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An Aikido Life (05)

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by Gozo Shioda

Aiki News #76 (December 1987)

The following translation from the Japanese-language autobiography entitled “Aikido Jinsei” (An Aikido Life) by Gozo Shioda Sensei of Yoshinkan Aikido is published with the kind permission of the author and the publisher, Takeuchi Shoten Shinsha. This series of instalments began with AIKI NEWS No. 72.

Chapter 7: Practice

Of course it is important to conduct Aikido training in a dojo where you accumulate practice time in order to master techniques. There is a saying of Sogen Zenshi (priest of the Rinsaishu religion of the late Kamakura Period) which is as follows: “The time spent engaged in the four cardinal actions - walking, stopping, sitting and lying - is the best dojo.” I consider these words as my motto and am always trying to keep them in mind. I hope at least those who practice Aikido will try to do the same and that they will think of any situation such as walking, riding on a train or eating, as their Aikido dojo where every little thing is a part of their practice.

For example, if there is a goldfish tank, instead of just watching the goldfish swim, you can lightly tap the glass to see how the surprised fish move at that moment or see how they avoid running into each other even where there are many in the tank.

Or you can place a stick on the top of a door and set it in such a position that every time the door is opened it falls. In this way you can practice how to avoid the stick as part of your training. Walking smoothly without crashing into people in a crowd is training too.

When I was an uchideshi of Ueshiba Sensei I would wash his back whenever he took a bath. What I kept in mind to do was to learn the knack of reading his mind as quickly as possible and act accordingly. For instance, when Sensei was going to wash his hair, I would immediately bring him a pail of hot water. I waited until he finished washing his hair and would time my action of pouring hot water over his head. While doing this, I had to think what would be the best way of pouring the hot water in order to satisfy him. To exaggerate somewhat, I was learning the art of “ahum” or inspiration and expiration. Also when I washed his back I observed the movements of his muscles. This too was certainly good training for me.

After Master Ueshiba died, I practiced with dogs as my masters. I have liked animals, especially dogs, since my childhood and have always kept one. I loved a Shikoku dog whose name was “Ryu” in particular. Ryu had a very sharp temper and never let anyone other than me near him. When I got up at five o’clock every morning I took him to Shakujii Park and let him loose while no one was around. Then I did things to make him angry. When he started to feel uncomfortable - after all he was an animal - he came to attack me with his fangs bared. The battle between Ryu and me would begin. He would come at me and I would dodge his attack. Then he would attack me again. In the beginning, when we repeated this I would have wounds all over my hands, arms, body and legs. When I shouted, “Stop!”, since he was a clever dog, he stopped attacking me with a triumphant look on his face. I engaged in this kind of battle with Ryu every day and gradually I stopped getting hurt. This is dangerous and I would not recommend that you imitate me but when Ryu died I felt a sadness as though I had lost a master.

Anyway, those who try to master Aikido should always keep in mind that there are places everywhere to practice and try to use any opportunity for training.

Moreover, you should never lose a sense of humility as a practitioner even in the presence of a beginner. Imagine that a beginner enters the dojo. This person, of course, doesn’t know anything about Aikido, which means he is completely pure. Since he is pure he may have some good points which you don’t have or you may realize your bad points through him. Therefore, a sense of humility where you consider a person who enters your dojo for the first time as your instructor is required.

In 1963, although I have forgotten the exact date, a certain Shorinji Kempo sensei named Shin Sode visited my dojo in Tsukudo Hachiman in formal Japanese dress and requested to see me demonstrate techniques. I welcomed him politely and demonstrated techniques using my students. After that he said: “Since I have often heard of you, Shioda Sensei, I wished very much to see you and have come today. Your performance was really impressive and exceeded my expectations. I would like to draw upon what I have seen in my own practice.” I felt very flattered. I think that the reason he took the trouble to dress formally is because he had a great regard for etiquette. Although he was a large person, he didn’t have a boastful air and his attitude was always modest. Seeing his manner I was really impressed and thought that an expert is really different. Unfortunately, Shin Sodo Sensei has passed away and I would like to express my sincere regrets over his death.

Chapter 8: Heartrelt Gratitude

I am the kind of person who did everything I pleased when I was a youth. Therefore, I try never to forget the kindness of those who have warmheartedly helped and supported me. My life today is complete thanks to these people. There have been innumerable persons like that and I really think that I am a fortunate man.

Since I will mention those to whom I have been indebted before, during and after the war in Part II, I would like to omit mentioning their names here.

However, I must express my gratitude especially to my father, Seiichi Shioda and Mr. Munetaka Abe, headmaster of Dairoku Junior High School who recommended that I set out on the path of Aikido. As a lifelong practitioner of Aikido, I would like to continue to live up to the words my father imparted to me: “Justice leads to victory in the end,” and “A proud moment is the most dangerous”.

The next person to whom I must express my gratitude is, naturally, Morihei Ueshiba Sensei of Aikido. Since I talk about the greatness of Sensei here and there I would like to avoid repeating myself but it is thanks to him that I am now able to earn my livelihood through Aikido. His teachings for some eight years starting in May 1932 when I first entered the dojo through March 1941 when I left the dojo and the period I spent with him after the war still are etched vividly in my memory.

There are people I do not mention in Part II and I would like to express my gratitude to them here. One of them is Mr. Ryoichi Sasagawa, chairman of the Japan Motor boat Promotion Association. Mr. Sasagawa is a person who thinks much of propriety and starting around November 1963, he entrusted us with the instruction of Aikido to motor boat racers as well as employees of the Motosu Training Center in order to have them learn propriety. We continue to instruct them today. Also, when we built the Koganei Hombu Dojo he made a generous donation and further, supports us financially by contributing a part of our dojo operating capital. I cannot explain in words how helpful this is in the operation of a modest martial art dojo.

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