“Hell Dojo” of the West
“I want to follow Sensei’s footsteps as my life path.” Shirata Rinjiro’s words delighted the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba. At that time, the Kobukan Dojo was inseparably linked to the Omoto religion, and one would often see Omoto believers training. On the other hand, there were also many highly ranked practitioners of arts like kendo and judo and among the trainees. Rinjiro, having perceived aikido [the art was actually know as "Aiki Budo" at this time] as a true martial art, was especially promising in Morihei’s eyes. In addition, you could say that Rinjiro was blessed with good timing.
The prewar golden era had just arrived for the Kobukan, which was nicknamed the “Hell Dojo.” Yoichiro Inoue, Hisao Kamada, Minoru Mochizuki, Kaoru Funahashi, Tsutomu Yukawa, Aritoshi Murashige, Kenji Tomiki, and other eminent people were the seniors. Zenzaburo Akazawa, and Tesshin Hoshi were uchideshi similar in status to Rinjiro. Among those regularly commuting to train was Gozo Shioda, who was equal to the uchideshi. Such people were always at the dojo. It could be said that Rinjiro was trained and brought up by these shining talents of aikido history.
For the five years from 1932 to 1937 when he departed for the front, literally the period of Rinjiro’s severe training, he always put into practice the saying “every day, life is training, every day, budo is life.”
The uchideshi rose in status from washing the entrance and cleaning the toilets to looking after things around the Founder to duties like serving as a travel companion. However, for a long time, Rinjiro carried out the role of attendant who offers water, tea and salt in front of the Shinto altar every morning. This was probably unrelated to Rinjiro’s father being a believer of the Omoto religion.
Every morning, Morihei went to the altar and offered Shinto prayers. There were uchideshi who disliked this, but it’s said that without realizing it, Rinjiro spontaneously learned the prayers. In any case, he did everything wholeheartedly.
Even though he started early in the morning, he continued training morning, noon and night, without stopping. And although there was time to wash the training clothes he wore continually, there wasn’t enough free time to dry them. As a result of these efforts, Rinjiro was allowed to participate in training outside the dojo after less than a year rather than the two or three years it was usually said to take…
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