Aikido Kobayashi Dojo

Aikido, My Way.

Part 2 Kisshomaru Ueshiba Dojocho

O Sensei’s son, Kisshomaru, was thin and wore thick round black glasses, looking more like a scholar, and certainly not like a martial artist. However, he could really hold his sake and could drink a whole big bottle by himself. It was tough if he and Fujita Sensei and Saito Sensei from Iwama were together. They would sit up all night drinking. We young deshi would be there, too, but we had limits on how much we could drink, so we’d work in shifts. I didn’t drink much, so it was my job to get the sake and snacks and sometimes they’d drink through the night and be still fit for morning practice. The people who practiced in the morning classes complained of the stink of sake.

About 1954 or 55, Yoshinkan built a new dojo in Idabashi and was expanding. Compared to that new dojo, Hombu Dojo at that time still had bombing survivors living in one area of the building, the outside wooden walls were collapsing and the interior walls and tatami were old and falling apart. The number of people practicing were still few. Kisshomaru Sensei regretted there were so many articles about Yoshinkan in magazines and newspapers. Soon after, Kisshomaru Sensei started a PR campaign “Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba,” and “Aikido = Ueshiba.” He worked hard to contact all O Sense’s prewar deshi and other acquaintances offering us, if need be, to give demonstrations wherever they were needed. It was incredible the care and diligence put into this. The magazines and newspapers wrote about Aikido as if there was no one else but O Sensei. They created a picture of him with a sharp glint in his eye who made practice look easy. Talks about the Kojiki (Ancient Chronicles of Japan) and Shinto were lost on young reporters. At demonstrations, photographers would call out “Do that technique one more time,” O Sensei would reply, “Okay, I got it,” then do a completely different technique. The reporters would object “Sensei, no, the technique you just did, please do it one more time,” and O Sensei would say “Okay, this one?” and again, it would be a completely new technique. After asking again and again, the reporters would finally give up.

This was O Sensei’s pace.

The following day, if there were headlines like “Mysterious Martial Art, Aikido, Founder Ueshiba Morihei” with photos, Kisshomaru Sensei’s face would brighten. O Sensei’s prewar deshi and acquaintances began to call and write letters when they saw articles about him, and people began to seek him out.

On January 4, 1999, Kisshomaru Sensei passed away. He had been in the hospital since the previous year and my wife and I went to visit him there. “Mr Kobayashi, listen, keep up your spirit. Me, too, I’m at peace and will be practicing in the dojo,” were Kisshomaru Sensei’s last words to me. As we were about to leave the room, my wife suddenly asked “Sensei, please allow me to shake your hand,” and he extended his hand to her and then me. This was my final meeting with Kisshomaru Sensei, the Aikidoka who brought me up.

When I first entered Aikido, the dojo was a small town dojo. Only someone like Kisshomaru could have built Aikido into the world art that it is. He was truly a marvelous individual.

Koichi Tohei Shihan’s founding the Shinshintoitsu Aikido and the departure of other instructors from Hombu Dojo was a spiritual and economic blow to Hombu. However, local and regional instructors remained with the Aikido Federation. It was through the diligent efforts of O Sensei and the second doshu, Kisshomaru Sensei, by participating in demonstrations and dojo openings that we’ve come so far, through individual connections. He patiently listened to everyone’s opinion and because of this, Aikido has spread as far and wide as it has. Teachers abroad in America and Europe have stayed loyal to the second doshu and like this, the Aikikai has become a huge rock of stability. Beyond this, he encouraged demonstrations, new dojos, he traveled to many countries, and worked hard at spreading Aikido. In 1976, the first International Aikido Federation meeting was held and he was chosen as the permanent chair. After that, both domestic and international Aikido continued to develop and in 1995, Kisshomaru Sensei was given the 3rd Order of Culture Award by the Emperor. The present third doshu Ueshiba Moriteru continues in his forefather’s footsteps to encourage the expansion of Aikido. Kisshomaru truly had a strong spirit.

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