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04-26-2011, 03:02 PM
returning to my native village after many years absence
I put up at a country inn and listen to the rain
one robe one bowl is all I have
Ryokan Taigu

If you have lost all baggage, you retire to a world where baggage is unknown. If you seek wisdom, you will find it, and you will forget alike the lust of life and the dread of death.
John Buchan, Midwinter

Simplify, simplify.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I was going to write about being an uke and taking ukemi for this column but because of the Tohoku earthquake and its terrible destruction that can wait.

Japan is on the Pacific ring of fire. Plates shift. The earth moves. Energy is released. And Japan is full of volcanoes. Mount Fuji is a volcano. On one side of it you can see the outline of a second peak disturbing the perfect symmetry. That second crater was formed by a volcanic eruption in 1707.

In 1986 Mount Mihara, the volcano on Oshima, erupted. Oshima is one of the Izu islands which are administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. It is about 100km (60 miles) south of Tokyo. Our dojo was in a sports centre and it was used as a shelter for evacuees. They lived there for several months, living and sleeping in tiny spaces with little privacy. We were able to use another dojo during that time. Mount Oyama, the volcano on Miyakejima, erupted in 2000. Miyakejima is another one of the Izu islands, about 180 km (110 miles) south of Tokyo. The whole island was evacuated. That time the people were not able to return to their houses for four years.

After the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011 and the resulting radiation dangers in Fukushima a number of people were evacuated from Tohoku to Tokyo and the surrounding areas. Tokyo Budokan (not the more famous Nippon Budokan) is being used as one of the shelters. Tokyo Budokan is a striking glass and concrete and stone and wood building in Adachi city in north-east Tokyo. The architect was Kijo Rokkaku. It is a budokan built for martial arts and it contains several dojos. There is a main dojo for large events, a dojo with tatami for aikido and judo, a dojo with a wooden floor for karate and kendo, and a kyudojo. It is a beautiful place to train. And I hope it is a welcoming home for people from the north who have lost homes or, perhaps, lost everything.

Masatake Fujita Sensei, 8 dan Aikikai, taught aikido at the Tokyo Budokan. Fujita Sensei always believed in keeping techniques compact. His techniques were like the shape of a large capital D. Round and fluid to start and dropping straight down at the end. Smooth then hard and sharp and fast. He said that half a tatami was enough space to train.

In Japanese there is a phrase okite hanjo nete ichijo. おきてはんじょう、ねていちじょう. 起きて半畳、寝て一畳.

Awake half a tatami, asleep one tatami (you only need half a tatami when you are awake, and you only need one tatami when you are asleep).

Your body only takes up a certain amount of space. You can only wear one set of clothes at a time. You can only eat food for one person. Possessions are not important. And when you die you don't need any space.

I think the layered patterns of the roof of the Tokyo Budokan represent waves. But I'm sure the people from Tohoku staying there don't mind.

Ryokan Taigu was a zen monk. His poems were simple and unpretentious and cool.

site about architect Kijo Rokkaku with photos of Tokyo Budokan

Tokyo Budokan home page in Japanese

free e-book of Walden by Henry David Thoreau

I couldn't find Midwinter but here is a free e-book of The 39 Steps by John Buchan (later governor general of Canada!) which was made into a great spy movie by Alfred Hitchcock.

online poems by Ryokan - there are also several good translated collections in print including One Robe, One Bowl by the aikido teacher John Stevens

free wallpaper images of Japanese manga messages supporting Tohoku

cool photo: Tatami Tangram (http://www.flickr.com/photos/anujd89/5464687154/) by Anuj used with very kind permission

I know everyone is burned out from appeals to help but anyway please help if you can. You can buy Songs for Japan from itunes if you haven't got it yet and there are various other links in my blog. Or donating to the Japanese red cross or the red cross in your country will make a difference.

my blog on aikiweb (http://www.aikiweb.com/blogs/moon-in-the-water-19051/)

© niall matthews 2011
file:///Users/akiy/Library/Caches/TemporaryItems/moz-screenshot-1.pngNiall Matthews lives with his family in Japan. He teaches aikibudo and community self-defence courses and has taught budo for twenty-five years. He was the senior deshi of Kinjo Asoh Sensei, 7 dan Aikikai. He was the exclusive uke of Sadateru Arikawa Sensei, 9 dan Aikikai, at the hombu dojo in Tokyo for thirteen years until Arikawa Sensei's death in 2003. He has trained in several other martial arts to complement his aikido training, including judo (he has 4 dan from the Kodokan in Tokyo), kenjutsu (for about ten years) and karate (for about three years). He originally went to Japan as a staff member of the EU almost thirty years ago. He received 5 dan from Arikawa Sensei in 1995. This 5 dan is the last aikido dan he will receive in his life. His dojo is called Aikibudo Kokkijuku 合気武道克輝塾. Arikawa Sensei personally gave him the character for ki in kokki. It is the same character as teru in Sadateru - not the normal spelling of kokki 克己. It means you make your life shining and clear yourself.

04-27-2011, 09:31 AM
Yes agreed.

I remember the compact D of Fujita Sensei.

We tend to think we need more than we have and that what we have is not enough. Yet many exist with far less.

Lets be grateful and compassionate.

Good thought and resources. Compliments and appreciation.

Alex Megann
04-27-2011, 09:38 AM
Ah, "D-style"!

You grabbed his wrist, he would suck you in with a very compact circular movement (the round part of the "D"), and then you would take the shortest, straightest path to the nearest planet below you.

I also remember the "Nike mark", which was pretty much a horizontal version of the above...

It is such a shame that Fujita Sensei isn't teaching any more.


04-27-2011, 09:49 AM
Hi All,
If you trained with Fujita Sensei you were wise if you put on a crash helmet.His irimi nage in particular was pretty good at landing you directly into[not onto ] the tatami.You needed an aspirin to calm the resultant headache.Do not know if this is correct -I heard he is not keeping too well.
Cheers, Joe.

04-27-2011, 10:35 AM
Thank you Niall for your reflective column, I think like Lynn that we should be grateful with what we have; and then we will feel more free and happy.
I like what Fujita Sensei said, very wise! we don't need more than half a tatami.
Your quote of the poem by Ryokan Taigu reminds me of
"He who would travel happily must travel light." by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
There is a quote by Morihei Ueshiba too "Those who are possessed by nothing possess everything".

I'd like to add the link for Midwinter free download http://lawica.free.fr/liv/Buchan,%20John%20midwinter.pdf

graham christian
04-27-2011, 11:45 AM
Hi, nicely put Niall.

Loved the 'D' shape explanation.So simple.

The tatami example made me smile and reminded of a saying I give to my students if they use too much force or lack being with their 'opponent' I usually look at them shaking my head and say- 'Mmmm.... half hakama!'

Full Hakama-half tatami.

Keep up the good work.


04-27-2011, 06:42 PM
I also remember the "Nike mark", which was pretty much a horizontal version of the above... It is such a shame that Fujita Sensei isn't teaching any more.
Oh yes, the D, the Nike, and the Beer.

chris wright
04-28-2011, 02:26 AM
Hi Niall, once again a great column. Reminds me of the saying -
'the more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to worry about'

Rev. Kensho Furuya, used to often say in his daily message -
'In learning increase day by day, in living decrease day by day'

Best wishes

04-29-2011, 03:55 AM
Thank you Lynn and Alex and Joe and Carina and Graham and Chris for the perceptive comments. Yes Joe if you weren't careful your head would be the basketball and Fujita sensei would be bouncing it. Thanks for the quotes and the e-book link too, Carina.

Chris I like the book Kodo: Ancient Ways by Rev Furuya very much. He passed away much too soon and much too young. This is an interview (http://www.budovideos.com/shop/customer/pages.php?pageid=25) with him.



04-29-2011, 02:39 PM
I think this would fit somehow in your column too,I received it in a spanish pps and searched in internet for the english version (http://www.whosoever.org/v8i6/wonders.shtml) it is about the wisdom of a girl, her teacher asked about the seven wonders of the world and while gathering the votes the teacher noticed that she had not finished with her paper yet. She asked the girl if she was having trouble.

The girl replied, "Yes, I couldn't make up my mind because there were so many. The teacher said, "Tell us what you have and maybe we can help."

The girl hesitated then read: "I think are, to see, to hear, to touch, to taste, to smell, to laugh, and to love."

Janet Rosen
04-29-2011, 03:17 PM
I think this would fit somehow in your column too,...
The girl hesitated then read: "I think are, to see, to hear, to touch, to taste, to smell, to laugh, and to love."

That's lovely...and yes I think it fits just right with the column, which is how I try to live each day....

04-29-2011, 03:32 PM
Thanks Janet,we take these as normal things, forgetting how it would be without any of them, let us be grateful for beeing able to do all this wonders.

05-02-2011, 12:24 AM
Hello Niall,

As has become your preference, you cut to the chase and focus on what is fundamentally relevant and appropriate. Thank you for your blogs and reminders that inform us of the crises that confront the Japanese people.

Here in the United States, we too have been confronted with nature’s whims, and are duly humbled by the attendant realities.

Indeed, we do need to relearn how to live within our means, with the tatami metaphors being aptly timely as reminders. I do not believe for an instant, however, that I personally could operate within one tatami, let alone ½ of one.

Fujita Shihan was most fond of minimizing his movements, his sense of zanshin, and his ukes. I know that first hand, even as you do. We all wish him the best of care in his current spate of challenges.

We must all resolve to ride the waves of the future to better effect.

05-02-2011, 01:55 AM
Hi Niall; Nice column, nice article, nice memories: You recommended to me that I should take training from Fujita Sensei at the Tokyo Budokan. He was very kind to me and wrote to me after I returned to UK. About the D, not dissimilar to Asoh Sensei who said "Aikido is just swinging your arm, but it takes thirty years, if you are lucky, to learn to swing your arm" he swung it with devastating effect. I remember that very clearly, a comforting upward curve followed by a cut that left an impression not just on you, but also on the tatami that you landed on. Only half a tatami was used as he stood back while you landed where he had been standing. I remember so well the evacuation of Oshima and the use of the sports centre as a shelter. Over the years and because of its location, Japan has been hit by so many major disasters, the resilience, the undaunted spirit and sense of community of the Japanese people shows at these times and helps them overcome. Our hearts are full of hope for the Japanese from the north and all of Japan.

05-02-2011, 05:39 AM
Thank you Francis and Billy. Francis' comments about riding the waves juxtaposed with Billy's comment about the north of Japan reminded me of once when I was by the sea in Miyagi. It was a cold day and the sea was a little wild but there was one surfer. Paddling out and coming in. Paddling out and coming in. I've never surfed but I like the parallel of aikido and surfing. Not fighting nature - respecting it. Not using the sea - embracing it and becoming one with it. Hey maybe I should start...