Do you agree with people who say that Aikido comes from weapons? Yes, well that depends on what people think, but in the case of Aikido, that’s what people always say, that it came from weapons. But the movement with a weapon, with a tool, is a bit different from that which is empty-handed. And when I make a move, like irimi or tai no sabaki, it’s easier for the students to understand when I have a tool in hand than when I don’t. So from that point, I think it’s necessary to link weapon when we teach and during the practice. Moreover, when you do shomen-uchi for example, with a weapon, whether it be a ken or jo, the way you do is completely different from the way you do with your hands. Of course whether you have a tool makes a difference, but originally, the way you do taisabaki is the same. So when you move in the irimi position, regardless of whether your opponent has ken or jo, you can avoid the hit. But the way people do it now, if your opponent makes a serious move with a weapon, you might get hit. So there’s a need to learn how to do taisabaki, not only with bare hands, but also with a ken or jo. And that’s reflected in the way I train people now although the use of ken or jo is not the main component of our keiko. In doing so, I see that people start to move differently. What is you view of the unified theory of taijutsu/ken/jo? Yes, like I said, the movement is a bit different. Different but, if you know how to move or do sabaki properly with a weapon like a ken or jo, you should be able to do it with bare hands too. But if you are only familiar with taijutsu, when your opponent has a weapon, you can’t counter them. Of course, you can do it if the opponent is trained in the way that they’ll move into the ukemi position to match your move. But if your taijusu is not good enough, how can you counter them when the opponent attacks for real? Also, when the opponent has a weapon, there’s a psychological difference. You will be nervous. I think we also need to incorporate ken and jo to allow the students to experience that tension. In which context did O Sensei use weapons in his training? Ah that, well, like I said, it was sabaki and irimi. To help the students understand sabaki and irimi by demonstrating. O Sensei was like, when there were some guests who were new to Aikido, he would talk and explain about Aikido, and when we went there with him, he would pick someone and suddenly perform technique in the middle of conversation or when they were having tea, even in a tiny place. This was because they wouldn’t be able to fully understand it simply by explaining what irimi and sabaki were. He would use someone and illustrates his talks. If he didn’t have a ken or jo, he would show it in taijutsu and if he had a ken or a jo, he would demonstrate that as well. During demonstrations too, he would show what irimi was using a ken or a jo. So it was more about how to counter your opponent when they used a ken and jo rather than how to use those weapons. What is the pedagogical purpose of suwari waza? When you do suwariwaza, unlike tachiwaza for example, you can’t move at all. When you first do it, you can’t even do shikko well, and to be able to move freely, your lower body must be strong. For example, there is ground work in judo, but there is no such thing in Aikido. In the past, some sempais used to say that because we don’t have ground work in Aikido, we have suwariwaza instead. I think that’s partly true, but ultimately, I think it came from the Japanese life style, and I think of it as the base of all techniques, the most basic of all basic moves. So suwariwaza is very important. Nowadays, suwari waza seems different compared to the compact way O Sensei used to do it, or that Daito-ryu practitioners do it. Well I can’t give you a right answer for that. It’s different depending of people. Come to think of it, when you look at the old videos of O Sensei, you notice that he didn’t really move much. However, in today’s suwari waza, people almost stand on tiptoes. But the way suwari waza was done the past, was like going from seiza to seiza. They would sit in seiza and move quickly, they would move on tiptoes too, but the immobilizations were done in seiza. So on that one, I think it was also because O Sensei couldn’t move or had less control of his body in his later years, and it was more like he was standing on his knees rather than sitting in seiza. Did O Sensei’s Aikido has changed during the 20 years you were with him? It’s changed a lot. O sensei would often say solid, liquid, gas, and circle, square, triangle. Apparently it’s from Shinto like they say ikumusubi, tarumusubi, tamatsumemusubi. And if I say it in words, it’s kaisho, gyosho, sosho, the three styles. He talked a lot of the solid, liquid, gas in training. I myself sometimes explain them to people, but if I make it easier to understand, it’s kaisho, gyosho, sosho. If you are Japanese, you do a little bit of calligraphy, and the very first thing that you learn is to draw a horizontal and a vertical line. And even in that one line, there are kishitsu, unpitsu, and shushitsu. Initially, you are learning to properly put weight on the brush and release it, and then you move on to gyosho. And from gyosho to a variety of things with more flow. I think you can say the same about waza. I think that, no matter how techniques change, you need to train yourself to do three types of techniques. firm techniques, techniques with some movement like gyosho, techniques with movement only. So that’s what I still do now even if I can’t move my body very well anymore. If you can’t do one properly, you can’t move on to the next one. When I look at how people train now, they might say they begin with “hard keiko” but it looks to me like they are rather doing “soft keiko”. When I first started with O Sensei, we had more techniques that were more like kaisho. I was with O Sensei for only 20 years, but even during that time, his techniques changed in his last years. Of course if you turn 80 and have less physical strength, you can’t do the techniques you did in your 60s. So he would make his opponent move, but it wasn’t like his opponent was moving for him. O Sensei made him move. That’s the difference. It’s not that the opponent was doing it for O Sensei, but O Sensei would create a situation where the opponent had to move. That was O Sensei’s technique. So for example, there was a time when O Sensei did irimi, and I got thrown without him touching me. How? I would go smoothly like I was being pulled. And one time, I was thinking, he wouldn’t be able to throw me anyway, and I tried a little bit, yeah, K. I. : Resisting? Yes, resisting. He went like BAM! So it’s better not to resist uselessly. When I look at how people do it now, it’s rather like they voluntarily go and roll. That’s what I often see. I think that’s the difference even with the same sort of movement. Now there are those people, who make their opponent roll with a slight move of the neck. You might have seen them in demonstrations. They do this, and the opponent fly like this. There people who do that. I have never seen O Sensei do that. Never. So those Sensei probably surpassed O Sensei. I don’t know how hard they trained, but there are actually people like that. When they do this, the opponent flies like this. But what I experienced with irimi nage is like I said, I was almost being pulled off and as I made a smooth move, and I was like snatched. That’s my actual experience. Did Ueshiba Morihei engage in solo practice? Well, O Sensei would often say that Aikido is a technique of purification. That is, in Shinto, you do funakogi for misogi, that kind of things. We did it together with the founder. You still do the funakogi exercise right? I’m sorry to say this, but the funakogi you do today is more of a funakogi-style exercise. You don’t do it properly.