Was Morihei Ueshiba only a wise old man talking mystic mumbojumbo – as the ufficial hagiography likes to present him? Here’s 10 quotes – reported by direct students – that seem to suggest that there is more to the picture than a lot of people like to think
“Forget what I used to do before, this time is over. Now, I do Aikido!”(1)
“What?!? Zen?!?” (2)
“Nobody does Aikido here! Only women do Aikido!!” (3)
“When are you all going to understand that he [uke] does not exist and Ueshiba does not exist?” (4)
“I was born with Ki! Who told you something that stupid!? Give me the names!” (5)
“I understand Yin and Yang, you don’t” (6)
“Of course I am not going to tell you what I am doing; it is up to you to understand it” (7)
“Aikido is 95% perspiration and 5% philosophy.” (8)
“No, no, no, Mr. Nocquet, do not read, you have to practice more with your body, you do not practice enough. There is no meaning for an Aikidoka to talk about being tired, tiredness does not exist.” (9)
“The truth of Aikido could be caught in a very short moment of time. If you catch the secret, you can do what I do in three months.” (10)
(1) Therefore, he started from what he knew; Daito-Ryu Aiki-jujutsu, and used it to develop a system of harmonious resolution of conflicts. He could have used a completely different approach though. Despite this, the martiality and the efficacy were still very present, but freed from the visible aspect of opposition. It is obvious when you compare pre- and post-war videos. O Sensei often said “forget what I used to do before, this time is over. Now, I do Aikido!”
(2) Omotokyo used to teach Shinto. Shinto is really based on the concept of Yin and Yang and that is why O Sensei did not like Zen because the cosmology was different. Boy did he hate Zen… When we used to say “O Sensei, we are doing Zen” he would yell “What?!? Zen?!? (laughs)” You should have seen his face (laughs). When you were dealing with O Sensei, you had to come with an open mind.
(3) We used to apply a technique on our partner in a very competitive manner. On the other hand, O Sensei only cared about keeping the balance between the two parts of a same entity, very much like the two parts that compose the Yin and the Yang. I always wonder how he could have had the patience of seeing us all get it wrong; yet letting us do it. Of course, every now and then, he would storm into the dojo and yell “nobody does Aikido here! Only women do Aikido!!”
(5) One day, we were about to arrive in Iwama when I said to Ueshiba Sensei “Actually, someone told me that you could do what you do because of Ki” . He screamed at me the following thing: “I was born with Ki! Who told you something that stupid!? Give me the names!” At this stage I thought it was quite a bad way to start the week so I kept a low profile until our return to Tokyo (laughs). In fact, I think what he meant was that everyone of us is made of Ki rendered visible, no more, no less.
(6) “O Sensei, how come we are not doing what you are doing?” He just smiled and replied “I understand Yin and Yang, you don’t”. Like if it was nothing, he just gave me the secret of Aikido.
(7) Shioda had to patiently interpret everything by himself without any other form of instruction than watching his master demonstrate. While I was at Hombu, O Sensei used to very often say “Of course I am not going to tell you what I am doing; it is up to you to understand it”. It is obvious that the enormous differences between what the different students of O Sensei are showing is the direct result of Ueshiba’s approach to teaching.
(8) I think in Aikido, at the beginning, we should not really practice philosophy. Do not make it a spiritual quest. We must watch the body, and perform many movements without thinking of this spiritual quest. Master Ueshiba said, “Aikido is 95% perspiration and 5% philosophy.” By saying that, I have said everything.
(9) It means that it takes a lot practice, and once you have reached a third or fourth Dan grade in Aikido, you can begin to address the spiritual aspect. Often, at Ueshiba’s dojo, I was reading, but the master told me, “No, no, no, Mr. Nocquet, do not read, you have to practice more with your body, you do not practice enough.” I told him that I was tired, and he said, “there is no meaning for an Aikidoka to talk about being tired, tiredness does not exist.”
(10) Practice doesn’t mean anything. What O-Sensei was thinking is important. He was basing his moves on an unseeable matrix we can’t comprehend. Everybody thought he could do these things because he had 65 years of practice. I didn’t look at it that way. For me, what he knew was important. Not everybody looked look at it that way. [Henry shows me a quote from Sugano Sensei, which says: “It was as if O-Sensei was doing aikido while everyone else was doing something else.”] So what were we doing?! What we were doing on the mat wasn’t what he was doing.” Showing me another quote from Bob Nadeau’s article in Aikido Today Magazine, which says: “Once O-Sensei told me one day clearly and emphatically that the truth of aikido could be caught in a very short moment of time. If you catch the secret,” he said. “You can do what I do in three months.”