Aikido no Hanashi
Aiki News #23 (May 1977)
Some time ago there was a young American graduate student who, having just earned his shodan in Aikido, decided to visit and train in Japan. ln order to finance his trip and to earn academic credit, he submitted a proposal for the study of the history of Aikido and its development from other martial arts. lt was so convincingly written that he received a one-year Fulbright scholarship. After a 10-week crash course in Japanese at the East-West Center in Hawaii he was off for the land of the Rising Sun.
The eager young Aikido devotee headed for a dojo in Aomori where he had learned that the sensei was not only exceptional in Aikido, but in other martial arts as well. This, he felt, would be the best place for his research and training. Upon his arrival, the Sensei seemed to take the enthusiastic young American under his wing. This was misinterpreted by some of the senior students at the dojo. One student, a yondan, was particularly piqued and took it upon himseIf to see just how good this foreigner’s Aikido was.
One evening, close to the end of practice, when the sensei had been called briefly from the mat, the deshi saw his chance. After a quick “onegai shimasu,” they began a vigorous practice. As the pace increased, the American sensed the deshi’s intent, and though tired, he was determined to make a good showing. “lt’s not just for my own acceptance,” he thought, “but to show that training in America can be just as good as in Japan.” Aware of a renewed strenght and resistance in his opponent, the deshi saw this as unspoken acceptance of his challenge. Giving them room, the other students began to clear away and watch them. The American rushed in, arms outstretched, for ryotemochi. The deshi whirled, and, as if cracking a whip, brought the shodan around facing him. With the motion of a cutting sword, the intent yondan brought his own hand blade down over the American’s contorted wrist, slamming him to the mat. His response slowed by fatigue, there was a snapping sound and the uke let out a gasp of pain. lnstantly released, the American came to the seiza position and doubled over, his wrist clutched to his stomach.
With a flurry of “daijobu? daijobu?”, the other students surrounded the injured young foreigner, helped him to his feet, and escorted him from the mat. Moving on the fringe of the concerned group, the deshi’s face seemed to belie a faint sense of satisfaction.
Shortly thereafter, bursting into the room, the sensei hurried to the injured newcomer followed by students carrying plaster, water, and bandages. He then carefully took the broken wrist and gave it an expert inspection. There was nervous anxiety, but no one spoke or dared to move away. Within fifteen minutes the well-fashioned herb and plaster mixture had begun to harden into a cast. Wiping his hands, the thoughtful sensei stepped back and looked at the anxious students. The disturbed master seemed to gain in stature as his face darkened in anger. Low and tempered, his voice came out nonetheless with the power of an angry kamisama. “Sore wa dame da!”, he snapped. In broken English a nearby Japanese translated for the only partially comprehending American. The sensei continued: “This is a disgrace to Aikido. O-Sensei wished to eliminate such clashes of vanity, pride, and anger.” Directing his gaze to the injured student he said: “You need not have exceeded your abilities just to demonstrate that you as a foreigner are worthy. This is pride. Now you must wait several months before you can train again. You have lost precious time.”
The sensei then turned to the deshi. “This is not the first time,” he said menacingly, “you are a dishonor to the art. Years ago O-Sensei banned all contests in Aikido after he himself was responsible for permanently injuring a great martial artist in a duel. When O-Sensei realized that this man would never be able to practice again, he saw that contests in the martial arts always have destructive consequences. Your testing this foreigner arose out of vanity and when you felt he was impertinent in his resistence, it was anger that recklessly hurt him. There is no acceptable reason for losing control during practice. You will share in his loss. You will not be allowed to practice in my dojo until he can train again,” the sensei said, gesturing to the American. “I require both of you to attend classes daily without fail. You will sit together and observe the practice. This will be an opportunity to gain insight into the true spirit of Aikido and to overcome your differences.”
And so it happened.