FACE to FACE with Endo Seishiro (遠藤 征四郎)  Sensei

Born in 1942, a graduate of Gakushuin University, Seishiro Endo
Shihan (7th DAN, Aikikai) entered the Hombu Dojo in 1967. Known
for his ukemi in his younger days - he appeared as one of the late
Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba’s “ukes” in the Hombu Aikikai Video
series of that era .

This interview was conducted at Saku Dojo (where he is Dojo-
cho) Nagano Prefecture, Japan by Raymond Kwok.

Excerpts from the interview which first appeared in the 2000 issue of the
Kuala Lumpur YMCA Aikido Club Magazine:

RK:        When you entered the Hombu Dojo, who were the other people
            who entered as uchi deshi at the same time?

SE:        Suganuma.

RK:        Did you follow O’Sensei on any of his trips?

SE:        Yes.
RK:        Was it very difficult to follow O’Sensei around on his trips ...
             what was the experience like?

SE:        It wasn’t hard for me when I was in Hombu Dojo
            because they were not long trips - i just took O’Sensei to some
            station ..and some people would pick him up.

RK:        No overnight trips?

SE:        No, only in the Tokyo area.

RK:        You have been known for your particular style of not using power.
             It seems when you were about 30 years old you dislocated your
             shoulder Can you tell us your style of not using power?

SE:        It is important to know how to lose shoulder power ...why do you
            have strength in the shoulders?

RK:        I think it is the most natural thing - most people tend to use
            upper body strength - it is the easiest to use, the hara however
            is the most difficult. ... so that’s why I think most people end up
            using the shoulders more.

SE:        The same principle applies in other sports, not only Aikido;
            Kendo, Karate, golf ...it is important to relax the upper body,
            keep the power in the hara - you have to practise again and
            again to develop such power. The more you lose the power,
            the more you can concentrate.

RK:        What was it that caused you to make the decision to be an
            Aikido professional from the very beginning instead of joining
            the culture of a salaryman?

SE:        O’ Sensei attracted me. His appearance was beautiful. He was
           strong though in his eighties. When I took his ukemi I felt the
           power. Yet he was relaxed, there was concentration but he was
           very soft.

RK:       That was after you became his uchi deshi?

SE:        Yes, there was no power.

RK:        Have you ever tried to test O’Sensei?

SE:         In Japan, we don’t do such things. There are lots of Shihans.
            We respect our teacher. That is the relationship between
            Shihan and deshi. So, I don’t have deshi. If some people want
            to be my deshi, maybe I will give very hard training. Not only
            training in dojo, but everything, outside.

RK:        You don’t want to accept any deshi - for what reason?

SE:        The deshi should do things - what I expect.

RK:        But if you don’t have any deshi, you wouldn’t know ... what would
            that be?

SE:        The relationship between deshi and Shihan is strict. I belong to
            Hombu Dojo. That is one of the reasons. The students who
            come to Hombu Dojo belong to Hombu Dojo - they are not my
            deshi. But if some people want to learn more from me - and
            want to follow and stay with Endo Sensei, that is o.k. if they
            decide to get better and stronger ...

RK:        But he still cannot be uchi-deshi?

SE:        The Sensei can choose the deshi; the deshi can choose the
            shihan too. This time you are here, last time I heard you were
            in France - other teacher, but if you decide that Endo Shihan is
            to be your teacher, then you can only learn from 1 teacher -
            you can’t go from place to place to learn from other teachers -
            You have to have that relationship - shihan and deshi.

RK:       Since you were at the Hombu Dojo and you first learned from
            Koichi Tohei Sensei, was he the big influence that caused you
            to develop this concept of “no-power”?

SE:        At that time I was young - I didn’t understand.

RK:       So was it Tohei Sensei or Yamaguchi Sensei that caused you to
            change your mind about using power?

SE:        Now I think that no particular Shihan influenced me. When I
            was 25 years old, Tohei Sensei was in his 50s. Tohei Sensei
            was then 8th or 9th Dan. I was young. I used a lot of power.
            After 5 years, I broke my shoulder. So I was like this - only my
            left arm - that was after I had been training at Hombu Dojo for
            10 years.

            So Yamaguchi Sensei asked me how I would get by with 1
            arm. Strange question. Why? Why did he say that? Until then I
            did not attend Yamaguchi sensei’s class very often. After that, I
            tried to attend every one of his classes. Monday - only 1 class.
            He told me a lot - but I didn’t understand. He would correct
            me and tell me to keep trying.

            I took ukemi - not only from Yamaguchi Sensei but also from
            the Founder, Doshu and Tohei Sensei. Each time I tried to  
            feel - same feeling. Some Senseis are old - 50 and 60 years
            old – yet they are still very stiff because they use a lot of force.
            So I chose ...I learned from Tohei Sensei, Osawa Sensei,
            Yamaguchi Sensei. Not just from 1 person, I learned from
            several teachers – it was a  gradual process.

RK:        So this concept of no power was basically the result of learning
            from several teachers?

SE:        Yes. We Japanese say, “relax” - lose your power in your
            shoulders. Everybody knows that expression. Most people can’
            t do it.

RK:        You have talked about the concept of Kamnagara in Aikido. Is it
             like when you are doing 1 technique ... but you find you cannot
             do it - for some reason - so, you switch to another technique
             automatically without thinking ... if you cannot you just switch to
             another, if you still cannot you keep changing and switching until
             you get it right?

SE:        Exactly. It’s like water flowing into a river. The river will meander
            but the water never stops flowing. If there is a rock, the water will
            flow over it. "Kami” is God. The image of God is different for
            everybody. Every religion has a concept of what God is. But
            there is only 1 God and he is everywhere. I now think Taoism
            includes everything.

RK:        Is it possible for Gaijin who are very good in Aikido to become
            Shihan? Or is it reserved only for the Japanese?

SE:        To-date there is no Gaijin Shihan.

RK:        The present Doshu has come out with a statement that Shihan
            and “dan” certificates are separate. There is a separate
            certification for Shihan. Just because you reach 6th Dan,
            doesn’t mean you are a Shihan.

SE:        If he is teaching and is 6th Dan, 7th Dan, he is a Shihan. But if
           he doesn’t teach anything, he is not a Shihan. I didn’t get a
           certificate from Doshu saying that I am a Shihan. I am just
           called a Shihan.

RK:       So anyone who is teaching and is 6th Dan and above, is
           automatically a Shihan? Must he teach full-time, at Hombu Dojo
           or can he teach just anywhere? Must his teaching only be at
           Hombu Dojo?

SE:        No.

RK:        Is grading important in Aikido?

SE:        Sometimes. From another point of view, it doesn’t matter.
           People want to take Shodan, Nidan, Sandan  We have to learn
           something from Aikido. For example, after you have got Nidan,
           and you want to go for Sandan, I will ask you what has changed
           inside you? Did you change? Everybody can do Shomen Uchi
           Ikkyo, 5th Kyu - people can do, 8th Dan Shihan can do Ikkyo
           the same. Who decides the difference? Whose kokyu is good,
           not good?

RK:        Is that why you told me before that when you conduct Grading,
            you never fail people? When you came to Malaysia in 1994, ...
            you told me that as an Examiner you never fail people?

SE:        Yes, because of my philosophy.

RK:        If someone is going from 2nd to 3rd Dan, and you ask him, did
           you feel anything has changed from when you were 2nd Dan - he
           says nothing has changed, then does he fail?

SE:        I have failed 2 people in my Dojo.

RK:        The 3 stages of shukari  ( 守破離 )   which stage are you at now?

SE:        “shu” ...( 守 )

RK:        very modest ... you should be at “ri” ( 離 ) now.

SE:        Sometimes “ha”, ( 破 ) sometimes “ri” –( 離 )  it changes ...

RK:        You haven’t reached “satori” ( 悟り) yet?

SE:        Almost ...(laughs) ... . I don’t know.

                                               The End
               Endo Sensei
Endo Sensei at Saku Dojo
Taking ukemi for Endo Sensei