PHS [Philippe Salgues]: Every year you offer a one-week summer aikido workshop in Hendaye. The morning is dedicated to intensive physical and technical practice. The afternoon is reserved for more relaxed practice where you reveal in great detail both external and internal movements of the body and their self-defence (goshin-jutsu) applications according to the principal of aiki. These summer workshops, for students and teachers alike, are privileged moments because they allow one to settle into a teaching relationship that is long enough to deal with the essentials, and with important concepts. A lot is said, movements shown and explained, and much of value is is passed on to the students for their future daily work. What belongs to the mat, belongs to the mat: and there is there a powerful sequence of training. Nevertheless, there are other extremely powerful moments, little known by us in the West, which consist of conversations – more or less formal conversations – during which masters and disciples, teachers and students discuss the practice of the art. This is not at all a simple repetition of what was said on the tatami, but rather an extension and a completion of what happened there, which places the art in a larger context, or illuminates it throught the personal experience of the expert or the master. It is this part of the teaching process that you have chosen to shed light on in this chapter.
PHG: Yes. I find it important to extend the teaching given on the tatami through free discussion with the students in, for example, a café, or sitting in a hotel lobby after a restaurant…
…so thinking about that thing in Japanese tradition where the real discussion – and in-depth transmission – happens in the coffee bar, the café, after keiko…well…dojos you know, really, in Japan, are families. A dojo is a much, much more intense familial connection than in America Because people that choose to learn a ryu, to learn to embody a thousand years’ worth of knowledge… well, that’s a pretty close-knit group.
And so, just as in a family, most of the real learning and relationship-building occurs over food. You eat together. And, then, for instance…if we were there with my sword teacher, he would have been writing on a paper napkin some kanji about what we had been learning in class…
Aikido Today: How did you associate with O-Sensei outside the dojo?
Hikitsuchi Shihan: O-Sensei told stories, and I listened. He spoke of a variety of things. Whenever I was with him, I was always paying attention.
– – – from the Aikido Today interview, translation revised by Peter Shapiro
by André Cognard Shihan
At the beginning of my time with [Hirokazu Kobayashi] Sensei, I had no idea of the various fundamental differences in attitudes between Asian people and Westerners. I had always been very reserved, and almost never spoke, and so I never really became aware of Sensei’s thinking about silence: I simply assimilated it to my own habitual reticence, and inhibitions.
The excellence of the food which we generally found ourselves eating also had a definite – and positive – role in my initiation into the practice of silent conversation. It worked this way: every time that an exceptional dish or wine was placed in front of us – and that happened on an almost daily basis – Sensei would fall into so deep a concentration that I could not possibly have dared to interrupt it. His whole body was focused on the perception of tastes and aromas, intensely involved, inspired even, in a way that could come only from the glass or the plate; and then, when, after several minutes, he raised his eyes in my direction, he would say nothing, but his lit-up face, and his grateful smile told me so much that I could never possibly have interrupted that communication with [mere] words…
– – – – REMEMBERING ISAO ICHIKAWA HANSHI – – – –
– – – by Jolene Starr
Hanshi Isao Ichikawa, a Japanese man who founded Karatedo Doshinkan in the 1960’s, was only about 5’6” tall, but he had a huge presence.
When he walked into a room, you did not have to be coached. You automatically stood up. My first training with him was in June 1980.
He died in 1996 when he was in his 60’s, but until death took him away, he looked vibrant and full of life. His face shone and his skin glowed. I have
a picture of him in a hot tub holding a large goblet of beer; he is luminous, almost a halo around him. In another picture, taken by a friend of mine in a dark gymnasium without the use of a flash, he fairly radiates light…