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Remembering Minoru Mochizuki Sensei

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by Patrick Augé

Published Online

Minoru Mochizuki
It has been two years since Mochizuki Sensei passed away. Many will remember him for his sutemi waza, his intensive and practical approach to aikido training, and his lectures on mutual welfare and evolution. However, his direct students, some who maintained with him a thirty- to fifty-year relationship that lasted until the end of his life, remember him for his qualities as a human being and as a teacher. Those of us who had the privilege of living with him at the dojo were witnesses to his daily life, a wellspring of constant teaching for those who were observing.

Every one knew Kancho Sensei (Mochizuki Sensei) for his generosity, which is the first quality of a teacher. One of the lessons we learned from Mochizuki Sensei is that we can share only what we have. It’s by treating oneself well in the first place that we can learn how to treat others well. His meaning of generosity was wise generosity: giving according to one’s needs, not according to one’s wishes.

He had built a dojo with accommodations so that his students could have a permanent place to study, practice, and live. Sensei and Okusan (Mrs. Mochizuki) lived among the uchi deshi in the dojo; they occupied a small space made of two rooms on the second floor. Sensei had a house downtown, but he preferred to live at the dojo so that he could be present for his students and visitors.

Kancho Sensei and Okusan ate simple food, but their refrigerator was always full and open to everyone. If anyone showed up or someone stayed late at night, a feast would be easily prepared.

To make one’s material resources available to others is a great mark of generosity. But there is a greater mark of generosity: it’s to make oneself available to others. Often Mochizuki Sensei would stay after practice to give more specific instruction. At a large seminar in Europe, while most other teachers left eagerly to go shopping and sightseeing, he continued teaching. He later explained to us: “I may be dead tomorrow, so there is no time to waste!”

At the dojo, his door would always be open. He would often sit at a small table next to the entrance. That table was always covered with pens, pencils, dictionaries, newspaper clippings, and manuscripts. Above the table on the wall was a large world map. That area was where he did most of his reading and writing. He even ate breakfast there. Kancho Sensei used to get up early and prepare his breakfast himself. His favorite breakfast consisted of bread, butter, jam, and café au lait (milk coffee), which he would quietly eat at that table, as he faced toward the sunrise. Then he would wash dishes – something he always insisted on doing by himself – and he would read the newspaper. When the mail came in, he would open it, call one of us if any translation was needed, and reply immediately.

If people who wanted to meet Kancho Sensei would show up, he immediately made himself available to meet them. He would stop whatever he was doing, and he would listen to us, as if we were the most important people in the world. Then, after the meeting ended, he would go back to whatever he was doing, as if there had been no interruption. Even later, during his last years, Kancho Sensei’s day consisted of preparing himself to be at his best to teach his evening class; thus, he would take several naps. The rule was: “If someone comes, wake me up!” His awareness never waned. He could wake up and start a conversation as if nothing had happened.

Personally, I have found this particular teaching to be the most challenging to follow. I might be in the middle of doing some task that requires my full concentration, then someone shows up or calls who requires my immediate attention, and very often it’s for something that can wait. But watching Kancho Sensei’s example has made me wonder: what would happen if I missed that crucial moment to listen to someone who came a long way to see me or who may have no one else to talk to?

Living close to Kancho Sensei was like living on total groundlessness. If one expected a definite, secure answer to a question, the Yoseikan wasn’t the place for that. Many students left because they could not take that kind of pressure; they couldn’t learn to function beyond their zones of comfort. One of my teachers told me soon after I arrived at the dojo: “Train yourself to not be surprised!” which I translated into: “Be prepared to expect the unexpected!”

Applied to practice, Mochizuki Sensei’s teachings are expressed through the constant technical evolution of the art – those techniques that spring out of the blue during free sparring to respond to new situations. That is omote. But mostly, they are expressed through the way we think and live our daily lives, which is the result of training ourselves to accept whatever happens and see what we can do with it. That is ura.

Those are the standards that Mochizuki Sensei left us so that we can go into unknown territory with confidence and share his teachings with others. The spiritual stream he received from his teachers keeps flowing in those of us who have accepted his generous invitation to make those teachings our shugyo.

Patrick Augé
International Yoseikan Budo Association