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Kawaraban No. 57


by Kenji Shimizu

Katsu Kaishū (1823-1899) is said as having described the character of Saigō Takamori as `a man like a drum’. When you hit it, it will respond accordingly. Meaning this man gives a feedback. He surely would have been a worthy character in the era ranging from the last days of the Tokugawa Shogunate until the Meiji Restoration. However, how is modern Japan like in comparison? Symbolically for this stands the meaninglessness of enquiries in the parliament by reason of the assignment of the self-defense forces in Iraq.

Equally very important is feedback in Aikido. It is about budo, where no competition is held; both, shite (the one performing the technique) and uke (the one receiving the technique), may easily succumb to the temptation of falling into accord. If uke already takes a position for break fall as he wishes before the technique is applied , shite receives no feedback, and then you have an empty technique. It is not unusual in aikido, that even among dan-degree-holders techniques are performed automatically.

There are manifold aikido techniques like ’throwing techniques (nagewaza)’, ‚locks (kimewaza)’, ‚holding techniques (osaewaza)’, ‚atemi’ and so on. To be able to conduct contests it was not possible to avoid leaving out extremely effective techniques, which have been passed down from ancient times. The reason why is, superior techniques are also very dangerous techniques. You are able to control a big man in a way, that he cannot free himself, when you apply skillfully a special locking technique using his joints. Therefore we do not carry out contests, but concentrate on mutual training, where we practice the techniques repeatedly. Thus it is of greatest importance for uke, when receiving a technique, he has to react in a way that his break fall is a feedback for shite. The founder of aikido taught this with severity to his uchideshi. Thereby uke learns in the course of time how to connect to shite’s technique by excellent breathing and taisabaki.

We have to move naturally thoroughly like bamboo adapting to the power of wind. This will show in our techniques, when we are shite. We will become empty, ‘read’ the attacker’s intention, become one with the attacker, and move naturally. Here at this point we face the philosophy of aikido, which is a way of zen.

When we take a close look at today’s society, only unpleasant things become visible, as for example the violent becoming-of-age-parties. People form the society. Therefore first of all we have to become human beings, who give a feedback to the behavior of their fellow beings. For this however we need the courage to give up ourselves. Other then knowledge or wisdom, courage cannot be borrowed from other people. Consequently we have to train ourselves. At the beginning of the New Year I am telling these things to myself as well.

© translated by Birgit Lauenstein and Peter Nawrot 02/2004