I started Judo when I was thirteen years old. From then I trained for about ten years. I liked Judo, so when I entered the university I had the idea that I would like to specialize in Judo as an instructor. It was then that someone advised me “Judo is certainly spreading around the world, but it’s a sport rather than Budo”.
That person had some connection to O-Sensei, and he recommended that I visit him “Now there is a person who is the last Budoka in Japan. At the present time there is no Budoka greater than him! Would you like to meet him?”.
At the time I was under the impression that Judo was the best in Japanese Budo, so I wasn’t very enthusiastic, but I became more and more convinced as we spoke. So it was that I was introduced to Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei.
What was your first impression when meeting the Founder?
In any case, he was completely different from the instructors that I had met previously. I remember the feeling of having met one of the ancient warriors that appear in stories. O-Sensei said “Do you want to try it?”. So right there I enrolled as an uchi-deshi. As a matter of fact, I was the last uchi-deshi, you know. That was in Showa year 38 (1963).
And the Founder was around eighty years old at the time?
That’s right. But O-Sensei would never tell anybody his age. He would always say “After I passed seventy I forgot how old I was”.
You enrolled as an uchi-deshi from the very beginning?
That’s right. Actually, at that time the Aikikai no longer had an uchi-deshi system. O-Sensei also had a policy of taking no more uchi-deshi. In my case it was really a special exception. For that reason I was serious from the moment of enrollment. There was the fact that I had switched from Judo, and that I was in “active service”, but I became a good practice platform for the students.
They would try out their Aikido techniques on me. So my wrists really hurt! There were also many times when I applied techniques that there was a kind of strange resistance, my Judo habits would always come to the fore, and I would reflexively throw them. I don’t know who he heard it from, but Osawa Sensei gave me a scolding – “This isn’t a Judo dojo!”.