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O-Sensei`s Words

Kawaraban No. 60 & 61


by Kenji Shimizu

Best wishes for the New Year. I hope that this year will turn out to be a peaceful one.

Particularly last year we had a number of disasters like earthquakes, typhoons and so on. It seems as if the world has gotten mixed up everywhere.

The words of already more than 40 years ago “The earth has to be cleaned, Shimizu !”, which o-sensei (the founder of aikido) told me, have clearly become alive again. When looking back to my uchideshi days, I remember many words of the founder. Often the speeches of the founder contained extremely powerful expressions. There were words on the relation of one’s own self to nature, to the earth and to the universe. I would like now to tell 2 or 3 episodes for those, who do not know them yet.

Ueshiba Morihei (1883-1969) was born in Tanabe near Shirahama Onsen in Wakayama-ken. There was a difference in age of more than 20 years to Kano Jigoro (1860-1938), the founder of judo, who could be named as another personality. Once when Kano was watching a demonstration by Morihei, he praised it and it broke out of him: “That exactly is my ideal of budo!”. On the spot he entrusted his best students under high expenses, who were then known at the Kodokan as ‘The Great Four’, to Morihei. Isn’t this also an indication, what great a budoka Morihei was? At the same time the extent of Kano ’s personality has to be admired. It is probably correct to say, that the founder was an ascetic and Kano was an educationalist. The founder was a believer of shinto as well, and it is reported, that his abilities to look into human hearts were tremendous. I am now digressing from this topic but both teachers Mochizukiu Minoru and Sugino Yoshio (both departed), who belonged to the ‘Great Four’, granted me often the chance to ask in detail about the actual state of affairs at that time. But not only that, they instructed me as well. Today I consider this a tremendous valuable treasure.

Now follows an anecdote on manners from the prewar days. A student came to the founder, who was chatting with the judo trainer of the police headquarters, who was visiting the dojo, to inform him that Konoe Fumimaro (later prime minister) had finished his practice and was on his way home. The founder just said: “Please, give him my regards” and resumed the conversation with the trainer without making any efforts to leave his place. The student assured himself and asked again: “It is His Excellency Konoe, how about the farewell …?” and is said to have received the answer: “His Excellency is our student. The gentleman in front of me is our guest”.

Constantly attending the founder was one of the most important duties of the uchideshi training, but furthermore in my case there was a very intense training particularly during the first three years. At that time I really encountered mere shockers. This story is about a joint trip to the Iwama Shinto shrine in Ibaraki-ken. When transferring at Ueno station we had to walk considerable long distances, moreover the train was short before leaving. We had to hurry. But I carried in both hands suitcases for two people as well as Bokken and Jos. I tried my best and desperately followed the founder as good as possible on the totally crowded area. If I only had gasped for air for a moment, the founder would have disappeared. It was not only about following someone hurrying on ahead, but we hurled ourselves forward against the stream of people. A non-existing alley opened up, because all were overwhelmed by o-sensei, who directly approached them with his stature filled with certain dignity. “I was totally taken aback and enthusiastic.”

And there was also something else. I had been uchideshi not even two or three weeks, when o-sensei entered the bureau at the dojo, and all of a sudden screamed “Guaaaaah!” and left. It was as if heaven and earth had opened up. Such expression is definitely not exaggerated. Directly in front of you a thunder seemed to sound, and 10 or so uchi-deshi, who were present, among them his son Kisshomaru, wanted to speak out, but they were only speechless and like paralyzed. I remember being dumbfounded in such a way, that thoughts like “Is O-Sensei really a human being?” shot through my mind. We sat in the bureau speechlessly, o-sensei returned 15 minutes later as if nothing had happened and said with a quiet, normal again voice: “Well, a little while ago I was angered by the gods”. Later I learnt, that such outbreaks of temper of o-sensei were happening 1-2 times a year.

I do not understand, what had made o-sensei to react like this, but I guess something unpleasant might have accumulated. Although so far I have heart loud voices and the kiai of many people, there was nothing comparable, what would have made people close-by freeze in that very moment. I am sure, that in case of a duel only by this the opponent would have been forced to give up. Today I am thankful that I had the opportunity to experience o-sensei’s temper. O-sensei’s words were unbelievably all embracing like “We have to clean the earth” or “Let us execute the techniques with the feeling of raising the earth”. In these examples human beings have not been the counterparts.

Borrowing o-sensei’s words, he might say: „The causing of one natural disaster after the other is a sign of the angry gods of earth to the human beings, who do not understand the limits of the technological civilization.”

Already half a century ago the alarm bells, to recollect humanity, have rung.

© translated by Birgit Lauenstein and Peter Nawrot 04/2005