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Memoirs - The 40th Aniversary (3)

Kawaraban No. 81


by The Head of Tendokan, Kenji Shimizu

Since I became uchi-deshi my life was as having been thrown into a raging stream. Morning practice, private lessons, then in the evening practices again, and already from the beginning of my uchi-deshi time I had to give substitution lessons (teaching at other Dojos).

It was during the period when I had still a white belt. In the Dojo, where I had to give substitution lessons, were dan degree holders as well. Occasionally it was the case that I was supposed to teach at locations with even 3rd and 4th dan degree holders, and I remember that I was quite worried. But as there is no competition in Aikido unlike other martial arts most of the people in the Dojo were not aggressive but quite friendly. I suppose they had a lot of understanding for my standpoint. Thinking back now I only can say that although I practiced many times more than other persons it was only about three months after I joined. I was really surprised that I was able to do this. On the other hand I was only going to other Dojos because of the command of the bosses.

Now I would like to continue with the previous article. Mr. Shigeru Sahashi, the vice minister in the MITI (main character in Saburo Shiroyama’s novel ‘Summer of Bureaucracy’), certainly made Aikido specific issues to main topics in his lectures, and once he told me just for fun: “In my lectures I talk up to 80% about basic issues and the philosophy of Aikido, and the listeners will be listening much more seriously as if I would talk only about economical issues. In this sense I could have the 6th dan in Aikido lectures … hahaha”.

Now I would like to mention some sentences from a book of Mr. Sahashi.

[Remarks by the translators: Do literally means „way“, „road“, and also has the meaning „method“, „principle“, „the correct way”. In Japanese arts the term do plays an important role besides its literal meaning ‚road/way’. To experience the inner values of an art people have to proceed on the way. A continued training’s process is essential.  Examples are sado (way of tea), shodo (way of calligraphy), judo (way of softness), kendo (way of the sword) and, of course, aikido.]

Budo and sports are not the same (Aikido as well is no sports). In budo it is the objective gain control over life and death of other people. Around the world in most countries we find skills in martial arts in whatever forms. But I cannot see that with the exception of Japan anywhere in a similar way a weaponless martial art became a way of living (do - 道) and has been preserved like budo (武道).

In this connection do means the way, on which people train to improve themselves, a way, on which people have to proceed. Objective of budo (武道) is to arrive at a way of humanity as a warrior. Bu (武) means hand-to-hand-fighting and battle. By training and by improvement of abilities in bu people should reach a situation in life, in which weapons (hoko (矛)  - hellebore; bu means etymologically hoko) are not necessary anymore. It is said that the Japanese budo has been perfected by the union with zen. In short this state is called satori (enlightment).

According to his experiences Mr. Sahashi said: “Fellows with a hard body generally have a hard head as well. “ Persons with a soft body have a flexible mind as well. And persons with a flexible mind generally have a soft body, too. And the conclusion is that the mind becomes more flexible, if you make your body softer. I do not think that this logic is completely clear, but on the other hand there might be some truth in it. In fact the body of a child is soft, and its mind is flexible, too. On the contrary the body becomes harder if we get older, and the head becomes stiffer as well. This logic was the reason, why Mr. Sahashi was learning aikido. Through training the body becomes soft and the head becomes flexible as well like a child’s head.

And now we will continue with our discoveries. The main point of budo is mushin (無心).

[Remark by the translators: Mushin (innocent heart) is a term from Buddhism. It means a state in which a person is free from all material desires and has transcended the worldly self. ]

Mushin means a condition without trouble. It is a condition, in which we are free from all tensions. If we face an enemy with such a mind, we will understand his movements immediately. Therefore we are able to adapt proper means against his attack in an instant. After those explanations Mr. Sahashi continued with the words: “I cannot not say that I have reached such mental state of self-control already today, but that is my objective …”.

Now I will digress a bit. During the active service period of Mr. Sahashi there were various types of people around him. Sometimes there were disputes, and when he once was facing an important member of the right wing party he said: “If you are not willing to listen to my words, please leave the room!”, and it was just in front of a quarrel, so I heart. I think Mr. Sahashi was a person, who had installed a child’s mind already.

© translated by Ichiro Murata and Peter Nawrot 11/2010