In memoriam Jos Vanroy

stage Jos Vanroy 2015



We hebben vernomen dat Jos Vanroy op zondag 6 januari 2019 een definitief besluit over zijn leven heeft genomen. Hij zag geen uitweg meer en nam een beslissing die we moeten accepteren.

Jos is vanaf het prille begin betrokken geweest bij onze dojo in Maastricht. Lange tijd kwam hij op de vrijdagavonden vanuit Genk naar Maastricht om er les te geven en regelmatig verzorgde hij er stages op zondagen. Ook later - toen onze dojo een eigen aikidoweg ging bewandelen - kwam hij naar Maastricht om er stages te geven - en soms ook te volgen.

Dit jaar heeft hij nog enkele lessen verzorgd in onze dojo. Steeds op zijn karakteristieke ontspannen en humorvolle wijze kon hij je wijzen op de eenvoud - het natuurlijke van aikidobewegingen. Hij was wars van spectaculaire bewegingen en speciale effecten. Hij behield steeds zijn onderzoekende geest en maakte af en toe uitstapjes naar andere aikidovormen en krijgskunsten. 

We zullen Jos missen.

Welkom bij
Aikido Maastricht

For the English version click here

How do we see Aikido?

Aikido Maastricht bestaat al meer dan 20 jaar. Ons adres is: De Duitse Poort 13a in Maastricht.

Onze dojo is een plek waar aikido geoefend, bestudeerd en ontwikkeld wordt.
Er worden de traditionele aikidotechnieken beoefend. De nadruk ligt echter op het beoefenen van de aikidoprincipes en het toepassen van deze principes in je dagelijkse leven. Het anders omgaan met conflict en weerstand, maar ook het leren "zijn" in het hier-en-nu zonder te oordelen.

Ons inzicht in de krijgskunst aikido is niet statisch en is in de loop der tijd veranderd. Lees meer hierover.

Aikido dans of krijgskunst

aikido da of kr

Zolang de voorraad strekt!
Het boekje is te verkrijgen in de dojo.

Prijs 12,50 euro
(excl. verzendkosten)


Miles Kessler, The evolution of response

Een mooi inspirerend artikel over Aikido in een breder kader is:
The evolution of Response van Miles Kessler

Laatst toegevoegde artikelen:

Het belang van wapens in aikido
De gelegenheid maakt de dief

Interview, Kenji Tomiki

Interview, Kenji Tomiki

Kenji Tomiki





Kenji Tomiki (1900-1979)


Part 1

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of James Day.
This interview with Professor Kenji Tomiki was conducted on January 4, 1974 at Waseda University in Tokyo. The interview is presented in two parts with the second installment to appear in the next issue of Aiki News.

Editor: Sensei, would you be kind enough to tell us about your first involvement in the study of martial arts?
Tomiki: I first began to practice judo when I was about 10 years old. Later when I was to enter the university, I came up to Tokyo. But it wasn't until I became one of the key officers of the university judo club that I was first able to get to know Jigoro Kano Sensei, the founder of Kodokan judo. It was in 1920 that I first met him directly. Kano Sensei was born at the end of the Edo Period in 1860 and died at the age of 79 in 1938, so he was of the same generation as Ueshiba Sensei's teacher, Sokaku Takeda Sensei. Kano Sensei founded the Kodokan in 1882 so he was about 24 or 25 at that time.

You mentioned Sokaku Takeda? Could you elaborate? I know that Sokaku Takeda was taught Daito-ryu Jujutsu and he was one of Ueshiba Sensei's first teachers; and then I know that afterwards several times in the late 19 teens and early twenties, Takeda Sensei returned and spent some time with Ueshiba Sensei. Sensei, did you have any contact with Takeda and Ueshiba at that time?
This would be a good moment for me to talk about the history of Sokaku Takeda Sensei. Just before the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Japan's domestic political scene was divided into two factions. The Imperial forces on the one hand, and the old Tokugawa government on the other. Eventually, the Emperor's side was victorious and we have heard the famous story of that group of 15- and 16-year olds called the Byakko Tai (the White Tiger Brigade of Aizu Han in Wakamatsu who committed "seppuku") at that time since they had supported the defeated Tokugawa forces. Had young Takeda Sokaku, then 9 years old, been 5 years older he too would have had to commit ritual suicide along with the others from his fief.
Anyway, he had been practicing Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, an art which had long been handed down in the Aizu Han (fief), and Takeda had studied from the time he was a child. Moreover, at that time swords were popular and he had learned kenjutsu (combative swordsmanship) as well. As the feudal period was drawing to a close he had been the uchideshi (live-in student) of one of the most famous masters of kenjutsu of that period. In the old days people hid their techniques behind the closed doors of their own households and it wasn't until 1898 that some were first revealed to the public. And, by any standards, the northeastern region of the country was particularly rich in them. On top of that, the area had an abundance of people at the instructor level and also lots of wealthy people, so a teacher would often go some place and stay with some rich sponsor for two weeks or a month at a time and teach. Around 1907 the then Akita Prefectural police chief was transferred to the northern island of Hokkaido and Takeda Sensei was among his entourage. They went to Abashiri, a place very far to the north.
Here is where Ueshiba Sensei comes in. He had come from the southern province of Wakayama (then called Kishu), Tanabe City to be exact, and had gone up to Shirataki village in Hokkaido as a pioneer settler in 1911.
It may be only a digression but there is a certain person who studied longer under Takeda Sensei than Ueshiba Sensei. He is Mr. Kodo Horikawa, now 80 and very old.
Ueshiba Sensei, like Kano Sensei, had learned the Kito-ryu jujutsu sytem. He also loved Sumo wrestling. During the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 he was called up but because of his size was never put into battle. His body may have been small, but he had splendid talent; no mistake about it. Even in a group of many deshi he stood out unmistakably.
In 1919, Ueshiba Sensei's father became gravely ill back at their home in Wakayama, to the point of being on his death bed. As soon as Ueshiba Sensei received the news he took a train back toward home but while on the way he heard of the religious leader Onisaburo Deguchi and so detoured to the Omoto religion's headquarters and then from there made his way back to Wakayama. It seems, however, that his father had already breathed his last. At that time, he then returned to Ayabe where the Omoto religion of Deguchi was centered. Today they have big establishments in both Ayabe and Kameoka.
Anyway, this man called Deguchi Sensei was a man of burning faith; his life was a religious pilgrimage. He had tried the Kurozumi Religion and Konkokyo, but in the end he settled on Omotokyo.

May I ask a question here? This is a very interesting point. In 1968 or 1969 a book was published called "aikido Kaiso, Morihei Ueshiba" by Sunadomari Kanemotsu. Now, in that book a person gets a very religious perspective from the Omoto-kyo side and many aikido people have read the book and say, "Well, the book is not too accurate." How much was Ueshiba really influenced by Omotokyo? How much did he borrow from the religion? How much did he create by himself?
Though I can't really say how much he developed from the side of technique, I guess we can say there was a great change based on a "change of heart" (kokoro no tenkan). And that is where we find the relationship between the character of Sokaku Takeda Sensei and Ueshiba Sensei. This Takeda Sensei was a martial artist in the old sense: when he saw a person he saw an enemy. If I were to try to give an example I would tell you that if a person happened to come visit him he would "greet" them by instantly grabbing the steel chopsticks from the brazier and shouting, "Who is there?" He would storm out to the entry hall. He was like someone from the "Age of the Warring Countries" (Sengoku Jidai, 1482-1558), who saw his seven proverbial "enemies" in every group of people. He was a man of deep distrust, whose personality never revealed the slightest suki, or vulnerable point. If you happened to ask even a small question he would bellow, "Dare you doubt my technique, kid!" That's how violent his temperament was! Since he was like that, it's not surprising that Ueshiba Sensei was ill-treated by him. So I think that entering a particular faith was a psychological reinforcement for him.
Ueshiba Sensei often said, "Budo is Love". This is one of those "changes of heart".
After all, though, budo concerns itself with life and death situations in which the main question is will one get out alive. It was for the sake of confronting techniques that delve into this area that not only Ueshiba Sensei, but also a number of other great people in the past exposed their bodies to danger. But, on the contrary, the more they try to enter this world of danger of violence, they end up going in a direction that contradicts it all. By placing themselves into the realm of life and death they find that they are confronted again with a deep delving into the problem of death. They find they have embarked upon a spiritual or religious path.
All religions whether Christianity, Buddhism, or what have you, seem to concern themselves with the question of the preciousness of human life. From this they try to construct a sense of confidence in the face of this one death that each of us must experience. For this same reason, when we speak of budo, it is an extreme thing. It is extreme and so if you can penetrate technique through whole-hearted devotion, it all changes. It becomes religious. This type of person, for example, includes Musashi Miyamoto and Ittosai Ito. In their last years they cast off everything and travelled from fief to fief. They all entered that spiritual ground.
The famous Kaishu Katsu was a student of Kenzai Shimada. During the struggle for control of the country in early Meiji times Katsu Kaishu and Tesshu Yamaoka of Jiki Shinkage-ryu of swordsmanship negotiated the transfer of Edo castle to Imperial forces without a struggle and thereby saved the one million inhabitants of Tokyo from a disastrous battle. This story is extremely interesting. It shows that the true spirit of budo is to help people, to save lives.
In the meaning of the term "Budo of Peace" (wa no budo) there enters the power of religion.
In this respect I'd like to continue our discussion by bringing in the modernization that Kano Sensei made and its relationship to our present discussion. This is, after all, the same route or course as Ueshiba Sensei's becoming a believer in Omotokyo and resolving the problem of "the peace of Japanese Budo" through spiritual means. There were several budoka like this throughout history. For the Meiji period though, I think that the emergence of a man of the level of Ueshiba Sensei was truly the exception to the rule. This means that it is significant that in those violent, warlike times before Meiji such a man didn't appear. This was not, however, a problem of technique but rather a matter of a certain "youth revolution". The concept of "ken and Zen" and their extremely intimate relationship must have a long history. With expressions like "The unity of the sword and zen (ken zen isshin) the relationship of the sword and zen has been discussed endlessly by those who philosophize on the budo of Japan. It is extremely difficult to explain such a thing theoretically, isn't it? In relationship to this problem I'd like you to read Daisetsu Suzuki book Zen and Japanese Culture. Suzuki Sensei was an expert of English as well, so...
Well, with that, I'd like to talk now about Kano Sensei. Kano Sensei was a member of the second graduating class of the school that is now Tokyo University, well-known as the top education institution in the country and thus attracting all the best talent. He came to Tokyo at the age of 14 and diligently studied English. At that time Japan had just cast off the Edo period's 1603-1868 isolationistic national policy and was clearly trailing western nations. The government recognized that it was necessary to quickly strengthen the country and to learn modern science, so famous professors from America, France, Germany, and other countries were invited to lecture on their specialties, not in Japanese as is done today, but in their own languages. For this reason, students from that early period of Meiji were able to speak all three of these major languages.
At that time the person who most influenced Kano Sensei was the American from Harvard University, Professor Fenellosa. He was a man whose influence was widely felt through the whole of Japanese culture. Though a lecturer in economics he also had a deep knowledge of art and esthetics. Well, a certain student in the first class at Tokyo University, the famous Tenshin Okakura, you may have heard of him, was Professor Fenellosa's great "pet"; he was outstanding in foreign languages, you see. Later, he worked for the Ministry of Education in relation to fine arts education and eventually he came to be the man who founded the institution that grew into the present Tokyo Fine Arts University. At that time, however, western things were held in much higher esteem and were judged to be of more value than anything Japanese. It was simply the tenor of times. Fenellosa, on the other hand, continually said that there were also outstanding arts in the oriental tradition. He bemoaned to his student in the strongest terms the sad loss of the good points of their oriental culture and the best of its spiritual traditions, a trend that was in full swing at the time. Then, too, with the abolition of the samurai system and the consequent loss of jobs, many former bushi were unable to feed themselves.
Thus, Kano Sensei, while a student at Tokyo University, scoured the entire city in search of jujutsu teachers. He found the Tenjinb Shinyo-ryu teacher, Fukuda Sensei, and Iikubo Sensei of the Kito-ryu, and during his student years he studied these two traditions. After graduation he founded the Kodokan. Thought he certainly modernized the jujutsu technique, in keeping with the tempo of the times, the evaluation of their worth as arts was also altered. If you wonder how it has changed, it was because in the past their main point was actual practical application, whether it was a question of a fight between two individuals or two warring countries. Now, however, training is not for the sake of fighting but rather in order to get to know one another better, to become friends, you could even call it the "Coubertin principle."
In the old days, France and England used sporting events as a means of strengthening their own armies, by training the minds and bodies of their youth. It was Coubertin who tipped this upside down by putting forth the concept of the Olympic Spirit.
The traditional spirit of the Japanese martial arts was to win by whatever means, to avoid defeat even at the cost of your life. If one lost, it was the cause of lasting bitterness, and even your children would carry on the escalating feud. Now, what kind of world do you supposed that produced? It was really the cause of a violent society, and this was not unique to Japan; I think it's a description that could fit almost any country.
It was Coubertin who reversed these tendencies for the sake of peace. At any rate, there was no fighting in this new way, and it became possible to strive mutually to increasingly improve. It was based on a concept such as this that Kano Sensei modernized the jujutsu of old.
What I'm trying to say is this. In the old days, each master (person) would decide on his own, "I'm good at throwing", or "My kicking is outstanding," or I have a great short sword technique." Then based on this subjective judgement he would set up his own style in a formalized tradition (ryuha). In the case of the "modernization" that took place, the sword was taken out of jujutsu, and likewise, swordwork excluded jujutsu. The arts were divided into specific fields based on the type of technique. An old time practitioner of Ninjutsu, the Art of Stealth, thought only of the real life application. He would do anything he had to do in order to win. This was, of course, because they used technique for the purpose of war, and from that point of view you had to be able to cope with a long engagement distance or a short one, you could jump, do anything necessary. But if we move up to the present we don't think about such realistic applications. Through our training we forge our spirits (kokoro) and bodies, and so doing we concern ourselves with being useful in more peaceful pursuits. This is the modern way of thinking, and it is so precisely because it is not warlike.
In modern Kendo, the techniques are simple, you see, There are only the thrust and the cut, nothing more. Though in judo we may strangle the neck, twist the arm joints, or throw someone down, we have many things. Still in the same way that I have just broken it down, when Kano Sensei set about to modernize he singled out the aspect of combat that occurs after the opponents have closed and updated those methods. Classical jujutsu, you see, included movements to deal with the situations before the outbreak of grappling. The person who was most knowledgeable regarding these pre-grappling movements and responses was Ueshiba Sensei.
Here, again, I can point out this problem as an example. If I take a hand, I can twist it this way or I can reverse it this way. There are only these two possibilities, right? But in the classical arts one teacher would call the reverse movement the "Konoha gaeshi" (tree-leaf reverse) while some other teacher might say "kotegaeshi." Even though the technical content is the same, the name is completely different. On top of it all, they would hide this fact and we end up being unable to understand any of it.
I think of modernization as meaning that this sort of problem is brought out into public, look at it anatomically and say, "Now, to twist this joint in this way is a kotehineri(wrist-twist), while to turn it back this is a kotegaeshi (wrist-reverse). Then, whenever it occurs we know what it is even without knowing the ryu from which it came and we have a name that none of the old traditions can contest. This is modern.
In sports we make nature our adversary and so build up our ki ryoku, our "spirit-power." We say to ourselves, "Can we run 100 meters in 10 or 11 seconds?" Thus we challenge nature and objectify our own physical ability. Don't you think that this is a wonderful thing? Conversely, in a fight we cannot afford to be only aware of ourselves, we also must sense our adversary. Take a koshinage for example. We have to repeat it over and over so as to be able to remember.
In the kata, or prearranged training forms, if they are done in a one-sided fashion the partner is just a dummy, a kind of robot we work with. Take this technique to a real life situation, however, we find that our partner resists, or escapes from our efforts and generally things don't go as we expect. That's where things get extremely difficult. Bujutsu, unlike sports, is based on a certain specific relationship between ourselves and others; that is to say, the fight between 2 different people. As such we have a highly dangerous situation.
I like to divide bujutsu up into three fields. The first is violence. Here we willfully try to injure our adversary by every physical means at hand. The old "eye for an eye," "tooth for a tooth" mentality. In the end, someone gets killed. In the second, although we don't take life, we forcefully break an arm or disable our adversary. On the contrary, case three calls for there being no injury at all. It is this method that overcomes only the violence. These three make up a very broad or general breakdown. Obviously, the best way is controlling violence without causing injury and this is ideal budo. It is the bujutsu that doesn't kill, the sword that causes no death.
The idea that if he cuts me I'll cut him is a very animal-like way of thinking, isn't it? But the way of doing it that is the most human, and human with a good conscience, it is the way which controls violence but doesn't cause injury. I personally think that the fact O-Sensei had opened to him such an enlightenment is a thing of great meaningfulness.
Looking at the history of bujutsu we see that from around the Edo period 1603-1868, there was a shift away from the swordsmanship of the battlefield toward emphasizing educational issues. They came to be arts. We are speaking about philosophy now, but the trend was to have a definite theory and, or by which, they trained bujutsu. We should not injure nor should we be injured. The Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, for one, included this type of mental approach or attitude.
Uit: Aiki News #43 (December 1981)

Part 2

The following is the second and concluding part of an interview conducted with Professor Kenji Tomiki in January of 1974 at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.

Aiki News: I have a much clearer background now, a much clearer understanding of why Kano Sensei formulated and modernized the jujutsu techniques and what his goals were. And I also understand your efforts to modernize the jujutsu forms to work from a greater distance, rather than grappling. Could you, in the time we have remaining, talk about what it was that brought Kano Sensei, Ueshiba Sensei and yourself together? What made you spend time with each other to talk about budo? Was it true that Kano Sensei sent some of the top judo people to study aikido with Ueshiba Sensei? What was it about his art that was important? What was the association like in that period of time?
Tomiki: Well, yes, it was in the fall of 1927 that Ueshiba Sensei left the Omoto-kyo Headquarters in Ayabe and came up to Tokyo. That was just at the time I was a graduate student at Waseda University, and I acted as his uke, or actually, he made sure I took the ukemi! (Laughter)
Anyway, it was Admiral Takeshita who brought Ueshiba Sensei and Kano Sensei together. This Mr. Takeshita later became a deshi of Ueshiba Sensei.
You may remember that American President Theodore Roosevelt had acted as a go-between in mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War. He was at that time pro-Japan and he became aware of the existence of jujutsu here in Japan, and actually became very interested in spreading it in America. He invited Kano Sensei's number one student, a man named Yoshiaki Yamashita to come to America and teach judo. The person who acted as contact man for all of this was Admiral Takeshita. Later this same Takeshita invited Ueshiba Sensei to come up to Tokyo.
At first they trained at the home of Baron Nonomura and later they took over a billiards hall in the Osaki home of Duke Shimazu, installed tatami and had their first dojo.
Of course, all this time Kano Sensei had his Kodokan. He died in May of 1938 while sailing across the Pacific Ocean. The last time I met Kano Sensei was two years earlier in 1936 at the Kodokan. He knew that I had been researching aikido and encouraged me saying, "Though it must be difficult for you, please continue to study aikido as deeply as you can."

Permit me to change the subject at this point. In modern psychology, science is attempting to discover if phenomena like telepathy and the sixth sense exist. Someone who practices martial arts for a long period of time realizes that he's not only working on the physical level but that sometimes by adopting a certain mental attitude he can influence the attacker; that there is some element present which is very difficult to describe, but it is not technique. What are your feelings on the psychic areas? Is it possible to influence the power of your partner's attack?
I have my doubts on that point. I deny it though there are people who say things like that happen. However, I don't deny things like hypnosis or telepathy exist under certain spiritual conditions. In the case of budo there may be such things but they are the "outer limits," the result of very extreme psychological (spiritual) conditions, situations where it is a question of will I live or will I die, and these are conditions that we simply don't meet today. They just don't exist, and it's good that they don't. It's no good to fight.
I always take the educator's point of view. The bujutsu of old were overwhelmingly dangerous. They were cruel and bloody. In sports, whether it is track and field or swimming or whatever, we have the world of real strength. The same strength but with the addition of cruel things made to cause injury (literally, "to make blood flow"). Thus, to make this something that is applicable to our own times we must remove these elements and make the arts into an armour that we wear for self-defense. In the case of judo we have to skip certain techniques, and then systemize movement. The problem is in that way of thinking.

We've actually come to an important point. There's one thing I have a hard time explaining away and I am a skeptical person by nature, I like to see to believe. I don't like to say, "Well, you know if he raises his hand all of his opponents just fall down." However, I have in my possession films of Ueshiba Sensei. He takes a jo about 3 and 1/2 feet long and holds it out to his side. People come and push on it and he can hold them here from the side; from a perpendicular angle! That's one thing. Another is this. He sits with his feet crossed underneath, hands relaxed three men come close before him and try to push him over. They can't. Now either it's all faked or people are doing it on purpose. If it's true though I know of no physical principle which can explain those physical feats. This is why I wonder if what happened, was all faked or if he was at a very special "place?" I've seen these things on film with my own eyes....
This problem is one of modern physical education's muscle training. It's called isometrics. That is to say, by pushing or pulling you train either the outer muscles or the inner muscles. When you get perfect at this form of training you can hardly see any muscle movement at all during the exercise. When you can't see any movement you are using the muscle very skillfully. But, in the educational field if you demand a similar level of perfection then you are making a big mistake. If anyone trains sufficiently it is possible to do it to some degree, but, of course, there are limits what a human being can do. Perfection is a problem of belief. Can we call it religious faith? If we have to disrupt our partner's psychological state through some hypnotic technique it would not be a matter of religion as we usually think of the word. I for one, take the normal point of view that education appropriate for the general public is correct and I think aikido should be something usual, or normal, as well.

Because of the work of several important people like Kano Sensei, yourself, and others, the modernization of traditional martial arts was accomplished. The concepts of fighting, winning, of love, of developing harmony between the mind and the body, were woven together. The vehicle, the method that we use for teaching this to the individual is aikido training--our practice. Now, some of these principles are very important, not only in the training we undergo with different people but also because the principles can be applied to everyday relations with people. And also if a person at a very high governmental level felt very strong, very confident and was very sensitive to the person he was talking with I think some very interesting results could be produced at an international level or at a political level by applying the same principles. I'm sure you has some thoughts on this matter.
Let me start with my conclusion first. In Japan our budo of the past was something extremely bloody, vicious, and completely without bounds as to what methods or tricks one could resort to. Therefore, in viewing our present peaceful society and looking forward to a peaceful future, I think that "sportification" (kyogika), the conversion to competitive sport, is the best way to spread the outstanding points and the benefits of budo to the world.
Someone may form some sort of acting guild and spread or popularize it in the form of something like the samurai "cut-em-up" film. While you are working for your acting group you are learning to get along well with people. This is good for your health, don't you think? Or you may go the route of Kenbu, the "sword dance", and foster your art as a form of stage presentation and that's fine, too, isn't it? There is also the possibility of transforming the arts into exercise routines as was done in the case of Tai Chi Ch'uan, a fine exercise system from the anatomical standpoint. Anyway, there is no need to spread anything that is dangerous and cruel.
There's only one thing, though. The martial arts actor is a character of fiction. He can single-handedly defeat 10 men. The hero can display wonderful strength on the stage, but in the dojo strength is a different thing. The dojo is again the world of real life strength. In order to filter out that part of budo which is simply cruelty, we organize and limit the previously unrestricted range of technique. This is because if we didn't, how do you suppose we could ever proceed with the process of converting them to sports? I firmly believe that the change to sport is the ultimate way of giving birth to a new art form.
Ask some people why they do judo or kendo and you will get some who will answer that they train to be able to win a fight. Even so you will also find many who, like me, will say they practice for their health or to make more friends. Everyone has his own individual reasons and sense of values. But in the old budo there was only one rationale and that was to win in a fight. You have to keep the time period in mind.
Budo has always included the aspect of self-defense. Today we hear of violence in the streets. But should we use strength to counter this violence, we may end up in some legal trouble in our law-abiding society. Still even in a peaceful social context, there must be some form of appropriate means of protecting one's self, and outside of using one's strength, what way of defense can there be? This is why I think we have to put forth some form of technique that is designed for the present world and the future reality of society.
I also feel like this. Though the government should be the agency that fosters such a form of self-defense among its citizens, the police have been slack in this particular endeavor and we ourselves have to take up the initiative. It's the same as if they just said, "You protect yourself". It sounds like some third or fourth class country. A cultured nation with a high level of education shouldn't really be in this kind of situation....

In our choice of the budo, the modernized budo, as an educational method, how can we make sure that the people we are teaching don't become most concerned with winning, with the contest, with being number one in the school or winning the tournament? How can we guarantee that such things will not become their goal? Is it possible to be sure that they will realize, on the contrary, the true reason that they are training and that their betterment and their ethical or moral system is more important than trophies or belts or prizes and this sort of thing? What is a good way of guaranteeing that they'll see the higher goal? How do you personally approach this problem of assuring that we don't have young men coming in wanting to win all the trophies, but forgetting about what's beyond.
This same kind of question was but to us by the Buddha. Competition, etc. is just an expedient. Like using candy as an incentive in getting your children to study is only a means to an end. Previously, while I was still working in the office of the Kodokan we took a poll of the children asking them why they did judo. Some said they hoped to be able to win a place in a tournament. Others dreamed of having a trophy, or being physically stronger. Some were made to go to the dojo by their fathers. Anyway, they had a lot of different reasons, you see.
"Why is Japanese budo so difficult," you may ask.
Let's take the sword for an example. In the past it was said to be used to cut down evil people who disrupted the peace of society. This eventually came to have the image of a kind of creed. Though it was something very religious it also had a realistic physical side, and on top of them both there was the esthetic aspect, viewing the weapon itself as a work of art. From these there were various other things including the moral side of swordsmanship. There were so many facets that if you are going to research the subject it is necessary to look at it from a variety of angles. I would like to say everyone who has some interest in Japanese budo, by all means invest the time to study it from the historical, philosophical, and various other points of view.

Until now it's been very difficult to do budo research in English. There's so very little written... I have another point that might be interesting. In the early days, Ueshiba Sensei could defeat anyone and was very strong because he was young and because he had trained very hard. But he also realized that as he became older and older his physical body would not be so strong and that someone younger, faster, and better trained would in turn defeat him. His concern was in finding an art, a martial way in which he could continue to grow as a person, as he went into old age. This was one on the areas that he tackled and tried to solve, too. Do you, Professor Tomiki, have some ideas on that area?
That thing called distrust is even more effective than what is called real strength. I think that chasing after something like that is really foolish. Humans have limits. Even the strongest of men will some day die; so I think it's stupid.
More important than that, I think, is the ideal of building up something fine from the educational standpoint. If you are going to teach someone it is necessary that you actually show your forms, not just talk about them. Bur look at it rationally, it's a completely different thing if you tell them that you are strong and everything you say is true and if they do like you say, they, too, will make progress. Take the 100 meters again. The coach of a person who can do it in 10 seconds doesn't have to be able to match that performance. It is enough for him to be able to do it in 12 or 13 seconds. It's the same in budo. If you become an instructor it's quite a different course of action from working to be strong enough to take a tournament.
There is a notion called kan, (a kind of sixth sense or intuition). Hunters of old could tell if it was going to rain or get windy and other things like that even though they couldn't explain them rationally. It was just a matter of long years of experience. In the same way, a sportsman, let's say a baseball player, can tell how the next pitch will come. Old-time swordsmen like Musashi Miyamoto could "read" exactly how their opponent's next cut would arc. This was one form of intuition (kan) that grew out of years and years of training. If you ever are able to accumulate enough research to reach that point you would certainly have a very precious prize.
I have always interpreted judo and aikido as being basically the same, unified thing. Technically, they are one. The most deeply studied aspect of Japanese jujutsu was that of battlefield grappling in armor (kumiuchi). During those times they would use sumo wrestling as the basic form of training. In the Kamakura period, this was known as Buke Sumo, (martial families' sumo), and it is almost the same as the Sumo we can see to this day at the Kokugikan Sumo Arena. Today, Sumo is a sport, but previously it was an event used to raise support for the building of a shrine or a temple. In the late Muromachi period the dohyo, earthen arena or ring, made its appearance.
Before the war I had the opportunity to research old style Mongolian "Sumo" and I found it to be something like a mixture of Japanese judo and sumo. However, since they have no ring, a single bout may go on for 30 minutes or an hour and those who are watching eventually get bored with the event.
In sports, though, we are displaying our abilities to the assembled crowd and so we adopt a method of conducting the game that brings about some sort of a definite conclusion in a shorter time period, more in tune with our modern "speedy" way of life. I suppose as far as combining modern popularity with a long and distinguished history, Japanese Sumo hasn't a match in the world. But I guess this all ended up being a joke.
During the Edo Period, the rigorous demands of the preceding "Warring States Period" gave way to a time when the majority of people spent their lives sitting in seiza on tatami mats and drinking green tea. Sitting like that people began to wonder what they would do if something unexpected should occur. It became necessary to develop ways of defending themselves by means of throwing needles or methods of avoiding the thrust of a short swords. In such confined situations what was called for was the thing we know as suwariwaza (seated techniques). Generally speaking, of the techniques developed during that long period 1603-1868 more than one-third are said to be seated. Truly, "Necessity is the mother of invention."
Then suddenly, with the Meiji period, the need for bujutsu just disappeared and the waza (technique) became shaky. This was natural and to be expected, since it was no longer necessary to fight wars. Of course, we have no wars now and we won't have any in the future either. For these reasons, it is no longer necessary to have budo. "Why then is it necessary to encourage them?, one might well ask. The answer to this question is one that we can get at through educational psychology. Most people today have little need for walking, let alone running. They are weak at climbing mountains, poor at swimming. This is a lamentable state of affairs. They are only advancing their heads. It is necessary to match intellectual progress with physical and spiritual development.
The human heart of spirit (kokoro) is something that gets weaker if it has nothing to do, it needs some sort of stimulation. One must have physical strength and the strong will to live. This is where education comes in. The thing that has been put forth to people all over the world as a training method for building up both spiritual and physical strength at the same time through the power of harmony has always been combat, the fight. Of course, we are not talking about simple minor quarrels.
Ueshiba Sensei was another who always talked of peace. Here again, we are speaking of a bujutsu that looks death straight in the face. In the fight (shobu) we are at the edge of death. The spirit that is facing death needs to possess a certain philosophy if it is not to lose its balance or composure. This is what made it become a sort of religious attitude. In the final analysis, religion is greatly concerned with the sacredness of life. As soon as human beings are born they are beset with the fears and uncertainty and the horror of death. The bujutsu (combative martial arts) are very concrete. They take violent power and with it they plunge into the realm of this uncertainty. The bujutsu rely on power to solve the issue through some sort of technique. But technique is a relative thing, not something absolute.
If one seeks to find a real sense of security, then it seems that there is only religion to turn to. Anyone who thinks in sober earnestness ends up taking a religious attitude. Whether it is a "sword and zen" or budo and religion, these unities have been spoken of since ancient days and they undoubtedly are exactly as the old sayings make them out to be.

Aiki News #44 (January 1982)
Copyright © 1974 - 2004 Aikido Journal All Rights Reserved

Interview Koichi Tohei

Interview, Koichi Tohei

By Aikido Journal
Aikido Journal #107

koichi tohei

Koichi Tohei, Founder of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido (1920-2011)

Aikido has grown explosively since World War II. Koichi Tohei, a distinguished contributor to this development, is perhaps one of those most qualified to talk about the history of aikido. Most of the active aikido shihan (even those 7th dan and above) in the world today were taught, at one time or another, by Tohei.

Feeling strongly that future generations will decide their own destiny, Tohei has chosen to speak out very little over the years. At long last, on the condition that we represent his organization’s activities and thinking as they are, Tohei Sensei has finally agreed to this exclusive interview with Aikido Journal.

As the only student of Morihei Ueshiba to be officially awarded tenth dan and a figure of central importance in the post-war aikido world, Tohei has taken the opportunity to speak frankly with us about his views and experiences. (Interviewed July 11th, 1995)


The Principles of Heaven and Earth and My Approach to Life

AJ: Sensei, tell us about your approach to aikido.
Tohei Sensei: As we move into the twenty-first century, the world we live in is becoming more and more relative. Because there is ahead, there is also behind. Because there is up, there is also down. Within this relativistic world, nothing is absolute in its correctness. It is not possible, for example, that north is correct while south is not. Both are simply "facts."
The only sure way to be absolutely correct is to avoid being caught in the whirlwind of these so-called facts of the relativistic world and instead be in accord with the absolute principles of Heaven and Earth. When it comes to standards of judgment, that which is in accord with the principles of Heaven and Earth is correct, while that which is not is not correct.
Decisive action is born of an understanding of that which is in accord with the principles of Heaven and Earth. A lack of this understanding leads to "unreasonable effort," or muri, the literal meaning of which is "lack of principle," and should be avoided. This has always been my way of thinking and the reason I have scrupulously avoided acting in ways that involve unreasonable effort or that go against these principles.
Aikido is essentially a path of being in accord with the ki of Heaven and Earth. Many of those involved in budo, however, tend to talk about things that are illogical and involve unreasonable effort, things that are impossible. But my way of living is to avoid doing anything that is not in accord with principle.

Tall Tales and Reality: What I Really Learned from Master Morihei

What was the most important thing you learned from Morihei Ueshiba?
The way people most talk about ki these days tends toward the occultish, but I will say that I have never done anything even remotely involving the occult. Much of what Ueshiba Sensei talked about, on the other hand, did sound like the occult.
In any case, I began studying aikido because I saw that Ueshiba Sensei had truly mastered the art of relaxing. It was because he was relaxed, in fact, that he could generate so much power. I became his student with the intention of learning that from him. To be honest, I never really listened to most of the other things he said.

Stories about Ueshiba Sensei moving instantaneously or pulling pine trees from the ground and swinging them around are all just tall tales. I’ve always urged aikido people to avoid writing things like that. Unfortunately many people don’t seem to listen. Instead, they just decrease the size of the tree in the story from some massive thing to one only about ten centimeters in diameter. In reality, it’s pretty difficult to pull even a single burdock root out of the ground, so how in the world is someone going to extract a ten centimeter pine tree, especially while standing on its root system? Such things are nothing but exaggerations of the kind often used in old-fashioned storytelling.
The stories have gotten rather incredible since Ueshiba Sensei passed away, and now people are having him moving instantaneously or reappearing suddenly from a kilometer away and other nonsense. I was with Ueshiba Sensei for a long time and can tell you that he possessed no supernatural powers.
Sensei, you seem in very good health for a man about to turn seventy-six. Has this always been the case?
Actually, I was rather frail as a child. My father said I needed to be stronger and made me take up judo, which he had been involved in at Keio University. I trained hard and eventually did grow stronger, but after entering the pre-college program at Keio a bout with pleurisy forced me to take a year off. My hard-earned strength suddenly began to vanish again.
Unable to endure the thought of losing what I had worked so hard to gain, I replaced the judo with other forms of training such as zazen (seated Zen meditation) and misogi (purification). I vowed not let my strength deteriorate again even if it killed me. Worrying about my health and living as a semi-invalid did nothing to help with my recuperation, so I just said to hell with it, I might as well throw myself into training, even if it kills me. Aikido was part of that training as well. I concentrated on keeping myself strong, and somewhere along the way the x-rays showed that the pleurisy had completely gone away. Amazingly, I had gotten better.
Although the ideas were somewhat vague at that time, I had a sense that it was my mind and spirit (kokoro) that had motivated my body. I realized that the way you hold your mind is important. Physical illness is okay (if not desirable), but it is unacceptable to allow illness to extend to your mind or your ki.
In Japanese, when the body malfunctions in some way we call it yamai, or byo, which means simply "illness"; but when the failure extends to one’s ki as well we call it byoki. So although my body may be afflicted with some sort of illness, I don’t let that extend to my ki. If the mind is healthy, the body will follow.
After my recovery I returned to the judo club, but I couldn’t bring myself to resume training as enthusiastically as before. One reason was that judo inevitably emphasizes conditioning of the body before turning to matters of the mind. My thinking, however, was that the mind moves the body, and that anything you think in your mind you should be able to do with your body as well.
Also, having been away from judo for nearly two years, by the time I got my second dan, everybody else was already ranked fourth or fifth dan. Even many of the third dans had progressed so far ahead of me that they could throw me all over the place. That wasn’t very interesting and it wasn’t much fun, either.
Hoping to strengthen myself, I went home and started kicking lightly at the support pillars around the house. After doing that a couple of thousand times a day, though, the walls started to come down. My elder sister wasn’t very pleased about that and made me go outside in the garden instead. After a few weeks I got so I could move my feet with the same agility and dexterity as my hands. I went back to the dojo and was able to throw everybody.

Meeting Morihei Ueshiba

When did you enter the Ueshiba Dojo?
I think it was in 1940. Kisaburo Osawa came in about a week later. I had been thinking what a poor state of affairs it was that I could train on my own for a couple of weeks and come back and throw everyone in the judo dojo. "Why bother with a martial art like that?" I thought. It was then that I met Ueshiba Sensei. Shohei Mori, one of my seniors at the judo club who had worked on the Manchurian Railway, told me about a teacher with phenomenal strength and asked if I’d like to meet him. He gave me a letter of introduction and off I went.

Ueshiba Sensei was out when I arrived at the dojo and I was met by an uchideshi named Matsumoto. I asked him what aikido was all about. He replied, "Give me your hand and I’ll show you." I knew he was going to do some move on me, so I stuck out my left hand instead of my right. Being right handed, I wanted to keep my strongest hand in reserve. He grabbed my wrist and applied a sharp nikyo technique. I hadn’t strengthened that part of my body at all, so it was agonizing. I’m sure my face went pale, but I wasn’t about to let him to get the best of me, so I endured the pain as long as I could. Then I threw a punch at him with my right hand and he got flustered and let go.
I was just starting to think that if this was aikido I might as well forget it and go home. Just then Ueshiba Sensei returned. I produced my letter of introduction and he said "Ah yes, from Mr. Mori..." Then as a demonstration, he began tossing one of the larger uchideshi around the dojo.
I thought it looked kind of fake until Ueshiba Sensei told me to take off my coat and come at him. I got into a judo stance and moved in to grab him. To my great surprise, he threw me so smoothly and swiftly that I couldn’t even figure out what had happened. I knew right then that this was what I wanted to do. I asked permission to enroll immediately and began going to the dojo every day from the following morning.

I found the training very strange and mysterious, and I was dying to know how the techniques were done. When someone uses power to throw you, there’s always something you can do to react or counter. But it’s a different story when the person isn’t doing anything in particular and you’re still getting thrown. I thought, "Wow, this is the real thing!"
In the beginning I had no idea what was going on. Even high school students could throw me without any trouble. Finding that rather odd, I tried grabbing even more strongly, but of course then I was only thrown that much more easily.

At the same time I was continuing my training at the Ichikukai [see the interview with Hiroshi Tada in AJ101 for more information]. I used to stay there overnight and practice zazen and misogi. The training focused on achieving a kind of enlightened state in which both body and mind become entirely free from restraint. It was exhausting, and afterwards I would rush to aikido practice, already dead tired. To my surprise, I found that in that state people who could always throw me before were completely unable to do so! It didn’t take me much effort to throw them, either. Everybody thought it was strange and kept saying things like, "What’s with Tohei?! He skips practice and comes back stronger than ever!"

It’s a lot more difficult for someone to throw you if you let go of power, and it also becomes much easier to throw your opponent. I thought about Ueshiba Sensei and realized that he was indeed relaxed when he did his aikido. It was then that I suddenly understood the real meaning of "relax."
My aikido continued to progress as I continued with my misogi and zazen. After six months or so I was even sent to teach at places like the military police academy in Nakano and the private school (juku) of Shumei Okawa. No one except Sensei could throw me. It took me only half a year to be able to achieve that degree of ability, so I think taking five or ten years is too slow.
Even now most people are trying as hard as they can to learn techniques, but I was learning about ki from the beginning.

When do you think Ueshiba Sensei mastered that "art of relaxing?"
I think it was probably when he was living in Ayabe and heavily involved with the Omoto religion. Ueshiba Sensei often told a story about one day when he was standing by a well wiping himself off after training and he suddenly realized that his body had become perfect and invincible. He understood with remarkable clarity the meaning of the sounds of the birds and insects and everything else around him. Apparently that state lasted only for about five minutes, but I think it was then that he mastered the art of relaxing.
Unfortunately, he always talked about that experience using religious-sounding expressions that were more or less incomprehensible to others.

Before the war Sensei taught at the Naval Staff College, where he had Prince Takamatsu (a younger brother of the Showa emperor) as one of his students. On one occasion the prince pointed at Ueshiba Sensei and said, "Try to lift up that old man." Four strong sailors tried their best to lift him but they couldn’t do it.
Sensei said of that time, "All the many divine spirits of Heaven and Earth entered my body and I became as immovable as a heavy rock." Everybody took him literally and believed it. I heard him say that kind of thing hundreds of times.
For my part, I have never had divine beings enter my body. I’ve never put much stock in that kind of illogical explanation.
Once when I was with Sensei in Hawaii, there was a demonstration in which two of the strong Hawaiian students were supposed to try to lift me up. They already knew they couldn’t do it, so they didn’t think much of it. But Sensei, who was off to the side watching, kept standing up and saying, "Stop, you can lift Tohei, you can lift him! Stop, make them stop! This demonstration’s no good!" You see, I had been out drinking until three o’clock in the morning the previous evening, and Sensei knew what condition I had come home in. He said, "Of course the gods aren’t going to enter into a drunken sot like you! If they did they’d all get tipsy!" That’s why he thought they would be able to lift me.

In reality that sort of thing has nothing to do with any gods or spirits. It’s just a matter of having a low center of gravity. I know this and it’s what I teach all my students. It wouldn’t mean anything if only certain special people could do it. Things like that have to be accessible to everyone if they’re to have any meaning.
People with so-called "supernatural powers" are usually the only ones who can do whatever it is they claim. Others can’t do what they do and they can’t teach what they do, because what they do is not real; it’s fake. Anybody can do the things I teach. They’re alive in aikido techniques just as they are. All you have to know is how to do them correctly, and viewing them as supernatural powers requiring the presence of some god or what have you is a big mistake. I regard it as my responsibility to teach correctly.

The Personality of Morihei Ueshiba

Were there any notable personalities in the dojo back in 1940 or 1941—any who would later make a name for themselves?
There was no one like that when I first went. There were no students and hardly any uchideshi.

What were your strongest impressions of Ueshiba Sensei?
He seemed to me like a nice old man. Smiling, you know. In many ways he had a very child-like personality.

We have quite a few documents about O-Sensei, but it is still difficult for us to get a picture of him in his day-to-day life. Did he talk about ordinary, everyday subjects? From the recordings we have of him speaking, he seems almost like he came from another planet.
Yes, I know what you mean. He certainly did talk that way.

I’ve heard that sometimes he would suddenly explode in anger.
Yes, that happened often. He was kind to women, though. I never saw him get angry at a woman. Curiously, his anger was never specifically directed at the person he was supposedly angry at. It was like he was just furious by himself, unable or unwilling to direct his anger at its object.
Once a young student named Kurita happened to notice that Sensei had shifted in his chair a bit and moved to adjust it for him. Sensei exploded at him, and demanded to know what he was doing. The poor fellow had no idea what was going on until I explained that Sensei had mistaken his action for some kind of mischief.

What was O-Sensei’s attitude when you started basing your teaching around the principles of ki?
He was jealous and told people not to listen to me. He would say, "Aikido is mine, not Tohei’s. Don’t listen to what Tohei says." He would peer into the dojo and say things like that, especially when I was teaching a group of women. In that respect he was quite child-like in his directness and lack of sophistication – very spontaneous and innocent.
People connected with various religions would come to the dojo and get money out of him by flattering him with names like "Morihei Ueshiba, the kami of aikido." He hardly ever spent money on himself, but he always seemed to be strapped for cash because he kept giving it away to people like that.

Receiving Tenth Dan

I was the first one to be officially promoted to tenth dan. Originally eighth dan was the highest rank, but Gozo Shioda of the Yoshinkan started promoting a lot of people. Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Mr. Osawa decided it would help to more firmly establish the Hombu Dojo if we created a ninth dan, which they offered to me. I told them that I thought it unnecessary to create any rankings higher than what we already had, but they insisted that it would help strengthen the Hombu Dojo, so I eventually agreed. We celebrated the new rank in the Ginza entertainment district. Both Gozo Shioda and Kenji Tomiki were there.

While I was away in the United States, however, five other people were also promoted to ninth dan, and they tried to keep the fact a secret from me. I figured there was nothing to be done about it – such things were bound to happen with a teacher like that – and I decided not to worry about it.
When I arrived back in Tokyo I was surprised to find Ueshiba Sensei waiting to greet me at the airport – the one and only time he ever did anything like that. When we arrived home he got me to have a few drinks and after a while I was smiling and starting to get jolly. He seemed pleased with that and even got up to do a kind of traditional dancing that amused him. All of this, of course, was because he thought I might be upset that he had promoted five other people to ninth dan after telling me I would be the only one. It put him in good spirits again when he saw that I wasn’t really upset about it.
Two or three days later he started asking me to accept tenth dan. I said, "Sensei, please don’t ask me to do that. If you make me a tenth dan I’ll never hear the end of it!" He agreed to my request and so I remained a ninth dan for the time being. About three years later, however, right before the cancer took him, he asked me again. He said to me, "Koichi-chan, please accept the tenth dan." I felt obliged to agree because it would have been disrespectful to refuse any longer and make him beg me to accept it.
It didn’t take long before there were people saying that I wasn’t the only one to have received tenth dan. To avoid the trouble I offered to return the rank, but Mr. Osawa intervened and had the number "1" entered on my certificate to verify that it, and not the others, was official. There was also a big party at the Akasaka Prince Hotel to celebrate the promotion. Until I separated from the Aikikai no one else assumed the rank of tenth dan, but as soon as I left everyone started claiming it.

You said that when you started basing your teaching on the principles of ki O-Sensei was jealous and told everyone not to listen to you. On the other hand, he promoted you to tenth dan. What were his intentions in doing so? Was he recognizing you or not? I think he recognized and accepted me. He was well aware that there was no one to equal me then, and he probably felt that if he didn’t promote me he wouldn’t be able to promote the others. But because he had that child-like quality, he couldn’t wait and went ahead and did it anyway.

How did Kisshomaru (present Aikido Doshu) view the issue?
Kisshomaru originally intended to maintain a certain distance from aikido. He said, "My father and people like Mr. Tohei have come into this world to do aikido. Although I have been born into this family and its attendant roles, I would much prefer a house on a hill from which I can to go to work in the morning and return in the evening." He had hoped to take a more administrative role as a general director of the organization, rather than be a center of the teachings. When Ueshiba Sensei passed away, Mr. Nao Sonoda came up with a proposal to make Kisshomaru the general director and me the Second Doshu. However, Ueshiba Sensei had asked me to do what I could for Kisshomaru, so I made every effort to see that he assumed a role that put him as the center of both the teachings and the administration, which is how it eventually worked out.

I was privileged to be at Sensei’s side during his last hours. He said to me, "Koichi-chan, is that you? I want to ask you to please do what you can for my son." I replied that as long as I had anything to do with it he had nothing to worry about. "That’s good... I ask it of you," he said and closed his eyes. Shortly thereafter he drew his last breath.

Mr. Sonoda suggested many times that I should become Doshu, but I was determined to keep my promise. To allow Kisshomaru to assume a stable role I pushed the idea that he should be both Doshu and managing director. He expressed his gratitude for my efforts then, but about a year later, his attitude changed. It was right about that time that he went to the United States and started taking my picture off the dojo walls there.

Separation from the Aikikai

Around what year was that?
About three years after Ueshiba Sensei passed away, in 1971 or 1972. Before then nearly every American dojo had displayed photographs of both me and the founder, but Kisshomaru started having mine taken down and replaced with his own.

It seems that you enjoyed a good relationship during the time immediately following O-Sensei’s death. Why did that relationship deteriorate later on?
In 1971, I proposed that we specifically teach the concept of ki within the Aikikai. I felt that simply going through the motions of practicing techniques back and forth on a surface level wouldn’t result in aikido, because aikido involves ki. I suggested to Mr. Osawa that we create a class on ki and have people learn that as a basis for their aikido. He rejected the idea on behalf of the Aikikai, saying that the aikido of the Aikikai is the aikido of Kisshomaru, and Kisshomaru’s teachings should therefore form the nucleus of the training. I realized there was no room for me to teach in that environment and asked if it would be okay for me to pursue my suggestion outside of the dojo. That would be fine, they said, so I went out and created a class that focused not on aikido techniques but on teaching about ki.

I think that my teaching of ki has contributed much to the growth of aikido. Simple back and forth practice of aikido techniques is okay for students and other young people, but older people with less stamina tend to drop out after a while. My talks on ki were well received by various types of people, including groups of higher level business executives—managers and presidents and people like that. However, both Mr. Osawa and Kisshomaru viewed what I was doing as something removed from aikido.
In the United States they understood aikido in terms of expressions like "a matter of mind." In Japan, however, aikido was just called aikido, so I thought it necessary to establish the concept of ki in Japan as well.

Mr. Osawa was a very good man and he listened to what I had to say. At that time, however, he was making efforts to support Kisshomaru and tried to prevent people from participating in my training. They refused to let me teach about ki within the Aikikai, but said I was free to do whatever I liked on the outside. With that understanding I started my class at the Olympic Center. It proved very popular and within three months a hundred students had enrolled. Mr. Osawa was surprised when he heard about that and came to me to ask if I would be interested in doing such a class within the Aikikai! I was pretty irritated and said I thought it was a little late for that.

None of the people coming to my class on ki knew anything about aikido and they weren’t really interested in pursuing it, since that’s not what they had come to learn. That wouldn’t have happened if I had been able to create a class on ki within the Aikikai to begin with. Given the position he was in, I know Mr. Osawa had to refuse me, but I think he always felt bad about it. When the General Headquarters of the Ki no Kenkyukai (Ki Society) was constructed in Tochigi Prefecture in 1990, Mr. Osawa contacted me privately and also made a small contribution.

Stories from the Postwar Aikido Scene

What kind of people entered the Aikikai following the war?
I taught many of the people who are teachers now... Tada, Arikawa, Yamaguchi, Okumura, Yamada, Chiba. Yamada still drops by occasionally.

Do you have any memorable training stories from that time?
Well, nothing that’s all that interesting.
Once when I had a hangover I was training with Tamura, who is in France now. I said, "Look, sometimes I’m going to throw you hard, so be careful." He must have underestimated my meaning, because when I threw him he went hurtling across the dojo and put his arm through the window glass. He should have just tried to stop himself there, but instead he tried to pull his arm out immediately and ended up injuring himself on the jagged edges. When I saw what he had done I got angry and without thinking yelled at him for not waiting until he could extract himself safely. I immediately regretted it and realized it was cruel to yell at him like that on top of his injury. I made a point of taking him out for a night on the town that evening.

Another time I took Tamura and Chiba to a demonstration in Hiratsuka. Because it was during the Occupation, martial arts demonstrations of most kinds were still prohibited. Permission for an aikido demonstration was granted, however, and we demonstrated before the commander of the garrison in that area. Our explanation of the principle of non-competition in aikido was well received and seemed to find sympathy in the audience.
During the demonstration I did a technique in which I swept Chiba off his feet with a jo. He adjusted himself on his own to match the movement. But I hate it when people purposely take unnecessary falls like that, so I told him to stop doing unnecessary things and threw him with all my might. He flipped completely upside-down and almost came down right on his head. For a moment I feared that I had done something terrible to him, and I was relieved to see that somehow he had landed safely.
There was a student of mine who enrolled at the Aikikai and was praised for his good ukemi and often accompanied Ueshiba Sensei. I used him as my uke once during a demonstration at the Hibiya Kokaido [site of the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration in the early years before the Budokan came to be used], but he started to roll away even before I had done the throw. I said, "What the hell are you doing falling over before I’ve even begun throwing you!? Get out of here!" There were a lot of spectators present, and I think they were all pretty surprised, but it was also an unexpected opportunity for them to realize that aikido techniques are not fake or prearranged.
When I was forty-nine years old I made an instructional film on aikido in which people like Masando Sasaki and Seishiro Endo appear as my ukes. Endo also appeared in a book called Shinshin Toitsu Aikido that is mostly pictures. People like Saotome and Ichihashi, too, I taught them all at one time or another.

Do you have any interesting anecdotes from the time after you left the Aikikai?
About ten years ago in France a bunch of Tamura’s students came to see me. Apparently Tamura had thought that because of my age I probably couldn’t do aikido any longer and would only be working with ki. It seems they came to see with their own eyes whether or not that was really true, and I think also to get a glimpse of an aikido tenth dan. I chose eight or so of them and had them come at me in randori. They went home saying, "Well, Tamura Sensei seems to have been wrong!"

Insight from a Single Statement of Tempu Nakamura

How is Shinshin Toitsu aikido different from that of founder Morihei Ueshiba?
When I went to Hawaii and tried to use the techniques I had learned from Ueshiba Sensei, I found that many of them were ineffective. What Sensei said and what he did were two different things. For example, despite the fact that he himself was very relaxed, he told his students to do sharp, powerful techniques. When I got to Hawaii, however, there were guys as strong as Akebono and Konishiki [two well-known Hawaiian sumo wrestlers] all over the place. There’s just no way to use force or power to prevail against that kind of strength.
When you’re firmly pinned or controlled, the parts of your body that are pinned directly simply can’t move. All you can do is start a movement from those parts that you can move, and the only way to do that successfully is to relax. Even if your opponent has you with all his strength, you can still send him flying if you’re relaxed when you do your throw. This was something I experienced first-hand during that trip to Hawaii, and when I returned to Japan and had another look at Ueshiba Sensei, I realized that he did indeed apply his techniques from a very relaxed state.
While I was with Ueshiba Sensei I was also studying under Tempu Nakamura. It was he who first taught me that "the mind moves the body." Those words struck me like a bolt of electricity and opened my eyes to the whole realm of aikido. From that point on I began to rework all of my aikido techniques. I threw away techniques that went against logic and selected and re-organized those I felt were usable.
Now my aikido consists of about thirty percent Ueshiba Sensei’s techniques and seventy percent my own.
You can probably say that Hawaii was where I did much of my most important training (shugyo). The reason I went there in the first place, by the way, was at the invitation if the Nishikai, a group devoted to the Nishi Method of Health. Their intentions, however, had something to do with pitting my martial arts abilities against some pro-wrestler and using the proceeds from the event to build their assembly hall. I didn’t know about that until just before my departure, and by then it was too late to refuse, so I resigned myself to it and went anyway.

The Hawaiians were pretty frank in expressing their first impressions of me. They said, "Gee, Sensei, you’re pretty young, aren’t you?" Then they said, "Gee, Sensei, you’re pretty small...." Then they got to the point and said, "Sensei, are you sure you can really do it?" I figured the only thing to do was to show them what I could do and let them see for themselves. After that all the local martial artists and wrestlers became my students. The Hawaii Aikikai was established eight months later, and I was also made an honorary lifetime captain in the local police force. Ueshiba Sensei was never tested like that in his whole life.

We would like to ask you about weapons techniques. At the Aikikai Hombu dojo there are some shihan who assert that modern aikido has no weapons techniques. On the other hand, there are teachers like Morihiro Saito who integrate these with the teaching of empty-handed techniques (taijutsu). In your view, are weapons techniques part of aikido or are they not?
Saying there are no weapons techniques in aikido is ridiculous. People say that because they don’t know them. Come see what we do with weapons at the Ki Society. It’s also all on our instructional video. That aikido has weapon techniques is just common sense, and it’s a shame that people should say things to the contrary. I wonder, should I go down there and teach them?
Mr. Yoshio Sugino [Dojo-cho of the Aikikai’s Kawasaki branch Yuishin Dojo and tenth dan in Katori Shinto-ryu] attended one of our physical training testings. Seeing our member’s weapons techniques he praised them, "I see you have dozens of aspiring O-Senseis here."

Tohei Sensei, thank you for taking so much time to talk with us.

Copyright © 1974 - 2002 Aikido Journal. All rights reserved.

Interview Peter Ralston

Interview, Peter Ralston


Peter RalstonPeter Ralston begon zijn studie van de krijgskunsten op negenjarige leeftijd in Singapore. Met negentien jaar was hij uiterst bedreven in onder meer Judo, Jiujitsu, Karate, Sumo, Kempo, Kung Fu en schermen. Hij studeerde fysiologie/anatomie aan de universiteit van California in Berkeley en verbreedde zijn martiale kennis met Westers boksen, Muay Thai en Chinees en Japans zwaardvechten. Ook verdiepte hij zich meer en meer in de interne stijlen Tai Chi Chuan, Aikido, Hsing I en Pa Kua. Intensieve periodes van contemplatie resulteerden in verschillende directe gewaarwordingen van het wezen van zelf en realiteit. Deze ervaringen versterkten niet alleen zijn interesse in ontologie (ook wel zijnsleer genoemd) maar hadden ook een grote invloed op zijn vaardigheden in de krijgskunsten. In 1978 werd Peter Ralston als eerste niet-Aziaat wereldkampioen tijdens het World Championship Full-Contact Martial Arts Tournament in Taiwan, een toernooi open voor alle vechtstijlen.

‘Toen ik 9 jaar was, ben ik met wat vrienden met judo begonnen, maar ik zag dat gewoon als een andere spelvorm. Pas met 16 ben ik me er serieus in gaan verdiepen. Ik wilde de beste vechter ter wereld worden. Deze houding was zeer belangrijk voor mijn succes.
Naarmate ik vooruitkwam in de krijgskunsten, isoleerde ik me meer en meer van de rest van de wereld. In mijn streven om goed te worden, had ik als uitgangspunt nooit iemand blindelings te geloven en nooit iemands structuur of overtuiging over te nemen.
Veel mensen die iets willen leren, studeren bij iemand die ze vertelt wat te doen. Dat is legitiem. Toch is het goed om open te staan voor het feit dat de leraar het misschien niet bij het juiste eind heeft. Vaak onderwijst een leraar wat hij heeft gehoord of geleerd, of wat hij gelooft. Hoe dan ook, ik wilde het mijn kunst maken. Dan moest ik zélf ook de bekwaamheid hebben. Ik zelf moest de kunst ontdekken en begrijpen. Het zou me niet verder helpen als ik iemand blindelings zou volgen.’

Een nieuwe richting

‘Om mijn studie van de krijgskunsten te verdiepen las ik de Tao te Ching en begon ik met zen. Langzaam maar zeker echter veranderde mijn interesse en gingen de krijgskunsten mijn studie van de ‘fundamentele natuur van mijn eigen leven’ verdiepen.

Op een dag was ik met een vriend aan het sparren, toen ik ontdekte wat er tot dan toe aan mijn studie had ontbroken. Tot dan toe had ik veel gevechten geleverd. Van de honderd slagen die er werden uitgewisseld tijdens een gevecht incasseerde ik er altijd op zijn minst enkele en daar hield ik niet van. Ik wilde perfect zijn en daar hoorde het incasseren van slagen niet bij. Deze keer merkte ik dat ik niet bang was om geraakt te worden, dat ik niet bezig was met winnen of verliezen, en ik werd geen enkele keer geraakt. Dit was de eerste keer dat ik letterlijk ongeslagen uit de strijd kwam – omdat het mij niet uitmaakte geraakt te worden. Mijn bewustzijn opende zich voor wat er echt gebeurde.

Ik had zwarte banden in verschillende kunsten. Ik had zwaard- en stokvechten en schermen beoefend aan de universiteit, en daarnaast wedstrijdjudo, aikido, westers boksen, muay thai en andere gevechtskunsten. Toen ik begin twintig was, begon ik me echt te isoleren. Het interesseerde me niet meer. Het interesseerde me ook niet of iemand wist wat ik wist. Ik realiseerde me toen echter niet dat dit later een communicatiekloof zou veroorzaken tussen mij en de buitenwereld. In die tijd leefde en studeerde ik in een hut. Vanaf mijn tienertijd had ik les gegeven, maar ook dat deed ik nu niet meer.
Terugkijkend naar deze tijd kan ik zeggen dat ik toen zeer gedisciplineerd leefde. Voor mijzelf was het mijn normale leven. Ik heb echter een ongelooflijke hoeveelheid tijd, concentratie en energie gestoken in mijn studie. Ik werkte er dag en nacht aan. Niet alleen fysiek, maar ook door contemplatie en schrijven. Het schrijven hielp me bij mijn studie. Ik schreef niet voor iemand in het bijzonder. Ik schreef op wat ik dagelijks leerde, over mijn inzichten en mijn besef.
Minimaal 5 uur per dag trainde ik mijn lichaam, en soms gaf ik daarna nog les. De overige tijd hing ik met mijn vrienden rond, oefende op het binnenplein, studeerde en praatte. Daarna schreef ik en dacht ik na. Het goede aan deze isolering was de discipline, de beschouwing en de concentratie op mijn werk. Toen ermee bezig was, zag ik niet dat het iets bijzonders was. Het was gewoon iets wat ik deed.


Op een dag zat ik in mijn achtertuin en kwam er een man naar me toe. Hij was iemand tegengekomen die me kende en hij wilde dat ik hem krijgskunsten onderwees. Ik vertelde hem dat ik daarmee gestopt was, maar hij was erg vasthoudend. Daarom pakte ik de draad van het lesgeven weer op.
Later probeerde hij me ervan te overtuigen dat het goed voor me zou zijn om aan intensieve contemplatie te gaan doen. Ik was toen 21 jaar en had geen idee wat ik daarmee aan zou moeten. Ik realiseerde me echter dat een deel van de weerstand ertegen te maken had met lafheid.
Toen ik deze barrière eenmaal had overwonnen, ging ik met hem mee naar een vijfdaagse intensieve contemplatie in Santa Rosa. Op de eerste dag al tijdens de eerste oefening – ik werkte aan de vraag “Wie ben ik” - had ik al een verbazingwekkende ervaring. Het was nog niet de ervaring van de waarheid, maar wel een ervaring die vaak voorkomt tijdens intensieve meditatie. De kamer veranderde, werd licht, ik zag kleuren, en ik keek op een andere manier naar mijzelf. Op een of andere manier voelde ik me meer compleet. De ervaring was compleet nieuw voor mij. Op het einde van de vijf dagen voelde ik meer vreugde dan ik in mijn hele leven had gevoeld. Ik was echt gelukkig – ik had niet eerder opgemerkt dat ik dat gevoel tot dan toe niet had gehad.
Twee weken later ging ik naar een plaats in de bergen en begon aan mijn tweede intensieve contemplatie. Hier werkte ik aan de vraag “Wat ben ik?” Vol overtuiging en dynamisch werkte ik aan een directe ervaring van de natuur van mijn wezen. Ononderbroken werkte ik door – dat dacht ik in elk geval. Ik deed het zoals ik de meeste dingen deed in die tijd: met zoveel gedrevenheid, zoveel energie, zoveel ononderbroken aandacht. Als ik terugkijk weet ik niet of ik het zo weer zou kunnen aanpakken.
Maar even goed, ik ‘kreeg’ het niet, ik kreeg geen directe ervaring van mijn ware natuur. Ik had geen verlichtingservaring. Ik had er nooit aan getwijfeld dat ik die ervaring zou krijgen. Drie dagen van inspanning zonder resultaat.
Ik bleef er nog een extra nacht omdat ik moest wachten op de man met wie ik mee terug zou rijden. De volgende dag hing ik er nog wat rond. ’s Morgens las ik in een exemplaar van Jonathan Livingstone Seagull (een boek van Richard Bach, red.) dat er lag. Ik zat in de vliering bovenaan de ladder, en ik probeerde naar beneden te gaan zonder mijn lichaam te bewegen. Ik probeerde het Livingston Seagull-ding te doen. Ik probeerde het echt. Ik kon niet geloven dat het mij niet zou lukken.
Later in de middag zat ik in een kamer, er waren wat mensen met elkaar aan het praten. Ik zat wat te relaxen en voelde me goed. Ik deed eigenlijk niets, ook geen meditatie en daar was mijn verlichtingservaring. Het was een grote doorbraak, een ervaring die met niets te vergelijken was met wat ik eerder had meegemaakt. Ergens hoorde het niet bij het domein ‘ervaring’, en tegelijkertijd veranderde het mijn ervaring compleet. Het veranderde mijn hele leven en de realiteitsstructuur. Het was fantastisch.
Opeens was ik er mij van bewust dat ik Niets was. Absoluut niets. Ik ervoer direct mijn ware natuur, niet als iets tastbaars met gedaante of vorm. De mogelijk dat ik Niets was, was nieuw voor mij. Gedurende de hele meditatie van drie dagen was ik alles geweest, elke voorstelling, elke beweging, elk gevoel, elke inspanning. Het was nooit bij me opgekomen dat ik niet iets was. Gedurende de Verlichting was ik slechts ... geen ding, niet ergens, geen substantie. Geen enkel intellectueel begrip van Verlichting kan ooit in de buurt komen van een directe verlichtingservaring. Hoewel ik er later nog enkele zou hebben, was deze eerste waarschijnlijk de belangrijkste verlichtingservaring die ik heb gehad.
Een week later, thuis, had ik een verlichtingservaring van een andere natuur. Ik werd me ervan bewust dat anderen precies hetzelfde zijn als ik. Ik ben niets en neem geen ruimte in, geen plaats. Met dat als uitgangspunt werd ik me ervan bewust dat we niet van anderen gescheiden zijn – we zijn dezelfde.

Nieuwe bekwaamheden

Het was na deze verlichtingservaringen dat ik het vermogen ontwikkelde iemands gezindheid te ‘lezen’. Ik kon zien wat mensen gingen doen voordat ze het daadwerkelijk deden. Hierdoor had ik, wanneer iemand mij wilde aanvallen, de situatie in bedwang voordat hij kon toeslaan.
Soms vroegen leerlingen tijdens de les wat ik zou doen als iemand mij zou slaan. Ik zei dan: “Sla mij.” En op het moment dat ze eraan dachten mij te slaan en deze gedachte overbrachten naar hun lichaam, hield ik ze tegen. Afgehandeld. Ik veronderstel dat je zou kunnen zeggen dat ik hun geest kon lezen. Ik zag de bron van de actie. Ik kon de kern zien van de drijfveer van hun gedachten en acties, doordat ik wist wat ik ben en wat zij zijn. Niet visueel, maar het raakte mij voordat hun lichaam bewoog. Omdat het voor hen een proces was waarin ze hun intentie moeten manifesteren - omzetten in actie - kon ik reageren voordat ze met hun actie begonnen.
Ik had toen nog niet opgemerkt dat deze bekwaamheid iets was dat ik kon ontwikkelen, of dat het iets was dat iemand niet had, maar kon ontwikkelen. In die tijd stond Cheng Hsin nog ergens aan de horizon. Ik had pas een begin gemaakt te verduidelijken wat later als de principes van Body-being bekend werd.

Meer meditatie

Later ging ik naar een intensieve 14-daagse meditatie geleid door Charles Berner. Er waren veel interessante mensen waaronder een aantal oudgedienden. Soms was het ongelooflijk zwaar, maar het was zeer krachtig. Op de veertiende dag had ik nog geen ervaring gehad. Ik werkte aan: “Wat is leven?”of meer accuraat: “Wat is Bestaan?” Tijdens de laatste oefening van de laatste dag had ik een verlichtingservaring. De eerste ervaring was de belangrijkste, maar deze was de diepste.
Het was de laatste oefening en ik dacht dat als ik het in veertien dagen niet had ervaren, dat deze oefening geen verschil zou maken. Daarom had ik er plezier in. Om de een of andere reden besloot ik een stuk te stijgen vanuit de top van mijn hoofd. Het voelde alsof ik daar mijn ‘diad partner’, Neil, zou ontmoeten. En toen, heel verrassend, had ik een ervaring met wat zenmensen de Leegte noemen. Van het Absolute Bestaan. Er was geen afstand, geen tijd, geen ruimte...niets.

Ik veronderstel dat mijn uiterlijk dramatisch veranderde door de ervaring, want na de oefening riep Neil zeer geagiteerd uit dat ik in de spiegel moest kijken; mijn gezichtsuitdrukking was totaal veranderd. Ik had al in geen veertien dagen in de spiegel gekeken. Thuis voor de spiegel wist ik niet wat ik zag. Ik zag een lichaam dat ik gekend had maar ik was het niet. Niet dat mijn uiterlijk veranderd was. Het was de gelijkenis die me een schok bezorgde. In zekere zin was ik vergeten dat ik een lichaam had. Het was alsof mijn lichaam mijn geschiedenis liet zien, mijn karakter, mijn ideeën, mijn persoonlijkheid, al die dingen die ik dacht te zijn. Al de dingen die ik geweest was. Zonder het toen te kunnen verwoorden, denk ik dat ik verwachtte dat mijn spiegelbeeld niet zou verschijnen. Ik had de absolute natuur van het bestaan ervaren. Terug in het ‘echte’ leven kreeg ik een terugslag. Ik merkte op dat iedereen loog. Dat alles wat gezegd en gedaan werd een leugen was. Toen bemerkte ik dat alles wat ik zelf zei een leugen was. Dat ik niet in staat was de waarheid te spreken. Ik werd er gek van en twee weken lang isoleerde ik me van mijn omgeving. Ik wist niet wat ik met de ervaring aan moest. Ik realiseerde me dat het belangrijk was om een verlichtingservaring in een bepaalde context te zien. Dit was een van mijn motivaties om Cheng Hsin te ontwikkelen.

Meer nieuwe bekwaamheden
Meer nieuwe bekwaamheden begonnen zich aan te dienen. Eerst wist ik waar iemand zou aanvallen voordat hij bewoog. Er was toen een begin van een - psychische - beweging. Nu hoefde ik helemaal geen beweging van de kant van de aanvaller te zien, psychisch noch anderzijds, om te weten wat ik moest doen. Ik wist het gewoon.

Het wereldtoernooi

Hierna was het wereldkampioenschap gemakkelijk. Waarom ik eraan meedeed... Allereerst had ik op een bepaalde manier de krijgskunsten achter me gelaten en ik had nooit erkenning gehad voor wat ik had bereikt. Ik wist dat ik goed was. Dit wereldtoernooi was het tweede en waarschijnlijk het laatste. Het eerste werd in 1928 gehouden op het Chinese vasteland in Nanking. Het was erg gevaarlijk; veel mensen werden gedood of raakten gewond. De officials staakten het toernooi bij de laatste 13 deelnemers, omdat ze bevreesd waren voor nog meer doden.
Sindsdien zijn er andere toernooien geweest. Een tijdlang was er een jaarlijkse traditie, het Aziatisch krijgskunstentoernooi genaamd, hoewel ik geloof dat iedereen eraan kon deelnemen. Uiteindelijk kreeg het de naam Wereldtoernooi en nodigden alle landen uit eraan deel te nemen. Toen ik er was in 1978, waren er Japanners, Thailanders, Fransen, Saudi Arabiërs, Australiërs, anderen van de Verenigde Staten en vele andere landen, maar de meesten waren Chinezen. Gewoonlijk won er ook een Chinees. Ik was de eerste niet-Aziaat met de overwinning.
In de eerste plaats deed ik eraan mee omdat ik iets af moest maken. Ik zou niet langer betrokken zijn bij het wedstrijdaspect van krijgskunsten en ik wilde erkenning. In de tweede plaats deed ik mee omdat ik radicaal verschilde van de anderen in de krijgswereld.
Ik vraag mensen ongewone dingen te doen, om ogenschijnlijk ongerelateerde onderzoeken te ondernemen en ik vraag een diep niveau van begrip. Ik wil dat mensen naar me luisteren, dat ze open staan voor wat ik zeg. Door dit toernooi te winnen kon ik zeggen: “Ik heb het gewonnen. Wat ik onderwijs is functioneel. Het werkt.” De mensen die het voorheen flauwekul vonden, luisteren nu.

Een eenvoudige boodschap

Op een avond omstreeks 1973 stond ik in de achtertuin onder de dennenbomen. Ik was naar buiten gelopen en had meteen het ongemakkelijke gevoel dat er iemand rondliep. Het was erg donker en ik had een voorgevoel alsof ik met iemand zou moeten vechten, met een inbreker of zo. Ik opende me helemaal voor die mogelijkheid en opeens werd alles veilig. Dat is de enige manier waarop ik me kan uitdrukken. De zin die ik toen hardop zei was: “Er bestaat niet zoiets als een gevecht. Er heeft nooit zoiets bestaan en er zal nooit zoiets bestaan.
Zonder ontologische studie is dit zeer moeilijk te begrijpen. Hiermee bedoel ik de beschouwing van en meditatie over de natuur van het zijn.
Ik begreep dat ik eerst anderen duidelijk moest maken dat vechten een relatie is. Mensen willen dat maar niet begrijpen. Zorg er eenvoudigweg voor dat je altijd een passende en actieve relatie met je opponent hebt. Ik heb krijgskunstenaars als leerling gehad – kung fu-mensen, boksers, karateka’s, innerlijke krijgskunstenaars en anderen – en die zeiden dat ik goed was. Maar het is niet ‘goed’, het is eenvoudigweg simpel. En ze begrijpen het niet.

Vertaling, Wim Heijnen
Uit: Een interview met Peter Ralston in 1978
Link: http://www.chenghsin.com/chenghsin-main.html

Zie ook: Het principe van niet-actie.