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Founder of Aikido (03): Non-Attachment to the Material

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by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #32 (December 1978)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Jason Wotherspoon of Australia. We would also like to thank Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba for his kind permission to publish these chapter summaries.

Founder thowing Hiroshi Tada

Thus far this book has touched upon one of the many facets of O-Sensei’s personality, that is to say, the devout side of his character. There were, however, many others aspects to his complicated nature that could only be described as childish. In this chapter, a more human side of the Founder that was only seen by his family, intimate acquaintances, and high-ranking disciples will be revealed. The Founder was neglectful in material matters to the point that his family, and especially his wife, Hatsu, had to undergo great sacrifices over the years.

Speaking of this subject, there is an amusing anecdote recounted by Mr. Gozo Shioda, head of the Yoshinkan school who often accompanied the Founder in the years preceding the war. One day, while my father and Mr. Shioda were traveling on a train, a man who was standing next to the Founder suddenly jerked up into a stiff, motionless posture. Mr. Shioda recalls the following: “O-Sensei smiled and chuckled. I thought it was surely just some old acquaintance. But when the train arrived at the next station and Sensei said, ‘Okay, get off!’ and the fellow then flew off the train I asked who it was. I was surprised when O-Sensei said, ‘It was a pickpocket.’ At any rate, when the pickpocket slipped his hand quietly into Sensei’s inside pocket, in a wink, he twisted his wrist tightly and the fellow’s whole body became numb and he stood up immobile. He was a foolish chap to try and steal from the ‘kamisama’ of martial arts, but I was very much impressed that O-Sensei had calmly let the pickpocket go. Since O-Sensei wasn’t carrying any money at all, I guess he didn’t have any sense of being a victim at that time…” Not only was O-Sensei not in the habit of carrying much money, but he would also walk right past train station employees with a dignified air but without a train ticket when traveling. He would entrust all his money and belongings to whomever was accompanying him at the time. So far as I know he was never stopped and the reason must have been that the station employees were in some way intimidated by him.

Among O-Sensei’s other idiosyncracies was his insistence on arriving at least one hour ahead of time for a scheduled trip, yet he would sometimes change his mind after two or three minutes on the train and return home. On occasion, he would even leave the train without a word to his traveling companion to the great shock of the latter. It is difficult to say what caused this sort of behavior. Perhaps it was due to O-Sensei’s highly developed intuition that he sensed something wrong with his body condition or he foresaw some unpleasant event for the trip. Also, he would frequently react negatively to his traveling companion and find conversation unbearable. There was one incident when he was chatting pleasantly with a man on a train but for some unknown reason the conversation turned sour for the Founder and he got up from his seat and left the man instructing me to carry on the conversation.

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