Interview with Satoshi Takeda Sensei
'Interview with Satoshi Takeda, 6th Dan
April 1997, Canberra'
Nigel Carruthers-Taylor (NCT): Satoshi Sensei thank you for agreeing to this interview. How long have you been training Aikido?
Satoshi Sensei: This is my 27th year.
NCT: Have you studied any other martial arts?
Satoshi Sensei: In my high school days I studied Kendo for four years.
NCT: I also know that you like Tea Ceremony very much.
Satoshi Sensei: Yes, I've studied Tea Ceremony for 24 years. I have a licence - a Dan grading.
NCT: Do you find that Tea Ceremony is good for your Aikido?
Satoshi Sensei: Yes, it increases inspiration and catches a good feeling. The style I study is for celebrations - it's very important not to use force. The touch has to be very light, and the mind must not be broken. We use high quality tea and pottery, and the whole feeling is important - the tea house, calligraphy, ikebana. The whole thing must be in harmony and the set-up is very important. Next week, when I go back to Japan, I will have a tea ceremony.
NCT: You have been to Australia many times now. When was the first time that you came?
Satoshi Sensei: In 1989 I came to the Gold Coast, and Summer Camp in Newcastle. I have been to Australia 12 or 13 times since. I enjoy Australia very much. Sunshine Coast, Noosa, Melanie, are very lovely areas. Melbourne and Sydney have a good feeling - very much like Yokohama, a very exciting feeling.
NCT: Have you trained with Takeda, Yoshinobu Sensei for all of your training years?
Satoshi Sensei: Yes, sometimes I studied with Yamaguchi Sensei, but mostly with Takeda Sensei.
NCT: You have been teaching us some important Aikido points this weekend. Can you talk about some of these.
Satoshi Sensei: Before Aikido, to study a Japanese martial arts meant that you had to select Kenjitsu, Kyujitsu, or Jujitsu. Jujitsu's meaning, well, a direct translation means soft, but a kind of meaning included force: making free movement. Aikido is basically Jujitsu, but O'Sensei studied Shinto Religion, and made Aikido philosophical and spiritual. This is different from other martial arts. Very high level thinking and soul connection. The other martial arts focus on killing and fighting techniques. O'Sensei wanted to change this and give harmony with the Universe. A very important philosophy.
NCT: And a very difficult one to understand!
Satoshi Sensei: For me too!
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NCT: For Aikido students this kind of philosophy is like walking through a fog - its very difficult to see what it is.
Satoshi Sensei: Yes, you must build up yourself and the inspiration will come. You have the ability to make this inspiration. But you need a pure mind. Just playing martial arts and having a business money mind will not help you progress - you will not get the inspiration.
NCT: For Australian students it's very difficult to understand O'Sensei's philosophy. We can only read books about it, and these are very difficult to read. What are some important points?
Satoshi Sensei: It's very difficult to explain. You need direct experience. The Kotodama is very old, and even in Japan this is being lost. Japan is getting American mind, American culture now. Kotodama is very historical and O'Sensei liked Shintoism, where the Kotodama came from. But don't think about history, it's important to live now and look to the future. We need a Kotodama research institute - a University!
NCT: What do you think about Zen?
Satoshi Sensei: I'm from a Buddhist Sect, which is Zen, but I don't like Zen. Zen is very tiring! Western people like Zen and like meditation, which is very useful. Zen mind, Zen spirit wants concentration and focus - no thinking and a clear mind. No thinking money, no thinking house, just spiritual.
NCT: In our day to day practice are any of these philosophies important, or should we just practice the best we can?
Satoshi Sensei: The philosophies are important but in our practice we need to be very simple and easy. No thinking. I noticed at this camp that the high kyu grades very quickly copied my movements. But the old students have much Aikido information in their mind, and they need to take in the information that is here now. The white belt people didn't have prior information and very quickly learned.
NCT: I see - us black belts have a lot to learn. Or perhaps a lot to forget! This weekend you've been talking a lot about Mawai (distance), center movement, and so on. Could you talk about some of these.
Satoshi Sensei: It's very simple. Just catch the attacking feeling. Some people open their eyes, but too late! Why too late? Too much alcohol, much eating, much sweets. Then the feeling is too late. You need a sharpness, a self control. You need to keep the Aikido feeling at all times - outside the dojo as well as in. A lot of people just come in and keep the Aikido feeling in their training, but lose it when they aren't training. They just enjoy life without the sharpness and clarity that Aikido brings -why bother training! You need mind and body control to make life more happy.
NCT: So you think that this sharpness can come from cleaner living. Are lifestyle and nutrition important to develop the feeling in Aikido?
Satoshi Sensei: Of course. I like good food - fish, tofu, vegetables. Not so much heavy food such as meat, sweets, soft drink. There is much more potential to develop Ki with good food. Ki is a concentration of will. Not necessarily macrobiotics, this is very hard - makes your mind hard. Just eat good food, not heavy food.
NCT: This weekend you've talked a lot about Ki. Do you think it's important in Aikido to feel the Ki coming before the movement comes? How do you help do this?
Satoshi Sensei: Just technique, and keep healthy. Ki comes from the Japanese word Genki, which means an energetic and dynamic feeling. Sick people are not genki. Young people are genki. When we have Ki we are lighter, we are energetic. Making Ki is very simple, just lead a healthy life. And thinking is very important - if we have challenge in our life, it's Kiai, Ki is lightened and pointed, and we have a good life. If we are lazy, have too much money, eat too much, we become overweight and negative - then there's no Kiai. Then Ki is lost and life is no good. You must match your life cycle with the nature cycle, for example if you drink alcohol at midnight you're energy is lost.
NCT: Sensei, you have been teaching us a lot of bokken movement. Do you think this is important to learning Aikido?
Satoshi Sensei: Yes. Bokken comes from Kenjitsu style. But our movement comes from Takeda Sensei's irimi and tenkan, this movement has instruction for our students. We join the bokken and the whole body. This develops the whole movement - mind and body together. But don't confuse Aikido movements with Kenjitsu, Kendo or Iaido. They are all different. Over the past three years I have been teaching irimi and tenkan movements to beginners with the bokken - through this they pick the movement very quickly. Beginners don't have the knowledge of Aikido, and bokken paints a picture of the movement.
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NCT: What do you recommend for Australian students?
Satoshi Sensei: Bokken is extremely useful for Australians too. More practice of ukemi is also needed. I learn Aikido every day - ukemi picks up the feeling of Aikido. No thinking, just doing. Some people have a duty mind - very tired. You need an interest in Aikido - a kind of independent mind that seeks the inspiration of Aikido.
NCT: Tell us more about the new organisation - Aikido Kenkyu Kai. What is the meaning of the words and what is the vision?
Satoshi Sensei: Kenkyu Kai means Institute - so it is an Aikido Institute. It is a research network for Aikido. My dream is that it is a further development of the Shonan Renmei philosophy to Aikido. For a long time Takeda Sensei helped foreign students - people from United States, Germany, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. But now the organisation has grown. These people have left Japan and returned to their own countries and opened dojos. But they need more Aikido information and instruction - a small organisation cannot help them. We need to help them with senior instructors, they need support. It is important that we support them and help them to expand the Shonan Renmei style, CDC (Cultural Development through Collaboration) style. This is a human development - it will provide support into the next century. As we get more black belts they will expand again, and we need this network to support them. It is for the future.
NCT: Is Aikido Kenkyu Kai also about expanding the feeling of Aikido, so that Aikido is not so traditional?
Satoshi Sensei: Yes, traditional style is stuck in time. People's minds are changing over time. Aikido also needs to change to fit modern times. CDC Aikido is always changing. Each new generation will change the style. Japanese traditional culture finished development a long time ago -Edo time, and is now just being kept the same - maintained, no development - like Kabuki (traditional theatre), it's just entertainment theatre. It has no relevance to our modern era. Martial arts must change every day to reflect the current times - it must be relevant. CDC Aikido continues to develop.
NCT: Yes, we've noticed how Takeda Sensei and yourself have changed many times over the years. So is this part of the Aikido Kenkyu Kai way -to continue the development of Aikido?
Satoshi Sensei: Yes -we constantly need to refresh the approach - continue the inspiration. Unfortunately we can't write a text book on this way! We can't write about the techniques, because photos just show a point in time. We need to keep the interest in Aikido and keep it fresh - continue to expand and develop. Not traditional! Australia can become part of this frontier of development - please study hard and make it yours!
NCT: What countries have Aikido Kenkyu Kai dojos now?
Satoshi Sensei: Yes, there are dojos in Germany, Canada, New Zealand, United States, and of course Australia. We have also had South Africans and Brazilians studying with us. Takeda Sensei and other senior instructors are beginning to travel to these countries to teach. A lot of students are visiting Japan and studying with Takeda Sensei.
NCT: Some of the important things that we are finding in Australia is to learn to train with older people, children and people with disabilities. Have you got some ideas for training with these types of people?
Satoshi Sensei: Everybody has Ki energy, but those with disabilities, sickness and old age have lower energy. Dojos have a good Ki feeling - a lot of energy - and these people can pick it up. A lot of these people have lost self-confidence, but after working hard at Aikido they can do a basic Aikido movement and catch the Aikido feeling. This opens their energy - and changes their energy and their body, and can help their recovery. For two years I have taught a woman's class in Japan. The first two or three months they were scared - they only did a little ukemi and bokken movement. But slowly they connected with their Ki and now they are much better. I don't think people need hard training - just gentle and soft. Sick people need care - during Aikido they don't get direct care, they learn independence. They still need some time for learning, ukemi and so on, but in the dojo they can learn about their own actions. Once they learn movements it boosts their confidence and opens their Ki, helps recovery. You can see the changes in their faces.
NCT: How about older people?
Satoshi Sensei: Older people have a lot of education and experience - strong Kiai. But now the Kiai is sleeping, it needs waking up. You need to draw the energy out through gentle training. Bokken and tenkan movement is very good. They need to learn self-confidence again. They don't need fast instruction.
NCT: How about children?
Satoshi Sensei: Their energy has no focus. The main point is to teach them to focus - make one point. Bokken movement is important - it brings their mind together. Many children are raised in nice houses with nice food, a lot of entertainment - focus is lost. Just support them and push them gently. You need to teach them leadership - give certain people some responsibility - this teaches them to focus. Each day you may have a different leader - this person has responsibility which opens their Ki energy. In two or three months you will see a real change in their bodies and attitude.
NCT: Do you suggest dietary changes to help people open their Ki?
Satoshi Sensei: Just making suggestions that's all - clean food - but not forcing changes on them. It's just an education process on human nature. We encourage fewer sweets, less TV, more exercise outside, with groups and so on.
NCT: Is there anything else that you would like to tell us?
Satoshi Sensei: Think of the Way of harmony with the Universe. Include the deep philosophy in your study. There is much variation. including social harmony, and you need to have a community mind. It's very simple - think of your actions, how does your mind meet this harmony?
NCT: Takeda Sensei, thank you very much for this interview, and I hope we will see you again in Australia soon.
Satoshi Sensei: Thank you.