Below is an article written by Michiharu Mori Shihan. As always, I hope you find this article as insightful as I have. The article gives us rare insight into the life and times of Yoshinkan’s founder Master Gozo Shioda through the recollections of Mori Shihan, who spent 10 years under his tutorage as ‘uchi-deshi’ (live-in student/disciple).
Please enjoy Mori Shihan’s words and experiences and allow them to build further confidence in the art in which you train.
TRAINING YOUR SENSES
“Around 25 years ago, I felt I had reached the entrance of the “Aiki” world, the ultimate Aikido techniques. It was just a start and what I could do was only a very limited Aiki-waza, yet the change I felt in my body was clear. The sensation with the use of my knee movements changed.
For instance, I picked up a toothpaste to brush my teeth one morning and dropped the cap accidentally from my right hand. It would usually drop on the floor before, but this time I caught it by my left hand before it touched the ground. I was surprised with what happened and this was not a coincidence. That was because I began to master bending my knees without changing my upper body position, which was a necessary movement to master the Aiki technique (breaking the balance of opponent by bending knees without changing the dynamics of the contact position in the upper body.) The speed of dropping my body had gotten much faster by just bending knees while my upper body balance had no change and that was why I was able to catch up with the dropping cap. Well, I thought this phenomenon was the proof of reaching the entrance of “Aiki,” not relying on my physical strength but more on the way of using my body parts, especially knees. In other words, it was the start of mastering my centre line.
In recent years, that phenomenon has evolved. Well, I drop a thing and chase it by eyes as it drops (you know, I drop things more as my hands are dryer as I age!) As I watch a dropping object I realise that I am seeing the line along which it is going to go, for example hitting a sink and bouncing off a cup. So, I am not actually chasing the object to catch but placing my left hand waiting for the object to fall into my hand. This does not happen all the time, of course, but happens more often now. I feel this is one of the results of my long years in training my senses as a budo-ka. This sensation sometimes happens during tasu-dori too that I suddenly see things get slower, though only for a moment, and lines of uke’s attack movements appear as if drawn in dotted lines. I assume that I will be an expert of Aikido one day if I can master this ability of seeing the moving paths of things and people in advance, and if I can use the ability freely. I am excited to experience something more amazing than just catching a cap in future as I train my sensors more diligently.
O Sensei, the founder of Aikido, left many quite amazing episodes about training his sense. Here are some.
One day, when he was traveling by train with Gozo Shioda, O Sensei passed a Tessen (iron fan) and asked him to attack him whenever he had a chance. He sat down face-to-face and closed his eyes falling asleep. Our cheeky master, Gozo Shioda, loved this kind of chance and got so keen to hit his master. He carefully read the timing and made sure his master looked unguarded. At the moment he was ready to attack however O Sensei opened up his eyes and grinned. The same thing kept occurring as if O Sensei was able to read his mind and Gozo Shioda could not even use the Tessen once.
One night, O Sensei and his disciples were climbing up a mountain to train in the dark. The steep path of the mountain was too hard for an old man like O Sensei and he had to rely on the support of one of his students by having him push on his back – our cheeky master. As Gozo Shioda pushed his master’s back he came up with a prank. He thought of letting his master fall by suddenly letting his hands off from his back. He was sure his master would fall on such a steep hill feeling the master’s weight leaning to his hands. He grinned to himself and followed his plan. The next moment he could not believe what he saw, but his master kept walking in the exactly same position, leaning backwards, as if there was nothing happened. O Sensei obviously knew what his trustworthy disciple was thinking.
On another day, one of his students who had a duty of striking O Sensei with a bokken as daily training decided to try him. He thought of giving a trick by striking where O Sensei was going to move instead of trying to hit him directly, recognising that O Sensei had a habit of moving to his right at the first move. So, he swung down his bokken hard to O Sensei’s right and found it whizzing hard cutting through air. O Sensei was grinning at him without moving an inch. Playing mental games with his students like these episodes was one of his means to train his sensors and abilities.
O Sensei was certainly the legend and beyond ordinary people. My uchi-deshi life with Master Gozo Shioda was nothing as exciting as these episodes, yet I still had good trainings to sharpen my senses. Communication with him, for instance, required a great deal of concentration. When he needed to tell something to uchi-deshis he usually said, “A, ah~, ah~….,” and we had to know the answer to offer him or act straight away. You would not know a clue at the beginning of uchi-deshi life but as you serve him in daily life for opening doors, making teas, assisting him to change his clothes, attending to his personal needs while he takes a bath and so on, your sense is getting well trained to read his mind and harmonise with his moves. Once I had more cases of satisfying him with my answers and acts then I began to be called to take his uke more.
You are not uchi-deshis and do not have these kinds of means to train your senses. Yet, I have realised that you are always training your senses whenever I speak in my broken English as you have to concentrate to understand what I mean. Well, my poor English is somehow useful in this way…Thank you everyone, for trying very hard to harmonise with me! Other than the training of understanding me, you can always train your senses whenever you take uke, especially for Kihon-dosa. You can feel so much of your shite’s mechanical motions through your hands where you are connected, only if you are trying to do so. Moreover, while you are uke-ing for Jiyu-waza you can keep sensing any slightest move of your shite and can start reading which technique is coming next. When your senses are more trained you can take uke safely and these skills can be utilised when you apply techniques. I did the same. I had to take uke for Takeno Shihan and Nakano Shihan a lot during my uchi-deshi time. These two had a powerful type of Aikido and I received a lot of pain and impact on my body at the beginning. As I was forced to learn to read their moves for the sake of my life I earned the ability to take perfect uke for each of them by knowing exactly which technique they were performing next. I realised then, as they were more satisfied with my uke, my level of performing techniques also had advanced.
I can say, from my experiences, that training with no concrete aim will not bring much fruits for you. But your Aikido training can be far more enjoyable and interesting if you keep sharpening your senses through lots of thinking and attempts. Aikido is something that never shows your limitations to improve and progress. I wish everyone to taste the world of ultimate Aikido.”