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Interview with Noriaki Inoue (3)

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #75 (August 1987)

Noriaki (Yoichiro) Inoue was the nephew of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. He and his family played a pivotal role in the early life of Morihei Ueshiba and the beginnings of the development of aikido.

Noriaki Inoue (1902-1994)

One of the main purposes of our activities is to collect and preserve various historical documents concerning aiki budo. Reading books on aikido published today we have the impression that some historically important people are being intentionally ignored. If this situation continues, the things you have accomplished may be forgotten or distorted.

Wait a minute. You don’t even have to mention it. What I have done has already been distorted and misunderstood. I taught almost all of the present aikido oldtimers directly. Ueshiba and I alone taught. So it is not a question of misunderstanding but an intentional distorsion of the story. I am not at all afraid of being misunderstood. I told you that before. I said, “When you come to see me, bring the strongest aikidoka, the old aikido people. Then I will tell you anything.”

Even now I am supporting aikido. When aikido people come to practice I tell them not to train with us because the style is different. It is difficult to enter my dojo to practice because our office head is quite strict. However since I heard that you telephoned me so many times I felt sorry for you. I heard that you have been living in Japan for years publishing news about aikido and making great efforts. Therefore I thought I would see you once and have a relaxed conversation and tell you some things frankly. This is why we had you come here. Excuse me! (Laughter) Please forgive us. That’s the kind of person I am. I hate putting on airs or telling lies. If someone lies they are sure to be caught.

To tell you the truth someone from the New York Times visited me recently. I forgot his name though. I was asked by the Wakamatsu-cho Dojo (Aikikai Hombu) to talk with him. I told him it would be better to talk to Kisshomaru or his elder sister. I added that if he really wanted to get important information he should go to the Omoto headquarters. He telephoned me about three times. This gentleman from the New York Times had some acquaintance connected with a Christian religion and he came to the Omoto Headquarters with an introduction from this person. I met him there for the first time. I told him then that if he was to write the truth I would talk to him but that I would refuse if he was going to put down false things. Then when I told him about Ueshiba first of all, he was really surprised. Perhaps if he wrote what I told him the book wouldn’t do well. I felt that if he was really a journalist working for the New York Times he would not have asked certain questions. Then I changed my attitude completely since I had the impression he was false. I told him that and he has not contacted me since.

After the war, I instructed U.S. Air Force officers at the Tachikawa Base. During this period the Korean War broke out. I stopped teaching them because of the war. However, gradually people from the U.S. Military Intelligence branch from enlisted men to officers came to my dojo in Yoyogi Shinmachi for practice. I guess about 50 or 60 people came. So at that time I was quite well off because I was receiving money from these people. I was quite well-off when Japan was extremely poor. Since they asked me how much I would charge for teaching I said that I would have them pay ten Yen. Ten Yen in the old days was worth $10. I agreed on the price of $10 since they were higher-ups. I taught them three times a week. I didn’t teach them every day because that would have been hard for me. They were all huge, you know. (Laughter) There was one man, I guess he was the highest person in the intelligence branch, who called the techniques “divine techniques.” At first he made light of me since I am small. He thought that it would be ridiculous to be defeated by a small person like me. The moment he came to attack me I threw him. He was scratched up. I immediately knew I should not have done that. You are the lowest kind of man if you injure someone. I regretted what I did and held him up with my arms and asked him if he was all right. He said that he was okay and that it was his fault. I was surprised to hear him say that. No Japanese would ever admit that it was his own fault. So I thought then that it was

I who was defeated by him. He continued saying, “Sensei, it was my fault. I deserved this because I doubted you. I would like to apologize to you for that.” I said to him, “Please forgive me. I was the one who was immature. I didn’t see your intention and was immature. If I knew what your intention was I would not have hurt you. I threw you with a feeling of anger so you would not make light of me. Forgive me.” I didn’t think that he would turn up at the next practice but he did and he was covered with bandages. He brought many things like foreign liquor and said to me, “Sensei, thank you very much. I am all right. I am all right because you showed concern about me. Today I will not make light of you. I will practice hard!” (Laughter) He passed away after returning to Hawaii. All of the intelligence officers were temporarily transferred to Hawaii. They were supposed to continue to practice there. Later I heard that they sent a letter or postcard saying that they had been waiting for me to come to visit them.

Did this take place when the art was called Shinwa Taido?

Yes. It was called Aiki Budo until 1956. I introduced my art at the Yomiuri Hall for the first time in 1956. I gave it the name of “Taido” myself. That’s why it wasn’t a good one. I should have named it “Shinwa Budo” but I thought that since we human beings are using the name, “Taido” would be fine. I didn’t pay enough attention to this matter. However, I learned about the concept of the affinity of the Universe from Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei. Unless you really comprehend the affinity of the Universe you cannot develop courage. If you can develop courage, the “Ichireishikon Sangenhachiriki” of Omoto Shinto will be created. However great something created is, it is the work of a human being. This power of science is useless. Before the existence of wind, water and fire in the Unvierse, nothing could be accomplished. Although people talk about poison gas I don’t care about it. If they want to drop a bomb they should do so. Let them drop bombs. It is those who drop bombs who are crazy. However much we human beings boast, we die but once. Although I do not know where we come from when we are born we will definitely go back to the same place. We will return to our former abode, This is clearly found in the teachings of Shinwa Taido of the study of affinity. Unless you really master this directly, you will be unable to create true techniques. True techniques lie in the techniques of the Jippo Ken (10-direction sword). It is the essence of the link between Yin and Yang. All creation originates from the link of the sword of Yin and Yang. Without this link nothing is created. Because you and him have this essential link in terms of your feeling for the study of aikido, you can work with him, isn’t that right? Without this feeling you would feel foolish following him, wouldn’t you? What is it for? I feel sorry for you! You should do something more profitable. But I guess someone like you couldn’t do that! (Laughter) I also tell my students to do something more profitable and warn them that practicing the art won’t do them any good. However, those who come to practice really enjoy the training itself. It should certainly be fun because we are practicing things that have never existed! We realize what has never existed on the mat. The Universe is round, isn’t it? It contains triangles and also squares. The well spring of the Great Universe is square. The earth is round. This round shape gradually becomes a triangle. This is what we are studying. People talk about pyramids but everyone has a pyramid inside. However, people are not aware of it. Everyone has a square, circle and triangle within but people don’t know when to use them. Why has nobody taught them to do that? This is what I want to stress.

Sensei, does this philosophy of yours originate from the Omoto religion?

Yes, what I am talking about was all taught by Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei. No one else taught me. There was no one else who could teach me such things. If someone teaches you one thing he has taught you a hundred, a thousand or ten thousand things. What is important is whether or not you study them. I learned wood-chopping from Deguchi Sensei first. You chop wood like this. I did it every day before that when I was in Hokkaido but I just worked without thinking. I didn’t understand the reason. In order to really know what the essence of reality is, you have to chop and saw wood. Deguchi Sensei told me to bring him a broadaxe and I did. He sawed the wood and then chopped it with the broadaxe. He asked me if I understood. I replied that I did. This is the essence of reality. Things are created because you move. Nothing is created through theory. You came here because you moved, didn’t you? Because you move we can talk this way. Human beings should work. We were born in order to work. Even though I am old I still work. If I work I am young. I talk to young people.

Sensei, where did your sword originate from?

My sword is self-taught. I have never learned from anybody. The things I say are self-taught too. I was taught nothing. I did receive hints concerning the substance of the Universe from the Omoto religion but the rest is self-taught. Since what I do is my own style I don’t call my art such and such a school in the presence of anyone. However, I can clearly say that we cultivate our courage with the virtuous power created by the Great Affinity of the Universe. Without an understanding of this point, strange things impose themselves upon the practice of the affinity of the Universe. I don’t want that to happen. I wouldn’t know how to apologize to Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei then. It was thanks to Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei that Ueshiba became that strong. Without this Sensei he could not have become that great. Deguchi Sensei gave the name of Aiki. We must realize this. Since I was his nephew I always quarrelled with him. When we practiced together our practice was completely different. However, Ueshiba taught in his way and I did it like that because of the situation.

Admiral Isamu Takeshita once told me the following: “Mr. Inoue your spirit of kokyu and motive power are different.” I said that I never executed techniques through kokyu but rather through “iki” (alternate term for “breath” or “breathing”). His answer was: “Oh, I see. That’s why it’s different. Can you come to my place to show me what you call ‘iki’”. We laughed then. It is only recently that I have begun to use the term iki. We breathe from the time we are born. This is what I said to my uncle while he was still alive: “Kokyu power is nothing. Things are created because of the existence of the iki of Aiki and your own iki. This is what musubi (“tie” or “connection”) is.” Because these two iki are united things are created through musubi. It is this musubi that created the Great Universe and us with it. We should not forget that.

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