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Interview with Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba (2)

Aiki News #31 (September 1978)

This is the conclusion of a two-part interview with Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba regarding the recent publication of his book entitled The Founder of Aikido, Mo-rihei Ueshiba, the long-awaited biography of his father. (see AIKI NEWS, No. 30 for part one)

During 0-Sensei’s long martial arts experience he underwent a number of changes. In the initial period he especially emphasized power and technique, later, I understand he attached greater importance to spiritual matters. How did 0-Sensei’s teaching method change as changes occurred in his martial art?

During his later years, rather than teach, my father demonstrated movements which were in accord with the flow of the universe and unified with nature . Thus, it was a matter of students watching his movements, learning them by themselves, in that way understanding his technique. He wasn’t deeply concerned about teaching students… his movements were so spontaneous and natural. I think we should attain that point in the end. But since we have dojos, we tend to think in worldly terms, how to get people to come, how to develop a lot of strong students… and we get these egotistical, selfish things as a matter of course. But this was not the case with the Founder. He was innocence itself in his later years expressing his movements spontaneously and having the attitude that those who wanted to learn would come to him and follow him… that’s what his techniques were like. I think that’s something to be respected. The world we live in today is a selfish one, a “give-and-take” world. It’s a world of calculation … where people think how much profit they can gain by this or that. But it’s not conducive to spiritual training as a human being… It’s becoming more and more animalistic. Under such circumstances we are strongly attracted to this kind of movement which originated from within the Founder. My father was a very powerful man in his youth even though he was short… I mean in his thirties, forties and fifties. He was wider in breadth than the ordinary person so his technique used to be awesome and powerful. But as he grew older his power and strength came to be hidden and his techniques grew to be soft and round. I think that is true technique.Aikido should be like that. It should be strong at the core rather than on the surface. Within this core tremendous energy is always burning but on the surface there is soft movement which embraces all people. Otherwise it’s not true Aiki. With his great efforts in training and spiritual discipline the Founder’s Aiki developed into soft, pleasant movements which hid his inner severity. I think that’s the reason Aikido attracts so many people. If it is only violence people won’t follow. That’s what I think.

You mentioned earlier that O-Sensei in his later years would demonstrate his technique in front of his students and that the students learned Aikido by watching and being attracted to his movements rather than O-Sensei teaching them. Was O-Sensei’s teaching method like that from the beginning?

No. At first he taught techniques point by point although it didn’t seem that he was attached to a specific teaching goal. But he emphasized that you have to do things exactly, one by one, so you won’t make mistakes. Recently, there has been a tendency for Aikido training to become too soft and flowing and some beginners lightly bypass hard training. That’s not the way it should be. If you are going to practice you must practice basics earnestly. This he told me frequently even in his later years… exactly, not changing anything… if you don’t reach the level of softness beyond technique by getting the basics down perfectly, you won’t develop true strength. If, from the beginning, you practice a “tofu-like(bean-curd) soft style, you will be vulnerable to an attack. So it’s necessary to do solid training in the beginning. Over time, through this kind of solid training your technique will become effective. A soft effectiveness will emerge.

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