Memories of 2nd Doshu
I first met 2nd Doshu in 1962 but in all of those years, we rarely spoke directly to each other. When I was with him, I only remember, "Good morning," or "Thank you, " or "Please do this. . . ." or "Please do that. . . ." Not much more, unless his was scolding me. Most of the time, I stood behind him, carrying his bag or doing some errand, not saying much to him at all.
I remember each "scolding" very well, even to this day. However, over the years, thinking of his words, which were always so few and far between, I have reaped invaluable and precious lessons that have so influenced and molded me as an Aikido teacher today. For this, I am always grateful. None of what I have learned from him, are mind-boggling revelations or anything that has great to-do with the Aikido world at large. What I remember most was his Aikido which I have always admired and tried to emulate and secondly and, most profoundly, his deep sense of respect and caring which was always very subtle and quietly modest.
During the time between the passing of O'Sensei in 1969 and the eventual split of one teacher from Hombu in 1972, there was much chaos and bad feelings going around. Someone spread a bad joke demeaning to Doshu and we all thought that it was very insulting. Doshu said nothing and ignored it. We all discussed this over and over and many of us were very offended and thought that Doshu should say something about all that was going on. Finally, I went to Doshu and complained. He looked at me and scolded me severely, "Aikido people to not say bad things about others!" and walked away. I always remember this.
On our way to Iwama and the Aikikai Jinja once, we had a car accident on the freeway. I was sitting in the front seat with another teacher who was driving and Doshu was sitting in the back seat. The driver kept turing to Doshu and talking excitedly and Doshu kept warning him to pay attention to the road when, "boom," we rear-ended the car in front of us. You must understand that we rarely get such private time with Doshu as to be in the same car with him at that time so it was no wonder we all excitedly wanted to talk with him so eagerly.
Doshu was so mad. Doshu personally exited the car to apologize to the other party and I think they were shocked that such a VIP was so humble and caring of this accident. We went to Iwama and spent a week there. I only remember doing the cleaning and cooking and practicing with Saito Sensei. At that time, there were no students there so it was just Saito Sensei and me, one on one. Such training! - I only remember seeing stars each time I was thrown but that is another story. . . . . ! On our return to Hombu Dojo, Doshu insisted that we make a detour to visit the home of the accident party and Doshu personally made another apology to them. I think I waited in the car about 45 minutes to an hour while he was visiting with them. I think that these people were so honored and impressed that such a person took so much time and trouble to make sure that everything was ok for them. At the time, the other teacher and myself did not understand why we had to take so much time for all of this trouble for such a minor bump, but, now I think that this was just the personality of Doshu to be thoughtful and ever conscious of his position as the Head of Aikido.
At that time, there were seminars going on at the Budokan and all of the traditional Japanese martial arts were represented there and these demonstrations were only performed for other great masters of the arts and not open to the public. Doshu had to attend these seminars as President of this association and I was lucky to attend him carrying his bag and uniform. I remember sitting together next to Tomiki Sensei and Shioda Sensei along with Doshu. I was alway impressed with how politely Doshu bowed to each of the other teachers of every art and how he used such polite and highly proper Japanese in addressing them. Although Aikido was only at our 2nd generation Head Master with Doshu, many of these other schools came from long lineages from the the Muromachi Period and there were 22nd, 25th, generation Head Masters there, far senior to Doshu and our Aikido, yet great respect was always shown to Doshu. I think this experience taught me the importance of respect in the martial arts. Today, all of this protocol is largely simplified or ignored. Among the very top teachers, I can say, these manners were still very strictly observed and adhered to. I thought that this was so beautiful to see and experience at the time.
I think this is why I am still such a stickler for reigi saho in the dojo today. . . . . . . Just a few personal memories of Doshu, I thought to share with you. . . .
Some lessons take time before we understand them, sometimes it can take years - I know this from my own personal experiences. My Zen teacher used to say, "You can only understand it, when you understand it." I had a lot of trouble with this and although I kinda know what he means, I occasionally have to fight with these words in my own head. How can you understand it until someone explains it to you? He says, "No." One will understand it when it understands it. . . . . . . It is true in many ways. As clearly as I try to explain the technique in class and give my students the opportunity to practice it over and over and over. They do finally begin to understand when the light goes on in their own heads in their own time - not by whatever I say or do!
During my younger days at Hombu, Doshu was very strict about practice. I am sure that he must have been much stricter towards previous generations of students, but he was still very strict. Many times, when I was reprimanded or scolded, I had no idea what it was all about. I just had to stand there with my mouth shut. Sometimes I understood, many times, I did not. Many, many years later, it became much clearer to me. I realize now that in matters regarding protocol, etiquette and mental awareness and being in the moment - Doshu was very strict. I was always corrected if I used the wrong or inappropriate word in my Japanese or my manners were not absolutely correct. I remember just to go next door to Doshu's private residence, even to deliver a short message, I would always have to put on a suit and tie - even if the chore took only one minute. If I was not awake in class and not paying attention, I would always get a whack or strong word or two. At the time, it seemed like I was getting corrected for every tiny, little thing I did!
After the long days of practice, it was often very hard to sleep well, everything in my body seemed to be aching badly from head to foot. I slept in the corner of the mat on the 2nd floor at that time. Later, I moved into the Instructor's Room. During the summer, it is common to burn "katori senko," a kind of incense which keeps away the mosquitoes at night. It comes in a round coil and burns for an entire evening. I used to burn this incense in a "donburi" rice bowl by my head. One early morning, I woke up to the smell of something burning and I looked and to my great shock, this donburi rice bowl was flipped upside down and several trails of smoke were streaming out from underneath. My hand must have bumped it in the night when I was asleep. What a shock! I immediately turned over the bowl and saw an big round black, smokey hole in the mat. I knew that this was my end at Hombu! - such a terrible thing to do and I started to cry! Suddenly I got a great idea and took out the mat and rushed up several flights of stairs to a small room on the roof where they kept some uniforms - this floor was lined with the same tatami. I grabbed a good one and raced downstairs to replace the offending mat and conceal my crime. Gads! The mat didn't quite fit! All of this mats are slightly irregular in size - one inch too long, two inches too narrow, etc. I grabbed this mat and raced up the stairs again to get another mat. Raced down but this one didn't fit either. Back up again and down again in a frantic race over and over - I still had to sweep the front of the dojo before the 6:30am class. Suddenly, Doshu opened the door and said, "What's all this racket so early in the morning?" And I had to show him the big black hole in the mat and mentally preparing myself to do "seppuku.". He looked at it a second and said very calmly, "We will have it repaired when the tatami man comes again to fix all the other damaged mats, don't worry about it and don't be late for class." and he walked away. . . I was so shocked that it hardly bothered him at all. I now realize and think that real accidents and material things did not seem to bother him, not as much as being inattentive in class or not being in the moment. . . . Over the years, I never try to punish the crime, just a student's mental attitude if it is due to sloth or mental laziness, like Doshu - often this is not clear to the student. . . . . just as it was not clear to me really at the time.
Some lessons take a lifetime to finally understand. . . . . My Zen master also used to say, "Teaching a student is like shooting two arrows up into the sky and hoping that they will hit each other!" It takes time to understand some lessons, a lot of time!
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