Interview with Mr.Hiroyuki Aoki (Part5)
From Part 4
In preparing for this interview, I was reading your books and various magazine articles you were featured in before. I can totally imagine how popular you must have been when you were young. You still look great today but those pictures from when you were young are amazingly good looking! Like this picture here makes me fall in love with you. I’m sure many women were attracted to you and that must have been what started those rumors. Plus, I guess it was also because many people were jealous of you too.
Also, in the books and magazines, I saw the practitioners wearing pure white hakama, which reminded me of the Essenes of the primitive Christianity. I was thinking their trainings might have been something similar.
In fact, one of the Shintaido of America members told me once that he had a reading consultation one time and the psychic told him, “the Founder of Shintaido that you are practicing now is a reincarnation of the Essenes”.
Really? According to Edgar Cayce, the Essenes were a special spiritual group that devoted themselves to spiritual practices over generations to help bring Savior Jesus Christ back to this world. They trained themselves to fully purify their body and soul in order to nurture a mother that can conceive such holy savior, and a body that could receive the savior’s soul. In this sense, it would totally make sense to me if you actually were one of the Essenes back then.
The reason why I chose that white keikogi (practice uniform) was because it is said that Christ’s apostles once asked him, “Who are you, really?” Then, his face turned gold, his clothes shined bright white and ascended to heaven, and rested next to God. In other martial arts schools, only the Founder wears white keikogi, but in Shintaido, we had the idea that each practitioner is the Founder, so we all wore white keikogi with gold colored embroidery written 新体道. So the idea of wearing white keikogi came purely from the bible.
In Kenbu now, students wear black and brown hakama, but it is my strong hope that one day, all practitioners will shine bright white both body and mind.
I’ve heard that many people have been told by Edgar Cacey, “You were working very close to Christ before” in their consultations. I think many people often reincarnate to give back, receive back, or apologize to those who helped them in their past lives. So I think those people who were close to Edgar Cacey back then gathered around him again in this life.
Even with you and me, I didn’t know you until just recently, but if Cacey was here, he might say, “You were together a hundred years ago”, because souls attract one another.
Doctor Laszlo who received the Nobel Prize in Quantum Physics mentions something very similar to this. In the quantum world, everything is interconnected beyond of time. So what you think now is linked to every single person, animal, plant, and matter. It doesn’t matter whether it is a human or a tree because everything that exists in this world is made up of either one of the 112 elements. Hence, ultimately it’s all the same. In the quantum world, even memory and love are connected beyond time, so everything from 100 years ago, 1000 years ago, and 10,000 years ago, and the future, are all connected. If a butterfly fluttered its wings here, on the other side of the earth, maybe there is a typhoon. This is considered quite normal in the world of quantum physics.
So even if we didn’t know each other until recently in this life, maybe we were lovers, enemies, or in some other kind of relationship a couple lifetimes back.
I would be very honored if I were your lover even in my past life.
Here’s another story I want to share with you. One time, I was crossing an intersection in a quiet rural town in Texas. As I was crossing, I was just so strongly attracted to this person crossing from the other side. After a while, I turned back to see this person, and then this person was also looking at me. Then later, I looked back again, and saw that person looking at me again in the far distance. When I passed this person at the intersection, for a moment, I felt as if I had known that person very intimately many many years ago.
In an underground pathway at Tokyo station, there was a foreign man approaching me, so I was staring at him for a while. The next moment, he was asking something to a lady who was walking close to me, but she didn’t understand anything since it was all in English. The next moment, I was shocked to see that the foreign man and the Japanese lady looked so much alike. How can a foreign man and Japanese woman resemble each other so much?! Although they didn’t realize it themselves, I clearly saw that because I could see them from a distance. I thought to myself, these two must have had a very close relationship in their past lives, but in this life, they are just passing by one another.
Sometimes when we travel overseas, we meet people that we intuitively feel a strong connection to from a relatively recent past life, even if we’d never been in that country before.
I guess many of your students from Rakutenkai and Shintaido, and your present students from Tenshinkai all had some kind of deep connection with you in their past lives, and that’s why they were attracted to you again in this life.
The reason why I created Rakutenkai was because my master always told me that after years of intense training in Karate, despite his faith in the great power of Karate, he came to realize that Karate techniques are not as effective as he believed it to be. Hence, he wanted to create a Karate practice that is truly strong and effective.
Here is something I would like to ask Okinawan Karate practitioners as well as other Karate practitioners: “Can you beat someone with 3 layers of floor pillow on their stomach with your Tsuki?” Or even someone with just one floor pillow? If the answer is “No”, my opinion is that that is not true Karate. Of course, if you kick somebody directly in the stomach, that would be effective. However, we can’t get the same results with a Tsuki. Furthermore, if it was a well-built stomach, I assume it wouldn’t be possible to strike them down even without a floor pillow.
What my master wanted was a kind of Karate that could knock the enemy down even in such circumstances. I dedicated myself to practicing hard and doing much research to realize his vision, and the result of this pursuit for the fastest and most effective Tsuki was what we were practicing in Rakutenkai. And with this practice, many other unprecedented practices were born from Rakutenkai.
We were also living as a community, like living together on a commune at the time. We were so close to each other that we even thought about putting all our bones together in the same grave. We ate together and slept together… It was a wonderful young life filled with big dreams. We made such a good team together.
I heard that your students all commuted from your house and worked during the day, came back to your place at night after work, practiced intensely under your instructions, and then took a short nap and went to work again day after day…
Yes, since we only had 2 to 4 hours of sleep per day, we were so sleepy at work. And when we started working harder to save up to build our own Dojo, we started selling flowers and etc., and gradually, the group members started to separate. I guess we were also starting to get tired because many days had passed and we worked so hard, but we still couldn’t save up that much.
If only I had more talent in business and economics, I would’ve been capable of establishing a solid organization with jobs for Rakutenkai members to make a living while continuing with their practice. However, many of them couldn’t stand being with me anymore, and eventually left. 40 years has passed since then, but it still hurts my feelings even today whenever I think about that. The only thing I could do now is to express my sincere apologies to them.
You had dedicated yourself to fulfilling your position as Founder and to help your students grow since you were in your 20s—you were still a youth yourself at the time. At such a young age, you had already taken responsibility for many of your students’ lives.
Yes, that may be so, considering how most of them were living at my house since I was 25 or so. We were just so dedicated and committed to developing soft and effective techniques that have good flow of Ki. Then, we came to realize that a volleyball serve is stronger than any strike in Karate. When we hit the ball in volleyball, all the weight goes on the ball. If we took pictures of the volleyball with a high-speed camera, that hard ball would look like a crescent moon. Similarly, when someone is about to dive into water, there is several hundred kilograms of weight on their fingertips. However, in Karate, we cannot create that much force, and that was why we were struggling so hard.
So my suggestion to all Karate practitioners is, don’t let your forerunners or the tradition of your school stop you from developing a Karate practice that uses true effective force. I want all practitioners to be free of the regulations of their schools or organizations and have the courage to develop a new Karate practice with much creativity. In fact, I think this is the best way to repay what your masters have taught you. If you really love Karate, it is crucial to reexamine the Karate techniques itself with pure, unbiased eyes.
Aoki Sensei, when you were teaching Rakutenkai, you were a Christian and also liked to draw, right? My question is, did you have any kind of inner conflict between being a Christian learning how to love others including your neighbors, and practicing martial arts that is intended to defeat people?
Actually, no. Of course, all Budo techniques are intended to knock down, kill, or hurt the enemy. However, there is no one practicing with such intention now in this modern age. I know that some Christian groups led by foreign leaders ban Budo practice, but Western people are often surprised that Japanese people aim to attain a high religious and spiritual level through Bujutsu that originally was a killing technique.
In Japan, a great Kenjutsu mastser called Kamiizumi Isenokami Nobutsuna had already elevated the art of war to a “Michi (Do, Tao, Way)” 500 years ago. Some of his famous words include: “No cutting, no killing, no winning, no losing.” “The Art of War should be constantly revised. Otherwise it becomes obsolete and useless on the battlefield.” I could see he had a very open mind and consciousness for a person living in that age.
In the latter half of the Nara period, people cultivated land to expand their territories. All land were owned by the Imperial court, so people rented land from them and paid taxes. Those who worked hard or utilized their resources to harvest lots of crops expanded their land and it eventually became shoen (manors). When plague attacked, people invaded the shoen to steel crops, and the Imperial court also interfered with them.
So the shoen owners started hiring security guards to protect their shoen, and those guards were the beginning of Bushi (samurai). Similarly, the Imperial court also hired security guards to manage the shoen. These guards gradually increased in number from 5, 10, and so forth, to create a security troop. Shoen owners first became their leaders, then became local rulers, and then finally grew into feudal domains. Heike and Genji also come from the same background and it continued until the age of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
However, as many feudal domains equally strong came into power, war began, and people constantly faced death. In such an age of war, people always had to be ready to die. This naturally led people to create a philosophy that accepted death, and strengthened a sense of impermanence and ephemerality to accept their ever-changing lives. I think that such sense of impermanence and influences of Buddhism mutually developed the act of cutting or being cut with a katana into something beyond life and death. In this perspective, Budo ultimately becomes a religion.
Before his death, Oda Nobunaga chanted this Noh song by Atsumori, before running into the enemy line.
Of course, nobody actually saw it and even if someone did, he must have been killed by the Akechi Mitsuhide troops, but anyway, everybody in this world dies, so death is nothing to fear. Martial artists and samurais had this kind of understanding of impermanence and mortal life.
For one who has accepted such sense of impermanence, it is easy to find the weaknesses of people who are controlled by greed, terrified by life and death, or disturbed by delusions. When our heart or spirit level rises, we could see the weaknesses or faults of those with lower heart or spiritual levels more clearly. Cutting into that part allows our techniques to reach deeper in.
In Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s “Hagakure” he writes, “Bushido is to die”. For someone who is ready to die, all fear disappears, and one becomes free of other people’s actions. From that point of view, any fear or stiffness in the enemy becomes clearly visible. I think this kind of state is what developed martial arts into a spiritual or religious practice. Furthermore, we could say that ultimately, “to live” is the profound essence of our existence of life— that we “exist here in the now”. “Bushido is to die” attempts to transcend life through death, in order to sublimate existence itself.
The more your practice progresses, your techniques also change according to your spiritual level. For instance, your techniques are more effective when relaxed instead of stiff. However, those truly effective techniques cannot be achieved unless we are truly calm, relaxed, and our body is in a natural state. The more you are religious and spiritual inside, the more effectively you could use the techniques. Through martial arts practice, you will develop the capacity to be prepared for anything, transcend death, read others, and expand your sense of freedom and openness. In relation to that, your techniques would advance even more.
Noh Song by Atsumori (full verse)
Dying instantly is okay, but don’t you think dying with pain is awful?
Of course, it’s painful. Even a great master who has fully accepted his/her death will scream “Ouch!” if somebody pinches his/her pinky with a pincer. This one time, an American lady who practiced yoga came to me and said, “I’m not afraid of death at all”. During the practice, we did push-and-shove together as group warm-up, where she fell down on the ground and got pushed down to the very bottom of the pile. Then she screamed out, “Help! Help!” furiously. After the practice she told me, “I was so scared, I thought I was going to die”, so I said, “But you said you’re not afraid to die at all because you practice yoga”. Then she replied, “Well, it was so scary, and I will never say I’m not afraid to die anymore.”
Going back to what I was talking about, martial arts is connected to Zen philosophy. Sen no Rikyu was training for years in Daitokuji (Zen), but it is said that he also had much in common with Christian teachings.
Before attacking, by saying to myself from the bottom of my heart, “You lack love, so try to love others like Christ did”, I could overcome my own fear against my opponent and see my opponent more clearly.
When I was teaching Karate at a university, one female student was afraid of doing Kumite (partner practice) with one of the male students. So I told her, try to love your opponent as you love yourself, like Christ taught, and you will be able to see your opponent very clearly. She was very happy because she overcame her fear of doing Kumite with people.
In other words, in Budo, by confronting death, we can transcend life and death. This is the significance of Japanese culture.
To Part 6