Relatively soon after I moved to Japan and practice aikido, I received the opportunity to translate Endo sensei’s articles for his newsletter, Cosmos. That was back in 1998 and now it’s 2018, 20 years later. Having found them on the internet again, my memory is jogged. There are various things I remember sensei talking about a lot, in front of class as well as with me in private conversation.
No. 15 New Experiences. Endo sensei discusses his trip to Cuba and Mexico. And also overcoming his health problems after returning. I remember thinking I wanted to go with them to Cuba but it would have been early for me as far as savings and I wondered if it would have harder for me with my US passport. In this article, Endo sensei seems ingenuous about being off the mat for several weeks and the feeling of success when he makes his comeback.
No. 16 Aikido and Self-inquiry. This article was much more heady. There was an element of commentary on humanity and I also got my first glimpse into all the reading that sensei does. “Know thyself” – this turned out to be a big and continuous theme for sensei. (I also have given it a lot of thought subsequently.) Even though he doesn’t use the word, sensei describes his experience of “mushin”. This is something I myself started to think about much later. For sensei, it was “being able to experience the sensation of moving naturally and without any distinction between my partner and myself. From these experiences, I became convinced that I had discovered the direction of seeking the Tao”. I think this is when sensei was formulating what “Do” meant and how his practice was aligning with that: “The concept of ‘dô’ signifies a diverse unification – unification of all opposing things in the universe, including in human society. This means to emphasize the singularity of every thing, and to give priority and attempt to understand things that are unified and absolute.” As the translator, it was like starting out in the deep end of the pool.
No. 17 Thinking About “Dan” From “Dô(Tao)”. Endo sensei had just received his 8th-dan. I remember, to me it was so not a big deal that it was barely in my mind. Of course I didn’t even think to attend the celebration or even that there was one. In this article, sensei discusses his practice as following “Do”. I sense, now, that he was still trying to clarify what that meant exactly – at least to be able to verbalize it. He speaks of “1 and 9 are 10, 2 and 8 are 10.” With all the trouble in the world and the tendencies of humans to become weaker or lost in various ways, sensei seems to be saying the goal should be to exist in the world “as it is” and not develop or use power to make it a certain way. While translating this article, I started to get the sense that sensei was being somewhat conservative in putting into words his thoughts, relying on citations from texts he read or words that he’d heard.
No. 18 It’s Not Too Late. This was soon after the 9/11 attack. In the article, sensei talks about human impulses, what is needed to counteract destruction, namely, human bonds, being loved and belonging. Also, about human intellect, as the way to control our impulses. Sensei brings up O-sensei mentioning that aikido is about ridding / cleansing ourselves of evil, and realizing a love on the level of the universe. There’s also an exhortation, to all of us, that we can practice in a way that will bring the world closer to peace by the way each individual practices.
No. 19 Practice and Training to Knead the Heart/Mind. I remember having trouble with the word, “knead”. Still do. But now I would just use “develop” or “polish” or even “forge”. To summarize this article: Aikido has spread and there are many ranked practitioners everywhere. That is, there are many people now who can do the superficial forms. Of course there are those who are interested in Endo sensei’s way of practicing softly. Forms practice is the method we use in aikido. However the danger with forms practice is of becoming dull. The kanji in the word, “keiko”, denote “thinking on the old”. The kanji in the word, “tanren”, consist of “hardening” and “softening/kneading”. Miyamoto Musashi said that the “ren” aspect is harder and demands more time. Sensei touches on having done a hard way of practice early on and transitioning to a deeper, more introspective kind of practice. There is another expression, “shin-gi-tai” – “mind – technique – body”. These interact and are interrelated. Sensei offers his definition of what it is to “knead” the mind, namely, to to reflect exactly the world as is, to go with the flow, to not be attached or disturbed. This state of mind is “mushin” (no-mind), which is quiet even when the body is in motion.