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Memories of Private Lessons

Kawaraban No. 78


by The Head of Tendokan, Kenji Shimizu

This year is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the Tendokan. Kaleidoscopically memories of the Uchideshi period, with which I started my Aikido, pass through my head. In the year 1963 I entered the Aikido class under the supervision of the founder, Morihei Ueshiba, and I want to talk just a little bit about that period.

I practiced all the day from morning to evening, and normally once in a week Mr. Hidehiko Hioki appeared for private training with O-Sensei. At that time Mr. Hioki was the owner of a company of the perfume branch called Masamoto, which was leading in this branch at those days in Japan. As he went on business trips to France I received various souvenirs as Hermes neckties and so on.

Being somewhat audacious I would like to mention that O-Sensei had asked me to do the Ukemi, and so I was Uke for O-Sensei and did the Ukemi for Mr. Hioki. I felt some pride, because nobody else was admitted to this special training. In those days Mr. Hioki was in his sixties and he suffered from Diabetes, and therefore he rested a little every ten minutes. During those breaks I took the chance putting eagerly questions to O-Sensei to learn some details about difficult techniques. Happily he said: “Try to grasp me this way” or “ Try to attack me”, and therefore I was able to learn extremely valuable technical details. Today I consider those secret techniques as my treasure.

Well, I also want to tell something about an extraordinary situation. During the training now and then O-Sensei said: “Next Shimizu should perform (the technique)”, and he mend that I should now throw Mr. Hioki without hesitation, as of course there was no other Uke besides him. As Mr. Hioki was not such a satisfactory Uke I thought that I actually couldn’t throw him severely. But Mr. Hioki was Mr. Hioki, and he said with a serious look showing his firm readiness: “Please attack me without restraint”. Thinking now thoroughly about the situation, I assume that O-Sensei might have intended to teach me that you have to keep always a serious mind whoever our partner may be.

Exactly at some training day O-Sensei went somewhere due to urgent business. Mr. Hioki showed up a little earlier and remarked: “Today I am a bit in a hurry, therefore I would like to finish practice earlier”. But O-Sensei, who left mentioning that he would be back in time for the training with Mr. Hioki, had still not returned. Mr. Hioki said: “Thank you for the wonderful training”. I was worried about the time, but Mr. Hioki as well had time problems, so I did my best teaching him, and Mr. Hioki left for home after about 20 minutes practice.  Immediately following O-Sensei returned and asked: “Did Mr. Hioki show up?” and when I answered with a good feeling: “You let me do the training instead of you”, O-Sensei, who all of a sudden changed completely, became very angry. He called: “ Did you really think that you were able to take over the teaching of Mr. Hioki?” and his eyeballs seemed merely to jump out of his face. Even if I then was in accordance with O-Sensei’s words, I was thinking in my mind: “ Damn it, why doesn’t he understand the situation”.

This private training only took place once a week, and probably was very satisfying for O-Sensei as well, and Mr. Hioki also was keen to profit from the meetings with O-Sensei. He just was a person with an extremely fine character.

After the next morning class O-Sensei, who seemed to have forgotten all about the last day’s incident, said: “ Shimizu, could you please buy some bread (O-Sensei liked sweat bread)”, and I received some coins in my hand. He ignored the people in the bureau, who asked: “What might have happened between the two?” and talked to me at a sunny corner of the Dojo while the two of us ate the pan. I remember quite well that I was very happy that O-Sensei seemed to worry a little bit about me because of the incident at the previous day.

This matter took place about a half century ago, but looking back now, I recollect the fine character of O-Sensei.

© translated by Ichiro Murata and Peter Nawrot 07/2009