Aikido Kobayashi Dojo

Aikido, My Way.

Part 3 I Begin Judo

My first encounter with martial arts was when I was an elementary student, about three or four years after the war.

There was a police box just in front of our house and a policeman who was employed there hung around our house when he had free time. To hear him talk, he had excelled at judo back in Kyushu where he was from. He bragged that he had taken a lot of prizes. Judo? Of course through movies I knew about it, and had longed to give myself up to judo. "You want to try judo?" my oldest brother asked. I was that transparent. Among my brothers, my next older brother had a strong will and even the school said he didn’t need to come anymore, he was so smart. He had nothing to worry about. I was exactly the opposite; inside I was gentle and worried a lot. When I was in the country with evacuees I was easy to bully. With all of those things in mind, my brother encouraged me to take up judo, and I did. I practiced in the police station with other children. It has been said that the martial arts were banned in the postwar era, but in reality, the police were teaching judo and a lot of people were learning from them in related training facilities. I wondered if I could really carry through with this. Since I was entering after a training term had already begun, all the rest of the children were more advanced and the teachers had to take the trouble to teach me falls and other movements for beginners; I was a pain in the neck for them, and they’d tell me that, I remember.

"You, you’re no genius, go home" and I cried as I followed after the policeman. Then my father said to me, "The police training hall is not the only place you can study judo. There’s a training facility near here, what about that?" The same day, I happily entered that training hall near Suidobashi Station and began to passionately practice judo everyday. Within a week I had filled out. It’s well known that it is better to be bigger if you practice judo. Friends were pleased I had put on weight but then begun to say "You look a little strange, you sure you’re not sick?" No sooner than this was said I grew weak. It wasn’t just because I had put on weight. I was puffy. It turned out that when I went to the doctor, I was diagnosed with kidney disease and the doctor recommended I be hospitalized. My father, however, objected because he said hospitalization costs money they didn’t have. The doctor said, "He could die," and I remember crying, "I don’t want to die." The doctor then said to me "Will you listen to me?" and I said I’d listen to anything. He said that I should eat only watermelon, no salt, and boiled vegetables. Today I think that was very practical advice and following it, I gradually regained my health, although I wasn’t able to go on the school trip with my classmates.

I was enrolled in a nearby elementary school, but when our store was busy, I’d help out, so there would be times I’d go to school and times I wouldn’t. When my father ran the variety store, he began to sell geta (wooden clogs). Just behind our store was the red light district (Geisha Quarters) and when it was time for the Bon Festival (in August) we’d get a lot of orders for the clogs.

We’d get the clogs sent to us from my mother’s family in Tochighi. We would polish and lacquer them and put in the thongs. My job was to polish and lacquer them and then wax them, my father then putting in the thong straps. I don’t know how many times I missed school because I was polishing and waxing geta almost without a break from morning until night.

With all of this, I didn’t go to school but did get to judo practice. It seemed my sole diversion in this monotonous life.

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