It is said that in aikido one does not need to rely on physical strength. But why o why is it that O-sensei and many of his students were physically powerful? This is also something I heard from Kuroiwa sensei.
Tada sensei, who is energetically active even now, used to swing around a steel bar or ‘hexagonal training stick’ at home. He was someone who, when he took walks he would drag along two dobermans.
Tada sensei, who could thus boast of his strength, was once at Iwama for one month taking care of O-sensei. O-sensei told him to put into the storage shed the bales of rice stacked in the yard because it looked like it was about to rain. While Tada sensei thought to first complete the task he was in the middle of, it began to rain. When he rushed to the bales, he found O-sensei with one bale hanging from each hand, carrying a total of 120kg. At the time O-sensei was in his late 60s.
One time there was a mulberry tree that Arikawa sensei and 3 other students were struggling to pull out of the ground, which O-sensei pulled out all by himself.
Speaking of strong people, Noro sensei, who is active in France, used to train his hand grip strength so continually that he would virtually mangle the grip training spring/tool in a month. It was a time when there were still people who would storm dojos, so he apparently said that, when dealing with such a person, if he got a hold of the person’s arm, he wouldn’t let go until the bones broke.
The grand finale of these stories is, of course, Tohei sensei. After the war, when there was still an active black market for rice, he once brought from Iwama to Hombu Dojo two suitcases/trunks filled with rice. If he looked like he was struggling with heavy cases, then he would have aroused suspicion and been inspected. So when he passed through the narrow ticket gates in the train stations, he would lightly raise both of his hands to shoulder height and pass through the gates appearing to carry two empty suitcases/trunks. When he was out of sight of the train station staff, he would say, “Wow, that was heavy,” and put the cases down. In spite of such strength, that concentration was something else, said Kuroiwa sensei.