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Natural Disaster and Man-made Disaster

Kawaraban No. 84


by The Head of Tendokan, Kenji Shimizu

The annual foreign spring seminars (March 2011) this time took place in Germany, Serbia and the Netherlands. Starting from March 10th we stayed in Serbia (Kragujevac), and when we proceeded to the hotel restaurant at the morning of our first day of the seminar (March 11th), several Serbian Aikido students addressed us: “Sensei, something terrible happened in Japan. There was a heavy earthquake”.

Between Europe and Japan there is a time lag of eight hours, and at that day, March 11th, in Europe it was about 6:30am, when the earthquake happened. After breakfast at about 8:30am I headed towards the TV, and it showed already pictures of the earthquake in Japan. Additionally Japan was surprised by a big Tsunami (big wave), which happened at the same time, resulting in a terrible situation. Furthermore I was amazed by the magnitude of 8,9 (afterwards corrected to 9,0) of the earthquake, and it was for the first time that I saw from overseas territories such miserable conditions of my homeland.

Furthermore, later also the nuclear power plants were destructed like a final blow. Such conditions split our feelings, and what would happen with Japan? According to the news there were ten thousands of causalities and missing people. What would I have done if I had been at this place myself? Many thoughts rushed through my mind.

At this evening the seminar started, and I had complicated feelings. The Serbian students wished to devote a silent prayer of condolence to the Japanese, who died during the earthquake. When the training started we had a silent prayer in seiza (kneeling position) for about one minute. The heart-warming good will of the second Serbian generation, who possesses an excellent etiquette, stroke my heart. According to the wish of all participants we had a silent prayer as well at the following stations of the seminar journey to Berlin and the Netherlands. My head hung down somehow because everybody in foreign countries was worrying so much about Japan.

Today we are able to watch events at various locations via TV even when we are sitting in our home. That is valid for everything, whether activities of war or of sports … . A Serbian watched in TV, how members of the self-defense forces rescued an old woman right in the height of the area of the earthquake disaster, and over and over again he said that the Japanese do have an excellent civilization. An old woman, who had been rescued in the very last moment and had been carried for several hundred meters on the back of a helper, was sitting exhaustedly on a  chair, but jumped up as soon as she saw her helper, bowed very deeply to him, and showed her respect, although her body was very weak. Such scenes surely touched the hearts very deeply.

We did not yet experience the horror of the power of nature in the same way before. But although there are such events, which are unexpected and not to be foreseen by humans, they might be on the other hand quite normal things from cosmos’s, from universe’s, from Mother Nature’s the point of view. But it is quite obvious that the occurrence of natural disasters has increased in the same way as the civilization has advanced and made progress. Possibly heaven wanted to telegraph something to the Japanese Islands by the abnormal heat last summer. Progress of civilization, which brought us so many benefits, comes with such things as nuclear bomb tests, global warming, and accidents of nuclear power plants. And don’t we presently hurt seriously and unnecessarily not only other people but all living beings on land, in the sea and in the sky as well?

Human beings, who are different from flora and fauna, possess an active individuality, which enables them to influence and even to put a stop to natural disasters. Still there are things, which in no way can be coped with human abilities.

If we would handle our natural environment even more with care in our daily life, we would be able to accept natural disasters to some extend and think of divine providence by nature (for this remark I apologize to the victims of the disaster), but from my point of view we nowadays abuse and injure the earth like a slave, and therefore we receive the grudge of nature. I am afraid of the grudge of nature. Consequently we now have to think carefully about the arrogance of our thinking that we might be able to conquer nature.

The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, told me approximately half a century ago (when I was Uchi Deshi) with a fierce voice: “Shimizu, the earth seems to suffer from pain and to be ill. We should grant the earth a period of rest”, and the grim voice of O-Sensei set my teeth on edge again.

If we are not able any more to do something, we should pray intensively that the earth does not become a dead planet.

© translated by Ichiro Murata and Dr. Peter Nawrot, 07/2011