Morihei Ueshiba is universally presented and thought of as a good old man, the father of all the new age/hippy stuff about universal peace and love that every Aikido teacher loves to refer to in order to cover up for any technical or human lack. For the second time we dug out a few quotes – reported by direct students – that seem to suggest that there is more to the picture than a lot of people like to think
“You! Insolent fellow!” (1)
“I can tell by the sound that your training’s no good!” (2)
“Stay here and practice iaido for three months.” (3)
“Where, when, with what to kill the opponent” (4)
“I have to get him before he gets me.” (5)
“Hey, wake up!” (6)
“This is not a judo dojo.” (7)
“What you people are doing is not Aikido.” (8)
“Stop, you can lift Tohei, you can lift him! Stop, make them stop! This demonstration’s no good! Of course the gods aren’t going to enter into a drunken sot like you! If they did they’d all get tipsy!” (9)
“Aikido is mine, not Tohei’s. Don’t listen to what Tohei says.” (10)
“Koichi-chan, is that you? I want to ask you to please do what you can for my son.” (11)
(1) Then suddenly a short man with intense eyes appeared from a back room and shouted, “You! Insolent fellow!” I wondered who was being scolded, but he told me that he meant me. I was surprised because I had no intention of being insolent to anybody. “Do you mean, me?” I asked, and he nodded and asked who had given me permission to practice at the dojo. I told him that in fact nobody had given me permission but explained that I came with Mr. Mori, which I thought was all right. He said “That is what I call insolence.” I asked him what I should do in order to receive instruction. He told me that I should bring him a letter of introduction from a “certain” person.
(2) Q. What sort of things made him angry?
A. Whenever we practiced kokyunage when he was sleeping, for example, he would suddenly appear in the dojo and say, “I can tell by the sound that your training’s no good!” So we were always careful to practice seated techniques (suwariwaza) whenever he was around. He never said anything if we were working hard on suwariwaza.
(3) A while later I was accompanying O-Sensei on a trip to the Kansai region when he suddenly said to me, “Stay here and practice iaido for three months.” “Here” was the dojo of Michio Hikitsuchi in Shingu. It was Hikitsuchi Shihan who gave me my first training in iaido. I think that was around 1960. O-Sensei had read my thoughts. He said three months would be enough time for me to get some basic knowledge.
(4) Technically, what I teach to my students is the three W’s: when, where, with what. This is O-Sensei’s teaching also. “Where” is distancing, space, dealing with space. “When” is timing. “What” is individual technique. You have to learn, you have to get polish, educate, discipline your full body with these three principles through the learning of forms, and assimilate through this what we call awareness, martial awareness. If I say the exact words of O-Sensei, “where, when, with what to kill opponent”. The Founder said this. He also said, however, that Aikido chooses not to kill, but to lead. There is everything there, as far as I’m concerned. There is profound technical martial principle. There is a profound spiritual principle in his words, in that teaching of the three elements, the three W’s.
(5) In O-Sensei’s diary, which I possess, written around 1942, he clearly states “I have to get him before he gets me.” You know what he meant? Get him meant kill him! Everyone understands the view of Aikido in which O-Sensei was a lovely old man, that he talked always about love, peace, unity and everything; but you must understand that he came through that earlier stage.
(6) At the time when I was living in the dojo Sensei was still young. In those days he trained a great deal. As the number of live-in students increased, we had to sleep in the dojo. Sometimes, we would be waked up in the middle of the night by a voice saying, “Hey, wake up!” As we tried to figure out what was happening, we would look up to see O-Sensei standing in front of us. He would tell us to attack him from anywhere we wanted. He was training himself that way. Then he would do techniques which we had never learned before. He was always studying techniques like that with us.
(7) Sometimes I was forced down hard even though I didn’t resist my partner’s techniques. It was so painful that I was left seeing stars. I tried to do the same thing to him but I didn’t know how. So I sometimes threw my partners a lot using judo techniques. Then O-Sensei scolded me by saying: “This is not a judo dojo.” (Laughter) It is not right to force someone who is not resisting down hard. There were rough people. The cartilage in my arm still sticks out because of one rough guy.
(8) When he showed up everyone immediately sat down. At first, I thought that people were being courteous toward him. However, it wasn’t only that. It was also that the practices we were doing were different from what O-Sensei expected us to do. Once he lost his temper at us. No one realized that he had come and he shouted: “What you people are doing is not aikido.” His shout was so powerful it felt like the earth was trembling. He was then in his seventies but his voice nearly pierced our ear drums. Everybody just became quiet and looked gloomy.
(9) Once when I was with Sensei in Hawaii, there was a demonstration in which two of the strong Hawaiian students were supposed to try to lift me up. They already knew they couldn’t do it, so they didn’t think much of it. But Sensei, who was off to the side watching, kept standing up and saying, “Stop, you can lift Tohei, you can lift him! Stop, make them stop! This demonstration’s no good!” You see, I had been out drinking until three o’clock in the morning the previous evening, and Sensei knew what condition I had come home in. He said, “Of course the gods aren’t going to enter into a drunken sod like you! If they did they’d all get tipsy!” That’s why he thought they would be able to lift me.
(10) Q. What was O-Sensei’s attitude when you started basing your teaching around the principles of ki?
A. He was jealous and told people not to listen to me. He would say, “Aikido is mine, not Tohei’s. Don’t listen to what Tohei says.” He would peer into the dojo and say things like that, especially when I was teaching a group of women. In that respect he was quite child-like in his directness and lack of sophisticationvery spontaneous and innocent.
(11) I was privileged to be at Sensei’s side during his last hours. He said to me, “Koichi-chan, is that you? I want to ask you to please do what you can for my son.” I replied that as long as I had anything to do with it he had nothing to worry about. “That’s good… I ask it of you,” he said and closed his eyes. Shortly thereafter he drew his last breath. Mr. Sonoda suggested many times that I should become Doshu, but I was determined to keep my promise. To allow Kisshomaru to assume a stable role I pushed the idea that he should be both Doshu and managing director. He expressed his gratitude for my efforts then, but about a year later, his attitude changed.