The extent of my knowledge of Osawa sensei: seeing an old film, possibly of a visit to Chicago or Florida, by which I was left wondering, why is he going so slow and why are his ukes slowing down so much?; hearing Endo sensei mention him as a big influence (but not so much detail); reading a few anecdotes about him. My impression is that he was a big presence as a human being more than an aikido technician. And I infer that he stood up when there needed to be someone to stand up, and he stood firm when someone needed to stand firm.
Interview with Kisaburo Osawa by Katsuaki Terasawa
… But even then I still wanted to become strong. However, as I continue to improve my aikido and grow older the meaning of the word “strong” has changed for me.
Did anything occur to change your spiritual viewpoint?
I didn’t experience any big change in particular. It has been a gradual feeling which has extended up until the present. After I had been training with O-Sensei for about two years, he became seriously ill. The doctor, and eventually even I, too, thought he might die. Fortunately, Sensei finally got over his illness and entered into convalescence at the Iwama Dojo.
About what year was that?
That was about 1942 or ‘43.
What is it about aikido that you like most?
I like (the concept behind) the name “aikido”. It strengthens both the body and the spirit, but I still can’t say clearly what aikido is. When I was a beginner, having studied only a year or two, a college student who studied karate enrolled to study aikido. The day he started he walked in with his chest out, and I wondered when he was going to change his attitude. After a couple of days he ended up in the corner of the dojo feeling very meek.
Sensei, you have said, “Everything must be natural. It’s not right for things to be too difficult.” What do you mean?
If something is too difficult, nobody can do it. If the true goal of the aikido way is to achieve paradise or a happy life everybody should be able to do it: a child, an old person, a woman, a handicapped person, a weak or a strong person. I believe this to be the true path.
So, even though each individual is unique he can study aikido in his own way?
That’s right. When I first started I didn’t have much time for training, but even later when I was able to devote myself fully, a lot of people said my training wasn’t inconsistent. What does “inconsistent” mean? As you know, the present grand champion of sumo is a young man. Since he is the grand champion, he is consistent; he receives the highest salary, holds the highest rank, and should have nothing to worry about. When he competes with a person of lower rank and the lower-ranked person loses, this is seen as how things should be. However, the grand champion feels that, because of who he is, he cannot afford to lose, and this feeling can only disturb his spirit. It is not inevitable for the strongest person to win every match. Luck also enters into it. As I see it a consistent person is one who feels secure in any situation.
Then what is the meaning of aikido? Only a fool would brag that he could win a fight against 10 men, a pistol or a machine gun. I think that as a result of regular, hard training a person necessarily feels humble. Aikido training is indeed very severe, but you have to teach the safest way possible. If students have a clear goal in mind you have to teach them well so they do not lose interest. Don’t stop working hard! If a student tires you must take him by the hand; if he falls down you extend your hand and help him up. From the student’s point of view, if he stumbles before reaching his goal, I think he should observe his teacher and follow his example. I don’t know how others feel, but that is my opinion.