Nov
06

Interview with Seiseki Abe (2), by Stanley Pranin

Aikido Journal #114 (1998)

Introduction

This interview with Seiseki Abe Sensei is an important source for those fascinated by Morihei Ueshiba’s internal exercises and misogi training. In addition, this interview explains how it was that the Aikido Founder took an interest in calligraphy, and how his martial training translated into his command of the brush.

You will learn of the significant role played by Bonji Kawatsura and Kenji Futaki, and how their approach to misogi purification training compares with the practices of the Omoto religion to which O-Sensei was exposed during his years in Ayabe in the 1920s.

In short, this is one of those seminal articles that will reveal yet another dimension of Morihei’s character and spiritual vision of aikido.


“Renowned calligrapher and aikido master recollects
his experiences as both student and teacher of Morihei Ueshiba”
.

1 – THE PATH OF BRUSH

Sensei, you are well known as a master calligrapher. How was it that you started down “the path of the brush?”

I used to be a school teacher, first at the elementary school level, then at a girls’ school, and then at the junior and senior high school and university levels. During that time, I often asked myself, “What is the most important thing I can impart to my students?” One of the answers I arrived at was “to appreciate, value, and honor one’s parents.” This conclusion was probably influenced, at least in part, by the general Japanese cultural value of taking one’s household and ancestors into consideration before thinking about oneself.

In my case, my father happened to be a skilled calligrapher, so I thought the best way to “honor” him, as it were, would be to take up the brush myself. Doing so became one of my goals in life. By coincidence my mother’s name happened to be “Fude,” which is also the Japanese word for “brush!” Anyway, it seemed apparent to me that part of my destiny lay in trying to make something of myself as a calligrapher.

My father had studied calligraphy under a well-known Osaka calligrapher by the name of Ekido Teranishi and therefore his style bore Teranishi’s influence to some extent and he became quite skilled. It occurred to me that I was probably the successor, and that is how I came to take up calligraphy myself.

Has calligraphy been a tradition in your family over the generations?

Yes, for quite a while it seems. Ever since I can remember practically every room in our house has always been decorated by the framed calligraphic works of previous generations.

2 – ENCOUNTER WITH MISOGI

I’ve heard that at one point in your calligraphy career you found yourself at something of a deadlock —a period of stagnation, if you will— and it was then that you discovered a group called the “Misogikai” that helped you break through that barrier. Could you tell us a bit more about that?

One’s growth as a calligrapher comes in a number of stages. To begin with, you learn how to work with the “form” or “shape” of the characters. Fortunately, there are so many examples of beautiful form —going all the way back to the Han Dynasty in China even— that there’s not much chance of stagnation when it comes to exploring form. Where I started to run into trouble was in my exploration of “line” (although “line” may be too simplistic a term), which is what you work on after you’ve mastered form to a certain degree. When it comes to line, concepts like “thickness” and “thinness” are easy enough to understand, but in addition to these you also have to work with “depth” and “shallowness.” Shallowness is easy enough to understand as well, so what I was having trouble with had to do with adding depth to my brushstrokes. Such depth is more or less invisible to the eye, yet it is still one of the qualities that gives life to a calligraphic work. So much so, in fact, that it may be considered the very heart and soul of Japanese calligraphy. The degree of thickness or thinness is a relatively visible quality that determines whether a line conveys the intended degree of energy or vigor, but qualities like depth (and also “height”) are invisible to the eye and therefore much more elusive.

Kenzo Futaki (1873-1966)

It was there that I found my growth as a calligrapher moving toward to an impasse. It was about that time that I first encountered Kenzo Futaki’s Misogi no Renseikai (Misogi Training Society). Kenzo Futaki was a Doctor of Medicine and a prewar student of Morihei Ueshiba. This Misogikai was a group dedicated to exploring and teaching methods that could be used to draw on a kind of “psychological” or “spiritual” strength beyond mere physical strength —what we might now call misogi (purification) to draw out”ki“. It sounded like exactly what I needed. The application date had already passed, but they made an exception for me, and I was able to join the first session, which was conducted as kind of “training camp” consisting of about a week’s worth of seminars.

[Read more...]

Nov
06

“Historical photo: Morihei Ueshiba, Aspiring Calligrapher!,” by Stanley Pranin

“During the last 15 years of his life, Morihei brushed hundreds of
calligraphies, many for his students to display in their aikido schools.”

Relatively late in his life, Morihei Ueshiba enthusiastically took up the art of calligraphy. The impetus for this was his long association with Seiseki Abe of Osaka, one of his devoted students. In addition to his passion for aikido, Abe Sensei also happened to be a renowned calligrapher. Beginning in the mid-1950s, Abe Sensei would give private lessons to Morihei when the Aikido Founder stay at his home in Osaka to teach aikido.

During the last 15 years of his life, Morihei brushed hundreds of calligraphies, many for his students to display in their aikido schools. Abe Sensei wrote this about Morihei’s calligraphy:

Ueshiba Sensei’s spirit resides in his calligraphy not in the forms or shapes of the characters, but in their resonance and light. Similarly, that spirit resides in aikido not in the techniques you can see with your eyes, but in those you cannot.

This photo shows O-Sensei preparing to brush some Japanese characters into a book as Fukiko Sunadomari assists with his brush. Fukiko Sensei was the elder sister of the late Kanshu Sunadomari, a famous aikido teacher of Kumamoto, Kyushu. Her elder half-brother was Kanemoto Sunadomari, the man who wrote the first biography of Morihei, published in 1969.
[Read more...]

Nov
05

“Winning with my Aikido,” by Francis Takahashi

Let’s face it. The main purpose of fighting is to gain a victory, or to prevent a loss. Perhaps an added purpose is to gain the “maximum benefit” such a victory would provide, which may be the total annihilation of the opposition itself. This has been, in my opinion, the main impetus for the development of martial technology, codification, implementation, as well as the necessary assimilation of its ethic into the existing social fabric of that time.

Of course, the underlying reasons for ongoing human conflict are far more complex, agenda specific, historically relevant, and the fodder for dissection and dialogue far beyond the scope of this article.

Fighting as a socially viable concept is a valid one, since mankind’s history, nay nature itself, is replete with proof that the truism of “only the fittest survive” is both intrinsically valid and proven fact. There is no real merit or appreciable gain to be obtained in denigrating the history of fighting, as it is quite possibly ingrained within our DNA itself, commonly known as the “fight or flight” response. Let us start there.

I do believe that when “fighting” is the best recourse at the moment, then to fight to the best of one’s best ability is both necessary and justified. Nothing less will do when faced with the threat of imminent destruction or harm to people, principles or property one dearly loves, and has sworn to protect.
[Read more...]

Nov
05

Video: John Goss, 7th dan Korindo Aikido, at Aiki Expo 2002 in Las Vegas

“The highly effect hanbo demonstrated at Aiki Expo 2002!”

John Goss Sensei operates a Korindo Aikido dojo in Baltimore, Maryland. He is also a long-time Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu student of Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei. Goss Sensei has also developed exceptional skills in the hanbo, a short-stick weapon with applications in such areas as law enforcement.

In this most unusual video clip, you will see Goss Sensei’s outstanding presentation of the hanbo at Aiki Expo 2002 held in Las Vegas, Nevada. The realism of this demonstration caught the audience by surprise and held them in rapt attention. In this performance, you will see yet another application of aiki skills to a weapon that will be unfamiliar to most.

Duration: 3:24
Access: Free and paid subscribers

Click here to login to the Aikido Journal Members Site to view the video clip of John Goss Sensei demonstrating the hanbo

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Nov
04

Review of Kisshomaru Ueshiba’s “A Life in Aikido” by Robert Noha

Introduction

This is an important book on Aikido. It is a detailed biography of the founder of Aikido by his son and successor.

Moriteru Ueshiba, grandson of O Sensei and the current Doshu, summarizes the value of the book to Aikido practitioners in his preface:

“At present Aikido has spread to over 90 countries all over the world…given this wide dissemination, it is extremely important for Aikido to be correctly understood by its practitioners. In particular it is essential to trace the footsteps of the Founder Morihei Ueshiba. The publication of this book, and its translation into English, are very significant in that regard.”
[Read more...]

Nov
04

How one Dojo Instructor gave his students an amazing resource… and got a free subscription!

“Incenting subs to the Aikido Journal Members Site”

Barry Tuchfeld Sensei

In addition to supporting the good work on Aikido Journal, it is my belief that having Aikido students subscribe to the Members Site will enhance their knowledge and commitment to train. Our economy is very weak and several of our students cannot afford the full price of $29.75. So, I asked if Stan would consider incenting the dojo as everyone likes a challenge. I proposed we sell 10 memberships if he would “match” that with one free one.
Generously, Stan countered with offering 5 free memberships if we send him a check for $297.50 (10 x $29.75 )

I knew there were a few people who could afford a subscription and who could effectively subsidize others if they actually paid more. So, I started by announcing this after a class, and said the dojo would contribute $50, and spontaneously, two others said they would put in $50 (each). Needing only $145 more meant that we were able to give one (deserving) student a free subscription, and others put in between $5 and $20 to fill the pot.

The only problem was that I forgot the count, and we ended up with 15 students, but no subscription for me, the dojo cho! Guess that shows that if others are going to do this, they need to keep count!! :>)

P.S. Barry Sensei did indeed get a complimentary subscription for all his hard work and original thinking!

Barry Tuchfeld, Ph.D.
Sensei
941.914.6712
www.aikidosarasota.com


If your dojo would like to undertake a similar subscription drive and get free subscriptions for several members, please click on this link

Nov
03

Video: Katsuyuki Kondo, Menkyo Kaiden, at Aiki Expo 2002 in Las Vegas

Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei is one of the most highly regarded of current Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu masters. Having practiced for more than 50 years, he is the sole person to have received Menkyo Kaiden certification from Headmaster Tokimune Takeda, son of Sokaku Takeda. Kondo Sensei has traveled extensively to America, Europe, and Australia conducting seminars since the late 1980s to the present. Also, literally hundreds of foreign students have come to Japan to study at his Shimbukan Dojo in Tokyo.

Katsuyuki Kondo demonstrating a spectacular Daito-ryu throw

Katsuyuki Kondo demonstrating a spectacular Daito-ryu throw in a mid-1980s demonstration

Kondo Sensei is the foremost historian of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and has amassed a huge collection of documents tracing the history of the art and its tie-in with Morihei Ueshiba and aikido. In addition, he is an acknowledged authority and collector of calligraphy of famous Zen swordmaster Tesshu Yamaoka.

A close viewing of this video offers aikido practitioners an excellent opportunity to study the precursor forms of various aikido techniques. You will be able to discern both similarities and differences between the two arts. You will notice in particular the liberal use of atemi and the specialized pinning movements peculiar to Daito-ryu.

Duration: 5:23
Access: Paid subscribers

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Nov
03

Historical photo: “Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei at 2000 Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Demonstration in Tokyo,” by Stanley Pranin

My association with Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu began in 1987, Kondo Sensei was “told” by Tokimune Takeda Sensei, son and successor of Sokaku Takeda, to coordinate with me and participate in the 3rd Friendship Demonstration in Tokimune’s place.

Kondo Sensei was not particularly pleased with this idea, and from the outset, seemed very suspicious of me and my motives in “courting” the Daito-ryu world. He was also very surprised that Tokimune Sensei would cooperate to the extent he had with Aiki News, and make open so much documentation to a little-known foreigner from the aikido “side of the fence.”

His coldness towards me was very evident when we were first introduced by Tokimune Sensei at a Kobudo demonstration in Tokyo. Following our first meeting, I was invited to Kondo Sensei’s home shortly thereafter for what turned out to be a “grilling.” I was met by Kondo Sensei and one of his ranking instructors, and the two of them proceeded to ask pointed questions of me in order to ferret out my motivations in staging this Friendship Demonstration in which Daito-ryu would be sharing the stage with aikido instructors.

Who was financing the demonstration? Did Aiki News expect to turn a profit from the event? Was Aiki News going to market a video? How much would we charge? These were the kind of questions I was asked. It was all very direct, and I was quite uncomfortable to be caught in this situation.

Then, it was my turn to ask a few questions.

Were they aware how Sokaku Takeda had been portrayed in aikido publications? Did they know that Morihei Ueshiba’s Daito-ryu training experience was being described as “minimal,” and that Daito-ryu was simply “one of several martial arts” that influenced aikido?

My line of questioning seemed to pique their interest and make them feel a bit more at ease in my presence. I had anticipated this sort of thing happening, and came armed with a bunch of historical documents. I then showed them the altered “chameleon” photo of O-Sensei which shocked them.

At this point, Kondo Sensei’s attitude towards me changed dramatically. He started pulling out books and documents from his bookcases and we soon found ourselves sitting on the floor strewn with all manner of books, photos, letters, notes, etc. He had found a fellow historian and researcher, a rare happening indeed!

The ice having been broken this way, it was apparent that we were destined to become good friends. And so it happened…

Kondo Sensei gave a wonderful presentation at the 1987 Friendship Demonstration. Also, we went on to do technical videos and a book together that helped open up Daito-ryu to our aikido audience, and the martial arts community at large.

We have been friends for 24 years now and have done things behind the scenes together which have been very important to me in my research odyssey.

Here is a wonderful photo shot at a large Daito-ryu demonstration held in Tokyo in the year 2000. We have a large amount of material on Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and Sokaku Takeda on our website.

Nov
02

Video: Nobuyoshi Tamura demonstrates at the International Aikido Federation Convention in 1978

The late Nobuyoshi Tamura Sensei (1933-2010) was an aikido legend in France where he lived for over 45 years, and in the rest of Europe as well. He began his training at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo about 1953 as an uchideshi. He soon became a junior instructor and a favorite uke of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. Tamura Sensei was dispatched to France where he taught aikido for the remainder of his life.

There is no question that he was one of aikido’s elite technicians. There was a dynamic quality to his art, a palpable, electric air when he executed techniques. Tamura Sensei was also an outstanding swordsman having studied iaido for many years.

This video clip captures his performance at the 1978 Second Convention of the International Aikido Federation held in Honolulu, Hawaii. Tamura Sensei’s greatness is immediately perceivable in this 8mm footage. There is a remarkable scene when he executes a sword-taking pin and sends his opponent’s weapon flying. Very interesting, and very martial!

Once again, we would like to thank Francis Takahashi for gifting this video for the benefit of the larger aikido community.

Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei and Nobuyoshi Tamura demonstrating sword kata c. 1960

Duration: 2:59
Access: Paid subscribers

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Nov
01

Audio: Minoru Mochizuki Interview, November 22, 1982

“Minoru Mochizuki: Disciple of Morihei Ueshiba and Jigoro Kano, Founder of Yoseikan Aikido

This audio is a recording of the first portion of an interview with Minoru Mochizuki Sensei (1907-2003) conducted by Stanley Pranin and Aiki News Editor Ikuko Kimura in Shizuoka City on November 22, 1982.

Minoru Mochizuki Sensei was an elite martial artist who had the good fortune to be a student under Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and Judo Founder Jigoro Kano, among his many teachers. As a result of his lengthy study and innovative thinking, he eventually devised a composite martial system including elements of judo, aikido, iaijutsu, karate, and kobudo known variously as Yoseikan Aikido and Yoseikan Budo.

In his younger years, Mochizuki Sensei was a top judo competitor, and was later sent by Kano to study at Morihei Ueshiba’s dojo. He operated a private dojo in Shizuoka City for many years and trained thousands of students in the various disciplines comprising his art.

Mochizuki Sensei is credited with being the first to introduce aikido to France in 1951. The seed he planted there would soon flourish, and France today has the largest population practicing aikido of any nation.

Mochizuki Sensei was a featured guest in the 1986 Friendship Demonstration sponsored by Aiki News in Tokyo.

In this recording, Mochizuki Sensei talks about his background in the martial arts and his association with Jigoro Kano and Morihei Ueshiba.

A revolution in the study of aikido history
Through the burgeoning number of documents being added almost daily to the Aikido Journal Members Site, you are now able to access carefully organized information on every aspect of aikido that was previously unavailable. Now, as we systematically upload the actual audio recordings of Stanley Pranin’s interviews, you will have the ability to listen in on hundreds of fascinating conversations with the greatest figures in aikido history! Despite the fact that most of these interviews are conducted in Japanese, you will gain a clear insight into the personality and mode of expression of each teacher. Moreover, most of the interviews have been translated into English for those who wish to delve further in their research. Your time spent educating yourself by listening to these recordings will surely have a profound impact on your study of aikido!

File size: part 1, 45:03, 44 mb; part 2, 45:44, 43 mb
Format: mp3
Language: Japanese

Note: Please use a headset to listen to this interview for best comprehension.

Click here to log into the Aikido Journal Members Site and download the Minoru Mochizuki interview recording

Nov
01

Video: Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba demonstrates at the 2006 Iwama Taisai

This video of Aikido Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba was taken by Stanley Pranin at the 2006 Aikido Taisai held at the Iwama Shrine in Ibaragi Preference. It consists of a short speech and a beautiful aikido demonstration given by Moriteru Ueshiba Sensei. Taking ukemi were Mitsuteru Ueshiba and several Aikikai Hombu Dojo instructors.

Doshu receives wreath from Omoto priest

The demonstration was caught at close range and is presented in its entirety. Moriteru Sensei has very smooth technique and excellent blending skills. He is particularly noted for his flawless execution of seated techniques (suwariwaza). Also shown are defenses against sword strike, jo thrusts, and two-man attacks.

The Iwama Taisai is an annual event held on April 29 commemorating the passing of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. The ceremony is presided over by Omoto priests. It is the tradition for the current Aikido Doshu to present a demonstration on this occasion. In recent years, typically more than 500 people, many from abroad, have attended the event.

Duration: 8:53
Access: Paid subscribers

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