Interview with Chino Susumu Dojocho of Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo
Interview with Chino Susumu Dojocho of Yoshinkan Honbu Dojo
Chino Dojocho, thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed. This is a great honor for our organization. There are many people in Russia who practice Yoshinkan Aikido and we have numerous questions about the meaning of training. I am sure that we would all benefit from hearing the opinion of a person with such deep and varied experience.
The Yoshinkan Aikido Examination Syllabus does not include much work with traditional weapons. Do you practice such things at Honbu Dojo? What are the merits of training with weapons? Should the weapons work be regarded only as a secondary element of training?
The main focus of our training in Honbu Dojo is on empty-handed techniques. We work with weapons when the dojo is not crowded. There is a historical reason for this. When Gozo Shioda Sensei (hereafter, “Gozo Sensei”) trained under Ueshiba Morihei Sensei (hereafter, “O-Sensei”), the main focus of their training was also on empty-handed techniques. It was only when O-Sensei entered his later years that he focused more on the sword.
Working with a sword improves timing, connection of ki, and understanding of the basics which underlie our techniques.
It is widely believed in Russia that Aikido would be ineffective in a “real fight.” Aikido techniques are very difficult to learn, and attacks that resemble traditional shomen uchi, yokomen uchi or shomen tsuki would be relatively rare in a real-life street fight. May I ask your opinion on this matter?
Nobody would use a sword in a real, present-day street fight. However, using swords were common in the past in Japan.
The most important thing to learn from these attacks is the essence of aikido. Even though our kata may not resemble a real street fight, there is meaning to be found within them. It is from these kata that we learn about timing, concentrated power, and how to use our body efficiently.
The Instructor Certification Examination in Yoshinkan Aikido includes Goshin Waza (self-defense techniques). Can these techniques be applied to actual self-defense?
Yes, they can be applied to self-defense. Both O-sensei and Gozo Sensei had experience using Aikido techniques during the war. They also had experience facing other martial artists, such as boxers. It is certainly possible to apply these techniques for self-defense, but their efficacy will depend on the level of a practictioner’s shugyou (training).
Goshin Waza techniques performed by individual instructors can vary widely from person to person. Sometimes they look like street fight techniques and sometimes they resemble Judo techniques. What designated study material, if any, is there for Goshin Waza?
There are no official materials for Goshin Waza. Every teacher has a different style. Their Goshin Waza depends on their previous experience in other martial arts, like boxing or karate. It also depends on their body type (short, tall, fat, slim) and other different individual characteristics. Some people are quick and speedy, other people are slower but more powerful. The basics are the same for everybody, but you have to find your own style for your own body type.
What role did Terada Sensei play in the establishment of Yoshinkan Aikido?
Terada Sensei was one of the earliest students of Yoshinkan. He gave significant support to Yoshinkan over a long period of time. Additionally, he developed his own sub-style of Yoshinkan aikido in the area where he practiced.
Did Gozo Sensei ever meet Sokaku Takeda Sensei? Did he tell anything about it?
Takeda Sokaku Sensei once came to O-Sensei’s dojo. Although O-Sensei was absent from the dojo at the time, Gozo Sensei greeted and poured tea for him. This is the story that was told to me.
Aikido techniques include Yonkajo Osae and different masters perform it in different ways. Some masters grab uke’s arm closely to the wrist in order to intensify the pain effect, others do it closer to the elbow for the better elbow control and a primary focus on kuzushi. In your opinion, what is more important in this technique: pain control or kuzushi?
It should not be about pain; it is more important to control the elbow and shoulder. The important thing is to find a way to break your opponent’s balance.
Is it possible to perform Yonkajo with only one hand in case uke resists? I think I have seen this exhibited at demonstrations.
It is possible. O-sensei and Gozo Sensei have both been able to do. We practice kata in the effort to achieve this.
I have felt this yonkajo myself. I have experienced many techniques from Gozo Sensei, so I understand it very well. However, this idea is not limited to aikido, but it exists in anything.
For example, if a professional magician shows an audience a magic trick, people will not understand how it works. They will think what has just happened is impossible. If a professional chef cooks amazing food, most people who taste it think that they cannot do the same thing. However, a professional knows that this possibility exists in anyone.
A beginner who watches a yonkajo demonstration does not understand and mistakenly concludes that it must be impossible. This is wrong. With the proper training and concentration, it is possible for anyone.
What is the history of Yoshinkan’ falcon symbol? Where does the idea of using this bird as a logo come from?
Amongst O-Sensei’s students, Gozo Sensei was unique in his speed and people said he resembled a falcon. From what I have heard, this is the story behind our logo.
What is the purpose of practicing Suwari Waza Ryote Mochi Kokyu Ho techniques 1-5? Where can the skills acquired from to these techniques be applied?
Suwari Waza Kokyu Ho techniques 1-5 are practiced to learn about kuzushi from different situations. In all situations, uke is grabbing both of shite’s wrists from a seated position. In Kokyu Ho 1, uke is pulling. In Kokyu Ho 2, uke is pushing. In Kokyu Ho 3, uke is keeping a fixed position. In Kokyu Ho 4, uke is twisting inward with elbows in. In Kokyu Ho 5, uke is pushing shite’s wrists toward the knees.
The examination syllabus contains only one to five, but there are actually much more. In all situations, we learn about kuzushi.
A weightlifting athlete breathes in before lifting the bar. He/She holds his breath and then only after dropping the bar does he breathe out. We have heard a lot about the power of Kokyu-ryoku (breath power) as a basic principle in Aikido techniques. Does Kokyu Ho have any direct relation with the physiological aspects of inhalation, exhalation, and breath-holding during the performance of Aikido techniques? How can this principle be applied to practice?
Kokyu-ryoku is a very difficult subject to talk about. The word “kokyu” means “breath,” but kokyu-ryoku does not refer only to breathing. This might be why people have the wrong idea about what it is.
Kokyu-ryoku is something that happens between you and your partner, as a result of the synergy of your center-line power, concentration power, rhythm, and correct mind. You and your partner become one. There must be nothing in your mind.
There is no special training to increase Kokyu-ryoku. It can only be obtained through repeating the same training over and over again. It can only be learned with your body, not your mind.
What is the meaning of “mokusou” when we close our eyes in seiza at the beginning and end of training?
Before training starts, we sit in seiza, calm down, and focus our minds on the training ahead. At the end of the training, we sit in seiza and close our eyes to calm down again, and reflect on our training that day.
Thank you very much for a very educational and informative interview!