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Interview With Minoru Mochizuki (2)

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #55 (June 1983)

The following is the second and final part of an interview with Minoru Mochizuki Sensei conducted on November 22, 1982 in Shizuoka City.

The point which Ueshiba Sensei and Kano Sensei had in common was their “Wa no Seishin” or Spirit of Harmony. It meant a mutual development of the self and the other, you and your partner going forward together. In sports, however, the situation is quite different. In sports it is a case of doing your opponent in and coming out on top as the lone winner. This is the spirit of sport and it will never do. Times have changed and now we hear people asking if the U.S.A. is going to win or is it going to be the Soviets? Talking like that is going to bring about the extinction of the human race. The sporting mentality is going to bring the world to an end because it doesn’t contain the spirit self-salvation and the helping others. Western people have been taught something of the spirit of salvation in their churches but we here in Japan learn nothing about it in our shrines and temples.

To tell the truth, I got into trouble with Ueshiba Sensei after my trip to Europe thirty years ago. When I got back I told him:

I went overseas to spread Aikido and had shiai matches with many different people while there. From that experience I realized that with only the techniques of Aikido it was very difficult to win. In those cases I instinctively switched to judo or kendo techniques and was able to come out on top of the situation. No matter how I thought about it I couldn’t avoid the conclusion that the techniques of Daito Ryu Jujutsu were not enough to decide the issue. Wrestlers and others with that sort of experience are not put off by being thrown down and rolling away. They get right back up and close for some grappling and the French style of boxing is far above the hand and foot techniques of karate. I’m sure that Aikido will become more and more international and worldwide in the future, but if it does, it’s technical range will have to expand to be able to respond to any sort of enemy successfully.

Having said all this, Sensei said to me, “All you ever talk about is winning and losing.” “But one must be strong and win. And now that Aikido is being spread throughout the whole world I think that it is necessary for it to be both theoretically and technically able to defeat any challenge,” I said to Sensei. “Your whole thinking is mistaken. Of course, it is wrong to be weak but that is not the whole story. Don’t you realize that it is no longer the age where we can even talk about whether we are winning or losing? It is the age of “Love” now, are you unable to see that?” This he told me and with those eyes of his!

At that moment I was still not able to grasp it but later, gradually over time it became clearer to me. That’s why I feel like I do today. During these last four or five years we have seen the world situation move gradually toward a war that they say will reduce the population of the world to one third of its present number. In such an atmosphere how can we toy about with the idea of “winning” and “losing?” That’s why I feel so sincerely from the deepest depths of my heart that it is this very budo that I want to spread to the world. I feel very strongly that there must be some words that can convey to people today the ideas and thoughts of Ueshiba Sensei. But also, it is necessary to have techniques that can teach these things. It is vital to be able to both express it in words and to perform it in deeds.

These days I am doing a lot of writing. In Judo we see a booming spread of the art but a great many have forgotten Jigoro Kano Sensei. In doing so they have also forgotten the things that he said. Things have come to the point where some people will actually say that if they strive to follow the precept o? “Mutual Development and Progress,” they would not be able to take part in a match! That’s why right now I am attacking the Kodokan. I am the number one persona-nongrata at the Kodokan these days. But my mission in life now is to find out how best to make the thought and spirit of Kano Sensei and Ueshiba Sensei more and more viable and meaningful. Time is running out, you see!

Sensei, did you ever have the chance to meet Sokaku Takeda Sensei?

The only time that I ever met Takeda Sensei was just at the time that the Ushigome dojo was first finished. Ueshiba Sensei had gone out and I was left in charge of watching the dojo until he returned. Sensei, his wife, his son Kisshomaru, Mr. Inoue, everyone had gone somewhere or other. Just at such a time who should come but Sokaku Takeda Sensei. “Ueshiba, are you in there?” he yelled in a fearsome voice. When I came out I found this little old grandfather type standing in the entry. I said politely, “I’m afraid that everyone has gone out.” “Oh!” he said and boldly came right on in. He then proceeded to go from room to room and had me open all the sliding doors. Every one, even the kitchen and Mrs. Ueshiba’s room! Finally he sat down in the “tokonoraa” alcove with a loud thump and demanded some green tea. Just as I was about to put the leaves into the pot I heard him come running up to me from behind. “No, stop! I’ll do it myself,” he said. Well, at that time we would use dippers to ladle out water and, you know, he took one and put it into the flames of the fire for a while. Then he put the tealeaves into the hot dipper and toasted them. He was making “senji cha” roasted tea, you see. Then, skipping the pot all together, he just put the hot water into the dipper. Then he poured the tea into teacups and told me to drink some of it. I said politely, “After you, sir.” But he boomed, “It is etiquette that when you serve tea you drink some of it first.” That was certainly the first time I’d ever heard anyone say that! He didn’t even trust tea that he had made himself. It was really strange, indeed. Next he asked if we didn’t have any cakes or other snacks and opened up one of the cabinets and found a box of something and took it out himself! This time too, he made me eat one of them first before he’d try one. “Before you serve a guest you must eat a piece of the food first to show him that it is not poisoned,” he said. I took one and ate it. Sensei then took the one that had been just next to mine and ate it. He was extremely cautious. I was quite surprised.

He then started talking about an old mansion of a certain feudal lord. “Wasn’t the Mizuno mansion near here?” He meant the estate of Jurozaemon Mizuno, a ranking retainer who had been known to flaunt his power and who had lived about 150 years before. The thing was he talked as if it had happened only yesterday. I answered that I heard of a place called Mizuno no Kara. Takeda Sensei then told me this story.

“Have you ever heard about the time that Shunzo Momoi of the Kyoshin Meichi Ryu and Kenkichi Sakakibara of the Jikishin Kage Ryu were called before the Emperor Meiji (R. 1866 to 1912} and asked to cut through a famous Myochin helmet with their swords? In terms of skill the two men were quite evenly matched but they were using different weapons. The swords were different I Shunzo Momoi was using the sword that he carried everyday in his belt, but Sakakibara used a sword that was more like the blade of a giant halberd (onaginata). It was Sakakibara who was able to cut through the helmet. That was completely the result of the difference in the weapon and had nothing to do with differences in skill.”

He made me sit there and listen to all this and since he seemed to be defending Shunzo Momoi I guessed that Takeda Sensei must have been one of Momoi’s students. Just as I was going to ask him about it I heard a loud shout from the entry. “Hellol” I got up and went out to see who it was and found a taxi driver there. It seemed that Takeda Sensei had not paid his taxi fare and the driver was wondering what he should do. “How did all that happen?” I asked and the driver explained:

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