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Peter Goldsbury at Aiki Expo 2002

by Ikuko Kimura

Published Online

The following interview with International Aikido Federation Chairman Dr. Peter Goldsbury was conducted by Aiki News Editor Ikuko Kimura at Aiki Expo 2002 in May 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Coming to Japan to teach at Hiroshima University

Kimura: First, tell us something of your aikido history.

Goldsbury: Well, I am not absolutely certain of the exact date when I started, but I think it was around 1969. I was a student at Sussex University in Brighton, England, and I met a Japanese student of economics named Norio Tao. Mr Tao had studied aikido at Tokyo University under ShigehoTanaka Shihan and wanted to continue training. So he and a small group of us (six, I believe) actually started a new club, the Sussex University Aikido Club, which I understand still exists. After two years Mr Tao returned to Japan and our little group had to find another teacher. He had never affiliated our little dojo with the Aikikai representative in the UK (I did not know anything about the Aikikai then) and so I often went to London to train with an Englishman named John Cornish, at a judo dojo called the Budokwai, located in Fulham. On the way to the dojo, I had to change trains and I often saw a poster on the London Underground advertising aikido taught by a person named Chiba. There was a photograph of the man in a dark blue keikogi and hakama and he had a sword. He looked very serious. I gather from talking to my dojo colleagues that he had a fearsome reputation, but a friend and I plucked up the courage to go to the dojo, which was located in Chiswick.

I will never forget the day I went. The dojo was in a sports centre with a bowling alley. We arrived at the dojo and I saw the class was doing some rhythmic breathing exercises with wooden blocks. We tried to creep in quietly but I had some trouble in actually opening the door. There was a loud crash and we almost fell into the dojo. I received a look from K. Chiba which fully matched his reputation. However, I watched a class and then introduced myself to Chiba Sensei and told him where I had practiced. He replied that he knew of my teacher and invited me to practice. I joined the dojo and commuted from Brighton as often as I could. Among the students was Minoru Kanetsuka, who was a 3rd dan at the time.

After I graduated from Sussex University, I needed to find a place to do my Ph.D. and I was accepted at Harvard University with a generous scholarship. I was given the name of the local Aikikai shihan, Mitsunari Kanai, and joined the dojo. This was in 1973. I stayed until 1975 and during this time in the New England Aikikai, I saw several other Japanese shihans in the US, including Yoshimitsu Yamada, Akira Tohei and also several visitors from Japan, shihans like Kisaburo Osawa, Masatake Fujita and also Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba.

I had planned to stay at Harvard and complete my Ph.D. in Classics, but there were many political problems in my department and my professors left Harvard and went elsewhere. I decided to continue my doctorate in the UK and became a graduate student at London University. Of course, I had to find a dojo for aikido and I was lucky: nearby was the Ryushinkan Dojo of Minoru Kanetsuka, who had succeeded K. Chiba as the Aikikai shihan in charge of the UK. Again I became a member of the dojo and trained almost every day, sometimes several times each day. My Ph.D. went on a back burner (and actually took nearly ten years to finish, mainly due to aikido).

At this time I also met some visiting shihans. Chiba Sensei came regularly and we had seminars taught by Nobuyoshi Tamura, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Katsuaki Asai, even Morihiro Saito Sensei, who practiced the shuriken in the garden the morning after the seminar. During this period I received shodan during a seminar taught by Yamada Sensei.

During my stay in the US, I often thought about coming to Japan. Before Sussex I had spent two years in France, so I was quite used to living abroad. Japan, after all, was the birthplace of aikido and it seemed very reasonable to go there. All my teachers had been Japanese and they had actually aroused a strong interest in the mysteries of Japanese culture. But it was obvious to me that I needed to have some sort of job. I consulted the British Council and had an interview. Shortly after I received job notifications from Tohoku University in Sendai, Oita University in Kyushu and also Hiroshima University. My qualifications best fitted Hiroshima University, so I this is where I went.

I arrived in March 1980 and still remember the occasion. I seemed to do all the wrong things. I flew to Narita airport, but the plane to Hiroshima left from a Haneda, a different airport, far away, so I took the bullet train. I had a huge amount of luggage, 4 large cases and bags, which had to be put somewhere on the train. It was raining very hard when I arrived in Hiroshima and I had no umbrella, an indispensable item of equipment here. Because of the rain there were no taxis to be had, so I had to climb on to an ancient tramcar right in the middle of the evening rush hour. I was exhausted from the two-day journey, but had to deal with a reception committee of Japanese professors who had polished up their very best English, full of wit, epigrams, and Shakespearian quotes especially for the occasion. I was taken to my house, which I discovered had been built in the Taisho period, and thus was an A-bomb victim, but I had no idea where it was and got totally lost shortly afterwards when trying to return home.

Another major problem was that my students spoke virtually no English and I had been specifically told not to learn Japanese. If the students knew I could speak Japanese, then their already non-existent English production would fall to well below zero. So I had to relearn how to teach English. After a few years I was invited to become a tenured teacher and immediately had to function in Japanese. In any case, Hiroshima is a provincial city and very little English is spoken by anybody. So I went to the YMCA and later one of my students taught me. Actually, the professor who was responsible for hiring me offered to teach Chinese kanji and these classes still continue, 24 years later. Of course, all this was really a ‘tatemae’ as the Japanese would say. The real reason for going to Japan was to train in aikido.

So you started practicing aikido at the local dojo in Hiroshima?

Yes. Hiroshima Prefecture Dojo was established by Masatake Fujita Shihan when he was a student at Takudai. The shihan is Masakazu Kitahira (7th dan) and Shoji Nishio also visits Hiroshima regularly, but not to our dojo—there are “political” problems, even in Japan. However, Hiroshima has a tradition of regular visits from Hombu shihan. Each year, Hiroshi Tada, Sadateru Arikawa and Masatake Fujita come to give training courses. Before Arikawa Sensei, Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei was the regular visitor and I got to know him quite well. We have even had visits from Morihiro Saito and Rinjiro Shirata. So there is a very strong technical connection with the Aikikai Hombu and because of the IAF, also, I am able to make regular visits. There are also a number of university clubs affiliated to the Aikikai and our own club recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. We had a visit from the present Doshu and this was very good. There was a demonstration, of course, followed by receptions and more informal parties. We ended up in a karaoke bar and talked till the small hours, to the robust and elegant musical accompaniment of Doshu’s assistants (whom I will not name).

I have sometimes heard that the traditional way of learning a martial art is to find one teacher or master and study under that teacher and this seems to be a usual pattern in aikido. Some teachers believe that finding a teacher, a master, is absolutely necessary to the proper study of aikido, but the way my life has developed has not allowed me to do this. Since I began aikido rather late, at 25, I never considered becoming an aikido uchideshi, and my concerns to become a respectable academic led me to practice aikido in many different places. Thus, I have come to see my own responsibility for my own training in a rather different light from that of a traditional uchideshi, who probably sees the entire martial art through the eyes of one teacher. The traditional way of “stealing the techniques” takes on a rather different meaning.

Negotiation Science

I understand that you teach koushou-gaqku (negotiation science).

Yes. Teaching English is no longer my main occupation at Hiroshima University. For a few years I have been teaching Philosophy of Language, but in the year 2000, Hiroshima University created a new department in its Graduate School of Social Sciences. This was the Department of Management Studies. It was something like a business school, but had a wider purpose and was aimed at mature students. There are four sections in the department, one of which is Koushougaku.

Actually koushou-gaku is a very new subject in Japan and the English translation is not really a satisfactory rendering of the Japanese. Of course, negotiation is a skill which is probably as old as the human race and some cultures have made it into an art form. For the Greeks, negotiation formed part of rhetoric and Aristotle’s manual is still an important sourcebook. Harvard University, for example, has systematized the American way of negotiating into a particular method. In Japan, also, we often hear of terms like nemawashi, and haragei and and these are sometimes portrayed as uniquely Japanese negotiating skills. In our department my particular areas of respponsibility are comparative culture and comparative rhetoric, the second of which studies how different cultures see the role of rhetoric: how they construct arguments, how they persuade others that their viewpoint is more valid than other viewpoints and is the one that should be followed. The interesting thing is that all my students are Japanese company employees or bureaucrats. As I stated earlier, people in Hiroshima are not noted for their English skills, so I have to give these classes in Japanese.

From the viewpoint of foreigners, the Japanese are reluctant to say yes and no very clearly. Negotiation Science is not a term we often hear, so will you say a little more about it.

Well, Japan can say No is the title of a famous book by Shintaro Ishihara, the conservative Governor of Tokyo, but in my experience the way Japanese say “No” when negotiating is not at all like Mr. Ishihara suggests. As a professor here in Hiroshima University, I have to negotiate with the officials of the Education Ministry in the Hombu (the main adminstration office). They never say “No” directly. The negative decisions are wreathed in circumlocutions which take some time to work out, longer for me since I am a foreigner and lack the linguistic sensitivities and intuitions of a Japanese native speaker. On the other hand, my own negotiating style is rather more direct than many of my Japanese colleagues are comfortable with. I get away with it because I am a foreigner. This is true in the aikido world, also.

One of my students did his masters thesis on nemawashi and haragei, as applied to cross-cultural negotiation. He conducted many interviews with Japanese business leaders and bureaucrats and found that they do not really do nemawashi when negotiating with foreign companies, but, on the other hand, they lack the language skills to negotiate in any other way, which is a major problem. Haragei nowadays is largely practiced by bureaucrats.

Intercultural communication is becoming more and more important in general, and in the world of aikido also. But intercultural communication is a very vague term. Negotiation is a more specific form of communication, with definite goals and methods, and cross-cultural negotiation is of major importance. Another of my students is writing his doctoral thesis on the role of Negotiation Science at international conferences relating to the abolition of nuclear weapons. Japan (and the US) will soon have to enter in such negotiations with North Korea and I would think that skill in cross-cultural negotiation is the one thing they will need to have in abundance.

I hear you have been lecturing on “Aikido and Negotiation”…

Yes, I was asked to give the lecture to a group of business leaders in Hiroshima and they chose the title. They obviuosly thought that aikido and negotiation are closely related and this is the impression from books like Terry Dobson’s Giving in to Get your Way. The aspect that stands out from aikido is negotiation as a form of conflict resolution and I see this aspect very often in the IAF. Negotiation takes many forms, but in aikido there are several important principles which govern the encounter between uke and tori and some of these can be applied to negotiation practice: for example, flexibility and a readiness to change tactics; an awareness of the strengths, weaknesses and openings of your opponent; and also the very important aspects of the strengths and weaknesses in one’s own attack.

There are no clearly documented examples of aikido and negotiation in the political sphere, but another of my students is writing his Ph.D. thesis on the role of negotiation in the transition from Tokugawa to Meiji in Japan. His focus is on the negotiating tactics of Sakamoto Ryoma and his samurai colleagues with Saigo Takamori and others who helped to bring about the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate. Sakamoto is similar to Morihei Ueshiba in many ways and his relationship with Katsu Kaishu and Saigo Takamori bears comparison with that between Morihei Ueshiba and some of his sponsors. This is probably the closest I have got to seeing how training in the martial arts and cross-cultural negotiation might go together as a historical problem.

Aikido Development

You have been teaching aikido for a long time…

Yes. I started teaching in 1978 as a shodan in the Ryushinkan Dojo in London when Kanetsuka Sensei was absent. There was a dojo diary and every technique taught had to be entered, together with any observations as to difficulty, etc. This was a good way of learning how to structure a class. But this was a relatively brief interlude, of about three years. In Hiroshima I have taught classes occasionally in the main dojo, usually during grading examinations, and have also taught weapons classes at the university dojo, but I did not begin teaching seriously until I started giving courses in Holland about 5 years ago. I visit Holland twice each year to give a spring seminar and a summer school, usually sharing the teaching with Erik Louw, who is also an expert in Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu. So, though I have been teaching over a long period, the actual amount of real teaching has not been very great.

What are the most important aspects of training?

Well, of course, you have to master the techniques. This is a basic given, as is learning how to attack. It is sometimes said that aikido is purely defensive, but this is often an excuse for extremely sloppy practice. On the other hand, aikido is sophisticated, in the sense that the guiding principles are not obvious at first sight. I think this is one reason why Kisshomaru Ueshiba spent much time thinking about aikido as a system. He wanted to make these principles more accessible than they were to the disciples of his father. Of course, in a way he had to do this, for postwar aikido became a “general” budo, available for everybody. The sophistication is still there, but learning the techniques, and also proper attacks, is something that can take years to achieve.

Moreover, aikido is not competitive, in the sense that it is not a sport, and so no objective indication of progress in aikido can be gained by winning tournaments. If there is a need to measure progress in the art, a student needs to think of other factors. In my opinion there a double process operating: (a) the “objective” process of coming to understand the principles of aikido as a martial art, and (b) the “subjective” process of undergoing personal training at the hands of a teacher. Of course, this dual process is true of other arts and sports besides aikido, but it is especially true of aikido.

In competitive sports this second factor (b) is subordinated to the first (a) and the teacher becomes a kind of coach, fine-tuning a process of mastering techniques, the goals of which the student can easily see. In non-competitive martial arts, especially Japanese martial arts, the classic learning process has been to subordinate the first (a) to the second (b) and this is most clearly shown in the case of Eugen Herrigel’s study of Japanese archery. This is sometimes presented as the first stage, SHU, of the teacher-pupil relationship known as SHU-HA-RI, where the object is to absorb fully everything the teacher shows, with no thought of adapting this to one’s own case, and produce a kind of “moving blue print.” But in the process of trying to produce the blueprint, one’s own individuality inevitably comes through. My own feeling is that this SHU process nowadays takes place relatively rarely and does not last for very long. There is a danger, particularly outside Japan, that people start teaching too early and start giving their own style of aikido to others before this has been sufficiently formed.

Then, also, perception and awareness are also of great importance. For example, at a very basic level, there are at least two ways of placing the feet in the technique known as ikkyo, done both omote and ura. When teaching this, I have discovered that the differences are quite difficult to grasp. Students nod in apparent understanding, but this understanding is not always evident from their practice of the technique.

In my experience, an accomplished aikido teacher has a very clear perception of his students’ situation, their strengths and weaknesses. So there is a lot more going on in a training session than simply showing techniques and having students do these techniques. The teacher is also involved in teaching the students how to learn. As I said before, progress in aikido is ultimately the student’s own responsibility, not the teacher’s. So the student really does have to learn how to “steal.”

On the other hand, as students advance in understanding, the teacher has to help them to form their own aikido, not a replica of his own. I think the aim here is to show a range of possibilities. However, to do this too early is not a good idea. A student needs to arrive at a certain stage of awareness before he/she can even be aware of the possibilities and it takes even longer to be in a position to apply them to his/her own personal training.

You have recently opened a dojo in Hiroshima.

Yes. We have called it the Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo and have just had a new intake of students. We have just one non-Japanese student. All the others are Japanese, complete beginners and a wide cross-section of age and previous experience, from high school students and young ex-karate practitoners, to people who are old enough to be their parents. The founding group (about 10 members) recently took their first kyu grades. We also have an increasing number of yudansha from other dojos in the area.

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