The interview was made by Matthias Rezac during the summercamp
in Sweden 1998.
MR: Sensei, when did you start to train
aikido and why?
Yoshigasaki-sensei: I started to train aikido in 1968 when
I was 17 years old. It was just by chance in the sense that
somebody invited me to come to an aikidodojo. I saw it and
I started training. It was just by chance.
MR: What is the main purpose for training in aikido? Why
should one train aikido instead of something else?
Sensei: Everybody trains what he likes so the reason is
because you like it. This is from the students perspective.
From the teachers side each teacher determines what he wants
MR: Could you please explain the relationship between relaxation
Sensei: Technically, aikido comes from Japanese fighting
arts. With and without weapon, which is normally called
ju jutsu in Japan. But then the founder Ueshiba Morihei
became religious, changed everything and reorganised it
according to this religious idea. Meaning something that
makes people peaceful and spiritual. But then, he did it
believing in God, whereas most people do not really believe
in God so you can’t do it his way directly.
There are two ways to understand peace and spirituality,
religion and meditation. So people who do not seriously
believe in God must go to meditation to understand these
things. So what I teach is aikido based on meditation. Then
to understand spirituality you have to understand "eternal
happiness". Without understanding this, spirituality
doesn’t work. That is why in religion they talk about
eternal happiness after death, a paradise. But in meditation
this eternal happiness must happen while we are still alive.
Then to understand this eternal happiness, all you have
to do is not to disturb it. So not to disturb this is called
calmness. This eternal happiness happens only when you can
perceive everything as one. When you perceive everything
as one that is called relaxation.
MR: A few days ago you said that you used to be uke for
Tohei-sensei. Could you please explain the importance of
Sensei: Ukemi means receiving something through your
body. This relaxation, calmness e t c is something that
you can see from outside, but that is not enough. It is
better that you feel it within your own body. So in a way
if nage is calm and relaxed clearly the ukemi also understands
calmness and relaxation. With the body of course, not intellectually.
In a way that is the essential part of aikido, that you
transmit something physically. Uke learns calmness and relaxation
on condition that nage knows these things.
MR: During seminars you don’t
use that many different people as uke. If doing ukemi for
someone who knows about relaxation and calmness is this
important, how come you don’t walk around and let
more students do ukemi.
Sensei: The thing is that everything physical depends
on quantity. So in a way it is not enough to throw someone
once or twice. By throwing people with calmness and relaxation
you change their body and that takes some time. So it is
impossible to do it to everybody and therefore you are obliged
to choose. So that is why I choose one, basically an instructor,
as it is important that the instructors know this. Then
I continue until I get some result. When I get some result
I change ukemi.
MR: Sensei, what is kiai and how can
one train kiai?
Sensei: Kiai and aiki go together. "Ai" means
harmony and "ki" is something not clear. Everything
can be divided into something clear and something not clear.
Something clear means words, materials… Anything that
can be captured by science is something clear. Anything
that is difficult to capture by science, like love, harmony
or beauty, is something not clear. So everything means something
clear plus something not clear. And since everybody knows
that which is clear we can understand everything by emphasising
on ki, that is something not clear.
So aiki means that the whole entity of one person and another
comes into harmony. That is aiki. Kiai means the harmony
of one person as aiki is the harmony of two ore more people.
Kiai is inside. Normally to have kiai is the basic "keeping
one point". That means kiai. Then clearly if one has
harmony in oneself, one is always strong and harmonious.
Expression of that is the voice, so very often kiai is expressed
in the voice. So normally when people say kiai they mean
the voice that comes from the harmony of one self.
MR: You often talk about concepts. What
do you mean with concept?
Sensei: Concept roughly means the meaning of each word,
the relationship between words and the reality. Not only
words actually. It can be the relationship between any expression,
like movement, and reality. That is what I mean with concept.
MR: Other instructors often talk about
kokyu, but you don’t. Why?
Sensei: Because kokyu means breathing. So I talk about
breathing. But actually in Japan when they say kokyu it
means harmony because they have found out that for harmonious
movement, harmonious action, breathing plays a big part.
When they talk about harmonious action they emphasise the
importance of breathing, good controlled breathing. So in
a way those people who talk about kokyu don’t exactly
know what harmony is, so they are just copying ancient tradition.
It actually means just to control breathing and to find
that harmonious action.
MR: How would you define the concept
Sensei: Budo is a rather new concept, actually Japanese.
I once talked about it with a Chinese martial teacher. He
said that budo is Japanese, not Chinese. In China there
are fighting techniques and there is religion. Fighting
techniques for your body and you train your mind with religion.
That is the Chinese idea, which more or less is the same
as here in Europe. You train your body with sport and then
your mind with religion or philosophy. But then we have
the characteristic of this budo. The word was invented in
Japan about a hundred years ago. It means that they wanted
to mix physical activity and religion or moral activity.
That is the unification of mind and body.The real meaning
of budo is to train mind and body together. But in most
cases the real meaning is forgotten and all over the world
budo simply means fighting techniques or self defence.
MR: What is "soku shin no gyo"
and why train it in ki-aikido?
Sensei: It is shouting with misogi. So it is part of the
breathing exercise which is good because breathing is associated
with physical movement and voice. It is just good training.
MR: I heard that you are, finally, going
to write two books. What will they be about?
Sensei: One about life and one about aikido.
MR: Why have you chosen to write them
Sensei: The material I teach has become big in quantity
so it has become difficult for people to understand as the
brain can’t take in too many things at one time. I
think it is more convenient that it is written in a book
so if people are interested they can read it many times.
MR: O-sensei is said to have had some
kind of religious experience that changed his way of looking
at budo and that made him start creating aikido from older
ju jutsu. His faith was his source of inspiration. What
makes you continue year after year teaching and developing
aikido? What is your source of inspiration?
Sensei: It is just a natural thing. I think it is just
the nature of the human brain.
MR: In an interview with Saito-sensei
he says that O-sensei did not teach weapon outside Iwama,
but that he always said that the relationship between ken
and tai jutsu was very important. If this is so, from where
does the bokken and jo-techniques in ki-aikido come?
Sensei: First you have to understand what Saito means by
"teach". Ueshiba used to show a lot of things
without teaching, saying that only he could do it and that
it was no use the students do it. In Tokyo Ueshiba Morihei
showed many techniques of bokken and jo, but he never tried
to teach it to his students. Clearly the students tried
to copy it, but of course this is difficult. Tohei-sensei
just watched it and tried to remember and understand the
movements. After that he developed this bokken and jo of
ki-aikido. So clearly it is not exactly the same as Ueshiba´s
bokken and jo, it is Tohei-sensei’s, but still it
is based on what Ueshiba was doing.
MR: When I compare the rei, the etiquette,
on the tatami it is very different for instance between
that of Iwama ryu and that of ki-aikido. At the summercamps
in particular I see many people sitting in a bad manner
here. What is your reaction to this lack of etiquette in
Sweden? Is it the same in other European countries?
Sensei: Correct etiquette is the expression of ones own
mind. There are two ways. To start from the outside and
hope it will go inside. That means first teach correct etiquette
outside. That is one way. The other is to start from the
inside. To teach mind and wait until it goes outside. I
think I am doing it case by case. For instance in England
they are very keen on outside etiquette there. Here in Sweden
maybe you are better on inside etiquette. If the lack of
etiquette doesn’t disturb other people I choose to
teach more from the inside. But if it does disturb others,
maybe it would be better to emphasise etiquette a bit more.
MR: Thank you sensei for letting me do this interview.