Aikido Sangenkai Blog http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog Honolulu, Hawaii - Oahu Sat, 13 Sep 2014 20:53:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=166 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

The post Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 1 – the Gozo Shioda that Nobody Knew appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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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

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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

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshimitsu Yamada, Part 2 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-yoshimitsu-yamada-part-2/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-yoshimitsu-yamada-part-2/#comments Sun, 06 Apr 2014 00:30:58 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1135 Yoshimitsu Yamada at Aikido Celebration Hawaii 2011 the 50th Anniversary of O-Sensei’s 1961 visit to Hawaii Pat Hendricks taking ukemi Yoshimitsu Yamada was sent to the United States in 1964 by the Aikikai in order to help spread and develop Aikido in America. He was followed by Mitsunari Kanai Sensei, Akira Tohei Sensei and Kazuo ...Continue reading »

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Yoshimitsu Yamada in Hawaii 2011Yoshimitsu Yamada at Aikido Celebration Hawaii 2011
the 50th Anniversary of O-Sensei’s 1961 visit to Hawaii
Pat Hendricks taking ukemi

Yoshimitsu Yamada was sent to the United States in 1964 by the Aikikai in order to help spread and develop Aikido in America. He was followed by Mitsunari Kanai Sensei, Akira Tohei Sensei and Kazuo Chiba Sensei, whose cooperation eventually led to the formation of the United States Aikido Federation (USAF).

In the introduction to Part 1 of this interview below I spoke a little bit about my personal connection with Yamada Sensei, but there is one more personal connection that I have not yet mentioned.

Takeshi YamashimaTaking ukemi for Takeshi Yamashima
Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden – 2011

Takeshi Yamashima was a long time student of Seigo Yamaguchi, and is famous for his soft, yet powerful, style of Aikido. He has been a regular at Hombu Dojo’s morning classes for many years and instructs at a number of dojo in the Tokyo area. He also holds a license in Yagyu Shinkage-ryu Kenjutsu.

I trained with him in Japan for three years, starting in 2000, and after returning to the United States I invited him to come to Hawaii. He has been visiting us in the Hawaiian Islands every year since 2004.

Takeshi Yamashima’s first Aikido teacher was….Yoshimitsu Yamada. As a young Hombu Dojo uchi-deshi Yamada Sensei was dispatched to oversee the instruction at the university dojo where Yamashima Sensei started Aikido!

This is the first part of an interview that originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan. You may with 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), and Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).

Yoshimitsu Yamada in his twentiesYoshimitsu Yamada at Aikikai Hombu Dojo
around twenty years old at the time

Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshimitsu Yamada, Part 2

(translated by Christopher Li)

Q: It seems as if you were able to do Aikido from the very beginning.

A: Well, I certainly don’t remember having a very difficult time. I was good at sports when I was a student as well, but the first night I couldn’t sleep because my wrists hurt so much.

Q: So, the locks were applied strongly?

A: Nowadays the mainstream is to throw people showily, but at that time it was mostly locking and throwing or pinning techniques – holding them down and pinning them firmly. There wasn’t anybody gently teaching you shikko (膝行) exercises back then. At that time ukemi wasn’t taught, so you would suddenly find yourself thrown onto the wooden floor and somehow you would figure out yourself how to take ukemi roundly.

Q: That wasn’t Judo style, was it?

A: It was a wooden floor, so if you slapped you would go numb. For that reason we would roll roundly without making a sound. I think that teaching ukemi only began after we started training on tatami.

Q: It seems that it was a time when, rather than learning, it was more that one became accustomed to the training.

A: We just thought “This is the way it is”.  For that reason one became used to figuring things out on their own. Even if it’s the same technique, if you do it the same way when the partner is different then it won’t work. In Aikido technique the truth is that one must work with a variety of partners and develop a body that is able to respond and adapt to the requirements of the moment, an approach based on logic doesn’t work.

Yamada - New York Aikikai DemonstrationYoshimitsu Yamada at one of his early New York demonstrations

I find that New York particularly suits me

Q: After that you left for New York?

A: It was when I was twenty-six years old, after being an uchi-deshi for eight years. From the start I was able to speak English. I went to a mission school that had classes in English, and since I enjoyed Jazz and foreign music I was able to learn English through music and play with American children in the Shonan area. In junior and senior high school the only class where I scored more than 90% was English.

Q: So that was your foundation.

A: Yes. Even when I was an uchi-deshi I was sent out to Zama and Washington Heights for special training sessions with foreigners. Well…the truth is I still hadn’t trained enough yet… (laughing)

Q: What was it like when you actually went to America?

A: What I remember most is the dawn over New York when I arrived by Greyhound. I wasn’t emotional, I felt “I’ve come where I was meant to come”.  It didn’t feel at all like I’d come from somewhere far away.

Q: Why was that?

A: I think that New York matched my personality. Put the other way, if it weren’t New York than I think that things wouldn’t have worked out. It had some kind of an attraction for my spirit.

Q: But, why New York?

A: At that time there wasn’t anybody who was teaching Aikido on the East Coast yet, and I was approached by people in the area who were practicing Judo.

*Translator’s Note: Aikido was actually well established in New York, and the New York Aikikai was in operation before Yoshimitsu Yamada ever arrived. There was a group of people under Yasuo Ohara including Eddie Hagihara, Virginia Mayhew (married to Eddie Hagihara at the time), Barry Bernstein, Fred Krase, and Ralph Glanstein (who later moved to Hawaii to train and teach Aikido). Meyer Goo, from the Big Island of Hawaii, also taught the group in New York for a time while he was going to school there.

Meyer Goo and Eddie Hagihara at the New York AikikaiHawaii Big Island boy Meyer Goo throwing Eddie Hagihara at the New York Aikikai

New York AIkikai close-upThe promotion list on the wall reading:
“The second promotion of New York Aiki Kai Sept 1962″
Barry Bernstein and Eddie Hagihara are listed as Sho-dan

Q: So did you teach at a Judo dojo at first?

A: No, I didn’t. Some people said “Would you like to join the New York Judo Federation?”, but I refused. I wanted freedom, even if I was going to be poor. I can say with confidence that this was the correct choice.

Q: Wasn’t it difficult at first?

A: Of course, nobody came. (laughing) My first dojo was about twenty tatami mats in size, and it didn’t even have a telephone. I didn’t have any money, so the dojo also served as my apartment. In the end it was only after two years had passed that I was able to rent a separate apartment and bring my wife and children from Japan.

Yamada paints the New York AikikaiYoshimitsu Yamada paints the New York Aikikai dojo

Q: You mean that you were already married at the time?

A: I left them with my parents. I was really reckless. (laughing)

Secret Stories – Repelling Dojo Storming

Q: Did you have any problems in New York?

A: I couldn’t attract many people at first. It was the time of the Karate boom. There were Karate tournaments here and there and they let me put on demonstrations, that was really good publicity. The leftovers from Karate came over to my side. (laughing) So at the time I would put on demonstrations at least twice a week, and now I hate seeing even the first letter of the word demonstration. (laughing) Also, that was the height of the hippy movement, and a lot of lazy folks who had heard “In Aikido you don’t have to do anything, you topple them with Ki” showed up. They wouldn’t practice at all, it was really difficult. (laughing)

Q: (laughing) That was exactly during the hippy period, wasn’t it?

A: When you watched them do Kokyu-dosa they would have their partner grasp their forearms and then they would just sit there. When I said “What are you doing?” they would say “Don’t bother me, I’m extending Ki”. I just gave up. (laughing) But I never once really thought “This is too tough, I want to quit”.

Q: So it really matched your personality.

A: When Koichi Tohei, who later left the Aikikai, came for three months I really gave up! He taught a lot of classes for me, and enrollment increased, but we lived in hotels and went drinking in expensive places every night. I just couldn’t keep up at all. Even now I don’t remember how we raised the money for it all.  That was really tough. (laughing)

Q: (laughing) Was there any “Dojo Storming”?

A: None, none. There was just one time when a guy doing Judo came and said “I just can’t understand Aikido. Fight me now!”.

Q: What happened?

A: I closed the dojo so that the two of us were alone, and when I said “I’ll let you apply your favorite technique, what is it?”, he answered “Seo-nage” (背負投げ). “Perfect!”, I said. (laughing) When he actually came to throw me over his back I reversed him with Irimi and threw him easily. That’s quick thinking! (laughing)

Q: That’s wonderful!

A: But the next time that I gave an Aikido demonstration, when I stood up on the stage I saw that guy sitting in the front row. He had his students with him too, all in a row, and I thought “Is he going to come at me again?”. But just before the demonstration was to begin the guy stood up, turned to the audience, and said “He is so real!”. I automatically shook hands with him without even thinking about it. (laughing) So I guess that the way that you respond to people is important.

The Techniques of the Founder were Divine Works

A: I’ve always regretted that when the Founder passed away in 1969 (Showa year 44) I was not able to return home due to visa issues.

Q: You couldn’t return to the country temporarily?

A: At that time the visa situation was complicated, and if I went home I would not have been able to re-enter the United States, so in the end I wasn’t able to go home. I just had to endure it. Until that time I had the feeling, somewhere in my heart, that “Whenever I go back to Japan I will be able to be taught by the Founder”, even though I understood that this was unreasonable when I really considered his age.

Q: You thought that he would always be there?

A: Yes, that’s right. That’s why it was a shock when the time came and he passed away.

Q: Could I ask you again about your impressions of the Founder’s Aikido?

A: I think that the O-Sensei of the time in which I was learning was heavily colored by Aiki-jujutsu. The focus was on vertical movements, there were no round evasive movements, and locks were applied strongly. Irimi was also different from the soft movements of his later years. Before starting one would position themselves exactly and then enter sharply. So I think that it was very different from Kisshomaru Doshu’s era.

Q: How about your own Aikido?

A: Well, of course my Aikido now is different then how I would force things when I was younger. But I don’t want to hold onto Aikido until I start fooling myself, so I can’t change Aikido just to suit myself. Wouldn’t that be unfair? To make young people imitate an older person for that older person’s own convenience?

Q: So there is a young person’s training for young people?

A: Like the saying “strike while the iron’s hot”, it’s important to practice in a way that’s appropriate for your age while you are young. Anyway, once you get old you won’t be able to do anything but old person’s practice anyway.

Q: The Founder also did very severe training when he was young, didn’t he?

A: That’s right. It’s a lie that Aikido doesn’t need strength. That’s really just a way of saying that excess power is not needed. The amount of training that you do when you are young, those savings will return to you when you become older.

Q: I really feel the truth of those words in this series of articles.

A: When we did Koshi-nage there were those who said “O-Sensei never did that”, but those are mostly lazy instructors. It’s a shame that there are so many openings for such lazy people to enter such a marvelous and wonderful Budo.  To the end, Aikido is about flesh against flesh. It’s impossible to throw somebody without touching them.

Kokusai AIkido Taikai 2008Yoshimitsu Yamada
10th International Aikido Federation congress, 2008
Tanabe City, Japan

Q: What do you think is important when learning Aikido?

A: Don’t lower your own level. For that reason, steal the best parts of your Sempai, your Kohai and your Dohai. Steal, but don’t imitate. Digest them as best you can without hesitation. Anyway, it’s actually impossible to imitate other people, because the are different people. I think that’s why O-Sensei thought “It’s no good if I teach you”, even while he was teaching. In the end, if the person is different than the quality of their Aikido will be different. That is the beauty of Aikido, and its lot. In that sense, there is nobody who is doing O-Sensei’s Aikido. Real Aikido was just O-Sensei. The rest is just make-believe. (laughing)

Q: When we think about it this way, do you think that it was a good thing that Aikido changed in Kisshomaru Doshu’s era?

A: Yes, I think so. Doshu’s Aikido was very pure. That’s why I believe that it is a good starting point for aiming to reach the peak of that giant mountain called Aikido. After that you just have to find the way on your own. For that reason, you must train in way that is not collusive.

Q: Yes.

A: Once again, O-Sensei’s techniques were Divine Works (神業). The techniques were part of it, but also that he gave such a wonderful thing to so many people’s lives. I am truly grateful for this.

Q: Thank you for taking the time today to speak of such important things with us.

Gekkan Hiden Magazine, April 2009


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshimitsu Yamada, Part 1 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-yoshimitsu-yamada-part-1/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/interview-aikido-shihan-yoshimitsu-yamada-part-1/#comments Sun, 23 Mar 2014 17:04:21 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1133 Yoshimitsu Yamada on Kauai, Hawaii in 1966 seated between Hawaii Aikikai instructors Yukiso Yamamoto and Sadao Yoshioka Yoshimitsu Yamada was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1938, entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo as an uchi-deshi in 1956 and was dispatched to New York to aid the development of Aikido in the United States in 1964, the year ...Continue reading »

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Yoshimitsu Yamada KauaiYoshimitsu Yamada on Kauai, Hawaii in 1966
seated between Hawaii Aikikai instructors Yukiso Yamamoto and Sadao Yoshioka

Yoshimitsu Yamada was born in Tokyo, Japan in 1938, entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo as an uchi-deshi in 1956 and was dispatched to New York to aid the development of Aikido in the United States in 1964, the year that I was born.

I last saw him in 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the 50th anniversary celebration of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s 1961 visit to Hawaii. He didn’t remember me then, but we had met previously at the New York Aikikai in 1982. Of course, he had no idea who I was then, either, but I had wandered into the New York Aikikai to ask about going to Japan to study Aikido at Aikikai Hombu Dojo. I was eighteen years old when I went to Hombu with him that fall, the same age that Yoshimitsu Yamada was when he began studying Aikido.

At the time I had been studying Aikido with Frank Hreha and Mitsugi Saotome of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba, with whom he had been having an ongoing, and sometimes acrimonious, dispute. I was blissfully unaware of the background drama, and he never mentioned it, instead offering to take me to Japan with him on his next trip. Despite having met me scant minutes before, he immediately set me up with his travel agent, who arranged a visa with Yamada Sensei’s mother as my guarantor.

When we got to Japan he set me up with a room in a small Minshuku (a boarding house) in Wakamatsu-cho, and then took me to help get enrolled at the dojo. After which….I didn’t see him for many years. I eventually returned to the United States, and continued to train with Mitsugi Saotome and ASU – but I will always remember his kindness to an unknown fifth-kyu walking in off the street with extreme gratitude.

This is the first part of an interview that originally appeared in the April 2009 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), and Masatake Fujita Sensei (Part 1 | Part 2).

Yoshimitsu Yamada Uchi-Deshi
Yoshimitsu Yamada as an Uchi-Deshi at Aikikai Hombu Dojo

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba center, next to Kisshomaru Ueshiba Doshu
Hiroshi Tada, far left next to Kisaburo Osawa
second row left Yasuo Kobayashi, next to Yoshimitsu Yamada

Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshimitsu Yamada, Part 1

(translated by Christopher Li)

“If the person is different then the quality of the Aikido is different. This is the lot of Aikido.”

Q: I’ve heard that Tadashi Abe (阿部正) Shihan, who appears in many anecdotes, is your cousin?

A: He’s not my cousin, he’s my uncle! It’s a little bit confusing, but my father lost his parents when he was seven years old and was placed in the custody of the Abe family, where they were raised as brothers separated in age. So to me he was like an uncle or an older brother.

Q: I’ve heard that he had an extremely severe personality, what was he really like?

A: He had a severe temperament! But he didn’t mean to hurt anybody, he just had a one track mind.

Q: Is there something that you especially remember?

A: When my uncle challenged Tohei (Koichi).

Q: What?

A: I’m sure that it was my second or third year of junior high school. My uncle was training with the Waseda wrestling club, so he went to take on Tohei Sensei wearing a maroon colored Waseda jersey.

Q: That’s incredible, what happened?

A: Oh, it was completely beyond him. He circled him wrestling style and tried a low tackle, but Tohei Sensei distanced himself and wasn’t there. As we were leaving I said “Huh, I thought you were the strongest, but I was wrong!” and he got really angry. The next day he made me put on Kendo armor and beat me on the head severely! (laughing) It wasn’t very mature, but he had that kind of a naivety. So one could say that he challenged Tohei Sensei, or perhaps it was that he presumed upon a Sempai who knew what his temperament was like and went along with him.

Tadashi Abe in FranceTadashi Abe in France

Q: Did you start Aikido because of Abe Sensei?

A: Indirectly. Actually, I never saw my uncle do Aikido, I never saw him do anything except that incident with the wrestling.

Q: So how did you come to know about Aikido?

A: My uncle’s father did quite a bit of business in Osaka, and he loved Budo. So he would invite O-Sensei and Tempu Nakamura to his home to speak with him and give demonstrations of their arts. The first time that I ever saw O-Sensei was one of those times. Of course, I was a child, so I wasn’t formally called in to see, I just stole a peek from a back corner.

Q: Do you remember what it was like?

A: I was a child, so I don’t remember what they were doing at all. I just remember something like the sensation of a black whirlwind dancing on the tatami. At that time O-Sensei would wear a black kimono while giving demonstrations, so I think that’s why I had that impression. However, although I didn’t understand what he was doing, I thought “Some day I will learn that”.

Q: Even though you didn’t understand what was happening?

A: Yes, that’s right. But I clearly remember thinking completely naturally “I will learn that soon”. That’s why when I started I became an uchi-deshi right away.

Q: At Hombu Dojo?

A: I took an introduction with me when I went to Hombu and said “From today Onegaishimasu” (今日からお願いします).

Q: How old were you at that time?

A: It was at the same time that I entered the university, so I was eighteen years old. At first I thought that I would be an uchi-deshi while attending the university, but the only time that I actually went to the university was the one time that I went to pay my entrance fee. (laughing)

Q: That’s also….incredible! (laughing) Who was there when you started?

A: Sadateru Arikawa (有川定輝) Sensei was at the top of the list, then Nobuyoshi Tamura (田村信喜) Sensei and Masamichi Noro (野呂昌道) Sensei. It was a wooden building that really felt like a Budo dojo. There was no office, so when visitors or people wishing to enroll came to the entrance we would step and and deal with them.

Q: I’ve heard that Arikawa Sensei’s classes were extremely severe.

A: He’d grab you by your Adam’s apple and throw you over his shoulders into the wall. Compared to that, today’s training isn’t training at all. (laughing)

Q: That’s even more than I’d heard of before! What was life like for the uchi-deshi of that time?

A: We’d wake up at 6 a.m. and clean the dojo inside and out. But Arikawa Sensei wouldn’t do any cleaning. (laughing) Noro Sensei, Tamura Sensei and I would do it. I was the lowest one in our group so I would clean the toilets.

Q: So it really felt like a Dojo.

A: Yes, but there were actually some benefits to cleaning the toilets. Everybody knew that it took time, so I would lie down and take a nap in the toilets for about ten minutes. (laughing) I was really able to profit thanks to that. (laughing)

The Founder was Cute

Q: What was training with the Founder like?

A: At that time most of the instruction was already being done by Kisshomaru Sensei so there was no particular time that O-Sensei was teaching. However, O-Sensei really wanted to teach. Even though he didn’t have anything to do there, he would walk through the hallway between the main room and the dojo while we were training and peek inside. He’d want someone to speak to him. That is, we couldn’t say “Sensei, please teach us”, so we would just keep quiet and train.

Q: Really?

A: Then, when we were unable to do something, he would step inside. At first he would just stand in the doorway and watch. When that happened we had to say something, so we would say “O-Sensei, please come in”. He’d enter with a happy look on his face, while saying “No, no, never mind this old man”. (laughing) It feels a little disrespectful to say this, but he was kind of cute, that’s all I can say.

Q: (laughing) I can almost imagine it. He wasn’t frightening?

A: Not at all. In our time he really seemed like a kindly old man. But he could talk for a long time. During the cold days of winter the north wind would whoosh through the Dojo, and it was so cold that everybody would just pretend to pay attention.

Q: What was it like to actually take his hand?

A: The lectures went on for so long that it seemed like my turn would never come, and once something was finally applied to me I would be thrown before I knew what was happening. It felt as if you were being thrown in a flash, with no chance for reluctance or response, it was really a mysterious feeling.

Q: So there was no explanation of technique?

A: None, none. There was difficult talk from things like the Kojiki, and then he’d throw you in an instant “Like this!”. However, he would often say “Aikido changes each and every day”.

Q: Do you have any memories of being scolded?

A: If we started training with Irimi-nage we would get scolded. First, we would have to hold them down firmly with Shiho-nage. Then, there was one time that I got scolded after swinging a Bokken in the Dojo. “Why do you think I made Aikido!” he said, even though he himself would swing a sword, and he would give explanations while holding a sword. Now that time has passed I have come to understand. Foreigners want to pick up swords right away, they like it and enjoy it. That’s why I haven’t dared to teach the sword. I think that if you have practiced Aikido for many years and have come to hold the sword naturally then it is okay. However, if you just try to put on airs with the sword then everything will go wrong. I think that perhaps O-Sensei thought the same way. He would say “It’s ten years too soon!”.

Q: So it was different in different periods?

A: That’s probably true. However, we had a good time at the Dojo. Tohei Sensei and Kisaburo Osawa (大澤喜三郎) Sensei were there, and there were both fascinating.

Lau, Tohei and YamamotoKoichi Tohei at the Honolulu Aiki Dojo
with Hawaii Aikikai instructor Yukiso Yamamoto
and Bernie Lau, the first haole in Hawaii to study Aikido

Q: What was Tohei Sensei like at that time?

A: He had just come back from Hawaii, and he was really handsome. His teaching was logical and he drank enough Sake to shower in, he was really a man’s man.

Q: I often hear Osawa Sensei’s name, what kind of a person was he?

A: In one word, he was the mediator. When there was something that we just couldn’t tell Doshu, or some small disagreement, he would come and advise – he would never make an empty promise. When he said “I understand” then he would always follow through with what he said, that was really incredible.

Q: Was he a little different from Tohei Sensei?

A: Yes, Tohei Sensei was the feudal lord type. People were naturally attracted to his character. Osawa Sensei was more like a commoner, the type of boss that grasps the subtleties of people immediately. He had a really huge presence.

Q: Who was the Sempai that taught you the most?

A: That would be Kisshomaru Doshu. For that reason my Aikido is extremely basic. Into that I put the best parts of the various Sempai and included them as I could best understand them. However, at that time there was no feeling that one was being taught, you had to steal it.

Q: Steal it?

A: That’s right. While you were being thrown and acting as their partner one would gradually steal their skills and make them your own. You would try the things that you were developing in the student classes. Their age was about the same as ours and they were physically powerful, so it was a good practical exam. (laughing)

Continued in Part 2…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Finding Aiki – and Aikido – in Hawaii http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/finding-aiki-aikido-hawaii/ http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/finding-aiki-aikido-hawaii/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 00:56:24 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=993  September 1964 Aikido Seminar at Andrews Gym in Hilo Hawaii Second Row: Meyer Goo, left, seated next to Sadao Yoshioka Front Row: Koichi Tohei, Yukiso Yamamoto, Gyokuei Matsuura, Yorio Wakatake Aikido arrived in Hawaii with Koichi Tohei in 1953, its first expansion to the United States after the war.  One of the students that Koichi ...Continue reading »

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 1964 Aikido HiloSeptember 1964 Aikido Seminar at Andrews Gym in Hilo Hawaii
Second Row: Meyer Goo, left, seated next to Sadao Yoshioka
Front Row: Koichi Tohei, Yukiso Yamamoto, Gyokuei Matsuura, Yorio Wakatake

Aikido arrived in Hawaii with Koichi Tohei in 1953, its first expansion to the United States after the war.  One of the students that Koichi Tohei attracted in his trips to the Hawaiian islands was the young Meyer Goo.

After a period of rapid growth, spearheaded by Tohei in frequent trips from Japan, Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei arrived in 1961 to dedicate the Honolulu Aiki Dojo, the first Dojo outside of Japan built specifically for Aikido.

Koichi Tohei had warned Meyer Goo (who was something of a fighter) not to try and take ukemi for the Founder. Meyer, wanting to feel the Founder’s power for himself, ignored the warning and stepped up anyway – that story of Meyer’s experience with O-Sensei will appear in a future article.

Still actively teaching today in his 90’s after hip replacement surgery, Meyer Goo sensei became a seminal figure in the establishment of Aikido in the United States.

He helped to establish Aikido in New York before the New York Aikikai ever existed, along with Virginia Mayhew, Eddie Hagihara and Ralph Glanstein. Ralph, who would later teach at the Windward Aikido Club, decided to follow Meyer back to Hawaii in 1963, ten days after he told him “Hey kiddo, you oughtta come to Hawaii. We got great teachers there. We got all the good ones.”.

Later on, Meyer’s remarks to Bernie Lau (the first Haole to train in Aikido in Hawaii) would start Bernie, and subsequently Stan Pranin, down the road to an investigation of Sokaku Takeda and Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu (from “Aikido: Seattle Aikijujutsu Pioneer Bernie Lau“):

So Lau began collecting old photos. This led him to an exchange of letters and ideas with the San Diego-based martial arts instructor Fred Lovret. During the mid-1960s, Meyer Goo had mentioned a turn-of-the-century Japanese martial art teacher named Sokaku Takeda, who was whispered to have been a teacher of Morihei Ueshiba. The Aikikai downplayed this story, but it was persistent. So when Lovret said, “Oh yes, that story is true,” and then gave Lau an address for Takeda’s son Tokimune, Lau immediately wrote Takeda a letter. And, via the sneaky policeman’s trick of including a $50 bill in the envelope, he even got a detailed, helpful, response.

His research also led him to Don Angier, an aikijujutsu instructor from Long Beach, California, and to aikido researcher and journalist Stan Pranin. In 1985, Pranin met with Tokimune Takeda in Hokkaido, and there became convinced that there was a connection between aikido and Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. A few years later, Pranin spent several days visiting Lau at his house. After looking at Lau’s pictures of Sokaku Takeda and other turn-of-the-century aikijujutsu practitioners, Pranin said, “Can I get copies of these?” As a result, many of Lau’s pictures have appeared in Aikido Journal over the years.

In November 2012 Meyer Goo attended the Kona, Hawaii “Internal training, Aiki and Empowering Aikido” with Dan Harden that was hosted by Aiki Kai O Kona.

 Dan and Meyer
Meyer Goo and Dan Harden in Kona, Hawaii – November 2012

Here’s what he said to Dan at that workshop – “Thank you, I never thought that I would feel Ueshiba Sensei’s power again. What you are doing is very important. Don’t stop. No matter what they say.”.

When told that some people believe that the material covered at the workshops is unrelated to Aikido, Meyer Goo’s answer was short and to the point – “Who are these people, did they train with Ueshiba Sensei?”.

In December 2013 Goo sensei attended a second of Dan’s workshops, and also taught a short mini-class at the Kona workshop. Two reviews from the December 2013 workshops appear below, one from the Honolulu workshop and one from the Kona workshop. Enjoy!

Dan Harden and Jamie YugawaDan Harden and Jamie Yugawa in Kona Hawaii, December 2013

 “After all the investigation, all the technique doesn’t matter! Only if the feeling is right.”
John Coltrane

“A Chimpanzee  could learn what I do physically. But it goes way beyond that. When you play, you play life.”
Jaco Pastorius  

“Aiki: A Definition of Freedom”

A review of the December 2013 workshop “Internal training, Aiki and Empowering Aikido” with Dan Harden in Kona, Hawaii

by Jamie Yugawa – Hilo, Hawaii.

‘What is freedom?’ was the question I asked myself at the end of this weekend’s Kona seminar with Dan Harden. This was my 2nd seminar with Dan on the Big Island. My head was reeling from information overload and the weight of putting time into these solo exercises. We, the seminar’s participants, by signing up for the seminar are under a non-contractual obligation to delve deeper and burn this training into our core being. I can attest that we all will do our best to train this unorthodox means of self expression. I stood amongst many different martial artists this past weekend. Different affiliated Aikido school participants, Mixed Martial Artists, Judokas, and even non martial artists. What would bring all these people from different backgrounds and training methodologies together to train? My answer, plain and simple, is learning freedom.

Freedom is the ultimate goal for any artist. Remember the term ‘martial artist’?  ‘Martial’ as defined as ‘of or appropriate to war’ and ‘artist’ defined as ‘a person who practices or is skilled in an art’. Thus, a person who expresses themselves through physical movement in a martial fashion. How many of us actually fit this moniker? Or perhaps we fall into one category and do not fit the other. A beautiful movement flowing and such, with emphasis on harmonizing with another person devoid of martial content. Or a form of pugilism with intent to destroy the opponent at any means through predetermined forms. Of course these are just examples and may not fit every single martial art out there. The point I wanted to make was in all honestly the small group we had in Kona last weekend was learning from a true ‘martial artist’.

The man in question is without a doubt a martial artist. A person who can manifest complete spontaneous freedom of movement at the same time fit into any mold presented. The Aiki body or integrated body from years of tanren training were shown to fit Chinese martial arts, Aikido, Wrestling, MMA, BJJ and other examples. The years of dedicated training were being presented in a manner that left all of us in disbelief.  The effects on the body are very noticeable. The Aiki body feels like flexible steel. The is no slack in the body upon touch. There is no noticeable muscular strength or tension. Strong and compelling yet ghostly at the same time. Not overpowering yet an irresistible movement. From the moment of first contact, you realize that it is over. Instant kuzushi and you are on the floor or at the end of a very limb clinging on to dear life. This integrated body is a superior form of training without peer. The myth of the unbeatable, invulnerable warrior is a factual reality. It is also attainable by us mere mortals.

So what is the definition of this ‘freedom’ I am talking about? It is honestly expressing the human body without hindrance or limitations. By hindrance I mean when we train, we practice with a partner who engages us in an attack of some kind. A grab, hold, punch or something to initiate an attack. In the case of this seminar, every single attack was of no consequence. There was nothing any of us could do to be a threat to him at all. I will repeat that ….nothing. His movements were completely free, devoid of any conflict. He escaped easily from BJJ holds and then showed how to enhance them using correct internal power. Broke balance and attacked easily during push hands. Showed how the body could move more effectively during Aikido. The end results were quite devastating and effective. This is way beyond waza or technique. The integrated body enhanced each movement easily and effectively. There was absolutely no resistance of any kind on our end that we could show to counter the movements. We could not stop him at all in any manner possible. It was a humbling experience and highlighted the reality of the modern budo arts. Arm bars, Aikido techniques, judo moves were rendered null, then shown with great effect how the Aiki body enhances them.

The funny thing is that Dan is associated with Aikido. Aikido??? The image of Aikido often brings forth a preconception of a soft, cooperative martial art. This was not the case in the hands of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. He was known as a very tough budo man. A veteran of the Russo Japanese war who had killed in close combat. A seasoned martial artist. A very powerful, deadly martial artist. How did this gentleman become so powerful? Aiki. This term Aiki is such a loaded word. It has taken on many meanings and ideas. It brings forth images of harmony and peace. Some say its is a harmonization between you and your partner. In actuality, the meaning is simple. Harmonize the forces inside of you to free movement and connect the body. The term In and Yo also known as Yin and Yang are forces inside of you that are manipulated to create this body. The results are powerful and effective. This is what Aikido was and should be. ‘Modern Aikido’ is honestly just a shell of what Morihei Ueshiba’s vision of what a martial art should be. This is the missing piece that many of us have been searching for. One senior participant, a long time martial artist in his 90’s who felt O Sensei during his 1961 visit, declared this man to be the closest he has seen to O Sensei…..ever. I heard that with my own ears.

Dan Harden and Meyer GooDan Harden and Meyer Goo in Kona, Hawaii – December 2013

In essence, the Aiki – connected body is equivalent to high level jazz. A physical manifestation of saxophonist John Coltrane’s ‘Giant Steps’. The movement equivalent of the late virtuoso Jaco Pastorius’s interpretation of ‘Donna Lee’.  The integrated body breaks the limits of the human body and mind. By learning the rules and practicing, eventually one can throw away the rule book to express oneself honestly and free. There will be hours of practice and frustration but the end result is worth it. No matter what time change or key, the music is beautiful and exact. Another epiphany during the seminar was another meaning of freedom. When you strip away rank, status, money and organization all there is left is ability. Without these trappings impeding ability, your perceptions become unlimited and the path becomes clear. Ability is the only attribute of worth in the long run. In the end all there is a tough, lonely road with a beautiful sunset waiting for you on the other side. For myself and others who see the value this road is the only path. You just have to take the first step- which is the hardest.

One last thought.  For the naysayers and critics that don’t see the value in this- that’s alright. If you feel there is value in what you are doing and you feel you don’t need anything else, so be it. This road is not for everyone.  Every single one of us took a chance to see what this was all about, and we did it with an open mind. We all were rewarded with meeting a wonderful person and receiving a gift beyond value. Maybe you can’t see what we see. Or honestly….maybe you shouldn’t.


Dan Harden and Scott BurkeScott Burke loads up on Dan Harden at the Oahu Workshop

一点の気 (無) から陰陽の2つの気に分かれ, 陰陽の気は交流して万物を産み出すのである。

A spot of Ki (Nothing) is divided into two Kis – positive and negative. The dual Kis interact and give birth to all things in the universe.

     – Ueshiba Morihei, Traditional Aikido vol 5 p 36

(口伝) 胴 (腰)の動きは両足にあり、頭の動きは両手にあり。

The rotation of the hips determines the movement of both feet. The movement of the head determines the movement of both hands. 

     – Ueshiba Morihei, Traditional Aikido, vol 1 p49

(口伝) 腰 (胴)の動きは両足にあり、頭の動きは両手にあり。

The hips determine the movement of both feet. The head determines the movement of both hands.

     - Ueshiba Morihei, Traditional Aikido, vol 4 pp 118-119

Thoughts on the December Hawaii Internal Power Seminar and the future of Aikido

By Scott Burke – Fukuoka, Japan
(this review originally appeared on AikiWeb, and appears with the permission of Scott Burke)

I’ve had a few days to recover from the Jet lag, coach seating (oy my shoulders and knees!), and the shock of returning to cold Japan from sunny warm Kailua. (Oh cooing doves, how I miss thee). I handed out the omiyage to friends and co-workers, caught up on a few meetings at work, getting back in the groove of things. It’s also taken me this long to begin to collect my thoughts on the experience and the working model of IP and Aiki as taught at the seminar. Now a little personal background. For about, ohh just now 23 years or so I have been training in Aikido. For 19 of those years I have been an Iwama style guy. During that time I’ve devoted quite a large chunk of my life to the art, at one point I quit my job to become an uchi deshi with a high ranking instructor. I’ve turned down opportunites for promotion at work in order to keep up my training schedule at the old dojo. I’ve taken ukemi from a bunch of the big boys. I was once violently assaulted on the street and successfully defended myself against my attacker using solely Aikido (kokyu ho of all things, guy never saw it coming). And once, yes, I did walk four miles uphill in the snow just to get to the dojo. Well, maybe it was three and a half miles, but you get the point. I’m kind of an Iwamaniac.

So, now to the nitty gritty. Given all that, what did I think of the seminar and this whole IP deal? Well… as I’ve explained, I’ve been training for 23 years or so. I’m 41 now. So, for more than half of my life I’ve been doing this art and for just under half I’ve been in Iwama style exclusively.

Honest opinion: I learned more about Aikido this past weekend than I have in all of my 23 years of practice. Being given access to this training model is simply transcendental. There is no other way to say it, this is Takemusu Aikido. And, it DOES NOT negate that which I already know, it does not negate the legacy of Saito Sensei and my years in the Iwama tradition, in fact it illuminates all of it in such a way as to show us how we should be training. This is the power we’ve been seeking for years but could never achieve, no matter how hard we pushed ourselves in training or how much sciatic nerve crushing ukemi we took. IP is everything we got into Aikido for in the first place, it can be supremely soft and just stunningly devastating in the same moment. To put it another way, “This. F***ing. Rules!”

The Hawaii guys jokingly refer to their training location in the park as Area 51. An apt description, it seems to me. We’ve had the proverbial Aikido UFO up on blocks in a bunker for years. One Aikido lineage has the alien bodies in a tank at Hangar 18, another is making velcro and superconductors from the reverse engineered wreckage, and yet nobody knew what made that sucker fly. Well, IP is the reactor and now we can take that Aikido UFO out for a spin. Did I mention that I suck at metaphors?

So much of what we do in Aikido makes sense in light of traditional IP/Aiki training. So much so that it’s hard to pick a starting point. Well, I suppose we could start by reading our own text books. Saito Sensei’s Traditional Aikido series contains a plethora of information that pertains directly to IP, and yet I’ve never once, ONCE, heard a teacher explain it in as cogent a manner as was done in the seminar, much less talk about its existence. There is far more in those books than just the pictures and yet, that’s precisely how we’ve been using them. Step by step picture guides for gross physical movement. That’s a start, but the words, the real content… what do they mean, how does that drive what we do? This is bloody important! We’ve got a lot of work to do.

And it’s not just reading the English translation either. Some of that stuff, it seriously needs a second pass by a translator who knows not just the traditional IP terminology (Chris Li I’m looking at you! I mean surely we can do better than “Body Exercises and their Unlimited Ramifications” for 体術その無限の展開. It makes it sound like one’s chances of getting into a good school are ruined unless you meet the fitness requirement.) That’s just one thing, but here’s the quote that got me started on my whole “What is this IP noise and how does it jibe with what we’re told to do?” quest.

Here’s the English translation of a kuden, an orally bequeathed teaching mind you from O’Sensei himself, from Vol 1 of Traditional Aikido, describing Kamae for taijutsu and bukiwaza. “The rotation of the hips determines the movement of both feet. The movement of the head determines the movement of both hands.” Okay, I’ll follow you there, the first part sounds exactly like what we’ve been told how to train. Except that the Japanese text doesn’t say that. It doesn’t say rotate at all, it says movement, 動き . The movement of the hips determines the movement of the feet.

But wait, O’Sensei’s kuden uses the word Dou, 胴, the trunk, upper body, or torso. The movement of the trunk determines the movement of the feet. Hips, koshi, 腰 , is in parenthesis next to dou. So it should be taken as a qualifier for dou. (The second appearance of this kuden in Vol 4 of the series has a different translation and somehow koshi takes precedence and dou is now in parenthesis. I guess the kuden are kind of flexible, zing!). Now Japanese regional anatomical terms can be frustratingly indeterminate. Ashi can mean foot, or calf, or leg, there are separate kanji for these with the same pronunciation, and the Japanese will use them in print to differentiate between foot and leg. Orally, one can grasp the meaning from context, tone, or nuance in the voice. So to impart the nuance in print, we see the use of dou and koshi in parenthesis to indicate what section of the body moves the legs.

What is koshi? Well, that depends. Most westerners say hips and pat their pelvis to indicate their hips, so move your hips. Check, got it, we do that. (Funny side note about hips here in Japan, the English word hip is used to mean the buttocks, which can lead to all sorts of funny situations where everyone becomes embarrassed and giggles uncontrollably. Can’t open the door, put your hip into it, hilarity ensues. But I digress.) What about koshi as the Japanese commonly use it? I’ve gotten a lot of different answers from a lot of native Japanese. It could mean anything from the loins, to the pelvis, to the sacrum, to the waist. Just like ashi, things get fuzzy. So let’s find the overlap. Dou, trunk of the body, what part of the trunk? The koshi. And where does that overlap, in English? How about the waist? The movement of the legs is determined by the waist. What possible driver could there be for power at the waist?… And what of the head determining the movement of the hands? Why, it’s almost as if there would have to be, oh I don’t know, something attached to the head that could determine the movement of the hands? What could that be?… Sorry to be a tease but you’ll have to take a seminar to find out.

The clincher for me, that one moment that really made me go, “Yeah this is it!” was an answer to a nagging little question (actually kind of a BIG question) about Aikido training and efficacy, in just about every style or group I’ve trained with, Iwama included, that has always bugged the hell out of me. The age old newbie question in response to a technique against a grab. “Why not just let go?”

My learned response/answer over the years has always been, say it with me now, “Because you’re giving a serious attack.” I have held on so many, many times over the years as uke, well past the point where my hand would naturally open or when I’m in such a contorted position that holding on is ridiculous given that I could just let go and punch my partner. I’ve thought about this conundrum while holding on to Shihan mind you, (I could just let go right now but that’d be wrong) and I’ve even seen Shihan change out uke for ones who don’t let go during techniques. Check out Youtube, it’s all over the place.

The answer to “Why not just let go?” after the IP/Aiki seminar. “Well, I couldn’t.” All my grabs became attraction points, Yin and Yang (the 2 kis from the headliner quote) were made manifest and that’s all she wrote. My hands were glued to the instructor and I could not, for the life of me, get them off of him. And I tried. Never have I had that happen. Just, stuck to nage and then tossed like a pie in the oven. Now, go back and look at those photos, look at the waza O’Sensei is doing, look at the waza Saito is doing. Why can’t the uke let go? What are we doing? What do we need to do?

Well, metaphorically speaking, we’re going to have to smile wistfully at the old homestead and do some remodeling. Tear out the old wiring there in the wall, it’s a fire hazard. And the old land line’s gotta go, install some T3 cable up in there, that’s gonna cost ya. Got some asbestos up on the second floor, so you won’t be staying up there for, oh, a long while now. Plumbing’s gonna have to get ripped out, new marble countertops, mahogany rails get refurbished, chandelier’s a loss, strip out the lead paint, oh and you’ll need an exorcist because the closet is haunted. Let’s face it, with all of that and the roof work the place is going to be pretty darn unlivable for a while….BUT! But, after all of that. Your house is going to be in great shape. Comfortable to live in and everything you’ve always wanted. The envy of all your nosy neighbors, and a welcome place for friends, family, and strangers alike. Worthy of the name AIKIDO. It’ll take time, effort, patience. Pain. Intent. And humility. But all of that will be worth it. It is well past time to stop living in the shell of what this once great mansion has become. We’ve got to take command and restore this Noble House back to its glory days. The traditional methods of IP and Aiki development now openly available for the asking, is the way to do this. This work has been around for a long, long time and finally it is within reach. For more than half my life I’ve been seeking this.

To quote the great water engineer William Mulholland. “There it is. Take it!”


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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