Aikido Sangenkai Blog Honolulu, Hawaii - Oahu Wed, 22 Apr 2015 18:23:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Interview with Yoshio Sugino of Katori Shinto-ryu, 1961 Sat, 18 Apr 2015 15:24:59 +0000  Director Akira Kurosawa observes Yoshio Sugino and Toshiro Mifune on the set of “Yojimbo”, around 1961 Sometimes called “the Last Swordsman”, Yoshio Sugino (杉野嘉男 / 1904–1998) began his martial arts training in Kodokan Judo around 1918. Becoming dissatisfied with Judo he began to train in traditional Yoshin Koryu jujutsu. Around the same time, in 1927, he also began … Continue reading Interview with Yoshio Sugino of Katori Shinto-ryu, 1961 »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yoshio Sugino demonstrates Katori Shinto-ryuYoshio Sugino (杉野嘉男)

Interview with Yoshio Sugino of Katori Shinto-ryu, 1961

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

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

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

 逆抜きの太刀Gyaku Nuki no Tachi /  逆抜きの太刀

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torii no KamaeTorii no Kamae / 鳥居の構え

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

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

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

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

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

Katori ShrineKatori Jingu / 香取神宮

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katori Shinto-ryu's LineageKatori Shinto-ryu’s Lineage

Sugino Ko-tengu

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

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

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

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

Katori Shinto-ryu KataPart of a Kata in Katori-Shinto-ryu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katori Shinto-ryu TrainingKatori Shinto-ryu Training

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

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

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

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

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

Katori Shinto-ryu KodachiKatori Shinto-ryu Kodachi (short sword)

Modern Budo is Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Training in Katori Shinto-ryuTraining in Katori Shinto-ryu

Great Actors (名優) and Sword Saints (剣聖)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI


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

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Morihei Ueshiba at the Noma DojoAikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba at the Noma Dojo, around 1936

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

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

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

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

Aikido Memories (合気道の思い出)

4) Sensei’s Teachings

A – Kamae

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

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

B – Walking

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

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

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

C – Opening the Body

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

D – The Principle of Aiki and Kokyu-ryoku

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

E – The Distance for Live Swords

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

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

F – Move before Sen-no-sen

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

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

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

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

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

5) Sensei’s Extraordinary Skills

A – A contest with Sasaburo Takano and live swords

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

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

It was just like something out of a story book.

Field Marshal Shunroku HataField Marshal Shunroku Hata

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

B – Demonstrations

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

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

Tenryu SaburoThe Sumo wrestler Tenryu, around 1929

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

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

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

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

C – Sword Training

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

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

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

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

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

D – Kaya-no-miya-sama (賀陽宮様)

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

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

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

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

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

E – Suburi

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

F – Sharp Intuition

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

G – Techniques are Unnecessary

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

6) What I Liked About Learning Aikido

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

7) Aikido in the Old Days

A – The monthly tuition was 5 yen.

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

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

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

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

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

D – There were no ranks.

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

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

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

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

E – Names

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

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

With many thanks,

木村 果

Written on June 24, Showa year 12 (1987)

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

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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

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

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

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

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

Morihei Ueshiba in 1938Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba around 1938

Aikido Memories (合気道の思い出)

1) My Current State

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

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

2) Initiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3) The Face of the Deshi

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

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

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

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

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

Sadao ArakiRight wing theorist and general Sadao Araki

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

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

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

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

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

Admiral Eisuke YamamotoAdmiral Eisuke Yamamoto

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

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

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

B – My Brother Students

– Ishii-san (石井さん)

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

– Ito-san (伊藤さん)

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

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

– Shioda-san (塩田さん)

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

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

Kisshomaru Ueshiba with his fatherKisshomaru Ueshiba with his father, Morihei Ueshiba

– Kisshomaru-san (吉祥丸さん)

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

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

Saburo Wakuta / TenryuThe Sumo Wrestler Saburo Wakuta – Tenryu

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

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

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Aritoshi Murashige standing back right

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

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

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

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

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

From “Aikido Kaiso Ueshiba Morihei-den” (合気道開祖植芝盛平伝)
According to Kisshomaru Ueshiba,
after meeting Morihei Ueshiba Jigoro Kano said:

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

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

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

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

Right: nephew of Gonnohyoe Yamamoto*
Vice Admiral Eisuke Yamamoto

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

One day, I asked Mr. Ueshiba three questions.

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

This was Mr. Ueshiba’s answer:

“There is a definite method.”

“Can that method be learned by everybody?”

“It can.”

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

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

“Bullets from a gun will not touch me.”

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

“It was three people.” answered the student.

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

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

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

“What do you mean?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 2

O-Sensei’s eye sparkled with light

Q: Did you see the Founder in class?

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Kuroiwa Theory – created three days after beginning Aikido

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

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

Q: How did you come to this realization?

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

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

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

Q: You really realized that after three days?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Aikido is “Kuroiwa-ha”

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

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

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

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

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

Q: You swept his leg? (laughing)

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

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

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

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

Q: There was that kind of interchange?

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

Q: You saw that with your own eyes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gekkan Hiden January 2006

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI


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Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 1 Sun, 14 Dec 2014 17:40:45 +0000 The boxer – Yoshio Kuriowa (黒岩洋志雄), 1932-2010 Yoshio Kuroiwa Sensei was one of the most original and innovative students at the post-war Aikikai Hombu Dojo, often integrating movements from his extensive knowledge of boxing into his Aikido.  One of the strongest practitioners at the post-war Aikikai Hombu Dojo, his reputation led to an attempt by … Continue reading Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 1 »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Aikido Shihan Yoshio Kuroiwa – Part 1

The Exhilarating Feeling of a Punch

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

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

Q: It was that exhilarating? (laughing)

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Was that a from a right cross?

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

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

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

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

Is Aikido a cross between Karate and Judo?

Q: What was your reason for starting Aikido?

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

Q: (laughing)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Responses for Dojo Storming

Q: Who was in the dojo at that time?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: So part of you was also frightened?

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

Gekkan Hiden January 2006

To be continued in Part 2…

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI


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Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 2 Sat, 15 Nov 2014 19:54:28 +0000   Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei in 1961, directly before leaving for Hawaii Hiroshi Kato Sensei by the door next to Kisaburo Osawa Sensei Hiroshi Kato was born in Tokyo on March 24th 1935, and entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1954 at the age of 18. He was one of the early post-war Aikido students at Aikikai … Continue reading Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 2 »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 2

That feeling that I absorbed, that is my treasure.

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

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

Q: How does he appear?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Did you ever travel together?

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

Hiroshi Kato Sensei

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

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

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

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

Q: He was right there?

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

Hiroshi Kato Demo

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

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

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

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

Q: Is that because he met you so strongly?

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

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

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

Q: Do it comfortably….

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

Q: That’s difficult, isn’t it?

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

Q: What three things?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What was it?

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

Q: Showing the best thing….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Your ideal?

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

Q: What is your maximum effort?

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

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

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

Shinran Shonin
Shinran Shonin (1173-1263)

Q: Companions?

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

Q: Did you feel that with the Founder?

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

Gekkan Hiden April 2007

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 1 Sun, 02 Nov 2014 16:53:10 +0000 Hiroshi Kato Sensei (1935-2012) Hiroshi Kato was born in Tokyo on March 24th 1935, and entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1954 at the age of 18. In 1975 he formed an informal practice group at the Suginami Ward Koenji Gymnasium near his home, and in April 1987 he established the Suginami Aikikai (杉並合気会) dojo in the Suginami … Continue reading Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 1 »

The post Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 1 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

Kato HIroshi Sensei
Hiroshi Kato Sensei (1935-2012)

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

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

This is the first part of a two part interview with Hiroshi Kato that originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan.

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

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

Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 1

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

Q: What was your impression first meeting the Founder?

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

Q: It was that intense?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: Did you do any basic physical strength training?

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

Q: What kind of things did you do?

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

Q: What had the greatest influence on your Aikido?

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

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

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

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

The necessity for spiritual training.

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

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

Q: What was your mistake?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: A slump?

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

Q: Was it painful?

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

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

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

Q: Why did you do those kinds of things?

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

Q: Why did you believe that to be necessary?

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

Q: What changed as result of those practices?

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

Q: What do you feel is your ideal Aikido?

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

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

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

Q: When did you begin to change?

Prince Shotoku
Prince Shotoku – eighth century woodblock print

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

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

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

Q: Is that harmony an instantaneous thing?

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

Hiroshi Kato Sensei demonstrates morote-dori

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

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

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

Continued in Part 2…

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Interview with Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Kato – Part 1 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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

The post Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 2 – Aikido and World Peace appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

Ando Hiden
Tsuneo Ando in Gekkan Hiden Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 2 – Aikido and World Peace

Secret Kindergarten Stories, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Eyes Open to Technique

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even though Shioda Sensei passed away…

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

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

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

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

— Hearing those words, I was taken aback.

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

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

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

Yoshinkan Ryu Aikido
Inside Tsuneo Ando Sensei’s Dojo

About Harmony

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Industrialization of Aikido

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morihei Ueshiba on the Floating Bridge of Heaven
“When a human being repairs and consolidates the earth
one stands on the Floating Bridge of Heaven,
that is the beginning of everything”

Shurikosei (修理固成)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 17th 2007 – Yoshinkan Ryu Dojo

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 2 – Aikido and World Peace appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 1 – the Gozo Shioda that Nobody Knew Sat, 13 Sep 2014 20:53:22 +0000 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 Talking to Tsuneo Ando Part 1 – the Gozo Shioda that Nobody Knew »

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

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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