Aikido Sangenkai Blog http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog Honolulu, Hawaii - Oahu Wed, 19 Nov 2014 23:04:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=170 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 »

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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 it 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

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 1 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-hiroshi-kato-part-1/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-hiroshi-kato-part-1/#comments Sun, 02 Nov 2014 16:53:10 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1557 Hiroshi Kato Sensei (1935-2012) Hiroshi Kato was born in Tokyo on March 24th 1935, and entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1954 at the age of 18. In 1975 he formed an informal practice group at the Suginami Ward Koenji Gymnasium near his home, and in April 1987 he established the Suginami Aikikai (杉並合気会) dojo in the Suginami ...Continue reading »

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Kato HIroshi Sensei
Hiroshi Kato Sensei (1935-2012)

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

In 1975 he formed an informal practice group at the Suginami Ward Koenji Gymnasium near his home, and 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 first 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.

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).

Hiroshi Kato in Aikido TankyuHiroshi Kato – Aikido Tankyu (合気道探求) #28

Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 1

When we first met I had a premonition that I would continue for the rest of my life.

Q: What was your impression first meeting the Founder?

A: I thought, “There are really people like this in the world? Wonderful!”. Somehow I thought “I’ll continue this for the rest of my life…” – and even now I am still continuing. (laughing)

Q: It was that intense?

A: What he was doing was incredible, but it was also that the atmosphere was incredible. That’s important, you know. Because he was the first person like that.

Q: What did the atmosphere of the dojo feel like at that time?

A: Well, it was full of strange people. (laughing) That’s because it was the time when, first of all, people thought “I want to become strong”. Actually, most of the people were Yudansha in Karate, Judo or Kendo, and were already strong before they even began. (laughing) So of course, the training was severe.

Q: Wasn’t it a struggle for you without any special experience in Budo?

A: It wasn’t difficult. It was just training, so it’s not as if they were coming to fight with you. Fortunately, I had a lot of horsepower. That is, if you didn’t have physical power you wouldn’t have been able to make it. (laughing) There were also some folks who would suddenly try to apply a leg sweep on you. (laughing) But if one takes the falls honestly every day then they will be able to react when someone goes beyond the principle being trained. When I think of it now it seems as if everybody was quite violent. (laughing) But in the end it was because I was able to train with so many of those people that my body was able to remember those things.

Q: Did you do any basic physical strength training?

A: Not at the dojo, but I always did that kind of thing at home or in other places. That was a time when there were still very few sports clubs, but there were some of the sempai who lifted barbells. Well, even if it wasn’t barbells then everybody was doing something like that. If you didn’t then you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the training.

Q: What kind of things did you do?

A: I took a lot of ukemi. I would do mae-ukemi several hundred times in the dojo when nobody was there, walk around the dojo ten times in shikko, I did a lot of things like that. Additionally, I would do things like swing a log around or do cuts with a bokken. I did Karate striking as well, on a makiwara that I made myself. I never did Karate, but if one didn’t do that kind of thing than it would be done to them. While practicing striking oneself one comes to understand the feelings of an opponent who is coming to strike them.

Q: What had the greatest influence on your Aikido?

A: Number one was O-Sensei. I don’t have any image other than that. Other than that, I somehow remember training on my own, and the things that I practiced. I’m afraid that I have forgotten everything that was taught to me by my sempai. Though of course, they must have had an influence on me. However, the interesting thing about the Aikikai is that they don’t force you “do it like this”. For that reason the sensitivity to accept the good things while separating them from the bad is required. So everybody has individual characteristics. From the point of view of a spectator people are so different that they may think “are they really doing the same thing?”.

Q: Did they each do Aikido with a different feeling?

A: That’s because Aikido is something that feels different with each person. Then, everybody was really strong. Including me. (laughing) I think that’s why it was so difficult for Kisshomaru Sensei to put everything together. Everybody was just doing whatever they liked. (laughing) However, I think that was the reason why Aikido has become as large as it has. If a strict framework had been set “this is Aikido” then the sense of its value would have become much narrower. I think that there is also a strength in having a variety of different kinds of people.

Hiroshi Kato demonstrating tachidori
Hiroshi Kato Sensei demonstrating tachi-dori
“After sensing the movement is too slow, even after sensing their Ki is too late. The ideal is to move before one senses their Ki.”

The necessity for spiritual training.

Q: Looking back, do you see many changes in your Aikido?

A: There was a big change after I turned thirty, when I injured my back. I made a mistake in my method of training.

Q: What was your mistake?

A: The use of my lower body. Up until that time I would use my momentum to bounce, that was no good. In the end, I thought that (Aikido was) “not techniques for conflict, for defeating other people”, and I changed. However, I had a difficult time after that. Because I didn’t understand what to do, you know.

Q: It was completely different from what you had done up until that time?

A: It was different. One changes their feelings. There are those who can do it in an instant and those for whom it may take years – it took me quite some time.

Q: Until that time you were moving with explosive force (瞬発力)?

A: That’s right. But there is a hitch in that kind of movement. If something happens you will be done for. Make no mistake.

Q: What was the new principle, or movement, from that time?

A: The use of the lower body itself is not a mistake. However, the way in which you use it, the balance of stillness and motion there, the problem of the internal aspects, and the consciousness… Originally my movement was much faster. Rather then saying muscle, it was the speed of physical force (魄力). O-Sensei often told me “it’s not the body (魄), it’s the mind (魂)”. But I was stupid and I didn’t listen. (laughing)

Q: It’s difficult to understand that when your body is moving, isn’t it?

A: Yes, you can’t understand it. When I became unable to move my body I thought “Ah, so that’s it!”. That’s not a principle, it’s something inside one’s body that they understand instinctively. If it doesn’t occur naturally in your training than perhaps that hitch will be created in your movement. When there is a hitch then a rhythm will be created, and if one tries to take their distance they will be done for. Because that kind of person will soon be cut down. That is why it is said “begin Aikido from the void”. Then I just kept thinking of things like “if it’s not the movement of the body (魄), how can one become one with the opponent?” – that had the opposite effect of making me unable to move my body, and I really fell into a slump.

Q: A slump?

A: I don’t know how long I failed. I just thought that someday I would understand and kept on doing it, no matter whether people were laughing at me or not.

Q: Was it painful?

A: I didn’t particularly feel that it was painful. If it’s something you can’t do then it just can’t be helped. Because I’m just “ordinary”. (laughing) But it is because I am a person that has put in the time to build themselves up that now there are times that I can say “don’t do that”. Surprisingly, it is because those with talent can do those things naturally that they don’t understand.

Q: What did you do to increase your sense of the internal aspects?

A: Swinging a bokken all night, sitting with my mouth wide open in a daze, walking on the mountainside… I walked as much as 60 kilometers in a single night!

Q: Why did you do those kinds of things?

A: In order to forget myself. The Japanese method of “gyo” (“spiritual training” / 行) is to throw away everything that one has. In order to to unify all of your physical aspects it is necessary to do some amount of “gyo”.

Q: Why did you believe that to be necessary?

A: It wasn’t that I did it because I decided to do it, I did it because there wasn’t anything else that I could do. When one thinks “if I do this then I will improve” then they will always fail. However, in the midst of my nights swinging the bokken I would often be surprised by sudden insights. If one tries to think of it first it just won’t work.

Q: What changed as result of those practices?

A: I became calmer, I really did. I think that my technique also changed. My technique has also changed recently. If one doesn’t change as they get older they will end up failing. Also, those people who think that they are able to do it will end up failing. It’s because one thinks that they can’t do it yet that they are able to innovate, that they are able to change.

Q: What do you feel is your ideal Aikido?

A: In the end, naturalness is number one, I think that it begins when one empties their mind and their body moves naturally.

Q: Is it impossible to reach that state without some kind of spiritual training (“gyo”)?

A: Well, one could call it spiritual training, or that if one swings a bokken that they swing it with full intensity. It’s necessary to push through with full intensity. Even if one swings a bokken, if one has the feeling of trying to swing it strongly with their arms it absolutely won’t do any good. As with everything else, when one practices thinking “I’ve understood it, I’ve realized it” then it won’t work. (laughing) I myself repeated that many times.

Q: When did you begin to change?

Prince Shotoku
Prince Shotoku – eighth century woodblock print

A: In the end, it’s no good to think about defeating other people, one must think “let’s practice in a joyful manner”. That’s because once one thinks about defeating the other person it shows in their stance. That’s the same as “Harmony is to be valued” (Translator’s Note: 和を似て尊しとなす – from the Seventeen-Article Constitution set forth by Prince Shotoku in the 7th century, in which he stressed the primary importance of harmony in social relations).

Q: When you say harmony is seems like an idealistic ethical theory, is this also a necessary element of Aikido in the technical sense?

A: Those ethics are necessary. It is from them the distance between us disappears, one is able to move, and technique appears. But it’s not easy. As you might think, it’s important not to become angry when the come at you. (laughing)

Q: Is that harmony an instantaneous thing?

A: Rather than saying in an instant, it’s that one must change the way that they stand. At the moment one stands one must envelope the opponent. That is something that O-Sensei had. I felt it. If one suppresses their desires and discards themselves, they will become free, won’t they? Without that part one will always be consigned to the world of warfare. The reason why there are no competitions in Aikido is that “if you want make your life so that such things are not necessary you can do it”. Perhaps if this continues to spread than the world will become at peace.

Hiroshi Kato Sensei demonstrates morote-dori

Hiroshi Kato Sensei demonstrates morote-dori
“It is the responsibility of those people who have taken the hand of O-Sensei to show that Aikido is a wonderful thing.”

Q: That must require a high level of consciousness from those training, doesn’t it?

A: I think so. For that reason our methodology is to train in a single flow, each person taking ukemi for the other. However, the most frightening thing about this kind of training is to be carried away by the imagery. I would like everybody to be aware that we are “doing something even stricter than contests”.

Continued in Part 2…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 2 – Aikido and World Peace http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/tsuneo-ando-part-2/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/tsuneo-ando-part-2/#comments Sat, 04 Oct 2014 19:43:23 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1496 Tsuneo Ando in Gekkan Hiden Magazine Tsuneo Ando (安藤毎夫) started Aikido as a university student with the Aikikai’s Taisuke Kudo Sensei. After a brief experience with the Yoshinkan he trained under Sadao Takaoka Sensei in Wakayama, birthplace of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. A change in his employment situation and a call to his university Sempai ...Continue reading »

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Ando Hiden
Tsuneo Ando in Gekkan Hiden Magazine

Tsuneo Ando (安藤毎夫) started Aikido as a university student with the Aikikai’s Taisuke Kudo Sensei. After a brief experience with the Yoshinkan he trained under Sadao Takaoka Sensei in Wakayama, birthplace of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

A change in his employment situation and a call to his university Sempai Tsutomu Chida (former Dojo-cho at Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo) led him to 14 years as an uchi deshi to Gozo Shioda, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido. He is often said to closely resemble him in terms of size, speed and style.

In 1990 he established the Urayasu City Aikido Association in cooperation with Masanori Nakashima Shihan of the Aikikai – a rare example of inter-organizational cooperation in the Aikido world.

He now heads Yoshinkan Aikido Ryu, founded in October 1996 and centered in Urayasu City in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.

This is the second part of the English translation of a two part interview with Tsuneo Ando conducted in 2010 that appeared on the Japan Internet Newspaper JanJan. You may wish to read Part 1 of the interview before reading this concluding section.

Aikido no Kai
Tsuneo Ando’s book “Aikido no Kai”
(合気道の解 “引き寄せの力”が武技と人生を導く!)

Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 2 – Aikido and World Peace

Secret Kindergarten Stories, Part 2

A: This is about a time when I was having problems teaching the Kindergarten students, when I had been teaching at the Kindergarten for about three months. One day when I was driving for Shioda Sensei he suddenly said from the back seat “Ando-kun, are you thinking about quitting? There’s a rumor going around that you’re quitting.” .

As I said “Well…”, stuck for reply, he said “You can do it, you can do it for sure”, and all that I could say was “Osu” (押忍). When I said “Osu” a positive feeling that I had to do it was born in my heart.

Q: Not being able to say “Yes, I want to quit teaching at the Kindergarten more than anything” when you were asked “Do you want to quit?” meant that you were really on the varsity team…

A: Quitting the Kindergarten would have meant quitting as an uchi-deshi. If one is to be an uchi-deshi there is no way that they can do as they please. I thought that to “discard oneself” was Shugyo.

Then I thought of a way. It would be impossible to make progress while struggling to teach large numbers of small children by myself. The afternoon class was like a sports club, I would teach about one hundred people at a time. Of course there were assistant instructors there too…. So I wrote a textbook. I illustrated it myself, showing the content clearly so that it would be easy for the instructors to teach.

Also, I made a year long plan and told them what the expectations were for the entire year. Then, in order to increase communication with the instructors, I used the lunch breaks to hold meetings. I gave them exercises and discussed a variety of issues.

Actually, the instructors had their hands full just with running the Kindergarten, and weren’t very welcoming towards Aikido. So I worked to remove the burden from their spirits and get them to enjoy Aikido. I changed the way that certificates were recorded, and come up with ways to avoid problems.

As a result of this approach, in spring of that year the Director of the Kindergarten gave me fifty thousand yen, saying that it was “Mochi-dai” (餅代 / “bonus”). When I gave that money to Shioda Kancho and the office manager of the Yoshinkan they gave it right back to me. (laughing)

Q: It was like a special bonus, wasn’t it?

A: However, the fundamental problems still remained, left behind by the other uchi-deshi. I thought hard about why I had been ordered to teach at the Kindergarten. Part of it was because I was still a greenhorn, but in the end it was that the actual level of Aikido ability of the other uchi-deshi and myself was nowhere near high enough. I thought that this situation was unsustainable, so after all of the instruction at the Kindergarten was completed I thought that I would train alone in the Kindergarten Dojo. Normally, Aikido is practiced with a partner. However, I thought that there was no way that I wouldn’t be able to do it alone.

In the Yoshinkan there are basic movements called “Kihon Dosa” that can be done by oneself. Coincidentally, these are also said to be the most important part of training, so I thought “I will practice the Kihon Dosa by myself”.  I thought that it wouldn’t be a good idea if those around me knew that I was staying in the Kindergarten Dojo to train, so I turned off the lights and tried practicing by myself for an hour in the dark. However, I got fed up with it after doing it for about five minutes. It was then that I thought of my frustration at being dispatched to the Kindergarten and the shortcomings in my own technique and decided to push through it.

Q: Turning off the lights and training by yourself for an hour – that’s really incredible. Did it have any results?

A: I would do it off and on, but in the end doing it made a difference. The stability of my hips was completely different. I thought to myself “So…the gods sent me to this Kindergarten because they wanted to make me do the Kihon Dosa”, and I decided to train this way whenever I went to the Kindergarten. When that happened I would think “Today I’ll go to the Kindergarten and do the Kihon Dosa again”, and I started to look forward to going to the Kindergarten. In the end I went there for five years, and during those five years my Kihon Dosa improved steadily and I was finally able to catch up to the other uchi-deshi.

It was that Kindergarten that taught me that I was able to train without a partner.  It could be said that being able to train alone even after quitting Yoshinkan Hombu was because of that experience at the Kindergarten. I think that it was thanks to that experience at the Kindergarten that I was able to get through the hard times and adversity of my wife’s passing through my solo training.

Tsuneo Ando and Shioda photo
At the Dojo, with a photo of Gozo Shioda in the background

My Eyes Open to Technique

A: Actually, it was around this time that I began to see the movements of my partner in slow-motion. It began to look as if my partner’s attack was slowed, almost as if had stopped.

That was when I thought “OK! Now even Shioda Sensei’s techniques won’t frighten me”. Shioda Sensei would often use his index finger like a sword and stab people in the base of their throat during demonstrations. So I thought “When he comes to stab me I’ll move out of the way…”.

Just at that time the Minister for Home Affairs came to the dojo and there was a demonstration, for which it was my turn to take ukemi. Shioda Sensei was discussing “Shuchu-ryoku” (集中力 / “focused power) while closing the Ma-ai (間合い / “distance”) between us.

Shioda Sensei would always use the stab with his index finger as an example while speaking about “Shuchu-ryoku”. While I was waiting for the thrust, Sensei seemed to sense something and the thrust never came. By and by, Sensei turned his face towards the Minister for Home Affairs and began his explanation again. Just in a pause between moments Shioda Sensei turned and thrust – unable to evade, I turned a somersault and fell back.

After it was over the Foundation’s Executive Director called me over “Hey…Ando-kun”, and told me “Shioda Sensei said ‘Ando has really improved’, and was very happy. Keep on working hard.”.

Shioda Sensei understood clearly that my intent while standing and waiting for his thrust was different than usual. That’s why he separated it by another breath. In the end, he had one level up on my performance.

“Do you want to become a master?” – a Promise to Shioda Sensei

A: There was a time that I was summoned by Shioda Sensei and asked “I want to make you a master. Do you feel up to it? If you feel up to it I’ll pull you along.”.

Of course, I said “I want to be a master”, and then he said, “OK, let’s do it together. However, don’t tell anybody about this, if you do it may cause distractions. This is a promise between the two of us.”. Then he told me “Once you grasp the Gokui (“secrets”) it’s alright to speak publicly about our promise”.

Some years after that Shioda Sensei passed away. I thought “Hey, weren’t you supposed to make me a master?”.

Even though Shioda Sensei passed away…

A: This happened on February 11th of Heisei year 8 (1996). My wife, who was also an uchi-deshi at the Yoshinkan, suddenly said “Let’s go visit Shioda Sensei’s grave”. Even though I protested because it was so far away she wouldn’t listen to me. There was nothing I could do, so taking our two children we went from Chiba prefecture to the gravesite in Kawagoe. On the way home we let the children play in the airport park.

About a week after we got home, my wife suddenly said “Shioda Sensei is at the front door”. Shioda Sensei had passed away in Heisei year 6 (1994), and we had visited his grave, so I thought “what are you talking about”, but she just said “he’s here, he’s here, Shioda Sensei is here”.

My wife said “we have to put out some tea”. I couldn’t see anything that looked like Shioda Sensei, so without really understanding what what was happening I just did as my wife told me and had him step into our house. (laughing) Then, when I asked my wife “What’s Shioda Sensei doing now?” she said “He’s looking at us”.

As this was happening my wife came to sit beside me and laid her head in my lap “I can’t hold onto the almighty” “I can’t hold onto the almighty” “I can’t hold onto the…” she said three times as she fell asleep.

— Hearing those words, I was taken aback.

When I drove for Shioda Sensei while acting as his Otomo (“attendant”) we spoke of many things. “almighty” was something that Shioda Sensei spoke about quite a bit, but my wife knew nothing about it. And remembering, when she came to sit next to me it had the feeling of Shioda Sensei when he was alive.

That way of talking he had when he was riding in the car, at the time I had all kinds of worries about things such as recruiting students, practice places, and so on. For that reason, Shioda Sensei told me not to spend my time in endless worrying, but to “hold onto the almighty” – in other words “hold onto Aikido!”, whose versatility (“almighty”) applied to all things. So I understood clearly that he had come to tell me “for that reason, you must train even harder than before!”. From being alone in a dark, dark place it felt as if a light had suddenly appeared in the distance. I wanted to shout and jump up into the air.

I thought “Shioda Sensei kept his promise to me, he came to encourage me – I can do it!”, and a sense of confidence welled up inside me.

Yoshinkan Ryu Aikido
Inside Tsuneo Ando Sensei’s Dojo

About Harmony

A: In combative sports the aim is to win over the opponent in competitions and tournaments. What is important is the result of the contests. However, in Aikido the aim is “harmony” (和合 / “wago”). To become friends with all human beings (and all life). Not just all human beings, but also to make friends with all animals and plants – making friends with those types of life, to feel comfortable with oneself, and to harmonize with those around you. Aikido is that method.

Q: Previously we spoke about the time when you established your dojo, and the real estate agent. You said that before establishing the dojo you felt frightened of the real estate agents?

A: For some reason I was afraid. I thought that if I went to them I would be cheated. (laughing) But in the process of establishing the dojo I went around to most of the companies in the city, came to understand the realtors and lost my dislike for them.

Q: In other words, while you think “I’m going to be cheated” or “I’m frightened” you somehow view the other person through those eyes and cannot understand them. When you put that feeling away, in other words, connect with the other person with a child’s eyes, you can “harmonize” with the other person, is that what you mean?

A: Yes, that’s right. People always have preconceived opinions, and that is why there are times when they cannot open their hearts towards other people. If one discards those distractions and becomes clear, not only will they have a good feeling, but the other person will connect with them in the same manner. I believe that it is important to return to one’s original self.

Q: I think that Shioda Sensei’s answer to the question “What is the strongest technique in Aikido?” was “Enlightening an opponent who has come to kill you and making them your friend”. When you say “like a child”, that doesn’t mean “following the opponent’s will” or “non-resistance towards the opponent”, it means to change the intent of the opponent, is that right? If one just smiles and answers “Yes, yes” they become like one of those elderly people who are cheated by “home improvement frauds”. On the other hand, if one confronts the opponent with force or argument they may not be caught by the “home improvement frauds”, but the tradesman who was confronted and frustrated may be motivated by their frustration to attempt even greater frauds on other households.

A: That’s right. By purifying your spirit one can see things as they truly are. It is there that you may be able to come up with an idea. Both the one being defrauded and the one trying to get an unrealistic bargain are wrong, in a manner of speaking. I think that dealing with people kindly and directly is the best way.

Q: One more thing, concerning the illness and passing of your wife, leaving you to raise your children on your own. Until that time you had never made the children’s Bentos, had never shopped for food at the supermarket…, you did not know how to handle any of the household chores, getting in front of these problems instead of running away, and being able to pull yourself out of that situation – isn’t that also an example of “harmony”?

A: At the time it was a matter of life and death. As I couldn’t run from the challenge, I resigned myself to accepting it. I think that it is through thriving in suffering that “Harmony” is born. It’s not living by taking the parts that matches one’s own convenience, it can be said that it is when one takes it all in and commits themselves completely that a “sense of security” is born. From this point I would like to spend the rest of my life building my experience one step at a time and realizing the full potential of my own power.

Dongshan Liangjie (Tozan Ryokai)
Tozan Ryokai (Dongshan Liangjie / 洞山良价)

Q: Concerning an opponent wielding a blade, Shioda Sensei said “if one steps back they will be stabbed, you must step forward”. Like Tozan Zenji’s (Note: the Founder of Soto Zen Buddhism in China) “place of no heat or cold” (無寒暑の境地), when it is hot one immerses themselves in the heat. Thinking of the experiences with the passing of your wife and the way that your eyes were opened to technique at the Kindergarten, it seems that you have faced and Hamonized with formidable opponents not only in the dojo, but in the trials of your actual life.

Translator’s Note: This is a famous story from Dogen Zenji (道元禅師), the Founder of Soto Zen Buddhism in Japan, in his book “Shobogenzo” (正法眼蔵 /”Treasury of the True Dharma Eye”): 

A monk asked Master Tozan, “Cold and heat descend upon us. How can we avoid them?” Tozan answered, “Why don’t you go to the place where there is no cold or heat?” The monk continued, “Where is the place where there is no cold or heat?” Tozan said, “When it is cold, let it be so cold that it kills you. When hot, let it be so hot that it kills you.”

A: That’s quite simply the truth. Formidable opponents enter weak points that one had no idea existed. Then, you fly to that point. I think that cultivating a spirit that can say “This was a chance given to me by the gods, I am thankful for it” is one of the blessings of Budo. When one reaches the place where they can think “Hey…Budo is useful”, that person has come to a good place.

Gozo Shioda - Aikido Shugyo
Gozo Shioda’s book “Aikido Shugyo”

The Industrialization of Aikido

Q: Shioda Sensei wrote “The time for Aikido to be used as a weapon for war is over. Aikido as Bujutsu has finished with me.” (“Aikido Shugyo” / 合気道修行, page 248). What do you think is the best path for Aikido to follow in the future?

A: I think that this will be the age of cultivating people rather than material objects. The age when industry focuses on large scale growth and competition through financial power has finished. If a small group of people feel an affinity for each other then they can make it without extensive funding or competing on a large scale. It is thanks to human beings that an industry lives or dies. Young people say “a large company, a large company…take shelter under a big tree…”, but the age from here on out will not be one that just fixates on size.

Q: Are you saying that Aikido will play in part in developing the kinds of people that can build companies (organizations) built on an affinity with similar minded individuals?

A: In the 18th century there was an Industrial Revolution in England. The transformation in machines such as the steam engine changed peoples lives from the bottom up. People’s desires for material objects sparked a competition to produce goods. The inclination of industry to compete based on production and sales volume remains today, especially among large companies. However, the future is not an age for competing with others, for competition based on sales volumes. It is the age for Harmonizing with others, and for that reason cultivating the development of human beings — this is important. From an Industrial Revolution based on the production of goods, to the Industrial Revolution of culture, the Industrial Revolution of the spirit — it can be said that this is the mission under which Aikido must move forward.

In the future I believe that Aikido will grow as a “Peace Industry”, connecting person to person, family to family, nation to nation.  I believe that it could become a national movement, a national sport that can be enjoyed by anybody.

I think that it will be necessary for it to spread out on many more levels than it has so far. A great wave is coming. Just as production capacity skyrocketed in England’s Industrial Revolution, production capacity for cultivating human beings will skyrocket through the multi-faceted growth of Aikido.

For example – from the aspect of “human resources”, activity by elderly instructors and women, demand for public-private partnerships in the inclusion of Budo as a required topic in the schools, in the realm of “education”. Aikido will become increasingly necessary for the nurturing of the health of our young people and as an occupation. A place for Aikido will emerge in areas such as public speaking and corporate training. I call the consolidation of these phenomena “the Industrialization of Aikido”.

Morihei Ueshiba on the Floating Bridge of Heaven
“When a human being repairs and consolidates the earth
one stands on the Floating Bridge of Heaven,
that is the beginning of everything”
人は地球修理固成するときに、
天の浮橋に立たされるのでありますが、
それがすべての発兆です。

Shurikosei (修理固成)

Q: One more thing, sometimes you talk about “Shurikosei”  (修理固成) as the mission of Aikido.

A: The phrase “Shurikosei” appears in one of the myths from the Kojiki. Izanagi and Izanami were given a jeweled spear along with a divine command from the Heavenly Deities to “repair and consolidate this drifting land” (Note: “repair and consolidate” /  修め理り固め成せ is shortened in Kanji as “Shurikosei” / 修理固成). Stirring with the spear, they created the island of Onogoro and gave birth to the Nation. This great goal of “Shurikosei” continues even until the present day. In these days when war and famine still persist, the earth has not yet been repaired.

Aiki Shinzui - 合気神髄
Essays by Morihei Ueshiba – “Aiki Shinzui” (合気神髄)

Accordingly, for who sets their sights on Budo must work to repair the environment around them at the same time as they work to perfect their own character. In Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei’s “Aiki Shinzui” (合気神髄, 1990) it is written that Aikido is to “construct the foundation for peace and calm and the and great harmonization of humanity” (Translator’s Note: 人類大和合浦安の基を築く – 浦安, “Urayasu” / “peace and calm” is used as a synonym for Japan in the Nihon Shoki). This means that we must create a foundation for Japan, which will be the leader in the great harmonization and unification of humanity.

Budo Renshu
Pages from Morihei Ueshiba’s “Budo Renshu” (武道練習)

By chance, a valuable book by Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, of which there are only three copies left in Japan, fell into my hands. One of the poetic names for Japan is “Urayasu” (浦安), and in this city of Urayasu we formed an Aikido organization in association with the Aikikai. On May 16th of this year we held a celebration commemorating twenty years since its establishment. This kind of cooperation between different organizations is seen nowhere else in the world, only in Urayasu. We are coming closer to realizing “Shurikosei”, the mission of Budo.

Q: From a favor by Chida Shihan to putting in the wrong contract bid that led to you working in Aikido. From your trials as a member of the staff to Shioda Kancho visiting your home….does it seem hard to believe that you are here today as a result of all of these miracles?

A: When I think of it now, it’s not a bad thing to go through rough times. All of those things let me to be the person that I am today.

Q: Thank you very much for speaking with us today.

February 17th 2007 – Yoshinkan Ryu Dojo


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 1 – the Gozo Shioda that Nobody Knew http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/tsuneo-ando-part-1/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/tsuneo-ando-part-1/#comments Sat, 13 Sep 2014 20:53:22 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1450 Gozo Shioda with Tsuneo Ando, Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo Tsuneo Ando (安藤毎夫) spent 14 years as uchi deshi to Gozo Shioda, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, and is said to closely resemble him in terms of size, speed and style. Born in 1956 in Nihama City, in Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, he first encountered ...Continue reading »

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Gozo Shioda and Tsuneo Ando at Yoshinkan Hombu
Gozo Shioda with Tsuneo Ando, Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo

Tsuneo Ando (安藤毎夫) spent 14 years as uchi deshi to Gozo Shioda, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, and is said to closely resemble him in terms of size, speed and style.

Born in 1956 in Nihama City, in Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, he first encountered Aikido after joining the Tokushima University Aikido Club. After graduation from the university he came to the realization that the life of a Japanese salary-man was not for him, and decided to enter the Yoshinkan as an uchi-deshi.

He now heads Yoshinkan Aikido Ryu, founded in October 1996 and centered in Urayasu City in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.

This is the first part of the English translation of a two part interview with Tsuneo Ando conducted in 2010 that appeared in the Japan Internet Newspaper JanJan.

 Gozo Shioda and Tsuneo Ando
Aikido Yoshinkan Founder Gozo Shioda with Tsuneo Ando, around 1990

Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 1 – the Gozo Shioda that Nobody Knew

Gozo Shioda (塩田剛三 / 1915-1994) was a student of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba (植芝盛平 / 1883-1969), and established Yoshinkan Aikido after the war. When he was asked “What is the strongest technique in Aikido?” he replied:

“Making an opponent holding a blade who was come to kill you smile.”

Tsuneo Ando, who slept and ate with that Mr. Shioda as an uchi-deshi, now presides over “Yoshinkan Aikido Ryu” (養神館合気道龍), and works for the growth and education of Aikido.

(Note: In the beginning I had planned to speak with Mr. Ando concerning the curriculum guidelines introducing Budo as a required subject of study in Junior High schools that will begin in Heisei year 24 (2010). However, between discussing stories of his life as an uchi-deshi and his tales of his experiences visiting the home of Gozo Shioda our time ran out without ever reaching the subject of curriculum guidelines. Since these discussions of Mr. Ando’s history can be thought to contain hints and encouragement for a wide variety of people not limited just to those learning Aikido, I would like to postpone discussions of the educational system until next time and introduce Mr. Ando’s unique profile.)

Gozo Shioda - Aikido Shugyo
Gozo Shioda’s book “Aikido Shugyo”

Encountering Aikido

Q: In addition to yourself, there are also people such as former Yoshinkan Kancho Kyoichi Inoue (井上強一), Takefumi Takeno (竹野高文), Tsutomu Chida (千田務) and Shioda’s son Yasuhisa (塩田泰久), but I often see you appear when watching films of Shioda Sensei. How did your original encounter with Aikido occur?

Clouds Over the Hill
“Clouds Over the Hill” – NHK 2009-2011

A: My home-town is in Eihime Prefecture, which was recently featured in the NHK television drama “Clouds Over the Hill” (“Saka no Ue no Kumo” / 坂の上の雲). I went to school at Tokushima University, and that’s why I enrolled in Aikido. Until that time I had never been good at sports, but I enrolled in Aikido without knowing what it was at the suggestion of a Sempai from my home-town. I learned from the head of the Aikikai’s Tokushima Prefecture branch, Taisuke Kudo Sensei (工藤泰助). But my first impression of Aikido was something like “I don’t understand what this is”—“What’s Aikido, anyway?”.

Taisuke KudoTaisuke Kudo Sensei

Q: Then, during your time as a student you once went up to Tokyo for a Gasshuku at the Yoshinkan?

A: When I was a Junior in college I had to repeat a course. I had some time then, so I thought “Hey – I’ll go do a Gasshuku at the Yoshinkan!”. Chida-san (former Yoshinkan Hombu Dojo Head), who was my Sempai at the university at the time, was at the Yoshinkan as an uchi-deshi. Earlier, when Chida-san was enrolled at Tokushima University, we had trained together in the Tokushima University Aikido Club. After that Chida-san returned to the Yoshinkan as an uchi-deshi. I had heard “the Yoshinkan is incredible!”, and from looking at the books it seemed as if they had completed a system for technical development. This was in the spring of Showa year 53 (1978).

Q: At the time Shioda Sensei was in his early sixties, and he was still quite active – what was training at the Yoshinkan like?

A: It was exhausting. (laughing) As to what was exhausting…of course it was physically exhausting, but in the end is was mostly mental exhaustion. There was a lecture, “Zagaku” (座学), every Thursday afternoon, once a week. That is, the uchi-deshi would gather in Seiza and have an evaluation meeting. The person called on by Shioda Sensei would speak about their “Daily Reflections and Habits”. For example, “Yesterday, I had a cold and was a burden on others” (reflections), or “if there’s some trash I throw it away” (habits). The senior students would then comment. “That’s a good attitude…” and so forth. At times Shioda Sensei would further comment on those comments. That would continue for about an hour, and we were told “absolutely no movement from Seiza!”. Seiza was so painful that I couldn’t even hear what was being said. Greasy sweat would dribble off me, my head would spin, I just waited while praying to heaven for it to end.

Then, in training, they said “Suwari-waza” and we would practice basic techniques on our knees. We did that kind of training constantly, so by the second day of the Gasshuku my skin was raw and bleeding. The knees of my white Keiko-gi were dyed bright red with blood. Even when he saw those bright red Keiko-gi Shioda Sensei said “do Suwari-waza!”. I thought “this person is an ogre”. In the end, the wounds on my knees didn’t heal until after the completion of the one month Gasshuku.

Hinomaru Textbook
Hinomaru in a Japanese children’s textbook, 1932
“Hinomaru no Hata, Banzai Banzai”

Q: The red knees against the white background of the Keiko-gi, that’s just like the Hinomaru (Note: the flag of Japan), isn’t it?

A: Yes, that’s right. From the beginning I thought that it would be strict, but I was really overwhelmed psychologically by the Gasshuku. More than the physical limits, it was the demands to endure through injury and the severity of Seiza that were overwhelming. “Aikido is impossible for me, I’m going to quit…”, I thought.

Tsuneo Ando and students
Tsuneo Ando Sensei and some of his students

I Encounter Aikido Again

Q: Did you quit Aikido after that?

A: Yes. After graduating from the university I got a job with a trading company in Osaka. Six months after entering the company I was transferred to Wakayama. I was in sales so I was told to visit the local companies. I would go to the company to greet them and then drink the tea they put out… It was too easy, there was nothing to do. There was even one time that I drowsed off at Wakayama Harbor. (laughing)

With all that free time pushing me, I gradually started feeling like I wanted to do Aikido. There was a person named Sadao Takaoka Sensei (高岡貞雄) in Wakayama. That person had learned from the Founder Morihei Ueshiba in the last years of his life for just two weeks and then continued with Aikido for some thirty years after that. In a way, he was someone who had come to investigate that path through self study. That Sensei taught me the results of his research without reservation. As that happened I began to catch fire, and I thought “I knew it! It’s Aikido! Aikido is fascinating! For me there’s nothing besides Aikido..”.

Aikido Shihan Sadao TakaokaSadao Takaoka Sensei

Translator’s Note: Sadao Takaoka actually encountered Aikido for the first time in 1938, when he met Hiroyuki Nozawa, who had trained Aikido with people such as Tsutomu Yukawa. They opened an Aikido dojo in Wakayama together in 1939. Takaoka was promoted to San-dan by O-Sensei in 1953 and Roku-dan in 1965. In 1955 he was invited to Tokyo to attend a week long Shihan training session. The session began with O-Sensei wielding a Jo in “Kagura Mae” (神楽舞 / “Dance of the Gods”). When questioned about technique during the training session O-Sensei would just repeat the “Kagura Mae” without saying a word. At the finish of the one week training O-Sensei told Takaoka Sensei:

「わしの宝をあげたよ。品物なら返してもらえるが、今日まで教えた法則は返してもらえない。 今後あなたは道場での稽古は滝に打たれて修行しているのと同じだ。 命ある限り稽古を続けなさい。」

“I have given you my treasure. I could take back an object, but I can never take away the principles that I have taught you up until today. From now on your practice at the Dojo will be the same as training (Shugyo) while being struck by a waterfall. Train as long as you have life.”

Morihei Ueshiba on the Floating Bridge of HeavenKagura Mae / 神楽舞

Q: With Takaoka Sensei giving you hands-on teaching in the Hiden (“secrets” / 秘伝) there’s no way that it wouldn’t be fascinating… However, you needed a job in order to make a living.

A: Actually, around that time I made a terrible mistake at work. At the time we were bidding on a contract in one of the cities, and I was sent as the person responsible for putting in the bid. I wrote the amount that had been decided by the company, and we should have lost the bid, but I made a mistake when I wrote one of the digits… (laughing) That threw the bidding into total chaos. It was really a mess.

Also, the food at that time wasn’t very good. I never really felt hungry. Even though I wasn’t really hungry I would eat when it was time to eat. But after Aikido practice the food was always delicious. (laughing) “Am I going to put up with food like this for the rest of my life? Where’s the pleasure in life? I don’t need money or guarantees for the future. Just eating delicious food and enjoying each day is the most important” – so I decided “I’ll do Aikido!”.

First, I had to resign from the company. I hadn’t really decided what I was going to do after that. “The first thing I have to do is quit. I’ll think about it after I quit!”. (laughing)

So I decided to quit, and I thought “I’ll become an uchi-deshi to Takaoka Sensei”, but Takaoka Sensei didn’t have very many students and it didn’t seem as if I would be able to make a living doing that. That’s when I called Chida Sempai at the Yoshinkan. When I asked him if the Yoshinkan would be able to pick me up he said “I’ll ask Shioda Sensei and call you back tomorrow”. When he called back he said “Shioda Sensei said ‘Come!'”, so I entered the Yoshinkan.

Q: You graduated from the university and found work, I heard that you were around 24 years old. Was there anybody around you who was against this?

A: Honestly, when I entered the Yoshinkan I hadn’t clearly set my sights on becoming an Aikido-ka. When I left my home in Eihime for Tokyo my Grandmother asked me “Tsuneo, can you eat doing this?”, and this is how I remember answering back then:

“Grandma, it’s no longer a time when we work in order to eat. It’s a time when we live by doing the things that we love. People should do what they love.”

When I think about it now, my answer was really cocky. Still, what I said back then was the foundation for my life now. When one starts to do what they want to do then next perhaps they will discover what they must do.

I believe that all humans beings have a mission to fully cultivate the gifts that they have received from the gods (heaven), and it is my experience that the mission that has been given to us from heaven is to “pursue the things that you love to the end”. In modern Japan, since lifetime employment and promotion by seniority are already things of the past, this type of lifestyle has become easier. In that sense, one could say that this is a good era in which to be alive.

“Pick up the phone before it rings!” – the Bittersweet Life of an Uchi-Deshi

Q: What was the so called “life of an uchi-deshi” like?

A: I became an uchi-deshi on May 21st of Showa year 56 (1981). At the time they gave me 60,000 yen and a place to stay but you had to provide for yourself out of that.

Uchi-deshi at the time were given a large variety of tasks. In addition to cleaning the Dojo, there was caring for the instructors – for example, preparing tea, meals, changes of clothing, driving cars, preparing the bath and washing their backs…In any event, the uchi-deshi did whatever was needed. Just like the phrase “Aiki is Life” (合気即生活), everything in life was Aikido.

However, our living expenses were provided for, so that is all that we wished or hoped for. First of all, being able to do Aikido all day the food always tasted delicious. Then, we could be near the master Gozo Shioda, and even receive money on top of that. We thought “could there be any place better than this?”.

The Yoshinkan uchi-deshi system was a modern arrangement based upon the service provided to the Founder Morihei Ueshiba by Shioda Sensei before the war at Ueshiba Dojo.

For example, the telephone. Picking up the phone when it rings is too late – we were told “Pick it up before it rings!”.

I thought “that’s crazy!” but I found out that this was training in sensing the atmosphere of the phone as it is about to ring and threw myself into it. When I did that there was never a time when I was unable to pick up the phone before it rang. (laughing) Actually, just before the phone rang the receiver would click, and we would pick it up at that moment. There were times when we could successfully pick it up before it rang. At those times the person on the other end would turn out to be quite surprised. So we were always running around on pins and needles when we were in the office.

At that time the Yoshinkan Hombu was in Koganei-shi in Tokyo, a two story dojo with 185 tatami mats. On the first floor were the living quarters, Kancho’s office, the dojo office and the dining hall. It was wide open and spacious. For example,  the doorknob to Kancho’s office would click, and in an flash we’d leap out ahead of Shioda Kancho and open the door to the toilet. Eventually Shioda Kancho would enter there.

Due to the structure of the building, the office where we uchi-deshi waited was further from the toilet then Kancho’s office, and even a slight delay would result in Kancho opening the door to the toilet himself. For that reason, our bodies had to be ready to respond in an instant. It was as if it were the start of the 100 meter dash and the office was always under the tension of the starting gun. It had a thrill that made us think that this was real ascetic training.

In the bath we would shed our shirts and scrub Shioda Sensei’s back, matching with Kancho’s movements to pour the hot water on him. This was training in reading Sensei’s mind – where to pour the hot water, and with what timing. It was also a chance to really observe the muscles and tendons of Sensei’s body. Even now, the tendons under Sensei’s arms are burned into my brain. When he moved his arms those tendons would become oddly prominent, as if the tendons were connecting his arms to his lower back. Actually, in the beginning I became entranced with those tendons and thought “I want to develop those too!”, so I hung the inner tube from a bicycle tire over a laundry pole and tried training that way, but they weren’t something that can be developed through muscular training… Recently, I have finally begun to develop those tendons as well. (laughing)

In the morning and the afternoon we would train with the riot police, and then in the evenings would be training with the general public. Six hours a day… I had quit my job and come to the city from the country, here was my “last stand” (背水の陣). Just as rumored, the life of an uchi-deshi was severe, everyday I felt “today I’ll fight hard for one day” “anyway, just fight hard for one day” – without a thought for the future, I desperately got through it somehow. I came to appreciate the setbacks that I had experienced during the Gasshuku of my student days.

Beginning to take Ukemi for Shioda Sensei

While that was happening, some time in October, I injured my neck during training and the office manager said “go to the doctor!”. I answered “I’m fine, I can’t go because I don’t have insurance”. Then the office manager intervened with Shioda Sensei for me “Ando-kun has a severe neck injury. Let’s make him part of the staff so that he’ll be covered by our insurance”. Thankfully, Shioda Sensei said “do it!” and I was able to become a member of the staff. It was really a “lucky accident” (けがの功名), wasn’t it? It’s odd, but until now I have only been injured that one time.

Q: From entrance, right to staff…that’s a rapid career advancement (laughing), did you receive direct instruction from Shioda Sensei from that time?

A: No, at first I was taught by the senior students. I wasn’t taught by Shioda Sensei until four or five years after I started there.

Q: What was the training like?

A: Most of the commercial video available of Shioda Sensei is from the Thursday training workshops, the “Kuro-obi-kai” (“Black belt class” / 黒帯会). That’s good, since it’s meant to provide explanation for the people around him…

What was frightening were the local demonstrations. One never knew where Shioda Sensei’s technique would emerge. I would attack and receive Shioda Sensei’s technique, so it’s decided from the beginning that I would be defeated. For that reason, when my name was called out to take Uke for a demonstration I would think “Ahh, I’ll be the next one to eat Shioda Sensei’s technique…”, and I’d fall into gloom from the night before. I felt as if I were a soldier planning for an assault.

However, among the uchi-deshi, taking Uke for Shioda Sensei held a certain amount of status. Being able to take Uke for Shioda Sensei was proof of coming of age, but I didn’t want to remain satisfied with just that. Taking Uke for Shioda Sensei was important to me, but I thought that it was even more important to really accomplish the skills that Shioda Sensei had achieved.

Q: Were there things that could only be learned through that precious experience as an uchi-deshi?

A: In the end, being near the teacher, and being able to sense the vibrations of his thoughts directly was an important point. When one is always near it may be that their minds become synchronized in a way, or that distractions are eliminated, it is something of a heart-to-heart communication (以心伝心) . The other day at a meeting one of the instructors, who wasn’t an uchi-deshi, said, wondering, “I sometimes had a chance to drink tea alone with Shioda Sensei for an hour. In the training after that, the techniques would always become more fascinating”. When I went abroad with Shioda Sensei we would be together around the clock, it was truly a learning experience.

Shioda Sensei once said “I learned about Aikido thanks to my Father”. Shioda Sensei’s father was a physician, a wealthy person. When Ueshiba Sensei traveled to far away places he made it a point to take Shioda Sensei with him – Shioda Sensei’s father would speak to Ueshiba Sensei’s attendant and slip him an envelope full of money. Ueshiba Sensei would anticipate that and designate Shioda Sensei to accompany him… (laughing) As a result, he really “learned about Aikido thanks to his Father”. In the end, staying with your teacher twenty-four hours a day…I think that it is important to experience that time.

Independence and Hardship

Q: After that you resigned from the staff of Yoshinkan Hombu and opened a Yoshinkan branch dojo on your own.

A: Shioda Sensei passed away in Heisei year 6 (1994) at the age of seventy-eight. I resigned from Yoshinkan Hombu on September 30th of Heisei year 7 (1995), at the age of 39, thinking to become independent. I thought “Now I will go out into society, and test my strength against society as a teacher”.

Q: Once you separated from Hombu you must have understood how difficult it is to independent.

A: First of all, I didn’t have any knowledge of how to run a dojo. When the Yoshinkan was established everybody came to help because of Shioda Sensei’s technical skill and character. But it wasn’t the same when it came to me. How to pull things together and establish something from nothing…I got here groping and bumping my way along.

However, all that aside, what was really difficult was when my wife became ill. The condition of her breast cancer gradually worsened, and on January 29th of Heisei year 9 (1997) she passed away. I was forty years old, and my wife was thirty-six. At the time I still had young children, one in third grade and one in first grade. I thought “maybe I should go back to my hometown in Shikoku”. My parents said “come home”.

But my heart sank when I thought about going home. The reason for that is that a short time before my wife passed away I had somehow begun to understand what could be called the essential point of Aikido, “Center Power” (“Chushin-ryoku” / 中心力).

This was the time when I began to think “Don’t I have a mission to transmit this essence of Aikido to future generations?”, so I was torn between returning to Shikoku and getting a normal job and raising my children while continuing my research into Aikido.

When my wife was ill I moved from Urayasu to a relative’s rented house in nearby Ichikawa City of Chiba Prefecture. By and by my wife passed away and I had to leave that house. For a month I worried constantly about where to go, but the day after I got the news “you have to move” I found a place in Urayasu. We started over again in Urayasu, where we had lived before.

I was advised to make this fresh start based on the “prediction” from a fortune-teller that my Aunt consulted, but my actual daily life was hard. Going shopping at the supermarket, making the children’s Bento, laundry and parent’s days at school…I had to do all of the things that my wife had done up until that time.

Even though it was a world that I knew nothing about, I did it because it was impossible to do otherwise, and matched the rhythms of my life to it. For example, giving up late nights and getting to bed early and rising early…. (laughing)

Q:  Up until that time you had never experienced cooking, cleaning or other household chores?

A: At least I did them during my time as an uchi-deshi, but when it comes to raising children the level is completely different. There were many trying times during that period in Heisei year 9 (1997). However, I think that I was able to galvanize myself through my wife’s passing. I thought, “Even while raising children, I need the training and growth of Aikido”; “I endured many trials, but it was thanks to them that I was able to push myself and became able to change myself”.

New Challenges

Q: You have built a website for Yoshinkan Ryu and keep a blog. Isn’t it unusual to see an Aikido-ka who’s so knowledgeable about IT?

A: I started around the time that “Center Power” (“Chushin-ryoku” / 中心力) became a focus in the media, around Heisei year 8 or 9 (1996-1997). It was around Heisei year 7 (1995) when my late wife said “from here on out will be the age of the internet”, so I purchased a computer. After my wife passed away that computer, which was around 300,00 yen at the time, was left behind, so I thought “I have to use this somehow…”.

Chushin-Ryoku no Jidai
“The Age of Center Power” (中心力の時代)

So I built a website. At the time, I made it with the Windows 95 Notepad. Now when I go to the electronics stores and tell the people there “I built a website with the Windows 95 Notepad” they don’t believe me. Anyway, somehow I was able to build a website. It was the first try in the Yoshinkan, in Heisei year 9 (1997).

In Heisei year 10 (1998) a young person came hoping to become an uchi-deshi. When they asked “where is the dojo?” I replied “there isn’t one”. At the time I was still teaching at public gymnasiums and Budokans. But I re-considered, thinking “without a dojo I cannot raise uchi-deshi”, and made up my mind to establish a dojo.

Aikido at Himawari Kindergarten

Aikido at Himawari Yochien

Secret Kindergarten Stories

Q: I had heard that you had your eyes opened to the techniques of Aikido through being sent to instruct at a Kindergarten?

A: No, it’s not that I had a Kindergarten child as a training partner and understood the techniques…however, within my Aikido being dispatched to instruct at a Kindergarten is something that I cannot forget.

About one year had passed since I had started as an uchi-deshi, it was just the time when I thought that I was beginning to get used to life as an uchi-deshi. I was ordered by one of the Shihan who was my supervisor to “go teach at the Kindergarten”. It was “Himawari Yochien” (ひまわり幼稚園) in Kawagoe City in Saitama Prefecture. This Himawari Yochien wanted to start programs in Aikido and soccer. This was some twenty-seven or twenty-eight years ago, so it was a very progressive school. They were the first Kindergarten in Japan to have a bus service for the children.

I would teach there twice a week from the morning to the evening. After that I would teach elementary school students who had graduated from the Kindergarten. My predecessor had not been able to deal with the stress of having only Kindergarteners and elementary school students as partners, and I was the replacement.

Other uchi-deshi were teaching and practicing together with police officers or the general public at Hombu Dojo, anyway, they were full of energy. At the time the Hombu Dojo was in Koganei-shi, and Kawagoe-shi was quite far, and with only Kindergarteners and elementary school students as partners it felt as if I were being banished to the outer islands. I thought that if things continued this way that I would be forced to resign as an uchi-deshi. Actually, my predecessor had done just that. The people around me were also thinking “if that were me I would have to resign…”.

Continued in Part 2…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Kanshu Sunadomari – Part 2 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-kanshu-sunadomari-part-2/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-kanshu-sunadomari-part-2/#comments Sun, 24 Aug 2014 16:47:29 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1417 Kanshu Sunadomari (砂泊 諴秀) in front of Ueshiba Dojo – 1954 Kanshu Sunadomari’s family had close ties to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba through their belief in the Omoto-kyo religion. His older brother, Kanemoto Sunadomari (砂泊兼基), was one of the early students of O-Sensei and the author of the first biography of the Aikido Founder ever published. ...Continue reading »

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Kanshu Sunadomari at Ueshiba DojoKanshu Sunadomari (砂泊 諴秀) in front of Ueshiba Dojo – 1954

Kanshu Sunadomari’s family had close ties to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba through their belief in the Omoto-kyo religion. His older brother, Kanemoto Sunadomari (砂泊兼基), was one of the early students of O-Sensei and the author of the first biography of the Aikido Founder ever published. His sister, Fukiko Sunadomari (砂泊扶妃子), served for many years as the “Fujin Bucho” (婦人部長 / “Head of the Women’s Section”) of the Aikikai.

He became an Uchi-deshi to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei shortly before World War II, and upon his return to Kyushu after the war he gave the first public demonstration of Aikido there in 1953, after which he opened the Manseikan Aikido dojo in Kumamoto. Promoted to 9th Dan by Morihei Ueshiba in 1961, he became independent from the main Aikikai organization after the death of the Founder in 1969. He passed away in November 2010.

Sunadomari Sensei’s book “合気道で悟る” has been published in English as “Enlightenment through Aikido“.

This is the second part of a two part interview that originally appeared in the August 2004 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 the 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) and Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).

Morihei Ueshiba smiling Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei

Interview with Aikido Shihan Kanshu Sunadomari – Part 2

Finding the words of the Founder in the midst of struggle.

Q: Rolling up the fingers when applying technique can be called a special characteristic of the current day Manseikan, how did you use your hands when your first started teaching Aikido in Kyushu?

A: They were opened up. It took some twenty years to reach the current form (“maki-komi” / 巻き込み). It didn’t happen all at once, it changed gradually.

Q: Twenty years!

A: It’s not the kind of technique that comes out easily. It started in Showa year 29 (1954) and it finally approached the current form around Showa year 49 (1974). At that time I realized for the first time that the Founder’s words “Aiki is Love” (合気は愛なり) were truly the spirit of Aikido, and began to put the curling of the fingers in the forefront at the dojo and when teaching.

Q: Did you become aware of the importance of the Founder’s words after discovering this curling?

A: Rather than a discovery, it was more that my technique had arrived at that point naturally. So it wasn’t something that I suddenly became able to do. Even now it is still changing little by little.

Morihei Ueshiba and Kanshu SunadomariMorihei Ueshiba and Kanshu Sunadomari

Q: Your students say the same thing – “Even now Sensei’s techniques are different than they were a year ago”.

A: Those people who take ukemi understand! I myself, who is doing it, can’t really feel it. We have been holding this workshop (Note: this interview was taken on the same day as the workshop) once a month since Showa year 51 (1976) and there are people who come every time. This makes things really difficult. If I just showed Kata then I don’t think that they would come. It’s because I have them take my hand that they are able to feel it. So I think that they become aware of my evolution, and that I will continue to evolve.

Q: But you learned through Kata at first. What I would like to know is how you reached the point where it is no longer Kata. Is it because it wasn’t effective?

A: When I first began to teach Aikido in Kumamoto, people who had trained in other types of Budo began to come to the classes. When that happened they would fight against the techniques and they wouldn’t work. At times like that I couldn’t tell them not to struggle.

Q: I see…

A: There are some dojo where they tell people not to fight against the techniques, but you cannot truly call techniques like that effective. They are okay at the time, but there is no progress and I think that they must eventually hit a wall. Or perhaps, even if they hit that wall they are unaware of it and just continue on doing the same thing.

Morihei Ueshiba Manseikan 1963
Morihei Ueshiba at the Manseikan Aikido dojo in 1963

Q: That was a time when Aikido was still unknown, where there many people who wanted to try out their skills against it?

A: Yes, there were. I can talk about it now that it is in the past, but at the beginning I also tried to make the techniques work through Kata and was embarrassed many times. It was because I had that experience that I thought seriously about how the Founder made use of the Mind in techniques.

Q: Do you think that if the opponent is strong then one must also have strength?

A: No matter how a person without physical power attempts to do something physically it won’t work. The world is full of physically powerful people, so there is always a limit. What is important is how we can express the Mind of the Founder in the body. This is not a simple thing. It was a matter of trial and error – I think that someone who only knew me at that time would be shocked to see me in the current day.

Q: When did you actually begin to use the current style of curling the fingers?

A: It was around Showa year 49 (1974) when, somehow, I began to have the feeling that I had become a physical expression of the words of the Founder. As for actually teaching it in a workshop, it was in January of Showa year 51 (1976) when people actually took my hand.

Morihei Ueshiba in Kagoshima 1961
Morihei Ueshiba in Kagoshima – 1961

Q: I have heard that until that time, when you were instructing the police, you would use Atemi when you couldn’t apply your techniques, and that it was through a process of trail and error that you found the clues leading to the “Musubi” that you use now.

A: I think that it was around Showa year 31 or 32 (1961 or 1962), when I first began to teach Aikido in Fukuoka I would do training courses at the police academy. At that time, when my partner came to grab me strongly I would usually apply techniques after first applying an Atemi. I thought “this is no good”.  I thought that it was no good if the techniques were ineffective against a resistant opponent, if I couldn’t do anything without applying an Atemi. It was then that I began to reconsider the Mind of the Founder. Even then, I didn’t understand right away! However, my older brother was writing a biography of the Founder, and was slowly collecting the writings of the Founder.

Kanemoto Sunadomari - Aikido Densho
Kanshu Sunadomari’s older brother Kanemoto Sunadomari
from “Aikido Densho” (合気道伝書)

Q: That would be “Aikido Founder Ueshiba Morihei” (合気道開祖植芝盛平 / 1969)?

A: Many of the Gods, and their revelations to him, appear in the writings of the Founder, and the names of the Gods also appear there. The Founder showed these to my older brother so that he could write his biography. They were sent to me after my older brother passed away. Those were my foundation.

Q: What kinds of writings were these?

A: I introduced some of these in my book – one of these is “Aiki is Love ” (合気は愛なり).  I trained while thinking about writings of the Founder like this, and the current form (curling fingers) gradually came into being.

Q: It seems that many of those training in Aikido take the path that you have followed as one of their themes. Do you mean that your daily training in the dojo comes to fruition and becomes effective outside of the dojo?

A: I think that you can never understand that as long as you just stay inside the dojo. In the end, you will remain trapped inside the Kata. As long as you are there I think that you will never destroy the Kata.

Q: You must have gone through many struggles in Kyushu to reach the place you are now.

A: The Founder said “Destroy the Kata, create the Kata, Take Musu Aiki is continuous creation and growth”.  For that reason, you must destroy the Kata.

Q: But that doesn’t mean to destroy them at random, does it?

A: For that reason the Founder left many writings behind. It is because you shut them away in a drawer and forget about them that there are problems. You have to know how to make the connection from the Mind to the Kata. It’s because you’ve already decided “this is Aikido” that you can’t make that connection.

Kanshu Sunadomari - Musubi
Kanshu Sunadomari exlplains “Musubi”

What is Kokyu-ryoku?

Q: I would like to ask about this again, but what exactly is this “Kokyu-ryoku” that you speak about?

A: Stated simply, it is to entrust the point at which you are engaged to your opponent and become one with them.

Q: Relative to the place in which your opponent is putting in the most strength?

A: Through removing one’s strength one can instantly understand which way their opponent’s power is going, whether they are pushing or pulling. You slip in right there. Later on just being touched by the opponent will cause technique to emerge. When you push with strength you clash with the opponent and it won’t work.

Q: Is the main point of that Manseikan trademark curling the fingers to remove one’s own strength?

A: That’s right. But don’t think that’s all that there is. Technique emerges from many places in the flow of technique. Many, many different techniques emerge from the flow of a single technique. As Ueshiba Sensei said “There are no techniques in Aikido, it is Intent”. He left this written down clearly. For that reason, Kata disappears.

(Translator’s note: The word translated above, and below, in this interview as “Intent” is 魂 (“Hun” / “Kon”), which is often translated as “soul”. Actually, it is one part of the two-souled Chinese cosmology which composes two of the five aspects of consciousness. 魂 is the ethereal soul and is associated with Yo (Yang) and the intellect. According to Zhang Jiebin (1563-1640, whose works formed a major influence on Chinese Traditional Medicine) “The ethereal soul is the coming and going of the mind.”.

Q: Basically speaking, what does it mean to be connected by Kokyu-ryoku?

A: When one takes their partner’s arm their own arm becomes like a rope, joining with the opponent and melting into each other. Here the state of your heart is the problem. It’s absolutely impossible if one has a spirit of antagonism towards their opponent.

Q: So it’s not just a matter of simply releasing your strength?

A: Just removing your strength is no good. One must consciously entrust it to the opponent, little by little. The Founder’s hands were soft, and one did not feel any power!

Q: Isn’t it difficult for the average person to understand the feeling of “entrusting” that point to the opponent?

A: It’s not a movement of the body, here I think that the world of the spirit is important.

Q: Is this the point at which the words of the Founder “Aiki is Love” become relevant?

A: It is necessary to unify the body and the spirit. However, the physical body can’t go ahead. One moves ahead with the spirit as the core. I believe that this is important. I believe that this was left to us by the Founder, and that it was his goal.

Q: Could it be said that the words “Aiki is Love” indicate the state of mind necessary for Kokyu-ryoku, becoming one with the opponent, and realizing the true power of Aikido?

A: The physical body is a vessel for the creation of Intent, and the place of its training. One cannot become conditioned solely through Intent. There is a place for training the physical body, and Intent enhances that.

Q: Like two wheels, one cannot be favored over the other…

Manseikan - Morihei Ueshiba Takemusu Aiki Calligraphy
“Takemusu Aiki” calligraphy by Morihei Ueshiba
the inscription reads “The Mother of Takemusu Aiki” (武産合気の母)

Transmitting the Skills of Aiki from the Founder

Q: You weren’t with the Founder for all that long, so why did you come to believe that “everything is contained in the words of the Founder”?

A: Because of their connection to the mentality of the Founder.

Q: It’s not a matter of time?

A: The Founder trained in the Omoto religion, and all of his words came to be through the process of that training.

Q: So, you aren’t just talking about Aikido?

A: In other words, for the Founder Aikido techniques as Budo and religion were the same thing. I believe that it is for this reason that the Budo of the Founder was different from other Budo. I think that the phrase “get rid of the enemy” (敵を無くする) must have come from religion. Because I was raised in religion from the time that I was a child.

Kanshu Sunadomari in 1968
Kanshu Sunadomari at a beginning women’s workshop in 1968

Q: After all, that’s a very important point.

A: There is something there that connects to my spirit. It may be that if that’s not so then one cannot understand.

Q: Somehow we all treat the words “Aiki is Love” as a separate subject from technique, but according to what you are saying the two things cannot be separated as far as Aikido is concerned.

A: Yes, that’s right. I think that this is the reason why the Founder left us the words “What will make World Peace is this Aikido” (世界を平和にするのはこの合気道である) in his writings. If what makes World Peace is Aikido, then the techniques that are appropriate for that path must emerge. Because Aikido is a physical art. However, if one just pursues technique while leaving the words of the Founder incomplete then they will remain mired in the region of Kata. I think that since the Founder was so strong that, even more, the techniques became transmitted as Kata in some ways. In my case I think that it happened naturally. Before the Founder left for Tokyo he said “This Budo will flourish in the Land of Fire” (Note: “Land of Fire” / 火の国 is another name for Kumamoto) – I believe that what I am doing now is what the Founder predicted then.  This calligraphy (Note: shown above)  was given to me by the Founder in Showa year 36 (1966), can you see there where it says “The Mother of Takemusu Aiki” (武産合気の母)? That is the creator. One senses the connection to Intent.

Q: Speaking of connection, each month at the workshops you have the students take your hand directly.

A: I am turning 81 this year, and of course there are some things that must be transmitted through having them directly take my hand. I’m not just doing this because that’s how we practice every day, this is training in Intent. Although no matter what you do some of your physical power will decrease with age…

Q: You said that it was a smaller group than usual today, but even so you had almost fifty people take your hand, didn’t you?

A: So what that means is that my “forearm” has changed so that it is easier to grasp my “skill” (Note: here Sunadomari Sensei makes a pun on the words for “forearm” and “skill”). Especially since I’ve lost weight as I aged.

Q: So you are transmitting this “skill” (“forearm”)!

A: In the end, even now in my everyday training I think about how to express the words of the Founder in my technique. That is my Shugyo. It is because of this that I do not teach Aikido as Kata. As the Founder said, “There is no Soke in Budo” (武道に宗家がないんだ) – each person training on their own path, walking that path, this is an important state of mind for those learning Budo. In my case, I think that finding how to express the Mind of the Founder in Aikido, and how to spread that to the world has been important. In that sense, it has been one of my goals to create a place where the doors can be opened wide to all people.

Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei

Gekkan Hiden Magazine, April 2009


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Interview with Aikido Shihan Kanshu Sunadomari – Part 2 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Kanshu Sunadomari – Part 1 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-kanshu-sunadomari-part-1/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-kanshu-sunadomari-part-1/#comments Sun, 03 Aug 2014 16:28:32 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1394 Kanshu Sunadomari and Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei around 1960 Born into a family of Omoto-kyo believers in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1923, Kanshu Sunadomari (砂泊 諴秀) became an uchi-deshi to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei shortly before World War II. Returning to Kyushu after the war he gave the first public demonstration of Aikido there ...Continue reading »

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Sunadomari and Ueshiba
Kanshu Sunadomari and Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei around 1960

Born into a family of Omoto-kyo believers in Kagoshima Prefecture in 1923, Kanshu Sunadomari (砂泊 諴秀) became an uchi-deshi to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei shortly before World War II. Returning to Kyushu after the war he gave the first public demonstration of Aikido there in 1953, and opened the Manseikan Aikido dojo in Kumamoto shortly thereafter. Promoted to 9th Dan by Morihei Ueshiba in 1961, he became independent from the main Aikikai organization after the death of the Founder in 1969. He passed away in November 2010.

His book “合気道で悟る” has been published in English as “Enlightenment through Aikido“.

After a number of years in the relative obscurity of Kyushu, Sunadomari Sensei emerged to participate in the 1st Aiki News Friendship Demonstration in 1985. Here is a short account of that participation written by Aiki News (now Aikido Journal) Editor Stanley Pranin:

When Kanshu Sunadomari Sensei and his entourage of about 15 students who had come all the way from Kyushu took the stage at the Friendship Demonstration, no one knew what to expect. He began with a rather long introduction where he spoke for nearly 30 minutes. I was becoming quite nervous because this was obviously going to throw off our schedule. As I recall, we asked each sensei to prepare about a 20 minute lecture-demonstration, knowing that they probably run over. Then the Manseikan students performed a couple of martial art inspired dances replete with fans and music! Everyone was becoming antsy because the demonstration had still not started. Even the audience of 900 people was becoming restless not knowing what to expect next.

It turns out we needn’t have worried because Sunadomari Sensei gave one of the most unusual and polished performances I had ever seen. His aikido was totally different from any other. Kanshu Sensei’s technique was dynamic and flowing with a great emphasis on the principle of kokyu. He had a peculiar way of using his wrist and forearm to break uke’s balance with impeccable timing. Kanshu was a small man, but it was obvious he had discovered some subtle ways of generating power that no one had seen before. He also showed bokken and jo kata that were completely original. Kanshu capped off his demonstration with several spectacular multiple-attack defenses that were superbly executed. When Sunadomari Sensei’s performance had concluded, he and his students received a resounding round of applause. I am very thankful that we captured his unforgettable performance along with those of the other teachers that day 27 years ago. It is even more gratifying to know that aikidoka today can witness for themselves what happened on that special spring day long ago.

This is the first part of an interview that originally appeared in the August 2004 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) and Yoshimitsu Yamada Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).

Sunadomari and Ueshiba at Lake Ikeda
Kanshu Sunadomari and Morihei Ueshiba
Lake Ikeda, Kagoshima Prefecture, May 1961

Interview with Aikido Shihan Kanshu Sunadomari – Part 1

Meeting the Founder and the Military Police School

Q: I’ve heard that you first met the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba, through Omoto-kyo, what was your first impression of the Founder?

A: When I first met him I thought “So people like this really still exist?”. It wasn’t as if I had seen his techniques, so perhaps this impression was based upon his own inherent dignity. I was in my teens at the time.

Q: How did you come to meet him?

Kanemoto SunadomariKanemoto Sunadomari, older brother of Kanshu Sunadomari
and a biographer of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei

A: In my case, my older brother (Kanemoto Sunadomari  / 砂泊兼基) had a relationship through Omoto-kyo and was being taught by Ueshiba Sensei. Because of that relationship my brother took me to meet Ueshiba Sensei. It was just after the beginning of the Greater East Asian War (大東亜戦争 / World War II), so it must have been around Showa year 16 (1941). I became an uchi-deshi right after I met him then.

Q: Who were the uchi-deshi at the time?

A: It was wartime, so even if you called them uchi-deshi they would come in and out. Hirai-san (Korindo Aikido, Minoru Hirai / 光輪洞合氣道、平井稔) was the General Affairs Director. That was the time.

Ueshiba Dojo in 1954
Kanshu Sunadomari and his sister Fukiko Sunadomari (砂泊扶妃子)
In front of Ueshiba Dojo with Morihei Ueshiba and Hatsu Ueshiba – 1954

Q: What was training like in that period?

A: The Founder would only show us Kata. From Ikkajo through Yonkajo, Irimi-nage and Kote-gaeshi. He’d take one of the uchi-deshi out in front, and then if it was Ikkajo he would show us Ikkajo once on the left and once on the right and then have everybody do it. So in an hour of practice we’d only do about three techniques. That’s the way that time was divided in that period.

Q: Did you have questions about the training, or things that you didn’t understand?

A: Since we were only doing Kata, we’d just keep on repeating them. There was nothing more than that. Honestly, we’d just keep repeating what we were taught without really knowing whether or not we were doing it correctly ourselves. If you were Nage then you would throw and that would be the end. There was nothing like the continuous throwing that we have now.

Q: So you lived as an uchi-deshi for about a year and a half?

A: I think that it was actually about one year. Because I joined the military part way through.

Q: What comes back to you most from that time?

A: When I think back now, it was going to the Military Police School (憲兵学校) with the Founder as his Otomo (“attendant”). The Founder would go to teach there twice a week. That time was extremely precious to me.

Q: What was the focus of the Founder’s instruction there?

A: Mostly locking techniques, with a focus on Nikajo or Sankajo, and Kote-gaeshi. Things that would lock up the opponent decisively. It was about an hour or an hour and a half, first the Founder would apply a technique on me and then the members of the Military Police would imitate that. I would sometimes correct their technique, but since I was still a child the Military Police must have thought “What’s that kid doing?”.  I would smile – then lock them up and make them scream.

Q: As I listen to you, it seems that there was not much of what we call Kokyu-ryoku, but mainly practical physical controlling techniques.

A: That’s right. It was mainly things that they would be able to use in their work right away. It was a chance to receive techniques from the Founder that were not usually practiced in the dojo, so it was a very valuable experience for me. For example, the Military Police were not allowed to practice throwing techniques, but he would use me to demonstrate them. That was really incredible. I would fly from one end of the dojo to the other. I would struggle to get up each time, but the Founder would already be in front of my eyes and I would be thrown again. Thrown, stand up, then thrown again. I would turn towards him frantically while taking ukemi each time – these were throws that weren’t usually done in the dojo, that weren’t usually shown, so it was an extremely valuable chance for me.

Q: Was it things like Irimi-nage and Shiho-nage?

A: In the end the Founder would say “Don’t think about technique”, and would never teach us how things were done. That is why I would try to sense the condition of being thrown by the Founder, get right up and be thrown again. This repetition would be my study, and would come to life in my demonstrations when Aikido began to spread.

Q: After that you went to war?

A: Kisshomaru-san was there I went to visit the dojo in Tokyo two years after the end of the war, in Showa year 22 (1947). He said “The Founder is in Iwama”, so I went to Iwama.

Q: Did you train in Iwama?

A: I didn’t train much in Iwama. I just went thinking to greet the Founder. There were a few people in Iwama at that time – Abe, who went to France (Tadashi Abe Shihan), was there. Abe started during the time that I was an uchi-deshi.

Taku Mikami
Taku Mikami in 1933

Q: Did you speak with Ueshiba Sensei in Iwama?

A: The Founder was living in a thatch roofed house in the middle of the fields, and I think that he couldn’t recall my name right away. He looked at my face and said “this is an important man” to two people in the corner. I think that he may have been talking about how I had acted as his representative on the neighborhood association and during rationing. When I asked later I heard that one of those people was Taku Mikami (三上卓) of the “515 Incident” (Translator’s Note: 五・一五事件 an attempted right wing military coup d’état on May 15th 1932 in which Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi was assassinated by 11 young naval officers. Among others, Morihei Ueshiba’s close associates Shumei Okawa and Mitsuru Toyama were among the backers of the coup.)

Q: After that you went to Kyushu?

A: However, I was not thinking of doing Aikido at that time. I went to Fukuoka for work, but the situation changed and I went to Kumamoto instead. I think that this turned out to be a good thing in the end.

Q: So you started doing Aikido there?

Manseikan Dojo 1961
Kanshu Sunadomari and Morihei Ueshiba
in front of the Manseikan Dojo, May 1961

Visits from the Founder and Souvenirs of the Manseikan

A: I came to Kumamoto in Showa year 28 (1953). When I asked around I found people who knew Morihei Ueshiba Sensei through Omoto-kyo. When those people found out that I had done Aikido in Tokyo with the Founder they said “If that’s so then why don’t you try doing it here?”, so on November 23rd of that year I gave a demonstration at the Shinbukan (振武館) dojo, the oldest dojo in Kumamoto, with the support of the Kumamoto Nichinichi Shimbun (熊本日日新聞社). That was the beginning of Aikido in Kumamoto. After that, some of my supporters started to say “We have to build a dojo just for Aikido somewhere”. And that’s how this dojo came to be.

Q: So it seems that everything worked out on schedule.

A: Well, it wasn’t all quite that smooth. (laughing) But at that time there were three lieutenant generals of the army in Kumamoto Prefecture, and I think that the fact that they knew of Ueshiba Sensei’s Aikido was important. Especially Lieutenant General Koga, who had studied Aikido directly under Ueshiba Sensei at the Toyama Academy when he was a Lieutenant Commander, was of great help in promoting the teaching of Aikido.

Q: So Aikido was very rare in Kumamoto at that time?

A: That was a time when it was rare even in Tokyo. In Kumamoto it was a time when Aiki-jutsu and Kiai-jutsu were thought of as the same thing.

Morihei Ueshiba Teaching at the Manseikan
Morihei Ueshiba instructing at the Manseikan Dojo in 1961

Q: The Founder came to visit Kumamoto many times. Do you have any special memories from those times?

A: When he visited in Showa year 36 (1961) he gave a demonstration on television. Out of twelve minutes the Founder demonstrated for the last two minutes, so we had to fill the first ten minutes of demonstration time. The day before the demonstration when the four of us – Chiba-kun (Kazuo Chiba Shihan), who had come with the Founder, my sister, the Founder and myself were eating, I was told “I received a good souvenir”. When I asked what that was I was told “Kyushu techniques are the best”.

O-Sensei teaching at the Manseikan
Morihei Ueshiba instructing at the Manseikan Dojo in 1961

Q: Why were they the best?

A: I’m sure that the techniques were fine, but I think that he was also impressed by my demonstration of a multiple attack. When he stopped in Osaka on the way to Tokyo he sent me a certificate for 9th Dan, which was the highest dan rank at the time, and a certificate appointing me the Shihan of Kyushu. As I was still in my thirties at the time I was greatly moved. I think that the Founder understood how important that was to me.

To be continued in Part 2…

Gekkan Hiden Magazine, April 2009


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Interview with Aikido Shihan Kanshu Sunadomari – Part 1 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Hidemine Jibiki – Hakko-ryu, Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo, and “The Road to Softness”, Part 4 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/jibiki-hidemine-hakko-ryu-daito-ryu-aiki-budo-softness-part-4/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/jibiki-hidemine-hakko-ryu-daito-ryu-aiki-budo-softness-part-4/#comments Sat, 12 Jul 2014 20:36:12 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1292 Hidemine Jibiki makes a donation to Taiwan disaster relief for the Typhoon of August 2009 Hidemine Jibiki (地曳秀峰)  trained in Shotokan Karate, Hakko-ryu Jujutsu, Daito-ryu Aiki Budo, Taiji Quan, Xing Yi Quan, and Ba Gua Zhang. He is President of the of the Japan Chapter of the International Cheng-ming Kung-fu Association (AJSMAF), and of the ...Continue reading »

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Hidemine Jibiki Typhoon ReliefHidemine Jibiki makes a donation to Taiwan disaster relief
for the Typhoon of August 2009

Hidemine Jibiki (地曳秀峰)  trained in Shotokan Karate, Hakko-ryu Jujutsu, Daito-ryu Aiki Budo, Taiji Quan, Xing Yi Quan, and Ba Gua Zhang. He is President of the of the Japan Chapter of the International Cheng-ming Kung-fu Association (AJSMAF), and of the Japan branch of the International Chinese Kuoshu Federation. He is a Fourth-generation student of Baguazhang founder, Dong Haichuan.

This is the fourth part of an excerpt from an interview in Japanese with Hidemine Jibiki. You may want to read Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3, in which he discusses his experiences in Daito-ryu with Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei and Kotaro Yoshida Sensei, his experiences with Hakko-ryu Jujutsu Founder Ryuho Okuyama, and meeting the famous Chinese martial artist Wang Shujin before reading this section.

Baduanjin QigongThe Baduanjin Qigong (“Kikou” in Japanese)
Often practiced by Aikido’s Nobuyoshi Tamura

Aiki Budo and Kikou

Q: Was part of your motivation for learning Taiji Quan and Jo to deepen your knowledge of Yawara?

A: Yes, that was part of it. That was still the period of my training in the fundamentals of Taiji Quan, and since I hadn’t yet gotten to the point of trying out techniques my attention was still focused on Yawara. Since my primary interest was Yawara, no matter who I got a hold of I only talked about Yawara. If I were to put myself in the place of the other person I suppose that I would have been annoyed, but I wanted to talk about it, and talk about it… (laughing)

Q: Aiki is also a Budo of “Ki”, was Taisei Kikou useful in the development of Ki?

A: I wasn’t aware of it, but I think that it was. Aiki is a Budo in which we apply techniques on each other and train through collision, but Chanron is different. Conversely, if I had not known Aiki I would not have been able to understand the value of Chanron, I might not have been able to continue.

Q: Were there other people in Japan doing “Kikou” at that time?

A: Not really. In common speech the word “Kikou” was unknown. I just groped my way forward feverishly. Until that point, whether it was Aiki or Jo, I had had Sempai and I could see the techniques, so it was easy to understand. If it was Jo, I could imitate my Sempai striking like this and responding like that, and work up a good sweat. If it was Yawara, I could imitate the instructor, and when I applied the techniques my partner would take ukemi and fall…and I would think “That was great!”. (laughing) It was easy to be satisfied. (laughing) However, whatever Yawara technique one applied to Wang Shujin Roshi he would escape easily. There was just a world of difference in our abilities. I wasn’t even equal to partnering with him. Every time that I thought “I have him!” he’d burst full with Ki and I would fly away.

Q: Was it that Roshi was already releasing his Ki before you came together?

A: That’s probably true…certainly there was difference in levels. When one reaches the zone that Roshi was in, one’s entire body is surrounded by a thick barrier of Ki like the halo around a statue of the Buddha. When that happens the very constitution of one’s body changes, and nothing happens even when a technique is applied to you.

Hidemine Jibiki RoshiHidemine Jibiki Roshi

Self Defense Techniques for Women

Q: You regularly say that the techniques of this Budo can be used by women, and are useful for self defense…?

A: Budo is know-how for protecting one’s body. Whether you have a little know-how or not will determine whether you can escape from danger or not. For example, from my point of view it would be unthinkable to die from being choked with both hands from the front. The person who is being choked has both hands free, so if they just strike a vital point that they will be able to escape. Whether you have that knowledge or not will make a great difference in the outcome.

If self defense were taught to female students in the schools as part of the curriculum I believe that a great many dangers could be avoided. It doesn’t have to be something as formal as Judo or Aikido, just what is usually referred to as self defense training is enough.

For example, just knowing some methods of responding when one is grabbed from the front, when one is struck from the front, or when one is choked makes a difference.

If one knows what to do in order to avoid those things most opponents will become frightened. It is because one does not know that they become frightened and unable to move.

Q: I see – aren’t self defense techniques difficult?

A: Not really, if one has the knowledge then they will be able to take action. I think that it would be beneficial to teach it in physical education classes as part of basic knowledge for women. In the past, women in Samurai families would be taught self defense techniques as part of their basic education. That was true until the end of the war, and then it gradually became outmoded, until today it has disappeared completely.

Q: But aren’t self defense techniques difficult?

A: In terms of Budo as know-how, there are books and videos being sold with a variety of know-how, it is the same as that. I believe that it is beneficial to learn how to avoid danger in the same way.

It could be said that women and smaller people are more vulnerable to assault, and through this type of education one becomes capable of escape. Standing in a place where one will not receive an attack when walking down the street or when encountering another person, one can handle difficult situations calmly. I think that the problem can be handled before the stage at which one thinks about how to apply a technique. Self defense is not a game, one’s life depends upon it. Just knowing two or three tricks perfectly will make a big difference. Budo is especially necessary for weaker people.

Budo Fulfills Many Goals

A: I think that one of the most wonderful things about Budo’s Taiji Quan are the health benefits. Budo is something that provides self defense and health without relevance to gender, age or build. Further, since it soothes strained nerves it is also a method for relieving stress for the businessman.

Q: Did you use this as a method of relieving stress during your time as a translator?

A: Yes, I did. (laughing) Working as a translator on the American military base was interesting, but it was extremely stressful. In the morning I’d concentrate on work for two or three hours and my blood pressure would rise as I worked. I’d struggle until it started to hurt – I wouldn’t be able to work in the afternoon. I’d practice Taiji Quan in the evenings, and my blood pressure would drop along with the practice. (laughing).

When one relies on alcohol to relieve the pressures of work they end up destroying their health. Budo is of a higher dimension, it’s not just the pleasure of practice, one can also discover something that offers mental and spiritual sustenance.

Wang Shujin Circle WalkingWang Shujin walks the Bagua Circle

Encountering Taiji Quan, 40 Years Ago

Roshi’s Reception in Japan.

Q: Forty years ago how was Roshi’s coming to Japan received by the average person?

A: Roshi was invited by the All Japan Jodo Federation (全日本杖道連盟). The father of the chairman, Izumi Toyama (頭山泉), had a great influence in politics and finance before the war, he was a very important person. That time, fifteen years after the end of the war, was the time of the post-war recovery, but even at that time I think that his father’s name, Mitsuru Toyama (頭山満), still possessed some influence. That his son had invited Roshi as a cultural emissary from China caused a stir in the mass media of the time.

Deguchi, Toyama and UchidaMorihei Ueshiba’s teacher Onisaburo Deguchi (left)
Mitsuru Toyama, right-wing political leader
and founder of the Genyosha nationalist secret society (center)

Ryohei Uchida,
ultranationalist political theorist
and founder of the Black Dragon Society
(right)
Toyama was also closely associated with post-war Yakuza boss Yoshio Kodama

Q: Was Budo still popular at the time?

A: Some of the pre-war atmosphere of popularity still remained at the time. But on the other hand, it was also a difficult time in which to practice Budo. By the orders of GHQ (the General Headquarters of Mac Arthur’s occupying forces), it was no longer possible to teach Budo in the schools, and many neighborhood dojo were also closed. I did Karate both before and after the war (Shotokan-ryu Karate / 松濤館流空手, taught by Gichin Funakoshi / 船越義珍), and we didn’t have a dojo to practice in so we rented the police station’s dojo. At that time Judo was popular and Karate was still rare – when we trained the police officers would come to watch us out of curiosity! (laughing) You could say that it was a time in which there was a great curiosity about Budo. Compared to that time it is quite different now…

Q: Did the newspaper article about Roshi coming to Japan generate a lot of interest?

A: There was a lot of resistance. Anyway, that the cultural emissary introducing Chinese culture to Japan was a “master of Chinese Bujutsu” was certainly a novelty. That’s because the introduction was through Budo rather than the usual mediums of ink brush paintings or pottery. That had a powerful impact. This was a time when there was an international image of Japanese people as having a deep familiarity with Budo, so  I think that this was a result of the Chinese idea of the Japanese national character. Perhaps China had a strong desire to show Japan the high level of their nation’s Bujutsu. Further, the request had been submitted by Izumi Mitsuru, who had given much to the promotion of Kobudo, so it could be said that the desires of both sides may have gone hand in hand in making the coming to Japan of Wang Shujin Roshi, a true living national treasure of a Budoka, a reality. I could not imagine what kind of a Budo it was – but even so, when I saw the article saying “a master is coming” I thought that I wanted to meet them no matter what, in the enthusiasm of my youth. (laughing)

Note: There were no relations between Japan and the People’s Republic of China in 1960. At the time, when one said “China” it normally referred to Taiwan, the Republic of China, with whom national relations existed. Therefore, when speaking of cultural exchange between Japan and China this would normally refer to cultural exchange between Japan and the Republic of China.

Wang Shujin HawkWang Shujin – the Hawk

Search for the Essence of Self Defense

Q: It is thought to be difficult to learn from those masters who surpass human understanding…

A: At the time I always thought that there must be better self defense techniques, and I was constantly searching deeper for them. Self defense techniques that did not involve weapons. It is easy to understand the advantage of holding a weapon, but I was searching for a Budo that would allow one to protect themselves with empty hands. That was the reason that I first chose to practice Karate. The speed of the striking and kicking and its rationality, I thought that it was superior to other Budo. I spoke of this before, but I had a friend from work who had a tendency to fight when he drank, and when he became violent I was unable to control him with Karate. Because he was a friend, I wasn’t able to use the strikes and kicks of Karate, you see. From that time my search for techniques that could control at such a time deepened, and I came to encounter Jujutsu. I tried to fight with Karate, but lost without being able to understand why, and I was astonished. (laughing) That was who I was when I started Jujutsu.

Jujutsu is a Budo that makes an essential point of relaxation, but I was still a novice in the world of Ki so I could not yet give up my allegiance to the physical power that is normally used in Karate, and I still had doubts as to whether or not it would be effective when Jujutsu was actually paired against someone like a boxer. I always had it in my mind that there must be something else, and it was at this time that I encountered the newspaper article. The words Chinese Bujutsu held an incredible mystique.

Nobody knows what “Taiji Quan” is.

Q: At the time Taiji Quan wasn’t very well known, was it?

A: That’s right. Now Taiji Quan is known around the world, but in the Japan of the time nobody knew what it was. First of all, it was called “Quan”. When one said “Quan” (“ken” / 拳) the only association that came to mind was the games played in tatami rooms at Japanese restaurants. A fox would come out and the hunter would shoot them…like that! (laughing) Something like “rock-paper-scissors”.

Q: I guess that there was no knowledge of Kenpo? But isn’t Karate also Kenpo?

A: Even Karate didn’t use the word “Quan”. The only expression used was “Te”. In other words, when saying things like “That person has good ‘moves’ (“Te”)”. In other words, a trick. As in “There’s a trick like this”.  Karate was originally called “Karate” (“Chinese Hand” / 唐手), but in past times that “Kara” was a general name for all foreign countries, so “Karate” meant something like “Foreign Tricks”. It was only later that Gichin Funakoshi, who was my teacher, used similar sounding characters to create the name for a “weaponless fighting art” – “Karate” (空手). This was because Sensei was an educated person, formerly the principal of a junior high school in Okinawa.

Q: Was it because you had done Karate that you became interested in Wang Shujin Roshi’s Kenpo?

A: It was because I always thought there must be “better tricks”. This was a time when I hadn’t yet mastered Aiki Budo, so I still had my habits from Karate left. Can I counter that technique with the speed of Karate’s strikes and kicks, can I receive a boxer’s punches…it was always in my mind that there must be some “better tricks” somewhere. I thought there there must be some more effective and logical method for when one is attacked by a large, strong person. Even when I was attacked suddenly in Hosono Dojo, the techniques that emerged were still Karate. I would receive with Karate and then just at the end would I control them with locks and holds. (laughing)

Q: Budo is very interesting, isn’t it?

A: Hosono Dojo at that time was really interesting. Judo was also taught at Hosono Dojo, but I would come for training in Aiki. I was able to research if this or that technique would work when applied against a solidly built opponent. I would think of this trick, or that trick. But when I thought about it later I realized that it was the basics that were important and return to the beginning again. (laughing) Of course, when I heard some master saying “I used this trick” then I would start to think “there are also tricks like that”… (laughing)

Q: You were on fire for Budo.

A: Also, the people who gathered around me were all people interested in Budo. It was all people who thought “If I can do Budo, then I don’t need money”. We’d just hold down jobs on the side, it was as if we were just working because we had to in order to survive. (laughing) After an enthusiastic practice at the dojo we would go right out to drink and then the Budo discussions would begin. It was so much fun, we wouldn’t go home no matter what time it was… (laughing) My job was in Kisarazu, so I wouldn’t be able to make it back to Tokyo until the next weekend, and I wanted to linger over each moment.  Every time that I returned to Kisarazu I couldn’t wait until I could go to Tokyo next. Each day, after I finished work at Kisarazu, I’d spend my time training hard by myself.

Hidemine Jibiki Posture

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Hidemine Jibiki – Hakko-ryu, Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo, and “The Road to Softness”, Part 3 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/jibiki-hidemine-hakko-ryu-daito-ryu-aiki-budo-softness-part-3/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/jibiki-hidemine-hakko-ryu-daito-ryu-aiki-budo-softness-part-3/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 16:50:40 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1291 Robert W. Smith punching Wang Shujin in 1960 Born in 1927, Hidemine Jibiki (地曳秀峰) started training in Okinawan Karate then moved on to Japanese Hakko-ryu Jujutsu and Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu. In this section of a four part interview he discusses meeting Wang Shujin, a noted Chinese teacher of Bagua Zhang, Taiji Quan, and Xingyi Quan. Wang ...Continue reading »

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Smith and WangRobert W. Smith punching Wang Shujin in 1960

Born in 1927, Hidemine Jibiki (地曳秀峰) started training in Okinawan Karate then moved on to Japanese Hakko-ryu Jujutsu and Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu. In this section of a four part interview he discusses meeting Wang Shujin, a noted Chinese teacher of Bagua Zhang, Taiji Quan, and Xingyi Quan. Wang was also a leader in a Taoist Sect called the Constant Path (I Kuan Tao).

Wang Shu-Jin had some points of interaction with the Aikido community through American Aikido student Terry Dobson, who trained with him in Japan. Here are two versions of his meeting with Kazuo Chiba, the first from Chiba himself, and the second from Terry Dobson via Ellis Amdur.

Kazuo Chiba’s Version:

Q: …As we are talking about challenges would you mind telling me about your confrontation with Mr Wang, the Tai Chi Master from China?

Chiba: Who told you about this … Mr Cottier perhaps?

Q: Perhaps I’d better not tell …

Chiba: (Laughter) O.K. then. I was in a big demonstration of Martial Arts in Tokyo in the early 1960’s, and Tai Chi Chuan was being shown by Mr Wang. He was from Taiwan and he was very big indeed. He became quite famous later in Japan. Well, at the end of his display he had a number of Karateka line up in front of him, and each of them punched him in the belly. It had no effect on him. I was not impressed. I would have done something else (Sensei demonstrated a groin kick and face punch whilst saying this). So, anyway two of my private students were also studying Tai Chi under Mr Wang, and they were very impressed with him. They invited me to come along and see him. Eventually I accepted and went to watch his class. At the dojo my students introduced us, and he politely asked me to show some Aikido.

Even though his words were warm it was still a challenge! Well, we faced each other, and Master Wang made something like Sumo posture with his hands outstretched. I stood and waited for an opening. This went on for some minutes until he moved forward to push me.

So I met him, made Tai Sabaki (body evasion) and took his wrist with Kote Gaeshi, (wrist crush/reversal) … his wrist made a loud snapping noise as I applied it. Even though I applied Kote Gaeshi strongly and injured him, he did not go down. Master Wang snatched his wrist from me, and challenged me immediately. So this time he pushed me with both hands in the belly, and threw me quite a distance across the room. I landed, but I also did not go down. It was an amazing throw. My students then came between us, and that was that.

Terry Dobson’s version (as told by Ellis Amdur):

I will quote the story that Terry Dobson told me, which was corroborated at another time by Donn Draeger. I also heard Terry tell this story again in a group with Mitsugi Saotome present, who amidst laughter chimed in and agreed. I didn’t know that Ken Cottier was present but he was also part of the group.

Wang started teaching in the grounds of Meiji shrine, and somewhere along the line a group of non-Japanese around Donn Draeger started training with him. Draeger learned some pa-kua, Wang would also show some Hsing I, but mostly he taught TAIJIQUAN. Among this group was Terry Dobson, who was a live-in student of Morihei Ueshiba of aikido. Terry’s direct senior was Chiba. Wang was doing demos in Japanese martial arts demonstrations and as Ken Cottier put it, “here you’d have all these startched Japanese in their crisp keiko gi and their crisp snappy movements and then out would come this fat Chinaman in grey flannel slacks and suspenders and he’d start doing impossible slow TAIJIQUAN and he’d turn around and this ass as big as the moon would waft across the stage and then he’d challenge all comers to have a go at him and the young karate boys would be rabid and he’d let them punch his stomach or kick him in the groin and he’d just laugh it off but heaven help you if you tried to punch his head. He made it clear that that was out of bounds, and if you broke the rules, then he’d become, shall we say, active.”

Terry stated to me, (I’m quoting as best as I can remember) “the uchi-deshi at honbu, particularly Chiba, started giving me a raft of **** that I was being disloyal to O-sensei by studying with Wang, and I asked O-sensei, and he said, ‘sure, do what you want’ but they wouldn’t let up so I said, “why don’t you come and check him out for yourself.” So Draeger and me took Chiba, Saotome and Tamura. Well, we walked in, and Wang scopes out Chiba right away, like he knows who has the attitude here, takes one look, and says, ‘come here boy.’ Seriously, Wang’s over sixty, paid lots of dues, is a religious leader and all, and here comes these punks, as far as he’s concerned, in their twenties, copping an attitude. So Wang lets Chiba punch him in the stomach. Nothing. Chiba tries again. Nothing. Well, now Chiba loses his temper, half turns away, and then tries to sucker punch him, thinking it’s timing. This time Wang sucks the fist into his belly and then drops, he gives it back, Chiba’s arm goes shooting back behind his ear, and he’s shaking his wrist in pain. Wang then let Chiba kick him in the groin. Nothing. So Chiba loses it, grabs Wang’s wrist and puts a nikkyo or kote-gaeshi on it, some wrist lock. I don’t know what Wang did, it was too fast, but Chiba slams on the floor and Wang’s doing something to him with one hand and he’s screaming in pain. Finally Wang lets him up and says, “You’ve got a little chi, why don’t you come back when you acquire more?” Then he turns to Tamura and Saotome, who were standing there with their backs against the wall, and says, “you want to try.” They both shake their heads and we all went home. They never gave me **** about Wang again. . . . Far as I’m concerned, Chiba lost his chance at salvation right there. He should have quit everything and sat at Wang’s feet.

This is the third part of an excerpt from an interview in Japanese with Hidemine Jibiki,  in which he discusses meeting the famous Chinese martial artist Wang Shujin. You may want to read Part 1 | Part 2, in which he discusses his experiences in Daito-ryu with Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei and Kotaro Yoshida Sensei, and his experiences with Hakko-ryu Jujutsu Founder Ryuho Okuyama, before reading this section.

 Wang and JibikiAt Wang Shujin’s home
Wang Shujin (王樹金) center, Hidemine Jibiki (地曳秀峰) third from right

Meeting Wang Shujin Roshi

Hidemine Jibiki was doing nothing but Aikido shugyo, day in and day out, but had became aware through the newspapers that a giant of Chinese Kenpo was coming to Japan. This was his chance to make the acquaintance of Wang Shujin Roshi.

Encountering the Chinese Martial Arts

Q: Why did you first develop an interest in the Chinese martial arts?

A: It was at a used bookshop in Kanda in my mid-twenties. I was employed at an American military base as a translator, so I went looking for books in English that would be useful to my work. There were pictures with training scenes of Chinese military advisors in the English magazine “Life”, and I saw them doing some unusual types of martial arts. I think that it was something that had been published in America during the war. Someone in the Allied occupation forces (after the war Japan was temporarily controlled by American military occupying forces) must have left it behind. Now I think that I should have bought it, because that picture made a great impression on me.

Single WhipYang Chengfu demonstrates the Single Whip

Q: Was this when you were training in Karate?

A: That’s right. This when I thought that Karate was the best and most rational form of Budo. I started Daito-ryu Aiki Budo when I was around twenty-seven, but this was before that. My body was flexible and I was filled with the confidence that there was nothing that I couldn’t do. The pictures were probably Taiji Quan, and as someone who practiced Karate I couldn’t grasp the point of what they were doing in the Taiji Quan forms. I couldn’t even imagine how Zabansei (Zuò Pán Bù / 坐盤勢 – “sitting with crossed legs stance”), or Tanben (Dān biān / 単鞭 – “single whip”) would be used. When I first saw it I thought it looked strange and mysterious, and it was that impression that led me to meet Roshi and to the present day.

Chatting with Budo Friends

Q: You saw a newspaper article about Wang Shujin Roshi?

A: That was when I just past thirty years old. Through a series of articles I learned that a giant of Chinese Kenpo had accepted an invitation to come to Japan. The “Life” magazine pictures had left a powerful impression on me, so I thought that I would certainly want to go meet him.

Q: I’ve heard that you talked your Budo friends into going to see Roshi?

A: Well, he was a Budo-ka specially dispatched by the government of the Republic of China, and he was also a foreigner, so I was worried about the language barrier. I was too timid to go by myself. (laughing)

At the time I would go drinking with my friends after Aiki training and things would naturally flower into discussions of Budo, so I proposed that we all go see him. Kazuo Yokota was one of those friends. I had done Karate, and seen the photos of Chinese Kenpo, so I made the proposal enthusiastically, but most of them came from Kobudo arts like Iaido, so they just said uncertainly “Well, if you want to go that badly we’ll go along with you. You can try it if you want.”. (laughing) They were mainly interested in arts that employed the sword, or the staff, so it may be that none of them were as interested in the empty hand arts as I was.

Q: You never practiced Kobudo?

A: At that time I was training in the long and short sword of Daito-ryu, as well as Shuriken, with Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei. Basically speaking, however, I wasn’t really interested in holding any kind of a weapon. I was more interested in how to take them away. It was more as if I practiced to understand the attack of the opponent by understanding the use of weapons. So you could say that our approaches to Budo were different from each other.

Rembukan DojoRembukan Dojo, Tokyo – April 1968
Phil Relnick, back row left
(now teaching  Tenshin Sho-den Katori Shinto-ryu in Seattle)

Quinton Chambers, back row second from left
(now teaching Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo in Hawaii)

Capt. Charles (Chic) Eather, back row third from left
Kobayashi, back row right
Donn Draeger, front row left
Takaji Shimizu, front row second from left
Martin Gravestyn, front third from left
Nobuko Relnick, front row right

Face to Face with Wang Shujin Roshi

Q: How did you meet with Wang Shujin Roshi?

A: An article saying that Roshi was staying at the house of Takaji Shimizu (清水隆次) Sensei (the 25th Headmaster of Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo / 神道夢想流枝道), appeared in the newspaper, so we went there. I’m not sure exactly when that was, but I think that we had rolled the up our shirt sleeves, so perhaps it was the beginning of summer? At the time Roshi wasn’t there, so Shimizu Sensei came out to speak with us. He asked us what we wanted, and then told us that we would have to come back another time, so I think that we came back on Sunday the next week. I was at the American military base in Kisarazu on the weekdays, so Sunday was the only day that I was able to go.

Hotei the Lucky GodHotei, of the 7 Lucky Gods –  the fat and happy god of abundance and good health
From “One Hundred Aspects of the Moon” (月百姿)
by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (月岡芳年)

Q: What was your impression of Roshi?

A: He was quite different from what I had imagined. (laughing) Since he was a Kenpo-ka I had envisioned him as lean and fearless, like a Karate-ka or a boxer, but when he came out Roshi was like a plump Hotei-sama – it was very unexpected. (laughing) However, I could not even begin to imagine what came next, I can not even begin to describe it in words. In any case, I told him that I had traveled four hours from Kisarazu to meet him, and feverishly begged him to take me as a student. At the time facilities for travel were quite bad, and it would take a very long time to travel to Tokyo.

Sato KinbeiKinbei Sato, a student of Kakuyoshi Yamamoto
Teaching Daito-ryu Aiki Budo

Q: You received Roshi’s permission immediately?

A: Yes. He told me to come to the 6:30 a.m. training at Meiji Jingu. Mr. Kinbei Sato (佐藤金兵衛) also went to the morning practices, but it was impossible to make it to the morning practices from Kisarazu. Sunday mornings I was working as the Shihan-dai at Hosono Dojo, so when I asked him if it would be possible to train after that he made a special exception so that I could train at the Toyama Dojo. Even further, Shimizu Sensei also made an accommodation for me and I was able to learn the Jo.

Wang Shujin EmbukaiProgram for the 1960 Demonstration Featuring Wang Shujin
Sponsored by the All Japan Jodo Federation (全日本杖道連盟)

At the Toyama Dojo

A: When I think of it now, it was because I was able to train at the Toyama Dojo that enabled me to deepen my connection with Roshi. It was a blessing.

Zhan ZhuangWang Shujin Demonstrates Pole Standing in Taipei

Q: What kind of training did you do at the dojo?

A: In any event, Roshi’s training would start with a lot of Chanron (*see note). (laughing) Since it was called Kenpo we had imagined the practice as being something like — if they strike like this then one responds like that, so the others were really disappointed…. (laughing) For myself, while I thought of it as basic training in Kenpo, I really had no idea what was going on and just followed Roshi, doing Chanron in a daze. After that I received instruction in Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo from Shimizu Sensei.

*Note: “Chanron” is a method of “Pole Standing” (姑椿) Kikou (気功 / Qigong) , used here to mean Taisei Kikou (大成気功). In Mandarin it is pronounced “Zhan Zhuang”, but Wang Shujin Roshi, who was born in Tianjin (天津), pronounced it as “Chanron”. Roshi said that there was no meaning in teaching the kata of Taiji Quan or Xing Yi Quan to those who had not built a firm base of Gong Fu (the Ki which is the foundation of Bujutsu). Chanron was stressed from the beginning levels for the cultivation of Gong Fu.

Harmonica Yoko ChoHarmonica Yoko-cho (ハモニカ横丁)

Q: Is it true that your view of Budo became broader after training at Toyama Dojo?

A: People from many different Kobudo gathered at Shimizu Sensei’s place, and it broadened my horizons. Also, the Jo uses the sword as a partner. Since one can’t use the sword unless they understand it I also did Uchitachi with the sword.

I looked forward to going out drinking with my companions after training. (laughing) There was a river where the Shibuya highway is now, and the Harmonica Yoko-cho (ハモニカ横丁) shopping street was near there with a metal roofed Yakitori shop. We were regulars! (laughing)

They would talk about many things, and my interest in experimenting would start to grow. However, my focus was on the empty hand, so I would take in those things from the perspective of empty hand arts. It was if the empty hand arts were my main dish, but the number of side dishes would gradually increase… (laughing)

Q: How did training with Wang Shujin Roshi progress?

A: Even when Wang Shujin Roshi came to stay in Japan he would go home after one or two months. I think that it may have been related to his visa or something…

After that, we’d never know when he was coming back, so one of the reasons why we went to Shimizu Sensei’s place was that if we went there we’d be able to learn about Roshi’s schedule.

However, we were fortunate in that he’d teach us a lot of things in a short time, since he couldn’t make a long term stay. We did Taiji Quan, and he also taught us Xing Yi Quan. At the time, however, we did not really understand the real meaning of those things, or just how incredible the content of the training really was. I had also done Karate, so it was easy for me to do things like the kata in Xing Yi Quan. But one cannot understand striking with Ki just from kata. It might be said that I had some relative understanding of “Ki” from doing Aiki, but I think that my Ki itself had not yet been developed. Because it takes a long to really develop one’s Ki. (laughing) Because of my habits from Karate, at the time I was doing Xing Yi Quan with all of my strength! (laughing)

Kusarigama ClassKusarigama Class (鎖鎌)
Front row left: Takaji Shimizu, 25th Headmaster of Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo
Front row third from left: Hanjiro Shiraishi (白石範次郎), Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo
Front row fourth from left: Judo Founder Jigoro Kano (嘉納治五郎)
Back row fourth from left: Kiroku Takayama (高山喜六), Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo

Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo’s Takaji Shimizu Shihan

Hidemine Jibiki began training at Toyama Dojo, and in addition to Wang Shujin also receives instruction from Shinto Muso-ryu Jodo’s Takaji Shimizu Shihan.

Forging a Foundation for Budo

Hidemine Jibiki ProfileHidemine Jibiki

Q: Previously you stated that your knowledge of Budo deepened after beginning to train at Toyama Dojo?

A: That’s right. That period was a time when I was entranced by the astounding techniques of Daito-ryu Aiki Budo, a time when I would forget to eat while conducting my research. Rain or shine, I couldn’t get Aiki out of my head.

Although I could begin to understand how incredible the techniques of Wang Shujin Roshi were I was not able to fully comprehend the techniques themselves. But I could understand that Chanron (Taisei Kikou) was the platform upon which Roshi’s Bugei was built.

Q: What about your companions?

A: Well, I guess that there was a difference in perception. They just came along to keep me company… (laughing)

Their interest, what they discussed with enthusiasm after training, was in things like what to do if someone attacked with some Ryu’s technique, and how to respond. (laughing) When I think of it now, I went because I had the desire and became a student, so from the beginning our motivations were different.

Q: What was so incredible about Wang Shujin Roshi’s techniques?

A: Roshi was aware that I had been training in Aiki, so he told me to try applying something. However, when I reversed his joints he’d just spin and slip right out. Then he’d send me flying with a single light tap.

Just to see such a thing with my own eyes was incredible. I thought that here was a person who had really build a firm foundation for their Budo. I learned just how important that foundation is from Roshi.

Learning from the Masters

Q: It is thought to be difficult to learn from those masters who surpass human understanding…

A: That may be true.

However, there was comfort in participating in Wang Shujin’s training.

At that time I was working at the Daito-ryu Aiki Budo dojo of Tsunejiro Hosono in Koiwa (Edogawa Ward in Tokyo) as a Shihan-dai, in the afternoon I would practice Taiji Quan and Jodo at the Toyama Dojo, and then on Sunday evening I would return to Kisarazu, where I was employed . It was an extremely busy life.

On the weekend, after work, I would do Taiji Quan and Kikou, and swing a Jo hundreds of times while doing Shinto Muso-ryu’s foundational training. This was the period when I learned most about the importance of the foundation of Budo.

Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei was a master of Yawara (Translator’s Note: another name for Japanese empty hand martial arts), and I thought that I wanted to become like Sensei as quickly as possible. The techniques of Yawara were just so mysterious that I couldn’t resist them….curiosity was the driving force behind it all.

Continued in Part 4…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Hidemine Jibiki – Hakko-ryu, Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo, and “The Road to Softness”, Part 2 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/jibiki-hidemine-hakko-ryu-daito-ryu-aiki-budo-softness-part-2/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/jibiki-hidemine-hakko-ryu-daito-ryu-aiki-budo-softness-part-2/#comments Sun, 08 Jun 2014 01:32:30 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1232  Hidemine Jibiki Roshi Starting with Shotokan Karate Founder Gichin Funakoshi, Hidemine Jibiki (地曳秀峰) has a resume that is as varied as it is impressive. Born in 1927, his studies progressed from Okinawan Karate through Japanese Hakko-ryu Jujutsu and Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu to Chinese internal martial arts and more. This is the second part of an excerpt ...Continue reading »

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 Hidemine Jibiki DemonstrationHidemine Jibiki Roshi

Starting with Shotokan Karate Founder Gichin Funakoshi, Hidemine Jibiki (地曳秀峰) has a resume that is as varied as it is impressive. Born in 1927, his studies progressed from Okinawan Karate through Japanese Hakko-ryu Jujutsu and Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu to Chinese internal martial arts and more.

This is the second part of an excerpt from an interview in Japanese with Hidemine Jibiki, in which he discusses his experiences in Daito-ryu with Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei and Kotaro Yoshida Sensei, including some anecdotes of Daito-ryu Chuku-no-so Sokaku Takeda. You may want to read Part 1 of this interview before reading this section.

Hosono DojoHidemine Jibiki at Hosono Dojo

Hosono Dojo Shihan-dai

In Hidemine Jibiki’s Budo life training in Aiki Budo becomes even more complete through Tsunejiro Hosono’s instruction. Not only the content of his technique, but also his very way of thinking undergoes a transformation. It is in this period that the the first period of Hidemine’s true Budo training, “The Road To Softness”, begins to flower.

Q: Could you speak a little bit more about your time with Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei?

A: Hosono Sensei taught Judo as well as Aiki Budo at his dojo after he retired . He would treat people as an osteopath he would teach that as well. Because he was such a busy person I would work as the Shihan-dai at the dojo on Friday evenings and Saturday. This was around the time that Mr. Kondo, who is now the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Soke-dairi (大東流合気柔術宗家代理) joined the dojo. He was still a student at the Chiba Institute of Technology (千葉工大), and I gave him his first training. I still have a picture of us together!

Q: At the time Tomiko Sensei (Hidemine Jibiki’s wife) was also training together with you.

A: Many people stop training after they marry, so I needed her understanding in order to continue. Happily she had an interest in it….

Hosono Dojo Outdoor TrainingOutdoor Training

Q: What was your impression of Hosono Sensei?

A: He was an educated person who followed the dual paths of literary and martial arts (“Bunbu Ryodo” / 文武両道). A warrior from the past, he had the feeling of a feudal lord’s chief retainer, and a mild disposition. When it came to technique he was a professional Budo-ka. One time there was a man who, boasting of his skill in Karate, suddenly come in with a kick. Without changing his expression, Sensei reversed his leg in a flash. I thought then that he was a real master.

Organizing an Aikido Club at the American Army Base

Q: What about on weekdays?

A: I was at the American military base in Kisarazu, so I got permission from Hosono Sensei to open a branch dojo there. I registered with the Kisarazu Budo Renmei (木更津武道連盟) and then taught there after work.

Q: Was there a lot of Budo in the Kisarazu area?

A: Since it was an imperial fiefdom under the direct control of the shogunate the shogun’s direct retainers had villas there, and it retained the atmosphere of old Edo.

Q: What kind of students did you have at the branch dojo?

A: That was the time of the Vietnam War. Most of them were in the Navy, and scheduled for deployment to Vietnam. It was said they were the strongest among the three services, all of them were tough young men of 180cm or more. They had to fight in the front lines, so it was meaningless unless the techniques could actually be used. A person who couldn’t show real power when tested by the Americans would never be recognized as an instructor. At first they would come at me with incredible momentum, but I would toss them without reservation. (laughing) Anyway, since I was so much smaller than they were they would be really shocked when that happened. (laughing) I taught them mainly close quarters combat. It really taught me a lot, the enemy was the enemy, so half-baked techniques wouldn’t work.

Q: Do you remember any of the students?

A: There was a champion body-builder. He was a farmer, so he converted a barn and four of his family would train there. During the winter snows the four of them would lift up trucks to shovel away the snow from under them. Because this was a man who was confident in his strength, at first when he watched practice he would make fun of it half the time – “Instead of putting them face down why don’t you just grab them and throw them?” – I got tired of his attitude and said “If that’s what you think then try and grab this!” and had him grab my lapels. When he tried to hold on with strength I threw him and held him down so hard that he couldn’t even speak. (laughing) Because between strength and Ki, Ki is always stronger. Then, on the next day he came back changed into a completely different person and begged for teaching. (laughing) After that he applied himself regularly to the training with great enthusiasm. After returning to the United States he opened a dojo. He sent me an 8mm film, the students were bowing from seiza and he appeared in a hakama, just as I taught him. (laughing) There was also a person who was the U.S. National lightweight boxing champion. He didn’t tell me that until the very end, but then I realized why he’d been able to strike so quickly! (laughing) Even then, when one applies Aiki techniques everybody is the same. It must have been the same for him as it was when I was thrown by Okuyama Sensei, it must have been a complete mystery. Anyway, at the time I often thought that it was a good thing that I was doing Daito-ryu Aikido. That is, when I watched Budoka in other types of Budo I would often see them struggling and hard pressed to handle their large foreign opponents.

The Self Defense Forces Aikido Club

Enterprise ProtestThe Beiheiren Protests the arrival of the U.S.S. Enterprise in Japan, 1968

Q: Were you asked to teach the Self Defense Forces?

A: The Kisarazu Base was used jointly by the American military and the Self Defense Forces. This was the time of the Beiheiren (Translator’s Note: べ平連 – the most prominent anti-Vietnam peace movement in Japan), so the armory was often a target and there were some fatalities. The students would join hands and sit-in in front of the main Self Defense Forces gate, and they came with the mass-media so that they couldn’t just be cleared away. It was a time when the Self Defense Forces eyed the mass-media as an enemy. When injuries occurred among the students it would become the top story on page one of the newspapers. That was why I received a request from the Self Defense Forces to teach a method for clearing them away without causing injuries.

Q: Does such a method exist?

A: It’s simple if one uses soft techniques! Techniques from Hakko-ryu proved quite useful at that time. No matter how hard they struggled to remain seated, one could just smile and grasp their pressure points and the students would become unable to remain sitting. (laughing) Then you could forcibly remove them. I also taught them things like techniques for subduing an opponent wielding an iron pipe and methods for forcing someone to walk in front of you while you escort them away.

Q: The person being escorted away walks in front?

A: From the outside it looks as if the student is walking in front and the officer is following along behind. (laughing) I still have the thank you cards from that time. I also have thank you cards from the American military.

What is first class Budo?

Q: Your teachers, Shotokan Karate’s Gichin Funakoshi Sensei, Hakko-ryu Jujutsu’s Ryu Okuyama Sensei, Daito-ryu Aiki Budo’s Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei and Kotaro Yoshida Sensei, and finally Wang Shujin, were all first class Budoka. Are there some points that all of them held in common?

A: Firstly, all of them were educated people. Funakoshi Sensei was a teacher, and Yoshida Sensei graduated from an Imperial university, was an editor at the Hokkaido Shimbun, and could speak fluently in English. The others were also highly educated people. The scholar Confucius from the Chunqiu Period was also a Bujutsuka, and his sword-work has been transmitted even to the present day. Japanese warriors are the same. Education and first class Budo were required to ensure the family succession. Each of the teachers were calm, polite and dutiful common sense men. Most of all, they were each teachers of high quality.

Q: The types of Bujutsuka who appear in the various MMA (格闘技) magazines appear to be somewhat coarse…

A: The image of Bujutsuka as coarse is something that was invented by the mass-media. A Bujutsuka is someone who has mastered techniques for protecting their bodies from violent people. Bujutsu is something that is only used for the protection of society or of one’s family.

A change in mindset

Q: Are there people who come to study that are attracted to MMA?

A: MMA is a sport for entertainment, it is not Budo. The proof of this is the division into classes. If a lightweight and a heavyweight were paired together there would be nothing to show. Of course the heavyweight will win. Budo is a technique for a small person to control a large person. From the beginning it has a different quality. However long one trains, if one’s body is stiff they will not be able to master the techniques. Unless there is a change in mindset there will be no technical progress, only frustration. Budo is something alien to MMA. Fortunately, in my dojo even those who are violent at first become calm as they continue their training. That is because as they continue their training they have no choice but to change their mindset. (laughing)

Kotaro Yoshida SenseiHidemine Jibiki and Kotaro Yoshida (right)

Meeting Kotaro Yoshida Sensei

Q: You became acquainted with Kotaro Yoshida Sensei through an introduction from Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei, how did that come about?

A: At the time I was functioning as Hosono Sensei’s Shihan-dai, and I think that is why he introduced me to Yoshida Sensei. At first there was no particular reason for the introduction, but after Hosono Sensei passed away it turned out to extremely helpful to have made the acquaintanceship.

Q: Where was Yoshida Sensei living?

A: In Hitachi City in Ibaraki Prefecture. I always visited him together with Yokota Sensei, but since I was living in Kisarazu it was difficult to go visit. In one day I would go into Tokyo, change at Akihabara and head towards Hitachi, then I’d have to change trains again once I got to Hitachi. When I look back now I think that I must really have been passionate. (laughing) Well, after that if I heard that I could learn a good technique I’d even go to Taiwan or Hong Kong… (laughing)

Q: What kind of person was he?

A: He was intelligent enough to be the editor-in-chief of the Hokkaido Shimbun, but he had the appearance of an ancient warrior. At that time he was around eighty years old, and paralyzed on one side, there were many shuriken in round pencil holders at the head of his bed. He always had an iron fan with him, and when he was healthier five Judoka approached him at a Daito-ryu Jujutsu demonstration and asked him to try applying Aiki to them – when he said “Well, in that case” and took out his iron fan they all fell silent. (laughing) Sensei’s era was a time when Budoka would give each other a try, so Sensei was the one who was tested. There were sumo wrestlers who came to ask what kind of a thing Aiki-jujutsu was, and when he said “Well, OK” and threw a shuriken into a persimmon tree in the garden they shut-up and went home. (laughing)

Q: What was the training like?

A: I had been taught enough Aiki techniques by Hosono Sensei, and I was in the period in which it was up to my own personal research. From Yoshida Sensei I learned about Daito-ryu’s way of thinking and the mindset of the warrior. When Sokaku Takeda left for his Musha shugyo (Translator’s Note: 武者修行 – a samurai pilgrimage to hone warrior skills) Sensei attended him as his assistant. He loved to be asked to talk about Sokaku.

Japanese Two Sen CoinJapanese Two Sen Coin

Sokaku and Throwing Bronze Coins

Q: Could you tell us one of those stories?

A: There was a time that he stopped by Hamamatsu, and Sokaku met a man who was throwing 2-sen coins into a pine tree. A 2-sen coin was about as large as the current 500 yen coins are, and they were being swallowed up by the pine tree. Sokaku, who had practiced with shuriken, was impressed and said “Please allow me to study with you”. In his childhood the man was struck down with polio and became unable to move. His older brother became worried about his lack of exercise, so he changed a 1-yen coin into 50 2-sen coins and told him to throw them at a post. At first they would just bounce off, but after a time they started to sink into the post. The man said that it was just something that he did for exercise, so it wasn’t anything that he could teach anybody and refused Sokaku. It was said that this story moved Sokaku greatly, and that he threw himself into shuriken training with great intensity.

The old woman’s skewer throwing and the thieving cat.

A: There are more stories concerning shuriken. This is a story of the time that Sokaku stopped for a rest in a tea house at a ferry crossing during a trip to Shikoku. This tea house was famous for skewered broiled eel, and an old woman was washing the bamboo skewers at the washing place. One by one, as she finished washing them she would throw them behind her without turning around. Although she never looked at the bamboo bag behind her, the bamboo skewers were stacked up neatly on the bottom.

Q: Ehh! Is that true?

A: Sokaku was impressed by this, an began to practice throwing shuriken under his sleeves and over his shoulders. This was a journey for Budo training, so he could not neglect his own training even while he was teaching. In time, Sokaku’s party came to the Tosa area of Shikoku. Sokaku bought a bonito, and saying that he would treat them to bonito tataki, started to cut it into into three pieces. As he lined up the pieces of fish on a plate beside him a thieving cat snuck up quietly and ran away with the meat. In an instant, Sokaku threw the knife behind him under his sleeve and there was a screech that cut off right in the middle. It is said that Sokuku said “Rude fellow!”. (laughing)

Warriors Develop Hokkaido

Q: I’ve heard that Yoshida Sensei was the person who introduced Mr. Morihei Ueshiba to Sokaku.

A: Mr. Ueshiba is a person who learned Aiki-jujutsu from Sokaku, and Sensei was his guarantor. Mr. Ueshiba was a man of great strength, it’s said that he was able to lift up Sokaku while Sokaku was standing on the two palms of his hands in his magnolia wood geta (wooden sandals). He was heavily conditioned from clearing land. The majority of the members in the development group were warriors, and Mr. Ueshiba was from a warrior family. After the Meiji Restoration the warriors attached to the Bakufu at the end of the Edo Period needed some place to go, so they threw themselves into the development groups. The first development groups were all warriors, and when they turned to the group at the morning roll call it sounded like something from the military. (laughing)

Q: In other words, there was a rich Budo environment in Hokkaido?

A: Yes, that’s right. Sokaku would travel around the areas of Hokkaido teaching, with his hub in Abashiri. That must have been how he made the acquaintance of Yoshida Sensei, who was editor-in-chief of the Hokkaido Shimbun. It may be that he was the subject of an interview. Sensei came from a warrior family, vassals of the Miharu Domain (三春藩), which was near Aizu. Sokaku was from the Aizu Domain, so it must have been that they felt a connection.

Knowing the mindset of the warrior

A: Sokaku would always come up clip clopping in his geta when he came to Sensei’s place. He’d call out “Yoshida-kun, you there?” in his Aizu accent. (laughing) One winter he heated up the bath for Sokaku. The door was a little bit open, but when Sensei went to shut the door, fearing a draft, Sokaku went mad with rage. “If you shut the door how will I know when enemies come? Is this the start of a conspiracy against my life!?!” – said Sokaku. Sensei was completely taken aback. In other words, no matter what the circumstances, Sokaku was always prepared for war. This is “When a man goes out he must think that he has at least seven enemies”.

Guido Verbeck SamuraiSamurai in 1868, photo by Guido Verbeck
Sitting in Orishiki, front left

Q: That’s right out of the Sengoku Period!

A: It’s an interesting story, but it also contains some very useful points concerning the mindset of a warrior. In Hosono Dojo we were repeatedly instructed in the behavior of the warrior. We were taught not to tread on the seam of the tatami in order to avoid hidden swords, and not to open sliding screens suddenly. We also practiced “tatami-gaeshi” (“tatami flipping”), where one stands the tatami up by inserting their thumb in the seam in order to use it as a shield against arrows. When warriors ascended to the castle they would sit for the entire day, but they would never cross their legs (胡座). They would sit in seiza without even crossing their big toes. If one does this then they can straighten their big toes in and instant and stand up right away. Also, there was “Orishiki” (折敷), a way of sitting with the left knee up. This was a way of sitting in armor. The things that I learned at Hosono Dojo I explored in even greater depth with Yoshida Sensei. His stories of Sokaku’s Musha Shugyo, especially the stories of “dojo storming”, were extremely informative.

Q: What kinds of stories?

A: When he went “dojo storming” the head of the dojo wouldn’t come out in the beginning. Those below would come out one after the other, and while that was happening the head of the dojo would observe Sokaku’s skills from the shadows. At that time he would not use secret techniques, he would deal with each opponent and hide his techniques. After the Shihan’s representatives were finished the head of the dojo would finally emerge to take up the contest. Then he would use a secret technique and topple his opponent with a single blow. It seems that Sokaku would open their eyes with a blow. When he was victorious he would take them in the back “That’s one sign board…”, a gift envelope would come out and there’d be a drinking party – but they wouldn’t be allowed to touch any of the food on the table. One can’t be too careful! (laughing)

Q: Was there a wide variety of weapons?

A: It was a Bujutsu that originated in Kenjutsu. There is an extremely important technique in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, and in “Hiki-otoshi” (引き落とし) one can catch a glimpse of it. This is a technique in which one slips the sword strike, reverses the sword, then cuts the carotid artery – this is a method of body control based upon slipping past the opponent. Simply assisting without grasping, making use of the opponent’s momentum, is “Hiki-otoshi”. There are also a wide variety of weapons methods – long sword, short sword, shuriken, kusari-gama, kusari-fundo, small bow and more.

Searching for self-defense techniques

A: I have constantly searched for the best “self-defense”. I didn’t learn Aiki Budo because I wanted to master it, I had a passion for it because it excelled at self-defense techniques. When I became interested in what happens with a weapon in the hand I studied Jodo, and I studied Taijiquan because the techniques were effective at the moment of contact. In any case, when I heard of a good instructor I would go learn from them, no matter where they were. (laughing)

Continued in Part 3…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Hidemine Jibiki – Hakko-ryu, Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo, and “The Road to Softness”, Part 2 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Hidemine Jibiki – Hakko-ryu, Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo, and “The Road to Softness”, Part 1 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/jibiki-hidemine-hakko-ryu-daito-ryu-aiki-budo-softness-part-1/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/jibiki-hidemine-hakko-ryu-daito-ryu-aiki-budo-softness-part-1/#comments Sat, 17 May 2014 16:35:29 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1207 Hidemine Jibiki Hidemine Jibiki (地曳秀峰) started out as a student of Karate with Shotokan Karate Founder Gichin Funakoshi (船越義珍). From there he moved on to Hakko-ryu Jujutsu (八光流柔術) with the Founder of that art, Okuyama Ryuho (奥山龍峰), and then Daito-ryu Aiki Budo (大東流合気武道) with Tsunejiro Hosono (細野恒次郎) and Kotaro Yoshida (吉田幸太郎). He ended up in ...Continue reading »

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地曳秀峰Hidemine Jibiki

Hidemine Jibiki (地曳秀峰) started out as a student of Karate with Shotokan Karate Founder Gichin Funakoshi (船越義珍). From there he moved on to Hakko-ryu Jujutsu (八光流柔術) with the Founder of that art, Okuyama Ryuho (奥山龍峰), and then Daito-ryu Aiki Budo (大東流合気武道) with Tsunejiro Hosono (細野恒次郎) and Kotaro Yoshida (吉田幸太郎). He ended up in the Chinese internal martial arts as a student of Wang Shu-Jin (王樹金), who was one of the pioneers of Chinese internal martial arts in Japan. Wang Shu-jin had some points of interaction with the Aikido community through American Aikido student Terry Dobson, who trained with him in Tokyo.

This is the first part of an excerpt from an interview in Japanese with Hidemine Jibiki, which begins with his his experiences with Hakko-ryu Jujutsu Founder, Shodai Soke Ryuho Okuyama.

Hiden MagazineHidemine Jibiki in Hiden Budo & Bujutsu Magazine

Hidemine Jibiki – Hakko-ryu, Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo, and “The Road to Softness”, Part 1

(translated by Christopher Li)

 Ten years passed in hard Karate training and through a chance turn of events Hidemine Jibiki came to see weaknesses in his Karate. He was made aware of this when a drunken friend unexpectedly turned violent.

Coming to a Turning Point

Hidemine Jibiki RoshiHidemine Jibiki Roshi

Q: In the last interview you said that you had begun to have reservations about Karate….

A: About ten years had passed, and I had thrown my self entirely into Karate training, believing it to be a rational and practical form of self defense. Then, I was unable to pacify a friend who had become intoxicated. Karate focuses primarily upon punches and kicks, and there were no controlling techniques. I began to think that, when it comes right down to it, this would be insufficient as a form of self defense.

Hidemine Jibiki TranslatorHidemine Jibiki during his time as a translator

Q: And was that a major turning point for you?

A: Yes, it was. It was when I was around twenty-seven years old…

Held down with a single thumb?

Q: What happened then?

A: In any case, I began to look around. It was a time when there were none of the Budo magazines that we have today. I had no clue where to go. One day at the Kannon-sama in Asakusa I encountered something that can only be described as fate…

Q: Was that at Asakusa Temple?

A: That’s right. When I was a child I was raised in Shitaya, so I often went there to play.

Sugata SanshiroAkira Kurosawa’s first movie, an adaptation of the book “Sugata Sanshiro” – 1943

Q: So you felt a connection to this place.

A: At that time I met a fortune teller on the grounds of the temple. I’ve forgotten how we met, but the title on that person’s business card said “Jujutsu Shihan”. Judo was in its prime at the time, and everybody adored “Sugata Sanshiro” (姿三四郎). In the novel Jujutsu was just something that had been weeded out by the new Budo, Judo, so I thought it was really old-fashioned. But that person said that with Jujutsu one could hold an opponent so they couldn’t move with just a single thumb.

Q: Ehh! Just one thumb?

A: I thought “That’s ridiculous!” too. So I said “I do Karate, so could you try applying that technique?”, and they said “Well then, I’ll introduce you to my teacher” and wrote an introduction on the back of their business card.

My Karate is Destroyed

A: I went to visit the teacher in Omiya, intending to find out whether or not holding someone down with a single thumb was just bragging or not. At the entrance I pulled out the introduction from the previous day, stated my purpose, and was shown into the dojo. There was a tatami covered floor, about eight tatami mats with a low ceiling, it was a very old-fashioned place. The teacher was there…

Okuyama and MaedaRyuho Okuyama with his Daito-ryu teacher Toshimi Maeda
and his Shiatsu teacher Haizan Minami

Q: What was his name?

A: It was Ryuho Okuyama (奥山龍峰) of Hakko-ryu (八光流). I was told “I hear that you do Karate, so try hitting me as hard as you can”, but I don’t know what happened at the moment that I tried to strike him. Everything in front of me went dark, and it felt like fireworks were shooting out of my eyes. I shouted “it hurts, it hurts”, and I was thrown perfectly. (laughing) I understood later, but “Kote-gaeshi” had been applied to me. Now I teach Daito-ryu (大東流), and Okuyama Sensei was a student of the genius Bujutsu-ka of Daito-ryu, Sokaku Takeda. I became his student right then and there. (laughing)

Folding up a Judo Student

Q: What kind of an instructor was he?

A: He was of average weight and height with a round head and a mustache. I think that he was about fifty years old at the time. He even came to my wedding. He has already passed away, and has been succeeded by his son. He excelled at Shiatsu and combined that with Daito-ryu, to give birth to the new school of Hakko-ryu. He would advertise in popular magazines and was very publicly active.

Q: Were there many students?

A: Hmm, how many were there….? I think that there were very few real students, but people would come from all over the country to stay in that tiny dojo, and Shihans were produced very quickly.

Q: Very quickly?

A: It’s really impossible. He would also teach by correspondence. That made me a little suspicious, but there were some things that were amazing, too. We went to a seminar at a hot spring in Tochigi, and all of the participants were professional Budo-ka. A large man who had a seventh dan in Judo suddenly grabbed Sensei right in the middle of his lecture — maybe he was still feeling the drinks from the night before. (laughing) He grabbed the collar and sleeve of Sensei’s kimono, but when Sensei grabbed his forearm the man became unable to move. Then he folded the man up like a paper lantern. He screamed “Help me!” and Sensei finally released him, laughing uproariously. At the time I really admired the fact that his breathing was never disturbed, he held a folding fan in his other hand throughout the whole thing. After that I threw myself into the training more and more.

Hidemine Jibiki’s training in Jujutsu began from this time. Before long he would begin training with Tsunejiro Hosono (細野恒次郎) and Kotaro Yoshida (吉田幸太郎), both senior students of Sokaku Takeda.

Daito-ryu – the Ki World of Softness

Hidemine Jibiki encountered Jujutsu in his tenth year of Karate training. The techniques of Hakko-ryu Aiki-jujutsu’s Ryuho Okuyama have destroyed his Karate completely, and he finds himself drawn into a fascination with Jujutsu.

Shattered Karate

Q: You trained in the “hard” world of Karate, and then leaped into the “soft” world of Aiki-jujutsu. Was there much that you found surprising?

A: I was really surprised. When a body that has been conditioned in the “hard” way is struck with a hard fist it doesn’t hurt very much, but when the techniques of the soft fist are applied it is really painful. It’s a pain that permeates your body. Further, when you are pinned you are unable to move.

Q: I heard that you had done quite a bit of training in Karate…

A: I would condition my fingertips by thrusting them into a drum filled with soy or fava beans and strike the makiwara before going to sleep, in the mornings I would condition myself in silence before leaving for work. I would strike myself with milk bottles to condition my bones – that doesn’t just condition the bones and muscles for hardness, it also imparts flexibility. When I was a translator at the American army base at Kizarazu I had a foreigner grab me by the lapels, and he was stunned when I kicked him in the chin. (laughing) Since I had confidence in myself I didn’t think that Okuyama Sensei would be able to do anything like holding me down immovable with just a single thumb! But he did it to me easily. I couldn’t understand how I could be beaten that badly. In that one instant I lost all my enthusiasm for doing Karate. (laughing) Conversely, I had to know how that had happened.

The dojo had a different atmosphere.

Q: What were your impressions when you first encountered soft style training?

A: Since I had been doing hard style training for a long time I was stiff and tense, but when Okuyama Sensei entered it felt as if he had removed all of the power from his shoulders and his entire body was relaxed. I was impressed by the fact that the atmosphere in the dojo was so completely different. It was the complete opposite of the feeling of tension that filled the Karate dojo – I felt like a fish out of water.

Q: What was the training like?

A: At first I was taught by one of the senior students, starting with seated techniques. The techniques were applied from a seated position, but it hurt, it really hurt. (laughing) On the other hand, when Sensei entered the dojo the atmosphere would change abruptly and become very relaxed.

Ryuho Okuyama Sensei

Q: Did Okuyama Sensei have a sense of humor?

A: He was someone who moved with the dignity of an instructor. Since he would also be smiling you would become able to relax. However, in a way, I think that he was a genius. He would travel around Japan teaching Hakko-ryu, spending just a short time, a week to ten days, in each region. He had also practiced Shiatsu for a long time, so he would teach that at the same time.

Q: This was a time without television, so did this get a big response?

A: I think so. It was right after the war, and there were many among the returning soldiers who had an acquaintance with Budo, so he was able to interest many people. Of course, the people who came were people with skills, so he wouldn’t have been able to do it without confidence in himself.

Tsunejiro Hosono SenseiHidemine Jibiki and Tsunejiro Hosono

Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei

Q: I’ve heard that you were taught by Tsunejiro Hosono Sensei after Okuyama Sensei, how did that come about?

A: When my companions and I got together it would naturally lead to discussions of Budo, and I came to understand that Hakko-ryu was an offshoot of a thing called Daito-ryu. I searched for it, wanting to gain knowledge of the source art. I found a book called “Aiki-no-jutsu” (合気之術) by Ichiro Tateyama (立山一郎) in a bookstore. That writer was was a student of Aikido’s Morihei Ueshiba, and wrote a book exploring the origins of Aiki. When I made inquires with the writer, he turned out to be a fascinating person, and introduced me to Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu’s Hosono Sensei. Further, Hosono Sensei was living in Koiwa, and my parents also lived in Koiwa, so I had the home court advantage.

Q: What kind of person was he?

A:  When I called upon him he was dressed in a casual Kimono, and he looked like a wealthy merchant. He was a gentle and peaceful person. He seemed like he would be the chief of the general affairs department in a corporation, and it turned out that he had actually held that position in a major corporation. (laughing) He didn’t seem like what you would call a Budo-ka. He was highly educated, when he sent you postcards they would include classical Japanese poetry. At that time he had retired and was teaching Aiki at the same time that he was also teaching Judo. In the past Judo-ka would naturally receive certification as osteopaths (整骨師), so he was also teaching that. When I said “I’ve been doing Hakko-ryu” he said that I already had the foundation and training began.

Q: What was different from your previous training?

A: In Hakko-ryu there were many techniques that focused on finger pressure on the pressure points, but since Daito-ryu is composed of Aiki techniques he taught me Aiki.

What is Aiki?

Q: Aiki is written as “matching Ki”, but what exactly is it?

A: Condensing “Ki” and focusing it. In terms of music, it is like matching tones. One focuses Ki at the place that the opponent is pressing down, when one does that the opponent becomes hooked onto the technique as if they are caught in the snare of a trap. One can say the same about Taijiquan. When I saw Taijiquan for the first time I thought “This is Aiki”.

Q: You started from the world of “Go” (“hard”), was it difficult for you to understand the world of “Ju” (“soft”)?

A: Ki is something that is inside the body, so it can’t be seen from outside. It is only when they are applied to you that one can first know the power of “Ki” techniques. It’s true for everybody, but you can’t master them just with intellectual understanding, at first you just don’t understand what to do. One cannot focus Ki when they have not developed their Ki, when one tries to relax they cannot. In the beginning I would become frustrated and use Karate, or give in to using power to throw at times when I was struggling… (laughing) At that time even Karate was quite rare, but now it has become really popular. (laughing)

Q: Was there a moment that you would describe as “eye-opening”?

A: I came to understand little by little. But when I watched Hosono Sensei’s techniques I just couldn’t understand. I would grab Sensei’s index finger with all of my strength, and when Sensei moved I would be tossed right away. It’s something that would be inconceivable in the world of strength. (laughing)

Tsunejiro Hosono demonstrating Daito-ryuDaito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu demonstration by Tsunejiro Hosono

Soft training calls out to a person.

A: Because it was such a mystery, from dawn until dusk I couldn’t get it out of my head. In the end, it’s a matter of the quality of the tissue and the inside of the body, so one can’t understand from outside. In time I noticed that I was thrown because the joints were reversed, but I just kept researching – it’s not this, it’s not that. At that time my training partner was Kazuo Yokota Sensei (横田和男). We’d been training together since the Hakko-ryu days, and we’d go to the coffee shop to put our heads together. We’d grab each other’s forearms and hands – it’s not this, it’s not that… (laughing) In my Karate days I would train alone in silence, but this couldn’t be trained alone.

Q: It’s thought that there is something about soft training that calls out to a person…

A: Yes, that’s right. When applying techniques one must match their Ki to the Ki of the opponent. It must be that a connection from one person to the other is created there. We apply techniques on each other and cause pain, so when we are happy to act as partners for each other it must improve our chemistry with each other. (laughing)

Continued in Part 2…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Hidemine Jibiki – Hakko-ryu, Daito-ryu Aiki-Budo, and “The Road to Softness”, Part 1 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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