Aikido or Squash?

Aikido people speak much and practice little?

Aikido magazines, leaflets and literature of every Aikido organisation, the Masters’ writings, common aikidoka, all repeat the following sing-song, like a well tuned and conducted chorus: Aikido is not a sport. It is instead a high level spiritual path, which covers every aspect of one’s life and aims to improve the inner well being of the student. A noble declaration of intents indeed, but what about the actual commitment to act upon it? Sport people do better!

di SIMONE CHIERCHINI

The function of Aikido as lifetime path is what mostly interests Aikido people and it is usually what attracts most of those who join our discipline for the first time. That is what differentiates Aikido from other activities in various fields – sports, philosophy, culture or religion. We all get our feathers ruffled when outsiders mistake Aikido for a sport; moreover, none of us would like Aikido teachings to be confused with those of one of the many new born religions that are trendy today.
We are genuinely proud to nourish the feeling within that the Art we committed to is really being beneficial for us. Being aikidoka also distinguishes us from other people who are unable to spare a part of their day-time to take care of their inner growth; and this in a time when most prefer to spend their spare time in less beneficial activities or doing nothing.
The above well fine tuned sing-song has a truthful and well-deserved reason to be. It is a pity though that, like in all human things, between words and action everything gets in the way.
In fact, if you really want to verify the reality of that sing-song, you will notice that among those chorus singers Tom and Jerry have to share their spare time between the activity A and B; every second class Betty is so tired that can just sit on the couch watching telly; Franco, then, just doesn’t go to the training, even if he’s not busy. The younger ones have the noble excuse to be in trouble with their school home-work, though millions of school students have exactly the same problem…
Someone could rightly say that, if Aikido is undoubtedly not a sport, it is also true that many Aikido practitioners are just sport-men: basically they are different from body-building or basket-ball trainees only in relation to the different kind of movements and techniques they engage in.
For what it concerns the rest they are definitely the same. Actually, to be honest, worse: a football coach, for example, would exclude from the team activity those players that are absent from training sessions without a proven reason.

What a shame...

We could easily object that the first rule of Aikido practice concerns the acceptance of our fellow students, it doesn’t matter in which manner they manifest themselves.
The laziness that we notice in other people, their behavior that often annoys us, what we call in them defects, all that is a sort of mirror reflecting our own lacks.
Having said that, it is be better to be reminded of the following: it is a shame to own a Ferrari car and drive it always at 20 miles an hour…

First published in 1993 on the Aikido Dojo Katharsis Milano Newsletter

Copyright Simone Chierchini ©1993-2011Simone Chierchini
Per le norme relative alla riproduzione consultare
https://simonechierchini.wordpress.com/copyright/

Annunci

Like a Rolling Stone

"We slide away upon events like a rolling stone"

As iron rusts without use and water rots,
or freezes when cold,
in the same way the mind is ruined without training

(Leonardo da Vinci, Atlantic Codex 289)

by SIMONE CHIERCHINI

It seems that in modern society the actions of people must necessarily follow well-defined behavioural cycles. Moreover, these cycles are separated from each other for ever. Considering the life of an individual from an external point of view, and observing his ages flow, what would you see? Phase one, childhood and adolescence, marked by playing and thoughtlessness; then youth, phase two, committed to studying and gaining experience; phase three, maturity, distinguished by production and work; finally, phase four, characterised by retirement and inactivity.
Events don’t always follow this rhythm, this is true; but you can easily agree that this model of existence which runs through compartments is definitely the most common one.
An unproductive adult is considered to be a mere obstruction to the functioning of the social process; the one living in a care free ‘young’ way is out of fashion, ‘hippy’, and disturbs the sight because of his dangerous and misleading example.
A young person that is thoughtful and moderate is in serious danger to be judged ill; if he is not involved enough with football, drinking and chasing girls, his parents will consider sending him to see a psychoanalyst.
What should I say about elderly people? Is there an answer to give to a retired person seeking for something to do in order to enjoy the remaining time? All they get is a couch and a telly.
There is a powerful poison hidden within us, ready to get into our system when one doesn’t want it, which is the attitude to let things roll on their own, to slide away upon events like a rolling stone. A bit at the time one gets to consider all that happens to be the result of the action of a superior and untouchable power, completely out of one’s control. A lot of people don’t live, pretend to live, from time to time situated in next compartment, like in a box, to finish deservingly in the very last container, a litter bin.

All revolutions failed

Do not be afraid, I am not calling for revolution. There have been many and all of them got nowhere. A legitimate wish would be to have the possibility of going through all the phases of one’s life, the ones still remaining at least, with a new attitude. Face, accept and live life fully through one’s different ages. Give a brand-new start to personal human and cultural development.
In order to maintain the actual trend, modern society needs automatons which spend their lives set in the right compartment, where they will be functional to the system, to feed which they will be delivered, trained, squeezed and dumped. One should expropriate the system and become again the master of his mind, thinking that the silly process that is wasting our lives can be stopped right now. All one has to do is to put hand again in personal and cultural development, call into play now, it does not matter if they universally think your time for that is over.
In the word Aikido, the Japanese martial art born from Ju-jitsu’s ashes, the ideograms Ai-ki-do mean path, way, personal development in action, perennial, for the entire life. It is not casual that in our contemporary society Aikido is one of the least known and popular disciplines, whereas activities with no other purpose than recreational are in full swing everywhere — even slaves have the right to a little fun. Amongst Aikido fans, the most popular clubs are very often those managed by people that changed Aikido into a recreational dance and the place of the practice (dojo) into some sort of tea room; here one goes to sweat a very small bit, have a chat, show off in front of the boss, and then back home, refreshed and ready to fall in line again as if nothing happened. I reckon there is no difference at all between practising martial arts with this attitude and staying home and watch the telly.
Martial arts training can become a sort of key in order to open the system and throw it out, as a first step, from the possession of our thought and its development.

First published in 1994 on the Aikido Dojo Katharsis Milano Newsletter

Copyright Simone Chierchini ©1994-2011Simone Chierchini
Per le norme relative alla riproduzione consultare
https://simonechierchini.wordpress.com/copyright/


Interview with Waka Sensei Moriteru Ueshiba

Simone Chierchini, Moriteru Ueshiba, Hideki Hosokawa (Roma 1982)

The following interview, conducted by Simone Chierchini with Aikido World leader Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba, was originally published in Italy by the magazine “Aikido” of the Italian Aikikai in 1982,  following the visit of the then Waka Sensei  (Young Master) at the Central Dojo Aikikai in Rome

by SIMONE CHIERCHINI

Some newspapers have interviewed Moriteru Ueshiba Waka Sensei during his stay in Rome during the seminars of Rome and Mantua, which were attended by 240 aikido. We gladly publish the interview conducted by Simone Chierchini for Aikido, 2 Kyu Rome Central Dojo.

CHIERCHINI
Sensei, what are your impressions of the city of Rome?

UESHIBA
It is the second time that I come to Rome and I must confess that for the second time I have been greatly impressed. I like this city and I was especially interested  by it from a historical point of view. In my free time I went visiting the main monuments. Through them Rome manages to share with the visitor the ancient grandeur.

CHIERCHINI
You came to Rome seven years ago with Doshu Kisshomaru. What  is your opinion on Italian Aikido in relation to your previous experience?

UESHIBA
When I came to Rome seven years ago, the prominent focus for me was tourism. Aikido was secondary, since my presence was only on the basis of assistance to Doshu Kisshomaru. Notwithstanding this, I can certainly say that in relation to seven years ago, Italian Aikido changed, and changed for the better. The work of Tada Sensei and his assistants in Italy, in accordance with the teachings and the directives from Hombu Dojo, has certainly been very successful. Hombu Dojo has much confidence in Tada Sensei and his assistants. To understand and continuously improve their technique along the Path, Italian Aikido practitioners only need follow the teachings of Tada Sensei: it is a fact that  Hombu Dojo teachers are the most reliable and qualified.
When I think back to my trip seven years ago, I find another change: namely, the maturation occurred in me.

Moriteru Ueshiba

Waka Sensei Moriteru Ueshiba in azione in Italia

CHIERCHINI
Do you believe that there are new prospects for world Aikido development after the founding of the IAF, the International Federation of Aikido?

UESHIBA
Indeed. The first task of the unitary federation should be to foster friendship between the Aikido world. This link was absent because each nation had its own federation. Now the assembly of the IAF comprises of representatives of each Aikido nation. Over time, Aikido, by virtue of the union which will become ever stronger, will develop more and more from a technical point of view. In fact, it will be possible to follow a coherent teaching pattern, based on the teaching of the Kaisho the founder. The IAF will have to divulgate, protecting it, O-Sensei’s Aikido and I consider this to be regarded as its main purpose.
A clarification, however, is required for what it concerns the figure of the Kaisho, to avoid an accusation of immobility: Kaisho is O-Sensei, but also Doshu and Waka Sensei are Kaisho. Kaisho is not a separate entity, apart from modern Aikido. Kaisho is an idea, embodied in a character, that is passed down from generation to generation, with a gradual evolution. This evolution, however, must always be seen from the inescapable starting point of O’Sensei, because his it is the true Aikido.

CHIERCHINI
Sensei, what is the message, the teachings that you intended to communicate during your Italian seminars?

UESHIBA
During the seminars in Rome and Mantua I focused my efforts, my attention on the teaching of basic techniques, which are essential in Aikido. But I must point out that this special insistence is not due to a lack of basic Aikido found in Italian Aikido students: I think every Aikido person, regardless of nationality, should apply specifically in the basic techniques. If one can talk about a “message”, that is what I wanted to launch, in perfect agreement with the teaching that I have normally adopted in Japan.

CHIERCHINI 
There is a criterion in planning your seminars abroad?

UESHIBA
No. Seminars abroad are not fixed in advance. Last year I held one in the United States, this year I came to Italy. For next year a venue has not been established yet, will see if an opportunity arises.

CHIERCHINI
Any interesting memories of your American experience that you would like to share with our readers?

UESHIBA
Aikido practiced in the United States does not differ much compared to European or Japanese. The thing that I remember with the most pleasure and a situation that stands out clearly from my every day experience is the following: in the U.S. the training is as serious and challenging as in Japan, but outside the mats between Aikido people is easily established a relationship of sincere friendship. I felt it towards me, and expressed with particular intensity here in Italy. This is in Japan hardly happens.

CHIERCHINI
What is the relationship of the Japanese Aikikai with other martial styles in Japan?

UESHIBA
In Japan each martial art follows its own path, independent of one another, each with its federation. They are separated but not divided, relations are good, friendly, to the point that each year the individual associations gather together at Budokan to hold a conference and public demonstration.

First published in 1982 by Aikido, Aikikai d’Italia

Copyright Simone Chierchini ©1982-2011Simone Chierchini
Per le norme relative alla riproduzione consultare
https://simonechierchini.wordpress.com/copyright/


36 Years on and it is Still Great Fun – Interview with S. Chierchini

Y. Fujimoto & S. Chierchini

Yoji Fujimoto & Simone Chierchini playing on the mats (Florence, 1987)

36 years since the beginning, as a little child in Tada Sensei’s class in Rome, passing next to Hosokawa Sensei’s years in Rome Aikido Central School as an adolescent, continuing to grow in Milan with his main mentor, Fujimoto Sensei, maturing the hard way in Ireland, starting up his own organisation, going his own way and receiving Hombu Dojo recognition… 36 years on and it is still great fun! Chierchini Sensei’s son, Luke, assisted by Grandma Carla, the first Italian woman to reach Nidan, asks his dad why

Versione Italiana

 

 

by LUKE CHIERCHINI & CARLA SIMONCINI

LUKE:
Hi Sensei, all my friends from the kids class would like to know where are you from.

SENSEI:
I am from Rome, Italy. I only came to Ireland 12 years ago.

LUKE:
Why did you decide to come to Ireland?

SENSEI:
Because it was lovely and green and crowded with happy leprechauns like you! Only kidding, I came here because at the time I liked it. What do you think about Ireland yourself?

LUKE:
I like it apart from the weather. I love to see all the green grass around and the view of the hills from my home. What age were you when you started Aikido?

SENSEI:
I was 8 years old and I used to go training with my dad.

LUKE:
Was your dad doing Aikido as well as you?

Chierchini father & son in 1969 (Rome)

SENSEI:
Yes, my dad was one of the main teachers of Roma Aikido Central School. I don’t remember much about that time apart from the fact that I was a nuisance on the mats! I have a clear memory of one particular class when my father had to stop the seiza and say: “If I can manage to find that blackbird I’ll shoot him on the spot!”, because I was whistling along, all happy with myself… I remember enjoying being with the grown-ups and travelling to other places for courses.

LUKE:
What is the name of your Aikido teacher?

SENSEI:
I had more than one teacher. As a child I did my 10th Kyu with Tada Sensei, which is probably a world record! Then for a while I was in Hosokawa Sensei’s children’s class, always in Roma. He had just arrived from Japan and at the beginning had very little Italian. We used to drive him crazy! Once he thought that a boy had done his jobbies in his suit. Instead this boy had hidden a chocolate bar in its bottoms and it had melted during the warm-ups…

LUKE:
How did you understand what he was saying if he had little Italian?

S. We did not understand a word! Also we were too busy laughing all the time to notice what was going on. The poor Sensei eventually became more fluent and he made us pay for being brats by breaking our backs with tonnes of prison-style exercises…

LUKE:
You said that you had other teachers. Who were they? Were they Italian or Japanese?

SENSEI:
Both. Earlier on, as a teenager, I learned a lot from two Italian teachers of the Roma Dojo, Roberto Candido aka Bob Rock and Ivano Zintu or the Aikido Bulldozer. As their nicknames suggest, these were guys you didn’t want to mess with. Unfortunately I had to, all the time. I happened to be light and flexible and they always called me for taking ukemi during class or demonstrations. Hosokawa Sensei did too, adding up to that retroactive punishment that I mentioned with you before… When I was 20 and Shodan, I moved to Milan, where I quickly became very close to Fujimoto Sensei. He has been my role model as an Aikido teacher for a long time and even though I now follow my own path, I am very grateful to him for all his teachings and for the good time I had in my 10 Milano years.

LUKE:
What Dan are you now, Sensei?

SENSEI:
I have been recently promoted to 5th Dan by Tada Sensei, who was my mum and dad’s Aikido teacher a long time ago, even before you and most of the adult students of our dojo were born. I have been following him on and off for my entire Aikido life but only loosely, as my Aikido is more centred on building up a strong relationship with people than on some not too well identified spiritual research. I don’t like religion, especially on the Aikido mats. That’s maybe a touch too difficult for you, my dear baba. What grade are you, Luke?

Second and third generation Chierchini in Aikido: Luke & Simone in Sligo (IRL), 2005

LUKE:
I am 7th/6th Kyu. I graded in June this year.

SENSEI:
That’s very good, congratulations! How long have you been training for?

LUKE:
I started when I was 3, so that means I have been training for 7 years now. How long have you been training?

S. I started in 1972 when I was 8. It took me 36 years to become 5th Dan!!! I would have been out of jail earlier if I had killed JFK…

LUKE:
Why did it get you so long to get to 5th Dan?

SENSEI:
Firstly because just like you I started very young, second because my dad being the chairman of the Italian Aikikai I got no discounts. My teachers always made it very hard for me and failed me a few times. Most of all, it depended on the fact that the Aikikai, our school, has a very unfair grading system. Most senior teachers are like those bully boys who never want to pass you the ball in a football match, no matter how good you are.

LUKE:
Apart from Aikido did you ever do any other martial art?

SENSEI:
Yes, I have been practicing Ken-jitsu of the Katori Shinto Ryu style for quite a while; that is one of the most famous sword schools in Japan. I have a Shodan of the Sugino Ryu even though I don’t follow the school anymore. Ken-jitsu has greatly helped me to develop my Aikido in the last 12 years, more than following any Aikido Sensei. When I was a young child I did a bit of Judo too.

LUKE: Why did you decide to stop Judo and do Aikido instead?

SENSEI:
My dad used to be a very good Judo teacher. One day he heard of Aikido but there was no Aikido teacher in Italy yet at the time. Then he got lucky when a Judo friend introduced him with a young Japanese named Kawamukai who was a 3rd Dan of Aikido. They started together the first Italian Aikido Dojo in my father’s Monopoli Judo Club in Rome.

With Kisshomaru Ueshiba & Yoji Fujimoto in Karlsrue (D), World Games 1989

A few months later they called Tada Sensei to teach in Italy. My dad became Aikido mad and Judo was gone for both of us.

LUKE:
Were you ever badly injured doing Aikido?

SENSEI:
I had a couple of injuries all right but that is part of the business if you are on the mats for 36 years, isn’t it? Do you think that Aikido is dangerous?

LUKE:
No, but it can be if you are not very careful and don’t follow the instructions.

SENSEI:
That’s it, very well said Luke.

LUKE:
What is the most important thing about Aikido?

SENSEI:
Uuuuuuuh! Now, that’s a question… What is the most important thing about ice cream? What do you think?

LUKE:
I think the way you breathe and soft movements are the most important things in Aikido.

SENSEI:
That’s a good point. Remember though that for each Aikido student the most important thing is a different one. So that must be the most important thing about Aikido…

First published on the Aikido Organisation of Ireland Newsletter, Issue 15 – Summer 2008

Copyright Simone Chierchini ©2008-2011Simone Chierchini
Per le norme relative alla riproduzione consultare
https://simonechierchini.wordpress.com/copyright/