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Interview with Noriaki Inoue (2)

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #74 (April 1987)

This is the second instalment of an interview with Noriaki Inoue Sensei, Founder of Shin’ei Taido. Inoue Sensei, who is at present 85 years old, is the nephew of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei. Inoue Sensei was deeply influenced by Reverend Onisaburo Deguchi of the Omoto religion and Shin’ei Taido represents the distillation of his martial and spiritual study spanning more than 70 years.

Is your sword style influenced by the Yagyu Shinkage-ryu or Goto-ha Yagyu-ryu schools?

Noriaki (Yoichiro) Inoue c. 1989

No, my sword style has nothing to do with those schools. My art is not at all what we call aikido today or any traditional martial art. I really don’t know anything, but I have been studying since I was a child. I was taught what the reality of affinity embodied in the study of universal affinity should be for the first time by Onisaburo Deguchi. This was something I didn’t understand from my studies. The reality of universal affinity is in movement. It should never stop. If the reality of the universe stops, everything will die. Thus, things should be created while this movement persists. This is what I learned from Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei. The virtuous power which springs from the reality of the study of affinity… Man should cultivate courage which is created by this virtuous power. If you succeed in cultivating courage, it will participate in a myriad of ways in the reality of creation. Without this courage, no expert can create anything of complexity. That was the beginning point of my studies. And so I have grown old. I still don’t understand. I think you cannot understand the talk of someone who doesn’t understand what he is studying himself. (Laughter)

I imagine there is no one left who knows about the old days. Most of them who knew about those times have already passed away. I am already 85 years old. I have arrived at where I now stand after beginning this study when I was 13.

Would you describe the occasion when you first had contact with Sokaku Takeda Sensei?

When I met Takeda Sensei and he told me to practice with him I refused to do so saying I didn’t like his type of training. Takeda Sensei really wanted to teach me. My father and Ueshiba’s father talked things over back in Tanabe and built a dojo for him. Because Morihei said he wanted to study the art in Shirataki, my father and Ueshiba’s father built a dojo and Takeda Sensei was invited to teach. I think at that time my uncle was already over 30. Ueshiba’s father (Yoroku) was a great person and also very strong. I don’t think anyone, not even sumo wrestlers, were stronger than him. He too was fond of the martial arts and this was why he understood Morihei’s strong desire to study the art and agreed to help him. Although I don’t know how much, they sent money to Takeda Sensei every month. Our fathers certainly gave what Sensei needed for the rest of his life and sent him cash every month. My father also thought that it would be nice to have a budo man from our family. Ueshiba’s father did it out of affection towards his child. There was no problem with money since my father owned a lot of real estate and also was actively engaged in business in Tokyo. I suppose the amount of money they sent was insignificant for them. They had that kind of relationship with Takeda Sensei. However, I don’t know what sort of agreement there was between Morihei Ueshiba and Takeda Sensei. So I can’t say anything about it. But I know it caused my uncle problems. I don’t know why he had to feel diffident towards Takeda Sensei after having given him all those things including a house, dojo and land.

This was why I refused Takeda Sensei when he came to Ayabe and told me to practice with him. I said I didn’t want to practice with him but that I would practice with my uncle. Takeda Sensei’s movements were completely different. He would teach calling out the names of techniques with a “kajo” on the end of them. From my point of view there is no such thing as such and such a “kajo”. The reality of flow is constant. Many things are created through this reality of flow. Therefore, I dearly refused Takeda Sensei. Although he insisted, I didn’t have to sign my name in the student enrollment book since I didn’t practice. However, I think it was in 1931, I’m not sure, that he came to Tokyo unexpectedly. My uncle was not in the best of health at that time and so I took ukemi all the time for Takeda Sensei. Since he told me to invite guests, I had to send for various prominent people so he could demonstrate techniques before them. I took ukemi for him and he thus told me to sign my name in the enrollment books since he said he taught me. I answered in the following way: “No. I wasn’t taught by you. I took ukemi for you. You are the one who should sign your name.” (Laughter) But Ueshiba said to me: “Since Takeda Sensei has told you to, you should sign.” So I unwillingly signed my name then. If I remember correctly we practiced for one week.

Sensei, if this took place in 1931 your name is indeed recorded with your seal in the Daito-ryu enrollment book.

Of course it is. He wouldn’t move unless I signed. You see, he couldn’t have charged me if I didn’t sign. 10 Yen was a large amount in those days.

Was Admiral Takeshita present for that seminar?

Yes. They all were. But I am sure he didn’t sign his name because he didn’t practice.

That’s right. I’m sure his name doesn’t appear.

People in those days wanted to observe how I took ukemi for Takeda Sensei rather than his techniques themselves. His techniques were really rough. He would throw me to the mat by reversing my hand. Since I immediately stood up after being thrown with a smile on my face, he would grow increasingly more irritated. (Laughter) He again came to me. I entered before he reached me. In other words, I was in an irimi position. So he was unable to throw me. On the contrary, I was in a position to throw him but I couldn’t since he was an old man. What Takeda Sensei did then was to take a “gyaku” or reverse position when he entered. But I had studied gyaku techniques since I was a boy. If I strike you like this you will fall. I learned this from my grandfather when I was small.

Sensei, would you give us your views on teaching Shin’ei Taido?

I practice daily praying to the kami (deities) that nothing will go wrong. It is more enjoyable to spend time every day praying to the kami. I am practicing daily in earnest. One error might result in you losing your life. One error can injure your partner. If you injure your partner in practice, that is the reality of defeat. You are the lowest kind of human being. This is the true spirit of Japanese martial arts. True Japanese budo is a double-edged sword. With a double-edged sword you cut yourself but let others live. When you hear the term “double-edged sword” you probably think that it is your opponent who is to be cut, but it is not. When you draw your sword to cut your opponent in an instant, you see if he cowers or not or if he is going to attack. This is the affinity which originated in the old days of Japan. With this you can say for the first time that the attitude of the Japanese is correct.

Dirt never remains on the bodies of those who practice in our dojo. It flies off with the sweat. And no one has been injured in our dojo. If you practice in such a way that there are injuries it is better to stop practicing all together. A baby is flexible by nature. We have to return to the state of an infant. This is what human beings should be. There are people who don’t easily recover when injured. That kind of a person doesn’t break into a true sweat. We should sweat so that it pours out from the bottom of our beings. The easiest time to learn these things is in the rainy season. When we practice during the rainy season our bodies become clammy, don’t they? And it becomes difficult to eliminate sweat. We hold a special practice at that time. We start out during the rain and finish during the hottest part of the summer. Then, when fall comes, training is refreshing. The same is true of rice. The best rice is available in the fall. It tastes really good, doesn’t it? Then winter comes again. A rice plant thrusts itself into the air in the winter. In winter practice, even a little movement makes you feel warm. People say that they tend to suffer broken bones in winter practice but actually there is no easier training than during the winter. Practice differs according to the four seasons. If it is always the same it is not true training. We are also different depending on the season, aren’t we? If you wore the same kind of clothes in the hot and cold seasons it would be terrible, wouldn’t it? (Laughter) So practice differs according to the season in all countries of the world. No practice is the same. Ten people have ten different ways of practicing. My practice might look the same when viewed by a third person but it is completely different. You cannot teach what is taught in elementary school to a kindergarten student. You cannot teach an elementary student in the same way you do a junior high school student. Through regular practice you begin to acquire true flexibility in your entire body. When you gain this flexibility, then you can begin to use a sword or a stick for the first time. If your body is not flexible enough you will break your bones when using a sword or stick. If I strike such a person with a sword or stick he will be knocked down instantly. This is a simple principle I have developed over the years. It has nothing to do with strength or weakness. What is strongest is the reality of the affinity of the universe. You see, if this ki stops the result will be terrible. We call this force “the reality of ki” rather than “aiki”. We study it through the reality of “iki”.

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