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L’Aïkido est-il un art martial ?

Par Régis Soavi

Il semble que cette question « L’Aïkido est-il un art martial ? » soit récurrente dans les dojos et divise les pratiquants, les enseignants, ainsi que les commentateurs dans à peu près toutes les écoles. Personne ne pouvant donner une réponse définitive, on a recours à l’histoire des arts martiaux, aux nécessités sociales, à l’histoire de l’origine des êtres humains, aux sciences cognitives, etc., en les chargeant d’apporter une réponse, qui, si elle ne résout pas le problème, aura au moins le mérite de justifier les propos tenus.

L’Aïkijutsu est devenu un dō

L’Aïkijutsu, depuis qu’il a abandonné le suffixe jutsu pour devenir un dō, s’est reconnu lui-même comme un art de la paix, une voie de l’harmonie au même titre que le Shodō (la voie de la calligraphie) ou encore le Kadō (la voie des fleurs). En adoptant le terme qui signifie le chemin, la voie, est-il devenu pour autant un chemin plus facile ? Ou au contraire nous oblige-t-il à nous poser des questions, à réexaminer notre propre parcours, à faire un effort d’introspection ? Un art de la paix est-il un art de l’accommodation, un art faible, un art de l’acceptation, un art où les filous peuvent jouir d’une réputation à peu de frais ?
Certes c’est un art qui a su s’adapter aux nouvelles réalités de notre époque. Mais doit-on entretenir l’illusion d’une self-défense facile, à la portée de tous, adaptée à tous les budgets et sans la nécessité de s’investir le moins du monde ? Peut-on réellement croire ou faire croire qu’à raison d’une ou deux heures par semaine, qui plus est hors vacances (les clubs sont souvent fermés), on peut devenir un foudre de guerre ou acquérir la sagesse et être capable de résoudre tous les problèmes par son calme, sa sérénité, ou son charisme ?
La solution alors se trouve-t-elle dans la force, le travail musculaire et les arts violents ?
S’il existe une direction, elle se trouve à mon avis, et malgré ce que je viens de dire, dans l’Aïkido.

Une École sans grade

Tsuda Itsuo ne donna jamais de grade à aucun de ses élèves et lorsque quelqu’un lui posait une question sur le sujet, il avait coutume de répondre « Il n’y a pas de ceinture noire de vide mental ». On peut dire que, avec cela, il avait clos toute discussion. Ayant été l’interprète, auprès de Ō Senseï Morihei Ueshiba, d’André Nocquet senseï lors de son apprentissage au Japon, il a par la suite servi d’intermédiaire lorsque des étrangers français ou américains se présentaient au Hombu Dojo pour s’initier à l’Aïkido. Cela lui permit, traduisant les questions des élèves et les réponses du maître, d’avoir accès à ce qui sous-tendait la pratique. Ce qui en faisait quelque chose d’universel. Ce qui en faisait un art au-delà de la pure martialité. Il nous parlait de la posture de Ō Senseï, de son incroyable spontanéité, de la profondeur de son regard qui semblait le percer jusqu’au plus profond de son être. Tsuda Itsuo n’a jamais cherché à imiter son maître qu’il considérait inimitable. Il s’est tout de suite intéressé à ce qui animait cet homme incroyable capable de la plus grande douceur comme de la plus grande puissance. C’est pourquoi, arrivé en France, il chercha à nous transmettre ce qui pour lui était l’essentiel, le secret de l’Aïkido, la perception concrète du ki. Ce qu’il avait découvert, et qu’il résumait dans cette phrase, la première de son premier livre : « Depuis le jour où j’ai eu la révélation du “ki”, du souffle (j’avais alors plus de quarante ans), le désir ne cessait de grandir en moi d’exprimer l’inexprimable, de communiquer l’incommunicable. »*

Pendant dix ans il parcourut l’Europe afin de nous faire découvrir, à nous, Occidentaux, bien trop souvent cartésiens, dualistes, qu’il existe une autre dimension à la vie. Que cette dimension n’est pas ésotérique mais exotérique comme il se plaisait à le dire.

Une École particulière

Les motivations qui amènent à commencer cette pratique sont de manière évidente très diverses. Si je pense aux personnes qui pratiquent dans notre École (l’École Itsuo Tsuda), à part quelques-unes, il y en a peu qui soient venues pour l’aspect martial. D’ailleurs bon nombre d’entre elles n’y ont rien vu de martial de prime abord, bien qu’à l’occasion de chaque séance je montre comment les techniques pourraient être efficaces si on les exécutait de façon précise, et dangereuses si on les utilisait de manière violente. Le coté martial découle de la posture, de la respiration, de la capacité de concentration, de la vérité de l’acte qu’est l’attaque. Pour l’apprentissage, il est indispensable de respecter le niveau de son partenaire, de s’exercer avec des formes connues.
Mais la découverte que l’on peut faire en travaillant les formes prédéfinies va bien au-delà. Il s’agit de faire fructifier autre chose, de révéler ce qui se trouve au fond des individus, de se libérer de l’emprise sous-jacente qu’exerce le passé et même parfois le futur, sur nos gestes, sur l’ensemble de nos mouvements, tant physiques que mentaux. Et d’ailleurs personne ne s’y trompe dans notre dojo.
La séance commence à 6h45. Le fait de venir pratiquer si tôt le matin (en fait Ō Senseï et Tsuda senseï avaient toujours commencé leurs propres séances à 6h30) n’est ni une ascèse ni même une discipline. Certains pratiquants arrivent vers 6h chaque matin, pour partager un café ou un thé, et profiter de ce moment d’avant la séance (de pré-séance), si riche parfois grâce aux échanges que l’on peut avoir entre nous. C’est un moment de plaisir, d’échange sur la pratique, comme parfois aussi sur la vie quotidienne, que l’on partage avec les autres de manière extrêmement concrète et non de façon virtuelle comme la société a tendance à nous le proposer.
Évidemment tout cela peu paraître rétrograde ou inutile, mais cela évite le coté loisir facile et ne favorise pas le clientélisme, sans pour autant dire qu’il n’existe pas, cela le réduit et avec le temps il évolue. Et cela parce que les êtres changent, se transforment, ou plus précisément se retrouvent eux-mêmes, retrouvent des capacités inexploitées, qu’ils pensaient parfois avoir perdu ou souvent, plus simplement, qu’ils avaient oubliées.

Yin le féminin : comprendre

Les femmes sont si nombreuses dans notre École que la parité n’y est pas respectée, les hommes sont minoritaires, de peu certes, mais ils l’ont toujours été. Je m’en voudrais de parler au nom des femmes et pourtant comment faire ? Elle ne forment pourtant pas un monde à part, inconnu des hommes.
En fait, pour beaucoup, peut-être que si ! … Cependant je pense qu’il suffit pour l’homme de se pencher sur son coté yin, sans en avoir peur, pour retrouver et comprendre ce qui nous rapproche et ce qui nous différencie. Est-ce par une affinité personnelle, une recherche due à mon propre vécu pendant les événements de mai 68 et à cette éclosion du féminisme qui se révéla une fois de plus à cette époque. Ou plus simplement peut-être parce que j’ai eu trois enfants et que ce sont trois filles, qui d’ailleurs pratiquent toutes les trois, le résultat quelles qu’en soient les raisons a fait que j’ai toujours accordé leur place légitime aux femmes dans les dojos de notre École. Elles y ont les mêmes responsabilités et il n’y a évidemment aucune différence de niveau, que ce soit pour l’étude comme pour l’enseignement. Il est vraiment dommage d’avoir à préciser ce genre de choses, mais malheureusement elles ne découlent pas d’elles-mêmes dans ce monde.
Malgré tout les femmes prennent peu la parole, ou même devrais-je dire la plume, dans les revues d’art martiaux. Il serait intéressant de lire des articles écrits par des femmes, voire de consacrer un espace dans « Dragon magazine spécial Aïkido » à la vision des femmes sur les arts martiaux et sur notre art en particulier. N’ont-elles rien à dire, ou le monde masculin accapare-t-il toute la place ? Ou peut-être encore ces débats de chapelles sur l’efficacité de l’Aïkido les ennuient, elles qui cherchent et souvent trouvent, me semble-t-il, une autre dimension, ou en tout cas autre chose, grâce à cet art  ? Cet « autre chose », qui est peut être plus près de la recherche de Ō Senseï, Tsuda Itsuo senseï nous en donne une idée dans ce passage de son livre La Voie du dépouillement :

« Se représente-t-on Me Ueshiba comme un homme fait entièrement en acier ? C’est pourtant l’impression bien contraire que j’ai eu de lui. C’était un homme serein, capable d’une concentration extraordinaire, mais très perméable par ailleurs, aux éclats de rire sonores, avec un sens de l’humour inimitable. J’ai eu l’occasion de toucher son biceps. J’en étais stupéfait. C’était la tendresse d’un nouveau-né. Tout ce qu’on pouvait imaginer de contraire à la dureté.
Cela peut paraître curieux, mais son Aïkido idéal était celui des jeunes filles. Les jeunes filles ne sont pas capables, de par leur nature physique, de contracter les épaules aussi durement que les garçons. Leur Aïkido, est de ce fait, plus coulant et plus naturel. »**

Yang le masculin : combattreart martial

Nous sommes éduqués à la compétition depuis notre plus tendre enfance, l’école, sous prétexte d’émulation, a tendance à aller dans la même direction, et tout cela pour nous préparer au monde du travail. Le monde est dur nous apprend-on, il faut absolument gagner sa place au soleil, apprendre à se défendre contre les autres, mais en est-on si sûr ? Notre désir n’aurait-il pas tendance, lui, à nous guider dans une autre direction ? Et que faisons-nous pour réaliser cet objectif ? L’Aïkido peut-il être l’un des instruments de cette révolution des mœurs, des habitudes, doit-il et surtout devons-nous faire l’effort nécessaire afin que les racines du mal qui ronge nos sociétés modernes se régénèrent et redeviennent saines ? Il y a eu par le passé des exemples de sociétés où la compétition n’existait pas, ou très peu de la manière dont elle existe aujourd’hui, des sociétés où le sexisme aussi était absent, même si on ne peut pas les présenter comme des sociétés idéales. En lisant les écrits sur le matriarcat dans les îles Trobriand de ce très grand anthropologue qu’était Bronislaw Malinowski on pourra découvrir son analyse, trouver des pistes, et peut-être même des remèdes à ces problèmes de civilisation qui ont été si souvent dénoncés.

Tao, l’union : une voie pour l’accomplissement de l’être humain

La voie, par essence, sans être un idéaliste, se justifie et prend toute sa valeur par le fait qu’elle normalise le terrain des individus. Pour qui la suit, elle régule ses tensions, elle est équilibrante, elle est tranquillisante en permettant un autre rapport à la vie. N’est-ce pas ce que tant de personnes « civilisées » recherchent désespérément et qui se trouve en fin de compte au fond de l’être humain ?

La voie n’est pas une religion, c’est même ce qui la différencie de la religion qui en fait un espace de liberté, au sein des idéologies dominantes. La pensée de laquelle on peut la rapprocher me semble plutôt être l’agnosticisme, courant philosophique peu connu, ou plutôt connu de manière superficielle mais qui permet d’intégrer toutes les différentes écoles. Il y a bon nombre de rituels dans l’Aïkido que l’on continue de suivre sans en comprendre la véritable origine (celle à laquelle puisa Ō Senseï) ou parfois d’autres rituels que divers maîtres trouvèrent grâce à d’anciennes pratiques comme le fit Tamura senseï lui-même. On les a souvent associés avec la religion alors que, comme on pourrait le vérifier, ce sont les religions qui ont utilisé tous ces anciens rituels, se les sont appropriés pour en faire des instruments au service de leur propre pouvoir, et même trop souvent ils servent à la domination et à l’asservissement des individus.

Un moyen : la pratique respiratoire

La première partie dans l’Aïkido de O Senseï Morihei Ueshiba, loin d’être un échauffement, consistait en mouvements dont il est primordial de retrouver la profondeur. Ce n’est pas pour une satisfaction intellectuelle, ni par soucis d’intégrisme et encore moins pour acquérir des « pouvoirs supérieurs », que nous les continuons, mais pour retrouver le chemin qu’avait emprunté Ō Senseï. Certains exercices, comme Funakogi undo (mouvement dit du rameur) ou Tama-no-hireburi (vibration de l’âme), ont une très grande valeur, et lorsqu’ils sont pratiqués avec l’attention nécessaire, ils peuvent nous permettre de sentir au-delà du corps physique, au-delà de notre sensation si limitée, pour découvrir quelque chose de plus grand, de beaucoup plus grand que nous. Il s’agit d’une nature illimitée à laquelle nous participons, dans laquelle nous baignons, qui est fondamentalement et inextricablement liée à nous, et que pourtant nous avons tant de mal à rejoindre ou même parfois à sentir. Cette conception que j’ai fait mienne, n’est pas due à un rapport mystique à l’univers, mais plutôt à une ouverture psychophysique que de nombreux physiciens modernes ont approché grâce à la théorie et qu’ils cherchent à vérifier. Ce n’est pas une chose que l’on peut apprendre en regardant des vidéos sur YouTube, ni en consultant des livres de sagesse du passé malgré leur indéniable importance. C’est quelque chose que l’on découvre de manière purement corporelle, de manière absolument et intégralement physique, même si c’est un physique élargi à une dimension inhabituelle. Petit à petit tous les pratiquants qui acceptent de chercher dans cette direction le découvrent. Ce n’est pas lié à une condition physique ni à un âge ni évidemment à un sexe ou un peuple.

L’éducation

Presque tous les psychologues considèrent que l’essentiel de ce qui nous guidera à l’âge adulte se passe pendant notre enfance et plus précisément notre petite enfance.

Aussi bien les bonnes expériences que les mauvaises. Il y a donc un soin particulier à apporter à l’éducation de manière à conserver le plus possible la nature innée de l’enfant. Il ne s’agit en aucun cas de laisser l’enfant faire tout ce qu’il veut, d’en faire un enfant roi, de devenir son esclave, le monde est là qui l’entoure et il a besoin de points de repère. Mais c’est très vite, souvent peu de temps après la naissance, parfois après quelques mois, que le bébé est confié à des personnes étrangères à la famille. Que sont devenus ses parents ? Il ne reconnaît plus la voix de sa mère, son odeur, son mouvement. C’est le premier traumatisme et on nous dit : « Il s’en remettra ». Certes, malheureusement ce n’est pas le dernier, loin de là. Puis vient la crèche qui s’emboîte avec la maternelle, l’école primaire, le collège puis enfin le Bac avant peut-être l’université, pour au moins trois voire quatre, cinq, six ans ou plus encore.
Mais que peut-on y faire ? « C’est la vie » me dit-on. Chacune de ces boîtes dans lesquelles l’enfant va passer son temps au nom de l’éducation, de l’apprentissage est une prison mentale. De socle commun en culture de masse, quand sera-t-il respecté en tant qu’individu plein de cette imagination qui caractérise l’enfance ? On lui apprendra à obéir, il apprendra à tricher. On lui apprendra à être avec les autres, il apprendra la compétition. Il sera noté, on appellera cela émulation, et ce désastre psychologique sera vécu par les premiers comme par les derniers des élèves.
Au nom de quelle idéologie totalitariste forme-t-on les enfants et toute la jeunesse à la peur de la répression, à la soumission, au désengagement et à la désillusion ? La société d’aujourd’hui dans les pays riches ne nous propose rien de bien nouveau : travail et loisirs ne sont que des synonymes de l’idéal romain du pain et des jeux, l’esclavage antique n’est que le salariat de maintenant. Un esclavage amélioré ? Peut-être… avec une lobotomisation spectaculaire, garantie sans facture, grâce à la publicité pour la marchandise dont on nous abreuve, et son corollaire : l’hyper-consommation de biens tant inutile que néfaste.
La pratique de l’Aïkido pour les enfants et les adolescents est l’occasion de sortir des schémas que propose le monde qui les entoure. C’est grâce à la concentration exigée par la technique, une respiration calme et sereine, l’aspect non compétitif, le respect de la différence, qu’ils peuvent conserver, ou si besoin retrouver leur force intérieure. Une force tranquille, non agressive, mais pleine et riche de l’imagination et du désir de rendre le monde meilleur.

Une philosophie pratique ou, mieux dit, une pratique philosophique.

La particularité de l’École Itsuo Tsuda vient du fait qu’elle s’intéresse plus à l’individualité qu’à la diffusion d’un art ou d’une suite de techniques. Il ne s’agit pas de créer un individu idéal, ni de guider quiconque vers quelque chose, vers un modèle de vie, avec tel taux de gentillesse, tel taux d’amabilité ou de sagesse, de pondération ou d’exaltation, etc. Mais de réveiller l’être humain et de lui permettre de vivre pleinement dans l’acceptation de ce qu’il est au sein du monde qui l’entoure sans le détruire. Cet esprit d’ouverture ne peut que réveiller la force qui préexiste en chacun de nous. Cette philosophie nous porte à l’indépendance, à l’autonomie, mais non à l’isolement, au contraire, par la découverte de l’Autre, par la compréhension de ce qu’il est, et au-delà de ce qu’il est peut-être devenu. Tout cet apprentissage, ou plutôt cette réappropriation de soi, demande du temps, de la continuité, de la sincérité afin de réaliser de manière plus claire la direction vers laquelle on désire se rendre.

Le dépassement, ce qu’il y a derrière.

Ce qui m’intéresse aujourd’hui, est ce qu’il y a derrière ou plus exactement ce qu’il y a au fond de l’Aïkido. Lorsqu’on prend un train on a un objectif, une destination, avec l’Aïkido c’est un peu comme si au fur et à mesure que l’on avance le train changeait d’objectif, comme si la direction devenait à la fois différente, et plus précise. Quand à l’objectif, il s’éloigne malgré le fait que l’on pense s’en être rapproché. Et c’est là qu’il faut prendre conscience que l’objet de notre voyage est dans le voyage lui-même, dans les paysages que l’on découvre, qui s’affinent, et se révèlent à nous.

« L’Aïkido est-il un art martial ? » un article de Régis Soavi

Notes

* Tsuda Itsuo, Le Non-faire, Le Courrier du Livre, 1973, p.7.
** Tsuda Itsuo, La Voie du dépouillement, Le Courrier du Livre, 1975, pp.148-149.

Hello Illness #2

Continuation of Régis Soavi Interview’s  about Katsugen Undo (or Regenerating Movement), a practice made by Haruchika Noguchi and spread in Europe by Itsuo Tsuda: article by  Monica Rossi  « Arti d’Oriente » (#4 / may 2000).

To read part 1 –> http://www.ecole-itsuo-tsuda.org/en/bonjour-maladie/

Part #2

– How can one define Yuki ?

-Let the Ki circulate.

– How can Yuki help to activate the Movement?

– It helps, in the case where one has done the three exercises, or the exercises for Mutual Movement (activation through stimulation of the second pair of points on the head ; that is another way to activate the Movement). Yuki helps because it activates ; It’s very important for me to say that Yuki is fundamentally different from what we often hear spoken of, because when we do Yuki, we void our heads, we don’t cure anyone, we don’t look for anything. We are simply concentrated in the act. There is no intention, and that is primordial. In the statutes of the dojo, in fact, it is underlined that we practice “without a goal” ».

Lire la suite

Hello Illness #1

Interview of Régis Soavi about Katsugen Undo (or Regenerating Movement), a practice made by Haruchika Noguchi and spread in Europe by Itsuo Tsuda: article by  Monica Rossi  « Arti d’Oriente » (#4 / may 2000).

« After reading the books of Itsuo Tsuda ( 1914-1984 ), I was fascinated by his arguments, which range freely from the subject of Aïkido to that of children and the way they are born, illness, or his memories of Ueshiba Morihei and Noguchi Haruchika, and I wanted to know more. I continued to have a sensation of something beyond my understanding.

So I began to ask, what exactly is this Regenerating Movement (Katsugen Undo ) that Tsuda spoke of, a spontaneous movement of the body that seemed able to rebalance it without needing to intoxicate it with medication ; an ancient concept but still revolutionary, above all in our society. I was unable to get any satisfactory answers to my questions : those who have practiced the Regenerating Movement couldn’t describe it or explain ; the answer was always : « You should try it yourself in order to understand ; the first time, it will probably unsettle you a bit. »
So I decided to try it. In Milan, the school that refers to the teachings of Itsuo Tsuda is the « Scuola della Respirazione ». There, one can practice Aïkido and the Regenerating Movement ( in separate sessions ). But, in order to go to the sessions of Movement, one must first participate in a week-end course conducted by Régis Soavi, who has continued the work of Tsuda in Europe.

Regis Soavi en conférence

Lire la suite

Aikido: an evolution of the inner being

By Régis Soavi

Itsuo Tsuda in front of the tokonoma
Itsuo Tsuda in front of the tokonoma

Aikido is an instrument of my evolution, it made me evolve, I just had to follow with perseverance and obstinacy the road that was opening in front of me, that was opening inside me.  Like many other people, I came to this practice for its martial aspect. However, its beauty, as well as the aesthetic of its movements, quickly fascinated me, and this with my first teacher Maroteaux Sensei already. Then, when I saw Noro Masamichi Sensei, and Tamura Nobuyoshi Sensei, I had confirmation of what I had sensed: Aikido was a wholly different thing from what I knew.

I came from the world of Judo, with the images transmitted to us, for example, that of the cherry tree branch covered with snow which all of a sudden lets the snow slide down and the branch straightens up. I had already gone beyond the ideas that had been conveyed by the beginning of the century and the fifties, of a « Japanese Jiu Jitsu which turns a small thin man into a monster of efficacy ».Lire la suite

Noguchi-Chuang-Tzu #5

Concerning Chuang-Tzu’s chapter « The spirit of cultivating life » (V) by Haruchika Noguchi. to read the beginning http://www.ecole-itsuo-tsuda.org/en/noguchi-tchouang-tseu-1/

For as long as human beings live, they will at some point die. This statement has been tested for thousands of years, and so it is not a misapprehension. People generally do not accept the irrefutable fact that men die, and as they draw closer to death and feel death in their hearts, they worry and act impatiently, since they don’t want to die. But human beings are creatures that die. Bach composed the Goldberg variations for the sake of someone’s sound sleep, and this piece says again and again that men are mortal. Lire la suite

Noguchi-Chuang-Tzu #4

Concerning Chuang-Tzu’s chapter « The spirit of cultivating life » (IV) by Haruchika Noguchi.

 

When Kung Wen Hsien saw the Commander of the Army, he said in surprise, « I wondered who it was, and it’s you. That one foot — is it the work of man or of Heaven? » The Commander replied, « It was Heaven’s, and not man’s work. Essentially, a man’s form is determined. From this, I know that being one-footed, too, is the work of heaven, and not of man. «

The Commander’s words are followed with : « A pheasant that lives in a marsh walks ten paces for one beakful of food and a hundred paces for one sip of water, but it doesn’t want to be kept in a cage. Though a bird may be filled with vitality there, it cannot enjoy its life. »

Chuang-tzu broke the various cages that environ people’s lives : the attachment that comes from being ruled by the things around you, the sense of values that goes against life, partial philosophies that hinder the development of life. He demands that we should step out from these prisons and conveys the Buddhist priest’s spirit of renouncing the world by casting off all attachments.

Again, Yun-men wondered why a priest should robe himself at the sound of the bell, when the world, so full of splendours, is very wide ; and there was the European thinker who threw away all his books and possessions.

« Common people breathe from their throats. Those who are slaves to the world choke out their words as though they were vomiting… Human life —is it in its essence as murky as this ? Is it I alone who see it as murky ? And is there someone who does not see it as murky ? »

Is it not because people don’t comprehend the pleasure a pheasant has from walking ten paces for a beakful of food and a hundred paces for a drink of water ? Is it because the children of men do not enjoy the fate of having no place to rest their heads ?

Because past knowledge is attached even to a single action like raising a hand or kicking out with a foot, human activity lacks buoyancy. Because with every breath drawn in and breathed out people vomit for joy or anger, or love or hate, human life lacks transparency.

When, as soon as someone spreads his wings, he injures them, it is because he is in a cage. To spread your wings is life’s demand. So long as they remain shrunken, without spreading their wings, human beings do not become strong. Breathe expansively and get out of the cage that hinders you from doing so. Throw off the weight of duty and act buoyantly. This is what cultivating life is. Chuang-tzu never stopped hoping that human beings would live actively without being hindered by anything.

« Life arises from death and death from life. What comes into existence passes out of it, what passes out of existence comes into it. » As for Chuang-tzu’s thoughts on the problem of what happens after death, he believed neither in the immortality of the soul, not in eternal life. « At one time, I may become a rooster… or a bullet.., or an insect. » In the one real world, there is nothing but the continuation of ceaseless change as various forms of life disperse and come together.

The last sentence of the chapter entitled « The Spirit of Cultivating Life » goes : « Although there is an end to the fingers putting fuel on the fire, the fire endures and we don’t know the end of it ». These words should be understood in the light of what has just been said. Chuang-tzu points to the continuity and flow of life, conceived of as fire, not for a moment entertaining the idea of any opposition between mind and body.

It is an especially interesting point that this chapter ends by broaching the question of death.

( to be continued )

Noguchi-Chuang-Tzu #3

Concerning Chuang-Tzu’s chapter « The spirit of cultivating life » (II) by Haruchika Noguchi. To read the beginning http://www.ecole-itsuo-tsuda.org/en/noguchi-tchouang-tseu-1/

Living is a more important matter than thinking. Being alive is not a means, but an end. So life should be carried on naturally only with the aim of maintaining life : a breathing in, a breathing out, a raising of the hand, a movement of the leg – all these should be for the cultivation of life.

Therefore, simply dwelling in health is a very precious thing. Zensei, which is to say, « A fulfilled life », is nothing but the road men follow, and it is the road ,of nature. Fulfilling the life that is given in peace of spirit is not for the sake of spiritual content, but is what should already have been undertaken before all else. We have to live in a vital way human life, which is health. Living always cheerfully and happily—this has always been what is of true value to human beings.

Human beings live because they are born, and because they are living, they eat and they sleep. They are born as a result of a natural demand, and they live as a result of the same demand. To live is natural. And so to die is also natural. Human beings’ accomplishing the life that is given them comes before all else. But this does not mean being attached to life at all. Chuang-tzu disliked any craving for particular things. For him, the arising of any attachment is at once a departure from the way. So he speaks about cultivating life and maintaining the body in order that the present moment that is given, precisely because it is the present moment, may be used fully, and certainly not because the thing given is life.

Chuang-tzu saw as a single whole the contraries of good and evil, of beauty and ugliness, and of the useful and the useless, and for him life and death were also a single whole, what comes into existence passing out of it and what passes out of existence coming into it. « Life arises from death and death arises from life » he wrote.

When Tsu-yu contracted a crippling illness, Tsu-szu visited him and asked, « Do you think your fate is unpleasant? » Tsu-yu’s answer was astounding : « Why should I find it unpleasant? If changes are brought about and my left arm turns into a rooster, I’ll use it to herald the dawn. If my right shoulder is transformed into a bullet, I’ll use it to bring down a pigeon for roasting. If my buttocks become carriage-wheels and my spirit a horse, I’ll ride along on them. Then I would need no other vehicle but myself—that would be wonderful! »

« Time does not cease even for an instant, and if it is destiny for a human being to be born, then it is natural that living form should be lost. If you are content with time’s flow and in accord with the order of things, then there is not especially any joy or sorrow. This is what the ancients called « deliverance from bondage ». You put a noose round your neck and you can’t get it off ; this is because it is tied by the mind that thinks in terms of right and wrong and good and bad. Nothing can overcome heaven. Nothing comes of hating heaven. »

Chuang-tzu’s point about cultivating life is clear in the words that come in the passage where Kung Wen Hsien speaks to the Commander of the Army : « The work of man is still the work of nature. » This is the road he walks. Within his attitude — that whatever happens, it is proper, and that when something happens, you go forward and affirm reality – there is not a trace of the resignation that lies in submitting tu destiny. His affirmation of reality is nothing but the affirmation of reality. The dignity of the man is conveyed only by Lin Chi’s words : « Wherever you are, be master. »

From Chuang-tzu’s point of view, the security of the bird-cage is no better than being obliviously asleep. He feels the vitality of life only so long as existence is unconstrained.

(to be continued)

Picture : Chuang Tzu. Lu Chih (1496–1576)

Noguchi-Chuang-Tzu #2

Concerning Chuang-Tzu’s chapter « The spirit of cultivating life » (II) by Haruchika Noguchi. To read the beginning http://www.ecole-itsuo-tsuda.org/en/noguchi-tchouang-tseu-1/

« In doing what is considered good, avoid fame ; in doing what is considered wrong, avoid penalties ; make it a principle to keep a middle course, and you will preserve your body, fulfill your life, support your parents and live out your natural span of days. » Read and accepted as they are, these words are the principles of health. I feel in them, close to me, the force of the man’s spirit.

When the king of So heard of Chuang-tzu’s cleverness, he sent, with a great show of courtesy, officials to Chuang-tzu, asking him to become prime minister ; but Chuang-tzu laughed and remarked that ten thousand pieces of gold was a large amount and a prime minister’s position was very superior. But he asked the officials whether they had ever seen a sacrificial bull decked for a festival. Such a bull, he said, is fattened with various nourishing foods for the occasion, decked with beautiful cloth, and driven into the chamber of the gods. However much the bull wants to be merely a bull at this time, it cannot. He told the officials to leave without making a fuss and not to sully his life, and he said that he simply wanted to enjoy himself in his own squalid situation. Words like these are extremely characteristic of Chuang-tzu, and they still raise a smile after two thousand years. In the end right and wrong and praise and blame are one, Chuang-tzu said.

The distinguishing of things involves definition. Definition involves disruption. With things, there is neither definition nor disruption, only one-ness. Only the true sage knows that everything is one. In this way, Chuang-tzu stamped on the world of oppositions and shattered it. That is why he said unworriedly, « In doing what is considered good, avoid fame; in doing what is considered wrong, avoid penalties »

When someone sleeps on the damp ground, strength drains from him and he develops rheumatism. Put an eel on a treetop, and it trembles with fear ; do the same to a monkey, and this doesn’t happen. ‘Within these three, is there any one that doesn’t know the place that is proper for its life?’

Noguchi Tchouang tseu

The human being eats pork, the deer likes grass, the centipede finds worms delicious, the crow delights in rats. ‘Within these four, is there any one that doesn’t know what it likes to eat ?’ The male monkey takes the female monkey in its arms, the stag copulates with the doe, the eel plays with fish. Mao Chiang and Li Chi were reputed to be the most beautiful women under the heavens, but at the sight of them, fish dived into the depths, birds flew up into the sky, and deer ran away. Which of these does not know the proper object of its affections ? Standing beyond good and evil and merging with the nature of all things : this is the secret of Chuang-tzu’s cultivation of life. Chasing after a healthy life and running to avoid an unhealthy one only makes you hot and bothered. Being proud of your talents and wanting to become first in the world in something is to have forgotten the most important principle of cultivating life.

A great tree is toppled by the wind ; the high status of a minister attracts the envy of the masses, but for the person who has cast off every fetter and enjoys a life of freedom, a minister, though he has a high status and receives a high salary, is no more than a broken sandal. ‘A pheasant that lives in a marsh walks ten paces for one beakful of food and a hundred paces for one sip of water, but it doesn’t want to be kept in a cage.’ Chuang-tzu teaches that there is no need to be over-pernickety about a ‘healthy’ or an ‘unhealthy’ life and to make yourself hot and bothered. He teaches that one breathes quietly and follows disinterestedly and calmly the body’s demands, and that this is the essence of preserving life and living fully.

How can we live up to this ? Do we adopt the attitude of someone who sees a fire on the other side of the river and folds his arms ? Or is there something more to be done, something positive ? Prince Wen Hui’s cook said, ‘I handle things with the spirit, and not with the eye. When the senses cease functioning, the spirit leads.’ This is to close yourself off from appearances and at once to forget them ; essentially it is the same as the Zen priest Lin Chi’s saying, ‘Mind does not differ from mind. ‘ Thus, in all this there is nothing but the unfolding of a pure act, and this, fundamentally, is what is asserted in the master swordsman’s adage : ‘Forget your skills and forget your opponent ; let him cut skin-deep, while you carve his flesh ; only if you abandon yourself to the flood may you reach the shallows.

Can we not say that within the way the art of killing leads to the road of being in true earnest, the road of cultivating life is concealed ? Conquering attachment to things, the adherence to rule and the fear of death, and making the spirit free allows you to use the sword freely in the swordsman’s world without damaging anything, and in the ordinary. world it allows you to enter on the road of cultivating life and to foster the essence of life. I suspect that Wen Hui learned from his cook’s words that it is by following the nature of things that one cultivates life ; the important thing was his recognising that the cook’s knife moved without the intervention of the self and without the knife’s being damaged. One Zen priest was asked, ‘You come and go, come and go. What do you mean by it ? »I wear out shoe-leather to no purpose,’ he replied.

(to be continued)

Noguchi-Chuang-Tzu #1

Concerning Chuang-Tzu’s chapter « The spirit of cultivating life » ( I ) by Haruchika Noguchi. To read the beginning http://www.ecole-itsuo-tsuda.org/en/noguchi-tchouang-tseu-1/

Chuang-tzu’s chapter « The Spirit of Cultivating Life »  is an exposition of the way to cultivate the spirit of life, that is to say, one’s whole being. Nevertheless, if—still reading the first two Chinese characters in the usual way—one takes the title as meaning something like « The Rules for Maintaining Health », the result is very intersting. Hitherto, where rules for maintaining health or rules of hygiene are concerned, the only things that have been preached are « Treat life as precious » and « Be careful » ; and one hasn’t been able to feel, even a little, the vital activity of life in such preachings. It may be because of a lack of any Chuang-tzu-like element in them.

I shall look at « The Spirit of Cultivating Life » not as a means to spiritual develOpment, but as one of the sciences of health, and I hope to be able to discern what is concealed within it : the true lineaments of life, which is exuberant and positive.
Chuang-tzu begins his chapter with the words : « Our lives are limited, knowledge is unlimited. It is perilous for what is limited to follow what is unlimited. It is still more perilous to apply knowledge. » Rather than using knowledge to bore seven holes in the Formless ( as in the parable he concludes his seventh chapter with ), Chuang-tzu wanted to remain within undifferentiated nothingness, and he taught that human beings should remain within this.

Our lives are limited, there is no limit to shoulds and shouldn’ts, and if, possessing limits, one tries to abide by limitless shoulds and shouldn’ts, one is left only with the anxiety that one is unable to abide by them. Nevertheless, people still chase after shoulds and shouldn’ts. And their anxiety grows.

The way of hygiene is pursued with the sole result that shoulds and shouldn’ts are multiplied ; the shoulds and shouldn’ts that people must heed multiply more and more ; and then the anxiety to heed these rules coupled with the ‘ fear that they are not able to do so makes people ever more timid and weak-spirited, and the other side of the coin is that this anxiety and fear increase the powers of disease-causing agents and of unhealth.

Noguchi Haruchika. Photo issu de http://noguchi-haruchika.com
Noguchi Haruchika. Photo de http://noguchi-haruchika.com

 

Separated from the fundamental matter of enhancing life, hygiene strives only to avoid unhealth, to keep away from harmful things, to escape from things that are feared ; and so it becomes difficult for people to live in a vital way. Eating all one can, sleeping as much as one wants, sparing oneself trouble as much as possible, resting as much as possible, taking lots of medicine, avoiding heat and disliking cold, wearing more clothes than is necessary, and living in a safe way by these means—should we call this health ? Should we call these methods, for which human beings have used every bit of knowledge they have, hygiene ?

What force is there in an enumeration of forms ? It only vitiates the human spirit. Does it not only make life wither ?

Living in a healthy and vital way means not being daunted by cold, heat, wind or humidity, working without being fatigued, sleeping without dreaming, finding whatever you eat delicious, and always enjoying life ; it does not mean not falling ill. Not falling ill should not be a purpose, but a result. Healthy people are not daunted by illness, and they pass through an illness when they have one in a splendid manner, becoming all the more energetic and full of fife ; and you don’t need to read about Nietzsche’s experience in order to understand this. When shoulds and musts control human activity, then human beings have already forged fetters for themselves. Knowledge is a weapon for human beings, and a power for accomplishing their intentions. But when knowledge is piled up and the freedom of human beings is restricted, people become unable to live in a lively way because of shoulds and shouldn’ts, rather as a deer’s antlers become a hindrance to it. And then there’s nothing better than to become free by cutting that knowledge off and throwing it away.

When you want to eat, eat ; when you want to sleep, sleep ; when you want to work, work. It is not a matter of having to eat, it is not a matter of having to sleep, it is not a matter of working because you should. Much less is it a matter of eating, sleeping or working because of what the clock says. It is not a matter of living tomorrow’s life in accordance with yesterday’s knowledge. Tomorrow is for opening up the new on the basis of tomorrow’s experience. Past knowledge, customary fetters—separate yourself from such things and live in a vital way. The vital activity of life that is always renewed belongs to the person who lives always in an unfettered way.
( to be continued )

Does Aikijo exist?

By Régis Soavi

Certainly the Jo, the stick, has always been used in Aïkido. But does it really belong to our Art? Its teaching has always been particular and often even separated from the regular courses. Many of us have tried, through other schools of Jujitsu, to find some forms, some kata, some “secret thrusts”. Some have taken an interest in Kobudo. Yet the art of the Jo in Aïkido has its own specificities, its rules.
Personally, what has always fascinated me, is more the extreme accuracy that can be obtained by following a certain type of training. Instead of working on power, I found it more profitable to concentrate on motion, movements and above all precision.

Training to precision

regis-soaviI was a young instructor when I started to train more regularly with the stick. Back then, I tied a soda cap at the extremity of a rope that I hung from the ceiling. My training consisted in making tsuki on the soda cap and each time that it moved to immobilize it again. Then I changed heights. Later I worked on the yokomen and the hits from below, always trying to be precise and without increasing the speed. I worked slowly looking for the right angle, using the displacements and little by little I increased the speed of the execution. Finally I started to hit by using the movement of the cap that flied around to the left, the right, with sudden leaps that were sometimes odd, or even scary if it had been the Jo or the Bokken of an adversary. I could go around that axle that I hung from the centre of the small dojo that used to be in the backyard of number 34 in rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève in Paris. I still remember it with emotion because it was thanks to Master Henry Plée that I could do this type of work. Indeed, he had allowed and even supported me in this direction (an accomplished Budoka, he loved that we trained to the very best of our ability). After several months of this type of training, I moved on to the work on makiwara, but I have to admit, without insisting too much because I found it tedious. Instead I loved the hits in all directions, in the “shadow boxing” style.

In this exercise I found the difficulties of the work with the soda cap, plus the power that I had to control, the circular movements, the speed and above all the visualization. That work of visualization that I already glimpsed in the teaching of my master Itsuo Tsuda. It is also thanks to this that I’ve discovered the importance of having your own stick, I mean a personal working instrument. I am one of those teachers who believe that the Jo must not be a manufactured product of a predetermined length, thickness, or weight. The Jo has to be in proportion, with no exaggeration, otherwise we’ll be dealing with a Bo, to the person who uses it, his or her height and musculature: as there are enormous differences, it seems to me a mistake not to take this into account, but in any case it is the way the Jo is used that remains the most important point.

The pedagogy

As far as I’m concerned, I now use the stick more as a pedagogical tool. As always it is about retrieving and understanding the ancient forms, of course, but above all about channelling the released energy, feeling it circulate and flow along this piece of wood.

Master Tsuda used to tell us: “The Jo has three parts, the two ends and a centre, unlike the Bo that numbers four parts due to the way one seizes it, with both hands at an equal distance from the extremities”. Doing tsuki the technical aspects of the strokes vary, whether one uses it in the ancient form suited to the spear, or as a Jo, that is something much shorter, holding it with both hands in the same direction or one opposite to the other. All this didn’t matter to him: what was important was the transmission of ki and the act of non resistance.

The Jo was only there to enable us to discover the Non-doing, to deepen our breathing.

Then the stick (I suggest to call it that way) is used as if it was an empty tube that gets filled with ki, that has a certain autonomy, that becomes alive again.

The stick exacerbates distances. It forces us to have another relationship with the distance, to feel the axes as well as the changes of direction, of orientation.

Some people have a particular affinity with the Jo, others prefer the Bokken. Even if it is part of my teaching, I give them the time to find out whether it makes sense to them, whether it helps them go deeper in their practice.

It is one of the means I sometimes use to make people understand how the strengths involved in our practice circulate: it is precisely with the stick that I can show this.

I ask uke to grab the stick very strongly and tori has to find the axis, the direction by the mere movement of his body, of his koshi, not of his muscles or arms, to slide the force applied, so that when tori moves, it creates such an imbalance for uke, that he accepts to fall and drops like a ripe fruit falling from the tree.exterieur

Practicing outdoors

There is a moment in which it is particularly pleasant to practice the stick, and this is when you are outside, in the open air.

And the time for this is the summer workshops, which we have organized for almost thirty years at Mas d’Azil, in Ariège. There we are lucky enough to be able to change an old gym, practically unused, into a wonderful dojo, in the course of several pleasant working days. Since it’s next to a soccer field, we can go outside to practice weapons.

I know that practitioners are then very happy to practice outside the tatami mats.The space is so much bigger that we can rediscover the dimensions that the old arts required.

After having been confined to an enclosed space, the whole point of these open air sessions is to expand physically: no more ceiling, no more walls, no more limits. It is the moment when everyone can experience different dimensions, the ideal moment to try, in this space, to feel further.

Practicing outside, whilst we are used to the uniformity of the tatami mats, is a constraint for the entire body: the ground is no longer that flat, there are some holes, some bumps, all movements, taisabaki, and obviously the falls or the immobilizations become more difficult.The speed of the attacks is often reduced due to the unusual conditions. But in turn, when we practice on the tatami mats again, everything becomes easier: one has gained skill, speed, strength in the legs, and balance that one didn’t have before.

We then take the opportunity to practice with many people, three, four, six, or even up to eight attackers (one tori and seven ukes) who, in the respect of our Art and with no competitive spirit, try to reach out and put the one in the center in danger. No need to pretend it’s a movie: we are neither samurai nor secret agents whom nothing can stop. It’s about moving more and better than we usually do, feeling the movement of our sphere, the gaps in it and the risks there are of having an impact in those places.

The importance is not given to a perfect technical skill, whether in defense or in attack, but much more to the sensation of the other people’s movement, to distance, to the energy that one can throw.

Such a wide space allows circumferences of about eight or ten meters, sometimes. In circular movements Tori’s gaze, with its intensity and precise direction, relays the power and speed of the stick. This alone is sometimes enough to create the right conditions for a reply, a correct move.

I don’t know if I am well understood: it is a game in which all participants, from the very beginner to the most experienced, have their own role depending on their level. The six or eight attackers will moderate the power and speed of the attacks (tsuki, shomen, yokomen) according to this.

Each of them seeks the right position so as to find the weak point, the speed of approach, the right angle.plusieurs-attaquants

The attacks are as much as possible genuine attacks, but they are always done without violence and even if possible not too fast, in any case not hastily.

It is important in this type of work to be careful not to block or corner the one in the center, so as not to drive him into a spiral of fear that would lead to aggressiveness, but on the contrary to help him come out of his imprisonment, both physical and mental, and to allow him to develop his potential.The summer workshop lasts for two weeks and is very concentrated: two Aikido sessions, two Katsugen undo sessions and one weapon session every day. It means seven or eight working hours per day, about fifty hours a week. That’s why we need this kind of work with the Jo, enabling bodies to unwind, to open out and find another dimension.

Sticks spin, spaces move about, bodies which are at times weary stretch. The atmosphere remains peaceful, sometimes even cheerful, but accuracy is there.

Men, women, children of all ages, in the respect of the specificities of each of them.

The sensitivity of the foetus

However, a clarification: pregnant women sometimes practice until the very last moment in our School. But since the beginning of their pregnancy we pay particular attention to the fact that being in such a special state, even if of course we never touch the body with the stick, it’s forbidden to do tsuki in the direction of the womb. Regardless of the risk of accident, to which we always pay a lot of attention. The point is not to direct the ki in that way, in other words with “the intention to hit”. Such a directed and guided ki would be instinctively recorded as dangerous and felt by the mother, and most of all by the baby, who is nothing but sensitivity, as an aggression, to the point of risking to cause at least a fear, or a contraction that would harm his good development. When we work on tsuki strokes, pregnant women step aside and watch, but do not participate.

A centripetal force can become a centrifugal force

Sometimes we work with Jo against Bokken. The point then is, precisely because the weapons are different, to understand on the one hand the way to use them and on the other hand their limits and capabilities, without forgetting that behind all this there is a human being. At other times, it is only uke who has a weapon. A stick, a Bokken, can be frightening if you have no weapon.You don’t know in which direction it will start, men, yokomen, tsuki, you cannot stop the stroke with a simple wave of your hand. Only by dodging, doing taisabaki, can you avoid the shock. Taking hold of the stick or of the Bokken, is then one of the chances to stop the attack, to transform it and make it harmless, so that we can use its energy in the opposite direction or divert it towards another direction. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see, to feel how for example a centripetal force, when it gets in contact with a centre, can turn into a centrifugal force so that it is driven towards the outside. What do we mean by “stopping the spear”1 ? The real point is not a question of winning or losing but rather of changing the system, of allowing something else to arise, and for this, the knowledge of the partner, the understanding between both partners is essential.

In every person there are some good and some bad sides, some good and some bad habits: all of this has to be guided towards harmony. Harmony is at the origin of our life, the thing is to get back to what is natural and always there deep inside every individual. That is, for me, the way of Aikido.

Our horizon can light up if we understand better the words of O Sensei Ueshiba, transmitted by my Master Itsuo Tsuda in his teaching and through his nine books. These words didn’t remain a dead letter; on the contrary they have come to life, once more, and continue through those who are willing to follow this path.

Article by Régis Soavi on the subject of the Aîkido stick (Aïkijo), published in Dragon Magazine (special Aikido n° 13) in July 2016.

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1Budō may be originally understood as «the way to stop the spear».

#4 The Idea of the Body in Japanese Culture and its Dismantlement

End of #1,2 and 3 The Idea of the Body in Japanese Culture and its Dismantlement  by Hiroyuki Noguchi  published in 20041.

The Philosophy of Kata

It is the way we view our own bodies – whether consciously or unconsciously – that decides which perceptual experiences we choose to value. In trying to achieve those experiences, we then establish the ways in which we use and move our bodies. In short, each and every motion made by a human being is a reflection of his or her own idea of the body. This is not limited to visible physical movement. For example, while it is true that our breathing is restricted by the structure of our respiratory organs, exactly what we consider a “deep breath” is determined by each individual’s view of the body. Similarly, while the act of eating cannot deviate from the structure of the human digestive system, it is our idea of the body that dictates exactly what feeling we consider “satisfying”, and when we feel we have had enough. And whereas our physical balance is affected by the force of gravity on the structure of our bodies, exactly what bodily sensation we choose to call “stable” depends on each person’s concept of the body.
Therefore, if a group of people possesses a distinct way of moving or using the body, it follows that they must share a common view of the body. The formal way of sitting in Japan, called Seiza, may generate nothing but a sense of restriction to most Westerners. For the Japanese however, sitting in Seiza traditionally brought a sense of peace to the mind. This way of sitting with both knees bent results in a sense of complete immobility. It halts the mind from intending any following motion, and in fact, executing sudden movements from this position is quite difficult. Sitting in Seiza forces one to enter into a state of complete receptivity, and it is in this position that the Japanese wrote, played music, and ate. In times of sadness, of prayer, and even of resolve, Lire la suite

#3 The Idea of the Body in Japanese Culture and its Dismantlement

continuation of #1 and #2. The Idea of the Body in Japanese Culture and its Dismantlement  by Hiroyuki Noguchi  published in 20041.

The Idea of the Body in Asceticism

Hiroshige,_The_moon_over_a_waterfall_512With the arrival of Buddhism fifteen hundred years ago, the era of kings, symbolized by the great tombs, came to an end, and Japan was ushered into a new era, ruled by religion. As with the Meiji Restoration, the lifestyles of the Japanese people were dramatically transformed. Curiously enough though, in contrast with the Meiji Restoration, the changes that occurred with Buddhism’s arrival actually seemed to clarify the distinct nature of Japan’s culture.
Fortunately for Japan, Buddhism was not transmitted directly from India, coming through China instead. During its travels in China, Buddhism had no choice but to merge with the antecedents of China’s indigenous Taoism, such as the va-rious practices of mysticism including fangshu, and the philosophies of Lao-Tzu and Chuang-Tzu. These practices, which were later integrated into Taoism, all involved ascetic practices for the purpose of cultivating longevity. Therefore the Buddhism that arrived to Japan was one already baptized by the Chinese, meaning that it was characterized by a strong emphasis on Taoist-like ascetic practices [Sekiguchi, (1967)].Lire la suite

#2 The Idea of the Body in Japanese Culture and its Dismantlement

continuation of #1 The Idea of the Body in Japanese Culture and its Dismantlement  by Hiroyuki Noguchi  published in 20041.

Perceiving Life in All Things

HiroshigeAmong the policies of Westernization that drove the disassembly of traditional Japanese culture was the calendar change, issued in 1873. With this, the Meiji government decided to abo-lish the lunar-solar calendar that had been used for twelve hundred years and replace it with the Gregorian, or solar calendar. Actual use of the new calendar was implemented only twenty-three days after issuing the order, and as such, caused great confusion amongst the general population. But more importantly, it had an enormous impact on the Japanese people’s fundamental sense of the seasons and cycles of life. The old calendar was commonly called the “farmer’s calendar” because of its close ties to the cycles of agricultural activities [Fujii, (1997)]. It was calculated not only through astronomy, but was based on a deep understanding of the life cycles of plants and creatures of the land, with further adjustments made according to observations of the heavenly planets. It can be said that the switch from the old to the new calendar was in essence a switch from a life-cycle-centered time order to an objective time order based on the Western science of astronomy.
The old calendar marked New Year’s Day at the first signs of spring, symbolized by the blooming of plum blossoms and the bush warbler’s song; the second month with the cherry blossoms; the third month with the peach. Time was kept according to the cycles of nature-life activities, which basically do not act in regular time intervals, as do the planets and stars. For this reason, a gap will inevitably occur over time between a life-cycle-based calendar and an objective planetary time order.Lire la suite

#1 The Idea of the Body in Japanese Culture and its Dismantlement

by Hiroyuki Noguchi  published in 20041.

In four sections1 The scenario of death in modern society. 2 Perceiving life in all things. 3 The idea of the body in asceticism. 4 The philosophy of Kata

At the heart of a culture lies a certain view of the body, and this view decides which perceptual experiences the culture chooses to value. In trying to achieve those expe-riences, certain principles for moving and handling the body are established, and these principles then set the standards for the mastery of essential skills that penetrate through all fields of art, creating a rich foundation from which the culture can flourish. The culture of traditional Japan, which disintegrated at the hands of the Meiji Restoration, indeed possessed such a structure. The idea of the body, the shared perceptual experiences, and the principles of movement that existed in traditional Japanese culture were radically different from those that arrived from the West and have been blindly disseminated by the Japanese government ever since the Meiji Restoration. This paper discusses the feeble underpinnings of modern Japan as a culture built upon the destruction of its own traditions, and explores the possibility of giving birth to a new culture by looking into the structure of its lost traditional culture.

The Scenery of Death in Modern Society

There is a national policy in Japan that has continued without pause to this day, for nearly one hundred and forty years since the Meiji Restoration in l868. This is the policy of Westernization, which has led to the continuing disintegration of the traditional Japanese view of life and body, as a whole. By accepting this policy, the Japanese people did gain the practical lifestyles of a modernized society filled to the brim with Western scientific technology. At the same time, however, they have, by their own hands, effectively dismantled and oblite-rated a culture with a 2000-year tradition. It is still not known who actually instigated the most drastic social reform that ever occurred in Japan’s history; of which class they belonged to, or what their objectives were [Oishi, (1977)]. In any case, the Meiji Restoration was triggered by the opening of Japan’s ports to foreign trade in 1854, when the Tokugawa Shogunate, succumbing to military pressure by the United States and European countries, made the decision to end its 200-year policy of isolation. This decision by the Shogunate caused chaos throughout the nation. Samurai, angered by the cowardly stance of the Shogunate, rose in rebellion, while the exportation of raw silk led to economic turmoil caused by drastic rises in prices. As a result of internal and external pressure, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, then Shogun, had no choice but to surrender his power in 1867.
The new Meiji administration established an Emperor system based on the constitutional monarchy of Prussia, deploying State Shinto, a nationalistic form of Shintoism, in place of Christianity – the core of Western culture – and quickly proceeded to recreate the nation. While politics, economics, and industry went through reforms based on Western models, the policy of modernization. Westernization, and scientific progress would also extend to the lifestyles of the general population.
On the surface, this policy of Westernization seemed to be a measure for guiding the people of Japan to adjust to their new government, constructed in the short span of just two years after the collapse of the Shogunate. In reality, however, it aimed to reject and dismantle every aspect of traditional Japanese
culture through the unyielding glorification of Western civilization. The policy consisted of three main factors – agitation, go-vernmental orders and regulations, and information control – none of which permitted room for traditional culture to coexist with the new order.
It was the imperial and royal families who first adopted Western lifestyles, as though setting an example for the rest of the nation, inciting a sense of yearning amongst the people for all things Western. Thus the emperor – the symbol of Japan – came to serve also as the symbol of Westernization. The media followed, spreading shallow words glorifying Western civilization and boycotting tradition. Their slogan, “Bunmei Kaika” (the blooming of civilization), resounded throughout the nation.
Even the historically adored wild cherry trees were cut down and used as firewood all over the country, because they stood as a reminder of the former feudal system.

Hasegawa Kyūzō - Shimizu, Christine: L'art japonais, Flammarion, Public Domain,
1592 Hasegawa Kyūzō – Shimizu, Christine: L’art japonais, Flammarion, Public Domain,

And instead, Someiyoshino, an artificially created hybrid cherry tree, was prized because it was a product of “science”: it flourishes in most any type of soil condition, blooms gloriously and almost simultaneously, and possesses a sense of uniform beauty, where its flowers bloom before any leaves appear on its branches. But like all other artificially bred plants, the Someiyoshino has no scent; it did not inherit the intense scent of the wild cherry. And while the life span of wild cherries is said to be three hundred, sometimes five hundred years, Someiyoshino lasts for only seventy or eighty [Horibe, (2003)]. This uniformly beautiful, artificial cherry, deprived of scent and longevity by human hands, was planted all across the nation, and would eventually be designated as the national flower of Japan. If the birth of modern Western civilization could be compared to the blooming of a flower rooted in the soil of the traditional cultures of the West, then modernity in Japan is an artificial flower that did not come from any real soil. The fate of the cherry trees suggests the true nature of the emergence of an artificial and deformed modernity in this country.
Naturally, the destruction of wild cherries was only a small part of the monumental changes taking place. Perhaps the most significant of the Restoration’s destructive activities was the government order to separate Shinto and Buddhism. This act, which was carried out in order to establish State Shinto, triggered the anti-Buddhist movement, leading to the destruction of historically valuable Buddhist temples, statues, and tea huts throughout the nation.
Even staging of the traditional theater art, Noh, was prohibited after the Restoration, forcing almost all Noh actors to switch occupations or terminate their careers.
Amidst such an atmosphere of total rejection of anything traditional, the Westernization of clothing was popularized, first through military and government uniforms. At the same time, Western food culture was introduced through hospital meals, and Western architecture through public facilities. Wearing neckties and clothes with buttons, eating beef, drin-king cow’s milk, entering buildings with one’s shoes on such things never done by the people of Japan in its two thousand years of history became the first tests of loyalty imposed by the Meiji government.
The government proceeded to issue increasing numbers of prohibitions and orders to switch trade or leave public service. For example, with the decision to introduce Western medicine as the official medicinal practice of Japan, the government devoted enormous effort into eradicating the long-standing practice of Chinese medicine. Resistance by doctors of Chinese medicine was strong, and in the end, it took more than forty years until this effort was finally realized. During this time, in order to decide which of the two was superior, a hospital was established in order to gather data on the effectiveness of both medicines on the disease, beriberi. The result of the so-called East-West beriberi competition however, was an equal match, and conflicts between the two schools intensified – even lea-ding to the attempted assassination of Sohaku Asada, famous doctor of Chinese medicine and leader of the resistance [Fukagawa, (1956)]. Here is where we see the shameless sche-ming nature of the Meiji government’s policy of Westernization. A look at the newspaper articles in those days reveal series of irrational writings such as, “Compared to the ugly black liquids prepared by doctors of Chinese medicine, look how beautiful the snow-white powders of Western medicine are!” Practitioners of Chinese medicine were forced to fight such unfair accusations spread by the media.
The introduction of Western medicine sought to accomplish more than the Westernization of medicinal practices. It was by nature, an anti-Shogunate policy. For example, the preserving of acupuncture practices, which did not exist in Western medicine, seemed from the outside to be a salvation measure for the blind, who were traditionally relegated to this line of work. However, the practice of acupuncture recognized by the Shogunate was Japanese acupuncture, the system of which was created after a thorough scrutiny and revamping of Chinese acupuncture. So it was Japanese acupuncture that was prohi-bited, and those who practiced it were ordered to switch to Chinese acupuncture instead [Machida, (1985)]. In other words, the policy of Westernization was characterized by the complete rejection of Japanese tradition, and anything of foreign origin was valued and welcomed.
Students of various fields such as architecture, cooking, and medicine, were all forced to learn Western theories if they desired to acquire official trade licenses, newly required by the government. It was through the establishment of such systems that the government attempted to cut off the transmission of experiential knowledge and thereby end the tradition of the apprenticeship system. For example, by imposing the study of Western architectural theory – based on the metric system – on Japanese architects, the government effectively obstructed the passing of knowledge from master carpenters, who based their building art on the traditional Japanese scale system, to their apprentices.

1877-1878
1877-1878

The traditional architectural methods of Japan, which enabled construction of the world’s largest wooden structure with no less than a thousand years’ lifespan, were based on an entirely different theoretical system from Western architectural methods. Riding the wave of Western theory worship, the Japanese government, however, has continued to force the Westernization of architecture to this day, without due investigation or recognition of the value of its country’s traditional methods. In 1959, the government officially adopted a resolution proposed by the Architectural Institute of Japan, to prohibit the construction of wooden architecture. Six years later it issued an order that forbid use of the traditional Japanese scale system [Matsuura, (2002)]. Japan’s building codes promote the construction of concrete structures that are advantageous in making fortresses out of cities, and this is leading to the disappearance of wooden structures, born from this land and climate, which have upheld the lifestyle of the Japanese for two thousand years. As a result, the magnificent forests of Japan are now in deterioration.
Governmental control of information also occurred within the new educational system, established in 1872. With its curriculum constructed entirely on Western theories, the educational system became a stronghold for the process of Westernization. The biased education system, which again glorified Western studies, would lead the intellect and sensitivities of the Japanese people towards ignorance of, and disdain for, their own traditional culture.
Even such subjects as art, music, and physical education, designed to cultivate students’ aesthetic sensibilities – not to mention more general subjects – played a major role in dismantling traditional culture and spurring the process of Westernization.
The curriculum of art introduced the brilliant colors of the West, while traditional Japanese colors were thoroughly forgotten; their principles of harmony left untaught. The traditional Japanese rich sensitivity for colors is obvious when we look at kimonos or the traditional mountings used for calligraphy and painting. A book of sample dye colors from kimono makers in the Edo period reveals one hundred shades of grey and forty eight shades of brown, each with a name of its own [Nagasaki, (2001)]. The dye-makers’ ability to create such an enormous variety of colors through the use of plant materials is a testament to their superb skills. But more astonishing is the fact that clothes-makers and even consumers were able to distinguish all of these shades. To the Japanese, colors were something that seeped into the materials; they worked to enhance the inherent quality of the raw material. The new colors that arrived from the West, on the other hand, coated over raw materials. This encounter shocked and confused the subtle sensitivity toward colors that the Japanese had held until then. One hundred and forty years later, the result of such education is demonstrated in the vulgar sense of colors seen in the cities of modern Japan. On the streets, store signs and handout pamphlets show no sign of subtlety. It is as if the use of loud and flashy colors alone could suffice in imitating the Western sense of colors. Such education has surely squandered more than a few fine talents out of which excellent Japanese paintings could have been born [Nakamura, (2000)].

1877-1878.
1877-1878.

Meanwhile, music education disarranged the traditional concept of sound. The Japanese sense of sound was developed through religion. Sound created through deep and focused intensity was considered to have the power to cleanse impurities. The Ki-ai techniques handed down by Shinto priests and mountain ascetics, the chanting of Buddhist monks, and even the act of cleaning were all religious practices, or music, based on the mystery of sound. The use of the hataki – a duster made of paper and stick – broom originates from Shinto rituals, which invited the Divine by purifying the surrounding environment through the use of sound. They were not used for the purpose of achieving sanitary cleanliness. The sound of the Noh-kan (bamboo flute used in Noh drama) was for resting the dead, the Shino-bue (reed flute) for inviting the dead to visit this world. The sense of depth held by sound in traditional Japanese culture was based on a sensitivity towards sound that was entirely different from that found in Western music. Yet music education in schools taught only Western music, with its theory based on an equally tempered scale that is essentially an exception among all other music born on this planet, and students who sang according to the traditional Japanese scales were looked down upon as being tone-deaf.
Physical education likewise dismantled traditional ways of moving the body (explained later in this article), teaching only exercises and movements based on the mechanics of movement transmitted from the West. This resulted in the creation of great disparity between perceptions of the body held by old and new generations, making transmission of the body-culture from pa-rent to child unduly difficult. As a consequence, today there are countless adults who cannot even use chopsticks properly, let alone sit in the traditional form of Seiza.

1869-1942
1869-1942

The one hundred and forty years of biased education has forced the Japanese intellect to be utilized solely for translating, interpreting, and imitating Western civilization. Certainly, du-ring those years, Japan has produced high-quality electronic goods, and automobiles that were jokingly called “mobile li-ving rooms”, but those things have nothing to do with Japanese culture. They are rather simple expressions of the shock expe-rienced by the Japanese in encountering the modem civilization of the West. In other words, those things are copies of the image of modem civilization reflected in the Japanese eye. That strange and exaggeratedly soft car seat and suspension is a
simulation of the sweet soft feeling the Japanese people, who up to that point had never sat on anything but hard Tatami mats, felt when they sat in Western-style sofas for the very first time. The excessively pragmatic electronic products, filled with more conveniences than the average person can handle, is an expression of the impact felt by the Japanese as they were blinded by the brilliantly bright light of the electric bulb, after living so long under the wavering light of old Japanese candles.
The lengthy closed-door policy of Japan warped its encounter with Western civilization. Lacking any common denominators with modern societies of the West, the Japanese had turned their tremendous sense of disparity into glorification and worship, as a means of self-protection.
Since the Meiji Restoration, Japan has been quite successful in dismantling its own traditional culture. However, it has not been able to create any kind of new culture through the assimilation of Western civilization. This is of course only natural, for culture cannot be born from imitation and yearning alone. Blinded by that brilliant image of modern civilization, the Japanese were not able to meet with the actual culture, which gave birth to, supported, and managed that very civilization. In other words, they never truly understood the traditional sensitivities of the Western people, and therein lies the tragedy of today’s Japan. Of course, there is no way to transplant a culture. The culture of a country, nurtured through the accumulation of experiences over centuries of tradition, belongs to the land from which it was born, and to that land only. It does not permit absorption or imitation by another. Scientific thought, founded on pragmatism, objectivism, and positivism, which Japan so avidly attempted to emulate since the Restoration, must then also have been an inevitable product of the culture – the land and spirit – of Western countries. Japanese scientists who participate in international academic gatherings for the first time are always startled to find that Western scientists mention God without any hesitation during discussions. This is because in Japan, being a scientist necessarily means being a materialist and atheist at the same time. For post-Restoration Japan, science was virtue and also religion or faith.
Modern Japan has thus become an anomaly in world history – a pure product of “modernity”, established without ever possessing a foundation of true culture. It is a nation, in which experiments of the most extreme “modernity” occur.
After all, “culture” is nothing but the ability to make the world in which we live one of richness and beauty. It is the perceptual ability to convert and recompose objective time-space into human time-space. Through the discovering and sharing of this ability, “culture” enables the people belonging to its land to appear in all of their beauty. Yet, at the same time, it comes with the dangerous potential for self-destruction because, by nature, its existence and value cannot be perceived by those who live within it, those whose very lives are supported by it.
It is the scenery of birth and death that symbolizes, most directly, the culture of any country. The scenery of death in today’s Japan is a mechanical one. Its background is the hospital, where people are detained by life-support systems. Behind the closed doors of their waiting rooms, doctors call this the “spaghetti syndrome”. This is the scene we find in geriatric wards, where our elders are restrained with belts around their arms and legs so as to prevent them from their unconscious attempts to pull off the numerous catheters attached to their bodies. What we see here is not the sacred image of one gree-ting the final chapter of his or her life. It is not the image of transmission from parent to child of the final and most profound word, the drawing of one’s “final breath”, which throughout history was considered one of the most important activities in human life. In a mere thirty minutes after death, salesmen from funeral services appear in front of the surviving family. In recent years, merchants asking for organ transplants will arrive beforehand. It is this empty, “scientific” image of death that symbolizes our nation’s modernity, and this has come to be because modern society separates body from life, body from character, body from self. Our “freedom-loving” modern government may not govern its citizens’ lives, but it does govern its citizens’ bodies. While they do recognize freedom in most other aspects, not one “developed” country reco-gnizes freedom of choice when it comes to medical treatment. If our bodies were considered inseparable from the lives that we lead, then choosing methods of medical treatment, birthing, and dying, would naturally be an issue belonging to each individual’s ideology and thought. Modern nations, however, have implemented Western medicine, which considers body and life to be of separate spheres, as their official form of medicine. Thus, they try to control birth, medical treatment, and death, or in other words, our bodies. In Western medical science, the body is only a tool: a machine to be used by its owner’s will. Therefore receiving medical treatment is no different from repairing broken machinery, and death becomes merely the production of waste material. Hospitals have already turned into processing facilities for industrial waste, with organ transplants serving as part of their recycling business. Anybody who senses something strange about this mechanical image of death that is now the norm in the hospitals of Japan will realize immediately that science in itself can never become “culture”.
As we greet the 21st Century, perhaps the time has come to reconsider the disintegration of our traditional culture that began with the Meiji Restoration. Time passed can never be reclaimed, but at least we must come to understand our past to the point that we are able to genuinely mourn its loss. We should look back now at our lost culture so that we can move forward towards the shaping of the new culture that is to come.

Next chapter : #2 Perceiving Life in All Things

1Journal of Sport and Health Science, Vol. 2, 8-24, 2004. http : //wwwsoc.nii ac jp/jspe3/index.htm.

Images :

  • « Cherry Tree » from Cherry and Maple, Color Painting of Gold-Foil Paper Shimizu, Christine: L’art japonais, Flammarion https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cherry-tree.jpg
  • Stillfried & Andersen. Views and costumes of Japan d’après des négatifs de Raimund von Stillfried, Felice Beato et autres photographes. Vers 1877-1878.
  • Stillfried & Andersen. Views and costumes of Japan d’après des négatifs de Raimund von Stillfried, Felice Beato et autres photographes. Vers 1877-1878.
  • Genthe, Arnold, 1869-1942, photographer. Arnold Genthe Collection (Library of Congress). Negatives and transparencies. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/agc1996015771/PP/

Out of dualism

By Régis Soavi

Soulevez le ciel puis repoussez la terre_TSUDA_WEBTalking about omote-ura as an Aikido subject immediately reminds me about yang-yin (in Japanese yo / in).

Nevertheless in the West the general trend is to perceive it as black and white; they are opposed to each other, divided between light and dark, categorised as positive and negative, like at school or even with sexist references. It’s very easy, we have habits and we do not even realise that.
The Tao is represented flat, to be more exact as a ball where yin and yang interpenetrate each other, but in fact each one keeps its own space: you, me, him, the other.
Philosophically we talk extensively on one or the other, but we forget the great Chinese thinkers: Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Li Tzu, or Sun Tzu, to name just the most famous.
Black or white, yin or yang. And what is grey? If we keep on thinking in a dualistic way, it’s a mixture of both.

My Master Itsuo Tsuda hardly ever quoted omote or ura, besides that, he rarely gave a Japanese name for what he did or showed. Fluently bilingual, he has always preferred French for his explanations, and particularly in his books he wrote in one go, almost without correction.
He could guide our sensitivity and make us feel thanks to the practice of Katsugen undo (Regenerating Movement), yuki, and particularly through his touch or even his silent presence, this non-dualistic world that he had come to help us discovering.

Discovering with the body

yin becomes yang
yin becomes yang

Aikido is a way of discovering your own body, I mean physically, concretely feel those fluids that run following networks with a  yin or yang tendency.
When during the practice omote or ura is mentioned, it usually refers to the whole movement, the tendency, possibly his ending.
The breathing can help us understand it better, feel, what it is all about. It is better to start working with a rather slow pace, if you go too fast at the beginning there is a big chance not to succeed.
The focus is on breathing, by following the inhale, then the exhale, you move focusing on the inner feeling, you can work on this kind of exercises with a partner, closing your eyes and remaining focused on the center. Arms for example open or close independently of our will, they obey to a necessity that comes from the yin or the yang.

Soulevez le ciel puis repoussez la terre_en action_ Regis Soavi_HORIZ-1_WEB

If you want to practice Aikido as the practice of the not-doing, all the work must be about feeling, you dig, deepening more and more and gradually something will move within us; and one day you will realize that you have overcome something. The wall that was blocking us, which resulted in a stiff or uncertain technique, and therefore artificial, completely unrealistic, it has dropped. At that point you feel free, extremely free.
The research takes then a different turn. The perception of the yin/yang becomes evidence. It is something that I find difficult to express in words, because everything becomes simple: gestures, movements, there is no mental action. It comes directly from the center, and then a great sweetness naturally arises, a sweetness that can be yin or yang, but very strong in any case, a powerful sweetness which has an effect on and knows how to act in harmony with the partner or the opponent, depending on the circumstances that led the one in front of us to act like this or that.
The tendency during the inspiration is rather towards an opening and thus is yin; expiration closes the body and its tendency is yang. Already just with the breathing you can hear, if you pay attention, the yin and yang, but they are only the expression and the direction of the energy that has materialised. The visible part, the one that the physical body can finally use, is ready.
When looking at the body, the front part is yin and the back is yang, although the front leg is yang and the back of the leg is yin: this is admitted in all schools, but the passage of ki from one to the other is rarely explained in martial arts, it often remains only looked at the surface.

Meeting Itsuo Tsuda, the practice of Katsugen undo and the discovery of the Seitai by Master Haruchika Noguchi were fundamental during my research and gave me an understanding of the body and its movement that was missing until then. Some areas that had remained vague in the teaching of Aikido, as the hara, have become extremely accurate with the Seitai. One can for example verify the state of  the « three points of the belly. » The first must be yin, the second one should be neutral, the third yang, positive and reactive. « The purpose of the Regenerating Movement is to regulate our body, normalize it. Regulate our body is not only necessary to make us healthy. Whatever kind of activity we practice, whether is calligraphy, or drawing or practicing martial arts, the first need is the one to start regulating our body, otherwise you miss an opportunity. »1

Non-Doing and non-dualism

In Aikido we let the ki arise from Seika Tanden, the hara (3rd point in the belly in Seitai), and its tendency is yang because it results from the strength that comes from the back, force that is not expressed in the shoulders, as we see too often, but naturally thanks to the koshi. The crossing point of this force, of ki that became yang, is the 3rd lumbar vertebra which is actually in a yin position in the spine. By visualizing the abdominal breathing one can tell that the yin inspiration inflates the abdomen and prepares the action which is going to be yang, and at the same time, ki goes down along the spine and permeate the entire body2. When the ki gets out directly from the center its tendency is yang, but depending on the circuit that it will take it will express as yin or yang. If it follows the internal circuits of the stomach and arms, the inside of the body, then it becomes yin, otherwise its expression will be yang. The resulting force will also be yang or yin depending on the moment when it is used. Of course, in a world that is not separated, time is also part of this unity. Although we can slow down or speed up the moment of an impact, for example to be precisely in the right place, at the right moment with the right breathing and the right ki, this cannot happen without the coordination happening in our « involuntary system”. This is precisely where the teaching by Itsuo Tsuda has brought decisive elements. To make us enter the world of sensation, insisting on the Non-Doing, allowing us to discover the non-dualism, he gave us the keys we can still use today, because they are within reach of all, as his books testify.

Yin et Yang

If we break down a movement like ryo te dori ten chi nage in the omote form, uke comes up with a yang force. He is in the middle of the exhalation, tori receives that at the end of his yang, yin has already expanded in him, it has become in-compressible, it will still expand and will ultimately overwhelm uke. Then it’s the time for yang to expand, you notice that because the arms turn, this time it is the dividing line between yin and yang that goes from bottom to top. For uke the movement started already at the beginning of the inspiration, unable to resist it breaks off and falls, like when a fruit is ripe and falls in the hand. In the ura form, tori must wait because yang is still too powerful, he turns to deviate the force but as soon as he gets his yin force back, it can use the yang force to start in omote or let the yin force continue its work until total envelopment of uke.

Tenshi-nage-ura

Similarly in kokyu ho, there are different ways to do it: either you project immediately the yang force or you allow the yin force to expand and at the end you use the yang. Again it all depends on the condition, the moment, the partner. The yang force is more direct, more interventionist than the yin force, but can easily harden people. The authoritarian fathers know this problem with their children and a fracture is often accomplished during the adolescence. The yin force is enveloping, sweet but sometimes misused, like some mothers do. They may risk to imprison their child and he will then struggle to get out of the footprint of the family cocoon.

Ideally when yin ends it allows the radiant take off, after the “ ark » inner work of preparation during childhood, a real detachment without fracture, like the ripe fruit falls off the tree at the right moment. The radiant take off is freedom without thoughts. The ability to be the own Tao. Simply the realization of being.

The body spheres

SPHERES_Irimi_WEBOur body is in between others with an external surface: the skin is somehow the material sphere. But we are not limited by the skin, it only defines the internal yin from the external yang, ura and omote. This surface is a sphere that has taken the form of a human being.

Beyond this there is another sphere that everyone can instinctively feel. It occurs rather in the form of a deform-able egg as needed. This sphere is often represented in religions, it is called Mandorle or Aura. It is the visual representation of a reality experienced by everyone, and kept alive in martial arts. It is also yin internally and yang outside with an extremely precise limit, it is possible to observe that what is yang compared to the skin it is yin compared to the energy sphere.

Irimi and tenkan

Irimi nage

When doing irimi for example, we allow uke to enter our yin sphere, he is relieved from his yang ki excess that had became hard and rigid, his terrain is normalised, we allow him to find an internal balance. Then with irimi nage we end up with a yang movement that will cause in him the desire to fall in order to avoid the worst. On the other hand with tenkan both spheres barely touch each other and only merge at the level of the hand. The Yang surfaces push, sustained by the internal yin, become strong, standing side by side, rejecting and sliding against each other.
If tori lets his elbow slide to enter the sphere of uke, then his yin movement will grow so to overwhelm uke that, once again, will fall to avoid the inconvenience of this turnaround.

In our school, the first part of the Aikido session is dedicated to a solitary practice. One of the exercise involves lifting the arms palm facing the sky to then lower them. Itsuo Tsuda told us: « Lift the sky then push the earth. « There are different ways to do this exercise. If we try to raise them using the yang the shoulders will contract, if we try to push the earth with the yin we will remain stuck in the middle of the movement. Raising the arms unifying with heaven (yin) and down in harmony with the earth (yang), it was this kind of work, the visualization that I started with my master and I still continue after forty years.

Allowing a conscious circulation of ki, improving our perception of this movement, of this sphere of energy that many speak about but only a few can perceive so clearly, this is how I intend my current work.

To allow the normalisation of  the terrain of those people who come to the dojo and give them visible or invisible instruments, conscious or unconscious to enable them to achieve independence, autonomy, inner freedom.

For this the awareness about omote-ura, as an expression of the yang-yin, is in my opinion essential.

Article by Régis Soavi about Omote-Ura, published in the Dragon Magazine (Special Aikido No.11) in January 2016

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Notes :

1. Abstract of the conference Regulate the body by Noguchi Haruchika sensei, translated by Tsuda Itsuo into French (trad. It. The unstable triangle, Chapter XIX).
2. Master Noguchi Haruchika, on the other hand, advocated the exercise Sekitsui Gyoki – 脊椎 行 気 法 or Breathing through the column that starts from the « second points of the head » and that allows the normalization of the terrain (the whole body, of course in a unified manner, physical, mental, etc.).

3. Photos by Régis Sirvent and Jérémie Logeay

Kokyu disclosure of the unity of being

By Régis Soavi

In one of his books Itsuo Tsuda gives us his views on kokyu:

CouvTsuda_PathOfLess_Mini“In learning a Japanese art, the question of “kokyu” always arises, strictly speaking, the equivalent of actual respiration. But the word also means to have a knack for doing something, to know the trick. When there is no “kokyu”, we cannot do a thing properly.  A cook needs “kokyu” to use his knife well, and a worker his tools. “Kokyu” cannot be explained; it is acquired.
When I was young, I saw a labourer working with his screwdriver on very rusty machinery.  I tried to unscrew a piece of the machine, but in vain; it was too rusty. For the labourer, it posed no problem; he unscrewed it with ease, not because he was stronger but because he had “kokyu”.
When we acquire “kokyu” it seems that tools, machines, materials, until then “indomitable”, suddenly become docile and obey our commands with no resistance.
Ki, kokyu, respiration, intuition are themes that are pivotal to the arts and crafts of Japan. It constitutes a professional secret, not because people want to keep it like a patent, or a recipe for earning their living, but because it cannot be passed on intellectually. Respiration is the final word, the ultimate secret of learning. Only the best disciples gain access to it, after years of sustained effort.
A martial arts master whom dogs bark at is not a good master, they say. The French know how to silence dogs by sliding a piece of sugar in their mouths. That’s the trick, that’s “the thing”, but it is not kokyu, respiration, which is something else entirely.”

Itsuo Tsuda, The Path of less, Yume Editions, Paris, 2014, p. 33-34.

I discovered kokyu with my master Itsuo Tsuda.aikido kokyu
Previously, it was to me just the name of a technique, with Itsuo Tsuda this notion became much more concrete, firstly by the orientation of his practice. He said: « To me technique is simply a test of knowing whether I’ve evolved in my breathing. » Thus our attention was brought directly to kokyu. There couldn’t be aikido and breathing. Aikido is breathing. And then, from his first books on, Itsuo Tsuda illuminates us in terms I didn’t knew; almost too simple and yet so difficult to achieve.

When I attacked him it was crystal clear, regardless the strength I put in he remained both, relaxed and powerful.
He made us use visualization to teach us kokyu. E.g. for kokyu ho he said: « It is the lotus flower opening. » Today few people have seen the lotus flower, so I speak of a daisy. Visualization should talk to us, directed to us. For it to act, it must be anchored in the concrete life of each person.

So sometimes to help someone to get beyond a partner that is holding the wrists to prevent him or her to move, I say, « You welcome a friend you haven’t seen for years, who steps out of the train, take him in your arms! » Then the person forgets the other and ki, instead of being coagulated, flows in the given direction, the person raises the arms without any effort. The power of visualization is colossal.

Sure, posture is essential, I would even say primordial. If the body stiffens to become an impeccable posture; it’s screwed. If it is too flabby; it’s screwed. If the third lumbar is wrongly positioned: it’s screwed. With the practice of aikido and katsugen undo I see that my students are gradually recovering. Ki begins to flow without blockage, without disruption, it is the discovery of unforced abdominal breathing, but clear and limpid, from the kokyu. In my view, without kokyu, all the work in aikido is only intended to strengthen the body, it is a work of hardening.kokyu ho régis soavi

With the deepening of breath little by little the needlessness disappears, we do not need to work on flexibility or strength, stiffness and our ideas of strength and weakness are leaving. So ki circulates better.
For this direction, the respiratory practice we do in the beginning of the sessions is important.
You can not teach kokyu, but you can guide individuals to discover it.
If we practice kokyu ho every morning at the end of each session, it is precisely to make people sensitive and also to improve our posture. As our posture and the way we behave refines and improves, we are able to help the normalization of the terrain of our partner. If you breathe deeply from the hara to the hara of the partner, you revitalize the channels through which ki flows, you enable these circuits to function better, and the other understands (feels) with his entire body what it is about.
It is not about looking at the demonstration and working harder and harder, but rather about being pervaded with this kokyu feeling of the other. I often say: to work on the kokyu we must start by listening. We listen to the other, not with the ears but with the whole of our body, we feel the breathing, the ki, of the other. It’s like a perfume. We listen to the inner movement, so the feeling becomes more accurate and we can guide him or her to a better posture, towards a release of tension.

It is also the work of senior practitioners to encourage this discovery. By bathing the other in breath, they help them to feel it, by dint of being soaked with « something ».

In the practice of katsugen undo Tsuda Sensei introduced in Europe, first comes the awareness  by the breathing, by the movement of ki. Tsuda wrote: « In the regenerating movement (katsugen undo), we do the opposite of the tradition: we begin with the supreme secret, straight off1. »

Kokyu is no more magical than ki is an energy. As soon as we launch ourselves into an explanation, even if  we let know that it will be approximately, big chance we blow it.
The ancient tales, such as those recorded by the Brothers Grimm, can show us an aspect of kokyu powers. As in fairy tales, it can transform toads into a prince or princess and grow people more beautiful by the simple fact of transforming their posture. This posture, the result of many years of contraction, weakness, or attempts of correction. When the posture finds back something natural, it is the return to the source, to the root of being.regis soavi aikido

The discovery of kokyu leads us to different behaviors in everyday life. This respiration, far from being seen as in “New Age”, awakens in the individuals’ daily life forgotten qualities, lost simplicity, and intuition finally found. It is what can be admirable in the work of a craftsman and an artist, but it is also what surprises those who do not know it. Because we did not understand nor felt what is behind this entirety in the performed act: kokyu is a revelation of the unity of being.

Itsuo Tsuda has guided us in that direction, leaving us free to go further or stay put. This freedom was fundamental in his teaching.

It is said that sometimes when the posture, the breathing, the coordination was perfect, Ueshiba O Sensei exclaimed “Kami Wasa”. God-technique? Supreme realization? Couldn’t we talk about kokyu or Non-Doing in the greatest simplicity? Like a child who drops a toy to take another, in the same way as he aspires us to take him in our arms for protection.
A small child has kokyu. “The baby is as big as the universe, but treated poorly fades quickly”2, Tsuda Sensei wrote in his last book. Isn’t it our duty to enable him to preserve it? And to us  adults, it to regain?

Aikido is not made for fighting, but to allow a better harmony between people.
I breathe deeply, I listen to the body of the other, in his or her body I visualize the flow of ki, I hear and clearly understand it, so I let ki passing into the body of the other. This circulation brings us fullness, the feeling of being fully alive, everything disappears, there is nothing but the present moment with its sensations, its colors, its music.

Article written by Régis Soavi on the subject of kokyu, published in Dragon Magazine(Special Aikido No. 10) in October 2015.

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1) Itsuo Tsuda, The Path of less, Yume Editions, Paris, 2014, p. 33
2) Itsuo Tsuda, Face à la science, Éditions Le Courrier du livre, Paris, 1983, p. 152.

Kokoro

A text by Haruchika Noguchi, founder of Seitai.

« The kokoro that resides deep within man, has invaluable faculties; its possibilities are so endless and inexhaustible that even if we put together all the ki and we make it concentrated we will never end being incapable or helpless. Everything begins to change, not just the body, when the ki focuses and concentrates in the kokoro. Those who practice it told me after the changes experienced.

kokoro haruchika noguchi
kokoro Haruchika Noguchi Haruchika Noguchi Photo: Seitai Kyokai

Many associate the word kokoro to willpower, but it in fact it does not have its own virtue;  on the other hand, instead of pretending to achieve something by willpower force if we simply visualize that we are going to get there, our wish comes true. Anyone knowing how to use his kokoro will see the realization of his wishes.

Since the dawn of time up to now, human being has invented countless things. Here is a table. It has not been around forever, it was created by the use of visualization. Visualization always precedes what will then exist; the word comes just after. If we proceed in this order, step by step, without deviation and with firmness, our wish will be fulfilled. Only then the various worlds in which humanity evolves will widen further. Mankind is like that.Lire la suite

Meeting the breathing.

itsuo tsuda respiration

Born in 1914, Itsuo Tsuda would now be one hundred years old.
This atypical character, fiercely independent, considered himself first and foremost a philosopher and he is a key figure of the Aikido in France. He is the one who introduced Katsugen * Undo in Europe in the early 70s.
Direct student of O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba during the last ten years of his life, Itsuo Tsuda did not consider important the sporty or martial art aspects of Aikido, but rather the chance to make use of this art for inner search, for personal search. He qualified this dimension as « solitary practice » and devoted himself to pass it on in his books and in his teaching.

By beginning Aikido at forty-five years of age, the ki and Non Doing were the two aspects that mainly attracted him. These aspects were particularly tangible in a series of exercises preceding, during O-Sensei Ueshiba sessions, the technique, which Itsuo Tsuda named after the expression « Respiratory Practice. »

O-Sensei Ueshiba gave a lot of importance to these exercises that meant to him something completely different then warming up. Itsuo Tsuda in an interview with France Culture said:
« For me what is important is what I do at the beginning: I sit, breathe, I breathe with the heaven and the earth, that’s all. Many people love aikido as a technique, don’t they? For me, the technique is simply the test to find out if I have evolved through breathing.  »
In the technique that happens during  the second part of the session there is no struggle, but an opportunity to develop sensitivity, the ability to fuse.
The voice of Itsuo Tsuda, who died in 1984, still resonates today through the nine books published in French and through his students. One of them, Régis Soavi, he has dedicated more than thirty years to Aikido and katsugen undo teaching. He is the technical adviser for the Itsuo Tsuda  School .

itsuo tsuda aikido

– Good morning, Mr. Soavi, when you met Itsuo Tsuda in the 70s you were already engaged in the practice of martial arts. What made you decide to consecrate to the Aikido of Itsuo Tsuda?

– I had just started Aikido when I met Itsuo Tsuda, my teacher was Roland Maroteaux. I met Tsuda during a workshop organized by this teacher. What struck me at first was his ability to dodge. During this workshop I saw my teacher, who was an actual budoka, attacking him with determination and at any time Tsuda was not there, he was dodging, he had created void in front of him. That was what shocked me. I had already experienced a lot of Judo, Jujitsu and weapons and then, more or less at the same time, during my training as a professional Aikido, I worked with other teachers like, Master Noro, Master Tamura, Master Noquet, as well as I took part of some workshops with Master K. Ueshiba, Yamaguchi Sensei, etc.. At the time we were all a bit like Ronin, we were going from a dojo to another trying to uncover the masters’ secrets. At first I was timidly interested of Master Tsuda, but the quality of this void, this emptiness that was moving around, it was very impressive and that was what made me decide: you have to go and see this master.

– What does represent for you the first part of the Aikido practice that Itsuo Tsuda called « Respiratory Practice »?

– Master Tsuda used to say that it was the essence of Aikido. At the beginning, when I was about twenty years old, I saw this part as a kind of respiratory warming up, not to mention muscle warming up. And then little by little I found out that it was something much more intimate! And after seven years, the Respiratory Practice had become the most important part of Aikido for me. The rest was, as Tsuda said very well, a way to verify to what extent I was getting with my breathing.

– You speak about Aikido proposing the translation « the way of the ki fusion ». How does this differ from the definition « the way of the harmony » that it is normally used?

regis soavi

– Now, « Aikido » is an ideogram, there are no words therefore in itself. What I try to pass on through  « the way of the ki fusion » is the direction we take. In Aikido this fusion of feelings between people allows you to practice in another way. It completely differs from the idea of fighting. It is rather a complementary. I think Ueshiba had such a fusion capacity with the person who attacked, by anticipating his acts, his gestures. For me, harmony is insufficient as a translation, this may purely be aesthetic. The fusion turns into something deeper. When two metals come together into a fusion to become for example bronze, they become Bronze, it is not only harmonizing them, they become something different. And it is in this sense that I want to translate it with « the way of the ki fusion. » But this is purely ideograms interpretation.

– What role do you think the technique plays?

– It is essential. It is the base. For me, technique must be extremely precise. It is the technique that leads the breathing. The technique also means the body, the posture. If your posture is correct, if the positioning is right, then it is easy, breathing is better. when one is blocked, congested, closed or too open, too soft or too hard, nothing will really happen. The technique is there to allow through its precision to find the lines that help us breathing better, to get better into the fusion. It is also for this reason that I often ask to work slowly. It is no use doing something quickly and badly.

regis soavi aikido

– Does the practice of Katsugen undo, you’ve discovered with Master Tsuda,  affected your approach to Aikido?

– I think if I had not practiced Katsugen undo I would have not practice Aikido the way I do today. We should never forget that Katsugen undo is something that normalizes the ground, the body. And only now I see Aikido as a process of normalization of the body as well. The practice of katsugen undo allows you to practice Aikido in this way, it is for me a base, the basic. It develops in you the breathing, once we breathe better, we are more relaxed. Aspects like aggressiveness, competitiveness disappear, they fall by themselves. Instead of practicing by hurting the others, one goes towards the normalization of the body, for example I usually show how, by twisting the arm in a certain way, during the mobilization, you allow your ki to get up to the third lumbar in fact the person’s body twists slightly on that point.
Well, it is a process of normalization of the body through Aikido, which I discovered because of the Katsugen undo practice. This applies to many other techniques, the way to get in, to reach the center, the hara, and so on. I’m not saying that you cannot find out if you only practice Aikido, but Katsugen undo was an open door, it has allowed me to feel better, to understand better, to be more in the spirit … I think this was very important for Tsuda as well. He practiced with Ueshiba for ten years. But when he started Aikido he had already been practicing for more than ten years Seitai  and Katsugen undo. His terrain was thus in a certain condition, for example with regard to the flexibility – which is often lost when at forty-five years of age. And then the kind of spirit condition: for Tsuda was clear that we were not there to destroy ourselves, but rather to find a certain tone, and at the same time a balance. Aikido should lead to a balance. And katsugen undo task is the balance.

– you practice early in the morning, this may be surprising.

– Sessions during the week start at 6:45am while at the weekend they are at 8.00. I know we regis soavi aikidolive in a society where you go to bed very late and you get up very late too. In my case I really love the morning. One can be tired in the evening, people after working hours are stressed.  Sessions of martial arts then very easily turned into a relief valve, and so on. Rather in the morning, competitiveness does not have too much importance … you get up, you are in the dojo, you can easily breathe, you start your day. Furthermore we are very lucky to be in a permanent dojo. One comes and it is like being at home, in an association but at home, the dojo are used only for this reason. There are gyms with more or less clean changing rooms where you can not even leave your watch otherwise they might stole it, and so on. So you come here in the morning, take a little coffee, tea, and then practice. And so the day begins and starts well, it is a real pleasure. Every morning I have a great pleasure to see people getting there and taking their time, we are in a world where we do not take our time anymore…

– Your sessions are designed for all without distinction of age and levels, you talk about a school without grades.

– Master Tsuda said: « There is no black belt for mental emptiness. » With Ueshiba there was no national program for black belts. When Master Noguchi was teaching he was used to say  « Forget, forget, when you will need it, it will come back naturally » It’s a little bit like this, the technique is important, but we do not repeat ten thousand times how to get attacked or some other staff. It makes no sense. Hierarchy, degrees, kyu, dan, and so on. For me this is not really important … And then in terms of age, why should we make a difference? Modern society created that difference, it has created the teenage (which by the way teenage is now up to forty years), the third and then the fourth age, and so on. All these categories do not correspond to anything. For me, when we talk about life within us we are all equal. Then, of course, it makes a difference, if I work with a six year old child it is not like when I work with a sixty years old person or somebody on their twenties.

– Other then passing on the bases, what can you really teach through Aikido?

– Ah, not much, actually, on a given moment people are going to start their own search by themselves. So, since I’m older, and my own search is also a long-term one, I can give them some information, and then I can help them to better understanding through visualizations. It’s my way of teaching people today. I suggest visualizations, for example by saying this movement looks like when you place a baby in bed. At the same time people search, there are a number of people who I consider companions they are no longer students. As sensei, as a good craftsman with a greater seniority, I can say, « Look further, that is it « , by looking further, the body opens and the person says, « Oh, okay It is fine. » It is very subtle. It is a kind of communication that I establish with my students. And then people go and search in that direction. We do not work on making the technique perfect, that does not exist. Aikido is not going to become more effective, more aesthetic, and so on. But we will be closer to ourselves, I think that this is the most important thing.

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* Katsugen undo translated as Regenerating Movement, the technique developed by Haruchika Noguchi, creator of Seitai.

Norito resonance

itsuo tsuda noritoMorihei Ueshiba O Sensei used to recite the norito, a Shinto invocation, during his practice. Itsuo Tsuda recited it daily during the last few years and the tradition is still kept within the Itsuo Tsuda School.

« The norito does not belong to the world of religion world but certainly to that of the sacred in the Animist sense.

The vibrations and resonance flowing from the pronunciation of this text brings to each practice a feeling of calmness, fullness and sometimes something that goes beyond and remains inexpressible.
The norito is a Misogi. * In its essence, it is never perfect, it always changes and evolves. It is the reflection of a moment in our being. » (Régis Soavi)

This norito is very popular in Japan, it is called Misogi no harae. The Norito version of Master Tsuda is in some way a short version.

 

Itsuo Tsuda noritoreceived this Norito from the hands of Nakanishi sensei, met during a trip to Japan. She also passed on the position of the hands, which, without being stiff, reflects high accuracy. It is a KI knot; all the fingers must touch each other and the position of the elbows has its own importance too. Nakanishi sensei was the Kotodama teacher of Morihei Ueshiba  »  from an interview with Régis Soavi

Itsuo Tsuda himself wrote: « At a given moment of his life, Master Ueshiba felt stuck in the continuation of the path, he found himself facing a dead end. He was very strong physically, but he felt that something was missing. It was then that he met Nakanishi. He was 56 or 57 years old while Mrs. Nakanishi was more or less 20 years old. (…)  »
Itsuo Tsuda, The Way of Gods

In his book The Way of Gods (Original Edition La voie des Dieux, Le Courrier du Livre – 1982), Itsuo Tsuda  attempts to clarify Shinto and Kotodama, difficult subjects to access. We will publish some extracts as part of the listening of the Norito recitation by Itsuo Tsuda.

Guillemet« It ‘s really hard to define the so called  » Shintoism « , literally, the Way of Gods. The name was invented after the need to compare it with other forms of « belief » that were introduced in Japan over the centuries. (…)  »

« If I have to say in a few words what Shinto is, I should quote a French proverb of the fifteenth century:  » Flowing water does not carry with it any dirt.  » What is important, is not the dogma, but the immediate feeling of serenity. Is it possible, in any circumstance, to constantly maintain a feeling of serenity? If you succeed, I have nothing to add. I rather think that most of the time, we feel a precarious peace in certain particular conditions. We strive to maintain this serenity by tensing. Which means keeping up appearances. You have to be blind not to admit that we have weaknesses and flaws. This proverb is almost unknown today. . (…)  »

Kotodama (vibration)

« The whole universe is conceived like an overflowing of vibratory sensations. These vibrations exist before being perceptible. Thus, Ueshiba Sensei talked often, for example, about the Kotodama of the ‘u’ vowel, a vibration that comes from the belly. He explains the functions of all the vocalism that were, after all, very simple, but difficult to understand because for me it was one of those things that did not fit in my regular habits. (…)  »

« According to Ms. Nakanishi, the particularity of Budo, in martial arts, lies in the ability to respond to resonances. That is the meeting point between a martial art and Kotodama. That is also why it differs from sports. In fact, martial arts were born at the time when the human being was continuously exposed to fatality, without notice. It was not a way to produce a physical technique, in front of spectators in awe, as in a circus. It was a matter of feeling the approach of something dangerous before the perceptual data could get actually confirmed. The moment of confirmation was already too late because it was not about scoring, but about life or death. (…)  »

« Aikido conceived as sacred movement by Master Ueshiba, is actually disappearing to be replaced by athletic Aikido, combat sports, more in line with the needs of the civilized ones.

« True budo is to be as a kind of ever, » said Ms. Nakanishi. « The others are the ones going around, but the true master does not move. »

In Shinto, there is no opposition between God and human being as in Christianity. It is a matter of finding God in yourself. This is called chinkon kishin, soothing the soul and return to God. Indeed, one can neither calm nor shake the soul. The ki attached to our person gets purified to keep us alive, but at the same time exposes us to constant agitations. (…)

« He also said: » We do not need miracles. The most difficult thing is to be natural, to be normal.  » Calm sea reflects the moon in its round shape. Rough sea gives only fragmented reflections. (…)  »

« Mrs. Nakanishi’s teachings revealed to me a new dimension of the universe. The Shinto universe does not match at all with the pre-Copernican geocentric or heliocentric conception, established by Newton. The universe of which she speaks is not located anywhere. It arises from the original Void, at the time and place where there is the need, and disappears as soon as the case is closed.

From the Void, « Nothing » arises and the « Nothing » creates the Existence. And the Existence culminates in « Nothing » that goes back to the Void. Therefore, there is no creation at the beginning of the world, once and for all. Every moment can be the moment of creation. Anyone can try to create the universe wherever he happens to be.

We must not, therefore, discuss with a Gagarin to affirm or deny the existence of God in space. Shinto is too fluid to stiffen in sclerosis.

Every day is the first day of creation. Every day is perhaps the last day of the return to the Void. (…)  » Itsuo Tsuda The Way of Gods (Original Edition La voie des Dieux, Le Courrier du Livre – 1982)


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Calligraphy

calligraphie itsuo tsuda les poissons dans l'eauEvery year for the annual summer workshop, the school presents a calligraphy of Itsuo Tsuda set on a kakemono (Japanese framing).

This is an opportunity to (re)discover these traces, these teaching left to us.

During the summer workshop that has just ended, we could enjoy the calligraphy « The fish in the water, » for which Itsuo Tsuda was inspired by this tale by Tchouang-tseu

Lire la suite

Haruchika Noguchi

Noguchi was born in Ueno, a district of Tokyo, in September 1911. When he was three or four years old, to his surprise, he soothed another child’s toothache simply by putting his hands on it. His hands went towards the spot, without him realizing what he was doing.
This was the beginning. When he was twelve, he accomplished his first deed, curing a neighbour who had been suffering from dysentery since the great earthquake struck the Tokyo area in 1923.

From this age, he begins to receive people asking to be treated by him. At that time, he had no knowledge, not even elementary, of anatomy or medicine. Like almost all healers, he believed at first that he had exceptional powers that he alone possessed. In his teenage years, he begins to understand the consequences of his actions. He finds his own vocation but does not stop at that; he continues. He studies, through self-studies, all Eastern and Western therapeutic methods. At the age of fifteen, he opens a dojo in Iriya. At seventeen, he formulates the Precepts of Full Life (Zensei Kun), which helps to better understand his thinking. In 1930, he writes the Reflections on Integral Life, a surprising text for a young man, then only nineteen years old.Lire la suite

Geneva, Katsugen Kai

This article tells the story of the dojo of Geneva (Katsugen Kai, the regenerating movement group), in it we find the watermark of Itsuo Tsuda’s journey from his early years in Europe. It UNE_ItsuoTsuda_geneve_groupewas published in « Journal du dojo » April, 1987. Written by a co-responsible of the dojo, Sven Kunz, reproduced with the kind permission of the author. The article is preceded by an extract of letters Itsuo Tsuda sent to Geneva in 1975.

GuillemetWork, this is what allows us to have two feet on the ground.

I do not preach to escape, to resignation. Utopia doesn’t exist anywhere except where one is. If you know to wait, interior changement will be made and you will not see things the same way.

Lire la suite

At the philosopher of Ki #2

Continuation and end of the article published in the journal « Question de » in 1975, written by Claudine Brelet (anthropologist, international expert and woman of French letters) and student of Itsuo Tsuda.

Part #2Itsuo tsuda Katsugen undo
Can one ‘fusion’ respiration and visualization?
– “Indeed, visualization is one of the aspects of ki. Visualization plays an important and vital role in aikido. It is a mental act that produces physical effects. Visualization is part of the aspect of ‘attention’ of ki. When attention is localized, for example it stops at the wrist, breathing becomes shallow, disrupted… we forget the rest of the body.

Lire la suite

At the philosopher of Ki #1

This coverage was published in the journal ‘Question de’ in 1975. Claudine Brelet (anthropologist, international expert and a woman of French letters) who wrote this press coverage and did the interview and was one of the first students of Itsuo Tsuda.

First part

At the fringes of Bois de Vincennes, in the rear of a garden in the suburbs of Paris, there is a particular itsuo tsudadojo. Dojo, meaning, a place for practicing the Art of breathing and martial arts. It is not a gym. It rather is a sacred place where ‘space-time’ is different from that of a profane place.
We salute when we enter to sanctify ourselves and when we leave to desacralize.Lire la suite

Trailer…

C’est avec plaisir que nous vous présentons un programme encore en cours d’élaboration, mais qui prend forme… une année comme une mosaïque, un puzzle qui s’assemble… en attendant voici la « bande annonce » !

CENTENAIRE D’ITSUO TSUDA

Portrait d’un homme foncièrement libre

Événement hommage les 15 et 16 novembre 2014

De 10h à 18h, entrée libre. Dojo Tenshin 120 rue des grand-champs 75020 Paris

Programme

Les témoignages de :

Jean-Marc Arnauve, karateka, aikidoka, technicien seïtaï

Kika Juan, Artisan restauratrice d’art

Régis Soavi, aikidoka, conférencier

Bruno Vienne, réalisateur, cinéaste

***

Sur les Traces d’Itsuo Tsuda…

Exposition de calligraphies originales

Avec l’aimable autorisation des propriétaires

***

De la liberté de penser, à la liberté intérieure

Récit biographique

par Yan ALLEGRET, écrivain, metteur en scène

***

Itsuo Tsuda, un homme ordinaire

Exposition photo(dont des inédits)

présenté par Jérémie LOGEAY, photographe

Tirage selon le procédé de la Piezographie, aux pigments de charbon d’une intensité et d’une densité exceptionnelles

On the watch for the right moment

The writer and director Yan Allégret is interested in aikido and traditional Japanese culture since 20 years. He practiced in France and Japan and became interested in the concept of a dojo: what makes a space at a time « the place where we practice the way. »

Chronicle of Tenshin dojo of the school Itsuo Tsuda.

Tenshin Paris
6 am. People leave home and head for a place. On foot, by car, by subway. Outside, the streets of Paris are still sleepy, almost deserted. Dawn is near. Those outside have not put on the armor needed for the working day ahead. There is something in the wind. At the break of dawn it feels like walking in a twilight zone. It is in this gap we find dojo Tenshin of the Itsuo Tsuda school.
In this place dedicated to aikido and katsugen undo, the sessions are daily. Every weekday morning, a session at 6:45 am, on weekends at 8am, regardless the weather or holidays, except January 1, the day of the ceremony of purification of the dojo.
Dawn influence practice. At all times this porosity was considered in the Japanese tradition. Just read the « Fushi Kaden » from “Zeami », creator of the Noh theater, to understand how the traditional arts were on the lookout for the « right moment » (taking into account time, weather, temperature, the quality of silence, etc.) to perfect their art.
Walking towards the dojo at 6:30, we will realize, practicing in the morning creates a relief. The mental capacity is not yet assailed by concerns of family and social life. The mind has not yet taken control. We come as a white sheet at 120, rue des Grands Champs in the 20th arrondissement. The association Tenshin is established here since 1992. It was founded by a group of people wishing to follow the teaching of Itsuo Tsuda, transmitted by Régis Soavi. Itsuo Tsuda was a student of Morihei Ueshiba and Haruchika Noguchi (founder of aikido and katsugen undo). Concerning Régis Soavi the current Sensei, he was a direct student of Master Tsuda. The dojo is not affiliated to any federation. He follows his path, independent and autonomous, with continuity and patience. When passing the doorstep, we feel that we enter « into something”. A mixed form of density and simplicity emerges from the place. In Japanese, one would say, the « ki » of the place is palpable, the space is silent. People are gathered around a cup of coffee, accompanied by the Sensei. On the other side the space with the tatamis, yet at sleep.

A void at work
The dojo is vast. All the walls are white. The central tokonoma includes a calligraphy of master Tsuda. Portraits of founders (Ueshiba for Aikido, Noguchi for Katsugen Undo and Tsuda for the dojo) are located on the opposite wall.
It is 6:45. The session will begin. The mats were left to rest since the previous day. The space is not rented for other courses because of profitability. One begins to understand what this « something » is we felt entering. A void is at work. Another crucial element in the Japanese tradition: the importance of a linked emptiness.
Between sessions, the space is left to recharge, to relax, like a human body. You should have seen the place, naked and silent like a beast at rest, to understand the reality of this fact. Practitioners sit in seiza, silence falls and the session begins. The person conducting faces the calligraphy, a bokken in hand, then sits. We salute a first time.
Then comes the recitation of the norito, a Shinto invocation, by the person conducting. Master Ueshiba began each session accordingly. Mr. Tsuda, customary of  Western mentality, did not deem it necessary to translate this invocation. He insisted only on the vibration that emanates from it by the work of the breathing. Of course, the sacred dimension is present. But no religion so far, no mystical « Japanese style » Westerners are sometimes fond of. No. Here it is much simpler.

Beyond the combat
Hearing the norito, we feel resonating something in the space that facilitates concentration, the return towards oneself. As one can be touched by a song without the need to understand the words.
Thereupon follows the « breathing exercises, » a series of movements done alone. Master Tsuda kept this part of the work of Master Ueshiba that wrongly could be considered as a warming up. The term warming up is restrictive. It engages the body only and assumes that true practice begins after. In both cases, this is false. One movement can infinitely be deepened and involves, if you work in this direction, the totality of our being.

Then comes the work in couple. We choose a partner, one day a beginner, the next day a black belt. Any form of hierarchy predominates. We work around four to five aikido techniques per session. The Sensei demonstrates a technique, then everyone tries it with his or her partner.

What emerges from practice, is the importance of breathing and attention to what circulates between the partner and yourself. A circulation, when taking the premise of a fight as a starting point, that leads beyond. A beyond the combat. It isn’t no doubt by chance that Régis Soavi uses the term « fusion sensitivity » to speak about aikido. « The way of fusion of ki ».

The art of unite and separate
On the tatami, no brutal confrontation. But no weak condescension either. The aikido practiced is flexible, clear, fluid. We see hakamas describing arabesques in the air, we hear laughter, sounds of falls, we see very slow movements, then suddenly without a word, partners accelerate and seem drawn into a dance until the fall frees. We think back to the words of Morihei Ueshiba: « Aikido is the art of uniting and separating. » There is no passing grade. No examination. No dan or kyu. Instead, wearing hakama and black belt. Beginners, meanwhile, are in white kimonos and white belt. The time just to wear the hakama is decided by the practitioners theirselves, after talking with elders or the Sensei. To choose to wear the hakama involves to assume freedom, but also responsibility.  Because we know that beginners take more easily as a model those who wear the traditional black skirt. The issue of grade is turned inside out. The key is not outside. It is our own feeling we must sharpen, to recognize the right moment. Of course, mistakes can be made, the hakama is put on too early or too late. But the work has begun. It is obvious that we must seek inside. As for the black belt, the Sensei gives it to the practitioner the day he thinks the person is ready to wear it, the latter never being informed of this decision. And that’s all. The person wears the black belt. No blah-blah. The symbol is taken for what it is: a symbol and nothing more. The path has no end.

A special atmosphere
Seeing the Sensei demonstrating the free movements, in which techniques are linked spontaneously we think again about a term often used in the literature and the teaching of Itsuo Tsuda: « The non-doing ». And this is what probably brings this special atmosphere in the dojo at dawn, the smell of flowers at the tokonoma and the emptiness. A path of non-doing.
The session ends. Silence returns. We greet the calligraphy and the Sensei. He leaves. The practitioners leave the space or fold their hakama on the tatami.
Around 8:30, we find ourselves around breakfast. We seek to learn more about how the dojo functions. For this lively place is both alive and financially independent, considerable energy is invested by practitioners. Some have chosen to dedicate much of their lives to it. They are a bit like Japanese Uchi Deshi, internal students. In addition to the practice, they manage the spine of the dojo, then taken in turns by the other practitioners that could be involved as external students. Everyone involved is encouraged to take initiatives and to take responsibility.

Work with less
An elder summarizes the instructions received: « Aikido. Katsugen undo. And the dojo. » The life of a dojo is a job in itself, an unique opportunity to practice out of the tatamis what one learns on the tatamis. Rather than a refuge, a greenhouse, the picture is rather that of an open field in the middle of the city, in which we lay fallow at dawn, where we clear weeds to allow gradually its place to other blooms.
Before leaving we look at the empty space with tatamis one last time. It seems to breathe. The day dawned and the city is now in a fast and noisy rhythm. It awaits us. We leave the dojo and walk away with a wisp of a smile. In a world of unbridled accumulation and filling up, there are places where you can work with less. This one makes part of it.

Yann Allegret

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The calligraphy of Itsuo Tsuda #1

Régis Soavi tells us his discovery of calligraphy of Itsuo Tsuda.

itsuo tsuda calligraphieWhen I began to teach aikido, like many people, I had a photo of Master Ueshiba in the tokonoma. That was the way I had been taught, bowing in the direction of the master. When I went to Master Tsuda’s dojo for the first time, there was  a calligraphy, printed by a friend of his who was an artist, after an ancient stone engraving. It was « Bodaï ». This calligraphy was there, when I had expected to see a photo of Master Ueshiba… Moreover the lines were thick… – 8 cm, that’s very thick! –  And it resonated in a different way, it had another respiration…

It is another dimension. And seeing the calligraphy at each session… makes things change completely.

Lire la suite

Quand Me Tsuda récitait le Nô #2

tsuda_no_couleur_bordure2baniere-600x355Nous avons le plaisir de vous présenter une version restaurée de la vidéo de Maître Tsuda récitant le Nô.
Maître Tsuda, lors du stage d’été de 1981 à Coulonges-sur-l’Autize, récite un extrait de théâtre Nô. Avant de commencer, Maître Tsuda présente l’histoire.Lire la suite