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Memoirs - The 40th Aniversary (1)

Kawaraban No. 79


by The Head of Tendokan, Kenji Shimizu

In October this year we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Tendokan and the foundation of the NPO ‘Tendo World Aikido’ with a memorial seminar. Time has passed fast, and I became older accordingly.

In the year 1963, 46 years ago, I jumped into the Aikido world completely as ‘a white sheet of paper’.

This happened when I was introduced to the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba (then 79 years old) by the strong advise from a certain person, and thinking back now this was really good luck. Ueshiba Sensei had a sharp discernment and his facial expression was gentle. He gave you the feeling of a great man, who lived several hundred years ago and who couldn’t be found anymore today. This was my impression at that time. “Presently I will not accept any Uchi-Deshi, but would you still like to start now as Uchi-Deshi?” and I could answer only with one word “Yes, please”.

The truth is that my mother resisted to my beginning with Aikido. Her strong opposition based upon the question why anybody should become a Budo specialist nowadays and whether this wasn’t actually an anachronism. The reason was also that I already found an employment to my mother’s satisfaction. But as I already answered: “Yes” to Ueshiba Sensei I did not intend to cancel. The person, who introduced me and who was a close friend to Ueshiba Sensei, was quite pleased about my decision. But honestly I had not enough self-confidence to persuade my mother. It all started with the words of my introducer: “In Japan there are no real Budoka anymore, nowadays no Budoka is able to exist anymore. But still there is a last Japanese Budoka. His name is Morihei Ueshiba, and this opportunity certainly should be seized.” In the year 1963 I could not yet convince my mother, and in the end I chose a way, which is quite difficult in nowadays society. Then I was completely absorbed by Aikido.

The coming days I was practicing all the time. In Aikido there are no contests, and I practiced free and easy as in a trance multiple as much as other students. I was totally exhausted, looked like a wet dust cloth, and had not thought that training would be so tough. Furthermore I had no money to satisfy my hunger after practice, and the very fact not being able to eat was tough. As I intensively practiced multiple as much as others graduations followed extremely fast, and within three years I received the 4th Dan. By this I had nearly reached the same Dan level as most of the Senpai (senior students) at the time of my entry.

As time has already passed I can talk freely now. The following happened. About six months after I became Uchi-Deshi one of the teachers, who was supposed to take the class, was busy at a different training location and not able to come. When the representative of the Honbu Dojo leader at that time, Osawa Sensei, said to me: “Shimizu, take over the class instead of him”, I was surprised and answered : “Ee, I do only have a white belt!” At that time O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was the Dosho (president of the Aikido World Association – Aikikai), Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei was in charge of the Dojo, and the representative was Osawa Sensei, who was one of my models during practice. That Osawa Sensei now said regardless of the situation: “That does not matter. Just tie around a black belt”. And when I concernedly mentioned: “But I am worried that the higher Dan degree holders will smell the swindle”, he answered: “You have the 4th Dan in Judo. Isn’t it sufficient to introduce yourself as a 4th Dan? Both are Budo graduations.” And finally I could understand this somehow. I remember that all students followed my instructions obediently, although always some Dan degree holder participated in the training.

After I got used to the techniques a little, and holding classes and private lessons became more often, I was called to halt with the words: “Shimizu, recently you quite often accepted invitations for lunch, didn’t you?” In line with the increasing number of lessons, which I gave, the number of opportunities for invitations increased considerably. I was told: “It would be better, if you would accept less invitations for lunch”. “Ee?” I thought, and then was added: “Your good reputation as a Budo teacher will suffer.” I had as well nice experiences, as I received an indirect warning to behave more carefully, because at the same time there was somebody, who was tell-taling about my behavior. From there I understood the difficulties of human life, and over and over again I was able to learn even more by experience.

At that time somebody entered, who will remain unforgotten. It was the former permanent secretary of the MITI (ministry of international trade and industry), Mr. Uru Sabashi, whose life was the background for the book ‘Summer of Bureaucracy’ by Shoroyama Saburo (1927 – 2007). It happened that I became responsible for the training of Mr. Sabashi.

(to be continued in the next issue)

© translated by Ichiro Murata and Peter Nawrot 11/2009