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Founder of Aikido (30): Jigoro Kano Sensei (Part Two)

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #59 (December 1983)

We would like to thank Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba for his kind permission to publish these chapter summaries.

Founder in 1928

Many more of these episodes occurred but for the founder, who considered seeking the way of aiki the essence of his life, such “heroics” may not actually have been his intention. He was just then founding aiki and it seems that he used such displays as a means of promoting the art. Thus, in a slightly shocking fashion, the founder would give people a sort of clue to the genuine “bu” which he himself called “Takemusu Aiki.” Most people are not easily convinced without some sort of proof.

In relation to spreading the word about aiki, his meeting with Jigoro Kano must have been a real pleasure that more suited his true purposes.

Professor Kano was the principal of what is today the Tokyo Education University, and a respected leader in the field of education. Because, in his judgment, jujutsu in its ancient form was not appropriate for fostering a good personality, he ventured to systematize and transform it into a sport to suit modern people and society. The result was the founding of Kodokan Judo.

Even so, Professor Kano deeply loved the ancient martial arts and respected their character of seeking the “Way”, their practicality and the beauty of their forms. In fact, he had privately set up what he called the “Classical Martial Arts Research Group” at the Kodokan. His true intention seems to have been to preserve older arts. He himself was an exponent of some of the jujutsu systems such as the Kito-ryu and the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu.

The Kito-ryu was said to have been influenced by Chinese arts and the principle of the tradition is expressed in the following way:

It was taught that ki-to is to rise and to fall. “Ki” is the form of the positive and “to” is the form of the negative, the ying.” The teachings of the art were that one should control the strong by being weak and control the hard by being soft.

Tenjin Sbinyo-ryu is a jujutsu tradition founded by combining elements of the the Shin Shinto-ryu and the Yoshin-ryu, the later having been brought from China by a certain doctor. The Tenjin Shinyo-ryu teaches that “one’s body should be filled with ki,” and also emphasizes flexibility and the use of atemi, attacks to anatomically weak points on the body. Both of these elements have a deep relationship with the prototype of aikido.

Professor Kano had taken note of these aspects in the founder’s aiki bujutsu. In addition, having also practiced both the Kito-ryu and the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu, arts considered to be the origins of modern judo, the founder and Professor Kano were comrades in a common interest. Thus, Professor Kano probably sympathized with the founder’s stubborn resistance to any attempt at making his aiki into a mere form of physical exercise. Professor Kano’s judo had taken exactly the opposite path so he may have been delighted to see in aiki something that helped to reduce the anguish of the dilemmas which had resulted from his own efforts at blending (the old values and the new).

In October of 1930, Professor Kano paid a special visit to the founder at the temporary Mejiro Dojo. I have heard it said that he even commented, “This is what I call the ideal budo; that is to say, the true and genuine judo.” After Professor Kano returned to his Kodokan he told one of his close associates:

To tell the truth I would like to have Ueshiba here at the Kodokan, but since he is a master in his own right, that is quite impossible. As a second choice I would like to send some of our own talent to train with Ueshiba and try to promote an exchange between the two systems.

A few days later he sent Minoru Mochizuki and Jiro Takeda to study under the founder. I have in my possession Professor Kano’s very polite letter on the matter:

October 28, 1930

Dear Sir:

I thank you deeply for the hospitality I received when I visited you the other day. As I mentioned at that time, I would like to select some serious persons to receive instruction from you. I have searched and chosen a man by the name of Takeda, the same person who accompanied me when I visited you, and in addition, one other person by the name of Mochizuki. I have arranged to have Mr. Shuichi Nagaoka visit you within a few days to formally make the request on my behalf, so please discuss the matter with him.

Again, accept my thanks for your hospitality and please note the request contained in this letter.

Jigoro Kano

Minoru Mochizuki joined on this occasion. He is now the head of Yoseikan Budo (centered in Shizuoka), a comprehensive budo of his own invention that has adapted aikido into its curriculum. Mr. Mochizuki relates his own memories about the founder:

Kano Sensei said to us, ‘You two go and study and make a honorable showing of your selves. That will help in handing down the Japanese ancient martial arts to posterity…

(O-Sensei) seemed to have mastered some secret principle that transcended common knowledge. I wished to search its depth and master it myself…

He dealt with things with his superhuman ability. He could intuitively respond to the “vibrations” of an opponent’s technique before the moves were manifested. It was a form of inspiration or spirit-sense. It is no wonder that there was not a match for him anywhere “under the heavens.”

These transcendent abilities were the natural manifestations of unceasing discipline and training of the mind and the body in the “Realm of Penetrating (Insight)” where he was unified with the “Universal Ki of All Creation.”

The fact that so many capable judo men followed the founder, like Tomiki and Mochizuki, always reminds me of the depth of understanding between Professor Kano and the founder, Morihei. An old proverb seems appropriate:

“A man of virtue will always attract admirers.”

(Translated from Japanese by Stanley A. Pranin and Midori Yamamoto)