Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Excerpts of Interview with Yutaka Kurita, 7th dan

What follows are answers from Kurita Sensei during an interview with Aikido Online, in which he points some interesting notes about Aikido nomenclature and training.

On shomenuchi vs. katateuchi:

Is yokomenuchi this way or tenkan this way? Is this Aikido? Everyone is doing yokomen this way, the wrong way, or like that. Everyone is doing shomenuchi like this, but it's wrong. Is it this way with a bokken or that way?

Shomenuchi one way, shomenuchi another way. You may call this shomenuchi or you can call that shomenuchi, but that doesn't answer the question: which one is correct? The correct name is actually katate uchi, not shomenuchi.

Why is there confusion? Because they never understood it properly. Shomen is this way, from the top of the head in an arc downwards, not from the front of the face forwards.

Aikido's tsuki is called furi komi, a strike diagonally up. It comes from not the open hand strike but rather like having a tanto in your hand and striking upward.

On tsuki vs. furikomi:

Today we were doing a warm-up like karate but Aikido is not that way. O-Sensei said "we don't know any karate". Tsuki, for example. Kanai Sensei does it this way. O-Sensei did it differently. Does it mean that O-Sensei was lying when he said there is no karate in Aikido or was Kanai Sensei lying when he said punch this way?

O-Sensei did only Aikido. Aikido is not against karate or against judo. Aikido is Aikido. Aikido's tsuki is called furi komi, a strike diagonally up. It comes from not the open hand strike but rather like having a tanto in your hand and striking upward.

Many people don't know that O-Sensei taught furi komi tsuki. That's why everyone teaches punching straight like karate's tsuki. Therefore Aikido is being taught against karate's strikes.

Koichi Tohei Sensei and others taught the karate tsuki. So who is correct, who is telling the truth, and who is telling a lie? If furi komi fails it turns into shomenuchi, but if a straight strike fails what does it turn into? It becomes two directions of a cutting motion.

The raising part is a little bit larger and it turns into tsuki. So that seems far more reasonable as a way to attack. Besides from a physical point of view which one is better, a straight strike or a strike angling up, from a purely mechanical point of view? Because people don't study physics or mechanics people just say "Aikido is this way, a straight strike" but that is not true.

On nage being the initiator:

We always start by learning that the attacker holds you and you do the technique. The attacker does shomenuchi and the defender does a technique. If I were to attack could I do the technique? If uke were to hold could he also do the technique? Isn't that a possibility? We never practice the uke attacking and then doing the technique as well. People say that in Aikido there is no attack, but who says so? That's not right.

Why shouldn't you be able to attack and do the technique? Many people think there is no attack in Aikido, that Aikido is only defensive. That is not correct. Where did they hear that?

If you hold me, perhaps if you have a knife you can cut me. I would like to do ikkyo or kotegaeshi. If you had a knife and rather than hold my hand you cut off my hand, could I do shihonage? No I wouldn't be able to. Normally we think of katate tori shihonage with uke holding nage. But if uke were holding a knife and nage grabs uke's wrist to keep him from cutting, couldn't nage do shihonage?

For example one way to arrive at the position where nage is holding the wrist and applying the technique is to evoke an attack of shomen with awase, and then take the wrist and do the technique.

On awase and musubi:

Awase and musubi go together. Awase is like reaching for something, for example when you are reaching for a cup. Musubi is tasting what you taste when you drink what is in the cup, and then being able to say, “It’s tasty”.

O-Sensei said there were ichi no tachi, ni no tachi, san no tachi, yon no tachi, etc. ki musubi no tachi, Aiki Kempo. Who knows about these things? Sugano Sensei, Chiba Sensei? All of these other teachers were uchi deshi but who of those knows about these things. For example Sugano Sensei was teaching bokken, but does he know about ichi no tachi, ni no tachi etc.? Does he know about these things?

Many people call themselves uchi deshi of O-Sensei. But it is not so simple. There were uchi deshi in Iwama and in Tokyo. In Iwama and in Tokyo, it was different in each place. Chiba Sensei and I would go with O-Sensei to Iwama, so would we have learned the same thing even though we went to Iwama together? No. Does this mean that Chiba Sensei did not learn anything and only I learned something? I really don’t know.

Even though we were all taught the same, does that mean the other shihan did not learn and I was the only one that learned? I don’t know! Why O-Sensei didn’t insist on a particular curriculum I don’t know.

On kihon vs. gengi:

There is something called kihon. Who is saying this is kihon? O-Sensei said these are the principles, not basics. So somebody translated incorrectly. In Japanese it’s called gengi. Gengi and kihon are not the same thing. Gengi are the principles. Kihon are the basics.

It’s the same with bokken. Not kihon but gengi. Awase means if I can see it and grab it, i.e. the packet, that’s awase, and then if I stir the sugar into the coffee and taste it and I say “that’s tasty” that would be musubi.

On awase and musubi (act II):

You really understand these things already, but to make it more clear by example, when you first met Penny you were overtaken by her beauty and you said “oh she’s so beautiful” that was awase, and when you consummated the relationship that was musubi. Then you got married and you were so happy together, that also would be musubi. But sometimes you’re not too happy and you say “I want a divorce” -- that’s musubi too.

Right now we’re just talking about the principles, that’s awase, but when you really try to carry them out and see if they work that’s musubi. You can have a concept or an idea and you do nothing, nothing manifests, it’s just an idea. No one derives anything from it. Many people are interested only in learning the concepts of Aikido. But for how long have you kept the concepts only?

We use Aikido in daily life, and if you use those principles and everyone is happy that is awase and musubi. Many people focus on musubi but forget awase. Which is most important? Both.

Ki Musubi no tachi, awase no tachi, we didn’t know about these things in these terms for the longest time, the same as with the brain, we didn’t know these things. O-Sensei knew this for the longest time, about awase no tachi and musubi no tachi, but many Aikido practitioners still do not understand this.

If you make a knot in a napkin, the knot is musubi. When you bring the ends together its awase. When you cross them to make the knot and pull the ends to tighten the knot that is musubi. Awase is when you bring the ends together.

Awase is joining the tips of the napkin, the knot is musubi. When we make a knot it is musubi. If you use a sword technique to show this, it is musubi no tachi. If you and I join, and then we cross swords and mesh -- it is musubi.