INTERVIEW WITH CERTA SHIHAN IN MOSCOW [1/3]
1. Sensei, you are an expert in Martial Arts, with rich experience in different styles and schools. Prior to starting in Daito Ryu, you dedicated many years to Aikido. Could you tell, how did you make a decision to start studying Aikido?
A. I was 15years old, when I started in Martial Arts, being under big influence of the first movies about Kung-Fu. During those days "Kung-Fu movies" were swiping the West (1965).I have chosen AIKIDO ( By the way, those days it was hard to find Aikido Dojo, but thanks to my luck there was one of the first opened in Italy Aikido dojos in Milan.) because it appeared to be very elegant and effective system of self-defense. Two things attracted me: 1 - It was effective self-defense; 2 - beauty of the movements. In addition, I must say, I was at that time skinny teenager, but wanted to be better developed and better looking physically. Also, must say, those years (1965-1970) Aikido was a little more "rough" in comparison with what is being practiced today. The moves were shorter, more rigid, immobilizations, projections and throws were performed, what you would call "to the end". All of that attracted me. I was dreaming about becoming a samurai and interest in wearing hakama from first days was feeding my teenager dreams. Obviously I was fascinated with the "samurai's world" and Japan as a whole. Next year I started also my training in Karate, so that to acquire additional skills and widen my horizons in Martial Arts.
2. When did you start feeling, that Aikido was not quite what you were looking for?
A. As I mentioned, I was fascinated by the Aikido , as a Martial Art , but unfortunately I saw, that with the time, it is more and more moving away from its initial intention being strong Martial Art for self-defense, even though there still were Masters in world, who kept and preserved "original Aikido". Approximately during years of 1985-1990 "my Aikido" went through crisis. I attended many Seminars given by Japanese and non-Japanese shihans, that took place in Europe, but though all of them highly spoke about philosophical component of Aikido, they left without proper attention the martial component of Aikido, that was no less important. Also I observed that if someone during the technique applied atemi, it did not look real, sort-off "non-orthodox". I saw that moves, especially taisabaki becoming more and more complex and there more and more "preparatory" moves and steps during one technique. During one technique shihan could make 5-6 taisabaki prior to finally throwing or immobilizing an opponent. I observed, that a lot of shihans show techniques only with their personal uke, who always were ready to "jump in the throw" with just about any indication of such throw, even when there was no physical contact. All of this was pushing me in a deep depression. Was it possible that all work and development accomplished by O-Sensei, all his long journey in Martial Arts degraded to such level. I could not then and I cannot now accept such interpretation of Aikido! Aikido still remained great Martial Art! But needed to make a step back an think about its own history. As a result of these thoughts I came to conclusion, that only return to its roots can bring back real Aikido. Only by finding and studying in depth original roots of Aikido, I could reconnect with my beloved Martial Art. The decision was made. In 1991 I moved to Abashiri, Hokkaido, leaving behind everything. The rest you should know, if you read my book.
3. What do you think, what are the main differences between Aikido and Daito-Ryu?
A. Sometime people identify Aikido as a perfect life Philosophy, that can be also Martial Art. At the same time, Daito-Ryu can be perfect Martial Art, which can also be life Philosophy. But I disagree with this. Let's take a glance at complicated journey of O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba in the development of martial art crossing through all his life. Everyone knows, that there is a huge gap between the techniques of Aikido before World War II and after. For me Aikido remains beautiful Martial art, but following its evolution (from the position of martial component), aikido more and more distancing itself from practicality of the original foundation techniques (Aiki Jujutsu, Aikibudo). Now-days Aikido gives its adepts "own vision of life" [DO]; at the same time Daito-Ryu was and remains extremely practical method of self-defense [Jutsu]. Person, who practicing Aikido, more often than not, sees uke as a class-mate without which his spiritual and technical development would be impossible. For the Daito-Ryu practitioners uke is "an adversary", who must be concurred in shortest possible time frame. Please NOTE: I don't want to say, that during Daito-Ryu practice the friendly and cooperative atmosphere is absent. Quite contrary, during the execution of the techniques uke attacks with all seriousness and continues withstand attack in every given moment, as a result shite (tori) will work in the most adequate speed for himself and safe for himself manner! I want to stress again: during the training / classes we treat the uke's body and safety of uke we utmost attention and respect! Which been proven by statistics : traumas and accidents during Daito-Ryu training are very rare. The next important difference between the two is: the "static character" of Daito-Ryu techniques v.s. the "dynamic character" of Aikido techniques. The above described appearance is misleading. It is driven by the fact that in Daito-Ryu in order to efficiently and quickly execute technique we making minimum amount of steps / moves and moving trajectory is close to triangle in opposite to large taisabaki of now-days Aikido. The is a saying in our School "one second, one tatami", which means that reaction to attack and defense technique must be executed in one second and in area not exceeding 2sq. meters. Another, might be most visible difference is a use of the atemi, which unfortunately almost gone in Aikido. Every our technique, the defensive as well as offensive starts with an atemi to the opponent's body, continues then with wrist locks, projections, pins, chocking, throws, e.t.c. and ends a lot of times with finishing atemi. During all training sessions in our school there is a segment of time dedicated to studying atemi [Aikikenpo].It is one of the most important components of training, right there with kuzushi, taisabaki, and aiki... The spirit and intentions of these two Martial Arts are quite the opposite. In very simplified terms : One is having tendency to neutralize attack in a peaceful way <<Hey, you attacked me but now I will exterminate your aggression in a peaceful way without any big harm to your body>>. Other: <<Hey, you attacked me and I will defend myself with the quickest and most effective means, causing maximum damage to your body>> . [It is not that simple in a real life. The application for use of both arts in a real life situations is quite more complex. V.S.] In Kenjutsu terms, that received a spiritual and philosophical meaning, the Aikido is a "the life giving sword" (katsujinken); Daito-Ryu is a "life taking [killing] sword" (satsujinken). [These obviously just a philosophical concepts].
4. Sensei, could you offer couple of comments on Aiki principle in Daito-Ryu?
A. Sure. In Abashiri the Aiki principle was a search for method of unification, blending with the movements of the attacker / uke. Simplified example of aiki: when opponent is pushing - you move back and pull; when he is pulling - you move forward and push similar in cases with katatedori, munedori, eridori. This is why the concept of Aiki is most important for understanding Ju [in Japanese refers to pliancy and ability of body and mind to adopt to circumstances spontaneously] There is nothing mystical here, connected with a concept of spirit.