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Interview with Mr. Kotaro Nagai of ‚Screw-Nagai’

Off Time No. 8

by Kenta Shimizu

The first one of the trainer team, whom we interviewed, was the representative director of the shop ‘Screw-Nagai’ in Setagaya/Kamiuma. Mr. Nagai was active as an Uchi-Deshi under Shimizu Sensei for about 9 years, and he took over the screw specialty shop from his father, which is located in Gokewaza. Presently he is one of the trainers in the Tendokan, and he teaches and practices. “Within a radius of only one meter certainly screws could be found!” … he talked about the importance of a single screw and about his feelings regarding teaching and practicing at the Tendokan.

What is your special objective as a trainer at the Tendokan?

I am not only teaching simply forms and techniques, I want to emphasize especially the spiritual connection. People, who want to start to learn Aikido, feel mental strain only by entering the Dojo, and furthermore they have to move their body. It is simple to teach forms, but I take all efforts that every single word, which I tell them, is important for them. And it is a pity, if you do not practice Budo joyfully as well. In a Dojo, where the older students are able to give their attention to the new students, the atmosphere will be become well, and certainly the level in Aikido improves, too.

During practice joyfulness seems to be an important element, isn’t it?

Yes, I am absolutely convinced about that.

Nagai-san, you practiced as Uchi-Deshi under Shimizu Sensei; what kinds of impressions are left behind, if you look back now?

He became always angry (laughing). Only five minutes after begin of practice there were continuous sermons … but I could not object, as I was only a student. However, looking back now from the standpoint of a manager, I really understand those words of Shimizu Sensei quite well. Shimizu Sensei always made a fresh impression. Regarding his guidance and his management new ides came into his mind like a flash, and therefore it was quite hard to follow his ideas, but this freshness is something very special.

Which especially trying experience do you remember best?

There is an experience that I had during e seminar in Germany; at this day I ate a lot during for lunch and I also took some beer, and in my selfishness I thought that at that day there would be no practice. But it just happened that a training should take place in a hurry … . As it was summer time the Dojo was hot, and under these conditions sweat was spouting already without any movement. My stomach was full, I also had drunk a lot, and I had to be Sensei’s Uke … that was really extremely tough (laughing).

Which memories do you have concerning Shimizu Sensei outside the Dojo?

Shimizu Sensei really helped me a lot. Often I visited Shimizu Sensei during my free time, and was invited for lunch. Sensei always encouraged me to eat with the words: ”Nagai, feel free to help yourself!”. By his attitude I was able to study at those days how to cope with worker’s worries not only at the working place but also outside. During the Uchi-Deshi days there were as well very hard times, but I think, by the kindness of Shimizu Sensei I was able to get over it.

Which kind of readiness did deal with when you were Uke of Shimizu Sensei during demonstrations?

It was the attitude of ‘thinking of nothing’, meaning to shake off any mental strain, and it were all efforts not to overlook any of Shimizu Sensei’s movements. There is the movie ‘Secret Service’ starring Clint Eastwood, and in one scene in the role of a bodyguard of the president he is asked, what was most frightening to him, and that was not the own death, but his answer was “that I would overlook something”. I do not really know, whether an Uke in Aikido has to go that far to risk his life, but I aim to be attentive in the same way. And finally you have to have some kind of faith.

To be honest, we really do not know anything about a specialty shop for screws, what kind of work do you have to do in your shop?

In my shop I retail with screws. According to my customer’s demands I sell all amounts of screws from one to 100000 pieces. And among them are screws with a weight from 1mg up to more than 15kg.

What kind of customers do you deal with?

I receive orders from children, who look for something to repair their toys, as well from large companies. There are orders from the area of games, from the computer business, from the construction business, from the area of Pachinko Machines (Japanese pinball) and so on, there really is no special area, and I have contacts to people from various types of occupation. I could imagine that most people believe that screws play only a minor part within their normal daily life, but certainly only within a radius of 1 m screws could be found. For example in glasses and mobile phones, in their wristwatch and in consumer electronics. Truly it could be said that they are being used in all objects in our environment, which are necessary for daily life. And if only one single screw is missing, a device becomes unfortunately unusable.
Yes, if we think about it, we notice that there are many things, which become unusable, because a single screw is missing. That is totally correct. And the reason is that even a high-class handbag finally becomes unusable, if a screw at the handle is missing.

Are there common features between Aikido and your work?

Yes, customers coming to my shop are children as well as adults, and I handle various orders for very different tasks, which reach me via express home delivery companies, via telephone and fax. In my business there is a so-called business flow, and if your are not used to understand, which activities are executed by your employees in this very moment, very fast major problems will come up. If I am able to catch what this employee is actually doing, what another is handling, then I easily can decide what I should do and which matter should have highest priority.
That is just the same as in Aikido practice, if you finally adhere to only one thing, then your head is blocked, and the movements become to small in the end. We do not practice alone, but we have to move in accordance with the flow of motion of our partner, whit whom we practice. To grasp naturally the flow of motion is that part of my work, which matches with Aikido.

Thanks a lot for today. Please, could you give us finally a message for those people, who are interested in Aikido?

In Aikido we are not only dealing with forms or techniques, and therefore I want to teach in a way that aims at the relationship of the hearts and minds. Let us practice together with the feeling that spirit and body are perfected alike.

Screw Nagai Ltd.

Setagaya-ku Kamiuma 4-35-13, tel. 03-3424-0626 / fax 03-3424-0670

If you need further information, please contact me by telephone or fax.

© translated by Ichiro Murata and Peter Nawrot 04/2007