The world needs new, different ideas. It needs forces to develop, which are opposed to man’s warlike instincts, in order to re-establish an equilibrium that was broken several thousand years ago.
I had gone to the mountains close to Hachiman-cho, in Gifu prefecture, to visit a Japanese friend of mine. This gentleman is both an internationally famous musician, and an archeologist specializing in musical instruments of the Jomon period. He took me to visit a wonderful poetry dojo, in a little village by the name of Yamato, and he told me about the times when Japan was still a country where women were dominant. He drew the contrast between that peaceful era, marked by flourishing poetry, and the period following the arrival of the horse. He said, “When man got up on a horse, he became a warrior, and the real culture was wiped out.” His evocation of the times when women were in control of Japan, reminded me of our druidesses, of our fairies, and of their powerful influence. The emotion in his voice, the precision of the words he chose, the nostalgia behind his eyes, all resonated deeply within me.
This meeting reminded me of a piece of advice that my teacher once gave me regarding my training. At a time that I was trying to figure out what to do to gain speed and power in the execution of my techniques, I had arrived at the conclusion that I could only achieve this by becoming more flexible in my movement. Becoming more flexible means for us exercising less constraint on our partner, and less intentional control of our own movement. When I asked him how I should go about achieving this, Sensei answered me: “Starting today, you must train as much as possible with women.” The advice appeared to me to offer a paradoxical solution, because the truth is that I still believed in strength, even though I was trying not to use it, and in particular I believed that more speed must also mean better muscle-tone. I did what Sensei said, however, and I was astonished, after several months, to find my practice changing. I was putting less force into my movements, and in this way I was reducing my tension, saving energy, which I was then able to put into speed of movement. And more than just the fact that I had achieved my objective, I was able to see several other ways in which I had changed. I was giving more freedom to my uke, without losing the least bit of effectiveness. And I was free-er, myself, when I was uke. In fact, all round, I was less tense in every interaction. I was able to see, too, that my relationships with other people – even away from the tatami – had become more harmonious. I had come to give more place to the “other” inside the thing that hitherto I had considered “myself”, but which, by this very change, I now found transformed.