Aikido Sangenkai Blog https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog Honolulu, Hawaii - Oahu Sun, 14 Jul 2019 01:35:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.2.2 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/wp-content/media/cropped-sangenkai-logo-2-32x32.jpg Aikido Sangenkai Blog https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog 32 32 The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 2 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/essence-aiki-interview-seigo-okamoto-soshi-part-2/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/essence-aiki-interview-seigo-okamoto-soshi-part-2/#comments Sat, 13 Jul 2019 16:14:28 +0000 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3538 Born in 1894 in Kitami, Hokkaido, Kodo Horikawa began Daito Ryu Jujutsu training with Sokaku Takeda at around the same time as Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Sokaku focused on instructing Kodo in “Aiki” because of his size, and Kodo came to be known for techniques that were extremely subtle and soft. In 1930 Kodo received the certificate of “Acting Instructor” or Kyoju Dairi from Takeda … Continue reading The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 2 »

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Kodo Horikawa (front left) with Kazuto Ishida (right)
Ishida was the 5th Chief Justice of Japan,
the second chairman of the All Japan Kendo Federation
and 5th Soke of Yamaoka Tesshu’s Itto Shoden Muto-ryu
Ishida’s wife (front center) and daughter (back right)
Seigo Okamoto, back left

Born in 1894 in Kitami, Hokkaido, Kodo Horikawa began Daito Ryu Jujutsu training with Sokaku Takeda at around the same time as Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Sokaku focused on instructing Kodo in “Aiki” because of his size, and Kodo came to be known for techniques that were extremely subtle and soft. In 1930 Kodo received the certificate of “Acting Instructor” or Kyoju Dairi from Takeda (the same certification that Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba received from Takeda in 1922), and was later awarded a certificate of complete transmission in the art, the Menkyo Kaiden. In 1950 he established the Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu Kodo Kai in Hokkaido. 

It seems that there are many differences among Daito-ryu techniques.

I have not often viewed the techniques of other schools. I have seen them only at the demonstration held by the Headmaster [Tokimune Takeda]. When I entered Horikawa Sensei’s dojo, there were some people from other schools who criticized his techniques when they saw them saying that he could not really execute a technique with such a small movement and that his students were very meek. However, I believe that there were no such stupid, critical men among the students, seniors and juniors alike of Kodo Sensei. We followed him because his techniques were real. However, there were many who could not continue their practice for long because they found the techniques too difficult.

I have learned a lot since I came to Tokyo. In the Roppokai there are some students who have practiced another school’s art for more than 20 years or who are instructors of another art, but they all recognize my art and are gradually making progress mastering techniques which I think is great. I really feel that I must continue to practice all my life.

Interview with Seigo Okamoto Shihan (2) – Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin

Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Roppokai Founder Seigo Okamoto entered the dojo of Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa at the age of 38. In 1974 he received his 7th dan from Kodo Horikawa, and his Shihan license from Kodo Horikawa four years later in 1978.

Seigo Okamoto’s Shihan certification (top) and the Hiden Ogi no Koto,
the third scroll in the Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai
awarded by Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa

Are there are some Aikidoka who try to learn Daito-ryu techniques in order to improve their own Aikido?

Yes, that’s right. I do not refuse anyone who comes to me. We have an Aikido instructor at our Osaka branch dojo. I think that he is probably utilizing the techniques he learns from us in his Aikido techniques. As I mentioned, I refuse no one who comes to me, but I don’t stop anyone who leaves me either. This is my principle. However, those who come to me must conduct themselves in an appropriate manner. There are some people who come to me with an arrogant attitude as if to say I should be pleased because people like them have come to train while others come with an open attitude toward being taught. People come with many different attitudes. I accept anyone who comes in the latter manner.

Interview with Seigo Okamoto Shihan (2) – Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin

This the second part of an English translation of an interview with Seigo Okamoto that appeared in Hiden Koryu Bujutsu vol 4, 1990, published by Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan. You may wish to read Part 1 before continuing with this section.

The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 2

4 – The Roppokai Technical Method – Difficult to See

Q: Is it difficult to apply technique after one has been grasped strongly?

Okamoto: No, if one becomes skilled then it’s possible. But it’s difficult for people in their first three or four years after starting. There are also times when they are grasped strongly by multiple opponents. That’s not strength, it’s technique. With strength they won’t move.

“However many opponents there are
we do it with the intention of applying it to a single person.”

Q: When being grasped by multiple opponents how does it become possible to apply Aiki to the entire group at the same time?

Okamoto: It’s the same. Even if there are five opponents one doesn’t think of them as five people, one does it as if intending to apply it to a single person. If Aiki enters momentarily at the moment at which one is grasped by all of them then they stiffen through their reflex action. When that happens one person is the same as five people – they come along here easily.

For example, five people form a line and the person in front grabs me while each of the people behind pushes on the shoulders of the person in front of them. There is a way to throw these five people. This also is not something for which strength is relied upon. When it is applied to the first person it passes through that person and the same movement is transmitted to the next person and is applied to the next person in the same way and then progressively to each of the people in turn. It’s like toppling dominoes.

Seigo Okamoto demonstrates on multiple opponents

Q: So by doing this you can apply it to any number of people?

Okamoto: In order to do that all of them must have their strength turned towards me. For that reason, before one applies it they push or pull a little bit. So I aim for the time at which all of the people have their strength turned towards me and then apply it with a bang! It’s for that same reason that Sokaku would make the opponent angry.

Q: So you build a pile of people in that instant?

Okamoto: Since Aiki has been applied to those that were thrown, while it is still being applied to the person on the bottom I drop the next person on top of them. If there were nothing being done to the person on the bottom then they would just run away before that. However, although they are frozen and in discomfort, it’s not a great amount of pain to be in that position. Once they are released they just laugh it off.

Q: It appears that the Roppokai doesn’t have the same kind of pinning techniques that other branches of Daito-ryu have, is that right?

Okamoto: That’s a common misunderstanding. Taking their arm and holding them down, pushing the opponent down and stepping on them, this is what most people think of as pinning, but here although we don’t hold them down very strongly the opponent is unable to move. Those are the kind of pinning techniques that we have.

Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa
pinning Seigo Okamoto

We throw the opponent when we want to throw them, when we think to pin them then without throwing them we instantly drop them at our feet. Since Aiki has been applied to the opponent, even after they fall they remain stiff. Then if one just presses on them slightly with their foot they will already be unable to move. The technique is so small that you can’t understand it, can you?

Seigo Okamoto demonstrates a pinning technique

Of course, there is jujutsu without Aiki for those people who are just beginning, pinning techniques where one takes the hand of the opponent as they come to strike and hold them down, but we don’t do that very often. That’s because if it’s too much like jujutsu then it becomes different from Aiki.

Q: Also, there are some who are of the opinion that there is no tai-sabaki in the Roppokai?

Okamoto: That’s also incorrect. It would be impossible to throw an opponent by just standing there without doing tai-sabaki. Even when one moves their hand, it’s not that their hand alone is moving. It is because the hand and the body are moving as one that the opponent is thrown. It’s just because the movement is small that it can’t be seen like normal tai-sabaki. Here everything is irimi (“entering”)! In any case, it’s that we move into the bosom of the opponent without stepping back.

Q: It must take quite a bit of training to master these techniques, doesn’t it?

Okamoto: That’s right. It takes a number of years, they can’t be learned that easily. I think that you can understand this by watching the training, but although they can appear the same there is a difference whether the opponent is thrown through the application of Aiki or through the use of strength. Because if the technique is immature it cannot be applied against resistance. For that reason, the truth is that one doesn’t just fall when they are thrown, one helps the other person to develop their technique while they are being thrown.

The more experienced the person is the more skillfully the technique can be applied. That is because they know the kokyu and the timing, and their responses to the techniques are more sensitive. And again, being sensitive to technique itself is a path to skill.

Q: So, as one becomes accustomed to it does it become possible to steal the opponent’s Kokyu and timing and reverse the technique?

Okamoto: Even in Sumo they say “shiju-hatte-ura-omote” (Note: 四十八手の裏表 – “the forty-eight techniques have a back and a front”, meaning that each of them can be countered), in the end techniques have an ura and an omote. During normal training we don’t do the ura. If we teach the ura from the beginning than everybody would just escape and there wouldn’t be any training. For that reason we only teach the omote in the beginning. There many ways to escape a grip, you see, so the number of techniques grows accordingly.

“Strength is not put into unnecessary places.
Putting strength only into the fingertips, one always keeps their wrist soft.”

Q: What is the most difficult point in the mastery of Aiki?

Okamoto: To release one’s strength, that is, to eliminate one’s own “tension” (力み) is difficult. Even those like me occasionally have tension! For that reason I always say that it’s okay to have any amount of strength, but it’s no good to be tense. That’s an enormously difficult task. When one feels some kind of momentary strain most people will become tense. Strength enters their shoulders… I think that it’s really a big deal if that can be eliminated. That really comes down to experience. When I say experience, that is to say, shugyo (Note: 修行 / “intensive training”, often with spiritual overtones).

For example, when one spreads their fingers they put strength only in the area around the fingernails, and they always keep their wrist soft. At first I couldn’t understand that, and when Shisho (Note: 師匠 / “Teacher” – Kodo Horikawa) told me to put strength in my fingertips strength would always enter to my wrist even when I tried to put strength only in my fingertips. At some point during my Shugyo I understood that, that is, I became able to do that. Even when I grasp something hard strongly my wrist can move freely. That’s what it is to avoid putting strength where it is unnecessary. It can be said that is one kind of skill.

Scrolls received from
Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa

Q: Do you have a step by step teaching structure?

Okamoto: Daito-ryu techniques are written on the scrolls, and it is said that there are more than 2,880 of them. But that doesn’t mean that I’ve learned all of them. The three scrolls that I received from Shisho in addition to the Shihan Menkyo were Sho-den 118 techniques, Chu-den 30 techniques, and the Oku-den 36 techniques.

Q: What teaching doctrine do you follow during training at the Roppokai?

Okamoto: In one training session here we teach a mix of techniques from Sho-den to Oku-den. Experienced people and inexperienced people all train together, we don’t divide them. Someone who has just started won’t understand if something is a Sho-den technique or an Oku-den technique, and conversely, I think that it is better not to separate them out when considering them. While not knowing one practices from Sho-den to Oku-den, and that way seems to develop the body more quickly. Just doing the basics is boring, and people tend to tense up.

At the time that I started we would only train in the basics at first. But now people come from many different kinds of Budo. When this happens, even when the technique names or other small details are different and many of them have already mastered basic body movement. Making someone like that do only basics is just pathetic. Someone who has some high rank in another school. For that reason we normally do only one or two of the basics. When we do the basic techniques all together it takes two or three hours.

Q: What are the basic techniques of Daito–ryu?

Okamoto: These are basics that were created by Shisho in Hokkaido. In our case we have changed them a little, but basically speaking they are the same. If one looks at these basic techniques from the viewpoint of other Budo they appear to be high level techniques. That is to say, in the former Aizu Domain Daito-ryu was only taught to warriors of five hundred koku and up (Note: the stipend for a samurai, one koku was supposedly enough rice to feed one man for one year), and the people at that level were already training in other types of bujutsu. So they were a compilation of those things. For that reason, the basic techniques themselves are like hiden (“secret”) techniques, and by just practicing these enough one can become quite strong.

These techniques can be taken as an introduction to Daito-ryu Jujutsu when practiced without Aiki in the beginning, but when one practices them faithfully they all become Aiki techniques. Originally, they had to contain Aiki. Because Jujutsu that does not employ Aiki becomes techniques powered by strength, and when that happens it can become difficult if one is physically inferior the opponent.

Q: What happens when one moves beyond basic techniques?

Okamoto: Applied techniques (応用技). They could be called variations of the techniques that were learned at the beginning. The basic techniques that I was speaking of before, from there they grow and branch. Daito-ryu techniques contain innumerable variations. In total there are two thousand and some hundreds of techniques, but all of those can’t be recorded on three or four scrolls. Further, it’s impossible to practice while consulting the scrolls. The scrolls are something that are given to show that one has learned techniques to a certain degree through actual training, something like a certificate of completion. It’s not that one has completely mastered a technique on the scroll, or that we always practice techniques just as they appear on the scrolls. There is a “feeling” each time – when we go to practice a technique it come to us in a flash.

Further, when we say applied, there are those who assimilate the techniques they have learned well and those who assimilate them poorly. Because of that depending upon the person there are those for whom the techniques can grow and branch later than others. For those reasons, even if one talks about a secret transmission, from the very beginning we are teaching the secrets. Whether one can absorb those as Hiden (“secret transmission”) or they can absorb them as part of the Honden (“main transmission”), whether or not a person will grow will depend upon that.

These days, and this was even so to some degree in the past, all schools practice group instruction. But if you said that because of that everybody progresses at the same pace, that wouldn’t be the case. Out of fifty people perhaps one or two will remain to the end of the transmission. These kind of things happen, don’t they?

There isn’t anybody who teaches carelessly, you know! Everybody wants to transmit their techniques faithfully and repeats themselves until they sweat when they teach. For that reason, all schools teach secrets, but I think that it may be that the difference between Hiden and just ending up as recreation will depend upon how they are taken in by the student.

Q: So how should one train in order to progress?

Okamoto: Practicing humbly and seriously is the best. Going forward humbly as normal without resistance and learn from the feeling at the moment of being touched. In Sumo there is also the moment of the tachiai (Note: 立ち会い – the initial charge at the start of a bout). The opponent springs forward into the engagement. In technique one must also grasp the feeling at the moment that they engage.

Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa

Talking about Horikawa Sensei

Q: Next, I’d like to ask if you have any recollections of Kodo Horikawa Sensei?

Okamoto: Horikawa Sensei was an educator, so there aren’t any things like tales of fighting. He was a gentle person, and for his efforts in service towards education in remote areas he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure 5th Class, Gold and Silver Rays (勲五瑞宝章) in Showa year 46 (1971).

Order of the Sacred Treasure 5th Class, Gold and Silver Rays (勲五瑞宝章)

Q: How were Horikawa Sensei’s techniques, did they feel sharp?

Okamoto: In Shisho’s case, I don’t know about sharpness. It’s really that a level where one can can feel something such as sharpness is no good. It’s not like when one is thrown with strength, it’s like you touch something and then you’re thrown with a soft feeling. That’s what’s called “Yawara” (Note: 柔 – “ju”, one of the classical terms for jujutsu arts, meaning soft or flexible). It’s a feeling like one is being wrapped in silk wadding and one is carried away. His forearms were really thick! Down to his wrists they were the same thickness, but when we grabbed them they were very soft. They were like a woman’s forearms, they didn’t feel defined. And that’s what it was like when he did things to us. It almost felt as if we were being deceived.

Q: If you were to sort the techniques that you learned from Horikawa Sensei simply, about how many would there be?

Okamoto: About thirty or forty techniques. That’s because if one can can absorb and apply them then they multiply without limit. Well, Aiki itself is only one thing, so one changes that one thing in order to adapt to the requirements of the moment.

Even if one says that there are some 2,880 techniques in Daito-ryu, one can’t really use all of them in reality. Because one must topple them with a single technique. It’s just that if one masters some number of techniques then however one is attacked they will be capable of responding – it must be that this grew to be those some thousands of techniques. It’s not that it’s a good thing the more techniques one has.

It was just before I came to Tokyo, around Showa year 49 (1974), that Soshi told me this – “When one gets to your level, your training up until now gives birth to various techniques. So try and do your best!”. At that time it was already more than ten years after I started.

“each of these pictures is the seed for a hundred techniques; study them well”
Scroll entitled “Bojutsu Masakatsu Agatsu” given to Michio Hikitsuchi
by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

Q: So does that mean that understanding Aiki itself and becoming able to apply technique strongly takes ten years?

Okamoto: That’s right. That’s not limited to Aiki, doesn’t understanding anything take ten years? But just because I have been doing this for twenty some years, don’t think that I can do things one-hundred percent! I still have to train hard (Shugyo) from now. There are many different kinds of people in the world, and there are always those that are better. It is when one is at the seventh or eighth station (Note: as in climbing Mt. Fuji) that the road above is most difficult, I think. Soshi said this also – “Training is for life. I may seem to be absent minded during the day, but I’m always thinking about techniques!” (Note: 一生修行, “isshou shugyo” “training is for life”).


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, Hawaii

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The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 1 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/essence-aiki-seigo-okamoto-soshi-interview/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/essence-aiki-seigo-okamoto-soshi-interview/#comments Sat, 09 Feb 2019 17:17:12 +0000 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3481 Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Roppokai Founder Seigo Okamoto was born in 1925 in Yubari City, Hokkaido. In 1963, at the age of 38, he entered the dojo of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa, one of Sokaku Takeda’s closest students. In 1974 he received his 7th dan from Kodo Horikawa, and his Shihan license from Kodo Horikawa four years later in 1978. After Horikawa Sensei passed away, he … Continue reading The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 1 »

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Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Roppokai (大東流合気柔術六方会)
Founder Seigo Okamoto Soshi (岡本正剛宗師)

Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Roppokai Founder Seigo Okamoto was born in 1925 in Yubari City, Hokkaido. In 1963, at the age of 38, he entered the dojo of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa, one of Sokaku Takeda’s closest students. In 1974 he received his 7th dan from Kodo Horikawa, and his Shihan license from Kodo Horikawa four years later in 1978.

Seigo Okamoto taking ukemi for Kodo Horikawa

After Horikawa Sensei passed away, he established his own organization, the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Roppokai, where he became known for teaching advanced techniques to beginning students and for making public many aspects of Aiki that had previously been considered secret. Seigo Okamoto passed away on January 17, 2015, just a few weeks before his 90th birthday.

In response to a question from Aikido Journal editor Stanley Pranin as to the origin of the name “Roppokai” he explained:

Roppo can be understood in a variety of ways, such as the roppo of roppogumi [six groups of chivalrous young men who used to wander the city streets in the Edo period]. Or it can be equated with the roppo from the kabuki term roppo o fumu of Benkei [a priest of the early Kamakura period and a famous retainer of Yoshitsune Minamoto. Roppo o fumu means to make one’s exit with bold gestures along the runway]. However, I usually compare roppo to gaming dice to describe techniques which can deal with any situation from any direction, top or bottom, front or back, right or left, like the faces of dice. But these techniques do not have square angles like dice but are round, forming six (roku) infinite circles. I am eager to get as many meanings as I can out of the term.

Seigo Okamoto also had an interesting story to relate concerning Morihei Ueshiba’s teacher Sokaku Takeda and “roppo” (for more about Morihei Ueshiba and roppo see “Morihei Ueshiba, Budo and Kamae“):

Once, at the beginning of the Taisho era, Takeda Sokaku, while staying for a short while in Tokyo, had an opportunity to go out to the theatre. Sokaku, having set up camp near the hanamichi was observing Kikugoro’s movements. He was [playing] Benkei, at the Ataka Barrier. Making to chase after Yoshitsune’s party after they exited, Kikugoro was stepping along the hanamichi near where Sokaku had set himself.

At that moment, Sokaku commented: “the performance is good, but the footwork is bad: the roppo is really bad,” in a voice loud enough that the actor could hear. Kikugoro, not having been able to see from the stage, afterwards sent an attendant out. “Just now, in this vicinity, someone was kind enough to comment?” he enquired. Sokaku having immediately informed him that he was the relevant gentleman, the attendant requested that he go with him, just as he was, to the dressing room. After which Sokaku, having met Kikugoro himself, precisely and infallibly indicated the shape and motivation of the movements. That is: in response to Kikugoro’s questioning, he immediately gave him guidance in the movements of the arms and hands, the movements of the feet.

At that time, it is said, Kikugoro hadn’t before played Benkei. Nevertheless he was one of the leading actors of the time. After Sokaku’s guidance, overnight, [everyone] could see that his arm gestures and leg movements were being played in a manner that was completely unrecognizable. It is reported that – starting that very next day – Kikugoro used to receive lavish praise, from his patrons and customers, for the outstanding footwork of his wonderful roppo….

This the first part of an English translation of an interview with Seigo Okamoto that appeared in Hiden Koryu Bujutsu vol 4, 1990, published by Gekkan Hiden (月刊秘伝 / “Secret Teachings Monthly”), a well known martial arts magazine in Japan.

“When the opponent stiffens one can connect to the point at which they are touching them and they become one part of my body. Perhaps it could be called a synchronization. This is Aiki.”

The Essence of Aiki: an Interview with Seigo Okamoto Soshi – Part 1

1 – Training at the Roppokai

Seigo Okamoto Sensei’s instruction currently takes place in Tokyo at the Bunkyo Sports Center. It was here that we first experienced his unique method of instruction. In Okamoto Sensei’s instruction, he uses a method in which when a technique is taught he always applies that technique to each of the students, so that they will be sure to naturally comprehend it through their bodies. Then through kakari-geiko (a line drill with continuous attacks) with each other the students gradually make it their own.

The students are divided into three groups, in each group one person acts as the tori, and the rest become uke and take turns attacking the tori. After throwing four or five times the next person takes a turn as tori and the training continues. Okamoto Sensei occasionally gives general advice. That is, giving demonstrations of good and bad examples, showing the technique in slow motion while explaining the principles, things that are extremely concrete and easily understood. However, just because one understands how it is done does not mean that they are able to do it that way right away. Of course, one can see varying levels of ability among the students. Here beginners and those with experience are not divided, everybody learns the same techniques together.

We can certainly say that the technical method of Aiki that is unfolding before our eyes is mysterious. As the students grasp Okamoto Sensei with all of their strength they are blown away with a shake of his body. Even if they grasp Okamoto Sensei’s finger it is the same. Okamoto Sensei doesn’t grab the student’s bodies, he throws them with the touch of a single finger.

Other high level technical methods are also revealed and climax with multiple attackers. Grabbed by five students, they are toppled in an instant. Although they don’t appear to be held down in any significant way the five people are unable to move their bodies. This can be thought of as the application of Aiki, but even so it is an incredible spectacle. Immediately following the training we asked about this mysterious Aiki that has been transmitted from the master Kodo Horikawa Sensei.

2 – How is “Aiki” applied?

Q: We’ll jump right in – Okamoto Sensei, just what kind of a thing is your Aiki?

Okamoto: The word Aiki itself is difficult, isn’t it? In Aikido or Daito-ryu it varies according to the expressions of the individual instructors, and each of them presents a different image. To me Aiki is conditioned reflex, circular movement and kokyu-ho (“breathing method”) – I express it as these three elements made as small as possible within the space of a moment.

These three elements, applied as subtly and as small as possible in technique are Aiki. As to the techniques themselves, as I have shown you today they take many different forms, but one cannot understand them through the form alone! For example, if one grabs my chest or if one grabs my shoulder, I execute the same movement using those three elements. For that reason, however I am grabbed I throw them down with the same movement.

Q: We observed techniques in which their hand was unable to let go as they were pulled along, is it because of Aiki that their hand became stuck to you?

Okamoto: That was due to a reflex action by the opponent’s fingers, they become stuck to my hand and are unable to release. If I simply stroke the top of the opponent’s hand it won’t curl, but if I do this with my fingers on the opponent’s hand then the opponent’s fingers curl through a reflex action. If this is done quickly then without a doubt they will curl. For that reason, they become stuck. If one pulls them along this way then they will not separate, but if one becomes slack then they will quickly become separated. That state in which they are pulled along is the state in which one is applying Aiki.

Q: What does it mean to apply Aiki?

Okamoto: In a normal state, if one uses strength then the opponent will not move, but if one applies Aiki then they will move. That is a technique of the fingers and such. However, one does not pull them. When they use the thumb and the littlefinger to grasp a wrist the opponent stiffens for a moment, and we continue to hold onto and continue that stiffened condition.

Q: Is it through that tiny movement that the opponent moves?

Okamoto: Yes, that’s right. One doesn’t need strength. But just doing that won’t work well. In the end technique become necessary. Particularly circular movement, in that one doesn’t move the point that has been grasped and enters while naturally rotating that as the center point.

In addition, there is a conditioned reflex when one is touched. When they are touched the opponent always exhibits a reflex. When the opponent stiffens one can connect to the point at which they are touching them and they become one part of my body. It is for that reason that I am able to move them as if I am moving my own body. It’s somewhat clumsy, but one doesn’t need any significant amount of strength. Perhaps it could be called a synchronization – this is what is called Aiki.

Q: when Aiki is applied it feels as if electricity passes through your body, would you say that your neck receives a shock?

Okamoto: That does happen. Depending upon the person there are those that feel it and those that don’t – if one has ten people then each of those ten people will feel it in a different way. The more sensitive that a person’s reflexes are the easier it is to apply techniques. 

Q: So there are people on whom it is easier to apply Aiki to, are there also people on whom it is more difficult?

Okamoto: Among those coming to train with us are many people with experiences in various Budo such as Judo, Karate, boxing, Ninjutsu, Chinese boxing, Aikido and so forth. I couldn’t say unconditionally, but it’s easy to apply technique to third or fourth dans in Karate. It’s just that their reflexes are conditioned more than a normal person’s and their reactions are quick. That makes it easier for them to react to our techniques.

Q: What kind of action is it that causes a shock to be received?

Okamoto: This is the so called whiplash. When a car crashes there is a snapping force, that’s what it is. We’re not just pushing on the opponent when they come to attack, we draw them towards ourselves while pushing. While the opponents legs move towards us their body goes towards the back. We initiate that kind of action with our hands.

Just pushing on the opponent won’t make them fall down, will it? They’ll just bounce back away from us. But if you step on your opponent’s feet at that time the opponent will fall down without being able to move backwards. It’s the same as that. To do that we apply technique to the opponent in order to stop their feet without stepping on them.

If you just push on the opponent then they will escape, but if you pull them for a moment at that time then their legs will come towards you. We halt their step there so that they will not come toward us. There we apply force in the opposite direction. For that reason, through the application of leverage we can move the opponent with a small movement.

Seigo Okamoto demonstrates Aiki-age and Aiki-sage

3 – Daito-ryu is “Iai”?

Q: During that time you are applying a normal physical force?

Okamoto: That’s so, of course. However, if we consider each other’s power as 100, then we’re only using about a power of 20. In most Budo, one powers up to a power of 120 or 130 in response to a power of 100. That is not the case here. There are times when we may momentarily go to a 120 or 130, but that feeling is not transmitted to the opponent. 

Additionally, the three elements that I discussed earlier quickly and momentarily ramp up the voltage. If one does it slowly then the opponent will escape. 

For that reason, if the person coming to attack wanders in slowly then technique is more difficult to apply. For people who float in to grab I tell them to come get me as if I am going to harm their parents! Then, when they come to grab vigorously, I apply it in that moment.

For example, when Sokaku Takeda showed technique it seems that he purposely enraged the opponent. Since if people had heard of Sokaku’s strength they would likely be timid and wouldn’t really come to attack. If that happened it would be difficult to apply technique to them, so I have heard that he would say something strange to them then. When he did that the opponent would become agitated and attack with vigor, so that things would be really effective. That is because the stronger the opponent and the harder they come the more one can use their strength and the easier it is to apply technique. 

For that reason, our motto is “Don’t repel those who come, don’t follow those who retreat”. When the opponent comes to attack then you do it. Technique can’t be applied to someone trying to run away, and it’s not necessary to apply technique in that situation. Especially because in our case our practice is completely for self-defense. One only uses it for the first time when living a normal life and some trouble occurs. It is with this intent that we are practicing.

Q: So there is no first attack from this side?

Okamoto: Almost none. We don’t take stances because someone is going to come and attack. If one takes a stance from the beginning then the opponent will be cautious and will not come to attack. So in our case we all take a natural stance and apply technique at the moment that the opponent comes. We don’t stretch out our hands and go to meet the opponent. In kenjutsu, such as Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, there is something called mugamae (“no stance” / 無構え), that just puts one in a neutral position. That is the feeling. Entering from there is a secret teaching (“gokui” / 極意).

It is the same as Iai. In Iai when the opponent cuts one draws their sword instantly and cuts. If that isn’t so then it isn’t Iai. It is for that reason that there are things held in common with the principles of Iai. Also in Iai one is not touching the sword, but at the instant that the opponent thinks that they can cut one draws so that there is no way to move the body out of the way.

Q: However, if one just thinks about it simply it seems that the one who draws first will be the fastest?

Okamoto: That is really a matter of distancing (“maai” / 間合い). If one is daydreaming then of course they will be struck first. One applies technique just before they are struck. That is why it is extremely fast. I said this during training as well, if your opponent comes to attack at a speed of 50 km then in the space of that short distance we must oppose them with a speed of 80 km. If we both move at 50 km then since the other person also has inertia we will be pushed back. 

Solo Training (defending hand / attacking hand)
This is a training method in which defense and attack can be practiced simultaneously. One hand forms a fist lightly. The other hand moves to grab the wrist of the closed hand, but at the moment that it is touched the closed fist stretches open quickly and fills the grabbing hand. Further, the index finger of the grabbing hand remains straight and one grabs with the other four fingers. This is done quickly enough to make a sound when the hands touch each other (see figures 1-5).

Q: What do you mean by momentarily moving with a speed of 80 km?

Okamoto: That’s training, training. Conditioning for explosive power. If that is not so then one will be defeated. Sokaku Takeda was said to be a master with the short sword, and that was because of his speed. He’d strike quickly at the forearm, and though your eyes only saw a single strike, when one examined the forearm there would be two black marks there. 

But even in that kind of contest although Sokaku Takeda would not wear armor, he would have his opponent put on protection. The one not wearing armor would have that much more freedom of movement, and the psychological state when facing a person not wearing armor is different. If you struck them perhaps you could give them a head injury, it tends to cause a kind of hesitation.

Q: Even so, developing a speed of 80 km to resist an opponent moving at 50 km must be really difficult, isn’t it?

Okamoto: And so, I always say this. Everyone should train on their own and practice grabbing their wrists (in solo training). The accumulation of that training is important, but also important is the timing of entering at the moment one is touched by the opponent.

Continued in Part 2…


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, Hawaii

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Happy New Year of the Boar 2019 from the Aikido Sangenkai https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/happy-new-year-of-the-boar-2019/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/happy-new-year-of-the-boar-2019/#comments Tue, 01 Jan 2019 16:15:29 +0000 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3502 — Hau’oli Makahiki Hou — Happy New Year — 明けましておめでとうございます…and much Aloha! Thank you all for your help and support over the last year. We enjoyed training with all of you in 2018, and we’re looking forward to even more great training with you all in the coming year! In 2018 our Sangenkai intensive workshop attracted attendees from Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Sweden, the mainland USA, Sweden and our … Continue reading Happy New Year of the Boar 2019 from the Aikido Sangenkai »

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Marishiten riding a boar
Katsushika Hokusai
the goddess Marishiten riding a boar

— Hau’oli Makahiki Hou
 — Happy New Year
 — 明けましておめでとうございます
…and much Aloha!

Thank you all for your help and support over the last year. We enjoyed training with all of you in 2018, and we’re looking forward to even more great training with you all in the coming year!

February 2018 Sangenkai Intensive Workshop in Hawaii

In 2018 our Sangenkai intensive workshop attracted attendees from Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Sweden, the mainland USA, Sweden and our local and neighbor island Sangenkai members as well as a large group of New Zealand and Australia Sangenkai members, continuing our tradition as the only Aikido group in Hawaii to hold workshops that command a regular international attendance.

At the top of this page is the goddess Marishiten (摩利支天) pictured as a wrathful demon riding a boar (for 2019 🙂 ) . Marishiten is an esoteric Buddhist deity closely associated with the warrior tradition in Japan. Esoteric Buddhist practices were very popular in many Japanese warrior traditions – and for Sokaku Takeda and Morihei Ueshiba as well.

Tokimune Takeda's private notes
A section of Tokimune Takeda’s private notes
on his father Sokaku’s teachings on the Kuji-kiri and
esoteric Buddhist disciplines

“If you don’t research the Kuji Kiri you won’t understand Aikido.”
– Aikido Shihan Sadateru Arikawa

Esoteric Buddhist references abound in Tokimune Takeda’s notes of his father Sokaku’s instruction – and no less in Morihei Ueshiba’s lectures, but before we go too far, I should mention that this is not about religion, strictly speaking, but about martial training – about a system of visualization and imagery that goes back through China to India and has deep roots in Asian martial systems because…it works, and works rather well. It works so well that modern athletes and Olympic champions now use imagery and visualization in their day-to-day training.

Hiroshi Tada demonstrates the Kuij mudra Rin

“When one looks at O-Sensei’s Doka and other writings they might think that they are related to Shinto, but they actually contain the teachings of Shingon esoteric Buddhism.”
Aikido Shihan Hiroshi Tada

Morihei Ueshiba using the Kuji mudra

Another esoteric Buddhist deity that figures prominently in the warrior tradition is Fudo Myo-o, the “Immovable Wisdom” that represents an important principle of training in the Asian martial traditions, but is often badly misunderstood. Attached below is an essay by Dan Harden on the subject of Fudo Myo-o (originally posted on e-Budo, but edited for clarity as a stand-alone essay) – I hope that it will prove thought provoking and useful to your training in 2019. Happy New Year!

The Narita-san Fudo, associated with
Morihei Ueshiba’s teacher Sokaku Takeda
by Utagawa Kunisada

Fudo myo-o (Acala vidya) is a training paradigm that has lasted for millennia to create truly powerful skills. That it is being reduced to the lowest common denominator by modern martial artists, sport science, military personnel and cops is really no surprise. While we all agree on the mental aspect of training – more so in force-on-force or life threatening situations circumventing or at least dealing with an adrenaline dump aspect of training, to remain both calm and focused – the concept is far deeper than any of that.

It was the connection of the mind to control the body that led to a higher level learning that has existed for millennia. Trying to equate and more so -reduce it to just being a lower level training of mental focus in combatives is just simply wrong.

Okay, then…. mental focus under duress. Got it. Got anything else? Anything at all?
No?
Why?
Most people simply haven’t a clue about anything else. No harm, no foul, But it is what it is. Some have some initial understanding of this type of training, but little actual skill in using it. Which bears out in their inability to demonstrate an enhanced mind/ body cultivation either in their arts or bodies. It’s either very, very hard or rather easy, to defend in person. It is interesting that the training models to produce immovability are still extant though not widely known, none of which I have seen incorporate the unshakable combative mindset idea. That..is different, rather they focus on the mind/body. One example is the hara or dantian: As one internal Chinese martial arts powerhouse who taught in Japan said. “Aiki? Where is yin? Where is Yang? How can there BE…aiki? You cannot pretend daintian, you will be found out!”

While I have seen better movement from a few Japanese teachers, as of yet I have never met a single person in Aikido, Daito ryu or Koryu who HAS a center, much less sophisticated use of one. Thus discussion of moving “from one” becomes a total waste of time. It would take years from initial meetings to have them start to actually create and move FROM one, forget a meaningful dialogue.

What remains is that there still exists people who know it and train this material. They are just exceedingly difficult to find and come in various knowledge and skill levels.

What are they training?

The immovable body as a concept.

All of the trade names and acumen for this work have existed for generations and have managed to survive direct translations from culture to culture, with the same terminology and practices used from Tibet to India to China and Japan as well as to specific family Indonesian arts. One would first have to know the terminology, and the practices to understand why the common phrasing is a base line. Once that is done, we can see the uses of common terminology and models from Tibet to internal Chinese martial arts, to Japan; the founder of Shinto ryu and other Koryu to Daito ryu on to Ueshiba’s aikido. Himself using trademark terminology of six directions, the working of attraction point between yin and yang, Aiki being the working of the two ki’s as heaven/earth/man. Ages old material. From B.C.E. to 2019.

Immovability… as a name?

Here we have just another example with Acala Vidya to Fudo Myo-o.

Acala vidya or Fudo Myo-o makes perfect sense – as it is written. “Esoteric training to achieve immovability.”

It makes no sense what-so-ever to call a person, deity or statue….an “esoteric practice!”

Why bring in vidya, as in prana vidya (esoteric training to work ki or chi), or Myo or Mikkyo?

Why?

Why mention a training when you were talking about a deity or person?

Because you were not! You were talking about a training concept and methodology.

The mention of a training, an esoteric one at that, is not an imagined state. Which in itself is nice little escape. What a convenient way to equalize all efforts.

”This is my fudo shin.”

“MY…imagined state.”

“You can’t challenge my imagined state….”

Yet we can challenge an understanding of the real concepts. And why can we? For the simple reason that the thrust of this in the ancient world had teeth. It had a profound physical training model behind it that produced physical, real world results for what feels like immovability and power. Not just being strong willed against adversity.

Another example for imagined versus real results are in simple but well known models;

I do this with yogi’s in mountain pose. They can get knocked over with a finger rather easily. Then, I show them an example of “the esoteric training to achieve immovability” behind it and surprise of surprises in about 5 minutes flat…they feel? Well…sort of like a mountain.

I wonder why they called it…. mountain pose?

I leave them to choose. You can teach:

Lift your heart chakra to the sun yoginis

or

Use it to be stable and feel strong….like a mountain.

It is the same with downward dog and other postures.

I dunno…maybe words have meaning. Maybe some ancient practices actually are defensible and others are just what they are…simply imagined states.

Why Acala vidya? Why esoteric training that produces immovability? Uhm…because it did, and does and was tracked and trained and discussed and actually useful for real people not living in an imagined state. As stated, it simply makes a direct causal link that it was the training to achieve something profound in many warrior cultures that also had health benefits as well as power that gave name to the concept.

Why was it not the norm?

The oft told tale of training in the mountains, training in temples, warrior monks being unusually powerful, has existed for thousands of years. Mind/ body training has been consistently trained solo, many times in isolation and tested and practiced in small groups.

  • First and foremost it was for a mental control of the body to do unusual things that were powerful and out of the norm. That training created different outcomes in combatives that in and of themselves, were forces not normal for an opponent to face, or normal to react to.
  • As well, the adepts at it generated unusual effects to forces on them. So… OODA loops for the opponent? They went out the window.

This was but a couple of examples of many reasons why the training has lasted for millennia. For those who can actually do it instead of just talk, it truly made a palpable difference on contact. The mind body training has created giants in budo and we in turn, look at the giants and follow them, instead of the training. Hence….the majority continue to suck and the giants remain, well, the giants.

In the dawning of our present age which I call “the age of distraction” higher level, mind/body physical training has proven to just be too much for the instant gratification crowd. Why spend countless hours perfecting a tank like body that is all but impossible to throw and with the ability to hit like truck? Go do techniques. Most modern budo people have dismissed or rewritten history to discount this profound training and reflect their stupefyingly ignorant penchant for banging into each other with fists, legs, bodies, and more so sticks, swords and any things else they can get their hands on.

It hasn’t gone away. It is just starting to come out to the public. Those so inclined are discovering the arts did have secrets all along. It wasn’t B.S. and they do have worth. It is why they have lasted for eons. Hard physical work is required.

NOT flinching from a battlefield environment or being focused in a fight…was not it. Not that there is anything wrong with that. As I asked before:

Okay. On that we agree.
Got anything else?
Anything at all that it could mean?
No?
They did!


– Dan Harden, March 2015

Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii

New Year’s Day at the Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii

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Ai no Bujutsu – Aiki and the Bujutsu of Love https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/ai-no-bujutsu-aiki-bujutsu-love/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/ai-no-bujutsu-aiki-bujutsu-love/#comments Sat, 19 May 2018 15:26:00 +0000 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3400 Muko (Takeo) Nishikido Muko (Takeo) Nishikido (錦戸無光/武夫) was born in 1940 on Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands near Saipan. After school in Kumamoto he moved to Osaka, where he began to train in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu in 1959 and later established a dojo in Tokyo. In 1973 he met Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa in Kitami City in Hokkaido through the introduction of a … Continue reading Ai no Bujutsu – Aiki and the Bujutsu of Love »

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Muko (Takeo) NishikidoMuko (Takeo) Nishikido

Muko (Takeo) Nishikido (錦戸無光/武夫) was born in 1940 on Tinian in the Northern Mariana Islands near Saipan. After school in Kumamoto he moved to Osaka, where he began to train in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu in 1959 and later established a dojo in Tokyo. In 1973 he met Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa in Kitami City in Hokkaido through the introduction of a friend. Upon feeling his Aiki for the first time he decided to discard his previous study of jujutsu and focus on Horikawa Sensei’s approach to Aiki.

Mr. and Mrs. HorikawaMuko Nishida with Mr. and Mrs. Horikawa in Hokkaido, 1973

After commuting to Kitami for two years, he decided to relocate with his family to Hokkaido in order to further his training and received severe individual instruction in addition to the regular training at Horikawa Sensei’s dojo.

He later established his own organization to spread the teachings of Kodo Horikawa called Hikarido (The Way of Light / 光道).

The following article contains excerpts from “The Height of Aiki” (合気の極み), written by Nishikido Sensei and published in Japanese in 2017 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”).

Some of his emphasis on Ki, love and harmony in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu may appear to be at odds with common perceptions of Daito-ryu, but it may be helpful to consider his statements in the context of similar statements from other prominent figures in the Daito-ryu world.

  • Tokimune Takeda, the son of Morihei Ueshiba’s teacher Sokaku Takeda and the Soke of Daito-ryu Aiki Budo:

“The essential principles of Daito-ryu are Love and Harmony”

“The goal of spreading Daito-ryu is ‘Harmony and Love’, keeping this spirit is what preserves and realizes social justice. This was Sokaku Sensei’s dying wish”

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

  • Yukiyoshi Sagawa, one of Sokaku Takeda’s senior students and one-time successor as Soke of the art:

“Aiki Budo is the Way of Human Development”

“Aiki is the fitting together of Ki.
Through this harmonious reconciliation all things under heaven and earth in the universe move peacefully without disturbance. This harmonization is Aiki.”

  • Masao Hayashima (早島正雄), who trained with both Sokaku Takeda and Sokaku Takeda’s student Toshimi Matsuda (from the first page of his book – “Taoist Aiki-jutsu – the volume of Internal Power”):

“Aiki-jutsu is said to be the Budo of Harmony.”

  • Katsuyuki Kondo, Menkyo Kaiden in Daito-ryu Aiki-budo from Tokimune Takeda and successor to the mainline of Daito-ryu, in an interview with Aikido Journal‘s Stanley Pranin:

What are the main differences between Daito-ryu and aikido?

I don’t think there is any difference. In Daito-ryu, too, practice begins and ends with courtesy (rei). And its final goal is the spirit of love and harmony.

Muko Nishikido and Kodo HorikawaDaito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa
applying Aiki to Muko Nishikido

Ai no Bujutsu – Aiki and the Bujutsu of Love

– Muko (Takeo) Nishikido (translation by Christopher Li)

Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu is the bujutsu of “harmony” (和), as was stated by Kodo Horikawa, who established the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Kodokai, in Showa year 25 (1950) in Kitami City, Hokkaido – “Neither cut nor be cut. Neither strike nor be struck. Neither kick nor be kicked.”. It is a bujutsu that handles the opponent without causing them harm.

In the case of the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Hikari-do, the level of harmony is gradually enhanced as training progresses from the basic techniques in Shoden to Chuden and Okuden.

Harmony, that is, love.

Why is that? Because it prevents contention. When one uses “Aiki” even the very impulse to counter-attack ceases to arise.

Without harmony one cannot be led to love. The greater the harmony the deeper that love becomes. In Hikari-do we grasp this in our training through the techniques.

At first there is no real feeling when the techniques in Aiki-jujutsu are applied to you. That is because one cannot understand how or what is being done to you.

When Aiki was first applied to me I thought “What is this?”. The will to fight disappears. The desire to attack the opponent disappears.

Aiki completely strips away the feeling of the opponent to fight and their strength. That can be stripped away not only for just a single person, but even when there two, three, four, five or six people.

Thousand Armed KannonSeated Thousand-armed Kannon Bosatsu
Fujiidera temple, Osaka – 8th century

One works to create a body that that can manage situations like that in an instant. One works to create a body like the Thousand Armed Kannon (千手観音), so to speak.

When one says “thousand”, in the past this meant a number without limit. This means that no matter where one is grabbed on their body they become able to use Aiki.

Five person attack

In a manner of speaking, it means that more harmony can be achieved by two people rather than one, three people rather than two, four people, five people, six people. It is the world of harmony. For that reason, contention disappears.

I think that this is real love. One person, two people, three people, four people, five people, six people – love becomes deeper and deeper.

Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu is the bujutsu of love.

And then, as one draws closer to real training in the inner workings of Aiki, even the smallest portion of the ego becomes unable to enter. One enters into a selfless world without ego.

This is what I have grasped to this point.

Ego to egolessness chart

When expressing Aiki as a chart we get something like the diagram above.

On the right side is the world of power, the world physical strength. In terms of the spirit, it is the world of the ego. On the left side is the world of Ki, the world of Aiki. In terms of the spirit, it is the world of egolessness.

In the center is the zero point, in other words nothingness (“Mu” / 無). One who has become enlightened to nothingness comes to this point. “Ah, it’s nothingness” is one kind of enlightenment.

However, even if one becomes enlightened to a state of nothingness, one cannot do anything. Even a master potter will say “Nothing can be done from nothingness”. This is still the zero point. Just coming here one can still go to the right side of the world of strength, the world of the ego, or one can also go to the left side of the world of Ki, the world of Aiki.

The right side of the world of strength, the world of the ego, is comfortable. Strength and ego can be used immediately.

Conversely, the worlds of Ki and Aiki are severe. One cannot grasp the real thing if they compromise. If one thinks to grasp he real thing they must pass through this world of severity.

Even when one attains enlightenment through Zen training, they come to this point of nothingness, the zero point. But if you’re satisfied there then you’ll reach a dead end. There is a much deeper world. Wherever you go, however far you go, there is a world without limits.

The more that one uses Aiki the more that their Ki increases, their harmony increases, their spirit enters into the world without limits.

When those people who have inhabited the world of physical strength, the world of power, the world of the ego until this time train in Aiki-jujutsu they will draw closer to the zero point. That is, nothingness. The world of enlightenment. Return to the origin. From there begins the determination of whether one will either return to the world of physical strength, power, the world of the ego again, or depart for the world of Ki, the world of Aiki.

In Hikari-do there are many types of training done in order to return to the point of nothingness. That can be called the enlightenment of the physical body – once the body has gone that far then next one is able to enter the world of Ki, the world of Aiki.

Kodo Horikawa - Police DemonstrationDemonstration at Police Headquarters in November 1973
Seigo Okamoto – Kodo Horikawa – Muko Nishikido

Building the Ki Body

Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu first builds the “Ki Body” through training in the kihon (“basics”) and then enters into training in Aiki. When building the Ki Body physical strength (power) is not used. When the use of physical strength has ceased completely, there for the first time is the Ki Body.

There was a time during my third year of receiving instruction from Kodo Horikawa Sensei in Kitami, Hokkaido that I realized that my entire body was the Ki Body. “Ah, my entire body is the Ki Body”, I realized. When I truly stopped needing physical strength, that was my first glimpse of Ki.

In other words, I had made my way to the point of nothingness. However, I did not yet understand Aiki. If I had not been able to grasp Aiki it may be that I would have returned to the world of physical strength.

When one trains in Aiki they experience a liberation (moksha) from the physical body. In moksha there is a liberation of the physical body and a liberation of the spirit, Aiki is a liberation of the physical body. One understands – “Ah, this is the Ki Body!”. The body of physical strength becomes the Ki Body.

When compared with Horikawa Sensei’s sixty years of Aiki, my Aiki is still half of that at thirty years. Even if you just look at the shape of his body, Horikawa Sensei is twice as sharp as I am. I am still inexperienced.

That Horikawa Sensei – even past eighty years old he would say “Well, Sokaku Takeda Sensei was much greater. I’m just not there yet…”.

There are those kinds of steps in this world. It is the world of shugyo (“intense training”), so it can’t be helped. One has to build their body. Just one year, or two years of shugyo can’t hope to build the body and leap past sixty years of training.

Hoping to get even a little bit closer to Horikawa Sensei, I thought of my own method of training. I took a heavy wooden sword and swung it five or six thousand times every morning and night. I did that for five or six hours to seven or eight hours every day, and continued for about half a year.

Then, one day when I swung it ten-thousand times, the heavy wooden sword flew up away from me. I thought “Ah, it flew away!”.

So then I started swinging an iron bar several times heavier than the wooden sword. Likewise, I would swing it for a few hours in the morning and the evening about 2,500 times each, 5,000 times a day. And finally the iron bar became weightless and flew up out of my hands.

Normally I wouldn’t be able to swing it with my strength. Even with Ki I couldn’t swing it. I have swung an iron bar with Ki, but I couldn’t swing it more than a hundred times. My hands couldn’t hold it. Instead, I was better able to hold it when swinging with physical strength.

Then I thought “OK, I’ll swing it with Aiki!”. and I swung it with Aiki – two hundred, three hundred, five hundred, six hundred, one thousand, two thousand times I swung. That was the first time that I thought “Ahh, in the end one really has to train…”. If I hadn’t swung using Aiki I would probably have gone back to my original body of physical strength.

Kodo HorikawaDaito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Kodokai Founder Kodo Horikawa

Basic Techniques and the Ki Body

Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu does not require even the smallest bit of strength.

That said, it’s not “relaxation” (脱力). I am not saying that relaxation is bad, but when one relaxes the become unable to forge themselves.

In Hikari-do we train from the first steps of basic techniques to training to build a truly physically resilient physique. What I am teaching is training methods for the building of the Ki Body.

I grasped this training method after meeting Horikawa Sensei. If I teach it to someone for one year their body will suddenly change. It will naturally become a physically resilient Ki Body. We have that methodology. In other bujutsu they train by learning techniques, not Ki. For that reason, they are unable to develop the Ki Body.

In order to build the physical body, one would normally lift barbells, or other things, but if you can grasp Aiki then things like that can be done simply. Muscular strength is unnecessary. Conversely, if one uses even a little bit of physical strength then they will be unable to use Aiki.

One must get a firm grasp on the basic techniques. This is important.

If one cannot grasp the basic techniques properly then they will not achieve the Ki Body. They will become unable to attain the real thing. They will develop into a body that is simply composed of techniques.

As long as one grasps the basic techniques they will quickly progress to the next level.

One dayI asked Horikawa Sensei, “Sensei, how many years will it take to get to Aiki?”. When I did that he said, “If you grasp the basics firmly, then two or three years will be enough”.

That’s because if one grasps the basics then they will naturally form the Ki Body. There are not that many people who think to purposely grasp the basics. Those who grasp the basics firmly progress quickly.

But everybody, especially those who have come to learn bujutsu,  inevitably tries to throw the opponent or apply a technique and their feelings get drawn in that direction. When that happens those that could see become blind.

Among my students were some who said, “Nishikido can’t use Ki”. But there were also those that, when they finally came to training in the Hiden Ogi techniques, said “Ahh, so there is Ki, there is Aiki!”. Also, there were those who, even when shown “This is Ki. This is Aiki.”, would think “That’s just another technique”.

Training in Ki cannot progress well without a clear spirit of nothingness and concentration. That progress can be made is because that person’s spirit is in a state of clarity.

The state of nothingness is not “indifference” (無関心), it is to be able to see clearly that which is not visible. The “Ki” which was invisible to that point becomes visible. One comes to see it with their spirit. They come to see it clearly.

When one become capable of that one becomes capable of seeing Ki all of the time. To grasp this one time is simple, if one cannot grasp it then of course it is difficult. Those with idle thoughts have a difficult time grasping this.

Even if I teach “If you do this than you will see!”, there are those who are impatient and think “It’s not this, it’s not that”.

The basic techniques are the same, if you do that then you  will not be able to see it. It’s quick if you focus on what I am teaching, but people can’t seem to focus.

The Resilient Aiki Body

It is written “Aiki”, but it is read “Ki wo gassuru”. That is what Kodo Horikawa Sensei said. (*See the more detailed explanation towards the end of this article).

In order to use Aiki, the body must become the Ki Body. The entire body becomes the Ki Body, and is used through the unification of Ki.

To become the Ki Body means not to use physical strength. When one does correct basic training in Aiki they will naturally become the Ki Body.

If one does not use physical strength then their strength will degenerate. When physical strength degenerates the muscles also become weaker. It’s difficult to maintain physical strength. In order to triple one’s physical strength they must really participate in a large amount of physical training. But in order to develop the Ki Body it’s acceptable to throw away that physical strength. Normally, in order to achieve the Ki Body, a normal person would take twenty to thirty years at the earliest. When one uses this with unified Ki, the Ki fills the body. As one further unifies and uses this Ki they become more and more filled with Ki. That is even further unified and utilized.

This is Aiki training. This is Aiki conditioning. For that reason, there is no end to Aiki conditioning. And thus, it builds a resilient Ki Body.

When one becomes able to use Aiki the Ki Body becomes even further developed. Even when training in the basic techniques of Aiki the Ki Body becomes further developed.

There is no other bujutsu like this. From basic techniques to a training method that build the Aiki Ki Body.

Sokaku Takeda and Kodo HorikawaThe Aiki bodies of Sokaku Takeda and Kodo Horikawa

Once one becomes capable of using Aiki, then one becomes able to build the Aiki Body with Aiki. Not the Ki Body, creating the Aiki Body.

Horikawa Sensei’s techniques were incredible, but his body was also incredible. His body was filled full with Ki. Not a soft, fluffy Ki. He was filled full with a sharp, intense Ki.

Since Sensei was a school teacher, he had never done any kind of physical labor. I always wondered “How did he develop such an incredible body?”. He didn’t have the shape of a Ki Body, his body was in the form of an Aiki Body.

Sokaku Takeda and Takuma Hisa

Sokaku Takeda and Takuma Hisa
Receiving Menkyo Kaiden in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, 1939

Sokaku Takeda’s body was also firm and sharp. There are pictures of them together, but when compared to Sokaku Takeda’s body Takuma Hisa still looks something like a child.

I think that Takeda Sensei must have handled Takuma Hisa Sensei like a child. Horikawa Sensei’s body was incredible, but Takeda Sensei’s was far and above even that.

Development of the Tendons and Ligaments

All schools of bujutsu build a resilient body through severe training. It is through that that one can become capable of using techniques such that are called “divine techniques”.

Aiki as well was born at the end of the struggles of our ancestors devoting their entire body and souls to their training.

There are several hundred schools of bujutsu in Japan, but the name “Aiki-jujutsu” exists only in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu.

No matter how weak one’s body is, if they truly understand Aiki and train correctly then they will develop a resilient Aiki Body.

In Daito-ryu one first develops the Ki Body through training in basic techniques, and then begins to use Aiki. When using Ki the tendons and ligaments of the body don’t work very much. However, when one begins to use Aiki after developing the Ki Body the tendons and ligaments begin to work.

There was a time when Horikawa Sensei was admitted to the hospital after he cut his Achilles tendon two-thirds of the way through. At that time one of the doctors in the hospital said in wonder “This person’s Achilles tendon is three times as thick as a normal person’s!”.

Horikawa Sensei’s toes and fingers were also incredible.

Even normally when nothing was happening they were all stretched out wide. Just the same as I when I am stretch my finger and toes out wide to their tips.

The tendons in Horikawa Sensei’s Achilles tendon and his toes and fingers were the result of sixty years of Aiki conditioning. In other words, the tendons and ligaments throughout Horikawa Sensei’s entire body were strongly developed.

When the tendons and ligaments throughout one’s entire body are worked through Aiki training (conditioning) the tendons and ligaments start to develop and one can build the resilient Aiki Body.

Muscles, when one takes even a short break from muscular training, soon become weak. When one becomes of an advanced age their deterioration becomes visible. However, once tendons and ligaments are developed they do not deteriorate. Even when one reaches an advanced age that resilient body is preserved, and one can remain with a youthful appearance indefinitely.

Horikawa Sensei told me “Even if you’re sick in bed for a week or ten days, it’s no hindrance to using Aiki”. Even if you’re sick in bed for a week or ten days, the conditioned body does not deteriorate.

Gassuru Aiki

This happened one day in the third year of receiving instruction from Horikawa Sensei, the first year of receiving individual instruction in Kitami.

I asked Horikawa Sensei loudly “Sensei, Is Aiki kokyu-ho (a breathing method)?”. Horikawa Sensei was very hard of hearing.

Sensei said “What? Kokyu-ho? Hahaha…” – he just laughed and that was the end of it.

Then, after a few days had passed I was having tea at Sensei’s house after morning practice and an Aikido demonstration was being broadcast.

After the demonstration was over Sensei said this – “They call it Aikido, but they aren’t using the slightest bit of Aiki!”. As one would expect, at that time I asked “Sensei, what is Aiki?”.

When I did that Sensei stopped for a moment, took a deep breath, and said “Aiki is…”. I held my breath and watched Sensei’s face. And then this is what he said next.

Sensei told me “Aiki is written Aiki, but the meaning is Ki wo gassuru, it is read Ki wo gassuru.”.

“Sensei! Aiki is Ki wo gassuru?”, I said without thinking. Sensei said, nodding, “Yes, that’s right.”. I said “Thank you!” from the bottom of my heart.

Until that time I had read a number of books about Aikido, but most of them wrote about Aiki as something like “Ki wo awaseru”.

Translator’s Note: Horikawa Sensei appears to be distinguishing between “awaseru” (合わせる) and “gassuru” (合する). “Awaseru” is commonly used in modern Aikido in the meaning of “matching” or “harmonizing” with the opponent. “Gassuru” in this context is used in the sense of “unification” within the body, without relation to the opponent.

Morihei Ueshiba also used this reading of the kanji for “Ai”, both in his 1933 technical manual Aikijujutsu Densho and his 1954 technical manual Aikido Maki-no-Ichi, but slightly more explicitly, as when he used the term “Inyo-gacchi” (陰陽合致) – “the unification of Yin and Yang”.

He later (1963, from a speech at a demonstration at the Hibiya Kokkaido) stressed that this process occurs within one’s own body when he stated that “In Aikido Izanagi no Mikoto Izanami no Mikoto enter and move through this old man’s body”   (「合気道は、イザナギの尊 イザナミの尊が爺の体内に入り行っているのだ」) – Izanagi and Izanami standing in for Yin and Yang.

He also presented this in his use of the phrase “Ten-chi-jin Aiki”, the classical Chinese model that “unifies the forces” (“Aiki”) of “heaven and earth” (“Yin and Yang”) in man (‘jin”).

“Aikido is the way and the principle of harmonizing Heaven, Earth and Man
(Morihei Ueshiba – from “Takemusu Aiki”, edited by Hideo Takahashi).

This also lends some elucidation to one of the core principles of Daito-ryu – Aiki-inyo-ho, the “Aiki Yin-Yang Method”, or in this light, a “method for unifying the forces of Yin and Yang”, the classical Chinese union of opposites also cited by Morihei Ueshiba above.

One last point – Nishikido Sensei titled his book 合気の極み, “The Height of Aiki”. But the character used for “height”, 極み, is also the character used for “polarity” in Taiji – 太極 – “supreme polarity”, the union of the opposing forces of Yin and Yang. In the classical Chinese model, Wuji – “nothingness” (無極) becomes Taiji (太極), the manifestation of Yin and Yang. This process was also described by Morihei Ueshiba in terms of the Kototama.

For that reason, when I heard Horikawa Sensei’s explanation I thought “As i suspected, it’s different.”. When I understood that it was “Ki wo gassuru” it became clear to me.

At that time I had already understood the basics of Aiki. I had already realized the concept of the Ki Body. For that reason, I was able to understand “Ah, so that’s what it is!”.

If I hadn’t heard those words from Horikawa Sensei, It may be that I would not have been able to grasp Aiki. I was extremely thankful for that single sentence. Even now I can’t forget the joy that I felt at that time. “Sensei, arigatou gozaimasu!” – I thanked Sensei from the bottom of my heart.

And so, that was how I was able to grasp the principle of Aiki.

There was also another event. One day I was watching Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba’s demonstration at Horikawa Sensei’s home. I watched, thinking “Ah, incredible!”.

I was able to see clearly how Ueshiba Sensei was moving. “Ah, I can see how Ueshiba Sensei is moving!”, I felt.

Previously, I had not felt that way. I just thought “Ueshiba is incredible. Aikido is incredible.”.

But I was able to see it. I saw clearly what Ueshiba Sensei was doing and how he was doing it.

It must be that when one arrives at that level, things that they hadn’t been able to see before become visible, don’t they?

Kodo Horikawa - Aiki-ageHokkaido, 1974 – Aiki-age with Kodo Horikawa


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, Hawaii

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Aikido, qué no sabemos y por qué no lo sabemos … [Spanish Version] https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/aikido-que-no-sabemos-y-por-que-no-lo-sabemos-spanish-version/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/aikido-que-no-sabemos-y-por-que-no-lo-sabemos-spanish-version/#respond Sun, 22 Apr 2018 15:32:31 +0000 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3380 “Takemusu Aiki” de Morihei Ueshiba, editado por Hideo Takahashi This is the Spanish translation of the article “Aikido and the Unknown“, provided courtesy of Juantxo Ruiz . Qué no sabemos y por qué no lo sabemos … Cuando Sam Chin visitó Hawaii el año pasado, nos dijo (estoy parafraseando) que no es tan malo no saberlo, siempre y cuando usted sepa que no lo sabe. Eso me llamó … Continue reading Aikido, qué no sabemos y por qué no lo sabemos … [Spanish Version] »

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武産合気

“Takemusu Aiki” de Morihei Ueshiba, editado por Hideo Takahashi

This is the Spanish translation of the article “Aikido and the Unknown“, provided courtesy of Juantxo Ruiz .

Qué no sabemos y por qué no lo sabemos …

Cuando Sam Chin visitó Hawaii el año pasado, nos dijo (estoy parafraseando) que no es tan malo no saberlo, siempre y cuando usted sepa que no lo sabe. Eso me llamó la atención: ¿no es esta la primera parte del problema?

Cuando comencé en Aikido, había muy poca información disponible en inglés. Lo que estaba disponible era, lo sabemos ahora, altamente desinfectado (nota de Juantxo: vamos, que esa información no era completa y llegaba solo cierta parte): he aquí un buen ejemplo en el sitio web de Aikido Journal, y en el de Meik Skoss en su sitio web Koryu.com. Había muy pocos no japoneses que podían hablar japonés en ese momento, y mucho menos leer las fuentes originales, y la mayoría de los japoneses en el ojo público presentaban una representación más o menos uniforme de la historia y los detalles del Aikido.

Ahora, por supuesto, hay cientos de libros en inglés sobre el tema del Aikido, entonces, ¿cuál es el problema

Pues bien, el material en inglés, especialmente el de fuentes originales, es más un resumen que un análisis detallado del material: todavía no se ha realizado una verdadera traducción académica.

De hecho, los materiales originales producidos por el fundador del Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, son tan difíciles de leer que incluso la mayoría de los japoneses declinan leerlo en su propia lengua materna. Si lo leen, sin un fondo particular y experiencia, simplemente no hay decodificación. Peor aún, cuando lo leemos en inglés, no solo es a través de la lente del traductor y su comprensión, sino que está completamente fuera del contexto del mundo en el que vivió el Fundador, que es altamente especializado y complejo, y fuera de la contexto de ciertos otros campos especializados que son realmente esenciales para descubrir qué está pasando.

Dan Harden Sangenkai WorkshopDan Harden en el Taller Sangenkai 2015 en Hawaii

Lo sé, lo intenté, y no tuvo ningún sentido hasta años después a través de la lente de un mayor conocimiento en ciertas áreas, y por eso estaré eternamente agradecido a la generosidad de Dan Harden, que ha sido tan amable de compartir su entrenamiento con nosotros.

Eso no es para denigrar lo que se ha hecho hasta ahora en términos de traducciones al inglés, todo tiene que comenzar en alguna parte. John Stevens me dijo que consideraba que su traducción de “Takemusu Aiki”, que sigue siendo la colección más completa del fundador en sus propias palabras, es una especie de “Takemusu Aiki – Lite”, por lo que sería al menos semi -comprensible para una audiencia general.

Aún así, nos quedamos con una situación en la que la mayoría de los instructores y estudiantes de Aikido, ya sean hablantes nativos de japonés o no, no tienen idea de lo que el Fundador de su arte dijo o escribió de manera detallada.

Aha! Usted dice que su maestro es un alumno directo del Fundador, un uchi-deshi, y aprendió a los pies del maestro. Desafortunadamente, la mayoría de los uchi-deshi eran niños pequeños sin los antecedentes para comprender el contenido de las conferencias, o la paciencia para soportar el dolor de sentarse y escuchar al Fundador en las frías mañanas invernales, lo decían ellos mismos. Aquí hay algunos ejemplos: estos son de entrevistas en japonés que aún no se publicaron en inglés, pero Stan Pranin tiene varias citas similares en entrevistas en el sitio web de Aikido Journal:

Nishio and Ueshiba

Shoji Nishio

P: ¿Por qué se ha perdido la sustancia (de la técnica de Aikido)?

A: Nadie escuchó lo que O-Sensei estaba diciendo. Simplemente intentaron recordar la forma externa de la técnica. Aunque O-Sensei dijo “¿De qué sirve copiar mi técnica? Si haces una técnica una vez, ya está terminada “. Debido a que hablaba como un Kami-sama (Dios), pensaron que nada de lo que él decía podía ser entendido, y ni siquiera intentaron prestar atención cuando escuchaban. Mucho más tarde, cuando olvidaron todo, a veces recordarían “Ah, eso es lo que eso significaba”. Es por eso que la práctica de la mayoría de las personas hoy está vacía. No miran otros tipos de Budo. Desde el principio, el valor de un Budo se determina mediante comparaciones con otros Budo.

Yoshio Kuroiwa, koshi-nage

Yoshio Kuroiwa

P: He oído que las conferencias fueron bastante largas.

A: las odiaba (risas). Hablaba sobre los Kojikki y otras cosas, pero mis piernas se quedaban dormidas y no podía entender nada, solo me hacía llorar. Pensar en esto ahora realmente trae cosas de vuelta.

Yasuo Kobayashi

Yasuo Kobayashi

P: ¿Es cierto que no hubo discusión técnica?

R: En términos de cómo aplicar técnicas específicas, algunas personas dicen que O-Sensei dijo esto o aquello, pero en lo que a mí respecta, nunca escuché ninguna explicación.

Nobuyoshi Tamura

O-Sensei venía al dojo, mostraba algunas técnicas y luego se iba. Si tenia ganas, hablab un rato. Todos éramos jóvenes, por lo que en su mayoría solo queríamos seguir con la práctica. (sobre el contenido de las conferencias) Hablaba sobre los dioses: Izanagi, Izanami, etc. En Sakurazawa-shiki (Macrobiótica) tienen algunas ideas parecidas, así que pensé que estaba hablando de algo relacionado con In y Yo (yin y yang en japonés), pero eso es todo lo que yo entendía.

Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei

Nobuyuki Watanabe

P: El Fundador solía hablar mucho sobre el Kojikki (“Un registro de asuntos antiguos”), ¿no?

A: Sí. Una vez, el Fundador trajo un diagrama del cuerpo humano y dio una explicación mientras sostenía una copia del Kojikki en una mano. Mientras señalaba los músculos y los huesos en el diagrama, dio una explicación muy detallada, diciendo cosas como “Esto es Naohi (espíritu correcto)”, y así sucesivamente. Sin embargo, en ese momento solo me preguntaba qué significaba todo eso. Fue solo una vez, así que no puedo recordar los detalles muy bien.

Yoshimitsu Yamada in his twenties

Yoshimitsu Yamada

P: ¿No hubo ninguna explicación de las técnicas?

A: No, no. Solo discursos difíciles sobre el Kojikki, y luego él te proyectaba y decía “¡Así!”. Sin embargo, a menudo dijo que el Aikido cambia todos los días.

Así que aquí está la primera parte del problema: la mayoría de las personas ni siquiera saben que no saben. Lo que eso significa es que la mayoría de la gente está haciendo alegremente lo que está haciendo sin tener idea de que hay, o debería haber, algo más; el entrenamiento en el que Morihei Ueshiba desarrollaba todos los días desde el día en que conoció a Sokaku Takeda en la posada Hisada en 1915 hasta que falleció en Tokio en 1969.

Ahora bien, ¿por qué no lo sabemos?

Creo que es posible defender firmemente que gran parte de los registros históricos fueron deliberadamente alterados u ocultados. El trabajo de Stan Pranin muestra mucho de eso.

También es posible prestar atención a un detalle que los estudiantes del Fundador omiten mucho: que lo que obtuvieron lo consiguieron al sentir, al ser proyectados directamente por el Fundador. Una corroboración de esto es que aquellos estudiantes que obtuvieron un poco o mucho de algo del Fundador tuvieron problemas para transmitir esas cosas a sus alumnos. Es fácil ver cómo esto lleva a un colapso en la transmisión, una degradación constante de habilidades donde los estudiantes del Fundador nunca igualan el nivel del Fundador, los estudiantes de los estudiantes nunca alcanzan el nivel de sus maestros y etc.

Peor que cualquiera de esas cosas es que muchos de nosotros nos hemos sentido cómodos sin saber realmente ni entender de lo que el Fundador estaba hablando. Pídale a la mayoría de los instructores de Aikido una explicación clara de los términos y objetivos expresados en “Takemusu Aiki” y obtendrá … muy poco. Es increíble, para mí, que un instructor en un arte se sienta cómodo al no entender claramente el discurso del Fundador de su arte.

Por último, por ahora, “¿por qué no nos importa?” – esta es otra cosa que me resulta increíble, pero supongo que es típica de las personas en general y no es un problema específico del Aikido. En general, las personas están contentas de hacer lo que hacen y lo que han estado haciendo, y cuanto más tiempo llevan haciéndolo, menos cuestionan.

Me sorprende cómo pocas personas, por ejemplo, cuestionan el sistema de clasificación “tradicional” en Aikido, aunque la “tradición” solo comenzó en la década de 1940 y realmente comenzó a ajustarse al intento del gobierno japonés de regular las artes marciales bajo el Dai-Nippon Butokukai.

Debería ser responsabilidad de todos y cada uno de nosotros en Aikido ser activos en el descubrimiento de lo que no sabemos, y cómo podemos aprender esas cosas, y preocuparnos por el proceso.

Además, creo que nos corresponde a cada uno de nosotros tener una comprensión clara de lo que el Fundador pensó sobre su arte, cuáles fueron sus objetivos técnicos, filosóficos y espirituales y poder expresar esas cosas de una manera clara y convincente.

De lo contrario, ¿cómo puedes decir que estás entrenando el arte de Morihei Ueshiba?

Morihei Ueshiba meditates on top of Haleakala, Maui, 1961Morihei Ueshiba medita sobre Haleakala, Maui, 1961


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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A Letter from Kenji Tomiki to Isamu Takeshita https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/a-letter-from-kenji-tomiki-to-isamu-takeshita/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/a-letter-from-kenji-tomiki-to-isamu-takeshita/#comments Mon, 19 Mar 2018 02:40:31 +0000 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3320 Morihei Ueshiba and Isamu Takeshita on the train Isamu Takeshita (竹下勇) was an Admiral in the Imperial Japanese Imperial Navy and a diplomat who helped negotiate the end of the Japanese war with Russia. A patron of the Japanese martial arts, he introduced President Teddy Roosevelt to his Judo instructor Yoshiaki Yamashita. A student and patron of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, he was instrumental in … Continue reading A Letter from Kenji Tomiki to Isamu Takeshita »

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Morihei Ueshiba and Isamu Takeshita on the trainMorihei Ueshiba and Isamu Takeshita on the train

Isamu Takeshita (竹下勇) was an Admiral in the Imperial Japanese Imperial Navy and a diplomat who helped negotiate the end of the Japanese war with Russia.

A patron of the Japanese martial arts, he introduced President Teddy Roosevelt to his Judo instructor Yoshiaki Yamashita. A student and patron of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, he was instrumental in convincing Ueshiba to move to Tokyo and also introduced him to the inner circles of Japan’s military elite.

Admiral Takeshita also gave what was most likely the earliest demonstrations of Sokaku Takeda and Morihei Ueshiba’s art in North America.

Admiral Isamu Takeshita in Hollywood with child actress Jane Withers, 1935Admiral Isamu Takeshita in Hollywood with child actress Jane Withers, 1935

During the summer of 1935, Admiral Takeshita made his fifth visit to North America. Stops included New Orleans, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Seattle. His purpose was to tell US audiences that the international press misinterpreted Japan’s role in China. The Japanese objective, he said, was not to spread the Japan’s Co-Prosperity Sphere but to stop international Communism. “No Japanese warship has ever crossed the Pacific except on a mission of peace,” he said during a radio broadcast in San Francisco. “No Japanese soldier has ever come to these shores except on a similar mission.”

While in the United States, Takeshita demonstrated aikibudo to judoka and reporters. “I spend at least two or three hours a day with my pupils,” he said. “Ju-jitsu or kendo is an art as far as a foreigner is concerned, but it is also in character-building… Character is the most important thing from beginning to end.”

According to Takeshita, there were 3,500 holds in his style. Rather than using force to overcome an opponent, the idea was to throw him almost without touching him. The way this was done was by using the opponent’s own energy against him. While Takeshita believed that aikibudo was a dangerous art for a young man, he thought it an excellent method for older men and women. He concluded by saying that it provided excellent training for politicians, as without it he would have become exhausted from all the handshaking Americans expected!

In Washington DC in September 1935, US newspapermen asked Takeshita about his “jiu-jitsu”. “Flexing the muscles of his arms and grinning,” said the New York World Sun Dispatch afterward:

The admiral offered to illustrate what he called a more effective manner of combat known in Japan as aikibudo.

One man, allowing curiosity to overcome caution, volunteered. Like a flash the admiral had the newspaper reporter on the floor, too surprised to do more than gasp.

‘I was very gentle with you,’ Admiral Takeshita said. ‘You see, I could very easily have killed you instantly.’

On his way back to Japan in October 1935, Takeshita also demonstrated aikibudo to Japanese American newspapermen in Seattle. His partner in the demonstration was Yasuyuki Kumagai, 5-dan, the head instructor of the Seattle judo club known as the Seattle Dojo. “The admiral smiled and told Kumagai to get set,” the Great Northern Daily News reported afterwards.

Both men took the judo pose, and with a sudden movement that was faster than most of the witnesses could catch, Takeshita thrust out an open hand, fingers rigid and pointing to Kumagai’s mid-section.

That was all, but Kumagai, who knows a little of vulnerable spots on the human body, was startled as well as convinced.

‘One inch more and I would have been unconscious or be writhing on the ground in pain,’ said the husky judoist. And most of the bystanders believed him.

Aikido Comes to America: September 1935
Journal of Combative Sport November 1999
By Joseph R. Svinth

Ueshiba Morihei and Kenji TomikiThe young Kenji Tomiki with Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba

Kenji Tomiki (富木謙治) began training under Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu in 1926 after being encouraged to meet Morihei Ueshiba by Hidetaro Kubota (who later changed his name to Nishimura), a fellow Judo student at Waseda University.

The first known book published by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba (“Moritaka Ueshiba” at the time of publishing) was the 1933 training manual published in English under the name “Budo Training in Aikido“. This manual was initially given to his students as a kind of a teaching license (the full manual is available for free download from “Aikijujutsu Densho – AKA Budo Renshu, by Moritaka Ueshiba“). It is filled with illustrations depicting techniques 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. The text portions of this work were largely compiled and edited by Kenji Tomiki.

In 1938 he became Morihei Ueshiba’s representative at Kenkoku University in Japanese occupied Manchuria (replacing Rinjiro Shirata, who had originally been chosen, but was conscripted into the military in 1937), and would become Aikido’s first 8th Dan in 1940.

You may also be interested in these two previous articles about Kenji Tomiki:

In the current article, created with original materials in Japanese provided through the assistance of Josh Gold and Aikido Journal, is a letter from Kenji Tomiki to Admiral Isamu Takeshita from 1928 (there is a simpler version of this article, without some of the annotations, is also available on Aikido Journal). At this point in time Tomiki had only trained for a short time with Morihei Ueshiba before entering military service, and the letter is written close to the end of that service. He details some of his thoughts and impressions of Morihei Ueshiba’s jujutsu, and the thoughts that it raised concerning Kodokan Judo.

This letter is actually mentioned by Isamu Takeshita in his diary:

September 21, 1928

Received a letter about the Aiki-Jujutsu of Mr. Tomiki, in Hirosaki [Aomori]. Comparing this with Kodokan-Judo interested me. [Note: Tomiki enlisted in the army in Hirosaki since the beginning of January, 1928]

– from “Summary of Isamu Takeshita’s Diary”
translation by Fumiaki Shishida

Enjoy!


Kenji Tomiki and Hideo OhbaKenji Tomiki defending against a front kick from Hideo Ohba in 1961

A letter from Kenji Tomiki to Isamu Takeshita

September 19th, Showa year 3 (1928)
To Mr. Isamu Takeshita, 3-5 Kuruma-cho, Shiba-ku, Tokyo-to

Sent by Kenji Tomiki, 31-5 Kachi, Hirosaki
Accounting Department Management Cadet

Heishin (“peaceful/ordinary news”, an honorific greeting)

Dear sir,

Since then I have not been able to send greetings for some time. I know that you and your wife have passed that time without difficulties, and I myself am still serving robustly in my employment by the army. The unusual heat wave that has been continuing in this area through the summer has gradually given way to autumn breezes and we can feel the chill in the mornings and evenings.

We will be dispatched to this year’s special war games that were moved up for the state ceremony to be held in the beginning of next month nearby Morioka, and fortunately we have been granted the honor of participating. I am attached to the headquarters for the 31st Regiment, 6th Battalion, and will be departing twenty-one days from tomorrow. We will start with combined arms training near Aomori and brigade and regiment level opposition, then directly after that proceed with provisional division opponents and finish with the Shinkyo large scale maneuvers (Note: possibly in preparation for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria).

Morioka Special War GamesPhotograph commemorating the completion of the
Showa year 3 (1928) Morioka Special War Games

Only a month after the war games are completed I will be separating from life in the military. After my military discharge, It seems that I will be returning to Tokyo to become a burden upon everybody once more.

The other day I received a letter from Ueshiba Sensei. He has returned to Ayabe for a short time and will be returning to Tokyo in September. I was certainly happy to know that all of you are researching as usual, and that the number of enthusiastic practitioners grows with each passing day.

Looking back to last spring when I first received instruction from Ueshiba Sensei, and the short period until my enlistment a few months after that, those were truly days that held great significance to me.

In addition to an extraordinary revolution in my outlook on Judo, which I had researched for more than ten years since my elementary school days, the instruction and insight that I received into many of the questions and dissatisfactions with Judo that I had felt until that time clarified my thoughts on the current situation of Kodokan Judo.

Of course the number of days that I have been able to learn jujutsu from my instructor were limited, and even now I am still far from being able to plumb the depths of the deeper techniques. However, and this is based on the research of a short time, here are some of the things that I have been taught up until this time, or that have been wandering through my thoughts, with the knowledge that I have much more to be taught in the future.

Firstly, I have thought a great deal up to this point concerning what is called the Judo philosophy. I was unable to understand Judo’s place in the midst of the greater meaning of budo, but now I have come to believe that this is clearly so, that is, it is not that I was completely denying Kano Sensei’s philosophy of Judo, but that there are some questions concerning the presuppositions.

Is the single path of Judo included in the greater meaning of budo? If that is so, then then there is no particular need for argumentation for the viewpoint of Judo. Perhaps it is not that traditional Kendo, Judo and other bujutsu formed as individual entities with individual viewpoints.

This is what I was taught. What is called budo is a single integrated path, and this path is now expressed in an unbroken form as Kenjutsu, Sojutsu…the Bugei Juhappan (Note: the 18 traditional types of martial arts used by samurai in Tokugawa Japan, based upon earlier Chinese traditions)In past times all bujutsu was, in the end, the manifestation of a unique path of war. Therefore, both Kenjutsu and Jujutsu return in the end to a single path, and it is not necessary to divide Kendo from Judo in order to explain them. Actions of advance and retreat, body posture, breathing – they all must match with each other. However, the Judo and Kendo of the present day are virtually all in the process of becoming increasingly different from each other. Judo is not the same as something in which one holds a weapon, but both of those arts must adhere to the same basic principles. I gave myself up to the clarity of this truth through Sensei’s jujutsu.

In the ideal budo, as one progresses along the path their technical side progresses in parallel. This varies from what occurs in sports. In comparison to sports, in which records are maintained for the few years of one’s youth in the sport, in budo there comes a gradual increase in skill that accompanies mental conditioning continuing to old age. If we are looking towards this as an ideal, then there are a plethora of questions that arise concerning current Kodokan Judo. If we instead consider the case of Kendo, there are many practitioners who have the spirit to keep striving vibrantly past their 60’s, a better match with the ideals of budo.

These weaknesses have all been resolved by Sensei’s jujutsu.

It can be thought that Kodokan-ryu only hopes for growth within an extremely limited area. Therefore, with the drawbacks caused by the introduction of things such as modern boxing and Tode-jutsu (Karate) it can be felt that it has reached a practical dead-end in modern times.

If that is so, then from where do those weaknesses emerge? In the end, I think that it returns to the fact that the current Kodokan-ryu has grown based upon games for physical education rather then self-defense techniques. In that lies a great deal of the fault.

This can be understood through research into the origins of jujutsu and the sources behind the establishment of Kano Sensei’s Kodokan Judo. In the past the general jujutsu which has divided into many different schools was all for the purpose of shinken-shobu (Note: 真剣勝負 – a match with a live blade. In other words, a fight that determines life and death). Then, from those ryu-ha various schools that focused on throwing techniques such as Kito-ryu (起倒流) and Yoshin-ryu (楊心流), or those which specialized in striking (atemi) and holds such as Tenjin Shinyo-ryu (天神真楊流) and Yoshin-ryu (楊心流) differentiated themselves. However, the long and short of it is that defense against attacks was the primary focus, so that joint techniques were the most common. Consequently, Kano Sensei removed the joint techniques from those schools, avoided striking (atemi), chose the least dangerous strategies and established a Kodokan Judo that was appropriate for modern times. Then a variety of competitive methods were established from the most interesting principles and finally we have what is thriving today. On the other hand, it ended up as being completely a sport. Ueshiba Sensei would often say “Are things like Kodokan Judo useful? That’s not real bujutsu.”, and actually the reality is just that. Looked at from the viewpoint of self defense it’s completely powerless. And then, looked at from the viewpoint of true bujutsu it’s at the point of heresy. However, if one looks at it from the point of view of a sport then I think that it functions very well. I believe that here are the current reasons for modern Judo.

So in the end the problem must become “Which reason for Judo’s existance is most common in modern times, as self-defense or as a sport?”. Putting this problem aside for the moment, I would like to talk just a little about clarifying another side of the problem, the start and end of the controversy that engendered the Kodokan method of competition.

Sankaku-jime applied at the 1920 Kosen Taikai.Kosen Judo – at the heart of the controversy over groundwork in Judo
Sankaku-jime applied at the 1920 Kosen Taikai

In former years there were rival Judo matches between Senior Dai-ichi High School and Senior Dai-ni High School. As a result, although Dai-ichi High School had a leading third dan and a number of black belts, Dai-ni High School, who never had more than one or two black belts, would place higher in the competitions. What it came back to is that Dai-ni High School trained thoroughly in ground techniques, so Dai-ichi High School had no space in which to attack them. Kano Sensei was extremely critical of this:

“The foundation of Judo is shinken shobu. In times past ground techniques were used after the first opponent was fully overwhelmed in order to completely control a second opponent. In comparison to those times Dai-ni High School responds to an attack with ground techniques from the very beginning. This is not a proper thing to do for shinken shobu, extremely cowardly..”

A great controversy grew surrounding this.

We didn’t like ground techniques and we felt that the behavior of Dai-ni High School was underhanded. However, in terms of theory we knew that they were absolutely correct. That is, modern Kodokan Judo is sports. Therefore, as long as something does not violate the rules of the decided upon method of competition the goal is to win. Things such as shinken shobu were outside of the equation in this case. Accordingly, I believe that the use of Dai-ichi High School’s weakness in ground techniques to get the win is only reasonable. This problem of ground techniques versus standing techniques is a continuing problem, even today.

However, just delaying to a draw by responding unconsciously with ground techniques lacks an aggressive mindset – there is a great deal there that contradicts the warrior’s “battle to the death without surrender” attitude. And further, the fact is that one can practice throwing techniques for three or four years without developing real skill. In comparison, combining ground techniques with physical strength one can achieve significant results in only six months or a year, so they are very effective when going into competitive matches. What is prized in paired sports is victory in competitive matches rather than shinken shobu, so if the same mental and physical conditioning, sacrifice and effort is necessary to achieve that then I believe that it is best for us to take the route towards ground techniques rather than throwing techniques.

In the midst of those valued words from Kano Sensei that I mentioned before, modern Judo is gradually developing as a sport. Furthermore, I know that there is a dilemma in its gradual separation from shinken shobu (life or death attitude/intent.)

Translator’s Note: Jigoro Kano himself apparently had misgivings about Judo as a sport, expressed here to Gunji Koizumi in 1936:

I have been asked by people of various sections as to the wisdom and possibility of Judo being introduced with other games and sports at the Olympic Games. My view on the matter, at present, is rather passive. If it be the desire of other member countries I have no objection. But I do not feel inclined to take any initiative. For one thing, Judo, in reality, is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art and science. In fact it is a means for personal cultural attainment. Only one of the forms of Judo training, so-called Randori or free practice, can be classed as a form of sport. Certainly, to some extent, the same may be said of boxing and fencing, but today they are practised and conducted as sports. Then, the Olympic Games are so strongly flavoured with Nationalism that it is possible to be influenced by it and to develop ‘Contest Judo,’ a retrograde form as Ju Jutsu was before Kodokwan Judo was founded.

Fulfilling His Duty as a Member: Jigoro Kano and the Japanese Bid for the 1940 Olympics
By Joseph R. Svinth

The benefits that come from Kodokan Judo are usually explained by the following four points:

  1. Methods of physical education. (“taiiku-ho” / 体育法)
  2. Methods of cultivating the spirit. (“shushin-ho” / 修心法)
  3. Methods of consoling the spirit. (“ishin-ho” / 慰心法)
  4. Methods of self defense. (“goshin-ho” / 護身法)

Shusaku Kiryu, University of TsukubaShusaku Kiryu, University of Tsukuba Judo Team

The purpose of this study is to clarify the background and intent of Kano Jigoro when he introduced the concept of ishinho (method to console the spirit) as one of the objectives of judo. Kano initially described the purposes of judo as taiiku (physical education), shobu (martial arts), and shushin (to master one’s spirit). Later, Kano add ishinho as an additional objective, but the reason he did so is unknown. Upon examining Kano’s writings and the aspects of judo popularized during this period, I was able to clarify the following:

  1. After 1883, judo penetrated schools as an extracurricular activity. Later, many judo clubs were established and they began holding inter-school matches.
  2. Kano showed that people who trained in the discipline of judo reaped the benefits of judo- taiiku, shobu, and shushin.
  3. In 1911 , judo became a standard subject in Japanese high schools. Later, Kano announced the inclusion of ishinho as an objective of judo, and added additional, factors (including the pleasure of exercise; the enjoyment of watching randori, competitions, and kata; and kata as an art form) to judo.
  4. Kano generated a new concept of ishinho against the background of his knowledge of dissatisfaction with normal gymnastics, the various benefits of judo, and the merit of athletic sports. With increasing inter-school matches, ishinho disappeared from Kano’s works, and students became involved in many scandals. Instead of ihsinho, Kano appealed to all people to improve this situation, whether they practiced judo or not.

The Introduction of the Concept of “Ishinho” to Judo
and the Thoughts of Kano Jigoro
– Shusaku Kiryu, University of Tsukuba

When I attempt to compare Ueshiba Sensei’s jujutsu to these points the following thoughts arise:

  1. There is certainly a danger of harm when elementary and junior high school students train normally for competition. If the instructor exercises appropriate caution then it can be suitable even for those who might be considered unsuitable for Kodokan-ryu such as the elderly and women. Therefore, I believe that on that point, or as concerns Judo as exercise, that it is by no means inferior.
  2. As a budo with a goal towards cultivating the spirit its goals are the some, so in the end it returns to a problem of the instructor, but I believe it to be far superior in terms of its great emphasis on spirituality.
  3. As for “Methods of Consoling the Spirit”, it is said that Kodokan-ryu appeals to feelings for the fine arts, but conversely, these things can also be seen in this jujutsu. As an example of a refined and elegant kata in Kodokan-ryu there is “Itsutsu no Kata” (五つの型), which expresses the feelings of the rushing of the waves, but in this jujutsu this is expressed, not in kata, but in the course of normal practice. Further, it is the same for “Ju no Kata” (柔の型), there are many points in this jujutsu that are extremely similar. However, in “Ju no Kata” the Kokyu is completely missing, making it end up spineless. It is the same for the movement postures – it is thought that when those are mastered by the women in Kodokan-ryu that they are able to able to attain a beautiful posture. However, the kamae of the legs and hips in this jujutsu and the movement of the body matches precisely to Noh dance, so I think that on this point it is actually ideal.
  4. Needless to say, as method of self-defense there is a remarkable difference. Firstly, as a conditioning method (鍛練法), and I was taught an enormous amount about this point. As a conditioning method there are two different methods. That is, one method favors randori over kata, and one method favors kata over randori. In addition to Kodokan Judo, modern Kendo also makes use of the former method, and this point can be thought to reveal a weakness of current-day bujutsu. In the end, this can be thought to be a consequence of the development of bujutsu that focuses on competition.

The harm of a focus on randori is that one tends towards the few techniques that one is skilled at and strays from the path, degenerating into simple physical strength. Although that is fine in terms of physical education, in order to grasp the true spirit of bujutsu I believe that clearly maturing the meaning of that bujutsu through kata before entering into randori is the way to eliminate mistakes. In this jujutsu the focus is on kata, but what seems to be a rather roundabout way to understand the meaning of that bujutsu is conversely a shortcut, and can be thought to eliminate mistakes. However, what I think is even more superior here is that although it is called kata it is not the same as the fixed fifteen throwing kata or the joint locking kata limited to so many techniques of Kodokan-ryu. They are flexible and freely adaptable to whatever situation arises – they are kata that are themselves randori.

When actually observing Kodokan-ryu and others and researching into their historical origins I was able to clearly ascertain the points of superiority of this jujutsu. Thus, the desire to understand the value of this jujutsu from the wider perspective of Nihon Bujutsu has been continuously on my mind.

As I said before, I have trained in Judo for many years, but in the end I never took it a single step past the point of view as a sport, and accordingly I researched it as a superior method of physical exercise, but when I emerged from my academic studies limits on my time, stamina, and location made me think that Judo was something that I would have to distance myself from. However, through an unexpected chance I was able to observe Sensei’s technique, and found a place for the Judo that I had thought to abandon and came to believe that here was something that I could continue to practice and improve forever as another form of exercise and a training interest. I enlisted just as I graduated last spring and leaving my classroom and my home behind then had the time to devote myself to Sensei’s instruction.

I would like to return to Tokyo after my military discharge and find some employment there, but I am also hoping to be able to spend a long time on research into everybody’s instruction in jujutsu, if it pleases you.

Chinkon KishinChinkon Kishin Training at the Omoto compound in Ayabe, 1921

Finally, there is the issue of Sensei’s faith, I felt some uncertainty just as I visited Sensei in Ayabe last summer. My uncle and Mr. Kubota are examples, but there was not much support for my trip to Ayabe. However, I believe that Omoto-kyo and bujutsu are completely separate. While I was staying in Ayabe I always heard talk of faith from Sensei and other people, and perhaps due to my sceptical nature and the many subjects that I could not fully comprehend I was unable to understand this Omoto-kyo that is filled with miracles that surpass modern science. However, I have great admiration for Sensei’s faith and Sensei’s humble attitude towards the Gods. and I have thus deeply considered many points concerning Sensei’s techniques and his faith. It is not necessarily limited to Omoto-kyo, but it may be that it is with faith that bujutsu first reaches that level, that I may be been taught at a visceral level that bujutsu shugyo is something that in the end returns to faith.

Day by day the weather is becoming colder, I am praying for all of your health. Finally, thank you for taking the time to consider my ramblings.

September 19th

Respectfully,

Kenji Tomiki to the honorable Mr. Isamu Takeshita

Postscript: Please give my best regards to Mr. Shimoji and Mr. Yamamoto.

  1. This letter was transcribed by Professor of Intellectual History of the Japanese Martial Arts at Waseda University and Aikido Shihan of the Japan Aikido Association Fumiaki Shishida, from a copy received from Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Hombu-cho Katsuyuki Kondo. Kenji Tomiki’s handwriting was deciphered with the assistance of Mr. Seiichi Saito, who studied under Kenji Tomiki during his time at Kenkoku University in Manchuria, but there were a few places that were unclear and I hope for clarification at a later date. There may have been mistakes and imperfections in the copy, but it goes without saying that the wording of the text is the responsibility of the editor. With deep gratitude towards Kondo Sensei and Saito Sensei, Shishida Fumiaki – January 18th 1991.
  2. The original materials in Japanese were provided with the assistance of Josh Gold and Aikido Journal.

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, Hawaii

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Happy New Year of the Dog 2018 from the Aikido Sangenkai https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/happy-new-year-of-the-dog-2018-from-the-aikido-sangenkai/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/happy-new-year-of-the-dog-2018-from-the-aikido-sangenkai/#comments Mon, 01 Jan 2018 17:22:26 +0000 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3296 Happy New Year of the Dog 2018 from the Aikido Sangenkai! Thank you all for your help and support over the last year. 2017 was a great year of training, and we’re looking forward to even more great training with you all in the coming year! The past year has seen the number of articles on the Aikido Sangenkai blog pass the 150 mark, with more articles translated … Continue reading Happy New Year of the Dog 2018 from the Aikido Sangenkai »

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Happy New Year of the Dog 2018Happy New Year of the Dog 2018
from the Aikido Sangenkai!

Thank you all for your help and support over the last year. 2017 was a great year of training, and we’re looking forward to even more great training with you all in the coming year!

The past year has seen the number of articles on the Aikido Sangenkai blog pass the 150 mark, with more articles translated into more than fifteen languages. For the coming year, our Sangenkai workshop for February 2018 has registered attendees from Japan, Korea, the mainland USA, Sweden and our local and neighbor island Sangenkai members as well as a large group of New Zealand and Australia Sangenkai members coming for a special intensive workshop in addition to the regular workshop, making the Aikido Sangenkai the only Aikido group in Hawaii to hold regular workshops with an international attendance.

三千世界
一度に開く
梅の花
二度の岩戸は
開かれにけり

In three thousand worlds
The plum blossoms
Open all at once –
The stone door will
Open a second time.

Doka by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba
Journey to the Heart of Aikido:
The Teachings of Motomichi Anno Sensei

by Linda Holiday and Motomichi Anno

As you can see on our New Year’s card above, Morihei Ueshiba often described Aikido as the “second opening of the stone door”. But what about the first opening, and why was it related to Aikido? For the answers to that one – check out this post about last year’s New Year’s card.

On this year’s nengajo we have the first sun of the year (初日の出) rising over Mt. Fuji. The tradition of viewing the first rising sun of the year is also linked to the story of the stone door and the reappearance of Ama-terasu Omikami in the world.

Which leads us to our thought for the coming year – a frequently cited quote from the Founder (actually a paraphrase of a Chinese proverb which has its roots in India – which demonstrates the pervasive nature of the idea across nations and cultures), from Aikido Tankyu #29:

富士の高嶺に登る道は沢山有りますが、行き着く所は一つであります。即ち愛の道であります。皆それぞれ修業の方法は異なりますが、同じ所に至るのであります。日本の武は決して戦や闘いや争いの道では無いのであります。全ての者を喜んで兄弟として行く道であります。

There are many paths to the peak of Mt. Fuji, but they all end at a single destination. That is, the path to love. Everyone has different methods of training, but they all arrive at the same destination. The martial arts of Japan are in no way the paths towards war, struggle or conflict. They are the paths which all people can take with joy as brothers and sisters.

 — Hau’oli Makahiki Hou
 — Happy New Year
 — 明けましておめでとうございます
…and much Aloha!

Izumo Taishakyo Mission of HawaiiNew Year’s Day at the Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii

Articles from the past year:

The Phantom Manual: Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu
Budoka no Kotae – Talking to Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei
Aikido und die schwebende Himmelsbrücke [German Version]
Budoka no Kotae – Talking to Morihiro Saito Sensei, Part 3
Budoka no Kotae – Talking to Morihiro Saito Sensei, Part 2
Budoka no Kotae – Talking to Morihiro Saito Sensei, Part 1
El grado importa – Cinturones Negros en Aikido [Spanish Version]
Ueshiba-ha Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu [Spanish Version]
El Legado de Ueshiba – Parte 1, por Mark Murray [Spanish Version]
Cuatro Generaciones de la Familia Ueshiba [Spanish Version]
Ueshiba-ha Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu
Kiichi Hogen und das Geheimnis des Aikido [German Version]
The Ueshiba Legacy – Part 2, by Mark Murray
Aikido Shihan Sadao Takaoka – Meeting O-Sensei
Aikido Shihan Seiseki Abe – Meeting Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei
Interview with Aikido Shihan Yasuo Kobayashi – Part 2

Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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The Phantom Manual: Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/phantom-manual-yamato-ryu-goshinjutsu/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/phantom-manual-yamato-ryu-goshinjutsu/#comments Mon, 18 Dec 2017 21:03:32 +0000 https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3262 Women’s self-defense demonstration in the Nikkan Jijishashin (日刊時事写真) Fujiko Suzuki (鈴木富治子), founder of Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu (大和流護身術), left Sokaku Takeda and Morihei Ueshiba student Admiral Isamu Takeshita on the right. Fujiko Suzuki’s “Phantom Manual” is available through the efforts of Scott Burke, who lives in Fukuoka, but often comes to Hawaii to join the Sangenkai workshops with Dan Harden. Many thanks to Scott, and appreciation for his continuing series … Continue reading The Phantom Manual: Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu »

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Daiwa Goshinjutsu - Isamu Takeshita

Women’s self-defense demonstration in the Nikkan Jijishashin (日刊時事写真)
Fujiko Suzuki (鈴木富治子), founder of Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu (大和流護身術), left
Sokaku Takeda and Morihei Ueshiba student Admiral Isamu Takeshita on the right.

Fujiko Suzuki’s “Phantom Manual” is available through the efforts of Scott Burke, who lives in Fukuoka, but often comes to Hawaii to join the Sangenkai workshops with Dan Harden. Many thanks to Scott, and appreciation for his continuing series of “Aikileaks”, which has previously included

All 243 pages of this beautifully remastered manual are available for download at the bottom of this essay from Scott Burke, which explains what the “Phantom Manual” is and how it is related to Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and Aikido. Enjoy!

Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu - 1937Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu – 1937, by Fujiko Suzuki

The Phantom Manual: Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu

by Scott Burke

(And before anyone says it, no, this is not related to any other Daiwa Ryu, Yamato Ryu, or the 1952 Yamato Ryu “Secret Teachings of Self Defense”. “Secret Teachings of Self Defense” does contain numerous drawings copied from Kunigoshi’s Aikijujutsu Densho, so it can be considered a kind of a bootleg. There are also a number of techniques traced from photographs of a 1935 Nakazawa Ryu Goshinjutsu manual as well, I may put together a side by side later. This is a different animal altogether.)

Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu, Page 183

This Yamato Ryu is very much a product of Ueshiba’s students. His name is even written in the back indicating some level of oversight over the book, possibly as editor. Unless I’m losing my sight there is no mention of Aiki in this book. There is no mention of Heaven, earth, man or anything obvious pointing towards internal training methods. This is a straightforward collection of self-defense techniques for women in early Showa era Japan. As a historical document, it begs questions about who-knew-who in the mid 1930’s, as there are some interesting names attached to this work.

Takako Kunigoshi and Shigemi YonekawaTakako Kunigoshi and Shigemi Yonekawa in 1935

Firstly, the illustrations are by Takako Kunigoshi, one of Ueshiba O-Sensei’s Kobukan era students and the illustrator of the famed Budo Renshu aka Aikijujutsu Densho. There are over two hundred illustrations depicting self-defense techniques. These techniques are often shown with the figures in regular Showa era (1930’s) daily wear, with only a few done with the participants wearing something like dogi. The manual’s authorship is credited to Fujiko Suzuki, a third dan Judo and shodan kendo practitioner. Her signature and a stamp with the characters Yamato Ryu Soke, are on the book. Aside from an article in a 1937 housewife helper’s magazine (below) and the 1937 Jijishashin press clipping (above) there is nothing more definitive that I can find on Fujiko Suzuki so far.

Shufu no Tomo - Yamato Ryu 1Shufu no Tomo - Yamato Ryu 2Shufu no Tomo - Yamato Ryu 3Fujiko Suzuki – “The Secrets of Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu” (大和流護身術の極意)
“How to Beat Off and Defeat Hoodlums” (暴漢撃退法)
Shufu-no-Tomo (主婦乃友) magazine, May 1937

There are some hints that can be gleaned by looking over interviews with Kunigoshi, namely one conducted by Stan Pranin entitled “The Dainty Lady Who Lit Up Morihei Ueshiba’s Kobukan Dojo”:

I started in January of 1933, the year that I graduated from school. I was then able to continue up to a little before the air raids began over Tokyo. At one time I had been asked to teach self-defense to female employees of a company located next to the famous Kaminari Mon (Thunder Gate) of the Asakusa Temple in Tokyo’s old town district. (Kunigoshi goes on to discuss teaching the grand daughter of Lafcadio Hearn and her concerns over the air raids over Tokyo. The earliest air raid was the famous Doolittle raid in April 1942. It seems more likely that Kunigoshi was referring to the large-scale air campaign beginning in 1944.)

Editor: I imagine there weren’t very many women among the deshi in those days.

There were only two of us! The other woman was two or three years younger than myself. I received New Year’s greeting cards from her up until a few years ago. Even now it seems that her nephew is going to the dojo. But as you said, in those days not many women went to train. Ever so, Ueshiba Sensei never made us feel different by changing things “because you are a woman”.

Later on in the article is this:

I started early in 1933 and it was after about a year that we did the book so I suppose it would have been around 1934. These pictures were really difficult to do! I had to do them all twice, you know. Even so I always felt there were some problems left. The second book was never printed after all but… At any rate, this particular version has the first drawings.

In a later exchange about weapons practice Kunigoshi revealed the following:

Just about the time that the war started my alma mater was on summer vacation and I spent something like three days teaching something more akin to self-defense than to Aikido. If we could have taken those 50 people who were to learn and divide then into three groups for three teachers it would have been fine but as it was after the first day one of the instructors’ voices gave out and we ended up having to do the course with only two instructors. I had to take care of 30 of them.

The take away from this, Kunigoshi was actively teaching women’s self-defense classes, there was a second female deshi, and most interestingly, there was a second book, seemingly never published. The first of these take aways is the easiest to accept, Kunigoshi teaching women’s self-defense classes is a given. Next, an unnamed second female deshi. Well, maybe this was Fujiko Suzuki, and maybe not. Access to Kobukan membership records could clear this up quickly, but on that we’ll just have to wait and see what emerges. And lastly, a second book? Is it Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu? Again, maybe. It’s possible that when Kunigoshi was referring to the second book she was actually referring to Aikido Maki no Ichi, a cleaned up and condensed version of Budo Renshu with some slight variations on technique endings.

Aikido Maki-no-Ichi Page 52Aikido Maki-no-Ichi Page 52

Or, she could have been thinking of this book, which actually did see print in 1937, although in obviously smaller circulation than Budo Renshu three years previous. The interview with Stan was several decades after the fact and Kunigoshi could simply have misremembered, I know I would be hard pressed to tell you all the details of the copyright clearance report I did for the MGM film library in 1996, though at the time it held all of my attention. At this point, I really don’t know which theory is correct. Please feel free to provide leads if you have them.

There are handwritten introductions to the manual from different figures, which give weight to the notion that this book is closely related to Ueshiba and his 1930’s cohorts. Restoring this portion of the manual has been tricky, because it is all handwritten and of a style a bit above my ability to read. In some areas the original mimeograph must have accidentally “double stamped” it leaving the initial text especially blurry. I ran the images through Photoshop removing as much grit as I could while retaining the structure of the text. The signatures and titles are larger and easier to read, and besides some lingering grit the calligraphy for the poetry came through clearly.

Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu - Page 3Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu – Page 3

The first written portion is a set of poems written with a thick brush and is signed by Munetaka Abe. The Munetaka connection become clear, once again with the help of a Stanley Pranin article titled “Morihei Ueshiba and Gozo Shioda”:

Mr. Munetaka Abe, Gozo (Shioda)’s middle school headmaster, was struck by the outstanding mental attitude of a young woman, Miss Takako Kunigoshi, who cleaned a nearby shrine every morning. When asked about her exemplary bearing, she gave credit to her aikijutsu teacher and suggested the schoolmaster observe a training session. Thoroughly impressed by what he saw at the nearby Ueshiba Dojo, Mr. Abe urged Gozo’s father to enroll his son there.
…Shioda immediately decided to join the dojo. Since two guarantors were required to enter, his father and Mr. Abe provided introductions.

Shioda’s entry to Ueshiba’s dojo is placed at 1932. According to records available online Mr. Munetaka, was principal at the Tokyo Prefecture Number 6 Middle School from 1922 to 1936. The Yamato Ryu manual was published in 1937. Mr. Munetaka obviously stayed in contact with Kunigoshi, so much so that he contributed calligraphy to the project.

Yasuhiro Konishi in "Karate Nyumon" - 1958Yasuhiro Konishi in “Karate Nyumon” – 1958

The next entry is a short forward written by Yasuhiro Konishi, who according to Wikipedia was “one of the first karateka to teach karate on mainland Japan. He was instrumental in developing modern karate, as well as a driving force in the art’s acceptance in Japan. He is credited with developing the style known as Shindō jinen-ryū (神道自然流).”

Additionally, Konishi was an early student (1920’s) of Morihei Ueshiba. In at least two of Konishi’s books (please forgive me, I have the books but they are currently somewhere in “the Pile”, and I cannot recall the titles but you have my word that this is the case) he refers to Ueshiba as the head of the Aioi Ryu, a name which Ueshiba only used for a brief period in the 1920’s. Admiral Takeshita also trained with the Aioi group, and Takeshita is mentioned by Kunigoshi in her interviews with Stan Pranin. Additionally, one of the few pictures available of Fujiko SUzuki is of her being instructed by Admiral Takeshita. I’ll speculate on Takeshita and his influence later.

(Note:*There are some tantalizing tidbits in the internal power department concerning Konishi from the Japan Karate Do Ryobu Kai:

At the same time, it is said that Yasuhiro learned from Ueshiba that the art had two kinds of spirit, one expressed externally and one expressed only in mind.

In addition to this little bit of information, Konishi’s 1957 Karate manual touches on Tenchijin theory and how heaven and earth are expressed through the body.

Yasuhiro Konishi in Karate Nyumon - 1958Yasuhiro Konishi in “Karate Nyumon” – 1958

Some more information about Konishi and Ueshiba from Fighting Arts.com:

In about 1935, Konishi Sensei developed another kata – Seiryu. During this period, Konishi Sensei, Ueshiba Sensei, Mabuni Sensei, and Ohtsuka Sensei were training together almost daily. At this time, the Japanese government was largely controlled by top officers of the Imperial Army. Konishi Sensei was asked by the commanding general of the Japanese Army to develop women’s self-defense techniques. His first step in fulfilling the Army’s request was to ask Mabuni Sensei to help him develop standardized training methods, to help the students remember the techniques.

Together, they developed a karate kata that incorporated the essence of both their styles. As they worked to finalize the kata, they shared it with Ueshiba Sensei, who approved some sections, but advised certain changes. Ueshiba Sensei strongly felt that the kata should be modified based on the gender of the practitioner, because of the need to protect very different sensitive areas. Also a woman’s training was normally executed from a natural (higher) stance. Another factor which greatly influenced the kata was the female position in Japanese society. At the time, a woman’s life was defined by cultural customs, though both sexes wore kimono and used geta. All these factors were considered in the process of developing the kata.

So beginning in 1935, plans were afoot to develop a women’s self-defense system, at the behest of a high-ranking military official.

Continuing from the Japan Karate Do Ryobu Kai:

Yasuhiro’s incessant eagerness to acquire the secret of various kinds of martial arts brought him the chance to meet Seiko Fujita, the 14th generation of master of “Koga Ninjutsu” and made him to obtain the license from “Nanban Kito-Ryu”.

Seiko Fujita is the third author featured in the foreword of the Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu manual. 14th Headmaster or Soke of Kōga-ryū Ninjutsu. aka “The Last Ninja”.

Fujita Seiko - 1936Hard training – Seiko Fujita pierced with 258 tatami needles
from “Ninjutsu Hiroku” (忍術秘録) – 1936

And here we have a ninja master, and an instructor of the Imperial Army’s Nakano School writing a foreword to this women’s self defense manual. Ninjutsu is an area where I am out of my depth, so I’ll gladly bend an ear and see what people in that area have to say.

Ueshiba Moritaka 1937Ueshiba Moritaka, March 1937
Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu – Page 242

Taken together, all of this data points to the idea of a long lost training manual greatly influenced by the teachings of Ueshiba Moritaka, his signature placed down inside the book on an auspicious day, March 1937. One Japanese rare book dealer called this the “phantom book of Morihei Ueshiba”.

Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu Yamato Ryu Goshinjutsu – Page 206

It is also possible that this is the sum total of multiple actors working together to create a women’s self-defense manual under the aegis of Yamato Ryu. Or it could be the sole product of a lost talent, Fujiko Suzuki, Soke of the Yamato Ryu. This “phantom book” has been sitting on my desk for a little too long, but now that the picture restoration is completed I’ve decided it is best to release it along with my limited findings in the hope that individuals with more information can shed some light on this previously unknown work. I’ve chased this one for years now. I hope you enjoy giving it a look as much as I did pursuing it.

Yours in the Internal Power/Aiki pursuit,
Scott

 


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Budoka no Kotae – Talking to Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/budoka-no-kotae-talking-kisshomaru-ueshiba-sensei/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/budoka-no-kotae-talking-kisshomaru-ueshiba-sensei/#respond Fri, 03 Nov 2017 18:21:51 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3187 Kisshomaru Ueshiba with his father Morihei Ueshiba at Ueshiba Juku in Ayabe around 1925 Kisshomaru Ueshiba was born on June 27, 1921 at the Omoto-kyo compound in Ayabe, where his father Morihei Ueshiba opened his first dojo, the Ueshiba Juku. In 1927 he and his family moved to Tokyo, where his father would open the Kobukan Dojo – which would eventually become Aikikai Hombu Dojo. … Continue reading Budoka no Kotae – Talking to Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei »

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Morihei Ueshiba 1925Kisshomaru Ueshiba with his father Morihei Ueshiba
at Ueshiba Juku in Ayabe around 1925

Kisshomaru Ueshiba was born on June 27, 1921 at the Omoto-kyo compound in Ayabe, where his father Morihei Ueshiba opened his first dojo, the Ueshiba Juku.

In 1927 he and his family moved to Tokyo, where his father would open the Kobukan Dojo – which would eventually become Aikikai Hombu Dojo.

In 1942 Morihei Ueshiba told his son to “Defend the dojo with your life!”, and retired to the countryside in Iwama.

After the passing of Morihei Ueshiba on April 26 1969 he became (after some disputes involving his brother-in-law Koichi Tohei) the second Doshu of the Aikikai organization. Until his death on January 4th 1999, Kisshomaru Ueshiba would be the primary presence and director of the post-war Aikikai organization.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba has appeared in a number of previous articles:

The current article is the English translation of an interview that originally appeared in “Answers from Budoka” (“Budoka no Kotae” / 武道家の答え), published by BAB Japan in 2006.

In this interview Kisshomaru Ueshiba Doshu discusses his effort to change and adapt his father Morihei’s art for a modern world.

Aikikai Aikido Shimbun - January 1999Aikikai Hombu Dojo Aikido Shimbun – January 1999

“To the spirit of the past Doshu”
by San-Dai Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba

“The techniques and way of Aikido that the founder O-Sensei left us, was not always easily understood by everyone. Doshu, my father, changed these so they would be easily understood, and he gave all of his life to spread this. For that reason he left behind many books that he had written. I grew up watching Doshu return from keiko to study and write for long hours and even with my child’s eyes I could see the importance of this work”

The fruits of those efforts have spread Kisshomaru Ueshiba’s version of the art across the world, but have left his son, San-Dai Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba, with challenges of his own.

Peter Goldsbury, 7th Dan Aikikai and chairman of the International Aikido Federation (IAF) from 1998 to 2016, made some interesting comments on the current state of this situation on Aikiweb, in a discussion on the course of Aikido going forward into the future (extracted from two separate comments):

I had a private conversation with H Isoyama a few months ago. Isoyama began training in Iwama at the age of 12 and grew up under Saito’s tutelage. Kisshomaru was also there and the Hombu was actually in Iwama at the time. He noted that a recurring problem in Iwama and in Tokyo was “what to do about the old man,” up on the floating bridge with his deities, whereas Kisshomaru was concerned with trying to fashion aikido into an art that could actually survive in postwar Japan and that meant making some important compromises.


I think you can see Doshu’s dilemma (*the current Doshu, Moriteru Ueshiba). He has to continue to teach the ‘essence’ of the art, but without knowing very much about what his grandfather actually did. He is a few years younger than I am and all he knows has been filtered via Kisshomaru and those deshi of Kisshomaru’s generation. Doshu’s son Mitsuteru will have an even bigger problem.

Apart from a few exceptions like Tomiki and Tohei, Kisshomaru allowed the old deshi like Tada, Yamaguchi, Arikawa to get on and teach what they had learned from Morihei Ueshiba directly, in so far as they understood this. The variety was allowed to flourish, but with the passage of time there has been an inevitable dumbing down and an increasingly frantic insistence that what the Hombu is doing is the only means of aikido salvation. I think if the Aikikai could make the eight basic waza into sacraments, they would leap at the chance.


Kisshomaru Ueshiba 1963, taken at Kilauea Art Studio in HiloKisshomaru Ueshiba in 1963
taken at Kilauea Art Studio in Hilo, Hawaii

Budoka no Kotae – Talking to Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei

From “Stopping the Spear” to a “Great Strategy”

Q: First I would like to ask you, what are the current goals for your Budo training?

A: As to the current goals of my Budo training, I am not thinking at all of things such as becoming strong through Budo, or striking and throwing an opponent. I am thinking of it as a method of lifetime training through the Way of Budo. It is improving the human spirit and pursuing a leap of the psyche – training with like minded people and extending the influence of those people into society, not only in Japan, but also overseas to build a worthwhile and peaceful society. It is because the way to society is through this path that the International Aikido Federation (IAF) was formed – and happily, Aikido has recently experienced widespread growth overseas.

Q: What is the current condition of Aikido overseas?

A: Of the Japanese Budo that are popular overseas, the present state of affairs is that Aikido follows after Judo and Karate. For example, if I speak of the case of France, which has not hesitated to accept the influences of Japanese culture, there are about 378,000 people doing Judo followed by about 78,000 people doing Karate. Aikido is said to have about 40,000 people, and I have heard that is followed by Kendo with a few hundred people. So there’s that much of a gap between them. Since becoming the world’s Judo and raising their flag at the Olympics the societal awareness of Judo has become much greater. Karate is not only Japan, Chinese and Korean Karate have also become much larger.

Karate is a fierce Budo that focuses on striking and kicking, and is popular with young people. I think that it is excellent for training the minds and bodies of young people. However, I think that there are some things in Aikido that are a little different. That is, from the past Aikido has forged techniques through typical methods of Budo conditioning, and that there are no shiai (試合 / “contests”). Because when one competes one becomes caught up with thoughts of winning or fear of failure. In the midst of the movements of Aikido’s techniques, in natural movement, we pursue the unification of body and mind (心身統一 / “shin-shin toitsu”) – it is where we fulfill that to the greatest degree that we refine our humanity.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba in HawaiiKisshomaru Ueshiba in Hawaii

Q: Do have some special method of training?

A; The thought of a special method of training has never crossed my mind. I believe that the most important factor in the value of modern Budo is that anybody can practice it comfortably in any location. That is an absolute requirement, because it will then become a positive force for society. Nowadays, one cannot go up into the mountains to train like a warrior from the Sengoku Period or feudal times and then do something like declare “I have become strong” and make your appearance as a master… I suppose that there will be some people who will approve of that, but it doesn’t match the flow of today’s society. There should be a Budo that is cultivated from the midst of present times. If it is not a Budo that can live in modern times then there is no societal value.

Q: It is said that Aikido is a Budo that pursues spiritual values, in what form does it appear overseas?

A: As regards overseas, there are those who have an interest in Zen or eastern culture such as Chado (tea ceremony). It is a particular characteristic of Aikido that there are many intellectuals who have an interest in it.

Previously I brought up the case of France, where there are 378.000 people practicing Judo, but in contrast to Judo and Karate it is a particular characteristic of Aikido that the number of children practicing is very small. So when one is older, even elderly people can practice.

In Aikido my father used the training methods of many of the Kobudo (“ancient martial arts”) – these, driven by spiritual philosophical principles for today’s world, are Aikido.

When I went to New York in Showa year 38 (1963) a professor from New York University said “Even someone my age can do Aikido. I practice Zen, but Aikido can be interpreted as moving Zen, can’t it?”. Then I said “There are those people who say that Aikido is moving Zen”. After I said that there – before I knew it the mass media and others such as Buddhist priests started telling me that Aikido was moving Zen.

Q: What are the essential points at which Aikido differs from other Budo?

A: There are nine groups registered with the Budokan as Japanese Budo. Including the Budokan there are ten groups that make up the Budokyogikai (武道協議会). Judo, Kendo, Karate, Shorinji, Naginata, Sumo, Kyudo, Jukenjutsu and then Aikido, but Aikido is the only one of these that does not have a competitive form. I would be happy if you could be aware of the fact that it is in this area that Aikido has a different perspective than other of the standard Budo.

Q: Does that mean that Aikido is not a type of Kobudo?

A: Depending upon the person there are those who say that Aikido may enter the category of Kobudo, There is certainly no mistaking that the fact that Aikido originated from Kobudo, and in Aikido my father used the training methods of many of the Kobudo – these, driven by spiritual philosophical principles for today’s world, are Aikido. For that reason I always say that Aikido is a question of the spirit. Please think of it in this way.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba's WeddingKisshomaru Ueshiba’s wedding in Iwama
Morihei Ueshiba seated between the newlyweds

Morihei Ueshiba was a Budoka who established a Way of the Spirit

Q: Who are the Budoka that you most respect?

A: As one training in Aikido I respect my father (Morihei Ueshiba). Although there are many others that I would bow my head to…

Q: Can I take that to mean that this is because Morihei Sensei had his eyes on the same goals as you do?

A: There are those who say that my father was strong. That may also have been part of it. But that kind of thing is no reason for respect. It is only because he established a new Way of the Spirit called Aikido that he is worthy of respect. My father was a man of the old school, so it may be that there are some things about me that he was not satisfied with. However, things were left to me because I was his child, so I did my best to develop this Way into a modern Way.

There are no incredible “secret teachings”

Q: Saying that, if I were to ask you what the secret teachings (極意 / “gokui”) of Budo are you might call that something like nonsense?

A: I’m glad that you said that. Around the beginning of Showa (1926-1989) , when a person asked my father “Sensei, what are the secret teachings? Please show us the secret teachings.” he replied “Isn’t everybody doing the secrets? I show the secrets from the beginning. There’s no this is secret, that is secret, there’s nothing incredible. That’s why if you look at the scrolls you won’t understand anything. There’s no this is secret, that is secret, that’s just magic tricks. It’s nonsense to even discuss it.”. I believe this as well.

The secret teachings of the past would just come naturally through practicing wholeheartedly. It was a matter of the spirit, one would just suddenly say “Ah, I see!”. Among Kobudo people there are really those who talk about ridiculous things like this is secret or that is secret, but from my point of view that’s not acceptable.

My father said “Isn’t everybody doing the secrets? I show the secrets from the beginning.”

The strength of Japanese culture

Q: What motivated you to pursue Budo?

A: In the past my father said “I am not planning for you to succeed me in Budo”. However, after the war there wasn’t any particular work available. At that time I spoke to some people who had come back home after studying abroad. With the end of the war the local Japanese students felt as if they were suffering from things like dementia or castration, and were dealing with it by running away secretly from place to place. I truly felt miserable as I listened to them.

I thought “Japan fought against the rest of the world, that’s how much strength the Japanese people possess. What can I do?”. So then I asked my father if there wasn’t something, if there wasn’t something from the traditions of Japan.

As I was pondering that, I found that there was something. Aikido. I thought that in Aikido – the end of my father’s religious training – was a really wonderful expression of the Japanese and Asian people’s culture. Then I worked to move  Mac Arthur’s command division and the Ministry of Education, and the Kobukai that had existed up until that time was re-recognized in February of Showa year 23 (1948) as the national organization of the Aikikai Foundation. My father at the Ibaraki Dojo said “I am focused on my Budo training, so you do it! You can more or less handle things.”, so I went ahead and started things in Tokyo.

O-Sensei and KisshomaruMorihei Ueshiba and Kisshomaru Ueshiba
in front of Aikikai Hombu Dojo

Up until that time at the Ibaraki Dojo one could not become a student without an introduction, so there were many distinguished personages, these certainly weren’t regular people. It was through the cooperation of such people that the Aikikai was able to spread nationally. To speak of that, the Tokyo dojo until that time was a wooden structure that leaked when it rained. Moreover, there had been a number of fires, which we extinguished each time with buckets of water.

Also, there were many war refugees in the dojo. It took until around Showa year 30 (1955) to move all of those people out.

When the older students gathered to train we started to say “Let’s set our sights overseas”, and we turned our eyes to enthusiastic young people to transmit the virtues of Aikido. So it was that the with the expansion overseas we followed Judo and Karate in their development.

Furthermore, around Showa year 30 (1955) I left my company in order to give my undivided attention to Aikido and create a student based organization – I sent shihan to around 150 schools to develop the organization. There we go back to what we discussed at the beginning, My feelings that grew after the war when I first thought to devote myself to Aikido. However far the Japanese people may fall, they possess something that is peculiar to the Japanese people. Everybody knows that Einstein is a famous scientist. His exceptional brilliance was the foundation of what is called his insight. To express things differently, as in the example of a spinning top, the pursuit of that “perfectly clear state of mind”  (澄み切りの境地 / “sumi-kiri no kyouchi”) is the goal of Aikido.

I think that the prosperity of Japan is the result of drawing on the wisdom of the people in each of their fields. However, the prosperity of today’s Japan is not enough, I think that spiritually there is also an aspect of that prosperity that is very negative. I believe and desire with all my heart that the Aikido that I have explained to you can be something that can, at the very least, compensate for some of those negative aspects.

Q: Thank you for taking to time out of your busy schedule to cooperate with us.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba at Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1967Kisshomaru Ueshiba at the old Aikikai Hombu Dojo


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

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Aikido und die schwebende Himmelsbrücke [German Version] https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/aikido-floating-bridge-heaven-german-version/ https://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/aikido-floating-bridge-heaven-german-version/#respond Mon, 02 Oct 2017 18:06:37 +0000 http://www.aikidosangenkai.org/blog/?p=3214 Die Götter Izanagi und Izanami auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke, aus der Reihe “Eine illustrierte Geschichte Japans” von Utagawa Hiroshige, ca. 1847-1852 Honolulu Academy of Arts *This is a German translation of the article  “Aikido and the Floating Bridge of Heaven“, provided courtesy of Ian Eisterer. Izanagi und Izanami auf der Brücke, die Himmel und Erde verbindet Die “schwebende Himmelsbrücke“ (“Ame no Uki Hashi”) ist ein wichtiger … Continue reading Aikido und die schwebende Himmelsbrücke [German Version] »

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The Gods Izanagi and Izanami on the Floating Bridge of Heaven

Die Götter Izanagi und Izanami
auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke,

aus der Reihe “Eine illustrierte Geschichte Japans”
von Utagawa Hiroshige, ca. 1847-1852

Honolulu Academy of Arts

*This is a German translation of the article  “Aikido and the Floating Bridge of Heaven“, provided courtesy of Ian Eisterer.

Izanagi und Izanami auf der Brücke, die Himmel und Erde verbindet

Die “schwebende Himmelsbrücke“ (“Ame no Uki Hashi”) ist ein wichtiger Bestandteil des japanischen Schöpfungsmythos.

Laut dem Kojiki (“Bericht alter Angelegenheiten”), riefen die ersten Götter zwei himmlische Wesen ins Dasein – das männliche Prinzip Izanagi (“Der Mann der einlädt”/ 伊邪那岐) und das weibliche Prinzip Izanami (“die Frau die einlädt”/ 伊邪那美命). Diese zwei Wesen wurden damit beauftragt, die ersten Landmassen zu erschaffen. Sie nahmen einen mit Juwelen besetzten Speer und standen auf der schwebenden Himmelbrücke über dem Wasser und rührten damit im Meer bis ein Wirbel entstand. Vom Speer fallende Salzwassertropfen verwandelten sich in die ersten Inseln, worauf Izanagi und Izanami von der Brücke an Land gingen.

Es gibt noch viel mehr darüber zu sagen (das Kojiki ist eine großartige Geschichte, eine der ersten Soap Operas der Welt), aber kehren wir zur Bedeutung für das Aikido zurück.

Hier bezieht sich der Gründer des Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, auf die schwebende Himmelsbrücke, Ame no Uki Hashi:

合気道は「天の浮橋に立たされて」ということである。

Es wird gesagt, Aikido sei das „Stehen auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke”.

Dies ist einer jener poetischen Sätze des Gründers, den die Leute lieben – und kurz danach wieder vergessen, ohne sich zu fragen, ob O-Sensei implizit (oder gar explizit) auf eines der wichtigsten Prinzipien seiner Kunst hingewiesen haben könnte (Aikido; vielleicht schon mal davon gehört?).

Ist es überhaupt wichtig? Vielleicht nicht – die Prinzipien zu verstehen, macht einen nicht notwendigerweise besser, wenn es darum geht, eine gewisse Aktivität auszuüben, egal ob Ballett oder Fussball. Andererseits kann ein Verständnis der Prinzipien dabei behilflich sein, herauszufinden, welche Aspekte des eigenen Trainings man noch verbessern kann. Es eröffnet oft auch völlig neue Perspektiven.

Wenn Du ein Aikidoka bist, ist es für mich auch selbstverständlich, dass Du daran interessiert sein solltest, was der Gründer zu sagen hatte. Ich denke sogar, dass alle Aikidoka eigentlich eine Verantwortung haben, seine Aussprüche zumindest zu verstehen versuchen und ihnen so gut es geht auf den Grund zu gehen.

Wenn Du kein Aikidoka bist – nun ja, ich setze mich mit vielen Sachen auseinander, die nicht von Aikidoka geschrieben wurden, die aber sehr interessante Dinge machen, die mich interessieren und über die ich mehr wissen will, selbst wenn ich nicht immer verstehe, worüber sie reden, da es mir hilft zu verstehen, wo meine Grenzen liegen. Du kannst mir glauben, wenn jemand wie Chen Xiaowang Informationen ausgibt, werde ich zumindest vorbeischauen.

Zurück zu Morihei Ueshiba – hier spricht er noch direkter an, warum ihm das so wichtig ist:

この道は、天の浮橋に最初に立たなければならないのです。天の浮橋に立たねば合気は出て来ないのです。

Was den Weg (Do) anbelangt, muss man zuerst auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke stehen. Wenn man nicht auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke steht, wird Aiki nicht hervorkommen.

Das klingt ziemlich endgültig – keine schwebende Himmelsbrücke, kein Aiki. Und natürlich weiters – kein Aiki, kein Aikido.

Was also ist “Aiki”? Im Blogeintrag, “Aikido without peace or harmony“, haben wir versucht, eine brauchbare Übersetzung der Begriffe “Aiki” und “Take Musu Aiki” zu finden, und was wir schlussendlich als gut befunden haben ist:

“Gegensätzliche Kräfte mit Ki vereinen und die anziehenden Kräfte trainieren, die dadurch entstehen.”

Sehen wir mal, wie sich das mit der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke verträgt.

Aus dem obigen Zitat wissen wir, dass Morihei Ueshiba die schwebende Himmelsbrücke für eine Bedingung hält, ohne die Aiki nicht hergestellt warden kann. Das wird noch klarer wenn der Gründer folgendes sagt:

天の浮橋は、天の武産の合気の土台の発祥であります。

Die schwebende Himmelsbrücke ist der Ursprung der Grundlage für das himmlische Take Musu Aiki.

Jetzt sollte es langsam klarer warden (hoffe ich) – auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke zu stehen, ist eine notwendige Bedingung für Aikido, da es die Grundlage für Take Musu Aiki ist (“Gegensätzliche Kräfte mit Ki vereinen und die anziehenden Kräfte trainieren, die dadurch entstehen.” siehe oben). Sehen wir uns an, wie die Brücke gebaut wird:

合気道は「天の浮橋に立たされて」ということである。天の浮橋は水火結んでめぐるということ。火は水を動かし、水は火によって動かさる。火も水も一つのものである。螺旋状にめぐる。気をもって絡むのである。それは、息によるものであり、この息が合気であります。

Es wird gesagt, Aikido sei das “Stehen auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke”. Die schwebende Himmelsbrücke ist sich drehendes, verbundenes Feuer und Wasser. Feuer bewegt Wasser, Wasser wird durch Feuer bewegt. Feuer und Wasser sind eins. Sie drehen sich in einer Spirale. Sie sind durch Ki verflochten. Das ist etwas, das durch den Atem (“iki”) hervorgebracht wird. Dieser Atem (“iki”) ist Aiki.

Wir kommen der Sache näher – “Feuer” und “Wasser” stehen für gegensätzliche “In” und “Yo” Kräfte. In “Aikido without peace or harmony” haben wir gesehen, wie wichtig die gegensätzlichen Kräfte sind, die durch Ki verbunden oder verflochten werden. O-Sensei sagt, dass “Take Musu” das trainieren von “Inryoku” (“anziehender Kraft”) sei, welches dann entsteht, wenn gegensätzliche Kräft durch Ki verbunden werden.

Nun sehen wir, dass die schwebende Himmelsbrücke, da sie ja durch verbundene gegensätzliche Kräfte entsteht, in der Tat als Grundlage des “Take Musu Aiki” betrachtet werden kann.

In diesem Zitat aus “Aikido without peace or harmony” geht es ebenfalls um die Verbindung von gegensätzlichen Kräften:

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。

Oben der Klang des “A” und unten der Klang des “O” – Gegensätze, verbunden mit Ki, wo anziehende Kraft (“Inryoku”) entsteht.

Sehen wir uns die Laute genauer an, und wie sie von Morihei Ueshiba als Erinnerungsstütze verwendet wurden.

Die “schwebende Himmelsbrücke” (天の浮橋) ist “AME-NO-U-UKI-HASHI” und enthält alle Grundvokale“ A I U E O” (vielleicht hast Du diese Laute schon mal bei Misogi-Uebungen gehört). Die Laute sind eine Gedächtnisstütze um zu verstehen, wie die schwebende Himmelsbrücke Himmel und Erde verbindet:

A: 天(ア) 高天原    TA・KA・A・MA・HA・RA
“Die hohe Ebene des Himmels” ist selbst eine Gedächtnisstütze, die wir ein andermal unter die Lupe nehmen werden.

I: 火(イ)
“Feuer”

U: 結(ウ) 産       MU・SU
Das “Tai-Kyoku” bzw. das “grosse Ultimative” verbindet Feuer und Wasser, Himmel und Erde. Auch die Verbindung, das “Musu” in “Takemusu”

E: 水(エ)
“Wasser”

O: 地(オ) 淤能碁呂島 O・NO・KO・RO
“Erde”, eigentlich “die Insel Onokoro”, die ursprüngliche Insel Japans, von jenen Göttern gestaltet, die auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke standen.

Hier ist es – eine saubere Beschreibung der schwebenden Brücke. Zufälligerweise (oder vielleicht nicht so zufällig) ist es auch eine gute Beschreibung der chinesischen Trainingsmethode Himmel-Erde-Mensch, die wir in “Aikido without peace or harmony“ beschrieben haben.

Ten-Chi-Jin, Heaven-Earth-Man

Himmel-Erde-Mensch,
aus den illustrierten Erläuterungen des
Taijiquan der Chen Familie

Wenn man beide vergleicht, kann man sehen dass die schwebende Himmelsbrücke und Himmel-Erde-Mensch die selbe Übungsmethode beschreiben.

Die oben genannte Folge von Lauten beschreibt das Konzept der körperlichen Methode der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke (auch als “Himmel-Erde-Mensch” bekannt). Diese Laute wurden von Morihei Ueshiba oft anders angeordnet um unterschiedliche Ideen darzustellen. Beispielsweise wurden die Laute in einer anderen Reihenfolge angeordnet, um den Fortschritt des spirituellen Trainings und seiner Entwicklung auszudrücken. Eventuell werde ich darauf in einem anderen Beitrag eingehen, aber ich möchte es jetzt erwähnen, um Verwirrung zu vermeiden.

Es macht nichts, wenn man nicht selber auf das draufkommt – nicht jeder hat begriffen, was vor sich ging in den Momenten in denen Ueshiba Silbenlaute vor sich hin sang um sie als Gedächtnisstützen zu verwenden und seinen Erklärungen noch eine zusätzliche Bedeutungsebene zu verleihen – hier ist ein Zitat von Koichi Tohei:

Ich habe Aikido von Morihei Ueshiba gelernt, indem ich zuerst geübt und erst danach Fragen gestellt habe. Ueshiba Sensei war ein Meister des Ki, sowie der Gründer des Aikido. Er war aber auch ein überzeugter Anhänger der Omotokyo Religion, und dies hatte eine grossen Einfluss auf seine Art, Aikido zu unterrichten. Es war oft unmöglich seine esoterischen Erklärungen zu verstehen. Ich habe die Übungen die er uns gab gründlich trainiert, auch wenn viele dieser Übungen aus der Omotokyo Religion kamen und uns als sinnlos erschienen. Beispielsweise wurde von uns erwartet, das Alphabet in einer anderen Reihenfolge zu rezitieren. Anstelle der üblichen Reihenfolge der Japanischen Vokale “AIUEO” mussten wir sie endlos als “AOUEI” aufsagen, als ob diese neue Reihenfolge eine tiefere Bedeutung hätte.

Wir sehen dass diese gegensätzlichen Kräfte, durch Ki vereint, einander in durchgehenden Spiralen verstärken. Wir sehen auch, dass Ueshiba über “iki” spricht, was auch sehr wichtig ist, wir aber hier nicht besprechen können. Kannst Du dich an diese Spiralen aus “Morihei Ueshiba, Budo and Kamae“ erinnern?

Chen Silk Reeling, front view

Chen Silk Reeling, back view

Seide-Ziehen,
aus “Illustrated Explanations of Chen Family Taijiquan”

Hier oben wird im Chen Tai Chi der selbe Prozess beschrieben den Morihei Ueshiba beschreibt, wenn er von der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke spricht: die positiven und negative Spiralen, die sich durch den Körper winden (Fluss und gegen-Fluss von Shun und Ni.

Und noch ein Zitat von Morihei Ueshiba:

左手は伊耶那岐、右手は伊耶那美、真中は天之御中主(あめのみなかぬし)、これは自分のことである。天の浮橋に立たされて、螺旋状にめぐることである。これを高天原(たかあまはら)という。天も地も一つのもの、水も火も一つのもの、みんな息から現れるのである。神の常動の現れである。合気の技は常動により出てくるのである。

Die linke Hand ist Izanagi, die rechte ist Izanami, in der Mitte ist Ame-no-minakanushi, das bist Du selbst. Das ist auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke Stehen und sich in einer Spirale drehen. Das wird Taka-ama-hara genannt. Himmel und Erde bilden eine Einheit, Wasser und Feuer sind auch eine Einheit, alles erscheint durch Iki (Atem). Dies ist das endlose Erscheinen der Kami. Aiki-Techniken entstehen ohne Ende.

Izanagai und Izanami, die zwei Götter, welche auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke standen und die Welt erschufen, stehen für In und Yo, so wie in diesem sehr ähnlichen Doka von Morihei Ueshiba:

右手をば陽にあらわし左手は陰にかえして相手みちびけ

Offenbare Yo (Yang) in der rechten Hand, verwandle die linke Hand in In (Yin) und führe den Gegner.

Ame-no-minakanushi war die erste Gottheit, die im Himmel erschien – mit anderen Worten, der “Chef” der in der Mitte steht.

Ueshiba sagt, dass Du selbst der “Chef” bist – so wie in 我即宇宙・宇宙即我 ”Ich bin das Universum, das Universum ist ich.” Das ist ein sehr einfacher, aber sehr wichtiger Punkt. Es ist ein weiteres jener poetischen Zitate, das Leute lieben, ohne jemals daran gedacht zu haben, dass es eine der wichtigsten technischen Anweisungen ist, die er gegeben hat.

Der “Chef” steht auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke, vereint die gegensätzlichen Kräfte von In und Yo und bewegt sich in einer Spirale. Interessanterweise werden die Bewegung der beiden Götter Izanagi und Izanami als sie sich vereinten und paarten oft als Spirale dargestellt. Außerdem wurde eine Spirale bzw. ein Wirbel erschaffen, als Izanagi mit dem Juwelenbesetzten Speer im Meer rührte, um Land zu erschaffen.

Dieser Zustand, sagt O-Sensei, auf der schwebenden Himmelsbrücke stehen und die gegensätzlichen In-Yo Käfte vereinen und sich in Spiralen bewegen, ist Taka-ama-hara – der Himmel. Wie in “Aikido and the Structure of the Universe“ bereits erwähnt, ist dies ein Zustand, der sich laut O-Sensei in Dir befindet. Mit anderen Worten, Aiki ist ein Zustand der in Deinem eigenen Körper und Geist erschaffen wird.

Dies ist etwas völlig anderes als eine Situation, in der Aiki als sich-an-eine-äussere-Gegebenheit (Partner, Gegner) Anpassen definiert wird. Es bestärkt auch die Erkenntnis, die wir oben gewonnen haben – Du selbst bist der “Chef”.

Um zusammenzufassen: die schwebende Himmelsbrücke, auch als Himmel-Erde-Mensch (“Tenchijin”) bekannt, besteht darin, einen Zustand in sich selbst zu erzeugen, in dem man in der Lage ist, gegensätzliche Kräfte zu verbinden und diese Verbindung als Spiralen und Schrauben durch den Körper auszudrücken.


Published by: Christopher Li – Honolulu, HI

The post Aikido und die schwebende Himmelsbrücke [German Version] appeared first on Aikido Sangenkai Blog.

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