AJ: Tohei Sensei says that although O-Sensei told his students to use full power, he himself appeared to be very relaxed and did not use strength.
When O-Sensei said, “Use your full strength,” he may have meant, “Be deadly serious,” or “Put forth all your energy.” I do not think he meant people should over-exert themselves but to put forth all their ki from the bottom of their belly. Originally, he used to like to tell people to relax. When Abe Sensei learned aikido from O-Sensei he was also told,” Aikido begins by letting go all your strength. “You should relax and yet put forth all your energy.
AJ: This is a difficult concept to express in English.
I find the same difficulty in Japanese. O-Sensei said in one of his poems, ” A true martial art cannot be expressed by words or in letters. If you dare to try, God will not allow you to continue.” I guess it means that you can’t explain martial arts in words. You should learn through training, but at the same time, you should not assume an air of wisdom. He left two or three similar poems. Tohei Sensei is a really reputable man who has been very diligent in his studies. When I was a child, Saito Sensei used to say I should become his uchideshi.
In Iwama, we preserve the tradition not only in our training but also in daily life.
AJ: Some thousands of people have come to Iwama from abroad, and there must be many others who dream of doing so. Please tell us about the uchideshi life and the responsibilities this entails?
There are two kinds of people who come to train in Iwama, ushideshi (live-in students) and sotodeshi (outside students). For an uchideshi, the dojo is home. At home you clean and wash your clothes every day and keep your garden tidy; housework is shared by everyone. As the dojo grounds are very large, there are plenty of weeds and dead leaves, and without help for one or two hours a day we could not maintain the dojo. Some people have a problem with this Japanese custom and go home saying, “This is not what I thought it would be.” But uchideshi should be willing to do volunteer work and receive instruction with gratitude.