Aikido Sangenkai Blog Honolulu, Hawaii - Oahu 2016-05-03T20:14:02Z http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/feed/atom/ WordPress Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[Three Doka and the Aiki O-Kami]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=2297 2016-04-24T23:18:46Z 2016-04-24T23:17:42Z “The Secret Teachings of Budo (Poems)” – From “Budo Renshu” – 1933 The 1933 training manual “Budo Renshu”  (published in English under the name “Budo Training in Aikido“) was initially given to the students of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba as a kind of a teaching license. It was filled with illustrations depicting techniques (such as the … Continue reading Three Doka and the Aiki O-Kami »

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The Secret Teachings of Budo“The Secret Teachings of Budo (Poems)” – From “Budo Renshu” – 1933

The 1933 training manual “Budo Renshu”  (published in English under the name “Budo Training in Aikido“) was initially given to the students of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba as a kind of a teaching license.

It was filled with illustrations depicting techniques (such as the one above) taught at the Kobukan Dojo which were drawn by Takako Kunigoshi, a student at the Kobukan who began training shortly before her graduation from Japan Women’s Fine Arts University.

Takako Kunigoshi and Shigemi Yonekawa

Takako Kunigoshi and Shigemi Yonekawa

It is believed that the sections of text were assembled by Kenji Tomiki, under the direction of Morihei Ueshiba.

Among the text that precedes the technical portion of the manual is a section entitled “The Secret Teachings of Budo (Poems)” that contains many of the Doka (“Poems of the Way”) written by O-Sensei.

There is a similar collection in the 1938 technical manual “Budo”. A loose translation of “Budo” was published in English under the name “Budo: Teachings of the Founder of Aikido” by John Stevens. There is also a commentary by Morihiro Saito published under the name “Budo: Commentary on the 1938 Training Manual of Morihei Ueshiba“, but if memory serves that edition did not include the Doka.

Together, those two collections make up the bulk of the pre-war Doka that exist today. There are also a number of Doka that appear in the post-war works of Morihei Ueshiba such as “Takemusu Aiki” (a highly abridged version of which was published by John Stevens as “The Heart of Aikido: The Philosophy of Takemusu Aiki“).

The Doka are often quoted without context or explanation (for example, as they appear in John Stevens’ “The Art of Peace: Teachings of the Founder of Aikido“, or in various internet memes).

Why are they important?

Just like the man said – these are “The Secret Teachings of Budo (Poems)” – Morihei Ueshiba encoded many of the inner teachings of his art in these short poems.

Actually, it was/is a very common practice in China and Japan to preserve knowledge (particularly martial knowledge) in the form of poems or “songs” for future generations – and Morihei Ueshiba was no exception.

For example, here is one that was quoted by Morihei Ueshiba, who often stated that it contains the secret of Aikido:

来たれば即ち迎え、去れば即ち送り、
対すれば即ち和す。
五五の十
二八の十
一九の十
是を以て和すべし。
虚実を察し、陰伏を知り、
大は方処を絶ち、細は微塵に入る。
殺活機にあり、変化時に応ず。
事に臨んで心を動ずること莫(なかれ)や。

If it comes, then meet it, if it leaves, then send it away.
If it resists, than harmonize it.
5 and 5 are 10.
2 and 8 are 10.
1 and 9 are 10.
You should harmonize like this.
Intuit true and false, know what is hidden,
The large suppresses all, the small enters the microscopic.
There are chances for life and death, without reacting to changes.
Approach things without moving your heart (without being disturbed).

The above is a passage from a Chinese text on strategy that is more than 900 years old – for a more detailed discussion about that you may want to read “Kiichi Hogen and the Secret of Aikido“.

For some some other examples, let’s take a look at a few of Morihei Ueshiba’s classic Doka here, and then take a brief look at how he further encoded his training method for future generations.

Here is the first Doka…

Morihei Ueshiba Doka - Spirit of Great Love

Doka and calligraphy by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

主之御親至愛

之心大壺空

世の営み之本と

生りぬる

“The spirit of the great love of the divine parent Su-,

vast and limitless.

It is the origin of the workings of the world

“Su-” (主) has one of those layered meanings that the Founder was so fond of using. While it is sometimes translated as “Lord” (we’ll see a place where that happened later on in this article), according to Seiseki Abe, the Founder’s calligraphy teacher (the original of the calligraphy above belonged to Abe Sensei), it represents two things – “breath” and Amenominakanushi (天御中主).

Let’s start with Amenominakanushi – the “Diety at the Absolute Center of Heaven” – the Founder said that this diety represents you, yourself.

Amenominakanushi was the first Kami to come into being on the “High Plain of Heaven” (“Takamagahara” / 高天原).

Where is the High Plain of Heaven?

Here’s what Masahisa Goi had to say about it:

高天原がここにあるんですよ。みんなの体ですよ。

Takamagahara is right here. It’s everyone’s body.

Goi Sensei was a close friend of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. The Founder once said that Goi was the only person who truly “knew his heart”. He was also the inventor of the Peace Prayer.

But there’s more about that, the Founder himself was quite specific:

タカマガハラも自分にあるのであります。天や地をさがしてもタカマガハラはありません。それが自己のうちにあることを悟ることであります。

“Takamagahara is within yourself. If you search for Takamagahara you will not find it on Heaven or Earth. That is when you will become enlightened to the fact that it exists within yourself.”

Morihei Ueshiba

from “Aikido and the Structure of the Universe

Amenominakanushi manifests in a triumvirate with Takamimusubi (representing “Yang” or “Heaven”) and Kamimusubi (representing “Yin” or “Earth”).

In other words, “Heaven-Earth-Man”, a.k.a. the “Sangen” (“Three Origins”) in “Sangenkai“. Yin and Yang opposing forces matched inside the body, inside oneself.

Further, these forces are bound together by “great love”. Here’s how that works out:

  1. Love is “Ai” = 愛 or “A”+”i”.
  2. “A”+”i” = 天 + 意, or the “intent of Heaven”

The technical reading here is that Yin and Yang are manifested as opposing forces through intent,  and this is the source of the “workings of the world” – this is how things move, how things work.

Now, before somebody says “well, what about the love part?” – there’s a multilayered meaning here that makes everything work out!

  1. According to Morihei Ueshiba’s teacher Onisaburo Deguchi there is selfish (“bad”) love and unselfish (“good”) love, and the love of the Kami is unselfish (“good”) love.
  2. Kami is written “K+a” and “M+i”. In other words, “Kami” is “Ai”, which is both “love” (the good kind!) and “heavenly intent”.

So we see that when Morihei Ueshiba said “Aiki is the study of intent” (合気は魂の学びである) and when he said “Aiki is love” (合気は愛なり) that he was referring to intertwined concepts in a phrase with multi-layered imagery.

That crossover between “intent” and “love” is actually key concept for Morihei Ueshiba, but that’s deep enough in that direction for the time being. Moving back on track…here’s a note about Heaven-Earth-Man in the Chinese arts before we move on to fire and water:

Ten-Chi-Jin, Heaven-Earth-Man

Heaven-Earth-Man – from “Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan”

From this fundamental triad, many other triads can be developed to explain internal arts and internal training. Heaven’s energy (yang qi) flows downward and is received by Earth. Earth’s energy (yin) flows upward. The two interact and co-mingle in living things.

Tom Bisio: “What is an Internal Art?

Now, let’s get to the “breath” part – if you remember, that was the second element represented by Su-, according to Seiseki Abe.

“Su is the beginning of universal breath, movement and power.

The Spiritual Foundations of Aikido“, by William Gleason

Breath” is “Iki” – which is commonly written 息, but that the Founder said was composed of the characters for “water” and “fire” (水火). According to Seiseki Abe what is being referred to in this Doka is the breathing in which fire and water are concentrated and mixed in the tanden (丹田).

火・水(カ・ミ)の動きによって中心ができる。中心ができるから万物の生「イキ」がある。これが水火の恵みという。 

It is through the movement of Fire and Water (“Ka” + “Mi”) that the center is created. It is because the center is created that the life (“Iki”) of all things exists. This is called the blessing of Water and Fire (“Iki”).

Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

Oral transmission to Bansen Tanaka

As seen above, “Fire and water” were often spoken about as “Kami” by the Founder (adding more layers to the multilayered encodings that the Founder delighted in using). “Kami” also means “God”, and of course the Founder often spoke of the Shinto gods as well, which illustrates the importance of background knowledge when attempting to put the speeches and writings of the Founder in context.

Fire and water, by the way, didn’t originate with Morihei Ueshiba, they came from China – and from India before that. In China they are an integral part of the internal martial arts (as they were integral to Aikido for Morihei Ueshiba):

On the most basic level, internal martial arts and internal exercises focus on engaging with the two fundamental forces in the body, water and fire, the archetypal expressions of Heaven (yang) Earth (yin) which move within human beings. These forces have a relationship with the kidneys (water) and the heart (fire).

Tom Bisio: “What is an Internal Art?

There is a more detailed discussion of this internal process in Tom Bisio’s article “Daoist Meditation Lesson Seven Theory: Three Treasures and the Circulation of Water and Fire“. Also, there is more about Morihei Ueshiba’s thoughts on the matter in “Morihei Ueshiba and the Way of the Cross“.

In any case, now we can see that the original Doka refers to the basic Chinese cosmology of the world – Heaven and Earth, Water and Fire, Heaven-Earth-Man, and we see from the context provided that this cosmology is presented in the context of internal training, martial internal training.

Yin and Yang manifested as opposing forces through intent within one’s own body.

For reference, here is a translation of the same Doka translated by John Stevens, that appeared in “The Essence of Aikido: Spiritual Teachings of Morihei Ueshiba”:

SU, Exalted Father

with a heart of love

as vast as the sky–

it is the source of all that

functions in this world.

Actually, the differences in translation here are not that large, but perhaps you can see that it is difficult to divine the meaning represented by the Doka from a stand alone reading.

Moving on to the second Doka…

Morihei Ueshiba Doka - Structure of the World

Doka and calligraphy by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

「世の仕組國

の御親の命

もて勝速日立

つ天の浮き橋」

Take the life given to you by the divine parents

of the nation and the structure of the world,

and swiftly

stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven”

According to Seiseki Abe (the original of this calligraphy belonged to Abe Sensei as well), the “divine parents of the nation” are the three creator gods of the Kojiki that we saw in the first Doka – Amenominakanushi (representing “Man” – or oneself), Takamimusubi (representing “Yang” or “Heaven”) and Kamimusubi (representing “Yin” or “Earth”), the foundation of the “Aiki O-Kami” – the “Great Gods of Aiki” (along with the five generations of earthly deities / 地神五代 and the seven generations of heavenly deities / 神代七代).

Once again – the Heaven-Earth-Man model that we saw above.

This may be of interest to Aikido folks, since one of the definitions of Aikido given by the Founder in the first chapter of “Takemusu Aiki” is 「合気道は天地人和合の道と理なり。」 – “Aikido is the Way and Principle of harmonizing Heaven, Earth and Man.”

The mini-diagram of Heaven-Earth-Man that we see here was expressed by the Founder as the “Ame no Uki Hashi”, the “Floating Bridge of Heaven” (also mentioned above).

Here’s a fun fact – “Takemusu Aiki” is the largest and most reliable collection of the Founder’s lectures. The most common phrase in “Takemusu Aiki” is not “Takemusu Aiki”, not “Love”, not “Harmony”, not even “Aiki” – it’s “Ame no Uki Hashi”, which may tell you a bit about it’s importance as a model of Morihei Ueshiba’s method:

合気道はまず天の浮橋に立たなければならないと言われる。天の浮橋とは火と水の交流という。丁度十字の姿、火と水の調和のとれた世界である。つまり高御産巣日、神産巣日二神が、右に螺旋して舞い昇り、左に螺旋して舞い降り、この二つの流れの御振舞によって世界が出来たという。火と水でカミになり、このカミ(火と水)の根源は一元に帰るが、一元から霊魂の源、物質の根源が生まれる。

It is said that Aikido must first stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven. It is said that the Floating Bridge of Heaven is the exchange of Fire and Water. Precisely in the form of a cross, it is the world of Fire and Water in harmony. In other words, it is said the this world is created through the two actions of the twin gods Takami-Musubi and Kami-Musubi winding up in a spiral on the right and winding down in a spiral on the left. Fire (“Ka”) and Water (“mi”) become “Kami”, the source of this “Kami” (Fire and Water) returns to the one, but the one becomes the source of the physical and the spiritual.

Even those who trained with the Founder directly had a hard time dissecting this. A direct student of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei once expressed it to me this way:

The Founder told us that we would be unable to practice martial arts if we did not stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven. We were told that if we could not stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven then our training would not bring forth Aikido technique, so it was essential that we do so at all costs.

However, we didn’t understand anything about where this Floating Bridge of Heaven was. Since we didn’t understand where it was there was no way that we could stand on it, so the reality was that we just put on a good face and kept on applying techniques to each other.

I’ll leave a detailed discussion of the Floating Bridge of Heaven alone for now, except to say that he was essentially talking about the basic model of Yin-Yang (in-Yo) matched opposing forces. You can find out more about the Floating Bridge of Heaven in these articles:

So…the Doka above is describing the basic structure of Yin-Yang forces at work, the classical Chinese structure that moves from the structure of the world to the structure of the nation to the structure of the individual (the “life”).

Then, it instructs you to “stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven”, which as we saw above, the Founder stated as an absolute requirement for producing “Aiki”.

For the Founder, as in the classical Chinese model, the structure of the universe was linked and mirrored in the government and the individual.

Note that the Founder states above that this model is the source of both the physical and the spiritual..

In other words, the physical practice of Aiki is linked to, and inseparable from, both spiritual and cosmological Aiki.

For reference, here is the commonly published translation of the same Doka. This is the one that is part of a list edited by Seiseki Abe – but not translated by him:

“Build up the world”

This command he did grasp

Received from the honored mother of the nation

Thus stands Katsuhayabi

On the Floating Bridge of the Heavens

That there are some differences in translation ought to be immediately apparent. Note that this translation misses some of the references, making some of the implications quite different.

Moving on to the third Doka…

Morihei Ueshiba in Iwama next to one of his Doka

Stone monument at the Aiki Jinja in Iwama

The inscribed Doka is by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

calligraphy by Seiseki Abe

「美しき

この天地の御姿は

主の作りし

一家なりけり」

“So beautiful,

the form of this Heaven and Earth

created by Su-

to be a member of the one family”

As noted above, “Su-” is “breath”, composed of fire and water, which represents Amenominakanushi – whom the Founder identified as representing oneself.

In other words, the Founder is again talking about “Heaven-Earth-Man”, here as a method of internal training that creates a unification of opposing forces (Heaven and Earth, Yin and Yang) inside Man, inside oneself, and that this process is a path to creating better human beings – those who have the capability to form the world family.

So here we have a model for Morihei Ueshiba’s training in a nutshell – a technical method driven by internal training that crosses into personal development and refinement that drives a potential societal transformation. All of that makes sense in the light of the second Doka, which shows that all of the various systems are actually linked and inseparable.

For reference, here is a translation of the same Doka translated by John Stevens, that appeared in “The Essence of Aikido: Spiritual Teachings of Morihei Ueshiba”:

How beautiful,

this form of

heaven and earth—-

all created by the Lord,

we are members of one family. 

Once again, that there are some differences in translation ought to be immediately apparent. Note that “Su-” is translated here as “Lord” (if you recall, this was mentioned above). The translation is not incorrect because of that, but it does make determining the meaning of the Doka much more difficult.

Doka from the Aikido of Honolulu dojo

A version of the Iwama monument Doka

from the Aikido of Honolulu dojo

(originally the Hawaii Aiki Kwai dojo)

calligraphy by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

Moving on – here’s a photo of the Shomen at the Aikido of Honolulu dojo in Hawaii. Although now called Aikido of Honolulu, this is the original Hawaii Aiki Kwai dojo that was built in 1961. It was the first dojo in the United States to be built specifically for Aikido, and when the Founder came to dedicate the dojo it was the one and only time that he ever taught Aikido in the United States.

Shomen at the Aikido of Honolulu dojo

The Shomen at the Aikido of Honolulu dojo on Waialae Avenue

When O-Sensei came to Hawaii in 1961 he said:

“I have come to Hawaii in order to build a “silver bridge.” Until now, I have remained in Japan, building a “golden bridge” to unite Japan, but henceforward, I wish to build a bridge to bring the different countries of the world together through the harmony and love contained in Aikido. I think that Aiki, offspring of the martial arts, can unite the people of the world in harmony, in the true spirit of Budo, enveloping the world in unchanging love.”

There’s that bridge reference again – remember it, because it will come up again a little bit later.

Aikido of Honolulu calligraphy

Detail of the Aikido of Honolulu dojo scroll

As noted previously, the “Aiki O-Kami” (“Great Gods of Aiki”) in the center of this scroll are expressing the foundation formed by the three creator gods of the Kojiki – representing here the basic Yin-Yang model of paired opposing forces embodied in the Floating Bridge of Heaven mentioned above.

On the top left the kanji reads “Sarutahiko-O-Kami” – a monkey god (luckily, this is being written in the Year of the Monkey!), this god is particularly associated with Misogi, and was one of Morihei Ueshiba’s guardian deities.

The Founder often told Bansen Tanaka 「猿田彦大神の化身じゃ」 – “I am the incarnation of Sarutahiko-O-Kami”.

Further, in 1958 Morihei Ueshiba visited Tsubaki Grand Shrine and said:

“These are the basics of Aikido. Moves which unite the being with the great nature, all of them given by Sarutahiko-no-O-Kami.” He continued, “Aikido is misogi. Misogi of ourselves. Aikido is the way of misogi itself, the way to become Sarutahiko-no-O-Kami and stand on the Ame- no-Ukihashi (the bridge between heaven and earth). In other words, the skills of misogi are Aiki, the way of uniting heaven and earth, the way of world peace, the way of trying to perfect humanity, the way of the Kami, the way of the universe.

There’s that bridge again – which makes sense, since Sarutahiko-O-Kami is, classically – the guardian of the Floating Bridge of Heaven.

So….that’s a second reference to the Floating Bridge.

The kanji in the top right of the scroll reads “Ame-no-murakumo Kuki Samuhara Ryu-ō” ( 天の村雲九鬼さむはら竜王). This phrase, which Morihei Ueshiba stated contains “all the techniques of Aikido” contains quite a lot of information, but we’ll leave a detailed dissection for a later time.

In simple terms – the Founder stated that “Ame-no-murakumo Kuki Samuhara” represents the divine sword whose edges unite Heaven and Earth. In some places he would refer to this sword as 天地人合気の御剣 – “The Divine Sword of Heaven-Earth-Man Aiki”. Once again representing the basic Yin-Yang model of paired opposing forces embodied in the Floating Bridge of Heaven mentioned above.

The last “Ryu-ō” (“Dragon King”) section is important as well, pointing back to Sokaku Takeda, China and India – but we’ll leave that discussion for another time.

"Aiki" - calligraphy by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba“Aiki” – calligraphy by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

from the Aikido of Honolulu dojo (originally Hawaii Aiki Kwai)

If it sounds repetitive – it is. Morihei Ueshiba was so repetitive on the basic themes of his method that at times it seems hard to believe that we have had so much difficulty noticing the patterns….

So….three references to the Floating Bridge.

Last kanji – the set at the bottom left of the scroll reads “Takemusu Aiki”. Most people have heard of this one….

There’s a more detailed discussion of this phrase in “Aikido without Peace or Harmony” (and in some of the other articles), but here is the short version:

  1. “Aiki” was defined by Morihei Ueshiba as matched opposing forces (Yin-Yang forces) – 「合気というものは、初め円を描く。円を描くこと、つまり対象力。」 “In this thing called Aiki, first describe (draw) a circle. Drawing a circle is, in other words, opposing powers.“.
  2. “Takemusu” was defined by Morihei Ueshiba as the training of attractive force – 武産とは引力の錬磨であります。」 “Take Musu is the training of Attractive Force.
  3. According to Morihei Ueshiba, attractive force is generated when opposing forces are joined by Ki – 上にア下にオ声と対照で気を結び、そこに引力が発生するのである。」” Above the sound “A” and below the sound “O” – opposites connected with Ki, there Attractive Force (“Inryoku”) is created.. This is the “unification of opposites” that is so common in Chinese internal martial arts. An interesting note here is that the Founder actually used the phrase “unification of opposites” (陰陽合致) in the 1933 technical manual “Budo Renshu”. Takuma Hisa also used this phrase in “Kannagara no Budo – Daito-ryu Aiki Budo Hiden” (惟神の武道 : 大東流合気武道秘伝) in 1942, published after receiving Menkyo Kaiden in Daito-ryu from Sokaku Takeda.
  4. According to Kanemoto Sunadomari, Morihei Ueshiba’s biographer, “intent” makes “ki” work – giving us the same basic model that forms the Chinese internal harmonies – the basis of the Chinese internal martial arts: 心と意の合、意と気の合、気と力の合 – “Heart/mind leads intent, intent leads Ki, Ki leads strength/power”.

Kanemoto Sunadomari

“The connection of intent and the body is the beginning of Aiki.”

Kanemoto Sunadomari

So…more Yin and Yang (or perhaps, In and Yo, if we’re speaking Japanese) – the basic model represented by the Floating Bridge of Heaven. There is much, much more layered depth and meaning in the scroll, but one way of summarizing would be to say that it expresses Yin and Yang four ways. O-Sensei hammering the basic model of his method and training over and over – kind of a “cheat sheet” of the basic principles of the Silver Bridge that he brought to Hawaii.

Over the years I’ve made a habit of surveying people about this particular calligraphy whenever I stop by the Aikido of Honolulu dojo on Waialae Avenue.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I have found that very few people are able to even read the kanji of the scroll that they bow to at the beginning and end of each class. The scroll that they have bowed to (in some cases) for forty or fifty years.

It’s common for instructors from Aikikai Hombu Dojo to visit each year as well, from the junior instructors on their first trips abroad all the way up to Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu and Mitsuteru Ueshiba Waka-sensei (and Kisshomaru Ueshiba Doshu before them).

Of course, the Japanese instructors can generally read the kanji, but discussions with many of these instructors over the years have revealed that, in a reflection of the non-Japanese speakers mentioned above, the number who are able to discuss the meaning of the scroll in any depth is quite small.

I’ll end here with a few thoughts from Masatake Fujita Sensei concerning the importance of the Founder’s words:

I thought that if O-Sensei’s words were preserved than there might be somebody who would be able to follow after them.……..Even among those of high rank, those who don’t understand don’t understand. There are many people who are practicing Aikido today but have never even read a single book about O-Sensei.


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Three Doka and the Aiki O-Kami appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada – Speaking of The Founder]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=2256 2016-03-05T21:54:30Z 2016-03-05T21:33:43Z Hiroshi Tada Sensei in 2014 Aikikai 9th Dan Hiroshi Tada (多田宏) is one of the most influential instructors to come out of the post-war Tokyo Hombu dojo. Born in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan December 13th 1929, he began training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo on March 4th 1950. Tada Sensei has appeared on the Aikido Sangenkai blog, both … Continue reading Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada – Speaking of The Founder »

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Hiroshi Tada in 2014Hiroshi Tada Sensei in 2014

Aikikai 9th Dan Hiroshi Tada (多田宏) is one of the most influential instructors to come out of the post-war Tokyo Hombu dojo. Born in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan December 13th 1929, he began training at Aikikai Hombu Dojo on March 4th 1950.

Tada Sensei has appeared on the Aikido Sangenkai blog, both in “Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada: The Day I Entered Ueshiba Dojo“, and in the series of articles below:

“Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada: The Budo Body”
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

“Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada – the Yachimata Lecture”
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

This is the English translation of a short piece written by Tada Sensei that recounts some of his memories of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, it appeared in the Aikikai newspaper “Aikido Shimbun” in March 1998 (Heisei 10).

In October 1964 Tada Sensei was sent to Rome, Italy in order to help establish Aikido in Italy. He had been preceeded there by Professor Salvatore Mergè, who was mentioned by Tada Sensei in the article “Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada: The Budo Body, Part 6“.

The grave of Salvatore MergeThe grave of Salvatore Mergè

In 1942 Salvatore Mergè, a Japanese linguist and a member of the Italian diplomatic mission, became a student of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba – perhaps the first occidental to do so. After returning to Italy in 1946 he taught privately and then helped to establish the first Aikido classes in Italy, taught by the sculptor Haru Onoda in 1959.

Haru Onada in 1968Haru Onoda in 1968

Here is some of the story of how he met O-Sensei, re-told by Stephen Serpieri, one of his Japanese language students:

“He had heard much of the Master’s deeds and of this new martial art he created, Aikido, but had never had the opportunity to see any of its “embukai” (public demonstrations). Intrigued by the stories that were made ​​of this master and the reputation that had been created around him, he decided to go to his dojo and ask to be admitted as a student of Aikido. The house of Master Ueshiba and the attached dojo were far outside of Tokyo, and to get to the Italian embassy ​​where Professor Mergè worked took over an hour by train. One day, before going to work, he went to the home of the teacher, saying that he was a lover of Japanese tradition and would like to know O-Sensei. He was made ​​to wait in the atrium of the house for a time, but was eventually told to come back because the teacher was busy. He tried again at other times but the answer was always the same.  Finally, after several failed attempts, he was brought into the house to get an answer to his request for a meeting with Master Ueshiba. He was made ​​to sit in a room with an elderly gentleman who was reading a book and did not raise his head when he entered. After a short time the person reading stood up and, without a word, he left the room. … When the day came that he was able to speak to the teacher finally arrived he saw that he was the person that had refused to speak to him as he waited in the atrium. He was accepted as a student, which was quite extraordinary, as the Master had not wanted any new Aikido students during the period of the war, let alone a stranger! “

Marco Muccio, a close friend of one of Professor Mergè’s students, adds:

“The interesting thing is that the first Aikido training with Salvatore Mergè was held in Morihei Ueshiba’s home, with particularly exhausting exercises for the development of the Hara, and ukemi on pillows on the floor!”

Here’s a little more about Tada Sensei’s journey to Italy, from his essay “Founders of Aikikai d’Italia” (イタリア合気会を創った人々), published in the Aikikai’s “Aikido Tankyu” magazine:

One hears the words “the foreign expansion of Aikido”, but what I remember most are the bells and steam whistles that I heard at the pier in Yokohama and the farewell parties with O-Sensei at their center that surrounded my Sempai going abroad – Mochizuki, Tohei and Abe.

A postcard of the Tatsuta Maru - 1931A postcard of the Tatsuta Maru – 1931

Of course I can’t reach back that far, and those memories may have overlapped with memories of tapes of my father’s trip abroad on the Tatsuta Maru in the beginning of the Showa era, but in spite of that I had vague thoughts at the time that someday I too would be going abroad.

That became a reality in Showa 39 (1964).

At that time, those going abroad specifically to spread Aikido had to do three things:

  1. Go alone.
  2. Go with a one-way ticket.
  3. Go without money, receive no allowance from their family, do no other part time work.

Keeping faithful to to “Haisui no Jin” (Translator’s note: 背水の陣 – the “fighting with one’s back to the river” strategy made famous by General Han Xin in the Battle of Jingxing), with $250 in my breast pocket I left my home in Jiyugaoka just as the Tokyo Olympics were in their final stages. My tentative goal was Italy, and from there I would travel through South America and then return home. It was an incredibly uncertain plan, but those were my expectations at the time.

Motokage Kawamukai in 2011Motokage Kawamukai in 2011

The first person to make the existance of the thing known as Aikido in Italy was Tadashi Abe (阿部正), who was active in France. Next were the sculptor Haru Onoda (小野田はる) and Mr. Kawamukai (川向), who had traveled to Rome as a tourist.

When I arrived in Rome I was introduced to a club at the Administration of the State Monopoly Autonomy (“Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato”, the state monopoly on tobacco) which was run by Mr. Chierchini, and started training at that dojo. Six months later we had a demonstration at the National Police Academy, and then held a two month training session hosted by the Ministry of the Interior. This is how my Aikido life in Europe began.

The Italian Aikikai Hombu Dojo in RomeThe Italian Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Rome

Professor Mergè, who was a member of the Italian embassy during the war and entered Ueshiba Dojo, was in good health in Rome, and people who had heard him speak of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei at the school of Oriental languages at which he taught were quick to enroll. Through the introduction of one of these people, Mr. Serpieri, in later years we would be able to use one of the of the buildings designated as a national property as a dojo. It was surrounded in four directions by the ancient Roman aqueduct and castle wall, monuments, the military museum and the department of waterworks, and after nightfall it was a place where not a sound could be heard. This is now the Italian Aikikai Hombu dojo. I lived in one room at the bottom of the stairs there. The students called it “Sensei’s Grotto”.

Hiroshi Tada taking ukemi from Aikido Founder Morihei UeshibaHiroshi Tada taking ukemi from Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba
at the Ueshiba Dojo – 6th dan at the time

Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada – Speaking of The Founder

Sharp, warm, a spiritual master.

I became a student at Ueshiba Dojo on March 4th 1950 (Showa 25). I wrote about that day in “Aikido Tankyu issue 4“. When I first laid eyes on Morihei Ueshiba Sensei what made the strongest impression was that, towards a student like me, he took off his hat and introduced himself “I am Ueshiba” – that image and that voice, even now they remain deep in my memories.

At that time the morning and evening training at Ueshiba Dojo would have at most six or seven people, and the majority of those would be students from Waseda and Hitotsubashi universities, or members of the Nishikai and the Tempukai. Sensei would throw each one of them courteously and then everybody would practice. We students (門人 / “monjin”) would practice that technique with each other, and a little while after we started Sensei would say

“If you will permit me…”

Without thinking I would l look around, thinking that some important personage had come. However, the only people in the dojo were the baker Mr. Hata Kikuchi, who had started one day before I had, and us students. Sensei always used polite language like this during training.

That was likely because there were many royalty, army and navy generals, and people who represented Japan among Sensei’s students. However, that wasn’t the only reason – words are power. That politeness and the care that reached into every corner gave rise to a sense of refinement, and that was directly connected to the techniques of his Budo.

Hiroshi Tada at Ueshiba DojoThe young Hiroshi Tada during a demonstration at Aikikai Hombu Dojo

Sensei’s training was enveloped in a mysterious atmosphere. Even while moving to sharply suppress his opponents in an instant, he would somehow create a feeling of great warmth in the dojo. He would clearly adapt even to immature students like I was at the time, that kind of inspirational power was really incredible.

During one period I became aware of something mysterious. When I drew close to Sensei, my mind and body would feel as if they had somehow become transparent. When I was touched by Sensei that would become even clearer, it was as though the boundary between our bodies and minds had dissapeared. It was a powerful force that came from Sensei’s training in surpassing confrontation and we must have become caught up in it. That force was received in Ayabe in a direct heart to heart transmission (以心伝心) from Onisaburo Deguchi, who Sensei greatly respected, and I think that must have been further developed through Sensei’s own all-out efforts at training. When Sensei spoke of his own teachers, Sokaku Takeda Sensei and Onisaburo Deguchi Seishi, he spoke of them with real respect. Particularly when he spoke about Deguchi Seishi, he would call him “Seishi Sama”, using a double honorific title.

Morihei Ueshiba and Onisaburo DeguchiMorihei Ueshiba and Onisaburo Deguchi – around 1933

I was scolded severely by Sensei many times, but there were also times that I received undeserved praise. He often reprimanded me – “don’t manufacture”. By “manufacture” he meant when an Uke would take it upon themselves to take the appearance of being off balance even though they actually were not, releasing their grip or moving.

Hiroshi Tada taking ukemiHiroshi Tada taking ukemi for Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

Why were we told “don’t manufacture”? When one becomes used to the technique they perform it absent mindely, or they chase the technique intellectually instead going ahead straight forwardly with the feeling of a blank white sheet of paper. In other words “don’t manufacture” is the same as when we were scolded “you have an opening”.

One day I was training alone in the dojo when Sensei entered and spoke beside me.

“Tada-kun, you should become a professional. a body like yours is the best for Aiki.” – if I had heard those words from Sensei now how moved I would be. However, at the time I thought it was normal to enter a large company after leaving the university as my father and grandfather had and live a life of leisure, so I listened absent mindedly as if he were speaking of some far off place. When I thought about it later I realized that those words of encouragement had come from the warm feelings in Sensei’s heart for his students.

The last time that I laid eyes on Sensei was the day before I left for Europe in order to spread Aikido there, October 23rd of Showa year 39 (1964).

Sensei encouraged me “Oh really, that’s quite soon. Go and do your best.”

Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada in 2014Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada in 2014

When Sensei passed away in Showa year 44 (1969) I was in Europe. When we received the news at the dojo in Rome I was surrounded by a moment of wordless silence. In Italy there is a sympathy and kindness towards other people’s hearts. The picture of Sensei in the dojo was soon surrounded by flowers of mourning. The members of my group sat in front of it in silence for many hours.


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[Aikido and Me – Training with Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=2213 2016-02-07T15:36:41Z 2016-02-06T19:56:08Z Eiichi Kuroiwa (黒岩 暎一) teaching Aikido at the Rikuryo Aikikai (六稜合氣会) One of the articles that I have enjoyed reading the most was “Mr. Kimura’s Aikido Memories” (Part 1 | Part 2). Of course, the recollections of training with Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba in 1942 were fascinating, but much of what I appreciated about it was that it … Continue reading Aikido and Me – Training with Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba »

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Eiichi Kuroiwa teaching Aikido

Eiichi Kuroiwa (黒岩 暎一) teaching Aikido at the Rikuryo Aikikai (六稜合氣会)

One of the articles that I have enjoyed reading the most was “Mr. Kimura’s Aikido Memories” (Part 1 | Part 2). Of course, the recollections of training with Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba in 1942 were fascinating, but much of what I appreciated about it was that it presented the perspective of an ordinary person encountering the Founder.

Here is another account along those lines – an account of training with the Founder, this time in the 1960’s, from an ordinary person. This is a brief collection of memories of his time with O-Sensei by Eiichi Kuroiwa, who trained with Morihei Ueshiba in Osaka for five years from 1963 to 1968. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did!

Floating Bridge of Heaven“Floating Bridge of Heaven” (天の浮橋) calligraphy by Seiseki Abe

Aikido and Me – Training with the Founder

– by Eiichi Kuroiwa

My first encounter at Kitano High School and afterwards

(大阪府立北野高等学校 / Osaka Prefectural Kitano High School)

I’m certain that I remember being taught Aikido by (Seiseki) Abe Sensei when I was in my third year at Kitano High School.

Seiseki Abe with Morihei UeshibaSeiseki Abe, standing far left, with Morihei Ueshiba
Kumano Juku, 1954

I was told “It’s not strength, it’s Ki”, and I thought that was quite mysterious. The round ukemi, silent like a cat, and so different from the loud vigorous “bam” “bam” of Judo ukemi, was very interesting to me. The next thing that I knew I had been enchanted by Aikido. We trained enthusiastically, and when I look at pictures of that time there were some ten or twenty people training. There were also a number of women.

Kitano High School Aikido ClubKitano High School Gymnasium (Judo Dojo) around Showa 37 (1962)

  1. Seiseki Abe Sensei (阿部 醒石)
  2. Houun Abe Sensei (阿部 豊雲 / son of Seiseki Abe)
  3. Osamu Kuri (久利 修)
  4. Katsuhiko Tatsumi (辰巳 勝彦)
  5. Eiichi Kuroiwa (黒岩 暎一)
  6. Masakazu Asano (浅野 昌和)
  7. Masanori Nose (能勢 正則)
  8. Kiyomi Yagi (八木 汐美)
  9. Mieko Yoshimura (Nakamura) (吉村(中村) 美恵子)

My classmate Mr. Katsuhiko Tatsumi from this period continued Aikido after high school, and opened his own dojo while working as a physician.

Aikido Hakutaikan - Katsuhiko TatsumiAikido Hakutaikan (合氣道白太館) – Katsuhiko Tatsumi Kancho

I had been under the impression that it was the Aikido Club, but when I look at the roster of the club it seems that this was before the formal establishment of the Aikido Club. Even so, I believe that the activity was formally acknowledged by the school. The reason that I can say that is that I remember performing in the “first demonstration” as one of the individual club activities at the school’s culture festival.

Since Abe Sensei built a dojo in his house, after I started college in Osaka I often went to his dojo in Suita.

Amenotakemusujuku Aikido DojoAmenotakemusujuku Aikido Dojo (天之武産塾合気道道場) in Suita City

It was at this dojo in Suita City that I met Ueshiba Sensei. The presence of his appearance, the aura that he emitted, made a deep impact on me. Fortunately, at the time there were only beginners throughout the dojo, so I was able to receive instruction directly from Abe Sensei and Ueshiba Sensei. Once I became an adult I was chased by work and life, so I was not able to have much contact with Aikido. For exercise I wasn’t able to do more than some jogging when work allowed, but fortunately I was blessed with a healthy life.

After passing my sixtieth birthday I realized again the importance of one’s health. I thought about trying to do Aikido once more, but I had been apart from it for so many decades that I gave up that thought for a time. However, I thought it over and decided that I might just have enough time to start again, so I visited the Ofuna Aikido Kyokai / 大船合気道協会 (Shihan: Satoshi Takeda / 武田聡, 7th dan Aikikai) near my home (Kamakura-shi), and started again in August of 2008.

Satoshi Ikeda ShihanSatoshi Takeda (武田聡)

At that time Takeda Shihan said to me “I started Aikido after Ueshiba Kaiso passed away. There is hardly anyone left who received instruction from the Founder. Now that is an incredibly valuable experience. I’m envious.”, and I realized once again what an incredible experience I had been allowed.

Thanks to my training at Abe Sensei’s dojo in Suita City and with gratitude to O-Sensei, I received a shikishi (“colored paper” – a calligaphy paper). This precious shikishi has accumulated wrinkles and mold as it has passed through many long years, and I feel an unforgivable sense of wastefulness. Like the shikishi, if I were to keep the things that the Founder taught me to myself they would dissappear at some point in the future.

Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to collect as much of what O-Sensei taught to me as possible. Memories of the deep gratitude accorded to the Founder by Abe Sensei to the instructor who taught him so thoroughly left a strong impression on me.

However, since I was a beginner at the time I think that there may have been things that were beyond my understanding, or that I have recalled incorrectly. I would be grateful if those reading this could help me to correct those errors.

I have paid particular attention to presenting the personage of O-Sensei that I saw and heard with my own eyes and ears and to presenting the instruction given to the beginners at the dojo.

Kikon - by Morihei Ueshiba, 1967

Shikishi (calligraphy card) received from O-Sensei in Showa 42 (1967)
氣魂 / “Kikon” / “Spirit” in the center, meaning the “ki” of the yo (yang)
“soul”, the soul associated with the intellect in other words, “intent”.
武神 / “Bushin” / “God of War” bottom right.
合気道は魂の学びである。 – “Aikido is the study of intent.”
– Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

Things taught to me by O-Sensei

(the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba)

Morihei Ueshiba was born on December 14th 1883 in Tanabe City in Wakayama Prefecture. He passed away on April 26th 1969 (Showa 44). He was eighty-six years old at the time.

  • Period of Instruction: 1963 (Showa 38) – March 1968 (Showa 43), for five years prior to his passing.
  • Location: the Osaka dojo (Abe Shihan) – Ame-no-Takemusu Aiki Juku (天之武産合気塾), opened in Showa 38 (1963). The dojo name was given by O-Sensei. Also in the Osaka area were the dojo opened by Bansen Tanaka (Chairman of the Osaka Aikikai, passed away in 1988) in Showa 27 (1952) and the dojo opened by Michio Hikitsuchi in Showa 29 (1954) in Shingu City, Wakayama Prefecture.
  • The setting for O-Sensei’s visits:
    • He would visit and stay in Osaka and Wakayama in order to spread Aikido (I have heard that he would stay at Hikitsuchi Dojo for periods of a month at a time).
    • Omoto-kyo: he would stay when he went to visit at Kameoka and Ayabe in Kyoto.
    • Abe Shihan constructed a dojo adjacent to his home. Also, he constructed a new room in his home in to receive O-Sensei (it seems that he thought of Hikitsuchi Shihan and Abe Shihan in a special way. In later years both shihan received tenth dan certificates.).
  • During his stay: He would accompanied by an uchi-deshi. We would receive direct instruction.
    • He would always be accompanied by an attendant or an uchi-deshi.
    • He would stary for a period of about one week to ten days.

Aikido instruction in the dojo

During the period of his stay O-Sensei would give direct instruction in the dojo. If O-Sensei had another engagement then there would be instruction from the uchi-deshi.

The uchi-deshi were overwhelmingly strong, and their instruction was something severe. The Osaka dojo had just been constructed and there were only beginners, but thanks to the strict training from the uchi-deshi I think that everybody was able to improve.

The uchi-deshi who seemed so incredible to our eyes would be handled like a child by O-Sensei, and we were once again able to see O-Sensei’s amazing strength with our own eyes.

Lectures in the dojo

Many people would come to visit when they heard that O-Sensei was staying in Osaka (they would just show up on their own).

“I want to get a look at the famous O-Sensei”, “I want to hear stories of his training” – people came with for a variety of reasons. One could tell at a glance that the people gathering all around were not ordinary people. I would listen to them chatting to each other before O-Sensei’s lectures began – there were Yamabushi (ascetic mountain hermits) from Nachi (Wakayama), budo-ka of considerable strength, religious figures and more.

O-Sensei knew that those kinds of people would show usually show up on their own, so in the evenings after training he would give lectures to the people who had gathered.

Lecture Content: details of O-Sensei’s shugyo period, the world of the Kojiki, training, etc. However, it was extremely high level for the beginners and young people like myself, very difficult to understand.

O-tomo: I acted as an o-tomo (attendant) for O-Sensei on two occasions.

I accompanied him to the Omoto-kyo compound (Kameoka). Then I accompanied him from the Omoto-kyo compound (Kameoka) back to the dojo in Suita.

The person who was originally scheduled to go had a scheduling conflict, and I was suddenly asked to take their place. Along the way we had many conversations. I met many people and had many experiences.

  • The people weren’t ordinary in appearance, when I look back they were all people following a path.
  • When they saw O-Sensei they would press their hands together and bow to him without thinking.
  • O-Sensei was of advanced years, so climbing places like the stairs in the train stations was difficult. (I would push him up from behind)
  •  Just by acting as O-Sensei’s o-tomo I became stronger. When I trained after being an o-tomo I was told “You’re projecting a lot of Ki, you’re different than you usually are. What happened?”. (Abe Sensei taught me “The Ki emitted by O-Sensei is transferred. It happens to everybody.”)
  • One of my classmates, Masakazu Asano, also acted as an o-tomo, and reported that he had the same experience.
  • Unfortunately, after a week I would return to normal.

Training Trips: we travelled with introductions to Hombu Dojo, the Aiki Jinja and Kumamoto.

  • I was able to be taught by Kisshomaru Hombu Dojo-cho, Saito Shihan (Aiki Jinja Dojo) and Sunadomari Shihan (Kumamoto).
  • While on the training trips I realized that Abe Sensei’s “Go along with the flow of Ki (“Ki no nagare”)” was something special. Each dojo had it’s own particular characteristics, and I realized that everywhere was not uniform.
  • Saito Shihan commented “You’re soft, as one would expect, since you’re being taught by Abe Sensei”.

The O-Sensei that I saw and heard with my own eyes and ears

O-Sensei’s appearance, daily and during training:

  •  A 153 centimeter (5′ 1/4″) older man. However, one could see at a glance that he didn’t have the appearance or look of an ordinary person.
  • In any case, his piercing gaze was incredible, his aura was really incredible.
  • When going out with him as an o-tomo people passing by would turn and look back. (some people would press their hands together and bow to him)
  • He was a person for whom every day, the totality of his life, was conditioning (“tanren”).

The piercing gaze: everyday (yellow light), during training (white light). His everyday eyes and his eyes during training were different people’s eyes.

Dragon eyes (“ryugan” / 竜眼): a blue ring (his wife Hatsu also had the same dragon eyes)

Voice: It reverberated clearly. His Kiai was really incredible.

Dress: Haori, hakama, tabi, geta. He would always wear tabi during training. His belt was always fastened tightly. There was not a fingernail’s width between it and his body. (His attire was suitable for any time or for meeting any person.)

Stairs: It was difficult for him to climb the stairs himself at the train station (I would support him from behind and push on his hips. I was taught that this was Ki conditioning.) . He seemed like a different person than during training.

Shiatsu: He was happy when I gave him shiatsu on his back. It felt like pushing on an iron slab with my fingers. My fingers would bend back and forth. It wasn’t the back of a normal person. (I was taught that this was Ki conditioning.)

Bokken: He would always bring one. Perhaps it was handmade? Red oak (赤い樫)? (It was the color of a person while drinking alcohol.) His bokken would shine. He used it when he demonstrated or trained.

Jo: He would always bring one. He only used it for demonstrations or training about three times.

Spear: He didn’t bring one, but most of his lectures were about the spear.

Every morning: Cold water ablutions, and then chanting of Norito (祝詞 / Shinto prayers). After that, training, receiving guests, calligraphy.

Meals: Vegetarian. brown rice.

Training: Starting with Funa-kogi and Furi-tama. Oriented towards beginners. The uchi-deshi would take ukemi. Sometimes he would give demonstrations (bokken, jo, multiple attackers, Reppaku no Kiai)

Translator’s Note: “Reppaku no Kiai” (裂帛の気合), “ei”, the shout that cuts away barriers or impurities, and unites opposites.

8 millimeter film: When one saw him he moved slowly, as if he were dancing. The projected films seem as if they are time lapsed.

Hands: When he touched you it felt as if it were the hands of the Kami. It was a mysterious sensation.

O-Sensei’s Lectures

Many people (budo-ka and others) would hear rumors of O-Sensei’s stay and begin to gather. Although nobody had notified them, they would just show up on their own (they couldn’t be turned away). Mostly, he would speak to the people who had gathered after training had finished – “A lot of people are here, what would you like to do?” “They must want to listen to this old man again…”.

Also, during his stay he would talk to the young people – “I enjoy speaking to young people.”. He’d speak about his early life, his training, Omoto-kyo, the Kojiki, enlightenment, comments to society, etc.

Lectures that made an impression

O-Sensei really spoke about a lot of things. Unfortunately, I was a beginner and many things were beyond my understanding. Even so, I remember a few lectures that reflected the essence of Aikido.

Masakatsu Agatsu KatsuhayabiMasakatsu Agatsu Katsuhayabi (正勝吾勝勝速日)
Calligraphy by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

The Secret of Aikido: “The secret of Aiki is Masakatsu Agatsu Katsuhayabi” (合気の極意は、正勝吾勝勝速日なり)

  • Masakatsu (正勝): The person with the correct spirit will be victorious (正しい心の人が勝つ)
  • Agatsu (吾勝): If one can be victorious over themselves then they can also be victorious over others (自分に勝てれば他人にも勝てる)
  • Katsuhayabi (勝速日): Victory with the speed of light (speed, do not be lazy) (日の速さに勝つ (スピード、怠けない)

Aikido conditioning: Why do we do Aiki?

gan-sa-tan-rikiCalligraphy by Seiseki Abe – Gan-Sa-Tan-Riki
眼(がん)、作(さ)、胆(たん)、力(りき)

“Aiki is something for conditioning human beings. It is Gan Sa Tan Riki (眼作胆力)”

  • Riki (力): No matter how much one trains their physical strength there is a limit, they cannot fight oppose one who has trained their “Tanryoku” / 胆力 (“Ki”).
  • Sa (作): Even if one trains their physical strength, they will be thrown easily by one who trains their technique (“Sa” / 作 – “waza”). (However, technique must have contact with the opponent.)
  • Tan (胆): A person who trains their Ki, trains their strength, and masters technique (“Sa”) can throw independently from the opponent. “It’s water and fire (“Iki”)!” (水火(いき)じゃよ。)
  • Gan (眼): However, however much one trains their strength, masters technique, or trains their Ki, they will be thrown at a single glace by one who was trained their eyes (眼). “I immobilize an opponent with my eyes.”

Translator’s note: Tokimune Takeda’s personal notes of his training with his father Sokaku Takeda make several mentions of the importance of training the eyes.

“Aikido is something for training human beings.”

Training partners: “I don’t use human beings for partners, the universe is my partner. It’s not a battle, I train to become one with the universe.”

Kojiki: All of the secrets of Aikido appear in the Kojiki. The Kojiki points to many truths through things such as the names of the Kami. These are different from the names of the gods in the West.

The secret of Aikido: Masakatsu-Agatsu Katsu-Hayabi-Ame-no-Oshi-Ho-Mimi-no-mikoto. (正勝吾勝勝速日天之忍穂耳命) Translator’s note: The child of Susanoo and Amaterasu, who would become the ancestor of the Japanese imperial line.

Takemikazuchi-no-kamiTakemikazuchi-no-kami subduing the earthquake (the catfish)
Woodblock print from 1855

The application of Aikido technique: Takemikazuchi-no-kami (建御雷神)

“When one takes this hand it is as if it is covered in ice, then covered with the blade of a sword.” – Meaning that when Takemikazuchi-no-kami puts Ki into the hand, it is as if it is covered with ice, then it becomes like the blade of a sword.

“When one takes the opponent’s hand, grasp and break them (crush them) like taking a reed, then throw them away… “ – Meaning to put Ki into one’s hand when they grasp the hand of the opponent (Yonkyo), and then throw them away.

Translator’s note: Takemikazuchi, also known as “Kashima-no-kami” was a god of swords and thunder that was said to have participated in the first recorded Sumo match in the Kojiki. Interestingly, Sokaku Takeda cited this match as the origin of Daito-ryu Aiki:

Aiki is said to have originated in the ancient art of tegoi, which is mentioned in an ancient Japanese myth about two gods, Takemikazuchi no Kami and Takeminakata no Kami. Recorded in Japan’s oldest written document, the Kojiki, (Records of Ancient Matters, compiled around 712 AD), this story recounts how Takemikazuchi no Kami took the hands of Takeminakata no Kami and “as if he had taken hold of a reed, squeezed his hands and threw him.”

Tajikara-o no Mikoto (太力男命): Open the stone door of heaven (incredible power)

Everybody posseses great strength: Like Kajiba no Kuso Djikara (“Burning Inner Strength” / 火事場のクソ力) – latent power that emerges during a great dilemma. This isn’t normally available. To condition oneself so that it is normally available is Aikido.

Burning Inner Strength“Burning Inner Strength” – from the Manga “Kinnikuman” (キン肉マン)

In his youth nobody could best him in contests of strength. In the sea at the edge of the rice fields of his home town there was a foreign ship that came and caught a whale. That ship came to shore to get refresh their supply of water. They loaded barrels of water into sculling boats (伝馬船) and took them out to the ships anchored at sea. He would lift up the barrels easily and pass them up to the sailors, but they were surprised at the weight and had to use a crane to receive them.

He learned Budo from the Daito-ryu instructor Sokaku Takeda (he’d be told how much to pay for each technique, and used up quite a bit of money), and at the time that he had become an exceptional budo-ka he encountered Onisaburo Deguchi and entered Omoto-kyo. Then Onisaburo Deguchi drew out his true strength.

Morihei Ueshiba and Onisaburo DeguchiMorihei Ueshiba and Onisaburo Deguchi, around 1933

The two miracles of Omoto-kyo

Everyone was out in the garden, when Onisaburo Deguchi suddenly spoke to him:

“Ueshiba-san, Ueshiba-san, you can uproot that pine tree.”
“Ueshiba-san, Ueshiba-san, you can lift up that large stone.”

“At the moment that he spoke to me my body became bright red and incredible strength welled forth. Then I uprooted the pine tree and lifted the large stone.”

  • Onisaburo Deguchi was able to see the strength that he had been unaware of.
  • It’s not that he believed in Omoto-kyo, but because he felt an obligation he continued to attend their ceremonies even until that time.

“The strength of Aiki is an incredible power, like the gravity of the Earth. It exists naturally. Just lifting a bucket of water is difficult. The earth supports the water of the vast oceans. Where does that power come from? It is in the center of the Earth. What is in the center of the earth? There is nothing material there. Gravity is created from a place where there is nothing. Actually, it isn’t nothing, it’s something (“nothingness is substance” / 無即有). This power that is like gravity is the Ki of Aiki.”

Teaching Beginners

We beginners were taught Ikkyo, Nikyo, Sankyo, Yonkyo, Shiho-nage, Irimi-nage, Tenchi-nage, Kote-gaeshi, Ushiro-dori, Kokyu-nage and other basic forms. Additionally, the following instruction left a deep impression – immovable posture…hanmi with ma-ai, immovable like a boulder. Then respond to the partner’s movement.

How to Put in Ki

If one is conscious of the flow of Ki then it will flow. When Ki flows the arm becomes unbendable without putting in strength. The opponent will move in accordance with the flow of Ki from one’s fingertips.

  • Bend in the direction of the bend. Aikido does not bend the joint backwards.
  • There is no kicking.
  • Match without fighting.
  • Condition oneself daily. There is training and there is refining.
  • What would you do if you were thrown on concrete? (ukemi that makes a loud noise is no good)
  • Kana-shibari no Jutsu (金縛りの術) – spirit binding techniques.
  • This is a Budo of the spear (point) rather than the sword (line)
  • Don’t leave the other hand behind.
  • Harmonize with Heaven and Earth, practice with the intent of harmonizing with the Universe.
  • Funakogi (Ki training: e/ho and e/sa), Furitama (achieve Mushin)

A Close Friend Becomes an Uchi-Deshi

They came from the Shingu Dojo to Osaka on training trips. Since we were of similar ages we would train together. Then they became an uchi-deshi. About six months later they came to the Osaka Dojo as an o-tomo to O-Sensei, where we met again and trained together.

They had become incredibly strong.

“How much time do the uchi-deshi spend training?”

“Apart from the regular clases, we train with Doshu and the other uchi-deshi everyday. However, just for about 15 minutes at a time. It’s not a kind of training that one can do for longer than that.”

“What kind of training is only for 15 minutes?”

“It’s hard to put into words.”

“You’ve gotten incredibly strong, I was really surprised.”

“…I’m surprised to hear that. This is the first time since I’ve been an uchi-deshi that I trained with someone from outside. I had a vague feeling that I was different than I was before. I’m happy to hear that I’ve gotten stronger.”

Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei: I received instruction from him on a training trip to Aikikai Hombu Dojo. When my wrist was taken by Kisshomaru Waka Sensei I couldn’t move my body.

Bushin - Morihei Ueshiba“Bushin” (武神) – “God of War”
Calligraphy by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

O-Sensei and Calligraphy: He would write continuously from start to finish – “I want to communicate through the calligraphy.”

When I was promoted to san-dan I received the shikishi from him – “In thanks for your hard work when you attended me in Kameoka.”

Conclusion

During the time that I received instruction from O-Sensei I was a student majoring in electrical engineering. In a normal way of thinking Aikido and electrical engineering are unrelated and very far apart. Partially because of that my student friends of the time would often question me.

“You do Aikido enthusiastically, what’s the difference between Aikido and Judo?”

When I answered them in the following way they were able to understand:

“Judo is the world of Newtonian physics. In contrast, Aikido is the world of quantum mechanics. “

Judo

  • Founder: Jigoro Kano (嘉納治五郎)
  • Scientific
  • Philosophical
  • “Softness overcomes hardness”
  • Use the opponent’s strength
  • Train your strength
  • Make contact with the opponent and apply technique
  • Can be seen with the eyes
  • Can be understood with the mind
  • Newtonian physics

Aikido

  • Founder: Morihei Ueshiba (植芝盛平)
  • Mysterious
  • Religious
  • Harmonize with the opponent
  • Harmonize Ki
  • Draw forth Ki (that one already posseses)
  • Apply technique independently from the opponent (Ki)
  • Cannot be seen with the eyes
  • Cannot be understood with the mind
  • Quantum mechanics

Eiichi Kuroiwa - Aikido Lecture


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Aikido and Me – Training with Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 4]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=2178 2016-01-10T00:46:48Z 2016-01-10T00:46:48Z Yukiyoshi Sagawa and Kimura Tatsuo on the cover of Aiki News 117 – the Yukiyoshi Sagawa memorial issue I also applied techniques to Mr. Pranin when he was collecting materials for a memorial issue on Sagawa Shihan for Aiki News 117. His impression at the time was, “When I tested the small, stubborn 50-year-old Kimura … Continue reading Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 4 »

The post Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 4 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Aiki News 117Yukiyoshi Sagawa and Kimura Tatsuo
on the cover of Aiki News 117 – the Yukiyoshi Sagawa memorial issue

I also applied techniques to Mr. Pranin when he was collecting materials for a memorial issue on Sagawa Shihan for Aiki News 117. His impression at the time was, “When I tested the small, stubborn 50-year-old Kimura Sensei, I was completely controlled by him. I attempted to grab Sensei’s arm many times while seated, but I couldn’t grab him strongly. My power of resistance was neutralized by the use of Sensei’s stance and internal energy. While I was being thrown backward repeatedly I couldn’t tell when the technique was beginning or ending. The energy released from his center was gushing out of his arms. Kimura Sensei clearly demonstrated to us the world of energy that exceeds the physical dimension. This energy did not affect the state of the body and I thought that it was possible to execute highly effective techniques that went beyond the bounds of simple techniques.”

However, then it seems that Mr. Pranin thought that this was merely some form of energy and, given my level at that time, he was not persuaded. On his third visit, he said for the first time that he was truly convinced of Sagawa Sensei’s Aiki.

– Tatsuo Kimura
  Discovering Aiki My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei

Yukiyoshi Sagawa was one of the longest students of Daito-ryu Chuku-no-so Sokaku Takeda, who was also the teacher of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Not only was he was asked to become the Soke of Daito-ryu by the Takeda family (he eventually refused), but at one time, around 1956, an agreement was made for Sagawa to become an instructor at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo (this, also, he refused eventually).

Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s younger brother and favorite sibling, Hiroshi Sagawa (佐川廣), was born in Shimo-yubetsu Hokkaido in 1909 (Meiji Year 42) into a family in which both his father and his elder brother trained extensively with Sokaku Takeda.

Tatsuo Kimura (木村達雄) is one of three of Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan’s students to have completed the 10th Gen level of techniques (the techniques in Sagawa Dojo that Sagawa Sensei learned from Sokaku Takeda were organized into ten levels, or “Gen” / 元).

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

This is the fourth and final section of the English translation of an interview conducted in Japanese by Kuni Azumi (安積 邦) with Hiroshi Sagawa and Tatsuo Kimura that previously appeared in the popular martial arts magazine Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”) in 2001. You may wish to read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 before reading this section.

You may also be interested in another interview with Kimura Sensei that appeared on the Aikido Sangenkai blog previously – “Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura, Part 1 and Part 2.

Kimura Tatsuo and Hiroshi SagawaHiroshi Sagawa and Kimura Tatsuo
“I don’t do Daito-ryu” says Hiroshi Sensei. However, when he actually
shows us something he looks pretty good! Pictured here at the age of 91.

Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura, Part 4

Just what was it that happened inside Sagawa Sohan’s body?

Azumi: What would you say?

Kimura: In the end, I think that this is the main point in the refinement of Aiki. Conditioning of the muscles is not the number one goal. I discussed this before, but in his later years Sagawa Sensei, from an ordinary point of view, was certainly physically weak. That’s because he was ninety-five years old. However, while what we would call physical strength had declined in accordance with his years, it is a fact that something had become considerably stronger. Of that alone, there can be no mistake.

Azumi: Something became incredibly strong….?

Kimura: In other words, the interior of his body had become incredibly strong. When a human being becomes ninety-five the exterior of their body doesn’t have much muscle. However, in the case of Sagawa Sensei, there were many times that left me with no choice but to think that something unthinkably huge was inside (his body). Just what was that?

Azumi: ??? What could it have been?

Kimura: When one thinks about it, there is not a single person who has continued to condition themselves to that age. Well, so far as I know.

Azumi: No, even so far as I know there isn’t. (embarrassed smile)

Kimura: When one usually talks about conditioning it is only so far as when one is young, even if one continues for a long time, it’s not so far as ninety-five, is it? (laughing)

Azumi: (laughing) Further, the content of the conditioning was also incredible.

Kimura: That’s why Sensei himself would say “It’s as if I’m using my own body to experiment with”. It seems that there were many phenomena that occurred of which nobody is aware. Even I, who had many chances to be by his side, sometimes felt awe at the potential of human beings.

Azumi: And then he trained until the end of the end….?

Kimura: He continued his conditioning until it was really just before he passed away (I think that one could say, until his dying breath). That practice continued until his last years, overlaid with his innovations. As his legs and hips weakened, he’d grab on to the lintel and try things like kicking, and try to think of methods to be used while seated…. Whatever happened, he never tried to give up his conditioning, and he would invent new methods and try them out as his body declined.

Azumi: Until he was almost one-hundred, over many decades, Sagawa Sohan would teach at his dojo without fail, and would never omit his daily conditioning. Those facts alone are amazing. One view of that that lifetime is “One man, spending their life on an magnificent experiment” – I would really like to know what that body was like. However, those who have previously walked that path are so rare that it is virtually impossible to see how the body and mind of someone who has been through that process has changed.

Kimura: Yes, that’s true, isn’t it? In the case of Sagawa Sensei, if we are talking about that I think there is certainly nobody else like that (laughing). Although his body was said to be declining, there was the phenomenon that occurred in which something was steadily increasing in strength. That’s all that I can think….

Azumi: Whether one believes it or not, if such a thing were true it would be really incredible.

Kimura: It’s the truth. I myself was really astonished. For that reason, even more, that is why I thought at length “Just what is Tanren (“conditioning”)!?!”. That said, it is an interesting discussion. Where was that person called Sagawa Sensei coming from in his thinking? In order to preserve one’s health “Perhaps you should do that this way…” – he would innovate in even the smallest of things.

Azumi: If we are speaking of Sagawa Sensei’s health methods, I would be very interested. What were they, specifically?

Vinegared EggsVinegared Eggs (酢卵)

Kimura: At one time it was vinegared eggs. I thought they tasted awful and didn’t do it, though. (laughing)

Azumi: Vinegared eggs?

Kimura: Yes. vinegared eggs. At time he’d do it on and off, but he stopped in his final years. (laughing)

Azumi: “Vinegared eggs aren’t useful for Aiki!” (laughing) Now that you mention it, there was a famous story of one time that Sagawa Sohan had a heart problem when he was ninety years old and went to the hospital for a re-examination, he did 150 pushups in front of the examining physician and scared the wits out of him. But when I tell my friends they never believe me. (embarrassed grin)

Yukiyoshi Sagawa at Sagawa Dojo

Kimura: Speaking of push-ups, in the past there was a time that I went to the dojo and Sagawa Sensei remarked “Yesterday there was a visitor and I couldn’t do them, so today I finally got caught up”. So, I asked him “How many did you do?” and he said “1300 times”.

Azumi: 1300 times! By the way, what year are we talking about?

Kimura: That was when Sensei was eighty-three years old.

Azumi: 1300 push-ups at the age of eighty-three! This is another one that nobody will believe. (embarrassed grin)

Sagawa Sohan’s “Frustration”, Sticky Aiki

Azumi: You’ve told me that Sagawa Sohan used his brother Hiroshi Sensei as a partner during his technical research, and you’ve said that Sagawa Sohan also used his wife as a partner during his research. Rather than being because she was the person closest to him, I have heard that this was because his purpose was to apply technique to female partners….If that is the case, then what was Sagawa Sohan’s goal?…I would really like to know.

Sagawa: Before talking about training partners, it’s Aiki.

Azumi: What do you mean?

Sagawa: Until that time my brother, no matter how much strength his partner used when grabbing his wrist, was able to use Aiki and raise his hands (and destabilize them). However, not allowing the partner grabbing his wrists to let go, in other words, making them stick to him, was not yet going well. Being sticky means doing it without grabbing the partners wrists. Leaving the hand grabbed by the partner as it is, and throwing. It’s simple to talk about, but this is extremely difficult. Normally they separate from you.

Azumi: I would think so.

Sagawa: For that reason, at the time my brother was bending all of his efforts into considering how to make it so that they could not let go. Well, he had that ferocious tenacity. Our father, who trained until he received his Kyoju Dairi (“Assistant Instructor” / 教授代理), said “It may be that this, at least, cannot be done by anybody other than Takeda Sensei”, but my brother said “No, Takeda Sensei was a human like me. If he could do it then there’s no way that I can’t!”.

Azumi: What a thing to say! Nobody other than Sagawa Sensei could say such a thing…

Sagawa: Thanks to that, we were told “Grab my wrists, grab”, he made us work with him until we were exhausted and fed up with it. (embarrassed grin) Just grabbing would have been okay, but each time we’d tumble over…that time was really exhausting. (laughing)

Azumi: That it was difficult has come across quite well. (laughing) But why did he choose a woman as a partner?

Sagawa: That, well that’s because women’s bodies are special.

Azumi: I see….?

Sagawa: What my brother said is that women’s bodies have a stickiness like mochi (“sticky rice cake” / 餅), and are convenient for training sticky Aiki.

Azumi: They’re convenient because they’re like mochi?

Sagawa: Because of their flexibility things like joint techniques are difficult to make effective. Further, with men their hands quickly let go, but women tend not to let go very much. For that reason, he carried that into his reasearch when considering how to best make it so that one’s partner cannot let go.

Azumi: Hmm…

Yukiyoshi Sagawa in Yubetsu, HokkaidoThe Sagawa family at their house in Yubetsu, Hokkaido
From right: wife Michiko, Sagawa Sohan, mother

Sagawa: So my brother used his wife (Sagawa Sohan’s wife Michiko) as a training partner. My sister, who was five years older than me (Editor: Tama-san, who passed away last year), was also used as a training partner.

One More Brother

Azumi: What time period are we discussing?

Sagawa: It was when I was in my late teens, so my brother would have been in his late twenties (Note: they were born seven years apart) to his early thirties. Because when I was around twenty years old there was already nobody who could be a partner for my brother.

Azumi: During that time Sagawa Sohan had returned from Tokyo to Hokkaido, and Hiroshi Sensei had graduated from Hokudai (Hokkaido University) and had gone to attend Waseda University.

Sagawa: I had another brother, but he was fourteen or fifteen years younger than my older brother so his didn’t have a close a relationship with him as I did.

Azumi: So Sagawa Sohan had one more younger brother?

Sagawa: He was named Masataka Sagawa (佐川正隆). He didn’t appear in Kimura-san’s book (“Transparent Power“), so you may not know of him. He is already eighty-three or eighty-four years old. Nowadays he’s moved to Yokohama, before that he was employed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (三菱重工).

Azumi: As Sokaku Sensei’s unknown son (Takemune / 武宗) was just like Takeda Sensei, was was he just like Sagawa Sohan?

Sagawa: His temperament and everything else were the complete opposite of my brother’s.

Azumi: Ah, is that so?

Bakuchi Uchi - Koji TsurutaActor and Singer Koji Tsuruta (鶴田浩二)
“Bakuchi Uchi” (“Gambling House” / 博奕打ち) – Toei Films, 1968

Sagawa: This youngest child loved company and got along well with me. I often took him to movies and had a soft spot for him. He was tall, and manly. Enough so that people often said that he resembled Koji Tsuruta. (laughing)

Azumi: Koji Tsuruta! With Sagawa Sohan and Hiroshi Sensei, the Sagawa brother’s are really handsome, aren’t they? No, really.

The Difficulty with Transmitting Aiki, the Impossibility of Spreading Aiki

Azumi: How do you think that Aiki can be transmitted and spread in the future?

Kimura: There is no way that Aiki can be spread. That is, even if one writes books or shows it on videos, it all must look like a lie, doesn’t it? After Sagawa Sensei passed away, a film production company approached me about putting out a video, so I said that they should first try receiving the techniques, and threw them softly a number of times. When I did that the person said “Even if we film this, nobody watching will believe it, will they? One has to actually have it done to them to understand…” – so they understood and left.

Azumi: They understood after having it done to them a number of times.

Kimura: That’s right, one must experience it. However, one cannot understand with just one or two times. One experiences it over and over, and then with great effort one understands at last – it is a matter of that kind of perspective. After all, there is a limit to what I can teach over the span of a lifetime. For that reason, if one tries to transmit this (Aiki) widely it would be impossible without the Kata or Kata training method of other Budo, in which they apply techniques on each other cooperatively. However, once one does that it disappears. In order to transmit the true thing there are some things that are impossible by just showing a model and saying “OK, now do it!”.

Azumi: Some things are impossible…?

Kimura: At the very least, the transmission of Aiki would be absolutely impossible. Because receiving direct instruction is an absolute requirement. So, inside of me I think that is impossible, that it can only be done with those that encounter it by fate, this is what I feel. Speaking honestly. (laughing)

Azumi: Really. You don’t see any hopeful signs when you are teaching?

Kimura: Especially now, because my work at the university is so busy. Ten years from now after I retire I might open a small dojo, though. And yet, even now I am letting people looking for the real thing experience it. Sagawa Sensei and Takeda Sensei were this way, so I am doing the same. It’s not good without being able to actually show the techniques (with just lip service). With Takeda Sensei, and with me, whoever the opponent is, when they come I do it right away (partner with them and throw them). That’s the way it is. That’s important. Sagawa Sensei often told me “Those guys who just talk, even though they can’t do that, are useless”. For that reason, in the same way I handle whoever comes with that same feeling. (laughing)

Azumi: But even if you say that you are doing the same as Sagawa Sensei, isn’t it actually difficult?

Kimura: There was a giant that I met in Germany, at first no matter what I did they were as steady as a rock, but after deepening my research for five years I got to a point at which I could always topple him. It seems to have shocked him, though…

Azumi: …..

Kimura: But if, by any chance, there is a person on whom my technique were ineffective then I suppose that I would have to innovate and research from that point again in order to progress. Human beings, when they are protected they stop progressing. That position is unacceptable.

Azumi: Sagawa Sensei also left some similar sayings, didn’t he?

Kimura: That’s right. Sagawa Sensei would never say that this is good enough, that he was satisfied with where he was. He would say things like “There is no such thing as perfection! When one thinks that their progress stops right there.” and “No matter how high a level one has reached, if one thinks that they have progressed enough then there is no value right from that point!”.

Azumi: Furthermore, he put that into practice, didn’t he…? There is much more that I would like to talk about, but unfortunately our time has run out. Thank you for taking so much time to speak with me today.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa - taninsudori


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 4 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 3]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=2101 2015-12-12T19:00:31Z 2015-12-12T19:00:31Z Tatsuo Kimura and Seigo Yamaguchi in Karuizawa, 1968 “That was how I entered the University of Tokyo and became a formal student of Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei beginning Aikido practice at Ikenoue located next to the Komaba-Todai-mae train station. During that time, I was often with Yamaguchi Sensei all day. He would many times say that … Continue reading Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 3 »

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Tatsuo Kimura and Seigo Yamaguchi in Karuizawa, 1968Tatsuo Kimura and Seigo Yamaguchi in Karuizawa, 1968

“That was how I entered the University of Tokyo and became a formal student of Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei beginning Aikido practice at Ikenoue located next to the Komaba-Todai-mae train station. During that time, I was often with Yamaguchi Sensei all day. He would many times say that his dream was to find some method to deal with any power no matter how strong without using strength. He said he was searching to find this method. At some point, this became my own dream. However, it was like the blue bird in the story of M. Maeterlinck, but it seemed that this was not something that could be realized in this world. Later, I will mention that such a method that answered Yamaguchi Sensei’s dream does indeed exist in this world.”

– Tatsuo Kimura
  Discovering Aiki My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei

Yukiyoshi Sagawa often traveled as an attendant to his teacher,  Daito-ryu Chuku-no-so Sokaku Takeda, who was also the teacher of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. At one time, around 1956, an agreement was made for Sagawa to become an instructor at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, but he took exception to some remarks about Sokaku Takeda made by Morihei Ueshiba in an interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun around that time and changed his mind.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s younger brother and favorite sibling, Hiroshi Sagawa (佐川廣), was born in Shimo-yubetsu Hokkaido in 1909 (Meiji Year 42) into a family in which both his father and his elder brother trained extensively with Sokaku Takeda.

Tatsuo Kimura (木村達雄) is one of three of Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan’s students to have completed the 10th Gen level of techniques (the techniques in Sagawa Dojo that Sagawa Sensei learned from Sokaku Takeda were organized into ten levels, or “Gen” / 元).

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

This is part 3 of the English translation of an interview conducted in Japanese by Kuni Azumi (安積 邦) with Hiroshi Sagawa and Tatsuo Kimura that previously appeared in the popular martial arts magazine Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”) in 2001. You may wish to read Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this section.

You may also be interested in another interview with Kimura Sensei that appeared on the Aikido Sangenkai blog previously – “Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura, Part 1 and Part 2.

Aiki News 140 and 141 - Tatsuo KimuraAiki News issues 140 and 141 – Tatsuo Kimura and Yukiyoshi Sagawa

Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura, Part 3

The Unknown Side Benefits of Aiki

Azumi: Clearly and unmistakably, the one who experienced Sagawa Sohan’s Aiki the most times must be Kimura Sensei, who is sitting right here. However Kimura Sensei speaks about Aiki, I think that it is of great interest even to those who are not training in Aiki, is that so?

Kimura: Once one experiences Aiki it sparks an incredibly strong interest. One becomes unable to be thrown by techniques without Aiki. In Sagawa Dojo there was a very large person who Sensei left completely untouched for about five years. Through that time, no matter how much he struggled I was able to throw him. Then Sensei said that he wanted to forge him into a strong member of the dojo. Sagawa Sensei began to throw him, and within two weeks most of the people in the dojo became unable to apply techniques to him. (laughing)

Azumi: Do things like that…really happen?

Kimura: Therefore, the meaning of those people who have been thrown by Sagawa Sensei becoming unthrowable becomes extremely important. However, Sensei would select people, so it’s not as if everybody in the dojo was thrown.

Azumi: Does that mean that something would happen inside their bodies?

Yukiyoshi Sagawa - Aiki AgeYukiyoshi Sagawa Demonstrates Aiki-age

Kimura: Hmm…what could it be? (laughing) But I can say this. In other words, it is that when one experiences Aiki one feels that it is a truly great way of being handled. When that happens it is that everything else becomes uncomfortable – that conveys a feeling of being forced, and the body becomes unwilling to accept it. As I said before, normally it is difficult to imagine that the techniques of people who can throw you with one finger, like the sempai in the Sagawa Dojo, become ineffective. Just the same, no matter how good a person’s techniques are, they are manifestly different from Sagawa Sensei’s. One doesn’t understand at the beginning. As one’s abilities gradually increase, the difference becomes clear. In time, the body completely refuses to receive other’s techniques – “that’s not going to work”. However, saying that one cannot be thrown and saying that one can throw another person are two separate issues. Just because one’s body has become strong doesn’t mean that one can throw a strong person.

Azumi: Yes, I suppose so.

Kimura: Further, in the magnificence of Sagawa Sensei’s bujutsu, there is one more thing that is not well known.

Azumi: Oh? What’s that?

Kimura: The body becomes energetic and invigorated.

Azumi: It becomes energetic?

Kimura: Yes. The effects are similar to the those things recently being called “healing”. (Translator’s Note: there was a “healing boom” in Japan starting in the 1980’s that spurred many products and services aimed at enhancing general psychological well-being.)

Azumi. Ah. Yes.

Kimura: Actually, when one received Sagawa Sensei’s technique it felt really wonderful. Even now, I think that must have really been healing. When one was thrown it penetrated right through into your core. It felt as if something was being purified. Strength would well up and one would become incredibly energized. In fact, a number of times during training after being thrown by Sagawa Sensei my head would start to start to work oddly well, and on the way home I would be able to solve mathematical equations (Note: Kimura Sensei is a professor of mathematics at Tsukuba University. Additionally, he is the mathematics department head!). This happened to me many times. (laughing)

Azumi: It seems as if there is an injection of energy…

Kimura: Yes! It feels as if a fire has passed through the inside of your body. Aiki passes through the body. It’s not external, it enters into one’s body so one becomes extremely energized. It’s natural, so one feels good. There is absolutely nothing that feels forced! However severely one is thrown. It feels like a technique that happens while one is still thinking “What!?!” (and they are already thrown).

Azumi: Do you think that Sokaku’s Aiki had the same kind of “side benefits”?

Kimura: Whether or not Takeda Sensei got to that point or not…I can’t say. Of course, the throwing the opponent instantly with Aiki that forms the foundation must be absolutely the same.

Sagawa: With both Takeda Sensei and my brother, when Aiki was applied one’s strength would be removed.

Kimura: Sagawa Sensei said that Takeda Sensei would throw with a conventional technique after removing their power (with Aiki), but there was even further development (by Sagawa Sensei) from there. He made a great discovery concerning Aiki when he was seventy years old. By the way, I first met Sensei when he was seventy-six years old, from that time – that is, from the beginning, he was incredible. (laughing)

Azumi: (laughing)

Yukiyoshi Sagawa

True Throws – the Intensity of the Last Practice

Kimura: When I was thrown by Sagawa Sensei, I experienced truly being thrown for the first time. Until that time I did Aikido and it felt as if I was taking ukemi, but with Sagawa Sensei’s throws I couldn’t understand where I would be thrown – at first it was extremely frightening. There was no way to prepare oneself, since one would be thrown flying in an instant it was a real surprise. In any case, it was all that one could do just to avoid hitting one’s head. Even so, at the last practice, just before Sensei passed away, I hit my head three times.

Azumi: In the at least twenty years that he taught you, there wasn’t even a slight decline in Sagawa Sensei’s technique?

Kimura: A decline? Although each time I thought that a superior technique was inconceivable, it was continuously the case that each time I went there was something that was clearly superior to the previous time. Furthermore, I had been building strength over that period of twenty years. In spite of that, the power of his throws never changed.

Azumi: However, you hit your head even up until that last practice shortly before he passed away? Even though you are one of only three 10th Gen shihan?

Kimura: That’s how intense that last practice was. I think that Sagawa Sensei probably staked his life on it for us.

Hiden Ashi no Aiki - Yukiyoshi SagawaYukiyoshi Sagawa demonstrating Hiden Ashi no Aiki (秘伝足の合気)

What is the Aiki Body?

Sagawa: Kimura-san probably thinks the same way, but his body was like steel – although one tried to immobilize him he could not be immobilized. If one goes up to here with an untrained person it’s all over, but with someone like Kimura-san it really can’t be applied. There were times that I tried to immobilize my brother, but I couldn’t do it, you know. It felt as if I were pulling on steel, it didn’t feel as if I were immobilizing him at all.

Kimura: One time we paired up like Sumo wrestlers and Sagawa Sensei told me to come at him.

Azumi: Yes…

Kimura: At the moment that we met there was a shock.

Azumi: Ei? What was it like?

Kimura: “Hey, hey, what’s this!?!”. That Sensei’s body was completely different from ours came through in a very real and emphatic manner. It felt as if I had grabbed on to some strange object. (In severe training) the body is really like steel…it felt as if I were touching something of a completely different quality, something with an extremely high density.

Azumi: The quality was completely different? Dense?

Kimura: In other words, how can I put this – his body density was completely different. It was so dense that it seemed as if one became like paper and flipped away when touched. This was when he was well past ninety years old! Anyway, he had an amazing body…it’s difficult to express it in words.

Azumi: I think that there are many readers who are curious about Sagawa Sensei’s body. Relating to that, it must have been in Sagawa Sohan’s later years, but there was a time when he injured his tendons from too much conditioning and was unable to turn off the faucet of a sink….

Kimura: That’s true. Sensei told me that in the end “I couldn’t do anything, all that I could do was throw people“. (laughing)

Azumi: He couldn’t do anything but throw people….. (speechless)

Kimura: He couldn’t even pull the tab on the pop-top of a can of juice. But although he couldn’t open a pop-top, when one was caught by that finger they couldn’t move (smiling)….”What’s going on?”.

Azumi:……

Kimura: Even more mysteriously, in his very last years there were some times when Sensei’s walking was a little unsteady. He’d wobble around, and when others watched they would become a little bit worried. At that time he’d walk towards you with a gait that looked as if he was just about to topple over. After he sat in his wheel chair he’d say “Kimura! Come grab my legs!”. At first I held back, but sure enough (smiling) I was surprised to be thrown flying even further than usual. One more time, and this time I grabbed him strongly – and I was handled even more severely. ….Ahh, that really surprised me (embarrassed grin) – “What happened with Sensei’s legs? They were completely emaciated!”.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa - Ashi no Aiki, 1996Yukiyoshi Sagawa and Tatsuo Kimura – Ashi no Aiki, 1996

Azumi: Ahh (surprised). Since, to all appearances, a physical decline equivalent to his age can be observed, normally that would be inconceivable, wouldn’t it?

Kimura: So that means – they are the same legs, but the wobbling walk and the strength to throw a person flying are completely different things. One could say that the level of the principles behind their movements are different.

Kinji Sakuma Demonstrates ShikoKinji Sakuma (佐久間錦二) demonstrates the Shiko exercise
taught directly to him by Yukiyoshi Sagawa.
Sagawa Sohan would do these several thousand times each day.

Legendary Solo training

Azumi: From what I have heard, from the parade of anecdotes, he was overwhelming. However, behind the scenes of that severity, I have been told that there was special conditioning that Sagawa Sohan did alone and did not show to other people.

Sagawa: He was always doing those exercises! But it certainly seemed as if he didn’t want to be seen. And then he would note them in his diary each day.

Azumi: Was kind of things were written in his diary?

Sagawa: Things like the number of times that he had trained. What he did and how many times, how his suburi went, how much bojutsu he did, and things like that. He’d write that he did one thousand push-ups or today he did two thousand push-ups, and so forth.

Kimura: It (Sagawa Sensei’s conditioning) was usually in units of one-thousand. Actually, and it was only twice, I saw it myself.

Azumi: Is that right!?!

Kimura: I don’t know if I can talk about this…..(thinks for a moment).

Azumi: Please, please! (smiling)

Kimura: ….(embarrassed grin) It was a time right after I started when there were still very few students, only three or four. On the grounds of Sagawa Sensei’s home there was a spot basking in the sun that was just perfect. On that day I went a little earlier than usual to practice, and Sensei was doing some kind of exercise there by himself. That was the first time. The other time was when Sensei’s home was undergoing some construction. The gardeners were taking a long time to finish up, so he shook the numbness out of his limbs and started his own training right there. Later on Sensei said “I did my exercises right in front of them!”.

Azumi: What kind of conditioning did Sagawa Sensei do?

Kimura: …………. Actually, there were times that I heard (from Sensei) about his conditioning. But that was when the two of us were alone, and Sensei spoke of it unintentionally.

Azumi: What were the specifics?

Kimura: For example, “The bokken is really used like this…” – things like that.

Azumi: ………….

Kimura: However, his way of thinking was so completely different that I was surprised. Perhaps one could say that it was a completely separate thing from (the way of thinking of) conventional conditioning.

To be continued in Part 4, with a discussion what happened inside of Sagawa Sohan’s body…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[The Ueshiba Legacy, by Mark Murray]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=2050 2015-12-11T21:09:34Z 2015-11-07T21:09:18Z Kisshomaru Ueshiba – Morihei Ueshiba – Koichi Tohei What does all of this mean? It means that the common view of the spread of aikido following the war taking place under the direct tutelage of the Founder is fundamentally in error. Tohei and the present Doshu (*Kisshomaru Ueshiba) deserve the lion’s share of the credit, … Continue reading The Ueshiba Legacy, by Mark Murray »

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Kisshomaru and Morihei Ueshiba with Koichi ToheiKisshomaru Ueshiba – Morihei Ueshiba – Koichi Tohei

What does all of this mean? It means that the common view of the spread of aikido following the war taking place under the direct tutelage of the Founder is fundamentally in error. Tohei and the present Doshu (*Kisshomaru Ueshiba) deserve the lion’s share of the credit, not the Founder. It means further that O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was not seriously involved in the instruction or administration of aikido in the postwar years. He was already long retired and very focused on his personal training, spiritual development, travel and social activities.

—“Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?”, by Stanley Pranin

The quote above comes from an article written by Stanley Pranin that was originally published in Aikido Journal #109 in 1996. Long time readers of Stanley Pranin are probably familiar with this line of thought, which has been supported by a cornucopia of material published in both Aikido Journal and the older Aiki News.

What follows is an essay by Mark Murray that was originally posted to the Rum Soaked Fist discussion forums, and appears here with his permission. It is a further summation of some of the important issues surrounding the now clear divergence between the Aikido of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei and the Aikido of his son, Ni-Dai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba.

Mark Murray

Mark is an “IT Specialist by trade and a writer by choice” (check out the Mark Murray Books website, and the Mark Murray author page on Amazon), but when he’s not doing either of those things he is usually training in the martial arts, and that is the context in which most of us are probably familiar with him.

In 2006 he was one of the first Aikido people to post a detailed public review (which originally appeared on AikiWeb) of his meeting with Dan Harden, and this was an important step in the process that eventually brought Dan to teach publicly:

Work sent me to Boston for a few days. Before I left for Boston, I contacted Dan Harden and asked if he’d meet me. I said I’d like to start learning the internal stuff. Once in Boston, I met Dan at my hotel after work one day and we walked over to the Commons.

I ended up learning a lot of things. One is that Dan is a great guy. Working out with him for the short time I had was a pleasure. I went back and forth from, “Okay how did you do that” to laughing. Most of the time I forgot I was even standing in the Boston Commons.

Two is that I just couldn’t push him over. And let me tell — that was a very disconcerting feeling. I tried pushing with both hands on his chest, tried pulling him sideways using one of his arms, and then placing a hand on the side of his head and pushing. He just stood there relaxed. I don’t know how to explain some of what I felt there. Part of it was just like pushing and nothing was budging. Almost like putting your hand on a wall, leaning into it, pushing, and it’s just there not moving, but not nearly as hard or unyielding as a wall’s surface. And parts of it I could feel that I’d lost my own balance as I started to push. In those instances, I was pushing and Dan was moving his center in such a way that he knew where I was losing my balance or what foot held most of my weight.

It was an eye opening display of some of what he can do. I say some because I also got to feel a small portion of the power he can generate. Another example of this relaxed power was that he held out both hands and asked me to throw him in a judo type throw. I grabbed both arms and that was as far as I got. There were no openings. I never got to the tsukuri, or fit, because I couldn’t even get kuzushi. In fact, there was a kuzushi but it was on me. If you’ve ever seen some of these sayings, “keep weight underside”, “extend ki”, “keep one point”, well, I got to experience them first hand. Dan also showed me the “push out exercise” where I had hold of him but couldn’t step forward. Although I didn’t feel like I was overly weighted down, I still couldn’t take a step. My feet just felt rooted to the ground.

The no-inch punch was amazing. And yes, there was no distance but the force was definitely there. I wouldn’t say it felt exactly like a punch, which is more of a percussive feel. No, this was more like a ball of energy/power hitting me and shockwaves vibrating out from where it entered my body. Next thing I know, I’m picking myself up off the ground a few feet away.

All the while, Dan is explaining how all of it is done. He was open and willing to share information on what he was doing and how it was done. He showed me some exercises to do and I tried some of them. Try is a good word. It’ll take some time doing them, especially the hanmi. LOL. But in the short time I was there, I will say that they definitely helped.

The stuff Dan is doing is good stuff. I wish I’d been able to visit his dojo and meet everyone else, but I’m hoping that my next visit, I’ll be able to do that.

———————————–

Update (December 1, 2015): I’d like to comment on the relevance of including Mark’s review of his meeting with Dan Harden, since the context seems confusing to some people.

For those who have followed the process, much of the material in this article developed over the course of discussions (and arguments) on AikiWeb and other internet discussion forums. Many of those discussions (and arguments) were centered around Dan Harden’s theories, and his participation contributed greatly to the evolution of the conversation.

As Mark recounts his experience he states “If you’ve ever seen some of these sayings, ‘keep weight underside’, ‘extend ki’, ‘keep one point’, well, I got to experience them first hand.”. To me, this is a telling statement, and symptomatic of the two legacies that Mark goes on to describe in the main body of this article – a student of modern Aikido being astonished when encountering an actual manifestation of skills so often discussed, but so rarely displayed.

Is what Dan Harden doing relevant to Aikido? Well, part of that will depend upon how you’re defining Aikido, but here’s what a direct student of Morihei Ueshiba had to say upon meeting Dan, and some discussion of what that might mean.

Now, some people may think that the point of this article and the reference above is to say that none of Morihei Ueshiba’s students understood anything at all or were able to grasp any part of his transmission, but this is absolutely not the case. I have discussed this issue in previous articles, but I will state again here that every direct student of the Founder that I’ve met (and I’ve met quite a few) seems to have gotten something from the Founder – some a little, and some a lot. The caveat being they also had trouble explaining and transmitting whatever it was that they did get from their time with him – there is a more detailed discussion of this problem in the article “Morihei Ueshiba – Profiles of the Founder“.

— Chris Li

———————————–

And now…on to Mark Murray’s essay – “The Ueshiba Legacy”.

O-Sensei and KisshomaruFather and Son in front of Aikikai Hombu Dojo
Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and Ni-Dai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba

The Ueshiba Legacy, by Mark Murray

There are two Ueshiba Legacies. The legacy of Morihei Ueshiba and the legacy of Kisshomaru Ueshiba. The two are completely different. Their paths rarely cross, with only a smattering of commonalities.

A: The Words

From the translation on the Sangenkai website, “Aikido is the way of harmony, that is to say the living form of Ichirei Shikon Sangen Hachiriki, the form of the fabric of the universe, specifically the form of the High Plain of Heaven.” (1) Ueshiba would talk about this often. He explained Hachiriki as “The 8 powers are opposing forces: Movement – Stillness, Melting – Congealing, Pulling – Loosening, Combining – Splitting / 9-1, 8-2, 7-3, 6-4” (1). Note that the 8 powers are 4 pairs of opposites.

Morihei Ueshiba and foreign studentsAikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and a group of foreign students
Left to right: Alan Ruddock, Henry Kono, Per Winter, Joanne Willard,
Joe Deisher, O-Sensei, Joanne Shimamoto (later married to Akira Tohei),
Kenneth Cottier, Edward Yamaguchi, Norman Miles and Terry Dobson

When Henry Kono asked O-Sensei “Why can we not do what you do, Sensei?” the answer was quite simply “Because you don’t understand In and Yo.” (2) Opposing forces. One of Ueshiba’s doka (“poems of the way”) was “Manifest yo (yang) in the right hand, change the left hand to in (yin) and guide the opponent.”.

More from what Ueshiba said: “Aikido is the Way and Principle of harmonizing Heaven, Earth and Man.” Ueshiba talked about Izanami and Izanagi. He talked about The Floating Bridge of Heaven. He talked about kami, which was often written as ka (火 / fire) and mi (水 / water). Whether during the famous pre-war era or during the post-war era, Morihei Ueshiba described his aikido by using a specific spiritual ideology.

Rinjiro Shirata 1935Rinjiro Shirata at the Kobukan Dojo in 1935

Rinjiro Shirata, another pre-war student, gives some more details about Ueshiba’s teaching style – “We never practiced techniques in any specific order. It was not a practice where we were taught. As I told you before, Ueshiba had his own training. Therefore, he practiced techniques as he wanted. That was his training. Ueshiba Sensei’s way of explaining techniques was first of all to give the names of kamisama (deities). After that, he explained the movement. He told us, ‘Aikido originally didn’t have any form’. The movements of the body in response to one’s state of mind became the techniques.”. (3)

Aikido Shugyo by Gozo ShiodaAikido Shugyo“, by Gozo Shioda

Shioda’s thoughts about Ueshiba: “As mentioned earlier, at the Ueshiba Dojo in the old days we didn’t explicitly have any pre-set forms. The only thing the students could do was copy the techniques that Sensei performed on their own. In terms of instruction, the only thing we were told was to ‘become one with heaven and earth’.”. (4)

Black Belt magazine, May 1966Black Belt magazine, May 1966

From an article in Black Belt magazine about training in post-war: “The first class is usually taken up mostly with discussions about God and nature – Uyeshiba doing the talking and the uchideshi listening. It is in this hour that the young uchideshi is exposed to Zen philosophy and the deeper meanings of aikido – its nonviolent and defensive perfection and understanding

If this all sounds rather remote and difficult to grasp for a Western reader, he may be interested to know that the young Japanese uchideshi often feels the same way. The 83-year-old Uyeshiba many times speaks about highly abstract topics, lapsing usually into ancient Japanese phraseology, so that his listeners often find it difficult to follow him.”. (5)

Morihei Ueshiba with Robert FragerMorihei Ueshiba with Robert Frager

Robert Frager also talks about his training and Ueshiba’s incomprehensible speeches – “I understood very little of his talks. Osensei used a great many esoteric Shinto terms, and he spoke with a strong regional accent. His teachings were pitched at a philosophical, mystical level, far above my beginner’s concerns about where I had to place my hands and feet. I puzzled over statements like, ‘When you practice Aikido, you stand on the floating bridge between heaven and earth,’ and ‘Put the Shinto Goddess ‘She-who-invites’ in your left foot and the God ‘He-who-approaches’ in your right foot.’.”. (6)

Training with the Master, by Walther Krenner and John StevensTraining with the Master, by Walther Krenner and John Stevens

Walther Krenner notes that Ueshiba would sometimes come in and talk for a long time. (7) Kisshomaru Ueshiba also talks about his father’s baffling spiritual experiences. (8) Yoji Tomosue also found it difficult to understand Ueshiba. (9) Tamura relates that the young students didn’t understand what Ueshiba was saying. (10) There is an interesting interview with Henry Kono in an Aikido Today magazine:

ATM: When you had conversations like these with O’sensei, what would you talk about?
HK: Well, I would usually ask him why the rest of us couldn’t do what he could. There were many other teachers, all doing aikido. But he was doing it differently – doing something differently. His movement was so clean!
ATM: How would O’sensei answer your questions about what he was doing?
HK: He would say that I didn’t understand yin and yang [in and yo]. So, now I’ve made it my life work to study yin and yang. That’s what O’sensei told me to do. (11)

Looking back to the pre-war era, one would think that Ueshiba would have been much easier to understand. However we have to remember that Ueshiba had about ten years before the Kobukan dojo opened to refine his spiritual ideology. Takako Kunigoshi states that there wasn’t anyone who could understand Ueshiba. (12) Shirata remembers Ueshiba giving the names of kamisama as explanations. (13) Mochizuki considered Ueshiba a “primitive genius who couldn’t explain anything.” (14) In fact, Mochizuki goes on to say that Ueshiba wouldn’t explain but would rather say it came from God. (15) (16)

The Gods Izanagi and Izanami on the Floating Bridge of Heaven The Gods Izanagi and Izanami on the Floating Bridge of Heaven

Ueshiba stated: “The left hand is Izanagi, the right is Izanami, in the center is Ame-no-minakanushi, this is yourself. This is standing on the Floating Bridge of Heaven and turning in a spiral. This is called Taka-ama-hara. Heaven and earth are one unit, water and fire are also one unit, all appears through Iki (breath). This is the endless appearance of the Kami. Aiki technique comes forth endlessly.” (17)

More from Ueshiba: “It is said that Aikido must first stand on the Floating Bridge of Heaven. It is said that the Floating Bridge of Heaven is the exchange of Fire and Water. Precisely in the form of a cross, it is the world of Fire and Water in harmony. In other words, it is said the this world is created through the two actions of the twin gods Takami-Musubi and Kami-Musubi winding up in a spiral on the right and winding down in a spiral on the left. Fire (“Ka”) and Water (“mi”) become “Kami”, the source of this “Kami” (Fire and Water) returns to the one, but the one becomes the source of the physical and the spiritual. “. (18)

No matter if we look at the pre-war period or the post-war one, we find that Ueshiba’s spiritual ideology hindered his students understanding of what to work on in training aiki. Hardly anyone ever really understood what Ueshiba meant by his explanations.

Regarding the worldwide version of aikido that was disseminated after Morihei Ueshiba’s death, from around 1970 on, how often has a student of aikido been frustrated to understand Izanami, Izanagi, kami, Hachiriki, or the Floating Bridge of Heaven from their instructor? How often has those terms actually come up? If they ever have (which is rare), how were they explained?

Kisshomaru Ueshiba was given control over the Tokyo dojo and he changed many things. One of those was the actual message of his father. As a brief explanation, this was after the war when Japan had lost and was in turmoil. Martial arts were mostly banned. The Tokyo dojo was in shambles. Kisshomaru picked up the pieces, put them back together, and from his experiences during the war, changed aikido’s message to something the world could embrace – which it did by millions of people.

The fact remains that the words and vision of aikido between Morihei Ueshiba and what was spread throughout the world, Modern Aikido for lack of a better term, are completely different.

(1) “Aikido and the Structure of the Universe
(2) “Aikido Memoirs” by Alan Ruddock
(3) Aiki News Issue 062
(4) “Aikido Shugyo” by Gozo Shioda
(5) Black Belt 1966 Vol 4 No 5
(6) Yoga Journal March 1982
(7) “Training with the Master” by John Stevens
(8) Aiki News Issue 031
(9) Aiki News Issue 031
(10) Aiki News Issue 066
(11) Aikido Today Magazine; #31 Dec.93/ Jan. 94.
(12) Aiki News 047
(13) Aiki News Issue 062
(14) Black Belt 1980 Vol 18 No 4
(15) Black Belt 1980 Vol 18 No 4
(16) Black Belt 1989 Vol 27 No 8
(17) “Aikido and the Floating Bridge of Heaven
(18) “Morihei Ueshiba and the Way of the Cross

Moriteru Ueshiba Paris 2004San-Dai Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba teaching 3,000 people in Paris – 2004

B: The Training

According to an Aikikai estimate, 1.2 million people are practicing aikido worldwide, but that probably doesn’t include non-Aikikai related schools. Still, at a minimum, millions of people are training aikido. If we focus on all those millions of aikido people taking “ukemi” for 40 to 50 years and that some of them spent quite a bit more time training with their teachers than pre-war or post-war students did with Ueshiba, then where are the people that rival Gozo Shioda or Kenji Tomiki’s abilities, let alone the skill level of Morihei Ueshiba? How many of the millions who have trained and learned the outward physical techniques of aikido for 40-50 years have replicated Ueshiba’s exploits?

Ueshiba and Deguchi, Budo SenyokaiUnder the Dai-Nippon Senyokai (大日本武道宣揚会) banner Morihei Ueshiba (left) with the Omoto-kyo’s Sumiko and Onisaburo Deguchi
in 1932. Aritoshi Murashige standing back right

What happens when we look at all the people who are studying misogi-no-gyo or Omoto kyo or Zen meditation? If we focus on those people, you still have no one who has achieved Ueshiba’s abilities. How many people who focused on the spiritual only and practiced misogi exercises have replicated Ueshiba’s abilities? We can turn to one of Ueshiba’s students for an answer. Around 1952, Seiseki Abe says this about talking to Ueshiba, “How did you ever learn such a wonderful budo”, and he answered, ‘Through misogi.’ Now I had been doing misogi since 1941 and when I heard that Aikido came from misogi, suddenly ‘snap’, the two came together.”. (1)

Seiseki Abe with Morihei UeshibaSeiseki Abe, standing far left, with Morihei Ueshiba
Kumano Juku, 1954

Seiseki Abe had been doing misogi for at least 10 years prior to training in aikido and wasn’t at all near Ueshiba’s skills or abilities, nor did he even see misogi and aikido as being similar. However, under Ueshiba’s tutelage, Seiseki Abe continued to grow as a martial artist. We can see from this that something that Ueshiba knew and had trained was the underlying basis for powering his misogi exercises. Other people who did not have that certain something did not grow to replicate Ueshiba’s abilities. Looking at Omoto kyo, how many people who don’t practice techniques have replicated Ueshiba’s abilities? How many Omoto kyo people who do practice techniques have replicated Ueshiba’s abilities? Yet, when we look at Ueshiba’s peers, we find that they did replicate exploits and abilities. Those peers did not practice Omoto kyo nor misogi. What they did practice was exercises for Daito ryu aiki. This aiki was the power behind Ueshiba’s misogi and not the other way around.

Now, if we look at the millions of aikido people practicing techniques day after day, year after year, decade after decade and not replicating Ueshiba’s abilities, isn’t it time to accept the truth that Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido and Modern Aikido are very different?

The focus on techniques was a modern change instilled into what became Modern Aikido for the world. Ueshiba never preached techniques. In fact, his art was formless. Students griped that they rarely saw a technique twice. When asked about techniques, Ueshiba’s reply showed the overwhelming nature of trying to learn them all. He said, “There are about 3,000 basic techniques, and each of them has 16 variations … so there are many thousands. Depending on the situation, you create new ones.” (2)

Rinjiro Shirata explained his memories of early training with Ueshiba: “We never practiced techniques in any specific order. It was not a practice where we were taught. As I told you before, Ueshiba had his own training. Therefore, he practiced techniques as he wanted. That was his training. Ueshiba Sensei’s way of explaining techniques was first of all to give the names of kamisama (deities). After that, he explained the movement. He told us, ‘Aikido originally didn’t have any form. The movements of the body in response to one’s state of mind became the techniques.’.” (3)

and

“Since Aikido is formless, we move according to how we feel.” (3)

and

“Ueshiba Sensei didn’t have techniques. He said: ‘There are no techniques. What you express each time is a technique.’.” (4)

Sunadomari and UeshibaKanshu Sunadomari with Morihei Ueshiba, around 1960

Kanshu Sunadomari remarked that if you stick to form, you only get the old style martial arts. He also talked about Ueshiba and training: “O-Sensei said, ‘Aiki is to teach the basis for the creation of budo in which techniques are born as one moves.’ So you have to understand the basis for the creation of techniques. The basis is kokyu power. There is nothing else. When you develop kokyu power, countless techniques emerge. You can’t create techniques only by doing the forms of the past.”. (5)

Shioda notes that in pre-war training, there were no pre-set forms. They had to mimic what Ueshiba did. (6) In turn, David Lynch states that Shioda developed a systemized curriculum to help new students learn better. (7) If we address the actual issue of techniques, it’s interesting to find what two main aikido instructors thought about them.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba: “It was around 1937 or 1938 that I began to practice Aikido seriously. I had already learned techniques by then. One can learn techniques in two or three years.”. (8)

Koichi Tohei: “… the physical techniques can be easily learned within a short time span, like other Martial Arts.”. (9)

Koichi Tohei: “When I visited Chicago a few months ago, four Ohioans came to study under me and I was surprised because they knew the techniques quite well. When I inquired who taught them, they said that they had learned it from my book. One person would read while the others practiced the techniques. They didn’t reveal any major faults in their movements.”. (10)

As merely a technicality, one could say that Ueshiba taught techniques. A major point of fact as shown by the various schools of aikido, Ueshiba had to have taught something or else they wouldn’t have a technique based curriculum. As a matter of actual truth, though? No, Ueshiba didn’t teach techniques. He viewed his art as formless and where his body moved, his training partner created the openings for techniques to happen. The students did the best that they could with what Ueshiba gave them. Since he wasn’t really teaching the secrets, the students mimicked the forms and trained techniques. It was the students who developed a curriculum by writing down techniques and sorting them into some type of syllabus.

In the pre-war era, there weren’t that many hours of being taught by Ueshiba but rather many hours of practice with peers and seniors. It was mentioned that pre-war students often did techniques with seniors. We can see on film how Ueshiba “taught”. Who actually learned techniques from Ueshiba in those films or did the students just mimic what they saw? Many of the students of Ueshiba complained that he wouldn’t show a technique twice. We also must consider Mochizuki complaining that Ueshiba completely pared down the Daito ryu techniques into a much small number. If techniques were Ueshiba’s focus, then why did he trim so much? Why didn’t he set some sort of curriculum? Why did he say his art was formless?

If we shift our focus to consider the post-war era when Ueshiba was in Iwama, who taught at Tokyo? When Ueshiba was traveling around, who taught at Iwama or Tokyo? How about the training schedule at Tokyo where Ueshiba only “taught” the morning class? Even then, many of the students complained he talked away most of the time. Who actually put together a jo and bokken syllabus in Iwama? Saito did.

Morihei Ueshiba Shinbuden 1942Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating at the Shinbuden Dojo
Manchurai, 1942

We can also look at another example to show that Ueshiba wasn’t focused on techniques at all but rather his vision of aikido. At a demonstration in Manchuria, Ohba, as uke, showed that Ueshiba had skills that went outside the spiritual vision. This was supposed to be a prearranged demonstration but Ohba changed his attacks. Ueshiba was called upon to handle some very realistic attacks. In fact, Shigenobu Okumura stated: “At that time I was a student and I saw this demonstration. The demonstration was as serious as any I have ever seen. I could tell that it was not a prearranged demonstration at all.” (11) Ueshiba was fumingly angry that Ohba had changed his attacks and he stayed that way until appeased by the words of Hideo Sonobe, who gave high praise. It would appear that Ueshiba’s chosen demonstration of how he viewed his art of aikido was ruined by Ohba’s very strong and unrehearsed attacks. Ueshiba had a prearranged vision of his aikido that included an emphasis on set attacks with which he allowed the kami to manifest the technique. The focus was not on techniques.

Gozo Shioda - Budo, 1938Gozo Shioda and Morihei Ueshiba
from the technical manual “Budo”, 1938

Shioda also said that Ueshiba told him, “In a real fight, Aikido is 70 percent atemi and 30 percent throwing.” (12) The specific factor here is “real fight”. We can guess that in a real encounter which isn’t preset, Ueshiba relied upon his Daito ryu training, which included atemi and aiki. Techniques were not the focus. We can see that Ueshiba definitely had the skills, but chose to only show or use certain aspects, or certain subsets, in his vision of aikido. Consider that when a student was picked as an uke by Ueshiba, if that student didn’t attack in a very specific way that Ueshiba wanted, then that student didn’t get picked as uke again. Ueshiba was very specific in demonstrating his vision of aikido. He viewed what he did as a spiritual ideology using his students as training partners rather than focusing on actually teaching his students the secret of aiki.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa, Takahashi and KimuraYukiyoshi Sagawa with Masaru Takahashi and Tatsuo Kimura

Speaking of aiki, if we look to Yukiyoshi Sagawa, we find that he states aiki is a body training method and it isn’t about techniques. In fact, Sagawa, Kodo Horikawa, Seigo Okamoto, and Ueshiba all said their art was formless. Not some set curriculum of techniques, but formless. Then we find that Tokimune Takeda (*Note: see “Solo Training for Kokyu-ryoku and Ki in Daito-ryu Aiki Budo“), Takuma Hisa, Kodo, Sagawa, and Ueshiba all had solo training exercises that did not get shown. Where is their focus on techniques? They did not have it.

Kodo HorikawaDaito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Kodokai founder Kodo Horikawa

The focus on techniques is in Modern Aikido. Now that the world has practiced Modern Aikido and its techniques since, let’s say, 1960, where have people progressed? Where are the peer level people of Gozo Shioda or Rinjiro Shirata? How about those who have made it to replicate Ueshiba’s abilities? Even some of the direct students have said that they haven’t reached Ueshiba’s level. What does that say for their students?

What has Modern Aikido been doing for 50 years? Techniques. Why is it that Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei stated that techniques can be learned in a short amount of time? Doesn’t 50 years of focused study on techniques with no worldwide appearance of anyone like Shioda, Shirata, or Ueshiba state something very definitive? Doesn’t that state that there are two unique visions of aikido? Morihei Ueshiba’s and Modern Aikido’s.

(1) Aiki News Issue 045
(2) Aiki News Issue 018
(3) Aiki News Issue 062
(4) Aiki News Issue 063
(5) Aiki News Issue 065
(6) “Aikido Shugyo” by Gozo Shioda
(7) Aikido Journal 103
(8) Aiki News Issue 056
(9) From Westbrook and Ratti’s “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere“.
(10) Black Belt 1965 Vol 3 No 11.
(11) Aiki News Issue 086
(12) “Aikido Shugyo” by Gozo Shioda

Conclusion

There are two very different legacies to aikido. Kisshomaru created a worldwide vision of aikido that was accepted by millions. The world adopted the peaceful vision and the created curriculum. Some took the spiritual message as the most important part over martial viability, some took the martial viability over the spiritual, and others blended the two.

Someone who wanted a peaceful, spiritual training environment could find it. Someone who wanted a more martial environment could find it. Make no mistake, even with all the hoopla about aiki bunny hopping, there are people who have made Modern Aikido very martially viable. Ellis Amdur has an eloquent blog regarding just one example. (1)

The world embraced Modern Aikido, gave it life, gave it purpose, and created a legacy. The only unfortunate thing to it all is that the world mistakenly traced that legacy back to Morihei Ueshiba.

Morihei Ueshiba’s legacy is based upon aiki. This was the aiki that was passed down to him from Sokaku Takeda. His words were actual training explanations for developing the way of that specific aiki. And beyond those words that most couldn’t understand, he also explained aiki in very simple, direct terms … to a select few. A very specific training paradigm to change the body. Morihei Ueshiba took that aiki training, changed his body, studied Daito ryu, dabbled in other martial arts, and infused his Omoto kyo with it. A very different legacy than Modern Aikido. Ueshiba’s aikido was martially valid and stood out as unique from koryu jujutsu, judo, and other martial systems. Ueshiba’s aikido also created a visionary spiritual idealogy based entirely upon aiki but couched in Omoto kyo terms.

The world is big enough for both legacies. Different visions for different people. Modern Aikido must take a step back and start acknowledging their actual Founders – People like Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Koichi Tohei, Morihiro Saito and others. Give them the credit that is rightly due by hanging their picture on the shomen. Morihei Ueshiba should be reserved for those seeking the legacy of aiki that was passed down from Sokaku Takeda.

(1) “The Use of Weapons in Aikidō Training

Appendix – Formlessness of the Arts

Aiki News Issue 018

“Ueshiba: There are about 3,000 basic techniques, and each of them has 16 variations … so there are many thousands. Depending on the situation, you create new ones.”

Aiki News Issue 062

“He told us, “Aikido originally didn’t have any form. The movements of the body in response to one’s state of mind became the techniques.” ” — Shirata

“Since Aikido is formless, we move according to how we feel.” — Shirata

Shirata Sensei: We never practiced techniques in any specific order. It was not a practice where we were taught. As I told you before, Ueshiba had his own training. Therefore, he practiced techniques as he wanted. That was his training. Ueshiba Sensei’s way of explaining techniques was first of all to give the names of kamisama (deities). After that, he explained the movement. He told us, “Aikido originally didn’t have any form. The movements of the body in response to one’s state of mind became the techniques.

Aiki News Issue 063

“Ueshiba Sensei didn’t have techniques. He said: “There are no techniques. What you express each time is a technique.” ” — Shirata

Aiki News Issue 065

“Sensei understood the word “takemusu” as the revelation of one of the kami. “Takemusu” is the basis for the creation of all things. Aikido represents the form which creates all things through the body. O-Sensei said, “Aiki is to teach the basis for the creation of budo in which techniques are born as one moves.” So you have to understand the basis for the creation of techniques. The basis is kokyu power. There is nothing else. When you develop kokyu power, countless techniques emerge. You can’t create techniques only by doing the forms of the past.” — Sunadomari

“If you teach form only, you end up only with an old-style martial art.” — Sunadomari

Aiki News Issue 074

Sagawa: Takeda Sensei’s teaching method was always practical. He never taught us kata (forms).

Aikido Journal 103 (Vol 22, no 2)

Interview with David Lynch
Shioda Sensei, like many other former students of O-Sensei, felt that O-Sensei’s teaching was unsystematic, and he therefore devised his own set of basic exercises that were intended to make the art easier for the average person to learn. These basic exercises (hiriki no yosei and shumatsu dosa, for instance) are not found in other dojos.

Aikido Shugyo by Gozo Shioda

Aikido Shugyo by Gozo Shioda

As mentioned earlier, at the Ueshiba Dojo in the old days we didn’t explicitly have any pre-set forms. The only thing the students could do was copy the techniques that Sensei performed on their own. In terms of instruction, the only thing we were told was to “become one with heaven and earth.”

International Aikido Federation (IAF) Chairman Peter Goldsbury

(originally posted on AikiWeb)

There are many subjective accounts of how Morihei Ueshiba trained and what he taught, but I do not think that these accounts allow us to state categorically that this or that was how Ueshiba taught or trained. Apart from Doshu, who I think is in a special category, the Hombu instructor with whom I have discussed these issues the most is Hiroshi Tada. Like Tohei, H Tada was a student of Tempu Nakamura, but he seems to have been very careful as to what he taught in the Hombu and what he taught in his own dojo and in Italy. In other words, he seems to have accepted the idea that only certain things were to be taught or practiced in the Hombu, but also that the other things were to be practiced elsewhere. He teaches weapons in Italy, but never in the Hombu, and when I mentioned some details of a certain jo kata that I practiced in Italy to another Hombu instructor, he was very curious and wondered where Tada had learned it. Like other older Hombu instructors, Tada sets great store by solo training exercises and these seem to consist mainly of kokyu exercises of increasing sophistication and complexity. But he has never taught anything like pushing hands etc and I suspect that the occasion for seeing the results of all this kokyu training would be in basic aikido waza, like shoumen-uchi 1-kyou. This issue for me is which bit of Tada’s training comes from Nakamura and which bit from Ueshiba — and whether he could make such a distinction. Add to this Ellis Amdur’s theory of Ueshiba’s use of his students as ‘crash-test dummies’ and you also have to entertain the possibility that he showed different things to different students — and he showed this by having them take ukemi. You also have to entertain the possibility that the skills that Ueshiba possessed which could be interpreted as IP skills could be acquired by Ueshiba’s students in various ways, but not necessarily from Ueshiba himself by a direct transmission.

and

I am not sure that acceptance is the right word here. Sufferance might be more appropriate. One of the yudansha who trains with the group I look after in the Netherlands attends the workshops of Dan Harden and Minoru Akuzawa when they come to Europe. His aikido comes from another source, of course, but on one occasion a senior Hombu instructor stopped and asked him, “Why are you so strong?” The question was not meant in a negative sense at all and he was not talking about physical strength. The instructor knew exactly what he was seeing and I believe the older generation of instructors in Japan also know this. But, as you say, this knowledge is clandestine and limited to individuals. These individuals are in the Aikikai, but are dwindling in number. Yamaguchi, Tada and Arikawa used to visit our dojo regularly and I once asked an instructor why Doshu (the present Doshu, not Kisshomaru) was never invited. This was a few years ago and the answer was quite blunt: “He’s too young and does not know enough.”

I think Doshu is an active exponent of a certain interpretation of iemoto, but the great danger here is that aikido is not a koryu and does not have kata in the sense understood in a koryu. There is a sense that the waza can be seen as vehicles for the expression of creativity and this, to my mind, is what Morihei Ueshiba meant by Takemusu Aiki. He always showed waza, as did Takeda Sokaku, but seems to have presented them slightly differently to different deshi. So creativity can be understood in many ways. Unlike the present generation of Japanese martial arts exponents, Morihei Ueshiba also read the Chinese classics and was familiar with all the texts that are the foundation of Chinese internal arts. Recently I came across a scholarly work on yin-yang and its place in Chinese thought and culture. Even a quick read was enough to show that this is a complex and multi-faceted concept. We all know the question that a student asked Morihei Ueshiba and his answer, citing the knowledge of yin and yang. Ueshiba did not give any further explanation and left it to the students to grasp what he meant. The point is that he was probably familiar with the whole breadth and depth of the concept, but his students did not share this familiarity.

Hidden in Plain Sight by Ellis Amdur

Hidden in Plain Sight“, by Ellis Amdur (pp. 181-182)

“Solo training seems to be a common link among Daito-ryu practitioners and the various methods of this training develop different types of internal strength. Such training can include: a) wringing / twisting / coiling of the body to develop the connective tissue; b) methods of breathing to generate “pressure”, which builds power from the inside out; c) mental imagery and focused attention that causes subtle micro-adjustments of the nervous system that, in essence, “rewire” the body, so that it functions at increasing levels of efficiency, without unnecessary conflicts between extensor and flexor muscles, for example. Different practitioners of Daito-ryu, including Ueshiba, probably used different exercises and also probably trained in these aspects in different proportions. In this way, their abilities would have developed in different spheres.”


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 2]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=2026 2015-12-12T19:01:41Z 2015-10-24T23:01:52Z Tatsuo Kimura Sensei Instructing “Sagawa Sensei entered the world of Aiki when he was 17 years old. However, his younger brother Hiroshi Sagawa, said, ‘My brother could throw anyone when he was 17 years old, but it was after he became 50 that he reached Takeda Sensei’s level where the hands of his opponent no … Continue reading Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 2 »

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Tatsuo Kimura Sensei Instructing

Tatsuo Kimura Sensei Instructing

“Sagawa Sensei entered the world of Aiki when he was 17 years old. However, his younger brother Hiroshi Sagawa, said, ‘My brother could throw anyone when he was 17 years old, but it was after he became 50 that he reached Takeda Sensei’s level where the hands of his opponent no longer let go.’…..Mr. Hiroshi Sagawa, Sensei’s brother, also told me that when Sagawa Sensei was young, he continued training and would say, ‘Although everyone says that only Takeda Sensei can do techniques using Aiki, Sensei is also a human being so it must absolutely be possible for me to understand Aiki.'”

– Tatsuo Kimura
  Discovering Aiki My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei

Yukiyoshi Sagawa was a long time student of  Daito-ryu Chuku-no-so Sokaku Takeda, who was also the teacher of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s younger brother and favorite sibling, Hiroshi Sagawa (佐川廣), was born in Shimo-yubetsu Hokkaido in 1909 (Meiji Year 42) into a family in which both his father and his elder brother trained extensively with Sokaku Takeda.

Tatsuo Kimura (木村達雄) is one of three of Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan’s students to have completed the 10th Gen level of techniques (the techniques in Sagawa Dojo that Sagawa Sensei learned from Sokaku Takeda were organized into ten levels, or “Gen” / 元).

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

This is part 2 of the English translation of an interview conducted in Japanese by Kuni Azumi (安積 邦) with Hiroshi Sagawa and Tatsuo Kimura that previously appeared in the popular martial arts magazine Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”) in 2001. You may wish to read Part 1 before reading this section.

You may also be interested in another interview with Kimura Sensei that appeared on the Aikido Sangenkai blog previously – “Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura, Part 1 and Part 2.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa and Kimura Tatsuo

Yukiyoshi Sagawa and Kimura Tatsuo in 1985

Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura, Part 2

Sogawa Sohan and the Venerable Morihei Ueshiba

Azumi: But I’ve heard that you had a number of difficulties when you entered Sagawa Dojo, didn’t you? Although you thought “This is the Bujutsu that I have been searching for!” when you first laid eyes on Sagawa Sensei and immediately decided to enroll, Sensei only said “But I won’t teach you!”.

Kimura: Yes (embarrassed smile). At first when I was refused, I thought that I would just stand there under Sensei’s eaves and wait, like something out of a story. (laughing) But then I thought that in the present age that would just be a nuisance. At the end of my desperation I decided to write a letter.

Azumi: A letter?

Kimura: Because I had already been refused once I really agonized over the content of the letter. Well, this is what I wrote. “I think that there is such a thing as fate in this world. I believe that if I had known of Sagawa Sensei first that I would not have done Aikido. Additionally, Sagawa Sensei does absolutely no advertising of any kind. For this reason there was no way that I could have known about him, and to be refused for doing Aikido in this case…”.

Azumi: Was the reason that you were refused that you had been doing Aikido up until that time?

Kimura: Shortly before I started, there was a person who was a fourth dan in Aikido. However, just as Sagawa Sensei was at the point of teaching them they were told by their Aikido teacher to become an instructor and they quit Sagawa Dojo. Just before that a long term student who had practiced Karate for fifteen years quit as well…that number of years matched my fifteen years in Aikido exactly. (embarrassed smile) Sagawa Sensei must have felt that we came from bad roots. (laughing)

Azumi: Perhaps that’s right! (laughing)

Kimura: In addition to that, at our first meeting I made bold speeches about how incredible Ueshiba Sensei was in front of Sagawa Sensei. At the time I certainly didn’t believe that Sagawa Sensei had surpassed O-Sensei long ago. It may be that it was thought “This is suspicious, he must have come to steal my techniques”. (laughing)

Azumi: Or he must be a spy… (laughing)

Sagawa: In this connection, my older brother said that he went to Ueshiba Dojo in order to test whether or not Ueshiba-san could do Aiki when he was around thirty years old, but Ueshiba-san resisted training with him. Eventually he did, but my brother said that Ueshiba-san just grabbed desperately, pushed and turned red.

Transparent Power - Tomei na Chikara

“Transparent Power” (透明な力) – Japanese and English Editions

Azumi: That story certainly appears in “Transparent Power“, doesn’t it?

Sagawa: So, and this wasn’t written in Kimura-san’s book, sometime later he partnered with one of the students, one named Yukawa-san. Well, my brother threw that person many times, more than ten times. It seems that at first Yukawa-san was stubborn and came to attack my brother, but as he was thrown over and over he gradually came to accept being thrown. After that Ueshiba-san was training with that person and my brother said “Yukawa took ukemi well, so it looked as if his throws were more brilliant than mine (laughing)”. When I heard that I thought that Ueshiba-san might be beyond my brother, but listening to Kimura-san’s stories…

What was Behind Sagawa Sohan’s Blistering Anger

Kimura: Sagawa Sensei’s force of personality was incredible, wasn’t it? Especially when he became angry about the state of one’s technical progress… (embarrassed smile) Yes, that was explosive! I experienced that kind of thing many times. Later on, before training I had the custom of always drinking coffee with Sagawa Sensei while we discussed various things together (Note to the editorial staff: this custom continued for over seventeen years, until Sagawa Sensei passed away). One time, as we were drinking coffee as usual, Sensei suddenly shouted “For the last two months your progress has stopped!” – that was really frightening. Whenever work was busy and I wasn’t doing my solo training for a week or so I would soon get scolded. That was always straight on the mark. When I would try some kind of conditioning that I had devised myself, even though I had said nothing to Sensei about it he would say “Stop that training you’re doing”…..it was really incredible.

Azumi: He must have been sharply perceptive, but it’s incredible – honestly, it’s difficult to believe.

Kimura: It’s true, all of it. It’s impossible to overstate talk of Sagawa Sensei – that’s how incredible he was. Rather, there are many stories that are even more surprising. As far as I am concerned, when put in words the actual events come across as being less then they were, so I feel as if I don’t even really want to speak about them.

Azumi: When I speak to members of Sagawa Dojo they tell me that it was extremely frightening when he became angry. How did your brother appear from your perspective?

Sagawa: I didn’t have a frightening image of my brother myself, even though he may have displayed harsh face with regards to Bujutsu. But he never nagged me, his younger brother, or tried to interfere with me in any odd ways just because we were brothers. Our father was a person like that. Father experienced many hard times, and it may be that he wanted to allow his children to do as they liked. I went to two universities, going to Waseda University after leaving Hokkaido University, but my father excused even that selfishness. I was never told that I couldn’t go out on the town at night, I was free to do anything.

Azumi: ….?

Sagawa: Even so, it’s not as I was doing anything bad!

Azumi: No, no, I didn’t say anything! (sweating)

Sagawa : Well…I would go to friend’s houses and stay late, that’s about it. Because I can’t drink alcohol. It may be that we saw what our father was like and naturally developed the same kind of relationship between us.

Kimura: When I asked Sagawa Sensei about his siblings he’d just go on and on about Hiroshi-san. I never heard anything about any of his other siblings, I heard a lot about Hiroshi-san.

Sagawa: As I mentioned before, in the past I often partnered with my brother during training (embarrassed smile), and perhaps he cared for me because of that.

Azumi: What kind of stories did Sagawa Sensei tell about Hiroshi-san?

Kimura: Stories about the chicken, and Hiroshi-san’s hands…”If only they were as big as my younger brother’s…” he was burning with envy! (laughing)

Sagawa: My brother’s hands were very small.

Kimura: Although one wouldn’t think that, they way that they were conditioned. (embarrassed smile)

Sagawa: Yes, that’s true. I think that he conditioned them and they became strong. During the time that he was in Hokkaido, there was a student of his who was a fifth or sixth dan in Judo, that person had thick arms. My brother would grumble that if his hands were as large as mine it would have been easier to hold on to him. (laughing)

Azumi: Sagawa Sensei grumbled!?

Kimura: In any case, from my discussions with Sensei I was left with the impression that he took his younger brother Hiroshi-san under his wing.

Hiroshi Sagawa, pinned with one finger

Hiroshi Sagawa and Kimura Tatsuo re-enact
Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s one-finger pin

Anecdotes of the Master Sagawa Sohan, Heroic Exploits

Azumi: Hiroshi Sensei, are there any memories of your brother’s Aiki that left an impression on you?

Sagawa: One time my brother said to me “With one finger I will make you unable to move”. Inside myself I thought “Hold me down with one finger? That’s absurd! There’s no way that’s possible”. However, (making a gesture) like that I was thrown with the most natural feeling in the world. I was put down face up, with my arms turned up against my back. When that was done my own body held down both my arms, and I couldn’t move at all. My brother pressed down firmly on my head with his little finger and said “Try getting up!”. I couldn’t get my body to move, so there was no way that I could get up! (embarrassed smile) If the truth be told, the first time that I realized how incredible my brother’s techniques were was when I brought a friend to see him.

Azumi: What do you mean?

Sagawa: During the time that were were in Maruyama (Sapporo), I had a friend who was a fourth dan in Judo and had never lost a fight. I thought that this guy would be able to give my brother some opposition, and so I took him brother’s place. My brother was around thirty years old, and I was around twenty two or three. His name was Shinji Toba (鳥羽信次), and he had three swirls in his hair. (laughing) In Sapporo he’d fight with the young gang toughs and he had a violent temper. They actually crossed hands, but when he came on to my brother he was handled like a complete child! So that rough man turned bright purple and was made small. He wasn’t any kind of opposition.

Azumi: A Judo fourth dan handled like a child…

Sagawa: That man, Toba, had a match the previous year with a strong Judo sixth dan, but however strong a fourth dan Toba was there was no way to expect that there was any way that he could defeat a sixth dan opponent. However, he was strong in his will to avoid defeat, entered his opponent’s opening and, throwing him over his back, dropping him into a choke.

Azumi: Wow!

Ude Hishigi Juji Gatame

Ude Hishigi Juji Gatame
“Judo Kyohan” (柔道教範) 1913, by Sakujiro Yokoyama and Eisuke Oshima 

Sagawa: So what did my brother think, paired with that Toba? He took ukemi when he was thrown, and then while lying down he stretched out one hand and had him apply Ude Hishigi Juji Gatame (腕挫十字固). Anyway, he was the kind of man that you couldn’t predict what he would do, so I suddenly became worried as to whether everything would really be alright.

Azumi: That’s true, isn’t it?

Sagawa: However, when my brother said “OK?” in no time at all he stood right up. So that means that his opponent was hanging down from him. And that wasn’t all – he would have his opponent put the lock full on and then say “OK? I’m going to start!” and then just pull his arm out of the lock.

Azumi: How could he do such a thing? How did it work? Kimura Sensei…

Response to a Judo-ka

How did Sokaku and Sagawa throw strong Judo players?

“This was a question of mine for many years, so I had to ask these two people. As Hiroshi Sensei explained Kimura Sensei said “It must be like this…” – and here it is! As far as I can tell, it must be that the Judo-ka are sent flying instantly as they come to grab. Certainly, this prohibits the Judo-ka from executing a technique, and it may be that this is contrary to the expectations of the Judo-ka, who is expecting to stay in close contact. They may have been a simple challenge as opponents for Sokaku and Sagawa in their matches with other styles.”

-Kuni Azumi (shown above with Kimura Tatsuo)

Kimura: During the Second Gen direct transmission workshop Sagawa Sensei lay face downwards and said “Try holding me down!”, so I twisted Sensei’s arm up behind his back and held him with both hands in a way that he would certainly be unable to move. However, just as I thought that I heard Sensei’s voice say “OK?” from below “Bang!” – I was thrown. So I can visualize that story, but, well…. (laughing)

Sagawa: Students other than Kimura-san have also said things like “Before I realized it I could see the ceiling, and then it felt as if the tatami was in front of my eyes in the next moment.” when being thrown by my brother. It was while hearing those stories that I began to think that my brother’s techniques were those of a master, that they weren’t necessarily just overacting, that they must be the real thing.

Azumi:He had an incredible memory…

Sagawa: If we talk about that then we must also talk about Takeda Sensei.

Azumi: Sokaku Takeda Sensei?

Sagawa: As you know, Takeda Sensei could not write, but his powers of memory were something extraordinary. “I taught this student up to here, I taught that student up to the XX technique of XX kajo.” – he remembered this things so sharply that it was frightening.

Azumi: Since he couldn’t write, he must not have been able to record any notes, right?

Sagawa: My brother really admired him for that reason “Hundreds, no thousands, of students and he would never (forgetting what he had previously taught) teach a duplicate technique.”.

Kimura: Sagawa Sensei also could have been called almost abnormal (laughing), he had tremendous powers of memory. It just felt to me as if they declined just slightly (compared to what it was previously) about two or three years before he passed away. Even then, I think that it was when Sensei was 87 (Showa year 63 / 1988) that he said “Kimura-kun, recently my memory has been getting worse”, and when I asked him why he said “I can’t remember the street that I used when I visited my friend in Showa year 19 (1944)”. He treated it as something that would be remembered as a matter of course. (embarrassed grin) At the time I couldn’t say anything but “Sensei, whatever you say…”. That is, it was something from more than forty-four years ago, wasn’t it?

Azumi: Rather one would wonder if something like that could even be recalled… However, perhaps that incredible memory was also part of Takeda-den (Translator’s Note: “the transmission from Takeda”). Aiki, incredible powers of memory, long life, the vigor of his anger, Takeda and Sagawa Sensei had many very interesting commonalities, didn’t they?

Continued in Part 3, with a discussion of the unknown side benefits of Aiki…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

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Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 1]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=2002 2015-12-11T21:08:45Z 2015-09-18T23:47:48Z 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura and Hiroshi Sagawa, Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan’s younger brother “There are those who say that Morihei Ueshiba operated on a different dimension, but since I came to Japan two months after he died, I couldn’t experience Ueshiba Sensei’s technique personally. But I am glad to know that Aiki truly exists.” – Aikido … Continue reading Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 1 »

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Hiroshi Sagawa and Tatsuo Kimura

10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura and Hiroshi Sagawa,
Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan’s younger brother

“There are those who say that Morihei Ueshiba operated on a different dimension, but since I came to Japan two months after he died, I couldn’t experience Ueshiba Sensei’s technique personally. But I am glad to know that Aiki truly exists.”

– Aikido Journal editor Stanley Pranin, on visiting Yukiyoshi Sagawa,
from Discovering Aiki My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei

Yukiyoshi Sagawa often accompanied his teacher,  Daito-ryu Chuku-no-so Sokaku Takeda, on his travels and was a contemporary of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, who was also one of Sokaku Takeda’s long time students.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s younger brother, Hiroshi Sagawa (佐川廣) was born in Shimo-yubetsu Hokkaido in 1909 (Meiji Year 42). He did not himself train in Daito-ryu, but he was raised in an environment in which both his father and his elder brother trained extensively with Sokaku Takeda.

Tatsuo Kimura (木村達雄) is one of three of Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan’s students to have completed the 10th Gen level of techniques (the techniques in Sagawa Dojo that Sagawa Sensei learned from Sokaku Takeda were organized into ten levels, or “Gen” / 元).

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

This is part 1 of the English translation of an interview conducted in Japanese by Kuni Azumi (安積 邦) with Hiroshi Sagawa and Tatsuo Kimura that previously appeared in the popular martial arts magazine Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”) in 2001.

You may also be interested in another interview with Kimura Sensei that appeared on the Aikido Sangenkai blog previously – “Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura, Part 1 and Part 2

Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Ryote Aiki

Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan demonstrates Aiki

Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura, Part 1

If the seed of Aiki doesn’t exist…

Azumi: I would like to discuss a number of things along the theme of “Yukiyoshi Sagawa and Aiki”. It is close to three years since Sagawa Sohan passed away, but I still can’t forget the impact that I felt upon hearing of his passing. Later on I learned of the the story of his “final practice”, where he seemed to foresee his own passing and I was even more greatly astonished.

Transparent Power - Tomei na Chikara

“Transparent Power” (透明な力) – Japanese and English Editions

Kimura: I have promised (the publishing company) to include the story of that last practice when “”Transparent Power” is reprinted. ….Including Sensei, there were only five people there at the time.

Azumi: Was there some kind of special instruction….?

Kimura: I don’t know about that. (smiling) That is, even if that were that case, this is not something that you are able to do just because you have received instruction. That is because it is something that must come to a boil over time.

Azumi: “Come to a boil over time…”?

Kimura: I was often told this by Sagawa Sensei while he was still living. “Aiki, you see, Aiki has a ‘seed’. It’s because this seed exists that that it sprouts and develops rapidly. That is why one can understand whether someone has Aiki by the degree of their progress.”.

Azumi: “A seed of Aiki”?

Kimura: In other words, someone without Aiki can get to a certain limited understanding, but there they stop. When one has Aiki a bud emerges automatically, and that rapidly matures and continues to change with great vigor. When I had just entered the dojo Sagawa Sensei pointed to one of the sempai and told me that I should watch them and learn since they had just grasped Aiki. But one day after about half a year had passed I was told “He has no Aiki, if he did then he would be completely different by now”, and Sensei told me about the “seed of Aiki”.

Azumi: I see. But from the position of one who doesn’t understand what Aiki is, one starts to think “then how can one get ahold of this seed?”. I can’t think that it is something that can be obtained simply through exerting great effort…

Kimura: In Bujutsu it is difficult to progress without meeting someone who already has the ability to do it. Particularly with relation to Aiki, I think that it is absolutely impossible. It is necessary, indispensable, to take in information through the body. Once one experiences the sensation of such a body I think that they will be able to grasp that however much they read books or watch videos there is no way that they would be capable of understanding without that.

Azumi: Without directly experiencing the techniques of someone who already has the ability it is impossible to master Aiki.

Kimura: That’s what I believe. Leaving aside a genius like Takeda Sensei, without the feeling of it actually being done to them one will not understand. Because it is difficult even if one receives such techniques many times. Because over a period of twenty years I had such techniques done to me thousands of times.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa's Aiki Bojutsu

Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki Bojutsu

It must be preserved!

Azumi: In appearance I think that there are techniques that appear to be Aiki. However, it is difficult for us to distinguish them from those techniques done with real Aiki.

Kimura: As one’s level rises they come to understand the difference. When I first entered the dojo of course I was thrown by Sagawa Sensei, but also by the sempai. I was thrown with a single finger. I thought they they (Sagawa Sensei and the sempai) were both strong – but I didn’t understand the difference in their strength. However, after conditioning myself for three years there was a sempai that couldn’t apply techniques when I resisted. And that sempai was really strong! Even so, after five years had passed techniques became completely ineffective. It wasn’t just that person, everyone’s techniques became ineffective. However, just with Sagawa Sensei I would be thrown every which way (of course, that didn’t happen to just me). At first I thought inside myself, “Sempai that are that strong wouldn’t fly (when thrown) like that…it must be a lie! They must be holding back for Sensei.”. (laughing)

Azumi: That’s normal, isn’t it?

Kimura: However, as I continued to be thrown, and as I become stronger, I suddenly came to understand – “There is something essential about Sagawa Sensei’s technique that is completely different!”. That took me five years, to become clearly aware that Sagawa Sensei had Aiki. As I said before, when I was weak I had suspicions that sempai who were so strong could be thrown around like that, but although the sempai never batted an eye no matter what I tried, they couldn’t resist Sagawa Sensei at all and were just tossed about. I couldn’t remain unaware that those sempai were actually being handled like that.

Azumi: And so, became dedicated to grasping Aiki?

Kimura: I felt instinctively that if I said it out loud that nobody would believe me. That is, however one tries to explain the magnificence of Sagawa Sensei’s techniques, they far surpass common sense. For someone like me who is training but cannot even duplicate a single thing, especially in the current age, nobody would believe me, would they? Anybody can talk about it, but that won’t wash in Budo. It’s a matter of whether you can or cannot do it, that’s what’s important. For that reason, if I became capable of demonstrating it I would be able to say “Sagawa Sensei’s techniques were far and away greater then mine”, and have a platform to speak from. I thought that then I would certainly be able to communicate how incredible Sagawa Sensei was.

Azumi: So this was the force driving your training into those thousands of repetitions?

Kimura: Well…say that there were a lot of repetitions (embarrassed smile), that’s certainly the case.

Allowing the students to “experiment”!

Sagawa: Certainly there are levels in learning Aiki.

Kimura: Once one reached a certain level Sagawa Sensei would check the students (this only applied to special people) and give them some advice. It was said in a way that a normal person wouldn’t notice, but that the upper level people would understand. Sagawa Sensei would carefully observe those that were working seriously and say something to them.

Azumi: Was the advice something that one had to be of a fairly high level to understand?

Kimura: Everybody’s ability to understand is different. However much one tries to give an oral explanation there are some aspects that are difficult. Even if one uses the same words to explain, each person will take it their own way depending upon the suppositions and judgement of their own experience, so if one does not have the foundation for an explanation or they make an error then no matter how much one explains in words they will not be able to comprehend, it will be beyond their imagination. In one sense, words are an extremely inconvenient means of transmission, because especially in the experience of Budo the areas that cannot be expressed in words are quite large. There is no way other than actually experiencing the techniques.

Azumi: You mean “seeing is believing” (百聞は一見にしかず)?

Kimura: However, to speak truthfully, even seeing is no good. However much one tries to observe from the outside, in the end one cannot understand what it feels like without experiencing it directly. Particularly in the case of Sagawa Sensei’s technique, there is a completely different feeling when one receives them directly.

Azumi: But even if one learns through their body I think that there must still be a process of trial and error. It’s normal to expect that there are people who will think “That didn’t work, so next time I’ll try something different.” or “This goes against what I was taught, I wonder how Sensei would handle this.”, isn’t it?

Kimura: You may think it surprising, but Sagawa Sensei permitted a lot of experimentation and trial and error. To state it in the extreme, one was allowed to try anything.

Azumi: What? Anything was okay?

Kimura: For that reason, I tried many different methods. Always about eight different ones.

Azumi: That many?

Kimura: Thanks to that Sensei once said “Kimura-kun always tries a lot of different things”. (laughing)

Tatsuo Kimura demonstrates Aiki

Tatsuo Kimura demonstrates with the interviewer, Kuni Azumi
Kimura Sensei thought “If I rest my hand lightly like this (then
Aiki won’t work….)” and tried it on Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan
– the result was as shown above

Azumi: For example, what kind of things did you try?

Kimura: Essentially, I would say “What happens if I do this?”, “If this doesn’t work then next time I’ll try the opposite.”. Once I thought “Perhaps if I grasp lightly then the technique won’t work?”, so I tried laying my hand softly on Sagawa Sensei’s hand. It’s difficult to explain in words, I tried to replicate what Sagawa Sensei showed me at that time. *See photo above.

Azumi: That’s incredible.

Kimura: This was done to me. This was about three years after I entered the dojo….but I’m happy that I was able to imitate it. (smiling) This kind of thing happened many times, I was absorbed by Sagawa Sensei. It was really incredible!

Continued in Part 2, with more from Hiroshi Sagawa and a discussion of Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s interactions with Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

The post Interview with Hiroshi Sagawa and 10th Gen Shihan Tatsuo Kimura – Part 1 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 2]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1963 2015-12-11T21:08:28Z 2015-08-17T19:42:56Z Yukiyoshi Sagawa demonstrates Aiki-age on Tatsuo Kimura while on a train in 1987 Yukiyoshi Sagawa was a contemporary of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and a fellow student under Daito-ryu Chuku-no-so Sokaku Takeda. He often accompanied Takeda Sensei in his travels around Japan, and received his Kyoju Dairi (assistant instructor’s license) from Sokaku Takeda in 1932 … Continue reading Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 2 »

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Yukiyoshi Sagawa demonstrates Aiki-ageYukiyoshi Sagawa demonstrates Aiki-age on Tatsuo Kimura
while on a train in 1987

Yukiyoshi Sagawa was a contemporary of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and a fellow student under Daito-ryu Chuku-no-so Sokaku Takeda. He often accompanied Takeda Sensei in his travels around Japan, and received his Kyoju Dairi (assistant instructor’s license) from Sokaku Takeda in 1932 (this is the same license that Morihei Ueshiba received from Sokaku Takeda in 1922).

In Sagawa Dojo the techniques that Sagawa Sensei learned from Sokaku Takeda were organized into ten levels (“Gen” / 元). Only a few of Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s students received the Kyoju Dairi certification from Sagawa Sensei, and among those only three have completed the 10th Gen.

One of the three student to have completed 10th Gen with direct instruction from Yukiyoshi Sagawa is Tatsuo Kimura (木村達雄), a long time student of Sagawa Sensei. Born in Tokyo Japan in 1947, Kimura Sensei is a well known mathematician and professor at Tsukuba University. He published two books about Sagawa Sohan (宗範) that have been translated into English (the latter one only partially) – “Transparent Power (透明な力)” and “Discovering Aiki My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei (合気修得への道―佐川幸義先生に就いた二十年)”. He also holds a third-dan in kendo and a fifth-dan in Aikido, which he studied under Seigo Yamaguchi (山口清吾).

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

You may wish to read Part 1 of the interview before reading this section.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa demonstrates Tai-no-AikiYukiyoshi Sagawa demonstrates Tai-no-Aiki (体合気 / “Body Aiki”)

Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Part 2

Interview with Tatsuo Kimura

Sagawa Sohan’s Aiki

Q: In the end, Aiki is the heart and soul of Daito-ryu, isn’t it?

A: That’s right. Those who came from the outside included many high ranking practitioners of other forms of budo, and it was my responsibility to pair up with that kind of person in the beginning. I thought that it would be unforgivable to lose to these people, so I repeated the conditioning exercises that I had been taught by Sensei almost twenty-thousand times every day.

But Sensei told me one day “Whatever conditioning you do, once a new person masters Aiki it’s all over! That’s the way that Aiki is.”, and from that time I thought that I must grasp Aiki no matter what. That is to say, even though I could not be defeated by other people after heavy training in the conditioning exercises that I spoke of before, when I got caught by Sensei there was nothing that I could do. And then Sensei told me that it was because he understood that one could be defeated through Aiki no matter how much they were conditioned that he taught me the conditioning methods, and I thought that I understood.

(*Translator’s Note: the language here is as in the original, and is somewhat awkward. The sense is that Sagawa Sensei would teach the conditioning exercises, but without explanation. The exercises are necessary for developing Aiki, but are not themselves Aiki, so he would watch to see if people could grasp the connection. If they did then they were worth teaching, if not then…)   

Sagawa Sensei would never teach anything about Aiki straight out. There was a heart and soul called Aiki, and he would teach the technical methods on the periphery of it, until he got quite close to the components of the heart and soul. In other words, he would teach that much, and then watch to see if one could grasp the components of the heart and soul. He thought that if someone could not grasp that then there was no point in teaching them. Originally, Sagawa Sensei himself expended considerable effort until he mastered it at last, so he thought that it natural that the person learning should invest that kind of effort.

For that reason, it was inevitable that he would concentrate the people that he needed to teach and bring them up intensively. He set up the steps of 1st Gen and 2nd Gen so that people who established their capabilities and zeal could progress ahead of the others.

Sagawa Dojo OpeningYukiyoshi Sagawa (front center), around the time that Sagawa Dojo
was opened in Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Q: Among those people are some who don’t speak well of Sagawa Sensei, giving as the reason that they were never able to take his hand, even once.

A: I know that there are some people like that. However, in the majority of those cases those types of people have some points of their own that they ought to consider. Just as the student chooses the teacher, the teacher also has the right to chose the student, and I think that it is those who do not understand this point who are in the wrong.

For that reason, if one cannot be taught directly by the teacher then one must change themselves into a student that the teacher desires to teach. I myself was refused admission at first, and was only admitted on the condition that I would not be taught. Basically, it was thought that I had come to steal techniques to use in Aikido. For that reason I was not taught, even slightly, by Sensei in the beginning. But I changed that through my own efforts. In my case, I thought that at least I would try to become, even a little bit, a good student for Sensei. That sincerity gradually got through, and Sensei began to teach me. That is the effort of the student. In other words, it is really that, more than learning, one must stand in Sensei’s shoes and become the kind of person that Sensei would think to teach. Expecting to be taught as a matter of course without doing that is a mistaken understanding.

Besides, if one did not adopt a teaching method like Sagawa Sensei’s then I think that a technical method of such depth and difficulty as this one would not survive. From the very beginning it is not something that can be taught equally to all people, and if one did something like that it would be impossible to maintain the technical level of the art. If it is a matter of the form of the technique then one can make an explanation, but the essence of the techniques is an area that cannot be explained with words. Aiki is particularly something that is mastered through the internal senses. For that reason, it is impossible without the capability and zeal of the person learning, their own training and conditioning and their ability to understand. So if one stands in the place of the instructor it is inevitable that one will choose the people that they instruct.

Q: In other words, as concerns instruction, if one does not have an attitude like that then it will be difficult to preserve the level of the techniques?

A: That’s right. At least, of those who were actually able to use Aiki, there were only Takeda Sensei and Sagawa Sensei. If it’s just form then there are many people who are doing it, but there were only two who were able to apply it when an opponent came to attack in earnest. However, the fact that there were those who could use it is without doubt, so I would somehow like to leave this behind for the human race.

I’m hesitant to mention a personal matter, but with regards to Aiki I have repeated a long process of trial and error. When I was fortunate enough to get it right and destabilize someone I would think “Ah – is this Aiki?” and feel good, but when I tried it on Sensei he would yell “No, no, that’s just strength! Aiki is like this!”, and when I tried it it was completely different from what I was doing. I would give up and think of a different method. But that would also be wrong. This happened many times.

Transparent Power - Tomei na Chikara“Transparent Power” (透明な力) – Japanese and English Editions

Transparent Power (透明な力)

Q: What motivated you to write “Transparent Power“?

A: At first it was the fact that in order for someone to get that much real power takes incredible effort. If that is the case, then such a person should be formally recognized, shouldn’t they? I don’t really want to say this kind of thing, but I think that it was a tragedy that even though Sensei had such real power he lived a life that was not formally recognized because he did not put himself out in the world, while at the same time there are those people who are all talk and have nothing yet are selling their false reputations. That thought is what motivated me to write the book.

In the beginning Sensei did not participate in any way. However, little by little my resolve drew him in and he contributed things such as the personal history in the beginning – he also proofread the manuscript. Thanks to that, three years ago, I can remember even now, I was able to publish it at last on March 24th. However, I think that was the last chance to write a book like that one. Oddly, Sensei passed away exactly three years after that book was published. Perhaps there was some kind of connection…

Q: Reading the words of Sagawa Sensei that were recorded in that book one senses that he always kept a positive attitude towards budo. More than anything else he believed in the possibilities of Daito-ryu to the end, his immersion in that is wonderful. Each time that I read it I always think that this is what a budoka must be like.

A: At one point Sensei and I developed the habit of talking before training in the kitchen and from the many things that we discussed I selected those parts that were not related to technical methods. If you can gain some appreciation of him from that then I think that there was some value to writing that book. For the most part, it is only those that give up on becoming strong at some point that try to rationalize the matter by saying “trying to become strong is superficial”. But Sensei was different. Right down to the very end he never abandoned his aspirations. I would really like the world to know of the life and the spirit of a Sensei like that.

Q: I feel the same way. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule today.

(Interview conducted on April 19th 1999 at Tsukuba University)


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

The post Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 2 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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Christopher Li http://www.aikidosangenkai.org <![CDATA[Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 1]]> http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=1945 2015-12-11T21:08:05Z 2015-08-01T20:49:54Z Tatsuo Kimura demonstrates Aiki-age Stretching his right hand upward, Morihei Sensei said, “Those who practice Aiki should understand the heart of faraway America.” I immediately thought to myself, “Please come and throw me,” expecting that Morihei Sensei would read my thoughts. Of course, this was merely something I thought in my own mind. However, at that … Continue reading Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 1 »

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Tatsuo Kimura - Aiki-age

Tatsuo Kimura demonstrates Aiki-age

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan in his youth

Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sohan in his youth

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

Interview with Tatsuo Kimura

Meeting Sagawa Sohan

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Reality of Sagawa Dojo

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

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

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

Tatsuo Kimura and Yukiyoshi Sagawa

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

Q: What was training in the dojo like?

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

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

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

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

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

A Miraculous Conditioning Method

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yukiyoshi Sagawa and Yoshio Ohara

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued on Part 2…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

 

The post Yukiyoshi Sagawa’s Aiki, a true portrait of Transparent Power – Interview with Tatsuo Kimura Part 1 appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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