I have thought about mokoto accession to the organization. That you like us in the accession makes me worth the accession of population. That is really important.
*I am not sure what you mean by accession, but I believe it means “acceptance”? If you are accepting my invitation to join our organization, I would like that very much. You have a very good core group that was able to host me in a seminar and you seem to be a very sincere student of Aikido that wants more from the teachings.
I would like nothing more than to guide you in some of the things that you really need to understand about the Japanese culture. This is mainly because Aikido is based on the Japanese culture and has many misunderstood protocols that need to be adopted by you and your students. This will help you understand more about being a servant to your communities and the world in general as a great martial artist. Please let me know if this is what you are saying or if I misunderstood your comment?!
I have in mind, however, one question related to Graduating if you can open this point to me?
*Please ask me anything that you would like. I can film this and put it on my online teaching site as well if you would like. Let me answer your interview questions and see where that leaves us in regards to your questions. So please see the following questions and answers:
Q: You are in Finland for the first time? What is the feeling? 😀
A: Yes, this is my very first visit to Finland. Well, I am first relieved that many Finnish people speak English and I don’t have to be so nervous about getting around, especially on the train system. I have been treated very kindly by people that I have asked for help.
Q: I know that you are Sensei Steven Seagal’s former student. Do you have other teachers?
A: Yes, I was a student of Steven Seagal’s for a little over 18 years and learned a great deal from him. His vision of Aikido is something that has shaped the way I view and practice Aikido today, which is very revolutionary if I say so myself. I have been blessed with many great teachers beginning with Nobuo Iseri, who has since passed on. I also trained for seven years with Francis Takahashi Sensei from Alhambra, California, USA and during that time I was honored by testing with such teachers as Mitsunari Kanai, Kazuo Chiba, Yoshimitsu Yamada, Akira Tohei, and former Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba, who actually presented me with my Nidan rank.
Upon meeting Steven Seagal in 1983, we became friends and I became his student and disciple. I left Seagal’s side in 2001 for a number of reasons, but mostly because Seagal’s life was fast being taken over by fame and fortune and I just didn’t need to be part of that. We parted ways on what I feel was a mutual understanding that I had come to the end of that path and needed to take the essence of what he shared with me (the sacred “shiho”) and make it my own and he understood this. I don’t think he particularly liked it, but he, having been my teacher and my friend, understood it.
Today, after having presented the rank of Rokudan directly by the current Doshu, I enjoy travelling to Japan more frequently and have embraced the current Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba, Hiroshi Isoyama Shihan, Massaki Tani Sensei and a few others as my close confidants and mentors.
Q: You have been practicing Aikido for over thirty years, it is a long time.
A: Yes, I began training in Aikido in late 1973, which is now 38 years. This is not a long time in Aikido years, but it feels like a long time.
Q: What makes you always return to the dojo again?
A: What makes me return to the dojo is that first, I live in the city of Ventura at my dojo five days per week and then I travel three hours on Friday night to visit my home in the mountains for the weekends. LOL! That may seem funny to most, but it is really not that difficult because every weekend has become a mini-vacation for me at my home. Although, to answer your question, it is my belief in the work that I do now, that helps me understand the true value of Aikido. What I do makes a difference in my local community, my students around the country and in the world. Because I teach in many different countries e.g. Brazil, Germany, Belgium, Mexico, Spain, and South Africa and as I gain more students around that world and in my own country, I know that the path I am on is a good one and that I need to continue this work for as long as I can.
Q: What is Aikido? How would you like to see the future of aikido?
A: Many people ask me this question in order to find out what I truly believe it is. I often tell them if they want to know what Aikido is in the traditional sense, look it up on Google! Google knows everything! LOL! On a more serious note and as you get to know me and train with me in the Makoto spirit, you will understand that what I believe Aikido be. Aikido is a way of living life, and stands for the possibility of kindness, compassion, honesty and integrity in all beings. What I see as the future of my Aikido and the way that I practice Aikido is to continue to evolve the teachings and not stay stuck in the tradition of what once was. I will always appreciate training at Hombu Dojo and with great teachers of the traditional view of Aikido. This does, and always will, remind me of the roots of Aikido.
Q: You keep the honesty of the importance of aikido. What does it mean in practice?
A: When I speak of honesty in Aikido, I am speaking mostly of pure intention in the moment of the possible attack that we emulate in order to practice defense tactics against the possibility of that attack.
In other words, when so many would veer off to one side or the other in a punch attack, I don’t. I feel that if I am going to teach a way of dealing with a punch to the face, then the attack must be honest and if I do something that doesn’t work, then I will be hit in the face by the punch. Most people cringe at this prospect, but that is the only way you will learn how to deal with a “real” attack and not create some phony way of practicing and lying to your students. I would rather them get hit in the dojo, than to face the brutal force of a thug on the street and not be able to understand the difference.
The key to this way of training is to go slow in the beginning and then gradually increase the speed of the punch as you become more skilled and train with more skillful co-students. This is what I call, “building a bridge between the theory of the dojo and the reality that we live in”. If we cannot do this and prepare our students for the real world of violence, then I believe there is no point to practicing Aikido.
Of course the other meaning of honesty is that when people train in my way, they will gain the confidence in themselves and overcome the many fears that cause them to cheat and lie to other people. As a result of the way we train, I have just seen a higher quality of person, both mentally and physically. And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying our way is the only way…it’s just that the way we practice produces great people. I say the Makoto way is made up of “ordinary people, doing extraordinary things”!
Q: What is the relationship between Budo and Aikido?
A: Well that’s an easy one because as the Founder of Aikido was quoted as saying, “Aikido wa budo de aru!” This literally means, “Aikido is budo!” And of course, the meaning of budo comes from two words: “bu”, which means “war” and “do”, which means “the way of” or “path”. I truly believe in this saying and that Aikido gives us the possibility of understanding how to deal with war in a positive way and that if we can gain great physical and mental warrior skills, that it will help each of us overcome our fears that keep us from living a full and productive life.
Not everyone practices Aikido the same way and with the same intentions, but not everyone lives life the same way either…one must choose their path, but do they have the courage to actually choose it?
That is the goal of my way and the intention I have for each and every one of my students…to give them the opportunity to find that courage by training honestly and learning ways to deal with real life threats to their lives, so they can have the power to choose kindness and compassion. Because the problem is that if someone is beating your brains in or cutting your throat, you will not have the power of choice, you will be hurt or worse yet be killed…and how many innocent people are killed every day? How many people suffer at the hands of a criminal and even though Finland is a great and peace loving country, violence still happens here, as it does in every other part of the world.
I always ask my students, “When will the violence end?” Well, I say it ends with me, and the moment a student begins training in Aikido is the moment they take a stand for what they believe is right…the moment they take a stand against violence in the world.
Q: We did the exercises beginning jumbi taiso, it does not know a lot of practice in Finland. This Ueshiba workout seems to be disappearing tradition?
A: I would not call this the “Ueshiba workout”, it is simply those exercises that prepare you for the more physical exercises, throws and pins. The jumbi taiso that I do is different from anything that I have ever seen, but it is also similar enough to other systems that you understand the intention. The two exercises called, “Ama no torifune” and “Ama no furitama”, are not well understood and do take an explanation in most places that I teach. However, both are designed to help you empty your mind in order to be more receptive to the lessons that follow…a state of mind we call, “mushin”.
I think the only reason that you may think that these exercises are as you said “a disappearing tradition” is because people have not cared enough or understood them enough to have them make much sense; thus, they let them go or never adopt them as part of their daily practice. There is not a practice session that I teach, that I do not start with jumbi taiso.
Q: What is the most important thing in aikido?
A: Hmmm? There are so many important aspects to Aikido, mentally, physically and spiritually. The one thing that comes to mind is that there is only one Aikido and that people all around the world will view it differently. The main thing that we can get from this is an appreciation for anyone that cares enough to practice something that ultimately leads to peaceful reconciliation…one way or another, without making the other wrong, so they can be right. Real love is accepting someone for who they are and who they are not and if more people understood this, there would certainly be less violence in the world.
Q: Do you think it is also important to training with weapons?
A: Weapons training is just another way we can learn how to deal with violence and this is the main goal of Aikido. So there is no reason not to practice the possibility of being attacked with a weapon e.g. a club, a knife, or a gun.
The Founder of Aikido trained with a short staff, sword and various other weapons and he made it part of the overall curriculum of Aikido. The problem is that most people do not practice on a full time basis like I do and as a result only have time for so much. This is why weapons get left out so often, simply because they don’t have a teacher that knows much about them or they don’t have the time to do it all.
Weapons training both with the weapon and against the weapons, is all part of what I teach. It is all part of the world of violence, and we need to continue to consider all aspects of what a person could do to you in the way of an attack…so yes, weapon’s training is very important, especially if you expect to be a teacher of Aikido some day.
Q: Many Aikido trainees do not attack "really" what do you think this is?
A: Well, this is a simple matter of not having a teacher that believes in what I have stated above that “Aikido is the way of war” and “of being a great warrior”. They simply have not been taught the true value of Aikido.
Our goal is not to bring the malicious intention of a real criminal or rapist into the dojo. Otherwise, we would all just be beaten and injured. That doesn’t make sense. And I don’t need to compete with another to demonstrate my prowess over someone else in order to prove that I am a great warrior.
However, I need to have a way of perfecting my understanding of reality and how to deal with it in a better way. As I mentioned, I have been blessed with great teachers that gave me insight into this realm and now I have gone beyond them in my understanding of how to train to get the correct results…the needed results for today’s society.
Q: What is your relationship to the Aikikai Foundation?
A: I was given my current rank of Rokudan (6th Degree Black Belt) directly by the current Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba and every DAN ranking I have had before has been under the Aikikai Foundation.
My Dojo called, “Makoto Dojo, School of Aikido and the organization that I have created called, Makoto Aikido Kyokai, Inc. has been accepted by the Aikikai Foundation and are directly affiliated with the Hombu Dojo located in Tokyo, Japan. I am a member in good standing and I teach around the world with the blessing of the Aikikai Foundation and as a representative of the Aikikai Foundation.
I feel this is very important so that every student that trains with me and is ranked under me has a direct lineage to the Founder of Aikido and has the opportunity to train at the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, as well as the Iwama Dojo located in Ibaraki prefecture.
Q: What do you think of the Finnish Aikido?
A: Well, I have only seen you and your students and of course other students that came to visit during our seminar. I would say you have a great start in your understanding of Aikido and have very sincere intentions.
However, I can see that although you have had many teachers visit Finland, I don’t believe that many of them cared enough about you to teach you the essence of the Japanese culture and of Aikido. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but the difference between me and so many others is that I care about you as a person and not just as another o-rei.
I know you want the most out of your practice and the most out of this great technology and philosophy we call Aikido, and what I have tapped into over the span of my life is different than most. I care that you get this because it will change your life and the way you live it. I have created my life as the “possibility of kindness, compassion, honesty and integrity in all beings” and what I have to give up on a daily basis to be that possibility is to stop thinking everything is going to be okay, even if I don’t speak my mind”… and that is who I am today! Yes, I have to be polite when invited to some ones house, but if they ask me something, then I am going to tell them the truth and sometimes this hurts… but I know that if I tell the truth, then whatever it is they asked me, will ultimately help them and that makes me feel good.
Q: Would you like to say something about the Finnish Aikido trainees?
A: Yes. Please don’t ever be afraid of asking in order to find out. Never leave anything on the table when you invite a teacher into your country. I have nothing to hide and everything to share! Train hard, don’t be greedy and good things will tend to happen to you.
I hope to see you again next year in Finland. Thank you for your wonderful seminar
A: Well, as I spoke to you about is that there is no “try” and hoping that something will happen won’t make it happen. You either do it or you don’t, there is no trying to do it. I truly believe in this philosophy presented by the great Star Wars character Yoda. You see, “try” is a word that was invented in the English language as a “back door” from being your word…a way out of being held accountable for what you said you were going to do or the promise you made to your child.
You see, there are two things people fear most in life and the second one is death…the first is failure or of looking bad in front of their peers. So to have a way out when you fail, people will say, “Well, don’t blame me because I tried!” No you failed. The important thing that I incorporate into my teaching is that failure is not bad unless you don’t take advantage of what you learned by failing.
I look forward to coming back to Finland and continuing what we have begun, so I won’t hope, I will simply come back…but you must choose to make this a possibility…don’t hope to do it…don’t try to do it…just do it and I’ll be back!
Thank you for taking a chance on me Jarmo. As Master Oogway, from the movie Kung Fu Panda, said, “There are no mistakes!” And I believe that my coming to Finland was not a mistake. There is an old saying and I am not sure whether it is Japanese or not, but it feels Japanese that says, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear!” However, I like to think of this in another sense, that “when the teacher is ready, the students will appear!”
Thank you for appearing in my life, and making my life that much richer.
With many kind regards,
Thank you sensei!