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Kangeiko: Training in the Dead of Winter

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #12 (May 1975)

The following article appeared in the February 10, 1975 issue of “Aikido,” a monthly newspaper published by Aikido Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. It was translated from the Japanese by Stanley A. Pranin and Katsuaki Terasawa.

This year, too, numerous kangeiko were held. I believe that this practice where one trains both mind and body in the dead of winter is traditionally Japanese. It is truly meaningful in the disciplining of one’s mind.

As I practiced kangeiko this year numerous memories of my childhood days came to mind. On my father’s advice I participated in this training starting at the age of eight. I would walk to the Ryobukan Dojo in Kansuki from my home in Sengakuji carrying Kendo gear. This walk left a vivid impression of the severity of this training. On my way home, I cannot forget the pleasure I felt when one one occasion, the street car conductor, who also happened to practice at the dojo, offered me a free ride home.

In my high school days, in order to attend the kangeiko I would get up as early as 4:00 am to go to the school dojo along with the other participants. One time we removed all the ceremonial rice cakes which were placed out in the dojo intending to eat them. We were severely scolded. That episode has now become a pleasant memory.

After the war, I recall that this tradition was kept alive by only a few people. In recent years, the acceleration in the growth of the economy have become obvious and training of both the body and mind as a process of individual growth has suddenly caught society’s attention. I believe that training of mind and body through martial arts is extremely effective in that it employs the concept of the Way inherited from ancient Japan which coincides well with the Japanese character.

However, if there is any difference in the kangeiko of the past versus those of recent times it is linked with shift in emphasis on contemporary man’s value structure, in particular his emphasis on the importance of the basic family unit.

Severity in the pursuit of the Way is much the same in the present as in the past. However, I cannot but help notice the difference between the parents who came to kangeiko with their children and trained along with them and those who only come and watch their children.

Some would say that this symbolizes the lack of severity of the present generation. Yet I am rather moved by their efforts to explore such a traditional concept as the Way during the present age. At the same time, I am more impressed by those in pursuit of the Way through hard training of mind and body.

Right after the war when we revived kangeiko very few people participated in the practice. We thought about giving various prizes to those who attended all the kangeiko sessions. I racked my brain to come up with ideas to encourage people to participate.

Kangeiko are presently being held not only in Hombu Dojo but in many dojos in various locations simultaneously. The number of participants in Hombu alone exceeds 200. Therefore, if you add up the number of participants in the various dojos all over Japan, several thousands have enjoyed kangeiko this year.

This year, everything from the economy on down is experiencing difficulties. We would like to dispel this dark cloud of pessimism with the mind-body strength gained through aikido kangeiko.