Category Archives: Translations

The Other Half of Training(3)…

At the beginning of my time with [Hirokazu Kobayashi]  Sensei,  I had no idea of the various  fundamental differences in attitudes between Asians 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.

He would several times more become deeply re-absorbed into those depths of sensory contemplation, immersed in the same communion with glass and plate.

These frequent moments of absorption, with the extended absence of his conscious awareness, accompanied by the advent of a fresh sense of communion, lent a rather solemn air to our mealtimes, where the outward silence was as extensive as the inward communication. I felt him react to the aromas, I sensed his body change, open up further, I felt his emotion rise as we conquered these oenological summits and, frequently, after we’d each been singly absorbed in our glass for a long moment, we would both look up at the same time, and the tears of joy visible in our eyes would banish definitively any desire to speak.

I have never since met anyone capable of tasting and enjoying with such intensity, and I am sorry for that, because this experience of intense dégustation was for me a narrow bridge to the expressive silence common in the Far East. We spent innumerable moments together without speaking, and the  uninformed spectator would have thought us alone in our thoughts, except that sometimes he would turn to me to reply out loud to a question a had not posed – except in my thoughts – or,  inversely,  I would reply to a question that he had not yet asked.  That is not all.

He also had his moments of silence, during which I could sense that he was in absolute serenity, and I would notice that I, too, had at that time no questions, no worries, no expectations of any sort, and that my only thoughts,  if I had any, were limited to the apprehension of my own well-being. And it was marvelous to part after these long silences, with the feeling of having exchanged more than would be possible by any other means.  “To be at ease together, in silence.”  After each of these moments, he would thank me out loud, without expressing why.

- – - André Cognard Shihan (So-Shihan of Aikido Kobayashi Ryu and designated successor to Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan),  Vivre sans ennemi, pp. 121-3

…take ni fukakare…

The first winter rain -
and the kettle-hanger bamboo
was blowing this way and that…

- – - Seira

…Kobayashi Shihan at the Great Pyramid…

“Aikido,” as the founder,  Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei, used to say, “belongs to no-one.  It is a Way that serves the people of the whole world. “  These words, that I here pass on to you, come to me from Kobayashi Hirokazu Sensei, my teacher, who is his direct student.

One time, during a visit to Egypt with Kobayashi Sensei, the latter,  marvelling at the Great Pyramid of Giza, said to me, as we arrived at the Upper Hall and were standing alone there: “If O’Sensei were here, he would immediately have started to chant a norito.” Then he started to do so, himself. His chant, which he had directed towards the seven stelae, even though he was not aware of the layout of the place,  began  to  resonate throughout the pyramid, and it seemed as though hundreds of voices were responding – below, above, and all around us. Once we had left the pyramid, Sensei spoke: he told me that O’Sensei had often spoken to him about Egypt, and had always emphasized the importance of these places, saying that there were real roots here. He had said to Kobayashi Sensei:  “If I cannot go there myself, you must go, and I will be there, with you, and I will see it with your eyes.”

I tell you this story because it marked a change in my practice and in my life. As he told me this, Kobayashi Sensei seemed tremendously moved, and then, shortly after, he taught me an [aiki-]taiso technique that I had never seen before. I tell you this, also, because O’Sensei himself always used to insist on the fact that aikido, right from its creation, was not Japanese, but universal.  The founder indicated that his budo was, above all, an art that brings people together. He made quite clear the apolitical and non-confessional character of his art when he taught it to all levels of Japanese society, then in Asia, and, finally, when he sent students to Europe.

He had united religions and nationalities in the same love. And he demonstrated that way that Kobayashi Sensei still teaches us: the way of tolerance, and of a love that is spiritual: which is to say: above  appearances.

- – - reported by André Cognard Shihan (So-Shihan of Aikido Kobayashi Ryu and designated successor to Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan) in L’esprit des arts martiaux,  pp. 43-5

…the spirit of O’Sensei…

 - – - Kanshu Sunadomari Shihan:

There are many kinds of aikido and that is alright.  As I already said,  techniques evolve and that is perfectly natural. What is essential is your heart,  the state of your spirit.

As time passes, you will doubtless come to practise differently. It is not right simply to pass on what you studied: you, yourself, will take part in the creative process. Techniques will arise of themselves if you think to unite yourself with aite,  instead of thinking of knocking them down. That is an important point.

If you do not enter the world of the spirit,  then you will continue to work on forms which have no meaning, and you will finish by returning to the world of competition and strength. You must train keeping in your heart the spirit of Ueshiba Morihei.  Dojos where the spirit of O’Sensei is preserved and those where it is absent are very different. You feel it instantly.

- – - from French language interview on the Budo no Nayami website

…some waking up haiku, renku, kanbun and waka…

The First Dream of the Year

The year’s first dream:
still in my nose -
the heart of what it is to be a flower…

- – - Chiyo Ni

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Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan on the ethics of aikido…

Kobayashi Hirokazu passed on in August 1998.  He had given  [to the world years of]  teaching in accordance with traditional Japanese methodology. He demonstrated much, seldom explained, and he used metaphor more often than reasoned discourse. His teaching passed through silence, the body, and the sense of feeling. Nevertheless, he articulated verbally – and frequently – a certain number of points to do with the ethics of aikido:

  • aikido belongs to no-one: the Founder wanted it to be universal, and not exclusively Japanese
  • aikido is in no case a sport – rather, it is incapable of being anything but budo
  • aikido is not tied to any religion – no more to Shinto than to Buddhism or Omoto-kyo – and it cannot, in any case, be a religion.
  • in aikido, no-one defends themself, no-one takes a defensive posture, no-one watches the attack. No-one dominates, no-one submits, and no-one compromises.
  • the only strategy, is that the heart of the aggressor must change when he touches us “aite no kokoro kawaru“. In order for that to happen, it is important to give before receiving.
  • the aikido-ka must focus above all on two points: never injure the attacker, and know that he who attacks is making a call for help, is demanding love, that he is using the last possible means, at a point where conflict has cut off all relationship, to re-establish a connection.
  • the aikido-ka must be thankful for the attack, and [show gratitude in] successfully executing the movement that does good to everyone.

- – - André  Cognard Shihan (So-Shihan of Aikido Kobayashi Ryu and designated successor to Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan),  Petit manuel d’aikido,  p.51

O’Sensei no kuden: Ame no Torifune

These rhythmic movements that I perform with accompanying sounds show the way in which with each movement I am absorbing and expelling the energy of the universe.

- – – translated (and possibly paraphrased in translation) by Itsuo Tsuda, reported by André Nocquet Shihan in  Maître Morihei Ueshiba: présence et message  p.77

Gérard Blaize Shihan on Torifune…Furitama…

CHINKON KISHIN NO HO:  the method for calming the spirit - – -

Most practioners of aikido still begin each practice with exercises combining body movement, the chanting of names, and breathing associated with vizualisations, similar to those which the Founder of Aikido used to practise.

These exercises are, in Japan, designated by the term “CHINKON KISHIN NO HO” – which translates as: “the method for calming the spirit”.  This definition will come as a surprise to many aikido practitioners, who undoubtedly have no suspicion that such is the goal of these exercises.

But what are these exercises?  Why are they still practised today?   What utility do they have?

*  The CHINKON KISHIN NO HO exercises and their origin

We owe these exercises to a Shinto/Buddhist [sic] monk,  KAWATSURA BONJI (1862-1929).   It was he who brought back into current usage a system of self-purification (misogi) which had existed in pre-Nara Shinto practice: at a time when it had not yet been influenced by Buddhism or Confucianism. This system consisted of a series of exercises with names that are difficult for a Westerner to pronounce: FURUTAMA [FURITAMA] – OTAKEBI – OKOROBI – IKUBI NO HO – AMA NO TORIFUNE. [AME NO TORIFUNE]

FURITAMA: this exercise is done sitting seiza. After reciting the NORITO SOJO,…

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Shigenobu Okumura Shihan on O’Sensei’s warm-ups…

Here is [Webmaster: an extract from] an article by Okumura Shigenobu sensei for the magazine Aikido Tankyu #5.

The original title is: Aikido no shugyo o hajimeru hito no tame ni (for people who are beginning their shugyo in aikido). Aikido no jumbi undo ni tsuite (on preparatory exercises for the practice of aikido).

“Ei-Ho, Ei-Ho, Ei-Ho”… The traveler on the early morning bus can, from as far away as the main street, hear and be astonished by this strange chant. The neighbours of Hombu Dojo, on the other hand, are used to this unusual wake up call, around 6:30, the tradition of which goes back more than half a century: these are the preparatory exercises, a kind of gymnastics which combine preparation of the spirit with that of the body.

The practice of the martial arts, of course, requires a physical preparation to ward off accidents and injuries.

In aikido, the preparation is composed of:

1. “purification” exercises (misogi-taiso) – kawa mo shiki [correct movement and utterance for in the river already] – ishi no ue shiki [correct movement and utterance for on the stones beside the river]

2. health system methods (kenkyo ho) – makko hoNishi shiki [Nishi system]

3. various breathing exercises (shinkokyu)

There are thus a variety of preparatory exercises and health systems in the aikido practised today. Ueshiba Morihei, the founder, used to say: “This is good, but that is good too”.  Consequently, the number of exercises was always growing.

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…on mountain creeks as books…

Or you might look at the way a mountain creek flows: how well the water escapes through the gaps between the stones. And having seen the shape of this, practise an infinite variety of body movements. Or again, listening to it the way you would read a wonderful, sacred book, proceed by converting [the feeling of] that into budo. Just as if you were looking at the pure and undistorted image of the universe: this is how you should go about learning. This is how you should become awakened. This is how you should reflect upon yourself. This is how, again and again, you should go about learning.

- – - O’Sensei,  probably audio-recorded by by Masatake Fujita, transcribed by Sadateru Arikawa Shihan,  published in Aiki-Shinzui,  p.165