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An Aikido Life (02)

by Gozo Shioda

Aiki News #73 (December 1986)

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. The series began with AIKI NEWS No. 72.

Chapter 3: Aikido Is a Budo of Harmony

You cannot say that you will never encounter situations where the strong bully the weak or where someone acts in an unjust manner or where you yourself are exposed to danger. If you ever find yourself in these types of situations, you may of course control the opponent using the aikido you have learned. However, you should never lose your temper out of hate for the enemy. If that happens, you will lose your pure mental state which is important in aikido and won’t be able to execute proper techniques. You may suffer an unexpected defeat or, on the contrary, may go to an extreme while defending yourself which results in an unfortunate situation for you and your enemy. You should not forget that aikido is a budo of harmony.

Since I am five feet one-half inches tall and weigh only 110 pounds I was very often provoked into quarrels. In those situations I always tried to laugh my way out and avoid getting into trouble wherever possible. however, there were times when I had to deal with such situations.

A Drunken Man Falls into a Pond

I start out my day by getting up at 5:00 am and go for a walk with my dogs. Sometimes I ride a bicycle and sometimes I jog. One day I happened to be walking around a pond in Shakujii Park near my house. A big man approached me. It seemed that he had been drinking in the morning and he behaved in somewhat a strange manner. As he came closer I tried to avoid him by passing to the right but he moved to the same side as if to block me. When I shifted to the left he also moved to the left. Soon he came up to me as if to run into me and suddenly tried to seize me by the lapel. Since there was nothing else I could do I shook off his hand lightly and tried to walk on. Then I heard a splash and the man disappeared. He fell into the pond. I was a little surprised and went to the wedge of the pond and asked if he was all right. the man was just trying to climb out of the pond by placing his hands on the edge. When I took a good look at him, I saw he had algae on his head which made him look like a water sprite (kappa). I felt a bit guilty not being able to suppress my laughter and offered my hand and pulled him out. I was relieved to know he wasn’t hurt but he, for his part, didn’t like what had happened and left the spot without a word.

Challenged to a Match by a Karate Teacher

There is nothing I can do about being very small since I was born that way and people probably think they can easily overcome me. Although it has been a nuisance, I used to sometimes be challenged to a match.

One day, a 6th dan Karate teacher came to the dojo with an introduction from an acquaintance and challenged me to a match. I reluctantly accepted his challenge. When I stood against him in the center of the dojo, he suddenly thrust at me with “Shokentsuki”. The moment he attacked I received his strike with my palm and blended with his fist. The teacher flew forward past me because the timing of his thrust and my movement were perfectly matched. Since that incident, I have been on friendly terms with him.

Mischievous Prank by Occupation Soldiers

The following incident occurred just after the war. At that time my house was located in Tokorozawa. I was on the way home on the last train of the Seibu Line, which in those days was still called the Musashino Line. Two drunken occupation soldiers got on this train. It was the time when the Occupation Army reigned and instances of intolerable behavior by soldiers were common. The soldiers on the train were amusing themselves by poking the heads or touching the noses of the Japanese. However, no one stopped them and they suffered the insult with lowered eyes. Soon one of the soldiers came up to me and tried to stroke my cheek with his right hand saying “Papa-san”. I grabbed his hand lightly with my left hand. Then he tried to do the same with his left hand. I grabbed it with my right hand and executed what we call the two-handed yonkajo technique firmly. The large man fell flat on the floor. Unfortunately for him there was a coat of oil on the wooden floor. His face and clothes became black as coal and he looked quite miserable. The soldiers must have really been surprised at this because they became quiet. I still remember the delighted look of all Japanese passengers I saw then.

Japanese Woman Assaulted by Occupation Soldiers

In those days following the war Japanese in general were in a state of lethargy and you could not do anything about the Occupation Army. Even the Japanese police had a hard time handling them. I would like to relate one incident where I by chance witnessed an incident of high-handed behavior. It occurred on New Year’s Day 1947. That afternoon, the sun was still high and I was on the way back from visiting my relatives’ house after extending my new year’s greeting. When I neared Ebisu station I saw a bunch of people standing around the police box. I too peeped through out of curiosity and found a young housewife crying in front of a policeman. Gathering from the stories I heard she seemed to have been assaulted by a black soldier on the street nearby. I though that being an occupation solder did not excuse such an act and told the policeman he should go and arrest him immediately. The police officer looked perplexed and was reluctant to interfere in such matters. However, even if he was an American soldier, such an act should in no way be allowed. Therefore, I said to him: “I’m going to get him. Please call the military police immediately.” The policeman looked hard at me and said, “You? It’s impossible. You better not do that!” He stopped me out of kindness but I rushed away despite his advice. Then, I heard the report of a gun. When I looked in the direction of the shot I found one of six black soldiers holding up his gun over his head for fun and threatening people around him. Passerby were all frightened and panicked, some of them running into a nearby shop to hide. I walked towards the man little by little. Maybe he though I was just a child and he turned his back on me. I seized this chance and struck him in the back of the head. The instant he turned around I struck him with the side of my hand repeatedly with all my might while nearly jumping up at him. While he was disoriented, I wrestled the gun from his grasp and threw it far away. Then I applied the shihonage technique and threw him to the ground. At that time an MP jeep came with sirens wailing from afar. As could be expected, the soldiers were powerless against the MP’s and were taken away before they could flee.

I then returned to the police box. The police officer’s attitude towards me changed completely and he even used politer language. However, the young wife was still crying there saying that she could not possibly go back home. So I comforted her and took her back to her home nearby. I told her husband who came out at the door what his wife had fallen into a ditch and got her kimono dirty and said that I had felt sorry for her and took her home. Her husband was very thankful for what I had done and showed me in. I was treated to “silver rice”, that is, white rice, which you could not eat often in those days served by his wife who had by then regained her composure. Then I went home.

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