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Interview with Noriaki Inoue (1)

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #73 (December 1986)

Noriaki Inoue

I was born in Wakayama Prefecture in 1902 and brought up there. At the age of 15 I came to know of the Omoto religion and went to Kameoka at 19 to study under Master Onisaburo Deguchi. Since then, basing myself of the teachings of the Master, I studied on my own and created Shin’ei Taido (Shinwa Taido). From my early days I have devoted myself to budo and engaged in matches in many areas but have never been defeated. Thus I have acquired a reputation in the budo world.

My uncle’s father (Yoroku Ueshiba) was my grandfather. My mother married into our house (Inoue) from the Ueshiba family. She was the eldest Ueshiba daughter. Morihei was the fourth child. There were five brothers and sisters and Morihei was the only son. So, there was not much difference in our ages (eighteen years) even though we speak in terms of uncle and nephew. (Laughter) We all studied in the same way. Ueshiba quit his middle school when he was in the first or second year and came to work in our store in Tokyo. I think he continued his schooling there. I believe that since he had time at night he went to a Judo dojo for practice as a dojo was nearby. I had an older brother and, while we were living in Tanabe, my uncle, my brother and I studied old-style Judo. I was only about ten years old then.

Does that have something to do with Kiyoichi Takagi Sensei?

Yes, yes. Mr. Takagi. He was still young then. A teacher was needed in Tanabe so Mr. Takagi was invited. You know the story very well! Is he still alive?

No, but his wife is. In what year did you and Ueshiba Sensei learn Judo?

It was the end of the Meiji period (around 1911) when I was still a boy. My grandfather was a strict person and thought that Judo would be good for us since it was a sport and thought it was a good amusement for boys. He asked the Kodokan to send someone to him. Mr. Takagi came to Tanabe at the request of my grandfather. First, he came to our house. Oh, I see, you (the editor) knew about this. So this kind of thing is recorded in history. (Laughter) I think Mr. Takagi stayed with us for about two years. We took care of him but he suddenly returned home. Ueshiba, too, had various tasks to do and didn’t have time to practice Judo all the time.

Is this the period after Ueshiba Sensei left the army.

Yes… After he came back from the army. Then he had to go to Hokkaido. When we were practicing in the dojo in Sengakuji in Tokyo many years later, Takagi Sensei came to the dojo. Someone came up to me and said, “Oh, it’s been a long time, Bo-chan?” I asked him who he was and he said he was Takagi. I had forgotten about him. (Laughter) I suggested that Takagi Sensei should practice with us but he responded, “Oh, no. If I were thrown by people like you I would not be able to survive.” I told him not to make a joke like that and we laughed. (Laughter) He had brought a team of young Judo students from the Kodokan with him on that occasion. There were also people like Admiral Takeshita, Kosaburo Gejo Sensei of Yagyu and various others. Mr. Takagi observed the class very earnestly. When I told him he should practice with us since it had been a long time, he laughed and replied that the times had changed. Those were the good old days.

Do you recollect anything about Masakatsu Nakai Sensei or Tsuboi Sensei of Yagyu-ryu in Sakai City (near Osaka)?

I will just say that the only person I know of in Yagyu-ryu is Kosaburo Gejo Sensei. Please excuse me for not telling you more than this.

I am a student of the Omoto religion and a believer. I am a student of Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei. It was this teacher who made roe realize the essence of budo for the first time. Until then I didn’t understand it at all. I thought that one had to be strong. In the old days, that’s all there was to it. One had to be strong and win and that was all. (Laughter) But where does this strength come from? And where does weakness come from? Is there really any true strength or weakness? This was the first question I dealt with at the age of thirteen. My family had land occupying some 7.90 square kilometers in Hokkaido in those days and I was a child of this influential family. Therefore I thought I was the greatest. I wondered if I was really strong or not compared to other people. I thought I might be strong only because of the power of my family. I believed that the strength I had was only related to this power/or authority. Then I thought that this was not good and felt I had to study what I learned about from my grandfather, that is, “affinity”. This was how I came to study budo.

In the meantime, Morihei Ueshiba Sensei met Takeda Sensei for the first time at the Hisada inn in Engaru in Hokkaido.

This photo was taken from the “eimeiroku” (student enrollment book) of Sokaku Takeda Sensei.

He made everyone write his name in the eimeiroku. That was a problem for roe too.

He said to me, “Little boy, do you want to practice with me.

I said in response, “I don’t want to be taught by an old man like you!” However, he didn’t become angry at me at all.

He said, “Oh, I see. Do I look that old?”

“You are an old man without any teeth!” (Laughter)

I am not fond of talking about other people. I always tell my students not to lie but to tell the truth. Otherwise, we will be caught by our lies someday. We won’t be able to say anything if we are later told that we said this or that on such and such an occasion. Therefore, I am always strict about these things.

When I was 21 years old, I returned to my birthplace in Wakayama Prefecture after having received permission from Master Deguchi. In order to further my studies on affinity (shinwaryoku), I began what is called quot;mushashugyo” (ascetic training for warriors) with high ambitions. One can’t know whether what he has acquired is really good or bad, or strong or weak unless he has actually tested it, can he? Those living in my birthplace made light of this. But I was very successful there. Many newspapers came to cover these events and wrote a great deal about it.

Then Ueshiba Sensei who is also from Tanabe came back and we practiced together. I didn’t teach only in Tanabe. I also went to various other places inside and outside of Wakayama Prefecture. Then I said to Ueshiba Sensei I would return to Tokyo. My family had a house in Tokyo. Sensei asked me why I wanted to do this. I answered: “If we are to teach the art to everyone, why not do so in Tokyo?”

My family had houses in Tanabe and Tokyo. It ran a big trading business and had branch offices in many locations such as Osaka, Kobe and Hokkaido. When I returned to Tokyo I announced my intention to teach budo there and asked for their support. They told me they could not support me and instead asked me to run the business. I was told that one could not make money doing martial arts and that business was best for me since this house was mine. However, I insisted that I could not run a business and was not good at that type of thing. Then I began to teach budo at various places in Tokyo.

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