial body, it is something transcendental of the ethereal body. The Way of the Kami leading to a shining inner light. While training in the sword he often had the experience of becoming surrounded with a purple light, his breath becoming one with all things. That is to say, reaching the extremities of Kendo, said to be the realm in which one enters the consciousness of the spirit surpassing the physical body.

Morihei Ueshiba at the Kobukan 1931Morihei Ueshiba and uchi-deshi at the Kobukan
Ushigome, Wakamatsu-cho 1931

Currently Mr. Ueshiba instructs military personnel in Kendo and members of the Imperial household in Budo. At the dojo in Ushigome, in addition to nameless youths and young Kodokan 5th and 6th dans, major generals, lieutenant generals and admirals are enrolling as students. If the technique is from the Way of the Kami, whether one calls it Kendo, Judo or Sumo it is all instruction in the mysteries. In the past few days I have seen a famous Sumo wrestler more than 2m 13cm in height puzzled and confused as he was reversed and thrown by a small man who had just begun to train as a student of Mr. Ueshiba. One can see how extraordinary this is. Nowadays, even the daughter of Mr. Chigaku Tanaka has come to be seen regularly at training.

Tanaka ChigakuChigaku Tanaka (田中智學) around 1928
Nichiren Buddhist Scholar and right-wing nationalist propagandist


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 2 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-yoshio-kuroiwa-part-2/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-yoshio-kuroiwa-part-2/#comments Sun, 04 Jan 2015 16:36:29 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1636 Yoshio Kuroiwa (黒岩洋志雄) at the Edogawa Aikido Renmei in 2005 Yoshio Kuroiwa was born in Tokyo Japan in Showa year 7 (1932).  In Showa year 21 (1946) he joined the Nippon Kento Club (日本拳闘倶楽部) founded by the father of boxing in Japan, Yujiro Watanabe (渡辺勇次郎), with the intention of becoming a professional boxer. Forced to … Continue reading Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 2 »

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Kuroiwa at Edogawa Aikido RenmeiYoshio Kuroiwa (黒岩洋志雄) at the Edogawa Aikido Renmei in 2005

Yoshio Kuroiwa was born in Tokyo Japan in Showa year 7 (1932).  In Showa year 21 (1946) he joined the Nippon Kento Club (日本拳闘倶楽部) founded by the father of boxing in Japan, Yujiro Watanabe (渡辺勇次郎), with the intention of becoming a professional boxer. Forced to give up his dreams of a boxing career due to eye injuries, he entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Showa year 28 (1953), where he established a research group that would become known as the “Kuroiwa Gakko” (“Kuroiwa School”). Kuroiwa Sensei passed away on January 19th 2010.

First Aikido Friendship DemonstrationYasuo Kobayashi, Yoshio Kuroiwa, Kanshu Sunadomari,
Morihiro Saito, Shoji Nishio, Mitsugi Saotome
First Aikido Journal Friendship Demonstration, Tokyo – 1985

Kuroiwa Sensei published two articles in the Aikido Journal magazine: Training and Cognition and A Common Sense Look At Aikido. If you are interested in more about Kuroiwa Sensei you may also with to read Ellis Amdur’s tribute to his passing from AikiWeb – In Memory of Kuroiwa Yoshio.

This section of the interview introduces a little bit about the “Kuroiwa Theory” of Aikido. Here’s a little bit more on this theory, from a separate conversation with Kuroiwa Sensei:

People think of Ikkyo or Shiho-nage as single techniques and train them that way – later on that really screws them up!

The meaning of Ikkyo is to de-stabilize the opponent “vertically” from one’s own perspective. That moves from Ikkyo to Nikyo, Sankyo and Yonkyo – put another way, Ikkyo is an upper de-stabilization, Nikyo is a middle de-stabilization, Sankyo is a lower de-stabilization and Yonkyo is right on the ground.

Then Shiho-nage is to de-stabilize the opponent “horizontally” from one’s own perspective. Here things get deeper when one’s own movement gets added on and one moves in a spiral.

The meaning of Ikkyo is to de-stabilize the center of gravity of one’s opponent vertically, and Shiho-nage means to de-stabilize the posture of the opponent horizontally. Here one has the vertical and the horizontal and Yin-Yang (In-Yo) appears. From the beginning this In-Yo isn’t two separate things, it is just one thing that changes according to the way that one looks at it. For example, I place a stick horizontally and say “this is horizontal”, but when I look at it while lying down it appears to be vertical. So from the beginning they are one thing! It just appears to be vertical or horizontal, there is actually only one thing. To that point, if one just continues to practice without understanding the meaning of Ikkyo or the meaning of Shiho-nage then in the end it becomes simply external training.

In the case of Aiki, words such as Ikkyo or Shiho-nage are usually used to describe the basic techniques, but one must understand that what is important is the vertical movement from Ikkyo to Yonkyo, and the horizontal movement from Shiho-nage.

However, at its heart it’s impossible for one to think of de-stabilizing an opponent vertically or horizontally from the very beginning. After all, in this world one thinks of things realistically, since one doesn’t exist in this world by themselves – for example, that things are seen through their contact with others. So, if one conceives of vertical movement as this or horizontal movement as that – as the result of attempting to match oneself to the opponent’s movement in relation to oneself, then one won’t be able to escape being captured by kata.

This is the second part of a two part interview with Yoshio Kuroiwa that originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan. You may wish to read Part 1 of this interview before reading this section.

This interview was also published in a collection of interviews with students of the Founder published in Japanese as 開祖の横顔 (“Profiles of the Founder”) in 2009. There was a short introduction to this work in the article “Morihei Ueshiba – Profiles of the Founder“. A number of English translations of interviews from that collection appeared have appeared previously – Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Hiroshi Isoyama Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Shigenobu Okumura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) , Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) and Hiroshi Kato Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).

Koichi Tohei PromotionAt the celebration for Koichi Tohei’s promotion to 10th Dan, October 16th 1970
Yoshio Kuroiwa second from right between Mitsugi Saotome and Akira Tohei

Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 2

O-Sensei’s eye sparkled with light

Q: Did you see the Founder in class?

A: About once a month. He was mostly in Iwama, but every now and then he’d come and suddenly be seen in class. Then he’d whip off two techniques or so in a flash and vanish into the back. There was no oral instruction given. He wouldn’t show a technique more than once, saying “If I do a technique twice it will be stolen”. One of his favorite phrases was “technique isn’t something that’s taught, it’s something that’s stolen”. It seems paradoxical, though. So I think that one time would be about ten minutes long.

Q: What did if feel like to take ukemi for him?

A: He was very soft, fluffy. O-Sensei was extremely gentle and kind, but there was someplace in him that was frightening. I remember that his eyes would often sparkle with light.

Q: I’ve heard that his lectures were very long…

A: I hated those things. (laughing) He’d speak about things like the Kojiki, but I didn’t understand what he was talking about and my legs would fall asleep, it made me cry! Thinking about it now I feel nostalgic.

Yoshio Kuroiwa - Irimi Nage“O-Sensei said ‘If the palm hits the jaw then the fingers will enter the eyes'”

The Kuroiwa Theory – created three days after beginning Aikido

Q: I’ve heard that you realized “Aikido training is truth and untruth” three days after you started…

A: That’s right. Grabbing the opponent’s wrist is the untruth of agreed-upon practice (“yakusoku geiko” / 約束稽古). The truth is in what you yourself apply, so it is a training (稽古 / “keiko”) of truth and untruth.

Q: How did you come to this realization?

A: It’s because I was a boxer. Because boxing is the world of truth. I realized that the way that one uses their body is the same as the upper-cut, the hook and the straight punch in boxing.

Q: You mean that it’s not the type of punch, but the way that one holds their body when they strike?

A: Yes. The upper-cut is a vertical movement, Ikkyo, the hook is a horizontal movement, that’s Shiho-nage, isn’t it? So when I learned Ikkyo I realized “Ah!”, it’s not just a name for a technique for grabbing the elbow, it’s the essence of (vertical) de-stabilization. That’s why I opposed it when Hombu later tried to use Ikkyo as “a method for controlling the elbow” – it just cheapens the technique. It’s a foundational principle, so you can’t limit it’s usefulness like that. If you make it a technique for “controlling the elbow”, won’t development stop at that point? That’s not what it is at all.

Q: You really realized that after three days?

A: Realizing something takes between three days and a week. If one has questions and doesn’t resolve them immediately then they just continue on with the questions unresolved. After a year goes by one forgets that they even had a question.

Q: However, not everybody is receptive to that way of thinking, isn’t that true?

A: That’s right. One becomes disliked. (laughing) I think that the basics of today’s Aikido today are from Yamaguchi Sensei’s magnificent Aikido. Maybe about 95 percent.

Q: This is difficult to ask, but apart from your formulation of an original theory of what might be called “Kuroiwa-ryu” shortly after starting Aikido, why didn’t you choose to follow your own original path?

A: Well, in the end that was due to my attraction to O-Sensei. I felt “Nihon Budo” in O-Sensei’s bearing. Also, I had good friends like Tamura-san and Noro-san.

Q: What was the Founder like when he was with you?

A: It’s not as if I spent that much time with him, but when I went out with him he was nervous. When we rode in a taxi he would would shout “Look out!” to the passengers in back the whole time, and the driver would become angry at him. In the end, I guess that a Budoka must be so cautious that it is almost cowardice.

Yamada, Kuroiwa and AraiSeeing off Hiroshi Tada on his departure for Italy
From right: Yoshimitsu Yamada, Yoshio Kuroiwa, Toshiyuki Arai

My Aikido is “Kuroiwa-ha”

Q: At that time demonstrations were becoming popular, what was that like?

A: O-Sensei didn’t like for anybody other than himself to give a demonstration. For that reason, we had to somehow delay O-Sensei’s entrance while we students secretly hurried to gave demonstrations before him. So there was someone whose task was to keep O-Sensei in the dressing room – “Sensei, have some tea…”. (laughing) Of course, I think that he figured it out part way through.

Q: Speaking of demonstrations, there was a famous one at the Hibiya Kokaido (日比谷公会堂). It’s said that you held Tohei Sensei in a full nelson from behind…

A: That was when Tohei Sensei was demonstrating with multiple attackers. It’s past the statute of limitations, so I guess that it’s alright. That wasn’t the way it was. It wasn’t a full nelson, I swept his leg with my hand.

Hibiya Kokaido Demonstration  - UeshibaAikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei demonstrating at the Hibiya Kokaido
Nobuyoshi Tamura and Yasuo Kobayashi taking ukemi

Q: You swept his leg? (laughing)

A: Yes. And I’m certain that he fell over. If I had really wanted to be nasty I would have tied him up right there, (laughing) but as soon as he fell over backwards Tohei Sensei popped right back up – that was really impressive. So Tohei Sensei said “I didn’t fall, I crouched down”, but that’s okay. Everybody knows when someone has taken ukemi.

Q: There are a lot of different stories, but that’s what it really was? (laughing)

A: There were many demonstrations – from the small ones with company workers as partners to the big ones. During the time that we were giving demonstrations in smaller places Kenichi Sawai Sensei (澤井健一, the Founder of Taiki Shisei Kenpo / 太氣至誠拳法) and Masatatsu Oyama Sensei (大山倍達, the Founder of Kyokushin Karate / 極真空手) would often be there.

Kenichi Sawai and Mas OyamaIn 1950, after Masatatsu Oyama’s return from the United States
Tatsukuma Ushijima (teacher of Masahiko Kimura) seated front row right
Kenichi Sawai seated front row left next to Masatatsu Oyama

Q: There was that kind of interchange?

A: I often spoke to those two. I also went to visit their dojos in Meiji Jingu and Ikebukuro. I saw Oyama Sensei give a demonstration at a public hall in Asakusa where he rolled up a 10 yen coin.

Q: You saw that with your own eyes?

A: Yes, he didn’t do it in one try, he’d grunt and gradually roll it up a bit at a time. That was really something. At the time I was told “If you weighed 10 kilograms more you’d be able to fell a bull with one blow”. The two of them sometimes also came to the Aikikai dojo. Especially to visit O-Sensei.

Q: Did you even join the conversations between the Founder, Sawai Sensei and Oyama Sensei?

A: No, I never did that. However, I heard that Oyama Sensei said “Aikido will disappear when O-Sensei dies”. I think that’s so.

Q: You wrote “Aikido was created by Morihei Ueshiba Sensei and will vanish with Morihei Ueshiba’s passing”.

A: That’s right. Nobody could do all of O-Sensei’s Aikido. In the demonstrations that I spoke about earlier O-Sensei said “I am Aikido. When I move it becomes technique.”. In other words, perhaps he thought that it was still too soon for the students to call what they were doing “Aikido”. It’s the same as the blind men touching an elephant, each judging the elephant by the part that they are grasping. It may be odd to state it this way, but it might be best to say that I am “Aikido Kuroiwa-ha” – the same as the practice of naming the sub-groups of the large political parties. I think that everybody’s the same way. Because everybody took something different from the Founder. Since everybody’s abilities and experience was different.

Q: That’s just the path that you’ve walked, isn’t it? That’s way you’ve been able to continue Aikido.

A: That’s right…. For some reason or another I love O-Sensei. There’s no helping it. In the end, whichever way you turn a master teacher is a master teacher. I can’t explain it well in words, though. So I have done my Aikido in my own way.

Gekkan Hiden January 2006


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 1 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-yoshio-kuroiwa-part-1/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-yoshio-kuroiwa-part-1/#comments Sun, 14 Dec 2014 17:40:45 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1620 The boxer – Yoshio Kuriowa (黒岩洋志雄), 1932-2010 Yoshio Kuroiwa Sensei was one of the most original and innovative students at the post-war Aikikai Hombu Dojo, often integrating movements from his extensive knowledge of boxing into his Aikido.  One of the strongest practitioners at the post-war Aikikai Hombu Dojo, his reputation led to an attempt by … Continue reading Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 1 »

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Yoshio Kuroiwa, boxerThe boxer – Yoshio Kuriowa (黒岩洋志雄), 1932-2010

Yoshio Kuroiwa Sensei was one of the most original and innovative students at the post-war Aikikai Hombu Dojo, often integrating movements from his extensive knowledge of boxing into his Aikido.  One of the strongest practitioners at the post-war Aikikai Hombu Dojo, his reputation led to an attempt by Gozo Shioda to recruit him into the Yoshinkan. Although he ultimately refused Shioda’s offer, he also refused all Aikikai rank promotions past sixth dan and gradually distanced himself from the post-Morihei Ueshiba Aikikai organization.

He was a participant in the first Aikido Journal Friendship Demonstration, along with Kanshu Sunadomari, Mitsugi Saotome, Morihiro Saito, Shoji Nishio and Yasuo Kobayashi, and published two articles in the Aikido Journal magazine: Training and Cognition and A Common Sense Look At Aikido.

If you are interested in Kuroiwa Sensei you may also with to read Ellis Amdur’s tribute to his passing from AikiWeb – In Memory of Kuroiwa Yoshio. In a separate interview Ellis also spoke about some of his recollections of Kuroiwa Sensei:

I particularly liked Kuroiwa Yoshio Sensei. He started training around 1954. He was six months junior to Kato Hiroshi Sensei, who broke his arm on the first class (laughs). Kuroiwa Sensei told me that Kato Sensei’s mother dragged him by the ear to his house to apologize to his mother. Kuroiwa Sensei was an interesting man; after World War II, there was a return to normality and boxing came up again. He probably fought over 200 bouts with no weight classes. Unlike a lot of the fellows who became Shihan at Hombu, he was not a middle class bourgeois, he came from Asakusabashi, in downtown Tokyo. He was a tough kid and he had that kind of anger that poor kids sometimes have. He used to walk around and pick fights with strong-looking high school or college students, knock them out, and steal their school badges as trophies. He took up Aikido when he realized that his ways were probably not the best for his own safety, hoping that Ueshiba Sensei might help him straighten himself up. The specificity of his practice was that he linked all of his techniques to boxing, not in terms of hitting but by putting every Aikido technique in a framework of hooks or uppercuts, never extending his arms, everything being a spiral on a figure-eight frame. For the rest of my Aikido time, he was my main influence.

This is the first part of a two part interview with Yoshio Kuroiwa that originally appeared in the January 2006 issue of Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan.

This interview was also published in a collection of interviews with students of the Founder published in Japanese as 開祖の横顔 (“Profiles of the Founder”) in 2009. There was a short introduction to this work in the article “Morihei Ueshiba – Profiles of the Founder“. A number of English translations of interviews from that collection appeared have appeared previously – Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Hiroshi Isoyama Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Shigenobu Okumura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) , Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) and Hiroshi Kato Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).

Kuroiwa and TamuraYoshio Kuroiwa, left, at a Matsuri – Nobuyoshi Tamura second from right

Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 1

The Exhilarating Feeling of a Punch

Q: You were originally a boxer, how did you start boxing in the first place?

A: Well, none of my motives were pure. (laughing) Around the time of my second year in junior high school three no-goods took me into an alleyway in Jimbo-cho. Just as I thought “Whoa, I’m in trouble” the guy who was in front of me turned around to hit me and they took my money. I got angry and thought “No matter what, I’ll pay them back!”, so I cut apart a Kendo tsuba and made a set of brass knuckles. When I think about it now I wonder why I did that, though. (laughing) So…I wandered around the area where my money was taken, and after about three days the same guys came by and said “You, come here!”. They took me down that same alleyway! I thought “Here it comes!” and slipped on the brass knuckles in my pocket as I walked. When they turned around this time I smacked them, the guy in front wobbled and fell right over and the other two guys panicked. There wasn’t anything as exhilarating as the feeling of that punch. (laughing) I couldn’t forget that feeling, so I ended up joining a boxing gym.

Q: It was that exhilarating? (laughing)

A: Yes, even now after sixty years have passed I only remember bits and pieces. (laughing)

Q: Did you have difficulties after joining the boxing gym?

A: Of course, once you learn it you start wanting to use it. (laughing) At that time there were street vendors lining both sides of Ginza Dori, from Kyobashi to Shinbashi Nana-chome. There were a lot of different kinds of people walking around there, scruffy university students and others. When you looked those kinds of people in the face they would say “What the XXX are you looking at!?”. When that happened I would slip on the thin leather gloves that I had brought with me and follow them.

Q: So you would do them there? (laughing)

A: They all fell with one blow. (laughing)

Q: Was that a from a right cross?

A: No, it was a short left hook. That’s because when I talk about fighting it’s about close quarters combat. A short punch from the leading hand was the best.

Mas Oyama and Masahiko KimuraMasatatsu Oyama with Masahiko Kimura
from “Aikido and Judo – Interview with Gozo Shioda and Masahiko Kimura

Q: Oyama (Masatatsu) Sensei (大山 倍達, Founder of Kyokushin Karate) also said “In fighting it’s the short punch”, that’s the same, isn’t it?

A: Is that right? (laughing) I was stupid back then, so I would collect trophies from each one that I defeated. I really collected a lot! (laughing)

Is Aikido a cross between Karate and Judo?

Q: What was your reason for starting Aikido?

A: That wasn’t pure either. I was riding a bicycle about the time that I graduated from high school when a bicycle with a side-car that belonged to a bamboo pole shop came out from the side, and one of the bamboo poles stuck into the front wheel of my bicycle. Thanks to that I went tumbling forward with my bicycle. The onlookers gathered instantly – they were the ones who dashed out, I was the damaged party, but the other guy got the wrong idea. He swaggered towards me and grabbed me by the collar and said “Where were you looking you idiot!?”. When I blew my top and smacked him he fell right down, and then the police came and took me away. (laughing)

Q: (laughing)

A: Thankfully, the people around said “it was the bamboo pole shop’s fault”, so it all somehow worked out. Of course, the other guy was covered in blood, so in the end I had to pay for his medical expenses. Then I thought “I have to find a way to defeat an opponent without striking them”, and as I was considering things like Judo I came across a newspaper article introducing Aikido. In the article it said that Aikido was “a cross between Karate and Judo”, and I thought “that’s it!”. (laughing)

Q: (laughing) What happened with your boxing then?

A: By then I had damaged my eyesight, so I had already quit boxing. At that time one had to have an introduction in order to begin Aikido, so the reporter from Mainichi Housou (毎日放送) who was responsible for the article said “go ahead and use my name”, and that was the first time I went to see it. As an aside, I was already aware of the name “Aikido” at the time. There had been a small ad for an Aikido seminar in the Yomiuri Shimbun (読売新聞) in Showa year 23 (1948). I couldn’t decide whether to go or not right up until the seminar, but in the end I didn’t go. I didn’t really know what Aikido was then, so I thought that it must be some kind of Kiai-jutsu. I should have started back then. (laughing)

Q: Do you remember the first time that you went to the dojo?

A: I remember. I went there after lunch, so nobody was there. When I called out “Excuse me…” a person come out shouting “What is it!?” in a frightening voice. When I said “I’d like to become a student” they said “Do you know what Aikido is?”. Then when I said “it’s something like a cross between Karate and Judo” they got angry. (laughing) They made me sit in seiza at the side of the dojo where they hung the Keiko-gi and lectured me for about an hour – “Aikido connects Heaven and Earth…”. I couldn’t understand it at all – that was Sadateru Arikawa Sensei (有川定輝).

Kuroiwa at Aikikai HombuAt the old Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1959 – from right:
Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Nobuyoshi Tamura,
Masamichi Noro, Yoshio Kuroiwa, Kazuo Chiba

Special Responses for Dojo Storming

Q: Who was in the dojo at that time?

A: There weren’t that many people there. The main people were Shigenobu Okumura (奥村繁信), Koichi Tohei (藤平光一), Kisaburo Osawa (大澤喜三郎), Sadateru Arikawa (有川定輝), Seigo Yamaguchi (山口清吾), Shoji Nishio (西尾昭二), Hiroshi Kato (加藤弘) and Nobuyoshi Tamura (田村信喜).

Q: There were some distinguished faces, weren’t there? I’ve heard that at the time you refined many techniques against dojo storming…did the other instructors do the same?

A: Yes, they did. After all, it was something of a brutal time. We had the kind of grit that said “No matter who comes we will protect the nameboard”. Noro (Masamichi) san (now head of “Ki no Michi” in Paris) said “When you grab their wrist you crush them right there”, and would swing a 10kg iron staff – he’d break his hand grips about once a month. Tada Sensei would swing the octagonal staff from the dojo with one hand. One person said “bite down on them and don’t let go even if lightning strikes”. (laughing)

Yoshio Kuroiwa, koshi-nageYoshio Kuroiwa’s signature koshi-nage – straight down

Q: And you had throwing techniques would drop them on their heads?

A: That’s right. Because it’s no use throwing them if they just get up again. I thought that dropping them on their heads would be the best way damage them. In the end, though, I didn’t use that even once. Part of me feels good about that, and part of me regrets it. While I was training I’d think things like “If someone really comes (to break the dojo) will I be able to use it?”. There’s also the chance that one will be defeated.

Q: So part of you was also frightened?

A: It was frightening! It was frightening, but one couldn’t run away. That was the kind of time that it was. That’s why people who entered then never give up, their mental attitude is different – we had the feeling that “We must protect the dojo and build it up!”. By the way, people who started after that time didn’t have that same sense of impending danger, so a percentage of them just ended up quitting.

Gekkan Hiden January 2006

To be continued in Part 2…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 2 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-hiroshi-kato-part-2/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-hiroshi-kato-part-2/#comments Sat, 15 Nov 2014 19:54:28 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1573   Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei in 1961, directly before leaving for Hawaii Hiroshi Kato Sensei by the door next to Kisaburo Osawa Sensei Hiroshi Kato was born in Tokyo on March 24th 1935, and entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1954 at the age of 18. He was one of the early post-war Aikido students at Aikikai … Continue reading Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 2 »

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 Hiroshi Kato and Morihei Ueshiba
Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei in 1961, directly before leaving for Hawaii
Hiroshi Kato Sensei by the door next to Kisaburo Osawa Sensei

Hiroshi Kato was born in Tokyo on March 24th 1935, and entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1954 at the age of 18.

He was one of the early post-war Aikido students at Aikikai Hombu Dojo, but chose to work as a printer rather than making a full time career of the martial art. Known for his strict self-training in Aikido, in his younger years he would practice weapons by himself through the night, greet the sunrise the next morning, and then head off to work at the print shop.

In 1975 he formed an informal practice group at the Suginami Ward Koenji Gymnasium near his home, and then in April 1987 he established the Suginami Aikikai (杉並合気会) dojo in the Suginami Ward of Tokyo, Japan as a branch dojo of the Aikikai Foundation.

This is the second part of a two part interview with Hiroshi Kato that originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan. You may wish to read Part 1 of this interview before reading this section

This interview was also published in a collection of interviews with students of the Founder published in Japanese as 開祖の横顔 (“Profiles of the Founder”) in 2009. There was a short introduction to this work in the article “Morihei Ueshiba – Profiles of the Founder“. A number of English translations of interviews from that collection appeared have appeared previously – Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Hiroshi Isoyama Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Shigenobu Okumura Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2), Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) , Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2) and Kanshu Sunadomari (Part 1 | Part 2).

Iwama Taisai 1965Iwama Taisai, 1965
Hiroshi Kato, front right; Masatake Fujita, back right

Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 2

That feeling that I absorbed, that is my treasure.

Q: I think that the “Harmony” (和) that we were just discussing is related to the “discarding oneself” of spiritual training (“gyo”). Does an image of the Founder come into your mind at those times?

A: Certainly it does – O-Sensei’s image comes forth even while I’m sleeping, and the intensity is shattering!

Q: How does he appear?

A: Hmm….he appears standing up. From there many things flow through my mind – so you see, inside of me O-Sensei has not yet passed away. I am happy just to have him beside me.

Q: He has a quite cantankerous image, doesn’t he?

A: Yes, that’s because he’d suddenly become angry. But he’d soon be smiling. (laughing)

Q: What kind of things did he become angry about?

A: When he was in a bad mood, about anything. (laughing) But he was always watching. When we trained there were some people who were very strong, and when it became too much trouble I would fly into a fall whether or not I was touched. When that happened I would hear his voice yelling “Just falling over when you’re touched is no way to train!”. He was able to sense when our intensity had fled. But he made no other explanations, so how to interpret that was the responsibility of the students.

Q: Did you ever travel together?

A: Once, when I went to Iwama at the beginning of the new year I was told “the old man is going back to Tokyo, so go with him as his Otomo (“attendant”)”, so I returned with him to Hombu Dojo. After all, I couldn’t refuse – it was really exhausting. (laughing)

Hiroshi Kato Sensei

Q: (laughing) Being with him wasn’t enjoyable?

A: Being together for hours on end was really something. (laughing) I was on pins and needles the entire time, and he walked really quickly. That eighty year old man would just slip right through the crowds. I was carrying the tickets, so I somehow kept up, but I became drenched in a cold sweat. That was really intensive training in Ashi-sabaki, Tai-sabaki and Irimi! By some miracle I just managed to stay with him. I think that the thread connecting our feelings didn’t get cut, so I was able to follow along right after him. If I had thought about it with my head then I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I really learned something that day.

Q: I guess that there were no hitches in his movement?

A: Of course not! If there were a hitch then that would make you get stuck. There was one time that a group of detective story authors gathered at the dojo discussing things like Sen-no-sen and Go-no-sen (Translator’s Note: “Go-no-sen” – moving after the attack reaches you, “Sen-no-sen” – moving at the same time as the attack but before it reaches you, “Sen-sen-no-sen” – moving before the attack even begins). When that happened O-Sensei said “Sen-sen-no-sen? Don’t be an idiot, I would already have won from the beginning!”.

Q: He was right there?

A: Yes. Everybody just sat there with their mouths open. Whether it is Sen-sen-no-sen or Go-no-sen, they are all strategies with a hitch in them, relative strategies applied in relation to the opponent. But O-Sensei said “That’s not it. When you move right in it’s finished.”. I think so also.

Hiroshi Kato Demo

Q: Did O-Sensei teach you anything in particular about movement?

A: One of the Kuden (“oral transmissions”) that I was taught is “The legs are used through the waist, the hands are used through educating the intellect” (脚は腰で使い、手は知育で使う). If one moves from the feet than things will stop right there, but when one uses the waist they can move continuously without interruption. That the hands are used through intellectual training doesn’t mean that one thinks about how to use them, it means to move them naturally.

Q: What was it like to take ukemi for the Founder?

A: He was the easiest person to take ukemi for. He would throw with the flow and wouldn’t allow you to be injured. But it was frightening. You could see the ceiling, turning completely upside down as you fell. I thought “I hate being this scared”. But it was a great feeling, it was inspirational. Even now I can remember the feel of his touch. That is my treasure. It was from those times that I able to learn that Aikido has no competitive matches through feeling it with my own senses.

Q: Is that because he met you so strongly?

A: That’s not it. I was completely absorbed “This is Aikido!” – I had understood the theory, but there I was able to actually experience it.

Q: Did you clash against each other during the practices?

A: That’s because two people who won’t fall are doing it together. It is the same way that water gradually smoothes a rough stone into a round one. However, in the midst of that one must show them “it’s actually different, you know”, or the path will be cut, and people will think “is that it?”. Aren’t there a lot of people like that? In reality, people don’t really fall down that easily, you know. That’s a delusion. That way is enjoyable, but at some point your eyes will be opened. I myself spent year after year in delusion. But when one starts to glimpse some of the truth they will understand. Throwing another person is not that easy. If you think about throwing them and become stiff then it won’t work. Make yourself comfortable. Once a person who was a boxer suddenly threw an uppercut during practice, (laughing) but I handled them naturally. When one’s training is soft and adaptable it will come out. It’s because I am moving comfortably that the hitches dissappear and I am able to move.

Q: Do it comfortably….

A: Yes, but the image that you have of “comfortable” is different, the “condition” (調子) is different. Certainly, everything has a certain condition. But what is important is not the condition between oneself and the opponent, what is important is the condition that one applies to their own feelings. Including Kokyu. For that reason one creates a condition that is large enough to envelop the opponent, or there is also a kind of condition that will corner the opponent in an instant. You must have both.

Q: That’s difficult, isn’t it?

A: It’s difficult! How many years do you think that I’ve been doing this? (laughing) In order to do this you must understand three things.

Q: What three things?

A: First and most important is to know the past. Study history. Next is knowledge of current conditions. And finally, to enact the future. When I say knowledge of current conditions – for example, if you are a person with about the same amount of strength as I have then strategy and tactics are necessary. But in the future, the dream and goal of mankind to eliminate the need for that will require effort. I favor the elimination of that need, and that is what I strive for. That is why it is difficult. This is more difficult than winning or losing.

Hiroshi Kato GasshukuHiroshi Kato Sensei teaching in the United States – 2005

You can’t just like it, you have to fall in love with it.

Q: Could we hear some more about the teachings of the Founder?

A: He didn’t really speak in much detail. However, although it is often said that O-Sensei didn’t teach, and I think that is not the case. There was a certain way of teaching….I think that his way of teaching was really the best.

Q: What was it?

A: Showing the best thing. Showing it in action, showing its atmosphere. It’s not a matter of showing how to throw. After watching the movements of the Founder, what each person took away was left up to their own abilities and study. Put another way, depending upon how one looked at the Founder everything was different. Even just one swing of the bokken was completely different, you know. But I think that the reason why I continue in Aikido even now is because I saw the Founder performing the best movements, and was touched by his hand.

Q: Showing the best thing….

A: There were no explanations of O-Sensei’s technique, because he only talked about the gods. Like “Aikido came from Heaven”. However, that’s also a good thing, because there are times one can think “this wasn’t something made by man, so there will some parts that are just a mystery”.

Q: What did you think at the time when you heard those kinds of speeches?

A: I didn’t understand. (laughing) Those people who came in through a relationship with religion tried to look as if they understood, but the important things were not to be understood through words. That’s because they were to be expressed in your own body through your practice.

Q: So it’s meaningless to try and study theory?

A: I suppose that there’s some value to study, but there must be something that oozes out of your body. I think that must be Aikido? I feel that people today more or less understand this. But I didn’t dislike his speeches. I didn’t understand them, but I felt as if they were something important.

Q: If a time comes to understand will one understand?

A: Maybe it’s okay not to understand. It is just my ideal to be able to think “I have something wonderful”, since O-Sensei’s form, his image, is inside my head.

Q: What is the image of the Founder that has stayed with you the most?

A: What can I say, something wonderful. Something like the Buddha in the background…. Whatever it is, for me he is absolutely a Kami-sama. I am happy just that there was someone who was able to make me feel that way. I can’t take his place, though. (laughing) Whether or not one believes in the gods, when there is a dream like that, doesn’t that become one’s ideal?

Q: Your ideal?

A: Yes. When I do Aikido I say “You can’t just like it, you have to fall in love with it.”. You have to fall in love with it. If you go so far as to fall in love with it, then even when it’s silent you’ll be training. If you like something then when you become exhausted you’ll stop. Of course, it’s tough, when I was young and even now. But even when it was tough it was enjoyable. Even now I enjoy it. If I do it with a bored look on my face it wouldn’t be very interesting, would it? (laughing) So, I don’t teach, we practice together. However, within that one must put in as much effort as they can.

Q: What is your maximum effort?

A: I must express myself so that I can leave everyone with the impression that “Aikido is a wonderful thing”. I think that is the responsibility of those people who have taken the hand of O-Sensei. Of course, within that there have been many changes. In times past I thought “I don’t have to do this kind of stuff, I’ll just toss them!”. (laughing)

Q: You have also gone through many changes yourself, haven’t you? (laughing)

A: One thing that I remember well from O-Sensei’s lectures is when he said “I don’t have even a single student”. We thought that we were students, though. (laughing) But when we said “Is that so?” then he would say “But I have many companions” (仲間).

Shinran Shonin
Shinran Shonin (1173-1263)

Q: Companions?

A: I think that Shinran (親鸞, the Founder of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism) said it too, he called them “companions” (同行の士). I think that is a good way to put it, so I think the same way. I am at the top of the teaching structure, but we are all companions. Someone who appears suddenly and teaches something that people like so much that they follow him in silence must be a Founder.

Q: Did you feel that with the Founder?

A: I did, yes. People are different, but I felt that way.

Gekkan Hiden April 2007


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 2 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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