Interview with Mr.Hiroyuki Aoki (Part8)
From Part 7
I guess Aoki Method was one of them. I don’t know how it was like before, but people who have been practicing Shintaido for years told me that it’s so special to be able to learn directly from you.
It’s nothing great. People are all equal. We can meditate together and meet each other… We treat everyone equally, whether it’s a major mass communications company executive, an elderly from town, or aunties in our neighborhoods. I am very sure about this, and I don’t have any doubts living this kind of lifestyle.
And speaking of my conclusion in terms of where I’m at right now, I am constantly evolving internally to the point where I don’t even know how to process everything myself. This means I’m shifting continuously, gaining new discoveries one after another, and always moving forward.
With teachers like Egami Sensei, Inoue Sensei, and Edgar Cacey alike, we must be humble and try to learn from these teachers that have what we don’t have. Just as water flows downhill, information also flows into one who is humble enough to place themselves lower, and to those with an open mind. So if you don’t lower your head and ask for their teachings, you will never know your teachers’ true value. It doesn’t matter what organization you belong to because there is absolutely no guarantee that you will definitely attain a great philosophy if you belong in a certain organization.
Our forerunners worked painstakingly with all their might and received incredible amount of inspiration, so us seekers of the Michi (Do, Tao, Way) must be humble and modest when learning, and express our gratitude to the teachings we receive. Then, something beyond our understanding will all flow into us naturally. The worst thing to do is to criticize other schools or speak ill of various masters ignorantly. My students’ success doesn’t depend on whether he/she is learning under me or not. It all depends on the individual.
Just as you are constantly evolving, I’m sure your students also have been evolving. Nevertheless, have you not felt somebody has gone beyond you yet?
I hope so, and it is their problem. Their learnings are for them to contemplate. I am hopeful but do not reply on them. But I must say they are really growing a lot. In my Tenshin Calligraphy School, there are 10 Instructors, and 5 of them already opened up their own schools. Those 5 are growing rapidly. And in Kenbu Tenshin Ryu, the Honbu General Instructors and other practitioners are progressing soundly too.
But I’m certain that nobody will be able to go beyond me. I am the greatest and nobody will go past me. What this means is, each one of us is the most unique and the greatest. Each person is the greatest and ONLY ONE.
What we all have to remember is that we all have to grow by ourselves. If we were a tree, I might look like the giant tree and my students the smaller trees around me, but we can all grow together into big trees. If my students try to learn from me 100% and copy me, one day, they will have grown big. And then another day, they will realize that they’ve gone beyond me. Just like in learning calligraphy, you must do Rinsho many many times in order to discover your authentic self, and I’m just one of those textbooks. And you don’t have to worry about being able to pass me anymore. If you really work hard, you will naturally encounter your new self.
*Rinsho：A calligraphy practice in which students look at the textbook closely and copy the form, brushwork, composition, and overall atmosphere or feelings of the writing.
Nobody can learn 100% from me and as a matter of fact, that’s not necessary. And yet, you have to try to learn 100% about your master. If you put your whole heart and soul into learning, one day, a new self will emerge. This is what practice is all about.
I learned this from the Rinsho learning method of calligraphy. I did Rinsho of 50 grand master calligraphers in Japanese and Chinese history over and over and over again. If we do Rinsho for years and years until we could write exactly like them as if copied with a printer, one day, you will find out that a brand new unique writing of yours is born.
Nobody could be a tree called Aoki Hiroyuki, but if you become a giant tree yourself and flourish, you will be able to offer your surroundings beautiful greens and delicious fruits. I think that’s really plenty. So if you want your tree to bloom its flowers, you must learn from your teachers how to make them bloom and try to copy them first. I’m sure all masters don’t expect their students to be the same as them, because they can’t. It would be weird if students exactly the same as their teachers were made like clones. What makes the world beautiful is diversity—the variety of different kinds of flowers blooming in the garden.
All the techniques I have acquired throughout my career will not be passed down the exactly the same as mine. But with each individual trying to learn and seeking them creates their own original styles respectively.
The same goes with this interview too. Because this interview gets printed in words, it could reach people’s hearts through your network of people, and it would be a great honor for me if it inspires their lives in positive ways. And I think that would be one way for me to repay what I received from Edgar Cacey, Egami Sensei, and Inoue Sensei.
And yet, we cannot fully understand our bodies by reading about it. There are so many things we need to actually experience for ourselves in order to truly understand it.
Yes, I totally agree with you. I have some advice for those who want to accomplish something engaging their bodies.
Firstly, you need to practice softening your body. And keep moving softly with your whole body loosened up.
Next you need to continue moving rhythmically and expansively. Jumping is good, running is good, shaking too, and you need to continue moving rhythmically like this for about 20 to 30 minutes.
It would also be good to repeat sprinting, fast walking, sprinting, and fast walking, in 3-minute intervals for about 40-50 minutes.
And you need to have a certain direction in your head at all times. When we run a marathon, we have a goal. When we are doing this training by ourselves, try to look infinitely far. When we run, we look down at the road, but in our heads we are focused on a goal far in the distance. Try to envision a goal several hundred kilometers ahead. Once we have a certain direction, our body will also focus in that direction naturally.
So to paraphrase myself, we need to relax and soften our bodies, move rhythmically, and have a certain direction. These three things are very important.
Also, we must never clench or stiffen our bodies or muscles. Especially the lower abdomen, we must not clench this area. We must definitely avoid negative thoughts too. Just believe in yourself strongly and live with a positive mind.
My friend Ms.S that introduced Aoki Method to me shared an interesting story from a retreat she attended before. She told me that everyone was jumping along in a squatting position on the beach, all the way to the lighthouse. But since she couldn’t do that jumping, she was trying to reach there by Shikko. Because of that, she reached the goal much later than the others, but halfway through, at one point, she started feeling a kind of blessing pouring into her from God, and by the time she reached the goal, she was crying with joy.
Moving forward on your knees.
That is a kind of jump called Kaikyaku Zenshin. Normally, if you jump in a squatting position, you will damage your knees, but Kaikyaku Zenshin is a method I developed that allows us to jump without straining our knees. We were practicing that on the beach.
Many of them that reached the lighthouse earlier were also crying too. Normally, their faces start shining brightly when they do Kaikyaku Zenshin. There was a 50 year old Asahi Shinbun reporter who was determined to jump 3 kilometers, and we were all cheering for him. In the end, we were all crying together, both the jumper and the cheerers.
Us humans can overcome adversities no matter how harsh they are, and by moving rhythmically, we can feel so liberated. Unfortunately, not many people know this. Or even if they know, they wouldn’t dare to try it out.
In a magazine interview, you mentioned that moving your body is a faster way than meditation to reach a kind of enlightenment. Does this mean we should move our bodies rather than sit in one place and meditate for several hours?
HA: That’s not always the case. However when we meditate, we often end up feeling self-satisfied when we finish.
When we do meditation, we don't have a certain direction. However, when we exercise or move our bodies, we might be competing or have some kind of a goal. We are determined to reach that lighthouse for example, so that’s why our energy doesn’t get stuck inwards.
And because our energy is flowing together with the outer energy, this exchange enables us to accept something like the Truth of Heavens and Earth more easily.
I’ve been teaching meditation classes for a long time as well, but we always do some warm-up exercise to soften our bodies first, and then start meditating. Because my students have become so used to it, now they could enter a deep meditative state in seconds.
To add a little more in closing, if you are engaging in a certain practice alone, you really have to take good care of your practice environment, room, tools, and friends that you could share your inner journey of Michi (Do, Tao, Way) with. If you are a Kenjutsu practitioner, cherish your katana, keikogi (practice uniform), and dojo.
If you practice calligraphy, cherish your brushes, sumi (ink), suzuri (ink stone), paper, and water. And before and after practice, always do rei (bow), and purify your surroundings to make it a sublime space. Then, your environment and tools will offer you numerous teachings. I really recommend you do this.
Furthermore, if your minds, hearts, and thoughts change, your martial arts techniques or calligraphy skills would also change completely. One who strives hard to be clean and sincere the best they can will naturally perform clean and pure techniques with a katana or calligraphy brush.
There is a great Chinese calligraphy master named Ryu Koken that existed around the Heian period in Japan. He was teaching a King named Bokuso who had extremely bad personality. One day, the King asked him how he could improve his calligraphy skills. Then he answered in a single phrase, “If your heart and mind is righteous, so is your writing”.
Of course, we can never be perfect. However, we could still try to be the best we can. Although I’m telling you all these things, I’m also not a perfect human being.
But what I can say is that if everybody aims to realize their ideals and goals enthusiastically, they will develop the capacity to perform beautiful techniques. So I strongly encourage everybody to believe in that, pursue your ideals, have faith in yourself, and keep moving forward with confidence.
Since we’re running out of time today, let’s set up another meeting for part 2 of our interview and take us even further deeper the next time.
Thank you so much for your time today, and for sharing such wonderful stories with me today. I hope to hear your stories about Cacey next time.
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