“Interview with Yukiyoshi Takamura” by Stanley Pranin

The article below has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Some aikido teachers talk a lot about non-violence, but fail to understand this truth. A pacifist is not really a pacifist if he is unable to make a choice between violence and non-violence. A true pacifist is able to kill or maim in the blink of an eye, but at the moment of impending destruction of the enemy he chooses non-violence. He chooses peace. He must be able to make a choice. He must have the genuine ability to destroy his enemy and then choose not to. I have heard this excuse made. “I choose to be a pacifist before learning techniques so I do not need to learn the power of destruction.” This shows no comprehension of the mind of the true warrior. This is just a rationalization to cover the fear of injury or hard training. The true warrior who chooses to be a pacifist is willing to stand and die for his principles. People claiming to be pacifists who rationalize to avoid hard training or injury will flee instead of standing and dying for principle. They are just cowards. Only a warrior who has tempered his spirit in conflict and who has confronted himself and his greatest fears can in my opinion make the choice to be a true pacifist..

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  1. bruce baker says:

    This is a good article with many good insights …. read it .. if you have the time.

    My one comment about the lead-in to this is that one who claims to be a pacifist must study the ways of violence, or he is empty of meaning.

    It is most difficult to recognize those he can leave in peace, live in peace with, and those he must destroy to create or maintain the peace. Maybe that is the whole point of choosing peace over violence, but still … having the choice to use the most violent of methods if necessary?

    It is the history of civilization, and the history of man that some among us will embrace madness and violence. Let’s not become complacent in our knowledge or our skills because we hire a force of professional soldiers or employ a government to watch over us.

    In the end, it is the people who will keep and maintain the peace, and only a few among them who will see the truth when madness overwhelms the minds of the people.

    Don’t become part of the Obama-madness, nor part of the corrupt politcal machines vying for wealth and power. Somewhere out in the people must be the voices of reason who are not hypnotized, nor part of the madness, but those who can speak from independence and from truth.

    Maybe the diversion of martial arts study is one way to avoid some of the madness, but far too often it becomes part of the trap is one becomes the follower of one or many seeking riches and power.

    My point is … respect each other, and still be independent. There are many more weapons then the sword or the gun, and sometimes that weapon is … surviving.

    Just a thought. In the light of history, the survivors write the history despite the skills and the efforts of warriors who die in battle. At the core of our being is an effort to keep the tribe safe, continue the ancestor line of the tribe into the future. Be it peace or violence, all our efforts are for the sake of the tribe, or family in these modern days, and it’s survival.

  2. Aikido is a rather special form of non-violence, at least as I see it. Rather than standing and being hit, running away or fighting, the aikidoka seems to be enmeshed in the violence without it capturing the mind.

    O Sensei wasn’t a Hindu, as Stan once reminded a particularly zealous student. Still, the image of Kalki, or Set (ancient Egyptian) the destroyer comes to mind. Anger or fear or contest don’t enter into the purity of the concept. The proficient aikidoka who enters the fray weaves a path through it attacking its structure and leaving behind collapse, but without intent or attachment.

    But, aikidoka does not deny the violence any more than partake of it.

  3. Charles, Spot on.

    “Anger or fear or contest don’t enter into the purity of the concept. The proficient aikidoka who enters the fray weaves a path through it attacking its structure and leaving behind collapse, but without intent or attachment.

    But, aikidoka does not deny the violence any more than partake of it.”

    Is pure word wizardry and points precisely at the Do of Ai and Ki.

    Sometimes this website just shines more brightly than usual.

  4. Tom Collings says:


    There are those rare and priceless moments when something or someone challenges all our assumptions, and forces us to confront our petty concerns and the degree to which we are living up to our highest ideals. For me Takamura Yukiyoshi is that rare and wonderful individual. He left us a legacy of genius and innovation born of a lifetime of hard basic training. His words are a gift to us, road map for each of us to follow his example.

    Takamura demands dedication to and sustained focus on the substance – not just appearance of our arts and demands we make it relevant and real. This requires true mastery.
    I cannot help but feel if O’Sensei, Takeda or Kano Senseis were still with us, they would want this article posted on every dojo wall to keep teachers honest and sincere.

    Their is so much to learn from this gentleman, I continue to study this priceless interview year in year out.
    He continues to challenge me and burn impurities out me. Short of having been blessed to train with him, Stan has shared with us his awesome experience and vast treasure of knowledge. I will be forever grateful.

  5. Brett Jackson says:

    My sentiments exactly, Mr Collings. What a brilliant interview! What a shining example of authentic aikido understanding and insightful leadership.

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