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A conversation between Kisshomaru Ueshiba and a Kendo practitioner. (part1)

Magazine Aikido Tankyu Vol.13 1997 p24-29: Translation of the conversation between Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Watanabe Kensuke.


武道の本質を考える Considering the Essence of Martial Arts

Exclusive interview with Watanabe Kensuke (Kendo 6th dan, Aikido 3th dan) Kisshomaru Doshu: Why did you decide to start aikido, Mr. Watanabe? Mr. Watanabe: I started kendo when I was 10 years old, and when I turned 40, I really thought about it. There is a word 武芸百般, which means Bushi masters of all the martial art, but I only knew kendo. If an enemy appears, you can't just say, "I don't have a sword right now, so please wait a minute. I thought that if I couldn't do it with my bare hands, it wouldn't mean that I was doing martial arts. So I decided to learn a martial art that I could do with my bare hands. Kisshomaru Doshu: I heard that you are a graduate of the Kendo Club of the University of Tokyo. A couple of days ago, I went to a hospital to check on my health, and the doctor there looked at me, smiled, and said, "Ueshiba-san, you mean Mr. Ueshiba of Aikido?” He told me that he was a graduate of the University of Tokyo's karate club, where the aikido and karate clubs practiced side by side. The doctor examined me very carefully, saying, "I never thought I would meet a great sensei (大先生)." I was grateful, but also thought that it might have been better if I had not been examined so closely (laugh). Well, I have some connections with Tokyo University. Mr. Atsutaro Kimura, former president of the All Japan Kendo Club Federation, a former member of the Tokyo University's Kendo Club, used to come to our school to practice Aikido. We have been in contact with him since before the war. At first, I thought Mr. Kimura was a reserved person, but when it came down to it, he was always ready to talk to me. He used to say, "Anyway, martial arts is not only about being active in the dojo. It is not about training in the martial arts unless there is a place for discussion after practice." At that time, we also actively sought to interact with people who were practicing other martial arts. Mr. Kimura asked my father, "Ueshiba-sensei, what would you do if you were threatened by an assailant with a sword and he is getting closer and closer?” My father replied, "I would throw anything I had around me, even a hand towel or chopsticks, at him. I would take advantage of the opponent's momentary distraction, leap into his hand, and seize it.” Later, Mr. Kimura said to me, "Mr. Ueshiba is indeed a great man. He said exactly what I was thinking.” Mr. Watanabe: I recently gave an interview to the monthly "Budo" magazine. I said on the magazine “When I first met Founder: Ueshiba Morihei (植芝守平), he was about 70 years old, as I recall.” But I was initiated three years before he passed away. Actually, it was when Founder was 83 years old. I guess I was still thinking that he was about 70 years old. Kisshomaru Doshu: It was not that he was well enough to practice at the dojo until just before he passed away, but he still had a different feeling from ordinary people. Mr. Watanabe: He had a mysterious and powerful presence. I felt as if I had been touched by lightning or something. Kisshomaru Doshu: Once, a foreign journalist came to interview my father because he was the last martial artist in Japan. The press was in trouble because my father kept talking and talking and talking, even though the foreign press didn't understand Japanese. (lol) Well, there were many interesting and funny things that happened. Mr. Watanabe: I could only understand about half of what the founder explained during practice. He explained the theory of circle movement and circular rotation by drawing a diagram, but I was like, "I kind of get it.... It left a very strong impression on me. He also talked about "ki 気". I think he was talking about positive ki, or the feeling that you will never lose as long as you keep a positive mindset. He also said that people would naturally avoid you if your Ki is emanating from your body. These are difficult words, but I felt they were rational. Even though I understood it in theory, my body did not quite follow. Kisshomaru Doshu: The circle and center movements are unique to Aikido. It has been 30 years since he passed away, and thanks to his work, he has become a topic of discussion in various fields during that time.


To be continued.....

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