“Non scrivere niente, non è certo difficile. Scrivere per non dire niente, è un’arte.
Ma scrivere sul Niente, non è una cosa agevole”.
Anche in Italia, in occasione del centenario della nascita del Maestro Itsuo Tsuda e dell’uscita della nuova traduzione italiana del “Non-Fare”, a cura della Yume Editions, i dojo della Scuola Itsuo Tsuda organizzano presso alcune librerie a Roma, Torino e Milano una serie di incontri-lettura di brani estratti dai libri di Itsuo Tsuda.
Letture a Roma
il dojo Bodai terrà una lettura di presentazione del “Non Fare”, Sabato 4 ottobre alle ore 17.00, presso “Doozo, Art, Books & Sushi”, in Via Palermo 51-53, Roma. http://www.doozo.it/
Letture a Torino
il dojo Zensei propone Mercoledì 15 ottobre alle ore 21, un incontro di letture “Alla scoperta di Itsuo Tsuda” presso la Sala conferenze della Libreria Psiche, in Via Belfiore 61. http://www.psiche.info/index.htm
Letture a Milano
Infine il dojo Scuola della Respirazione, Venerdì 24 ottobre alle ore 20.30, leggerà brani tratti dall’opera di Itsuo Tsuda presso la libreria “Isola Libri” in Via Pollaiuolo, 5. La serata sarà introdotta da una proiezione-video sul centenario della nascita del Maestro Tsuda.
« Mettre une calligraphie plutôt qu’une photo d’un Maître, ça a un autre intérêt, que j’ai compris par la suite : ça évite un certain « culte de la personnalité ». Au lieu de mettre une photo de Maître Ueshiba, j’aurais pu en mettre une de mon maître, Itsuo Tsuda… mais alors, ça induit quelque chose vers « Un Grând Maîîître » qui EST, et ça va aussi dans le sens des religions où il y a des saints, des peintures de saints, des statues de saints… dans le Bouddhisme on a cela, dans le Christianisme aussi, évidemment…
Mais ainsi, on n’a plus la même résonance, parce que ce sont des photos de personnes, de « personnages ».
Suite de la correspondance d’Itsuo Tsuda dont nous publions quelques lettres, avec l’aimable autorisation de Bernard et Andréine Bel. Le lien pour lire la première lettre.
Il s’agit ici des réponses apportées par Itsuo Tsuda, entre 1972 et 1979, à un jeune couple qui commence à pratiquer le mouvement régénérateur. On suivra ainsi dans ces lettres leur désir de faire connaître autour d’eux, dans leur ville, cette découverte.
Cette lettre faisait suite à un courrier dans lequel nous faisions part à Itsuo Tsuda de notre séjour à Saanen au mois de juillet, au cours duquel nous avions fait pratiquer le mouvement régénérateur à un groupe de personnes – dont un grand nombre d’élèves d’Yvon Achard, professeur de yoga à Grenoble. La réaction du groupe avait été enthousiaste. La réflexion d’Itsuo Tsuda sur la tendance des occidentaux à tout amalgamer nous a incités à une très grande prudence. Nous avons eu soin de ne jamais emprunter ce terme alors même que nos séances étaient en tout point identiques à celles organisées par Katsugen-kai. C’est aussi à cette époque que nous avons pris la décision de ne jamais accepter d’argent des participants : « en famille et entre amis »… Andréine Bel Lire la suite →
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 →
The correspondence of a writer, a philosopher, often reveals itself beyond peculiar general views. Such is the case with this correspondence of Itsuo Tsuda from which we publish a few letters, courtesy of Andréine and Bernard Bel. It reveals answers given by Itsuo Tsuda, between 1972 and 1979, to this young couple as they began practicing the regenerating movement. Through these letters we will follow their desire to make this discovery widely known.
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 was 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.
Work, 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.
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 #2 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.
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.
At the fringes of Bois de Vincennes, in the rear of a garden in the suburbs of Paris, there is a particular dojo. 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 →
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
Bruno Vienne est cinéaste, réalisateur animalier et aventure humaine, membre de l’expédition TARA ARCTIC au Pôle Nord, et également un ancien élève d’Itsuo Tsuda.
Au bout d’une trentaine d’années de pratique, il sent que c’est le moment de partager ce qu’il a compris et ressenti dans l’approche du Mouvement Régénérateur et de la pratique respiratoire de Maître Ueshiba (fondateur de l’Aïkido). Il nous invite à une plongée dans notre infini potentiel intérieur.
« Serons-nous capables de passer le cap pour une nouvelle humanité ?
Tout est là, c’est l’enjeu des prochaines années…
Les clignotants rouges sont allumés depuis déjà longtemps en ce qui concerne notre façon d’utiliser l’énergie et l’eau sur terre. Lire la suite →
When 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.
Nous 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 →
Décembre 2013, paru dans le quotidien italien « Il Manifesto ». Entretien avec Régis Soavi.
Aujourd’hui de nombreuses personnes avec toutes sortes d’idées politiques et d’autres sans idées politiques précises, se préoccupent de la façon dont leurs comportements individuels peuvent influer sur l’environnement : acheter des produits biologiques, de la production locale, mieux recycler les déchets, choisir des prestataires de services plus respectueux de l’environnement, réduire la consommation énergétique etc.
Au niveau du débat politique, malgré tout, la rhétorique écologiste fonctionne toujours, même en temps de crise. En tous cas, l’attention portée collectivement aux conditions et à la qualité de la terre, de l’air et de l’eau est grande, pour diverses raisons, que ce soit par sens des responsabilités ou simplement par sens des affaires.
To help us find out what the Nô represented for Master Itsuo Tsuda, and also for his students, these moments of recitation that took place certain nights during workshops, we asked Régis Soavi (student of Master Tsuda and aikido teacher for over thirty years) to tell us about it…
« Master Tsuda used to recite the Nô during workshops and if I remember correctly, he did it twice during the workshop – sometimes une time, sometimes two – after the evening session of the regenerating movement . There were people who were leaving, and then as we knew there was a Nô, because someone had said that, we would start to organize: We would place the rope – a white braided rope – that would define the scene. Meanwhile, Tsuda was in his room, and we would settled on the tatami a meter far from the rope more or less, and we waited for those last to leave- all those people who were not interested to the Nô or those who found it too long; at the end there was a small group staying. In general there were a lot of people leaving. Because it was in Japanese; Tsuda was not always telling stories properly, sometimes he would just say a few words: Lire la suite →
What are Aïkido and the Regenerating Movement? How can we use them to live in daily life? Those are the sujects dealt with by Régis Soavi who was a direct disciple of Master Itsuo Tsuda,himself a student of Master Ueshiba and Master Noguchi. Article of Francesca Giomo.
About the Aïkido the only thing I knew was the name, before I was invited to take part in four sessions of practise of this « non-martial » art at the Scuola della Respirazione, Fioravanti Street in Milano.
The sessions for beginners were on mondays evenings at seven, with no theory at all, only practise. First one watched the technique being demonstrated by the more experienced students, then one « performed » it directly.
The Aïkido we’re going to talk about, the Aïkido I was introduced to, is that of Master Itsuo Tsuda, a student of the founder, Morihei Ueshiba. Régis Soavi is presently continuing the research started by Master Tsuda, teaching in several dojos in Europe, for example at the Scuola della Respirazione in Milano.Tsuda’s work, during his life-time, also included the Regenerating Movement ( Katsugen undo ), devised by Haruchika Noguchi, which is also practised, besides Aïkido, at the dojo in Milano.Those are the two practises Régis Soavi tells us about in the interview that follows.
– What is Aïkido? Can it be defined as a martial art?
L’Aïkido is a non-martial art. The origin of Aïkido is in fact a martial art called Ju Jitsu. Master Ueshiba’s vision transformed this martial art into an art of harmony and fusion between persons. That is why we no longer have a martial art as was originally the case, but a non-martial art.
– So, it was Master Ueshiba who created Aïkido?
Yes, it was Ueshiba, who died in 1969. But an important fact to be aware of is that at the basis of Aïkido there was Ju Jitsu, because then you understand how Ueshiba changed the spirit of it, with Aïkido. Aï-ki-do means way (do) of the harmony (aï) of Ki, way of the fusion of Ki. The direction he took in fact transformed a martial art into something else. In Aïkido, one cannot, for example, talk about defending oneself, but rather about fusing.
– Ueshiba is the founder of Aïkido, but the teaching at the Scuola della Respirazione refers to Master Tsuda.
Yes, Tsuda died in 1984. Through his books, he passed on Ueshiba’s message: Ueshiba was Tsuda’s master for ten years, just as Tsuda was mine later.After Ueshiba’s death, different Aïkido schools developed. Some of them chose to go back to a Ju Jitsu type of martial art, others have turned Aïkido into a sport. We are seeking to understand what Ueshiba actually said.
– Master Tsuda met Master Ueshiba rather late in life. Did he practise any martial arts before that?
Tsuda was an intellectual. He had never practised any martial arts. He had studied in France with Marcel Granet and Marcel Mauss, he was interested in Ki. He started his research in that direction and first discovered Katsugen Undo, then later Aïkido. Thanks to Ueshiba, Tsuda saw how one could use Ki in a martial art. He was forty-five when he started, without ever having done any karate or judo or any other martial art before.
– It is not easy for a westerner to understand what Ki is
Everybody talks about it nowadays. Just think of Taï Chi Chuan, Qi Qong… Everybody knows about it from a mental point of view, yet very few people have a physical experience of it. But that is something you cannot explain. It’s up to everyone to feel it, there is no explanation for it. We are not interested in explaining what Ki is, what we’re interested in is only the way to use it. It’s a bit like explaining what love is. Nowadays, one can analyse the smell of women, that of men etc… But that isn’t enough, otherwise it means we’re only animals… One cannot explain love, love is the meeting of two human beings and it doesn’t happen because the man has a beard, etc…etc… It is also like that with Ki.
– Since we’re talking about the practise of Aïkido, what are the different moments of a session?
An Aïkido session is a special moment in the day. I practise everyday, there is a sacred aspect one can retrieve in that. At the beginning of the session, there are ritual gestures: it is not important to know what they mean, but it is essential to make them, it brings about something. Also there is the norito (a text of shintoist origin recited in Japanese) which is a recitation of purification. Nobody knows what the words mean, but when the recitation is good, there is a vibration in it which is active.This may seem very mystical. But if someone listens to lieder by Schubert, for example, sung by a good singer, and doesn’t know German, he doesn’t understand anything, but as he listens to the singing, something sad or something cheerful happens, it produces an effect. It is the same if you attend a No theatre performance, you don’t understand anything, it’s in Japanese, but the gestures and the movements create effects. And this is not mystical but real.
– When we watched the part of the session towards the end, when free movement is done, the succession of attacks and « fusions » made me feel as if we were watching an improvisation.
Yes, it was in fact an improvisation.
– Does one need a particular technique to do the free movement?
Even though it is an improvisation, there are gestures which are a bit like a ritual. You cannot attack at random, but, in a way, it depends on your partner’s posture, let us put it that way.The « attacker’ »s gestures correspond with the posture of the person he is « attacking ». But in the case of an improvisation, as when musicians improvise together, there is always a harmony, otherwise it generates chaos. So one goes beyond technique and one creates harmony. Everybody can do it. Everyone does it at his own level. One does it more slowly at the beginning, with a technique one knows. One doesn’t invent anything completely new.
– What is the significance of respiration in Aïkido?
When talking about respiration in this context, it is Ki we’re talking about. One mustn’t think in terms of respiration through the lungs. It’s a respiration of the body that enables you to be more in harmony. When one is acting it’s expiration, when one is receiving it’s inspiration. When one starts practising, the pulmonary respiration becomes more ample. The whole body is breathing and becomes more elastic and supple, Ki flows more easily. In that sense, respiration helps making people more supple, it helps finding a rythm in the practise, because if someone is not breathing correctly, after five minutes he has no strength left. That is why one practises slowly at the beginning of sessions, to allow for the harmonization of gestures through respiration. So gestures become harmonized through respiration.
-At the beginning of the session, the master breathes in a very particular, very strong way, what does this correspond to exactly?
This type of respiration is done to breathe out completely, to empty. There is a very common and widespread deformation as far as respiration is concerned. In fact people nowadays have a tendency always to retain a little air, they don’t breathe fully. They hold their breath so as to be always ready to defend themselves, to act in reply. In the end, as they are never really empty, their respiration cannot be deep and their breath is short. So at the beginning of the session one first lets out all the air, in that way thoughts also come out. They become empty, new.
-On what does Aïkido have an action from a physical point of view? What sort of muscular response does it require from the body?
It’s the same as in daily life, normally you use all your muscles, in Aïkido also. It is true, though, that some Aïkido schools have been trying to make the body become stronger. Our School doesn’t want to do that. We do not want to become stronger, only less weak. The muscles don’t have to become stronger to do something special. In Aïkido, one moves normally and one makes everyday life movements such as running, turning, normal gestures which, however, are done with a special attention.
-Is it possible to transfer this « special attention » to one’s own daily life?
Of course, otherwise Aïkido is useless. Some people come here to become stronger, to defend themselves, but no. Aïkido is there to make people more sensitive, and therefore it is useful in daily life. One regains a certain suppleness. If the respiration was too short and high before, it gradually becomes calmer. Something that helps you in your relationships with children, at work… That is where Aïkido really is useful, in daily life.
– You always practise very early in the morning, why is that?
As far as I am concerned, in the Itsuo Tsuda School, I practise early in the morning but not all those who practise Aïkido do the same. I like the morning best because then one is more in the dimension of the involuntary, in a condition which enables the body to wake up and to prepare for the day.
– At the Scuola della Respirazione one also practises Katsugen Undo, the Regenerating Movement. What are its origins?
It was a discovery Master Noguchi made. At the beginning, Noguchi was a healer. He used to pass on Ki to people so that they would get better. But at one time he discovered that the human being’s capacity to cure itself was something inborn, which, however, wasn’t functioning any more, or not so well. It was Noguchi who discovered that when one does Yuki, that is to say one passes on Ki through the hands, people’s bodies move all by themselves and this enables the body to restore its balance. Noguchi therefore found that some movements enable the body to awaken its capacity to cure itself. This discovery gave birth to the Regenerating Movement or Katsugen Undo, an exercise which enables the body to rouse capacities it doesn’t know it has.
Tsuda introduced the Regenerating Movement in France and I took an interest in it because I found the connection there is between Aïkido and the Regenerating Movement. I realized the existence of such links, by the fact that when the body is healthy and retrieves its capacities, Aïkido cannot go in the direction of fighting other people any longer, on the contrary the desire to act in such a way disappears. So, the Regenerating Movement is very important, in my opinion it is difficult to practise Aïkido in our school without knowing it.
– The only way to start practising the Regenerating Movement is to come to one of the seminars you hold every other month?
During seminars, I give talks, I explain and I show the « techniques » which allow one to get into the state where the movement may occur. I come again every other month so that the persons who practise regularly may continue on the « right path ». A lot of people may very easily deviate, perhaps because in the Regenerating Movement there is in fact nothing to do, just be there, close your eyes, empty your head. Some people think it’s better to have music during sessions etc, etc… But the path is what is the most simple.
– Is the Regenerating Movement something we already have, but have forgotten about?
Not really. The Regenerating Movement is a normal human activity, what we have forgotten is letting our body live all by itself. We have lost faith in our own body, in our capacities, as if after a traumatic experience. The Regenerating Movement enables one to retrieve all that: if before there were things I couldn’t do, now I can do them. I have only trained my capacity for action, nothing else. It’s a capacity of the extrapyramidal motor system, the involuntary system. When trained, it regains its ability to restore its own balance. That is the capacity we already have. Even people who don’t practise the Regenerating Movement know how to regain their own balance: someone who is tired goes to bed, and while he is asleep, his body moves, that is the body’s capacity to restore its balance. The Regenerating Movement is something everybody still has a little, but the capacity to let the movement occur weakens and, by training the extrapyramidal, one retrieves it.
– What is the extrapyramidal motor system?
It is the involuntary system, which allows the body to restore its balance. But the Regenerating Movement also has an action on the immune system, which does not depend on the extrapyramidal system but is also an involuntary faculty of the body.
Our body’s movement isn’t something we can learn, we can only discover it and accept it. The Regenerating Movement has an action on many things, for example the capacity to maintain body temperature, but it’s different for each person, no movement is identical to another, no reaction to another, because each person is different.
-Dealing with people he doen’t know, the master needs to have a special sensibility to understand which movement each participant needs to do?
No, because the master cannot do the movement for the « student », the movement is something spontaneous, so everybody has to find his own movement. The training of the involuntary system must, to start with, give a free hand to the involuntary. So, during the seminar, I explain, I show exercises, I just do « Yuki ». I may sometimes help someone empty his head thanks to a few technique, but then the movement occurs all by itself. It’s the same thing as when a person is scratching, she knows where and how to do it, without anybody telling her anything.
– What does Yuki and doing Yuki mean?
Yuki means « joyful Ki » and to do Yuki is « to pass on joyful Ki », but that is an interpretation… To do it, you lay your hands on the other person’s body.
– We are talking about restoring the body’s balance, but the Regenerating Movement isn’t a therapy, but exercises which allow for something to wake up…
Yes, because a therapy implies that one is concerned with the symptom of the illness and that one is taking a responsability regarding that. It isn’t the case here. Here we just let the body do what it has to do. If people have problems and need something, one can do yuki and this rouses the capacity of the rest of the body. So it isn’t a therapy. There are therapeutic consequences, we can say that.
– Can anybody practise the Regenerating Movement?
No. It is not recommended to people who have had transplants, because if a person has had transplants, it means she has in her body a part coming from somebody else. With the practise of the Regenerating Movement, her body will tend to reject that part which doesn’t belong to it. In fact, people with transplants must take medicines so that their bodies accept the foreign element. The Regenerating Movement activates the body’s capacities to restore its balance, so it works in the direction of expelling any foreign element. It may be allright, though, if the transplant comes from the person’s own body, for example if skin has been taken from one part of a person’s body to another. We also refuse people taking very strong medicines, like cortisone etc… because this type of medicine goes towards desensibilizing the persons, whereas the Regenerating Movement makes them retrieve a more vivid sensitivity.
– How many years do you need to practise to conduct a Regenerating Movement session?
Talking about years doesn’t mean anything. It is the practitioners themselves who conduct the sessions. One year of practise is enough. Of course the respiration of the person who conducts the session must be calm enough, and she must be in the right state of mind, warm, simple, not disturbing for the others. In fact, it is only the practitioners’ involuntary which is at work.
-Aren’t there things that may happen during a session, on an emotive level, coming from the most fragile persons?
Nothing of the sort happens, because one finds out that the Regenerating Movement is really something natural. It would be like saying that someone who is scratching an itch is making himself bleed. People have tensions inside themselves but the Regenerating Movement doesn’t make them come out, it makes them melt. If something has no reason to be there any more, it just melts.
-To allow the Regenerating Movement to occur, one must first free one’s head from thoughts, have a blank mind, but how does that come about?
To empty your head, you first drop the thoughts that come into your mind. An empty mind means that if there are thoughts, they go away. The mind needs to be active in any case, but the thoughts are not important. At the beginning it’s a bit difficult, but after some time, you don’t worry about that any more and gradually everything goes without saying.
Article of Francesca Giomo, published in the webzine « Terranauta » on 04/01/2006.
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Our rendez-vous is at 6:45 AM, in Milan’s Chinese quarter. The place : a former garage, transformed into a traditional, spartan-looking dojo where, once inside, you are told gently but firmly to remove your shoes. The participants arrive little by little, sleepy-faced ; they murmur their greetings as though reluctant to disturb the pale atmosphere of the Milanese dawn. I had been invited to an aikido session by Regis Soavi, during one of the periodic courses he conducts in Italy. Regis Soavi teaches and transmits the message of Itsuo Tsuda (1914-1984), a direct disciple of master Ueshiba. I had read a few of Tsuda’s books ; he was Japanese and lived in France. His books are strange. They can’t be classed with “martial arts” books, or as “essays”, or with “stories”. In Tsuda’s school, we find the convergence of two fundamental experiences : Aikido and Katsugen Undo (regenerating movement). I wanted to speak more in depth of that, with Regis Soavi.
Who was Itsuo Tsuda
You were a direct student of Master Tsuda. Tell me a bit about him.
He was very simple. We called him Mr. Tsuda. I myself only began to address him as “Master” in his last years. He wished to be considered above all as a philosopher and writer. His quest was of a personal nature. When you met him, you realized at once that he had a strong personality, but at the same time, he seemed to be an Oriental like any other. If you were to come across him in the street, you’d never realize he was an expert in Martial Arts, he just seemed to be an ordinary Japanese. In any case, on the tatami, he was a real discovery. Tsuda addressed himself to each person individually, he never generalized. In the morning, after aikido, we would have coffee together and he would tell stories, speaking to all who were there ; but we understood that, each time, he wished to reach certain people in particular. He was characterized above all by his simplicity.
I’m looking at Tsuda’s biography : “At 16, he rebelled against his father’s wish for him to inherit the family patrimony ; he left his family to wander, in search of freedom of thought. Later, reconciled with his father, he came to France in 1934, where he studied under Marcel Granet and Marcel Mauss until 1940, when he returned to Japan. After 1950, he became interested in Japanese culture, studying the recitation of “Noh” with Master Hosada, the “Seitai” with Master Haruchika Noguchi, and Aikido with Master Morihei Ueshiba. Itsuo Tsuda returned to Europe in 1970, to disseminate the practice of “Regenerating Movement” and his ideas about the “Ki”. What did Itsuo Tsuda do during the Second World War ?
In 1940 he was mobilized and had to return to Japan, on the last boat to go through the Suez Canal. The canal was then closed. He was enrolled in the army, where he worked in an administrative capacity. He never fought. Right after the war, he worked for Air France as an interpreter. That is how he met Master Ueshiba. A French Judoka, André Noquet, came to Japan to discover the practice of Aikido, and as he spoke no Japanese, he needed an interpreter. He found Tsuda, who until then knew nothing about Aikido, but he was deeply interested at once.
Did Tsuda know Ueshiba first, or Noguchi ?
Noguchi. He was about 30 when he first met Noguchi, and 45 when he encountered Ueshiba.
What was the meaning of his refusal to accept the family heritage ?
His father came from a family of Samourai, who became factory owners and business heads at the Meiji modernization. Tsuda didn’t want to work in the family business. He wanted to live his own life. At first it was very difficult ; he even worked for a time in a chemical factory. Then, when he had reconciled with his father, he decided to study in France. Tsuda was very fond of France.
For you, is Aikido a martial art ?
No, you already know the answer. Aikido is a non-martial art ; it is the practice of non-doing. Master Ueshiba, in another epoch, could have responded that Aikido is a martial art. Still, if I say it isn’t a martial art, then people respond, “Oh, it’s a dance then”. That is why I define Aikido as a ”non-martial art”. In any case it’s something quite different ; That’s why Ueshiba called it ai-ki-do. The term is often translated as “The Way of Harmony”, but a more appropriate definition is “The Way of Fusion of Ki”. Two people can undergo what we call fusion. They do more than simply harmonize. From two, they become One, then two again. Habitually in martial arts, two adversaries confront each other and only one remains. But in Aikido we have the fusion of sensitivity. In our school, he who attacks, attacks ; the other becomes one with him : he accepts and absorbs the attacker and from two creates one. He acts in such a way that the other begins to be a part of him. In this way he disarms the attack, which no longer works.
Does that mean that one learns to take responsibility for the other as well ? Or to put it differently, in a relation between two people, does the will of one of them suffice to modify the quality of that relation ?
One learns to take one’s own responsibility. In our school, the attacker will help the other who is not yet able to create the state of fusion ; he makes it possible. If he were to attack brutally, the beginner would be unable to create this fusion ; but if he acts as a guide, he helps the other rediscover his own capacity for movement. He already has that capacity. If, when crossing a street, a car suddenly arrives, we jump to the side. It’s the art of avoidance. These capacities manifest themselves spontaneously, in certain exceptional circumstances. Here, we reintroduce them, so that they become more natural, so that they are present in every moment of our lives.
You practice early every morning. Why ?
Master Ueshiba practiced early in the morning, Master Tsuda as well ; I continue to practice early in the morning. That’s the first reason. The second reason is that only those who are very determined, very well motivated, come in the morning, because to be here at this time, you must get up at around 5:30 AM. In the morning we are fresher than at the end of the day and it’s easier to practice “non-doing”, at least for beginners. We are also more “involuntary” – still a bit half asleep, we are not yet entirely into our “social being” that we use during the day, to encounter others and go about our work : smile when we should, or not; say “thank you”, etc. In the morning we arrive at the dojo still clean, not very structured yet, and there is something more authentic there.
How is your Aikido different from that of other schools ?
There is no difference, it is Aikido. I don’t know what is done these days in other organizations, at Aikikai for example ; I left them 20 years ago. I do believe that certain things have been forgotten ; for instance, the first part of the “Respiratory Practice” that Master Ueshiba did every morning, and that we have preserved. In other schools, some forms of this have been maintained, but a large part has been lost. I think that those schools have adapted themselves more to Occidentals and to our epoch ; as for myself, I prefer to remain more traditional.
In our Aikido sessions, there is a first part, where we practice alone for about 20 minutes, and a second where we practice in pairs : one partner attacks, and the other executes the technique. The techniques are the same as those practiced at Aikikai or with Master Kobayoshi, or any other master. The difference is in our approach, which gives much more importance to the role of the partner. We take the other person completely into account, and for that, I feel that our practice of Katsugen Undo has played a fundamental role.
The Regenerating Movement
What is Katsugen Undo ?
In our school there are two practices, united through a common spirit : Aikido, of which we have just spoken, and the Regenerating Movement, which Tsuda learned from Master Noguchi- a “movement that permits a return to the source”. This is what allows us to better understand the aspect of “non-doing” in Aikido.
Often, when people arrive from other dojos, I see that they “possess” a technique : they respond to the attacks in a certain way, but there is no spontaneity. Everything is calculated, inculcated, schooled, and ordered.
The regenerating movement is supposed to bring the individual back to a state of spontaneity ?
Yes, it is the art of spontaneity par excellence.
It is derived from the “Seitai” of Noguchi, if I have understood correctly ?
What does Seitai mean ?
It means a “natural condition” ; “Seitai Soho”, for example, is a technique used to “Seitai-ise” the individual, that is, to give him the possibility of a return to a natural condition. Katsugen Undo, on the other hand, is the movement of the extrapyramidal motor system, the involuntary movement that is activated spontaneously, and that, in itself, acts to take us to a condition of seitai. It is not a method of acquisition, on the contrary, it is a Way of detachment. We don’t acquire greater flexibility ; rather, we free ourselves from rigidity. We acquire nothing ; rather, we lose things, we free ourselves from what hampers us. This is important in Aikido as well. Aikido is not a Way of “acquiring” techniques, or of “obtaining” results, but rather a Way of coming back to simple things. On this subject Master Tsuda spoke of “becoming a child again, but without puerility.”
Did Ueshiba know of Seitai ? How did Seitai and Aikido come together ?
It was Tsuda who united them. I don’t believe that Ueshiba knew of Seitai. However, Master Noguchi once went to see a demonstration by Master Ueshiba, of which he said, “It’s good.” In Japan, that is sufficient.
Did Noguchi create the discipline of Seitai, or did a tradition already exist that he perpetuated ?
No, he created it. Initially, Noguchi was a healer, until his “discovery” of involuntary movement. One day, he realized that people fell ill, and came to see him ; he would allow the ki to circulate, they would recover and go off. Then they would fall ill again and come back to see him…. Any other therapist would have been happy to observe that, as they would be guaranteed a steady clientele. But Noguchi started from a different point of view : “What good is it to heal them since they just fall ill again ? Every time they fall ill, they depend on me.” To him it was absurd. He had discovered that, with Katsugen Undo, there was no more need for someone to heal us. The body doesn’t need anyone, it does everything all by itself.
Can we say then, that our ki heals us ?
No, ki doesn’t heal us. Ki activates the vital capacities of the individual, but we are already full of ki ! If our body works normally, we need nothing else. If I have some microbes in my body, the body creates a fever and produces home-made antibiotics, antibodies, etc. Noguchi did nothing but activate the life force, when the individual was too weak. What is even more interesting is that the individual can activate his life force on his own, with no need for another person, no need to ask someone else to do it for him.
Does this method work to cure people ?
We are not cured. If we break a bone, once the bone is back in place, what makes it knit back together ? It’s not medicine, it’s not doctors, and it’s not the ki either. Even if we do nothing the bones knit, simply because we are alive ! If we find this capacity again, the whole body will function in this way.
And with cancer, what happens ? Is it more difficult to find a normal function when the cells have gone crazy ?
In the case of cancer, it’s a matter of a certain corporal laziness : the body is so damaged that it is near death. But there are people who survive a cancer. How does that happen ? That is not my domain, as I am not a therapist ; I don’t attempt to cure people. But it is clear that there are people who haven’t allowed their bodies to do their work normally ; for every little problem, they take medicine. Today, that’s how it is as well, for giving birth and for pregnancy. From the beginning of life, we are medicalized, hospitalized, even though these are natural events, where life manifests its workings in us.
Can we say then that it is our ideas that have become ill ?
Not only our ideas. It all goes together. But what is new with Noguchi, is the possibility to awaken oneself if one wishes it . It’s not a question of awakening each person at any price, nor of proposing a great new method that will cure everyone. It can be useful only to those who wish to go in a certain direction. The others, the lazy ones, don’t belong here. In this society, thereis already an infinite number ofspecialists to take care of them : doctors,priests, psychoanalysts, gurus, etc.
As for me, I prefer to live my own life totally. I prefer that no one need to take care of me.
In our magazine, we have begun a discussion about the ki, about the way each Oriental discipline interprets and uses it. It would be interesting to hear your point of view.
Ki is an untranslatable word today. The ki has a thousand forms ; good ki, bad ki… it is indefinable. When we enter a certain place, with a certain atmosphere, one can say we feel a certain sort of ki. But what seems a pleasant sort of ki to some can be quite disagreeable to others. In Aikido, there is, effectively, the ki of the attack which is to come. Sometimes, walking along the street, we can feel something at the nape of the neck. We turn, see no-one, but then notice, up on a roof, a cat observing us. We have felt the ki of the cat’s look. How can we explain that ? We can observe it, but as for explaining it… “To be in harmony with the ki.” But which ki ? It’s not simple.
I remember one of your conferences where you said that when something hurts it is natural to put one’s hand on the painful spot. For example, if we have a headache we naturally put our hand to our head, and that is already a way of using the ki.
Yes, the “laying on of hands” is yuki. When you have a headache, you put on your hand, and the ki circulates. In this way, the ki is concentrated. The ki is already there, it circulates already, but we concentrate it. When we have something wrong somewhere, we lay our hands on the spot without thinking of it, it happens spontaneously. When, on the contrary, we do yuki with someone, it adds a certain concentration, a direction.
So in your school you do yuki with each other ?
When we practice the regenerating movement, we also practice the exercise of yuki. All the same, rather than “doing” yuki, it is a matter of a rediscovery. We come back to something everyone already knows, from when we were children.
The translation of yuki ?
The perception of the sacred dimension
Does Seitai contain a reference, close or remote, to a religious tradition, as does Aikido ?
Neither discipline adheres to a religious belief.
But Ueshiba was so deeply influenced by the sect Omoto-kyo (a Shintoist religious group), that in his thoughts, Aikido and his religious practice are not always easy to distinguish.
But Aikido in itself is not at all religious. It does fit into a sacred tradition, that yes. Ueshiba had without doubt a very strong relation to what is sacred. Master Tsuda also considered the dojo to be a sacred place. After all, what is the dojo ? It’s a place where we practice the Way. And the Way is represented in Japanese by the ideogram of Tao. One doesn’t practice the Way just anywhere. A place consecrated to that practice is necessary.
But what is the sacred dimension for you ?
I can’t give a precise definition. People do say, “The sacred dimension, yes, but religion, no !” One particularity of our school is that we don’t practice before a picture of Ueshiba or of Tsuda, but before a calligraphy. The calligraphy that hangs in this dojo, for example, is “Mu”, the Void.
Is it the same in each dojo ?
No. In Toulouse, there is a calligraphy that signifies “The dragon emerges from the pond, where he had been asleep.” At Avezzano the calligraphy signifies “Bodai”, that is, the state of illumination.
What is the meaning of this custom ?
To practice before a calligraphy creates a different atmosphere than would a picture. Personally, to stand before a calligraphy that signifies “The Void”, gives me a feeling of plenitude. To practice before a picture of someone, even if he is the founder of the school, seems to me to indicate a religious attachment or devotion. Ueshiba didn’t practice before a photograph. A calligraphy is by nature “void”. Also, I find it important that those who come to the dojo to practice, understand the sacred aspect, but at the same time, that there are no gods to venerate here.
We are not concerned with peoples’ religious or political beliefs. At the same time, this space is not only physical. It’s not a gymnasium, where one trains, sweats, and showers. It is a permanent dojo, where we practice only Aikido and the regenerating movement.
I think that people are also interested in the cultural, philosophical and religious origins of the discipline they practice. In the Chinese tradition, for instance, the classical martial arts were born, or in any case, greatly developped, in the Buddhist and Taoist monasteries.
Everything began in religion. Art in Europe began in religion. Today, it’s publicity which gives its’ impetus to art. Publicity is the new religion.
Ueshiba himself said that Aikido is not a religion, but that it sheds light on religion, allowing a better understanding of it. In fact, he himself recited the “Norito” before a little altar, either Buddhist or Shintoist, or even before an image of Jesus.
Why do you recite the “Norito”, a Shintoist invocation, before each session ?
It is not Shintoist. I don’t know what it is. I say that it is not Shintoist because it is something older, something which has since been adopted by Shintoism. Master Ueshiba spoke in this case, of “Kotodama”. What is “Kotodama” ? It’s a resonance.
Like a mantra ?
If you like. Shintoism has its source in ancient traditions, in the same way that Christianity has integrated earlier traditions like Easter (originally a Hebrew celebration) and Christmas (the Roman “Saturnalia”, the Celtic and Nordic “Yule”).
What is the “Norito” exactly ?
It’s a short text. It takes just a few minutes to recite.
Do you teach the meaning of the words to the participants ?
No. What is important is the vibration, the resonance.
And people accept participating in something they don’t understand ?
But do you yourself understand the meaning of the text ?
No. It’s my inner sensation that is important to me. We do so many things that we feel, but don’t understand.
Each person already knows what he needs
Of the person who begins to practice a martial art, a great deal of confidence in the master is always required. The disciple supposes that one day he will understand, and that he will obtain some results. He hopes to see some visible effects, the proof that what he is doing works, even if it’s perhaps not immediate.
We always behave according to reason. We do something, then we understand, then we change, etc. But with Master Tsuda we discovered something different. I practiced Aikido with other masters before him, I have known different forms, different schools, but with Tsuda, I discovered the “non-form” : in fact, the form exists, but it is very vague. With Tsuda, the orientation changed. In the practice as he taught it, one comes back to oneself. The sensation of coming back to myself is what led me to abandon the other things I did ; federation Aikido, Jujitsu, etc.
One no longer needs explanations. I think that those who come here feel that. They rediscover sensation, and don’t need one to explain that we do this for this reason and that for that reason… They feel, they see, they understand deep inside, they discover ; that’s what counts for them.
In any event, today, the consequences of knowledge are harmful. The more things we discover, the more problems are raised. I don’t want to say we should know nothing, or learn nothing, but we must have confidence in what is instinctive for humans : in women’s intuition when they care for their newborn babies, for example. When a woman takes a newborn into her arms, she doesn’t wonder, “Is he hungry, is he wet, is he sleepy ?” She already knows what the baby needs, intuitively. She has always known. When she was a child herself, she didn’t need to use that knowledge, but when she becomes a mother, she uses it, that’s’ all.
People do feel these things, but generally this sort of perception stops at the unconscious level, and doesn’t emerge into our consciousness. So, officially, we say, “I don’t know”, but deep down, we already do know it all.
How can you define what Master Tsuda’s school proposes ?
Simply, to provide, for the individual, a place where one can discover oneself to be autonomous and responsible. For example, here in Milan, the dojo is named Scuola de la Respirazione , and it is the members who manage it and share all the responsibility. Naturally, there are people who come to the courses looking for solutions to their problems, but that isn’t what we propose- just as we don’t propose an ideal model that one can copy to lead one’s life. That’s why our practice of Aikido is suited to individuals who are very different one from another ; it’s not at all a matter of “one style, one school”. We are all different individuals who practice together, to return to what we have at the deepest level inside us ; he who comes here, doesn’t come to be taken care of by others. He comes to discover something which must be of service to him in his daily life, and which, otherwise, would be of no value.
Some concrete examples, of the way your practice can come into play in daily life ?
The individuals find themselves less stressed ; they take more time for themselves and are more concentrated. Attention, it’s not a “miraculous” method, that makes everyone become handsome, intelligent, rich and generous. It can serve you at work, in your relations with others, in your relationship with your own children, but it’s not a panacea.
There are those who begin to practice martial arts to become stronger, but then discover something else, other values. One can, for example, learn to give way instead of responding aggressively to an attack, as in Tai Chi. To take the example of Tai Chi Chuan, one lets the adversary “enter” instead of opposing him in a block, and then one goes in the same direction, taking advantage of his movement. This attitude can also be applied to human relationships outside of the gymnasium.
Certainly, instead of having aggressive relationships with others, we can enter into a certain harmony with them, and so find something more authentic. Today, relations among people are too superficial. We don’t take care of our children anymore : we put them in child care centers, then in school, then they do their military service… To get back in touch is important- or to return to the pleasure of working, doing work because it interests us. That doesn’t mean we should all act in the same way. For each of us, different thingsare important. We must respect each person’s rhythm. Some take a hundred years to discover the simplest things ; others find them right away, but without putting them to use : they hastily discover piles of things, then disappear.
The important thing is that it has been useful to them.
The important thing is that there exist places like this, where those who are seeking something, can come to find it.
But perhaps what is even more important is that, once one has found that something, one begins to give. Once having found it, one can then serve someone else.
I agree, but there are so many people who live only to give : they give, and they give. In the end, the others can’t take anymore. It’s like feeding a baby : “here’s a spoonful for mama, a spoonful for papa, a spoonful for little sister”- the baby finally bursts out crying, he can’t take anymore. Parents do that “for our own good”. But dictators also do things “for the good of the nation”. What can we do for the good of others ? Piles of things.
It’s an expression of egocentrism.
Certainly. There are also people who give to others to avoid doing things themselves, or for themselves. I’m rather mistrustful of that. But it’s true that when one gives in the right way, a balanced way, we can feel that, and then it’s something authentic.
That is why in certain martial arts influenced by Zen Buddhism, one seeks to eliminate the ego…
But it isn’t possible to eliminate the ego. One can say that we shouldn’t be egoistic, or egocentric. However, the “little me” represents the unity of our personality. The important thing is that it not become the « boss ».
Once the session is finished, the participants at the Scuola de la Respirazione set up a large, low table, around which they breakfast together, seated on tatamis on the floor. Although it is now well past 8 o’clock and everyone is wide awake, their voices remain quiet, as if they wished to postpone for a little bit more, the entry into the daily rhythm and hullabuloo of the town, to keep in themselves for as long as possible, that other rhythm, interior and peaceful.
An interview with Regis Soavi, by Monica Rossi, “Arti d’Oriente”, February 1999