Pure Aikido

There are two motto’s at Pure Aikido

By Marcus Encel

There are two motto’s at Pure Aikido….and they are also my personal motto’s, (no surprise there).

Always take

1. “The path of least resistance” and

2. Minimum effort for maximum effect.

Don’t oppose strength but redirect. Don’t clash intellectually and personally, strive to harmonise the situation. Struggle against the instinct for conflict. Change negative energy into positive. Improve yourself everyday and follow your dreams. Be strong enough to oppose conflict and wise enough to avoid it!

Pure Aikido

Always find Reasons to Train never reasons not to

By Marcus Encel

When you decide to become good at Aikido it requires a commitment to training. Everyone struggles at some time in their Aikido life. The pressures of life can mount up. The old cliche applies here “quitters never win and winners never quit”.

If you decide to become an Aikido ka stopping is never an option. Everyday you must look for the reasons to train never attempt to find reasons not to. This is the secret of long term Keiko.

Pure Aikido

States of Keiko

By Marcus Encel

Within the practice of Aikido there reside many levels. levels of practice, levels of intensity, spirituality and ki. Aikido differs when it is practiced on the mat or in a live (street) situation. In a normal class our basic practice method revolves around static, flowing and ki methods. They represent

A- Static, the generation of control and technique by generating momentum from a static position or hold

B- Flowing. Flowing movement to facilitate the use of timing and flowing ki states with a high degree of cooperation.

C- Ki. A piercing execution of waza that is closer to the self defense form that displays the waza at its most abreviated form but retains the use of Ki in a self defense situation.

Basic practice is not to vie for a winning position it is to practice TOGETHER> In a free-sparring situation injuries can and will most certainly occur.

In the Aikido taught effective technique is paramount as that is the gauge of whether what we are doing is correct-it is not however the whole goal. the goal is the cultivation of KI and self development and bringing harmony to our environment. It takes many years to harmonize the use of deadly self defense with spiritual self development.

The other day in practice i was giving this analogy. 

“The basic level in Sankyo omote I am giving the opponent the option of countering my atemi or the sankyo but not both. The next level of training is that they are locked into the centre and the atemi becomes like a mystical ki extension that moves the opponent but really it is that the are locked so solidly into our centre that they cannot  get out of our orbit of control. The highest level is that there is no pressure on the opponent and in fact they are no longer an opponent but an orbiting object which doesnt know how and why they are under control. No strength is required. the previous states must be mastered before this can be achieved, 


The key to improving Aikido is daily practice.

The key to improving Aikido is daily practice. I say it all day. But that is not enough. One spends so much time and effort acquiring any skill that once a certain level is reached it is easy to become complacent or to not take new information on. This is the beginning of stagnation. Everyday one must come in with something in mind to sharpen or to focus on a weak area. This way we keep fresh and at the same time condition ourselves to practice excellence.

True Aikido is a level of virtuosity above what would normally be considered good. As a martial art Aikido can be functional at a lower level but will not become transcendent until excellence has been attained and maintained. Real Aikido soars above the techniques and the movements of the art. It becomes High Art, philosophy mastery. One has to go through the normal levels one would in any martial art but also go further.

The key to improving Aikido is daily practice.

Pure Aikido

To cross train or not

By Marcus Encel

A big question for many Aikido-ka is how much to cross train? In Japan at the Aiki Jinja or shrine it was forbidden to practice other Martial Arts. I wasn’t too keen on that at the time. Now I understand it. Number one at an Aikido shrine it is not appropriate to do other
martial arts. Also over the course of a career in Martial arts and especially at the beginning it is hard to keep ones focus.

Beginners don’t need to be encouraged to other arts when it is hard enough to stick to one. In a world of MMA where multiple methods are advocated it seems rational to do many styles. Personally I believe in cross training be it weights, Yoga, or even other martial art styles.

But where it becomes detrimental is where a student spends time on other activities that could be spent doing Aikido. When they miss classes and seminars or events that improve their Aikido skills. I suppose it just relates to how good you want to be. If you want to be outstanding at Aikido you have to put Aikido first. If you are content to do as a purely social or recreational thing then a lower level of intensity is OK.

So to sum up when you consider yourself a true Aikido practitioner who is trying to take the art to its quintessential form you have to ask yourself if the time you spend on other things is diminishing your Aikido mat time. If it competes for Aikido time you have to say IT IS DETRIMENTAL , if you can do it and maintain your regular classes and practice sessions its OK.

One thing is for sure. A student will never be able to equal the feats of O’Sensei by putting Aikido second. Aikido was an art which originally was learnt by experts of other Budo arts. Obviously it requires a singular focus to master it. Just research how hard O’Sensei trained or his best students Morihiro Saito Sensei, Rinjiro Shirata sensei, Tohei sensei, trained. They put in superhuman efforts. This is what I attempt to model. In a world where so much competes for time its difficult over a lifetime to maintain focus.

Personally I want for myself, and my students to engage in a practice that they maintain for life, when they get a partner, have children, get more challenging jobs, So by all means do cross training and even other martial arts …..just don’t let it cut down, or take over your Aikido time. In ones life there are many things that compete for your time. To excel….choose Aikido!


Aikido and Weapons The Last Word?

Originally published on

by Stanley Pranin

The debate about whether aikido should include weapons training is a long-standing one and we have frequently offered a forum to proponents of both sides of the issue in the pages of Aikido Journal. I have both observed and been a participant in these discussions and would like to bring up a few points which I don’t recall having seen mentioned elsewhere.

First of all, I think a reasonable starting point would be to review where Morihei Ueshiba stood on the subject of weapons. Without engaging in a lengthy historical assessment of this subject, let me simply point out a few facts. As we have documented exhaustively over the past ten years, the major technical influence on aikido is Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. Ueshiba’s teacher, Sokaku Takeda, was a master swordsman and weapons expert who spent many of his formative years studying a variety of weapons. Takeda only settled on jujutsu techniques as the main component of his martial arts instruction in deference to the times, when the carrying of swords was prohibited by law. Takeda’s bujutsu was comprehensive in nature and can in no way be considered to have been limited solely to jujutsu techniques. Daito-ryu technique is built on the principles of the sword.

Another fact: from 1942 through at least the end of the 1950s, Morihei Ueshiba spent a great deal of time at his country dojo in Iwama experimenting with the aiki ken and jo. One of his main students at that time, Morihiro Saito, was a first-hand witness to this process and the body of knowledge that remains from that effort on the part of the founder can be seen in Saito Sensei’s aikido today.

One of the criticisms voiced against the above observation goes something along these lines: “O-Sensei was merely dabbling in the area of weapons and never really developed this aspect of training into a finished discipline like his taijutsu or empty-handed techniques.” The problem with this view is that the period of time involved amounts to nearly twenty years. This certainly would be enough time for a skilled martial artist like Ueshiba to integrate such a body of technical knowledge into his training. Remember, too, that as early as 1937 the founder took active steps to expose himself to the weapons-based classical art of Kashima Shinto-ryu at his Kobukan Dojo. His blood-oath even appears in the enrollment records of that school!

Furthermore, I would point out that many of the common technical terms in aikido are derived from kenjutsu. Words such as tegatana, shomenuchi, yokomenuchi, and shihonage clearly reflect an underlying knowledge of swordsmanship. Likewise, a major body of techniques characteristic of aikido, iriminage, are based on thrusting and entering movements with the sword. In fact, the whole concept of irimi or entering is borrowed from sword technique.

Let us be clear: the study and practice of weapons was a long-term passion of the founder. Those who would suggest otherwise are either ignorant of aikido history or are politically motivated.

It is, however, a historical fact that the founder prohibited the practice of the ken and jo at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, EXCEPT for Saito Sensei’s classes. A rather revealing fact, I would say! Should it then be surprising that the Hombu Dojo of today has publicly stated—I refer to the published comments of Dojo-cho Moriteru Ueshiba and 8th dan Masatake Fujita—that weapons training is not part of aikido?

The answer to the question of whether or not aikido includes weapons training depends then on the definition of the authority you consult. There is no universally accepted agreement on what aikido is, either technically or philosophically. Moreover, the average practitioner looks to his immediate instructor as the final authority on the subject of the art. Even an organization cannot impose its viewpoint on the content of training at the individual dojo level unless it is willing to adopt and enforce a rigid set of regulations. Such an approach seriously inhibits the growth and influence of the group as has been shown many times.

As an illustration, within the Aikikai Hombu organization—whose official position as we have seen excludes weapons training—well-known teachers such as Shoji Nishio, Nobuyoshi Tamura, Kazuo Chiba, Mitsunari Kanai and numerous others incorporate iaido in their curricula. No attempt has been made to prevent them from doing so. From where I sit, the whole debate boils down to semantic quibbling. There will never be a satisfactory answer to the question of weapons and aikido that is convincing to everyone.

All of the arguing in the world about the virtues or demerits of such training will not change this fact. Those whose personal teachers advocate weapons training, or who independently arrive at the conclusion that weapons are an important adjunct to taijutsu training, will proceed according to their convictions, Those who have been persuaded that the practice of weapons is harmful or inappropriate to their progress in taijutsu will reject weapons altogether and inherit a set of prejudices that serve to justify their belief.

Is this the last word on the subject? I doubt it, but I hope to have contributed a few new perspectives to the debate.

Abe Sensei

Abe Sensei Interview 2

Originally published on

Renowned calligrapher and aikido master recollects his experiences as both student and teacher of Morihei Ueshiba.


Sensei, you are well known as a master calligrapher. How was it that you started down “the path of the brush?”

I used to be a school teacher, first at the elementary school level, then at a girls’ school, and then at the junior and senior high school and university levels. During that time, I often asked myself, “What is the most important thing I can impart to my students?” One of the answers I arrived at was “to appreciate, value, and honor one’s parents.” This conclusion was probably influenced, at least in part, by the general Japanese cultural value of taking one’s household and ancestors into consideration before thinking about oneself.

In my case, my father happened to be a skilled calligrapher, so I thought the best way to “honor” him, as it were, would be to take up the brush myself. Doing so became one of my goals in life. By coincidence my mother’s name happened to be “Fude,” which is also the Japanese word for “brush!” Anyway, it seemed apparent to me that part of my destiny lay in trying to make something of myself as a calligrapher.

My father had studied calligraphy under a well-known Osaka calligrapher by the name of Ekido Teranishi and therefore his style bore Teranishi’s influence to some extent and he became quite skilled. It occurred to me that I was probably the successor, and that is how I came to take up calligraphy myself.

Has calligraphy been a tradition in your family over the generations?

Yes, for quite a while it seems. Ever since I can remember practically every room in our house has always been decorated by the framed calligraphic works of previous generations.


I’ve heard that at one point in your calligraphy career you found yourself at something of a deadlock —a period of stagnation, if you will— and it was then that you discovered a group called the Misogikai that helped you break through that barrier. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

One’s growth as a calligrapher comes in a number of stages. To begin with, you learn how to work with the “form” or “shape” of the characters. Fortunately, there are so many examples of beautiful form —going all the way back to the Han Dynasty in China even— that there’s not much chance of stagnation when it comes to exploring form. Where I started to run into trouble was in my exploration of “line” (although “line” may be too simplistic a term), which is what you work on after you’ve mastered form to a certain degree. When it comes to line, concepts like “thickness” and “thinness” are easy enough to understand, but in addition to these you also have to work with “depth” and “shallowness.” Shallowness is easy enough to understand as well, so what I was having trouble with had to do with adding depth to my brushstrokes. Such depth is more or less invisible to the eye, yet it is still one of the qualities that gives life to a calligraphic work. So much so, in fact, that it may be considered the very heart and soul of Japanese calligraphy. The degree of thickness or thinness is a relatively visible quality that determines whether a line conveys the intended degree of energy or vigor, but qualities like depth (and also “height”) are invisible to the eye and therefore much more elusive.

It was there that I found my growth as a calligrapher moving toward to an impasse. It was about that time that I first encountered Kenzo Futaki’s Misogi no Renseikai (Misogi Training Society). Kenzo Futaki was a Doctor of Medicine and a pre-war student of Morihei Ueshiba. This Misogikai was a group dedicated to exploring and teaching methods that could be used to draw on a kind of “psychological” or “spiritual” strength beyond mere physical strength —what we might now call misogi (purification) to draw out”ki”. It sounded like exactly what I needed. The application date had already passed, but they made an exception for me and I was able to join the first session, which was conducted as kind of “training camp” consisting of about a week’s worth of seminars.

Was the Misogikai the creation of Futaki Sensei himself?

Yes, he was the one who set it up, although the training methods taught were derived from those formulated by Bonji Kawatsura [philosopher who organized and formalized Japanese misogi practices], which were taught at the Misogikai by one of Kawatsura Sensei’s students, Ken Tatsumi.

What were some of those practices?

There are eight major ones. Standing under cold water (mizu no gyo) is one of the more well known. The eight include norito no sojo, mizu no gyo, furitama no gyo, ameno-torifune no gyo, chinkon no gyo, otakebi okorobi and ibuki no gyo, genshoku no gyo, and bunkon touitsu no gyo.

Are these practices related to the Omoto religion?

What Futaki Sensei and Kawatsura Sensei were doing was based not on religion, but on traditional Japanese customs and mores. Misogi practices are really nothing more than specific formalization of various customs commonly followed by the Japanese in their daily lives in ancient times. They are not, in other words, derived from Indian Buddhism or Chinese Confucianism, but from ancient Japanese practices that are clearly documented in works like the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters). Kawatsura Sensei’s work involved casting these in accessible forms that anybody can pursue.

Did Kawatsura Sensei ever author any books on misogi?

One of best would be his ten-volume Bonji Kawatsura: Collected Works. Although it is written in the formal Chinese style (kambun), it is still probably the most accessible work on misogi for ordinary Japanese people. The treatment of the subject gives readers an excellent sense of what Kawatsura Sensei was all about, although, because he was a philosopher and a scholar of religion, the discussion becomes quite sophisticated and difficult to follow in places. Futaki Sensei, on the other hand, was a doctor trained in modern medical science, so he was easier to understand. He was also a scholar of the Kojiki and at the Misogikai presented his interpretations of the Kojiki and the norito which are formulaic statements or prayers, formulated in classical language, addressed to the deities present at Shinto rituals.

Were those interpretations part of the seminar syllabus?

Yes. In fact, they were a primary focus of the seminar. In between cold-water training sessions we listened to Futaki Sensei lecture on his interpretations of the Kojiki and the norito. The cold-water training lasted anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour, four times a day (once in the morning, twice in the afternoon, and once in the evening).

Futaki Sensei was also an enthusiastic advocate of eating unrefined brown rice. Reducing your consumption of food is one of the most difficult aspects of misogi practice, but it is considered quite important based on the idea that eating a normal amount limits your mind to having only normal thoughts. Brown rice is good for this because it’s one of the best foods you can give your body. The fact that it is unrefined puts it closer to living rice —it will sprout if you plant it, for example—, so eating just a little bit is enough. This “brown rice-assisted” reduction of food consumption comes first. Then you move into the cold-water training. Naturally pouring cold water over your body makes you cold, which leads then to the practice of <>furitama and, later, chinkon kishin. Altogether these comprise a set of practice toward a degree of enlightenment, toward the experience of a state of being of great spiritual height and depth that is inexpressible in words, a state of mind and being in which we truly know what it is to live and to be alive.


Did practicing misogi allow you to break through the deadlock you faced in your calligraphy?

It changed my attitude and way of thinking about my calligraphy. It was also about the same time that Futaki Sensei recommended I take up aikido. He demonstrated a throw on me and I was extremely impressed. He said, “Our nation is home to a budo as wonderful as this, and I strongly recommend that you take it up if you ever have the chance. You young people these days seem to have a few hoops loose, and I think it would do you good.” His technique was so impressive that I knew right then that aikido would be in my future, although I didn’t know how or when I would find a teacher. With the war growing more intense, Morihei Sensei rarely taught the general public and spent most of his time teaching at places like the Toyama school and the Nakano school, special military institutions in Tokyo where he taught.

Your study of misogi and the Kojiki must have prepared you naturally to take up aikido. How did you finally meet Ueshiba Sensei?

Bansen Tanaka [1912-1988] opened an aikido dojo in Osaka in 1952. The day after the dojo opening I happened to be passing by and noticed the name “Tsunemori Ueshiba” on the doorplate. Tanaka and I were acquainted, although I hadn’t known he did aikido. I saw that he was at home, so I went inside and said, “I noticed the name on the doorplate. Is Ueshiba Sensei really here? “ He replied that indeed he was, and that the dojo opening had been just the day before. Ueshiba Sensei himself came out a little while later and that was the first time I saw him. When I introduced myself as a student of Futaki Sensei he took an immediate interest in me and told me to come right in. Then he started talking about all sorts of difficult things about very sophisticated concepts having to do with chinkon kishin and so on. He went on like that for quite a while, and when he had finally finished he said, “That’s all for today. Come again tomorrow!”

And you became his student from that day forward?

Yes, and I consider myself very lucky, too, since during that period it was very rare for him to take on new students. At the time he generally wouldn’t teach anyone who didn’t come with at least two formal introductions.


What influence did practicing both misogi and aikido eventually have on your calligraphy?

The three converged into one for me. Aikido, for example, is ultimately not really about twisting wrists, causing pain, or throwing people; it is about cultivating “ki,” which is something distinctly different from these things. The same is true of calligraphy. There are five or ten thousand characters we can brush in learning about form and line, but ultimately we are pursuing something beyond these, and that something is none other than “ki“.So calligraphy and aikido became the exact same pursuit for me and I began to practice both as hard as I could.

You once remarked that “the essence of calligraphy lies in kokyu. (lit. breath).” Is this the same sort of kokyu we find in aikido?

The very same. This brings to mind the question, “What exactly are we teaching when teach calligraphy?” We teach form and how to draw the characters, of course, but I think if we are unable to teach a certain “something more,” then the life will go out of calligraphy and it will no longer interest people.

That “something more” is very important, then, isn’t it?

It is indeed. Unfortunately, although calligraphy is quite popular these days, I have a feeling that most of it fails to offer the potential to discover this “something more.”

Would you say this is something you have to develop on your own, through sincere practice and by working through your own process?

Yes, and once you have it, you can start feeling out the range of your own skills by executing physically large pieces or by passing on what you have learned —what you have gleaned— to the next generation. In other words, at that point your activities become focused on either challenging yourself through your works or placing yourself in a middle position from which to transmit what you have to others. Those are the two paths.

How was it that Morihei Sensei came to take up calligraphy?

I think he actually did a bit even before we met, although I doubt many of those works remain.

In 1954,I accompanied Morihei Sensei to Shingu to attend the opening of Michio Hikitsuchi’s dojo there. We stayed for about a month, and since Morihei Sensei hated seeing people idle he told me to teach calligraphy in between aikido classes. A photographer by the name of Kubo got together a group of students and suddenly I found myself with a part-time job!

Morihei Sensei would watch me teaching like that and gradually began to take an interest himself. Before I knew it he saying, ”Well, perhaps I’ll do a few myself…”The first thing he brushed was the word “aiki,” although I’m not sure where that particular piece is now.

After we returned from Shingu he started coming to my home and would always spend whole days practicing calligraphy. That seemed to be his greatest joy.

What was it like “teaching” your own teacher?

He was my aikido teacher, so naturally it was more or less unthinkable that I would “teach” him in the usual method of giving him a sample of my work to practice copying, I simply asked him politely to watch as I brushed the strokes.

Watching me he would always say things like,”Ah, yes, I see that you could write it like that!…”

One of the most difficult things was the fact that he would brush everything so fast that I had trouble clarifying the space for the signature. There’s only one suitable place for the signature, you see, so I tried to time it just right —using a kind of aiki, you know— to point out that spot in a way that would match his strokes perfectly and not interrupt the flow.

There is one unusual calligraphic piece that Morihei Sensei did using his finger instead of a brush. Examples of finger-painted ink paintings do exist, so I think he must have heard about these and decided he wanted to try the same in his calligraphy.Most people would not have thought of doing such a thing.

Morihei Sensei had a certain tension in him whenever he took up the brush, I think because he always expressed his entire being through the tip of the brush. Using the ink as a medium, he transferred his ki into the characters as he brushed them. Look at his works today and you can immediately sense the amazingly strong ki imbued in them. Interestingly, it is foreigners who cannot read Japanese characters who seem to perceive this ki most strongly.

Ueshiba Sensei’s spirit resides in his calligraphy not in the forms or shapes of the characters, but in their resonance and light. Similarly, that spirit resides in aikido not in the techniques you can see with your eyes, but in those you cannot.

Morihei Sensei always executed his calligraphic works in a single spell, but also without thinking overly much about his breath (kokyu). It was the same in performing exercises like furitama and otakebi [in Shinto, vigorous shouting for the purpose of summoning deities]. He always told us to simply take about three breaths before beginning furitama, the point being that instead of acting without awareness, you should first settle your breath in your center (hara). This emphasis on setting the breath in the hara is something that ties together calligraphy and aikido.


Did you begin your aikido career as an uchideshi?

Yes, in a way, but actually it was Morihei Sensei who would come to my home —to practice calligraphy, as I mentioned— instead of the other way around. This put me in the rather unusual position of being uchideshi in my own home! We had a special room set aside for him, and it was there that we developed our relationship as student and teacher. Nonetheless, it was very much an old-style student-teacher relationship rooted in strict bushido attitudes. The discipline was not externally imposed, however, but came rather from the attitudes and behaviors to which any uchideshi naturally subjects himself out of a desire to serve his teacher. This is really the only way to truly grasp and absorb your teacher’s “kokyu.” Living with your teacher under the same roof twenty-four hours a day gives you access not only to his technical abilities, but also to an understanding of the very way he lives and breathes, his way of life and his rhythms. It is an opportunity to train and discipline your ki, and in the process to know all of the sides of your teacher. Morihei Sensei used to visit for a week or ten days at a time, and being in such close contact with his very life and being for such extended periods was a truly amazing and precious experience.

For example, when preparing tea I had to sense or judge just how thirsty he was and adjust the temperature accordingly. Or in preparing his bath, I had to be very careful to make the water temperature just right -and not simply by sticking my hand in to test it directly-, but by taking some in a pail and judging from that. If I put my hand in directly, a little bit of oil from my skin would come off in the water and somehow he’d know about it. In other words, serving one’s teacher means being sensitive and conscientious and doing things properly and appropriately, without taking shortcuts. Even when sleeping in an adjacent room, my breath had to be matched with his at all times. Such experiences are the amazing part about being an uchideshi.

Was Morihei Sensei influenced in his diet at all by Futaki Sensei’s recommendation to eat brown rice?

He always ate brown rice whenever he stayed at my home. Futaki Sensei once told me that if ever I had the opportunity I should have Morihei Sensei eat brown rice. When I mentioned this to Morihei Sensei he just said, “I see…”, and from then on ate brown rice whenever he stayed with us.


Do you interpret aikido based on your studies of the Kojiki?

I personally have not yet made any of my own decisive interpretations of the Kojiki. There are many people who have come to learn from me, but I hardly ever talk about the Kojiki in teaching them aikido. Take the idea of Ame no Minakanushi. Someone given to a religious perspective would probably view Ama no Minakanushi as a specific deity to be worshipped. But as a modern Doctor of Medicine, Futaki Sensei avoided this kind of idolatry. Instead of talking about such things in terms of kotodama, he interpreted them in more modern language. His interpretation of Ame no Minakanushi, for example, went like this: Ame, literally meaning “heavenly” or “divine,” is simply a term of respect; no is a simple grammatical connector; Mi is a respectful prefix. That leaves naka (center, middle) and nushi (lord, holder of). He felt, therefore, that Ame no Minakanushi does not represent some specific deity observing us from some divine perspective in the cosmos, but that it refers instead to the very first ancestor of our nation who, according to Futaki Sensei, taught the idea of “the importance of the center” (the center being something that every living human being has).”Understand that center and cherish it” was his interpretation. He spoke of aikido as being circular movement, saying that one must find the center and lead all into the circles that surround it. The modern aikido we practice today is no different in the sense that we teach people to be their own centers, to work with centrifugal and centripetal forces to draw their partner into or around that center, thereby coaxing and cajoling the attacker into a position that allows him to be controlled. These circles can also be taken into three-dimensional form to become spirals. In any case, Ame no Minakanushi is the individual who taught that “the centers of things are important.”

This idea holds true across many aspects of daily life. Think about who is at the center of a typical (traditional) Japanese home, for example. In the morning the wife is the center at first as she arises and begins preparing breakfast. Then the husband comes to the table and he becomes the center as he eats and prepares to leave for work. The center then shifts to the children as they get ready to go off to school. Once everyone has left the house, the wife once again becomes the center as she takes care of the daily household business.

Another example would be the three of us participating in this interview. Since I’m the one speaking at the moment, I am Minakanushi. When you respond or ask another question, then you become that center. The center, in other words, is something that shifts. So Ame no Minakanushi represents not any specific deity or idol, but rather this concept of the importance of the center. This was an example of Futaki Sensei’s interpretation of the Kojiki.

Would it be correct to say that the Kojiki was at the core of O’Sensei’s thinking?

Yes, at least in terms of explaining technique. Also, the Kojiki is one of the only things in Japan that is nearly absolute and unchanging, containing as it does the Shinto traditions and transmissions of the Japanese people as a nation. The essence or path of Japan is represented in the Kojiki, particularly in the tales up to Izanagi no Mikoto and Ama Terasu O-Mikami. That in which we can believe most strongly is contained in the legends describing Ame no Minakanushi through the first seven divine generations of the age of the gods. A close reading of these will show that Onisaburo Deguchi Shoshi’s [1871-1948, co-founder of the Omoto religion] interpretations were quite appropriate, at least in terms of the spirit which is present in words.

It would have been quite interesting to hear a discussion of the Kojiki between Futaki Sensei and Ueshiba Sensei, don’t you think?

It certainly would have been. I think it would be very easy for someone with a background in the Omoto religion interpretations of the Kojiki to understand Futaki Sensei’s interpretations and vice-versa. Someone with an understanding of Futaki Sensei’s interpretations of Minakanushi as “center” would have no trouble understanding the kind of “center” Onisaburo Deguchi Shoshi spoke of. The only essential difference is that Futaki Sensei’s interpretations came from a scientific perspective instead of a religious one. Morihei Sensei and Futaki Sensei differed in this way in their interpretations of the Kojiki, although I don’t think they ever discussed these differences.

Did Ueshiba Sensei ever talk about his experiences in Hokkaido?

He often talked about misogi in Hokkaido. He mentioned performing cold-water ablutions in temperatures well below freezing, saying that while he had to work hard to cut a hole in the thick ice the first day, the ice in that same area was thinner the next day so it was not as difficult.


I understand you’ve done extensive study of Ueshiba Sensei’s doka (lit., “Songs of the Way”). Perhaps you could give us an overview of how we may best understand Ueshiba Sensei in light of these verses?

One thing I’ve noticed is that there is a certain consistency of focus running through O’Sensei’s doka, a consistency that suggests it may be better to avoid dividing them —as has been done in the past— into prewar and postwar doka. They are focused not so much on people or things in the human sphere as they are on the universe itself, and on offering clues as to how to be in harmony with that universe. This is certainly true of the postwar doka, but the prewar doka are also characterized by this focus. The doka from both periods express the idea that “bu (the martial) is love” (“bu wa ai nari”) and interpret the sword as “the life-giving sword (katsujinken).”This idea of the martial as a manifestation of the qualities of love and harmony is consistent throughout O-Sensei’s doka.

Did O-Sensei often compose his doka as brushed calligraphic works?

No, most often he wrote them with a pen in one of the small notebooks he used to carry in his bag. One of these remains in my home even now and I treasure it greatly. He had very skilled handwriting. Morihei Sensei started keeping a diary from around the time of his enlightenment experience by the side of the well to around the end of the Taisho era [1912-25] and he continued with it for many years. Being deeply learned, he used a style of script known in Japanese calligraphy as “hentai kana,” an anomalous cursive-style syllabary.

Morihei Sensei’s doka are filled with references to Omoto theology, but their essential spirit goes beyond Omoto to embrace the Japanese “spirit of harmony,” and also the kotodama wa (a word for harmony). Consequently, I think it better to view and understand these in a historical rather than a religious context.

The enlightenment that Morihei Sensei achieved through his training broadened him greatly, as a human being and a martial artist, and this growth shows up consistently in the seven or eight different themes he addressed in his doka, one of which, for example, makes reference to “the divine techniques of Odo.” Morihei Sensei’s study of Daito-ryu and his involvement in the Omoto religion obviously influenced him greatly, but I suspect that the misogi training he pursued from a very early stage was also of paramount importance in making him who he was as a man and as a martial artist. He suggested this himself in statements like “aikido is misogi.” Put slightly differently,” aikido is the divine techniques of Odo.” [According to the Kojiki, Izanami no Mikoto, escaping from the world of death, performed ritual purification in Awagihara by the Odo (lit., “narrow river mouth”). When he threw off his impurities, Some kami or “deities” were born. Then, when he entered into the water and purified himself, more kami were born. O-Sensei said that aikido was born as a result of the thrashing about of Izanagi no Mikoto during his purification.] In my view, Morihei Sensei’s lifelong pursuit was essentially the pursuit of the divine techniques of Odo.

Do you have any specific plans to help keep the spirit of O’Sensei alive so that others may continue to know and experience it?

I feel very indebted to O-Sensei and also happen to have many of his calligraphic works in my possession, so I’ve been considering publishing these in some kind of posthumous collection. I’ve already drafted a text for this under the supervision of Kisshomaru Sensei, but there remain a number of items I would still like to add. Unfortunately, I keep getting sidetracked and can’t seem to make much progress, but eventually I hope to publish these works by Morihei Sensei so that aikido practitioners around the world may draw inspiration from them and also get a sense of who and what Morihei Sensei was.

After that I hope to house these works in some sort of memorial museum so that aikido practitioners from around the world can have an opportunity to get to know them first-hand. They are simply too precious to be sequestered away out of sight. I would like to make them accessible so that everyone may have a chance to view them and absorb all that they have to offer.

Morihei Ueshiba

The Founder of Aikido – Mover of Mountains

Originally published on

by Kazuhiko

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of James Sewell of the U.S.A. and is the first in a series of seventeen articles dealing with the life of the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, which appeared in a Japanese-language newspaper a number of years ago. The journalistic style and occasional historical inaccuracies contained in these articles do not diminish their high-interest and informative value.

Today aikido is a thriving art. Clubs have been established in America, France, Italy, England, Thailand, Burma, India, etc. In Japan, about 60 university clubs have been founded and prefecture branch dojos have cropped up in numerous locations. Present figures show that approximately 20,000 students are engaged in the study of aikido. At Hombu Dojo (the Aikido World Headquarters in Tokyo) there are more than 1,300 persons training annually.

In Tokyo, there are two individuals, both with splendid dojos, who refer to themselves as the “Founder of Aikido”. However, the true originator of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, is to be found at The Aikikai Foundation at 102, Wakamatsu-cho, Shinjuku-ku, where construction of a new dojo of reinforced concrete is in progress. Here Ueshiba, his son Kisshomaru the Director-in-Chief of Hombu Dojo, Koichi Tohei, 10th-Dan Chief Instructor, and at least ten 5th and 6th-Dan instructors are assembled.

I learned initially of the martial art of aikido during the Second World War. My first meeting with Morihei Ueshiba was in 1947, now nearly twenty years ago. I had heard various statements about aikido such as: “In Aiki, one can simultaneously fell 20 or 30 opponents empty-handed.” Also, there were stories about the legendary exploits of Ueshiba like the following: “The founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, during an Imperial tournament, seized an 8th-Dan judoka and proceeded to toss him high in the air ten times, finally causing him to lose consciousness.” Another story went as follows: “A sumo wrestler named Tenryu tried to push Ueshiba over while the latter was seated on a wooden floor. Realizing he was unable to move the aikido master, Tenryu attempted to push him again using his full body weight but, despite all his groaning, straining and perspiration, Ueshiba was still unmoved. At that point Ueshiba asked Tenryu, “How are you doing? Is that as hard as you can push?” Then, O-Sensei, his power focused in his abdomen, sent the sumo wrestler flying back about three feet, so he ended up on the ground supporting himself with his hands. The amazed Tenryu prostrated himself before Ueshiba and said, “Now, I’m thoroughly convinced”. Among the other miraculous feats heard: “Ueshiba, during the time he was linked with the Omoto sect in the Tanba region, pushed a rock weighing some 800 pounds off a hill with his bare hands,” and, “Ueshiba uprooted a 15-yr-old pine tree with his bare hands.”

Hearing so many amazing stories made me imagine I would encounter a huge man about six feet tall weighing a muscular 250 pounds who looked like a one of those fierce gods who guard temple gates. When I went to the Wakamatsu-cho dojo for the first time and stood at the entrance, the man who appeared on the wooden steps bowing to me with both hands joined was a rather old man only about five-foot-two.

“Welcome, I’m glad you’ve come, I am Ueshiba,” he said, with a Kansai accent in a gentle, unassuming manner. It was hard for me to believe that this was the “Mover of Mountains” who had founded aikido. To be quite truthful, I was somewhat disappointed. Moreover, when I found myself opposite Ueshiba in the reception room the old man appeared as innocent as a three-year-old. I thought to myself, “This is not at all what I expected.” Ironically, though, I was so attracted by his personal charm that I forgot about aikido and we ended up chatting for a long time. Perhaps we shared some things in common.

Since Ueshiba addressed me as “Sensei”, I decided to call him “O-Sensei” and since then we have enjoyed a very long association.

At the time of our first meeting O’Sensei was 68 years old. As he stood in the dojo ready to show me aikido techniques, he became a totally different person. Standing tall, eyes flashing, he performed while uttering thunderous shouts.

(Translated by Stanley A. Pranin and Katsuaki Terasawa.

Tomiki Aikido

Tomiki Aikido: An Interview with Hiroaki Kogure Sensei

Originally published on

Hiroaki Kogure Sensei studied under Kenji Tomiki Sensei at Waseda University in the 1950’s. An 8th dan, he is now contributing to the spread of Tomiki Aikido and guidance of the Japan Aikido Association as its Chief Director. Kogure Sensei talks about the JAA and its continuing efforts to develop Aikido in the spirit of Jenki Tomiki and Hideo Oba Senseis. 

There are several major organizations which control most of the flow of information in the aikido world. these organizations seem to have been the source of most practitioner’s impressions of Tomiki Aikido and I believe that this has led to some misunderstanding and prejudice against the style. One of our tasks is to contact each aikido group directly in order to understand the views of its leadership and then to present our readers with information about their activities.

Yes, I know. We appreciate the effort you are making to introduce different styles of aikido such as ours. We hope that such information will be valuable for the further development of the aikido, towards which we have always kept an open mind.

Would you please tell us about Kenji Tomiki Sensei, the Founder of the Japan Aikido Association (JAA)?

Tomiki Sensei was an 8th dan in judo and studied with Jigoro Kano Sensei. He was also active as a member of the judo club when he was a student at Waseda University. Kano Sensei originally practiced Tenjin Shinyo-ryu and Kito-ryu Jujutsu and he picked out the throwing (nagewaza) and pinning (osaewaza) techniques from these arts and combined them to create “judo,” together with a curriculum which met the needs of the educational system. Kano Sensei wanted to include in his judo striking (atemi) and joint (kansetsu) techniques along with the throwing and pinning techniques, but he passed away before he was able to accomplish his intention. Tomiki Sensei began to practice aikido in order to help carry out Kano Sensei’s plan. So, in fact, Tomiki Sensei was originally a judoka. This is how Tomiki Sensei came to study under Ueshiba Sensei. later he went to Manchuria and taught aikido at Kenkoku University and other places. However, since he was originally a judoka, he could not forget judo and he wanted to mix aikido with judo in order to bring the art closer to the ideal that Jigoro Kano had in mind. However, he found it difficult to do so because of conditions in the judo and aikido worlds. This is why he decided to study aikido thoroughly in order to introduce competition into the art. His theories were the result of much trial and error, but unfortunately Tomiki Sensei passed away before he could complete his work. Hideo Oba Sensei then carried on Tomiki Sensei’s work, and now that task has been passed on to us. Although the art is still imperfect, I believe that there is always room for progress as long as we continue to study the art.

There must have been many problems and difficulties in introducing competition into the art. Would you tell us about some of them?

The greatest difficulty was how to handle atemi since in aikido it is hard to execute an effective joint technique without using atemi. For a time we used protective gear, and we also tried using judo left-sweep techniques. In the end we decided to focus on the point where judo theory and aikido theory overlapped, and we also concentrated on creating a useful educational system. Instead of attacking anatomical weaknesses like in karate, we found it more effective to attack the mechanical weaknesses of an opponent. For example, if I take two steps forward while my opponent takes only once step back, he will naturally fall backward. In other words, power is not necessary since he is in position to fall if I move my hips straight towards him. Then he will naturally try to use his hands to prevent himself from being pushed backwards and this will result in him making physical contact with me. We thought we could execute various techniques at this precise point of contact. this is how we started our study.

Although in aikido we usually move in circular motion, in matches we tend to move along a straight line. When fighting in an empty-handed competition, a technique can only be effective if there is a great difference in ability between the two players. In a match between two strong practitioners, it is rare to see truly decisive technique. When there was criticism of this fact, Tomiki Sensei commented, “We rarely see decisive techniques in Judo competition, either. There are only about seven effective techniques in Judo matches. In karate, there are only a few variations such as punching and kicking techniques. In kendo, there are only four scoring techniques: menkoteisuki, and do. Although in aikido it is said that there are around 3,000 techniques, there is nothing strange about the fact that there is only a limited number of technique which can be used in a practical situation. So, naturally it is more difficult to execute decisive techniques in matches.” But his remark sounded strange to other martial artists.

However, since he was originally a judoka, he could not forget judo and he wanted to mix aikido with judo in order to bring the art closer to the ideal that Jigoro Kano had in mind. However, he found it difficult to do so because of conditions in the judo and aikido worlds. This is why he decided to study aikido thoroughly in order to introduce competition into the art. His theories were the result of much trial and error, but unfortunately Tomiki Sensei passed away before he could complete his work.

Then he developed a form of competition where an opponent thrusts freely with a knife. Nowadays, we use a rubber knife. That way, an opponent usually attacks with a straight thrust and this makes it easier to handle his attack and execute techniques. This form attracted the attention of teachers in the Metropolitan Police University and Tomiki Sensei and the University instructors together created the foundation of present-day police tactics. This is the way we have been studying aikido, and I believe that we will continue to make progress in the future.

The problem is that since the content of the art is always changing as a result of our studies, those practicing abroad are left behind because the teachers who originally taught them have returned to Japan. Also, we are always trying to improve our judging methods in competition, and rules concerning decisions about effective techniques or illegal actions change over the years. We have recently, among other foreign affiliates, had a little bit of difficulty over the ranking system and fees. It might be best if each country agreed unanimously, but in reality each group, even within a country, has its own situation. Therefore, we primarily use our JAA fee schedule for shodannidan, and so on, while taking into consideration the condition of each country. if the fee is too high and not acceptable to a group, then we recalculate it in terms more suitable to that country and then convert that amount into yen. Just as with judo and karate, if we Japanese insist that we are the best and do everything our way, we must be able to meet all claims from other countries. Therefore, we explained our intentions concerning the international development of Tomiki Aikido at the International Aikido meeting held at the end of last month [June 19th, 1989]. We suggested that Japan should continue to lead for the next five years, because we have not completely worked out the problem of referees in aikido. We also decided to hold an international meet once every four years here in Japan, while holding an international event once every two years in each country in turn. We have all agreed that the decision to participate in these events should be left to each group.

Would you tell us about the organizational structure of Tomiki Aikido?

The Japan Aikido Association has various branches. For example, the university clubs make up one branch known as the “All Japan Student Tomiki Aikido Federation.” Although our Hombu Dojo is located in Osaka, practice is held all over Tokyo, in places such as Waseda University, Okubo Sports Kaikan, the YMCA in Toyocho and so on. When Tomiki Sensei and Oba Sensei headed the Japan Aikido Association, they were also shihan. However, Tomiki Sensei’s wife, who is now the head, couldn’t become a shihan, and so both Tetsuro Nariyama and Fumiyaki Shishida are our shihan. Since they are still young, we have decided our responsibilities into two parts, the operational and instructional. I was asked by Oba Sensei to watch over them while they are young. Although Tomiki Sensei’s wife is the head in name, I am actually responsible for the operational side of the Association since I am also the president of the alumni association of the Waseda Aikido Club. the JAA has a number of different departments including the international department, the planning department, and the shihan department, where both Nariyama and Shishida share the responsibilities of leadership. The permanent board of directors actually runs the Association, and in its meetings basic business is conduced, and decisions are made. I am the chief director and Mr. Futami is the senior manager. Mr. Yamaguchi [current head instructor of the Waseda Club], Nariyama, and Shishida are also members of the board. Decisions made by the permanent board are also discussed at the council of the board of directors. What we do does not require money and we are all young, so we get along well and everything is going smoothly.

Then he developed a form of competition where an opponent thrusts freely with a knife. Nowadays, we use a rubber knife. That way, an opponent usually attacks with a straight thrust and this makes it easier to handle his attack and execute techniques. This form attracted the attention of teachers in the Metropolitan Police University and Tomiki Sensei and the University instructors together created the foundation of present-day police tactics. This is the way we have been studying aikido, and I believe that we will continue to make progress in the future.

How did Tomiki Sensei teach Aikido at Waseda Univeristy?

In the beginning there was no Aikido Club at Waseda University, there was only the “Aikido Circle of the Judo Club.” Since Tomiki Sensei taught both judo and aikido, aikido practice was held in the judo dojo when judo practice was not in session. About 1954, when I entered Waseda University, judo practice was held from 3:00 to 5:00 in the afternoon and only members who wanted to receive aikido training from 8:00 to 10 o’clock in the morning. In those days we didn’t practice the aikido we see now. We practiced something we called Judo Taiso (judo exercises), invented by Tomiki Sensei. We started out studying only aikido techniques which were acceptable for use in judo, such as joint techniques, and we also focused on handling attacks from a distance, since this is one of Judo’s weak points. I joined the Judo Club and practiced aikido in the morning and judo in the afternoon. It was really hared every day. then gradually aikido came to the fore and Tomiki Sensei continued his study, exploring the common points and differences between aikido and judo. In a sense, he used us a guinea pigs for his study. In this way, gradually, the aikido group separated from the Judo Club and became the Aikido Club in April, 1958, the year I graduated from the University. Tomiki Sensei became the head, as well as the chief instructor, of the new Aikido Club and withdrew from the Judo Club. It was then that the problem arose. The University claimed that since aikido didn’t have competitions, it could not recognize it as a proper University club, since all clubs belonging to the Athletic Association must have competitions. In those days, there were many Waseda students from the Aikikai and Yoshinkan and they all wanted aikido to be accepted as a university club. Finally, when Tomiki Sensei, a professor of Waseda University, applied to the University and promised that he would introduce competition into aikido, our aikido was accepted as a club. Since then, having competitions has become a very important matter. There was also a request from the University that the Waseda Aikido club should have Sokeisan, that is, an annual match against traditional rival Keio University. Since the Aikido Club of Keio Univeristy was studying Koichi Tohei Sensei’s Ki Society Aikido, having a match with them was considered impossible. However, starting several years ago [1985] the resourceful students began to hold a Sokeisen with the Keio Club, which consists of a joint practice and public joint demonstration.

Do you think it is possible that it was the strict condition imposed by the Physical Education Department Office, that is, the requirement of competition, which was responsible for the creation of Tomiki Aikido?

I think it is possible. However, it is important to understand that Tomiki Sensei “was” the Waseda University Aikido Club. I mean that it was Tomiki Sensei who created the Aikido club from the Judo Club and started competitive aikido. Also the theory of his aikido is based on the theory of education in the university. What I admire about Tomiki Sensei was that he never tried to take students away from Eushiba Sensei. He found and developed his own students, and he also taught his art to those who were practicing Judo. I suspect that it was for this reason he didn’t have an awkward relationship with this Aikikai. Then his students who continued to practice aikido after they graduated introduced it to society, and this is how the art spread.

Tada Sensei

Tada Sensei Interview

Originally published on

AJ: Sensei, I understand that you began aikido after entering Waseda University?

Tada Sensei: Yes, but because of the war I was unable to enroll in the dojo until March of 1950.

I also believe you began karate when you entered the university, and later felt drawn to aikido….

Actually, I didn’t do that much karate, although I do hold a dan ranking. At first I was practicing both arts, but I began spending more time practicing aikido, and it became impossible to do both. It wasn’t that I thought one was better than the other, but rather that I admired Morihei Ueshiba Sensei greatly. I had known him through my father since I was a boy.

In 1942, I was in Shinkyo (present-day Chang Chun, Manchuria), but I just missed Ueshiba Sensei’s performance at the famous Kenkoku University Tenth Anniversary Martial Arts Demonstration. My cousin, who is one year older than me, told me it was a fantastic demonstration. Apparently hardly anyone could take Ueshiba Sensei’s ukemi. They weren’t just being thrown, it was if they were being shocked by high-voltage electricity.

In issue number four of Aikido Tankyu [a periodical published by the Aikikai Hombu Dojo], you wrote that you were very surprised and impressed by Ueshiba Sensei’s unusual way of thinking.

When I enrolled in the dojo I was twenty years old, and Sensei was sixty-seven or so, a difference of about forty-seven years. But he threw me so easily no matter how strongly I attacked, that there seemed, in that respect, to be no difference in our ages at all. Looking back on it now it seems perfectly understandable, of course.

In any case, he had a unique air about him and he was filled with an unusual energy. I felt I had met a true martial arts expert.

Did you enter the Tempukai at the same time you began aikido?

When I entered the Hombu Dojo most of the people training there were members of either the Tempukai or the Nishikai. Of course, at the time there were only six or seven people at the dojo. Among them were Keizo Yokoyama and his younger brother, Yusaku, both of whom were students at Hitotsubashi University. Yusaku spent the last years of the war in the naval academy and entered the university after the war ended. It was he who introduced me to the Tempukai and the Ichikukai. After that another person taught me about fasting exercises. These practices, along with the teachings of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, became the basis of my training.

I was introduced to the Tempukai in June of the same year that I entered the Aikikai. Tempu Nakamura Sensei was then conducting monthly study sessions at the Gekkoden of Gokokuji Temple. Like the Aikikai, the Tempukai did little to promote itself publicly, and people became members of the Tempukai through the introduction of other members. I met Tempu Sensei and after I heard what he had to say, I joined immediately. Tempu Nakamura (1876-1968)

Were Ueshiba Sensei and Tempu Sensei acquainted with one another?

Yes. It was before I enrolled in the dojo, but it seems they had met once through an introduction by Tadashi Abe’s father, who was both a member of the Tempukai and a student of Ueshiba Sensei. Originally, the Tempukai was known as the Toitsu Tetsuigakkai (Society for the Study of Unification of Medicine and Philosophy), and it focused on the unification of mind and body. I participated in many of Tempu Sensei’s experiments, so I came to know a lot about him.

How long were you active in the Tempukai?

Until I went to Europe in October 1964. Tempu Sensei passed away in December 1968. During my six years in Europe, Morihei Ueshiba Sensei and Tempu Sensei, as well as my grandfather, all passed away.

I’ve heard that Tempu Sensei was an expert with the sword.

Yes, he was an expert in Zuihen-ryu battojutsu. He took his name, Tempu, from the Chinese characters “ten” and “pu” used to write the name of the Zuihen-ryu’s amatsukaze form, at which he was particularly skilled. Tempu Sensei was a descendant of Lord Tachibana, the daimyo in Yanagawa. The martial arts were so popular in Yanagawa that it ranked with the Saga clan of Kyushu, which was famed for the book titled Hagakure [a classic text on bushido, dictated by Tsunetomo Yamamoto in 1716]. The content of Tempu Sensei’s speeches was quite distinctive in that most of what he said originated more from his actual experience than from any intellectual process. Ueshiba Sensei was the same way. Ideas generated on an intellectual level don’t have nearly the same power to draw people.

Could you please tell us about the Ichikukai?

A man named Tetsuju Ogura was one of Tesshu Yamaoka’s last uchideshi. During the Taisho period, students and followers of Ogura together with members of the boat racing club of Tokyo Imperial University (present-day Tokyo University) created a society that practiced misogi (austerities, ritual purification). It was under the direction of Masatetsu Inoue. In the beginning, the Ichikukai gathered on the 19th of every month, in commemoration of Tesshu Yamaoka’s death on July 19th, so that’s why it was called the Ichikukai [ichiku in Japanese can mean “1 and 9,” I.e., 19].

When I joined, the meetings were held at an old Taisho period dojo in Nogata-machi in Nakano. From Thursday to Sunday we sat in seiza for about ten hours a day, chanting a passage from a norito (Shinto prayer), putting as much of our entire being into it as possible. It was something akin to chanting a mantra. After passing through this initiation you became a member, and then you could attend meetings once a month on Sunday. There they did a chanting exercise called ichiman-barai, which consisted of ringing a hand-bell ten thousand times. The sound of the bell doesn’t become clear and sharp until the movement of the hand becomes automatic. Many of my top students in the aikido classes I teach now do this practice.

Did you train with the ken or jo?

There was a period when O-Sensei would get angry when students in the dojo tried to train with the ken or jo, and he forbade them to do it. Later, though, he began teaching such things. As a child I had practiced a tradition of Japanese archery that has been passed down in my family. I also used to practice kendo in junior high school. This was during the war so it was not at all sport-oriented. After I began training in aikido I would practice swinging the ken against a tree near my home.

Personal training is important no matter what art you practice. You should create your own training program, starting with running. In my twenties and into my thirties I used to get up at 5:30 every morning and run about fifteen kilometers. When I finished that I went home and practiced striking a bundle of sticks with a bokken (wooden sword). In those days the houses in Jiyugaoka were much further apart, so I could make as much noise as I pleased. I trained using the method of Jigen-ryu, which I had learned from O-Sensei at Iwama. It’s said that in the old days the warriors of the Satsuma domain [in Kyushu] would strike a bundle of brushwood ten thousand times every day, but I could only manage about five hundred at best. At first it made my hands go numb, but after a while I was able to strike a large tree with no problem. I’ve had my students at Waseda University and Gakushuin University train in this way. I find it to be one of the best training methods for aikido.

Of course, it’s not good to use excessive physical power. Just hold the bokken-or even an ordinary stick made of green wood-lightly and squeeze with the little finger and ring finger at the moment of impact. Speed and the ability to squeeze the fingers closed properly will develop naturally. This type of gentle practice is important, because if you practice using a lot of power all the time, you may end up throwing and applying joint techniques too strongly, and this can be dangerous. In Lido, Venezia, Italy, 1968

It’s unfortunate that the limited space in our modern dojos doesn’t allow for much of this sort of training anymore. I’d like to gradually reorganize things to make such training more accessible.

What I have just described is a basic way to practice striking, but footwork, hand movement, and the development of ki through kokyuho are other important elements of one’s personal training.

You studied Morihei Sensei and devised your training method based on what you observed?

Yes. It is very important to observe your teacher’s personal training method very closely and learn it well; otherwise you may draw hasty and wrong conclusions and end up doing meaningless or mistaken training. In any case, you need to review what your teacher has taught you and attempt to discern something that represents the basic lines of it; then practice that over and over until you can do it. In this way you create your personal training method.

I think if you want to become an expert at what you do – whether it’s martial arts, sports, some kind of art, or whatever – then you need to train at least two thousand hours a year while in your twenties and thirties. That’s five to six hours a day. It probably depends on the person, but most of that time will be spent in personal training. After training on your own you can come to the dojo to confirm, try out, and work through whatever you’ve gained.

Using a tree as your aikido training partner is a very good way to practice training with power because you can strike much more forcefully than you could if your partner was another human being. It’s not appropriate to train recklessly hard when your partner is a person; you should spend that time working to develop correct, clean, razor-sharp lines.

Did Ueshiba Sensei ever talk to you about Daito-ryu or Onisaburo Deguchi?

Ueshiba Sensei always spoke very respectfully of his own teachers, including Sokaku Takeda Sensei and the Reverend Onisaburo Deguchi. The thing I remember most clearly from his talks about Daito-ryu is that he said he thought that it had a very excellent training method. After practice O-Sensei would often come back into the dojo and talk to us about various things.

I believe Ueshiba Sensei talked about religion, specifically about the Omoto religion….

Yes, and sometimes I understood quite clearly what he was talking about, while at other times it completely baffled me. But he also said to us, “This is just my way of speaking; I want each of you to understand what I am saying on your own terms, explore it deeply, and transmit it in words appropriate to the times.”

Aikido is more beneficial to humanity than is generally realized, even when viewed from the perspective of someone like myself who specializes in aikido. In 1952, when I graduated from the university all of my friends were rather surprised at my decision to specialize in aikido, probably because it was so soon after the war. For me, however, Ueshiba Sensei’s aikido embodied the essence of Japanese culture and I saw it as something that could be very important to Japan in the future.

In actuality, however, aikido seems to have found its footing in Europe more quickly than in Japan. Still, when beginning with a blank slate like that, in a completely different cultural context, aikido training is impossible without a clear understanding of what aikido is and what the goals of training are. Without these it’s like jumping onto a train without knowing in what direction or to what destination it is headed. In other words, it is important to have a clear direction to aikido training from the very beginning. As far as deciding on training methods, it is unrealistic to ask people who want to train two or three times a week to train in the same way as people who want to train for several hours every day. It’s enough to have people train in a way that is meaningful for them within the context of their individual lifestyles. Those who want to become experts or who really want to explore aikido deeply, however, need to be very clear in their minds about where they’re going and how they’re going to get there.

I can’t say anything about what is wrong or right as far as training methods go. Most martial artists are not in a position to criticize the techniques of others, for there are too many cases in which someone who appears somewhat weak turns out to be extraordinarily strong