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New Year’s Edition 2000 - Special Feature

Kawaraban No. 41


Interview with Shimizu Sensei

‚We are asking about the outlook for Tendoryu Aikido with regard to the 21st century and from an international point of view’

As special feature of the January New Year’s edition of the ‚Tendo Kawaraban’ we asked the head Shihan Shimizu Kenji about the outlook of Tendoryu Aikido among other things. He was born in the year of the dragon, and he gives us his thoughts frankly in this year 2000, which is also a year of the dragon and a year of jumping forward as he now has recovered completely again from his knee operations on both sides.

(the editorial office)

The operation on both knees (a result of judo activities as a student), which you were engaged in for two years, was a success, and in December of last year you began with training again.

Shimizu Sensei: The right knee was operated in the year before last and the left knee in the last year. Normally a period of two years lies in between, when somebody has his second knee operated as well. I was subject to the second operation exactly one year later. And contrary to expectation it was the doctor in charge who asked me: “Is that really o.k.?”. Everything now is excellent, and the cruciate ligaments also hurt much less than expected. Only the muscles are somewhat tense, and with some rest they will recover to normal again, it’s only a question of time; I think, I have nothing to worry about. And therefore I am convinced that the decision for the operation was right.

This year in which both of your knees have recovered completely, shall become a year of a great turning point as well; how does the local and foreign development of Tendoryu Aikido appear?

Shimizu Sensei: First of all regarding the inland, Tomita Hirofumi (41 years, 5th dan) from the trainer team, who has practiced a little more than 20 years under my direction, becomes independent. Wholeheartedly requesting to employ my Aikido well, he will start teaching in April in his home town of Wakayama , which is the home town of o-sensei (the adored Ueshiba Morihei, founder of Aikido) as well. I want to support him as much as I can, because he is full of energy.

For me, it is not so much about the spreading of Tendoryu Aikido so much as leaving behind the true Aikido.

Furthermore with regard to abroad I received from Amsterdam/Holland the request about to open a ‚Tendoryu-Aikido School ’ (temporary name). This is information from Tere M.A.C. Panakka, who is in charge of the cumulative translation of ‚Kaido o yuku (Along the Highway)’ – a European compilation of the late Shima Ryotaro. The purpose is to address the interest of Europeans in Tendoryu Aikido in form of a vocational school. And he explained to me, that Aikido is extremely valuable for work as well as for daily life. Detailed information will follow later, but I think, that the moment in time is well suited as I learnt that this year is the 400th anniversary of the existence of the Japanese-Dutch friendship as well.

Anyhow, now I will become gradually seriously and show my enthusiasm, as I have clambered through the second half of my life. I would like to concentrate even more on the spread of Aikido to foreign countries, where my Aikido plays a role, and I feel sorry for the inconvenience for all of you from the home Dojo during my absence from Japan.

Because of my knee operations I have stayed in the background for more than three years, but now I will use this experience as a stepping-stone.

At your seminars in Germany besides, of course, German participants, other students from France , Belgium , Netherlands , Slovenia , America , Mexico and others are gathering. What do you think, what might these people find in Aikido?

Shimizu Sensei: They are looking for the spirit of early Japan , not for the spirit of present-day Japan . It is said, that in former times the Japanese were able to hold their ground by their impressive attitude when contacting people from the West, although they have been small in size. Maybe it could be said, that they sacrificed themselves for the sake of the general public. Yoshida Shoin for example was exactly such a man, who on top of that seemed to incorporate ideals and courage within him. Originally the Japanese possessed such a courage and such a preparedness, they represented ideals and were impressive, weren’t they? The foreigners, who read about these things among others in books, show great interest in Aikido, one of the traditional Japanese arts of Budo, because they want to encounter this spirit.

This summer as well I will hold a seminar again; furthermore I received invitations for seminars in autumn from six German places. From this year on I want to do a bit more, because during the last three years I have taught only once a year in Europe.

In present-day Japan there is always the strong feeling that the economy has priority, but aren’t people in Europe already talking about the age of mind? That is to say the non-material age has begun there already. If Japan wants to become a real member of the developed countries, we have to betake ourselves towards the age of mind, otherwise we will be too late.

When I recently talked to Kamata Shigeo sensei (formerly professor at the University of Tokyo, scholar of Buddhism), he told me as follows about which I was very delighted: “I am convinced, that from now on careers as yours, Mr. Shimizu, will be path breaking”.

I do not possess such a great power, but regarding all issues, which are related to Aikido, I will make great efforts.

You come across as thoroughly vital and not as one that has just had an operation. How do you feel?

Shimizu Sensei: The honorable Ueshiba Morihei always emphasized: “As long a man has not reached the age of sixty, real Ki power will not appear.” This he might have said to himself as well, and now after reaching this age myself I feel quite strongly that my life up to now has built the root, and that I am now able to bear the fruits. It is now time to make use of various previous experiences. Now after unification of body, mind and intellect I recognize that it is possible to complete the spiritual power.

And isn’t there the saying “Personal experience is better than scholastics”? I now realize quite clearly, that as a matter of fact I am making use of the long years of personal experience of teaching and other things in Europe . It is said, however, that arming yourself with knowledge only will not develop real self-confidence, and this hits the point, I think.

I believe as well, that these words are of importance for the students, who struggle with practice...

Shimizu Sensei: Concerning matters of training you should never be impatient. Even if you understand in your head, what is on the black board at the Tendokan Dojo, “Without hurry, without fatigue – one step first and then another step – strength comes with continuation”, there are some people saying: “I do like Aikido, but I don’t like to practice.” Nobody likes strict matters, but if you endure such strict matters continuation will become strength. Even people, who pay the monthly fee by themselves and who participate in the training voluntarily, run the risk of falling for routine some day.

As it is put here “We may not loose the beginner’s mind, we should respect the beginner’s mind”, we will be challenged again all the time, and we have to overcome ourselves first.

If we realize “Why by all means does such a greed exist, why are we so tense? Couldn’t we behave naturally by taking out strength from our shoulders, by relaxing our wrists and opening our hands?”, we improved. Therefore I would like that you practice always with the feeling not to give in to your ego.

Ghandi said as well: “Strength does not develop from physical abilities. It develops out of an unbending will power.”

Could you please finally give us a word regarding your mood?

Shimizu Sensei: What thereby is intuitively rushing through my mind is the character ‘choku’ (honest, open, sincere, modest) from the word ‘sunao’ (open, unaffected, uninfluenced). We previously talked about the issue why foreigners want to learn something about the soul of Japan . Now, I think, that comes from this openness (sunaosa).

As well in Aikido there is no progress, if we are not open. To be open, means becoming like a piece of white paper. You can write everything upon white, undescribed paper. If we keep our souls like undescribed paper, it will delight people. That is the strength of naturalness. I believe that you will make progress, if you consider your own openness as valuable.

© translated by Jennifer Reynolds and Peter Nawrot 03/2006