Hawaiian Focus television interview with Yoshioka-sensei

We have covered many forms of Japanese martial arts on Hawaiian Focus, and tonight we shall pay a visit to the Nuuanu Aikido Club. We visited the Nuuanu YMCA on Pali Highway, where the Advanced Class was in session and Chief Instructor Sadao Yoshioka had the students do a number of demonstrations. On the Aikido segment, we will try to bring out the philosophy behind the art, and how it differs from other forms of martial arts. Aikido was introduced in Japan in 1925 by Morihei Uyeshiba. Uyeshiba taught that "the secret of Aikido is to harmonize ourselves with the movements of the universe, to bring ourselves into accord with the universe itself." A number of techniques are identified by their Japanese terms. Though the language, culture, and discipline may sound foreign, a cross-culture of students are enrolled in Yoshioka's class.
Aikido, you know, came from swordsmanship. The founder, Morihei Uyeshiba-sensei, our founder, said "Aikido wa ken no michi" -- in other words, it came from swordsmanship.
How far does Aikido go back in Japanese history? I notice that the founder of your school just passed away in 1969, so is it a relatively new form of martial arts as far as the Japanese are concerned?
Yes, you see aiki-jitsu is old, many years old, maybe a thousand five hundred years old. But Aiki-do, like judo, was introduced in 1925 by Morihei Uyeshiba-sensei, and as you say, he passed away in 1969. So, it's a relatively new art. And the founder always said "Aikido is budo, but the bu in Aikido is love." The way of love. So it's ai - ki - do. Ai is 'harmonize, love,' ki, 'your feeling, spirit,' do is 'the way,' and the training that we do is the do, way. And once you have attained aiki, you don't need the road anymore-- you know, once you reach your destination you don't need the road. So until we get there, we need this training.
What makes Aikido unique or different from the other forms of martial arts such as judo, kendo, karate?
Basically, all martial arts are the same. The teaching is same -- you know, you have to have discipline. The only difference I can see is that we don't have competition -- we don't compete, and we don't have tournaments. The important thing in Aikido, we believe, is to improve yourself, and enjoy life. You know, when you compete, everybody cannot be champion, you see? So, the loser is always disappointed, right? And in Aikido, we don't have competition, so there's no loser, nobody's disappointed. We all enjoy it.
Aikido found its origins in kenjitsu, the art of the sword. In the advanced stages of Aikido, one is taught to take defense against swords and other weapons. This particular demonstration happens to be with the jo, or wooden stick. Here we see it used as a defensive weapon, against a bokken.
Here, Mr. Scoville is trying to overcome a person attacking with a stick -- it could be any kind of stick, but we practice with the jo. And understand that in the feudal days, some samurai and rebels tried to rob the farmers, and the farmers were not allowed to use swords, so they used this pole handle, or stick, to defend themselves against pirates.
I see. So many of these weapons in the martial arts developed among the common people where they weren't allowed to carry swords?
Yes, especially jo, and jo was for the common people, but also the police -- they couldn't use swords against criminals, so they used sticks. And these movements, how to overcome him -- when someone tries to take the stick away from you, you should be able to get rid of them -- you see, he's trying to take the stick away from him, and he's going to use a movement that will break the hold... and crush the enemy.

The next demonstration will be by Mr. Gayne Sogi and Mr. Alvin Nagasawa. They will demonstrate the weapon, bokken, sword.

Bokken, does that stand for 'wooden sword' in Japanese?
Yes, boku is 'wood,' and ken is 'the sword.' And since 1867, when the Japanese government outlawed samurai, and they couldn't carry swords anymore, people who were interested in these martial arts continued training with the bokken.
Oh I see. And how far does the bokken date back in history? Does it go back to the days of the samurai or...
Oh yes, in their training they used bokken, because, you know, actually if they used swords they would get injured. And yet with bokken it is possible to get injured too, if you don't watch out.
When do your students begin learning about weapons?
After about a year or two, depending on how fast they progress. At san-kyuu, third kyuu rank, they're permitted to practice with weapons.
You must remember that during the feudal days, swords were made to kill people. They used it in battle, and in competition. But today that very sword is a treasure, it's an art, a work of art. And Aikido, in the beginning, as aikijitsu, was used in battle, for competing purposes. But today it must be considered an art. It's aiki-do, the way of, martial arts. Some people misunderstand sometimes, and think that Aikido is strictly a self-defense art, but in my opinion, Aikido is to better oneself -- instead of winning over others, winning over yourself. And with this in mind I try to encourage the students to continue this training -- and be very serious about it, because even with bokken, you could get injured.

The person doing the technique is Mutsuko Smith, and the person taking the fall is Rodney Chiojioji. They will be demonstrating this ladies' technique -- in case someone attacks a lady from the back, what they can do.

Is there a difference between how the ladies would ward off attackers as to how a man would?
Well, they have special techniques for ladies, and the man can also use the same movement as the ladies, but in a case like this, you know, I don't think a man will try to attack another man by using chloroform.
Aikido may be interpreted to mean 'in harmony with the mind.' Strength is achieved through concentration. Rather than being a competitive sport, you are at ease with yourself in Aikido. There are no contests or tournaments. When peace of mind is achieved, the body must also react in a disciplined manner. Thus, ki, or inner strength, is generated from the mind, and applied in various techniques of Aikido. The basis of ki is to be in harmony with yourself and the force, redirecting the power of the attacker back to himself. Through the coordination of mind and body, we achieve peace of mind.
If you apply the technique properly, not going against the force, then you will be able to overcome greater force. But if you try to compete, which is against Aikido philosophy, then probably the stronger man will crush you, because you're playing their game.
As in other forms of martial arts, does a lot of Japanese discipline go into the training and teaching?
Oh yes, it's strictly Japanese. All the technique is Japanese. And all the discipline is Japanese. And they stress strongly that they follow bowing properly, sitting properly...
And how do the students -- well even if they are Japanese, today they're third- or fourth-, fifth-generation -- how do they take to all this or react to all of this?
I don't see any student rejecting this, you know, they accept the discipline, and I think they enjoy it, because I don't think you can have this type of discipline any other place except martial arts. And many times the younger generation, you know, children, they need discipline, they want discipline. And the parents don't give them the discipline, you see. And they're searching for a place where they can learn what is right from wrong. And when they come to Aikido or other martial art, they find this discipline, and although it's hardship for them, they like it. Because they're learning something -- what is right and wrong, instead of what is good or bad.
Aikido may be practiced for a number of reasons, depending on who, or what you are. The universal theme, however, is to liberate your mind and concentrate deeply on one subject. Besides gaining inner strength, the body should be free from tension and pressure. The ultimate goal is to be in harmony with yourself, and, quoting the founder again, "to bring ourselves into accord with the universe itself."