Dojo Essay

 


Dojocho Essay
October 1st, 2021

In August, there were still 5,000 new cases of the new coronavirus in Tokyo, and more than 2,000 new cases in Kanagawa Prefecture every day. Although the number of newly infected people has been decreasing since September, the number of severely ill people has been increasing and it has become difficult to secure hospital beds in many areas.

The government has declared a state of emergency in 19 prefectures, including the Tokyo metropolitan area and three surrounding prefectures (Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama), and extended the priority measures to prevent the spread of the disease to eight prefectures until the end of September. The emergency declarations and priority measures to prevent the spread of the disease have been issued, cancelled, and extended repeatedly until today. However, since the beginning of September, the number of newly infected people has been decreasing due to vaccinations and therapeutic drugs.

As of October 1, the "Declaration of Emergency" and "Priority Measures
to Prevent the Spread of the Disease" have been lifted. However, we cannot say that we have reached the point where we can rest assured yet.People in the medical field are concerned about the sixth wave to come. I have high expectations for Fumio Kishida(the new Prime Minister), the new government, and the policies of the various parties after the House of Representatives election. But what do you think?

It seems that the government will complete the corona vaccination of those who wish to be vaccinated by November and allow those who have been vaccinated or who have tested negative to go out with some restrictions.

But now is not the time to relax. It is time for each and every one of us to be more vigilant than ever before. It is also important to avoid the spread of the infection, which could result in the closure of the Dojo and the inability to practice for a long period of time, as it happened 2020 spring. Please continue to follow the training manual and etiquette and cooperate with us further.

Thoughts about the Olympics

I started practicing Aikido in 1964, the year the first Tokyo Olympics were held, when I was 18 years old. I am thrilled to have been able to see two Summer Olympics held in Japan in my lifetime. I was also able to see the Winter Olympics in Sapporo and Nagano.

The second Tokyo Olympics started in late July with 206 countries participating. There were 33 competitions and 339 events. I watched the games on TV and was very excited. There were many new events this time, as for example the women skateboarding competition. And I was positively surprised to see a 13-year-old Japanese woman win the gold medal, a 16-year-old Japanese woman win the bronze medal, and a 13-year-old Brazilian woman win the silver medal in the women's skateboard street event. Especially Momiji Nishiya, who won the gold medal, seemed to be really enjoying herself. And her smile, as she boldly performed difficult moves, made me smile along with her. Of course, for elderly people, the sight of Judo and other athletes fighting on behalf of Japan is bound to be very impressive. In addition, I also felt a sense of freshness as if they were enjoying their favorite sport with less self-consciousness, which probably comes along when young athletes fight for their country. Being young is a good thing!

The Paralympic Games, which started on August 24th, came to a successful conclusion on September 5th. I received a lot of courage and hope from the athletes who worked hard despite their physical disabilities. Watching the games on TV at home, I often found myself shouting out loud at the heated competition. 161 countries participated in the Paralympics, with 22 events and 539 competitions. Mayumi Narita, 51, who is known as the "Queen of Women's Swimming" and has swum in 6 Olympic Game events since her first appearance in 1996 in Atlanta, USA, has won 15 gold medals in the past 5 events. Unfortunately, she did not win a medal at this year's event, but she did finish 6th in the 50-meter backstroke. Miyuki Yamada, the youngest member of the Japanese team and a first-time competitor, won the silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke, the first Japanese medal of this year’s Olympic Games. She also won a silver medal in the 50-meter event that followed. It was just amazing to see her swim through with only crippled legs to kick. I, myself can barely swim 25 meters.

I was also amazed at the power of the wheelchair rugby team that won the bronze medal. It was also surprising to see that there were women playing on the same team as men. The power of wheelchairs colliding with each other was more shocking than full-contact martial arts. Of course, there must be a lot of injuries, and I was impressed by the boldness of the attack. A female athlete said, “It's a great feeling to be able to assist in a match by hitting the wheelchair of an international male athlete at full speed!”

This was also the case with the men's basketball team, which lost to the U.S. champions by a narrow margin, and therefore won but the silver medal. The way they passed the ball while bumping and dodging was amazing. I was particularly impressed at the skillful wheelchair maneuvering and brilliant 3-point shooting of the players, which was different from that of rugby. I already have high expectations for the next Paris Paralympics.

Keiko Sugiura, who won two gold medals in women's cycling, is 50 years old. In the women's marathon on the last day, 44-year-old Misato Michishita won a gold medal, 56-year-old Yumiko Fujii came in fifth, and 66-year-old Mihoko Nishijima, the oldest member of the Japanese team, came in eighth. I watched the closing ceremony on the 5th on TV until the end.

I had some doubts about the distinction between the Olympics for the able-bodied and the Paralympics for the disabled. The term “healthy” is used to describe people who are always healthy both physically and mentally. But is there really such a thing as a person who is always completely healthy?

I was able to feel a lot of kindness and health of mind from the Paralympic athletes. And I saw many wonderful smiles at both games.
At that time, I found the best words in the waiting room of the hospital where I was visiting, “Laughter is good medicine with no side effects.”

As a matter of fact, I became a big fan of the Paralympics. Through this event, I also learned for the first time about the existence of the Deaflympics, the Olympics for the hearing impaired. At first glance, the competitions look the same, but in track and field, for example, the start of the race is signaled by a “start lamp” that lights up in conjunction with the gun, and the athletes and judges communicate with each other using sign language. The Deaflympics is the largest international event for athletes with hearing disabilities. The next games have been postponed and will be held in Brazil in May next year. I hope they will be televised.

These athletes experience a reality that we, who enjoy practicing with five senses, cannot even imagine. Watching the Olympics and Paralympics seems to have made me a person with very honest feelings. Sports have an amazing power, don't they? (And of course, before all martial arts and Aikido.)

Let's not forget to be grateful to each other, and let's continue to practice happily and in good company.

Thoughts on Practice (Part 1)

As you recall, in the last three years of my life, I was hospitalized and operated on several times due to my lack of care for my health, and I caused worry to everyone at the Dojo and my family. It is said that there are no coincidences in fate. Does it now follow, that my struggle against the disease and the recent corona pandemic was inevitable and natural, given from heaven?

In late March of last year, the government declared a state of emergency to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and the Dojo was closed for two months until the end of May. In Aikido, we practice body techniques in combination with weapon techniques. It is said that in Aikido, body techniques and weapon techniques are the two wheels to build on, and that without either, there is no Aikido. Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, the founder of Aikido, also said that Aikido techniques are derived from sword handling.

In my body and in my mind, there are still many Aikido techniques that I have learned from Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, the founder of Aikido, the second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei,the current Doshu Moriteru Sensei, my teacher Yasuo Kobayashi Sensei and many other teachers. In addition, I have learned Karate, swordsmanship, and Chinese martial arts for the sake of Aikido, and they also have wonderful techniques in common with Aikido.

When I celebrated my 75th birthday this March, I had a strong feeling that I wanted to show and appeal more clearly what I had learned from my many predecessors.

As I continue to practice, I tend to become more self-righteous as I go on. When I look back at myself now, I feel that there are many parts of me that are self-righteous. However, with this in mind, I will continue to train and teach so that people can understand Aikido as it is taught at Igarashi Dojo.

Recently, during my training and teaching, I have been experiencing a lot of backflashes of what I have been taught and learned in my mind and body, and remembering things like, “Oh, so that's how it is.”

As a result, what I was teaching yesterday, I find myself teaching today with a different interpretation. I am still in the process of development, and it looks like I have a long way to go.

Thoughts on Practice (Part 2)

In his book, Yukio Funai, a management consultant, says, “What is very important for human beings is to learn and to remember. Let's call both of these together 'learning'.” He added, “You must continue to do this throughout your life. The moment we stop learning, we begin to age. The moment we stop learning, we begin to age. While we are learning, we are young. This can be proven by the function of brain cells.”

Another author said, “We should not spare ourselves the challenge and the cost of learning, even when we are old.” When the corona pandemic comes to an end, I plan to start taking English conversation and piano lessons, which I have been meaning to do for a long time. I don't want to stop learning in the remainder of my life.

Ultimately, there is this thing that I don't fully understand yet. According to physics books, there are four forces in nature: gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force that holds atomic nuclei together, and the weak force when particles break apart due to beta decay. According to experts and researchers, "Ki" is the fifth force. Prayer power and love power are also said to be areas that cannot be proven by science.

Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, the founder of Aikido, said, “Martial arts is love.” And yet, it is also taught by our ancestors that Aiki is a science. It's difficult to understand which is which. But it's a fun challenge!

I really can't compare myself to the Paralympic athletes, although I'm handicapped in one eye and both shoulders. The more I hope you'll stay in touch with me for a while longer.

 

 


Aikido – Quotes From My Teachers

Over the years, starting with Kobayashi Yasuo Sensei, I have learned from many teachers. Lately, I have been pondering their words in my heart, mind and body. I have tried to gather some of those below.

When I first started Aikido at university, my seniors were always talking about something called “ki <1> (気)”. They would shout at me saying things like, “You are not generating Ki!” or “Put your Ki into it”

Later, I was told
   “One generates power (カ<2>), not absorb it”
   “Unbendable arm<3>, immovable body”
   “Integrated body, place your center of gravity as low as possible”
   “Aiki is a vortex”
   “One must focus ki at one point, but don’t agonize over it”
   “Lower your mind and body simultaneously”
   “Raise it while focusing on your pinky finger”
   “Lower it while focusing on your thumb”
   “Aiki techniques utilize the principle of the lever”
   “Use the opposite side”
   “It is important to focus on the point of contact, but don’t agonize over it”
   “Proper distance (maai<4>) is in the knees”
   “Lower your ki into your seika tanden<5>”
   “Do you know where your kikai tanden<6> is?”
   “Capture the moment your partner’s mind moves”
   “Relax your shoulder blades more”
   “Be aware of the body’s center when attacking”
   “Attack the center line”
   “Do not disrupt your center line”
   “Consider where your partner is putting out his/her power”
   “Do you know how many joints there are in the body?”
   “Close your shoulder blades and pelvis, relax them”
   “Close your chest by opening your shoulder blades”

・1    “What is Ki?” (https://japanology.org/2016/05/what-is-ki/)

・2    “Power in Japanese: chikara, explained with its related words” (https://japaneseparticlesmaster.xyz/power-in-japanese/)

・5    Seika Tanden (& The Three Tandens) (https://www.aetw.org/d_seika_tanden.html)

・6    Tanden, The Center (https://www.stenudd.com/aikido/tanden.htm)

   “When you shoulder blades close together, your chest opens up”
   “Relax your lower body more”
   “Begin keiko<7> with hard (i.e., “rigid”) keiko”
   “Think of your keiko partner as a sharpening stone for a sword”
   “First, look at your partner’s eyes”
   “Don’t let your partner’s eyes mislead your mind”
   “Relax your upper body, use your lower body to drive the technique”
   “Relax your knees more”
   “Use the stretching and contraction of your muscles effectively”
   “Use abduction and adduction<8> of the muscles and joints in your body effectively”
   “Apply modulation (i.e., sometimes fast, sometimes slow) in your technique”
   “Shinkoky? (deep breathing) and koky?h?<9> are not the same”
   “Understand the meaning of ‘heaven-earth-person-wa’<10>’”
   “Iki (息:breath) is ‘i’ (意:intent) and ‘ki’ (気); it is also iki (生:life)”
   “Understand the difference between shingitai<11> (心技体) and shingitai (心気体)”
   “Don’t think, just practice (稽古:keiko)”
   “Keiko (稽古) implies thinking about your practice”
   “The theory comes later”
   “Your waza must be well-grounded in theory”
   “Don’t quibble with me about it”
   “Just start with keiko (稽古)”
   “Aikido is circle-triangle-square<12>”
   “Evade with a circle, disrupt with a triangle, control with a square”
   “Sh?-Chiku-Bai<13> (松竹梅) of Aikido”
   “Gently rise up, gently go down”
   “Advance always”
   “When pushing and twisting, be ‘round’, not sharp”
   “Connect your partner’s hara<14> to your own”

・7    Do you know the meaning of Keiko (https://budoresearch.com/english/practice-en/meaning-of-keiko.html)

・10  Ueshiba Morihei on Aikido – does it make sense? (https://danielkati.wordpress.com/2018/09/30/ueshiba-morihei-on-aikido-does-it-make-sense/)

・12  The Circle, Square, and Triangle of Aikido (https://www.budodojo.com/post/the-circle-square-and-triangle-of-aikido)

   “The eyes are the windows to the soul, see the beginning of your partner’s
 movement in his/her eyes”
   “Harmonize with the direction of your partner’s power”
   “The power we are using is but the tip of the iceberg”
   “Consider Kajiba-no-baka-chikara (火事場の馬鹿力: lit. ‘extraordinary strength exhibited during a stressful event (e.g., a fire)’)”
   “Consider the conscious and sub-conscious”
   “Rotate focusing on your back”
   “Rotate focusing on your chest”
   “Lower your center of gravity like being ready for a fight (kenka-goshi<15>)”
   “In sankyo, look at the back of your hand”
   “In nikyo-ura, point your pinky finger towards your partner’s nose”
   “Stand like you are looking at a mountain far away”
   “Keiko builds on top of the previous 3 years of keiko”

 ... and many others. I have heard many others which are very similar to those above, some of them even seem to contradict each other. After all, the obverse and reverse are but different facets of the same thing. I find all of them fascinating.

 It is said that seeing once is better than hearing it a hundred times. I think there should be something like, “Touching once is better than hearing or seeing a hundred times.” Seeing and hearing are, of course, important, but I think that being able to directly touch and feel (fureai<16>) the techniques of my teachers is on an entirely different level. I think it is critical to be able to recall that feeling and try to reproduce it during practice. Arai Toshiyuki Sensei in Gunma once said to me, “The number of instructors who have smelt O-sensei are dwindling!” I thought, “Huh, smell is also part of it.”

 I have also heard the expression, “I have ‘tasted’ that sensei’s technique before.” I think all the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) are important in keiko. As I get older and my five senses start to deteriorate, I realize that I have to nurture my sixth sense as well. I think that keiko involves recalling each of those teachings and realizing them one by one in my body.

 I don’t know how much longer I can enjoy practicing with all of you, but there are many things to learn and enjoy. Let us enjoy practice together for as long as possible!

 

 


Dojocho Essay
July 10, 2019

"About my body condition"


My health has not been at its best since the start of May 2019.

As a matter of fact, I was diagnosed with carotid artery stenosis 3 years ago when plaque formed in my right carotid artery. I have been taking medication ever since.

Around the end of May, the plaque in the carotid artery caused a blockage in my ocular artery such that I have lost sight in my right eye. I consider myself lucky that the plaque did not block any arteries in my brain which would have caused a stroke.

I am taking strong medication and my doctor is monitoring my condition. He says that if it gets any worse, he may need to surgically remove the plaque.

My doctor has strongly advised that I drink no alcohol, watch my diet, avoid long flights and take it easy until the end of the year.

Once I have recovered and able to practice even with one eye, and can stand long flights, I would like to be able to practice with you at your  dojo. I look forward to seeing you there.

Please give my regards to your family and everyone at the dojo.

 

 


Dojocho Essay(2)
1st January 2012

"Associating with People"


The November issue of PHP magazine had a special edition on "Associating with People", and there was an article by the actor Kayama Yuzo that left a strong impression in me that I would like to share.

"Be careful how you think. Thoughts eventually become words. Be careful how you speak. Words eventually become actions. Be careful how you act. Actions eventually become habits. Be careful with habits. Habits eventually define your personality. Be careful with personality. Personality eventually becomes fate."

I think they are wonderful words, but at the same time scary. When I read this, I felt a tingle up my spine. It seems to apply to me in so many ways. How about you, dear reader?

The feeling of gratitude manifests as thoughtfulness. A thoughtful heart harbors warmth. Ueshiba Morihei O-sensei had said, "武 (Bu: as in武桃タmartial art/way) is love," "the 'ai' (合) in aikido is connected to love (・'" and "aikido is the martial art of gratitude."

It has been 48 years since I first entered Meiji University and joined the Aikido club. However, I feel that I have not come to understand even 0.01% of O-sensei's aikido philosophy.
The second Doshu, Ueshiba Kisshomaru sensei had told me, "aikido becomes interesting when you are in your 50's and 60's! " Now that I am in the mid-60's, it has indeed become more interesting, but at the same time I realize the complexity and wonder every day, "what is strength/power? "

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"The Beginner's Mind"


In Maciej Slota's (Calgary Aikikai, Canada) 4th dan essay, "How to teach Aikido to Beginners," there was an interesting entry at the end.

"The most important thing for all students is to practice with pure, beginner's mind. To quote S. Suzuki "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.'"

It is embarrassing for me to say it, but I must admit that I did not know about S. Suzuki. When I researched a bit, I found that Shunryu Suzuki sensei was a priest of the Soto sect, and had been very influential in spreading zen in America. He had also written some books and was a famous teacher.

Lately, it seems that there are a lot of foreigners who are teaching us about Japanese traditions and history. It seems that foreigners who are sincerely practicing budo know more about Japanese traditions and Japanese traditions than Japanese. They also understand more about Aikido and O-sensei.

I deeply felt Suzuki-sensei's words in Maciej's essay, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." As an aikido expert, those words deeply pierced my heart. I felt that this is no time to be saying, "after-keiko(practice) beer is delicious."
I continue to do some more soul-searching and reflection.

 

 


Dojocho Essay(1)
1st January 2011

"The Ancient Japanese Treatment of Manners and Virtue"


One of our earnest members at Hashimoto Dojo, Dr. Bodart-Bailey recently published a new book, "Kaempfer: Visiting the Land of Manners" (Kaempfer: Reisetsu no Kuni ni Kitarite).
She is a professor in the Department of Comparative Culture at Otsuma Women's University, and is well known for her research about the 5th Tokugawa Shogun, the infamous Dog Shogun, Tsunayoshi.
Near the end of a 10-year journey, the German Kaempfer visited Japan in 1690 (3rd year of Genroku era) and stayed for 2 years.
He recorded his days at Nagasaki, his meetings with the Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi and his encounters with people on the road. His collected notes were published posthumously as "History of Japan," and was the first book in Europe to provide an unbiased overall picture of Japan.
In the book, he writes, "I am deeply impressed by the way the townsfolk conduct their lives in such an orderly manner and high regard for one another." Also, "Looking at the way they live their lives, from the poorest farmer to the richest lord, it seems that the whole country is like a high school geared towards teaching manners and virtue."

………………………………………………………………………

"Proper Application of Force"

Now I would like to introduce a very interesting article written by the head of the Meiji University Aikido Club, Sugiyama Tamiji (professor in the Agriculture Department), in the club magazine, "Agatsu," entitled, "Improving Measuring Experiments via Learning".
He writes, "It seems to me that opportunities to use our hands to manipulate objects is being significantly reduced. For instance, lately, one does not have to turn the faucet to wash one's hands, one just has to place one's hands beneath the faucet, and the water comes automatically. In the past, our daily manipulation of objects taught our bodies the "proper application of force嵶 but lately, the use of sensors has curtailed this learning. This has caused some problems in some of our science research activities."

It seems that some students have had problems opening and closing the valves of gas tanks due to the improper application of force.
"Ii kagen" used to mean "good kagen", but lately it has changed to imply negative traits such as "half-hearted" and "irresponsible". (Note: kagen literally means add and remove, or "not too much, not too little")

Aikido is one of the budo arts, and it is possible to cause injuries with the improper application of force.It is also possible to experience such pain that it causes one to scream.
This is often seen in younger generations which are not familiar with pain.
With regular practice, one learns through experiencing pain and giving pain the proper application of force.

I think it is time to reconsider Kaempfer's perception of "Japanese" and Prof. Sugiyama's "kagen".
It seems that we modern humans have forgotten the ancient Japanese treatment of manners and virtue and think that, "everything's ok so long as I'm ok." We have also become coddled by too much comfort and automation.


 

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