“Interview with Masatake Fujita,” by Stanley Pranin

Masatake Fujita, 8th dan Aikikai shihan, was born April 21, 1937 in Shinkyo (present-day Changchun) in Japanese-occupied Manchuria. He repatriated to Sapporo, Hokkaido in 1948. Fujita enrolled in Takushoku University in 1956. He entered Aikikai Hombu Dojo in November of the same year. After graduation, Fujita was employed for seven years at the Shin Seikatsu Undo Kyokai (New Lifestyles & Athletics Association). In 1967, he joined the office staff of the Aikikai. Aikido 8th dan.

AJ: I understand your father learned aikido from Ueshiba Sensei in Manchuria.

Fujita: Yes, he was originally a judo man and he continued to practice judo during his work posting in Manchuria. There was a group called the Manchuria Budo Society (Manshu Budokai) whose members got together to practice not only judo, but kendo, sumo and other arts as well. My father was one of those involved in running this group and so he knew quite a few of the people practicing other martial arts. It was through that connection that he learned aikido when Morihei Ueshiba was invited to Manchuria. He trained with people like Kenji Tomiki (1900-1979), who was a professor at Manchuria’s Kenkoku University, and sumo wrestler Saburo Wakuta (1903-1989, also known as Tenryu, a well-known wrestler who began learning aikido after being impressed by the techniques of Morihei Ueshiba).

In those days, aikido practitioners tended to be people with considerable experience in other martial arts, and often a personal introduction was required as well. Most of them were already quite strong in judo or kendo or whatever art they had studied.

AJ: What kind of work was your father doing in Manchuria?

Fujita: He was with the Concordia Society (Kyowakai), an organization established to do a kind of “behind-the-scenes” government work. The [Guandong] army was very strong in Manchuria. The government was comprised of Chinese at the very top, in the ministerial and other high-ranking positions, and Japanese in the positions below those. Within this arrangement, the government, the army, and the Concordia Society served to balance one another. For example, if the army detained a Chinese national for some reason, my father would step in to offer the person assistance and support. In other words, these three acted as a triangular set of counterbalances to one another, and within that my father’s position gave him at least enough authority, for example, to be able to lodge complaints against the army.

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  1. …These glimpses into history are always interesting. Not to ever forget that the Japanese were frequently inhumane. Compare the survival statistics for POWs of Germany and Japan as an indication.

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