Charles Hill wrote:
There is an Aiki News interview with Abe Sensei that I read on Matsuoka Sensei`s website. In it Abe Sensei was asked something like if what the Misogikai was doing was the same as what Omoto Kyo was doing. He didn`t answer the question and I was left wishing that the interviewer had asked the question again.
You asked yourself, "Where are the follow-up questions???
" Great point! I remember having the exact
same thought the first time I read that article. However, much of it Abe Sensei had already shared with us privately in one form or another. There is another article Seiseki Abe Sensei Interview - Aikido Journal
that I had a chance to assist in preparing for the AJ website. That article is actually a bit more startling in terms of what is revealed. However, as before the interviewer seems to miss it and doesn't ask the follow-up questions you and I might have asked. Perhaps he had a list of questions to get through, or didn't feel comfortable enough to ask what might seem to some to be a question that might reveal controversial information. Both are understandable. Who can say?
Since both interviews left me to wonder about so many things I made it a point to discuss them with Abe Sensei the next time I went to Japan to stay at his dojo. If you think the articles tickled some interest, you can imagine what several extended discussions might do for an eager mind looking for any item it could find to turn over in case a rare gem was to be found lurking below. I have spent more than a decade decoding that initial information, some of which I can't even share with but two or three other individuals to get some outside influence on my thinking. At the time, there was a bit of a backlash from other students over my continuous ventures back to Japan to train with Abe Sensei. However, I had traveled with one other individual three or four times so we could compare notes for a while, but he eventually moved away. I felt I was on my own. I found that the techniques at our dojo, dynamic as they are known to have been seemed quite hollow to me. I was desperate to find some way to reconcile two seemingly opposite approaches to learning the art of Aikido.
As it turns out, once my teacher (Matsuoka Sensei) aligned himself with Abe Sensei in 2000, from that point forward I had the best ally I could ever wish to have working towards that same result - reconciling what we both saw as two completely different systems. Matsuoka Sensei has been the key person in interpreting Abe Sensei's message, both figuratively and literally. Two trips to Japan ago, I was able to spend time with both Abe Sensei and Matsuoka Sensei going very deeply into some longstanding questions that I had always wanted to ask. Some questions took several hours to answer and I simply could not imagine being able to even ask the question should Matsuoka Sensei not have been there to translate it and interpret the answer. Unfortunately sometimes a Japanese interpreter will change a question to soften it so as not to offend anyone. While this is good on one level it tends to distort the intention with which I chose to ask the question.
However it was another chance encounter that I was fortunate to have had that would eventually provide the "language" I would need to learn to decode the information that was coming my way. At one point I had a chance to conduct my own interview with Abe Sensei. I published it in our Dojo Newsletter Aikido
(which by the way was supposed to be named Aikido Journal, but alas, Stanley Pranin scooped us when he changed the name of his publication from Aiki-News to Aikido Journal here in America). In that article I was able to ask all of the follow-up questions that I wanted based upon what came up in the interview. Although I didn't know it then, my life would change forever on that very day. I am not posting the contents to what seemed like a long interview. However, to give some context, the next section is basically an overview of our meeting.
The interview was with Abe Sensei and also with Shiro Matsuoka Sensei, the longtime Chairman and President of Seishoku Kyoukai, The Japan Macrobiotics Association. Shiro Matsuoka Sensei is Haruo Matsuoka Sensei's (my teacher's) father. Matsuoka Sensei was an uchi-deshi of the founder of Macrobiotics, Nyoichi Sakurazawa (George Ohsawa). Ohsawa Sensei and O-Sensei knew each other. I believe that Kenzo Futaki Sensei and Okada Sensei had a very strong connection to both Macrobiotics and Aikido. Please be clear, O-Sensei was not macrobiotic. His diet was very particular, and he did not eat meat. However O-Sensei's diet came from a purely Shinto and Buddhist perspective, whereas macrobiotic is based upon genmai (brown rice) and is supported by a more rigorous scientific approach rather stemming from a spiritual (or religious) approach. Abe Sensei used to travel with O-Sensei to visit with Okada Sensei to learn more about how best to prepare food for O-Sensei. As it turned out, Matsuoka Sensei also had prepared food for O-Sensei, probably through Okada Sensei who had founded the Macrobiotic Association in the Kansai area.
So as it was I found myself sitting with two individuals both of whom had a direct connection to O-Sensei and they are both telling me about how Aikido and food are intertwined in a very specific way. I came up with the title, "Eating Aikido" to reflect what I considered to be a major discovery. I still hold that to be true today. Later I was able to study briefly with Herman Aihara sensei, another of the senior uchi-deshi of George Ohsawa. His book on Acid/Alkaline was as pivotal a point in understanding my path as discovering Aikido was towards setting me on it in the first place. When I had enough information to overlap Yin/Yang theory in which Shiro Matsuoka Sensei is one of the world's most knowledgeable people with the concepts of Acid/Alkaline (Aihara Sensei,) both from the Macrobiotic approach, I was able to come up with a total approach to my training and life. I train, teach and live from this approach.
So with regards to your initial question, one would have to know Abe Sensei to understand why he didn't answer it directly. However if you reread it, he actually does answer it directly, but you would have to know Abe Sensei to understand his answer. It is what he said that struck me so hard. I couldn't understand that someone could have heard that answer and not asked a follow-up question. The first time I met Abe Sensei I had asked him something that lay upon the same line of questioning. I was wondering about Omoto-Kyo and was considering what path to take. I asked Abe Sensei the importance of the teachings and just like in his interview with Stanley Pranin, he didn't answer me. However, when I look back on what he said and knowing what I know now (i.e. understanding how Abe Sensei prefers to always be encouraging) I realize that he did answer my question quite clearly. At the time I was very disappointed because I expected one answer and got another so I could not take in what Abe Sensei did say. Fortunately over the years I guess I must have been receptive to Abe Sensei's very gentle guiding hand because unbeknownst to me, I have followed his teachings to the letter.
That is my long answer to your short question. As for the short answer, how's this:
Abe Sensei told me that if I followed his instructions that my Aikido would improve dramatically. In truth what I thought that meant, actually what I wanted that to mean and what it has come to mean turned out to be two very different things. About eight years later, one of my juniors decided that he would go to Abe Sensei and seek O-Sensei's Aikido. I was skeptical as while his waza was certainly very decent I didn't think he would receive Abe Sensei's real message. What I can say is that a few years later his Aikido has changed dramatically and improved immeasurably over where he would be know if he had continued on his old path.
Many apologies for the length of the post.