Rev. Kensho Furuya's Sensei's dojo
in Los Angeles.
BV: As far as you see it, what stages does the typical Aikido
practitioner go through?
In traditional martial arts, there are three stages called Shu, Ha, Ri. "Shu"
means "Protection" and refers to the initial stage of training where he must
learn all of the rules and master all of the techniques. It is often like a
chick still within the hard confines of the eggshell. "Ha" means "breaking"
and it is the next stage where the little chick begins to peck its way or
break out of the shell. At this stage, the student has mastered the
fundamentals and begins to broaden the scope of his training and knowledge. It
does not mean to break the rules or disregard them, it really means to expand
and broaden them beyond the initial stage of hard-fast rules. The third stage
is "Ri" which means "Separation," like the little chick finally freeing itself
from the shell. This does not mean that the student flies away from the nest,
it means that he can go beyond mere rules and regulations, having mastered
them and now transcending them as something which is now an integral part of
his life and life perspective.
In addition to this, I think, as the Aikido student matures, he needs to ask
himself many serious questions and begin to think how to apply these Aikido
principles into his own life in a reasonable way. As an example, what does it
mean "not to fight?" We think we understand this intellectually and by our
reason, but in real life, we fight continually with each other every day. . .
. What does it mean to be centered and balanced? It is not simply a way to be
strong in throwing or pinning someone to the ground, I think it goes beyond
this point to where we are centered and balanced in all aspects of our lives
in facing all emergencies and encounters that life offers us. I think that
when we hear terms like "harmony," "love," "blending," "ki," we immediately
that we understand what such words means. However, our ideas are often in
contrast to the "reality" of life and the moment to moment situations we
encounter each day in our lives. When we become quiet and think about these
ideas with a great deal of seriousness, we find, I think, that we really do
not understand them at all. Daily practice is always the constant refinement
and deepening of this understanding.
Finally, in O'Sensei's teaching there is this deep, almost divine, reverence
for life - how do we understand this for ourselves and bring it into our own
lives? I think part of the advancement of my students is to meet, think about,
practice and begin to resolve such matters for themselves in their own lives
and in their own thinking. This is one of the meanings of training throughout
BV: Your 9 part video series has just been released on DVD.
How much of your Aikido curriculum do you show in these videos?
When I was asked to do this video series, it was repeatedly emphasized that
they wanted an "instructional" video and not a "demonstration" video. In much
of these videos, the techniques are demonstrated much in the way, almost to
the letter, as I teach my regular classes. In addition, they asked for a video
series which people could watch and learn from. In the videos, many of the
techniques are executed repeatedly and common pitfalls and errors are
explained as well as hints to improve one's technique. I also included short
talks to help and encourage the student in his practice, just as I do in
class. Most of the areas covered in this video series is what I think any
beginning student of Aikido should know as a good foundation for his practice.
In addition to these nine volumes, there was planned for another three hours
of videos to cover advanced techniques and bokken and jo beyond the basic
introduction in the present set. Unfortunately, my busy schedule never allowed
I have received a great deal of compliments from all over the world and after
many years, the publisher reports that it is still doing very well. There is
really nothing fancy in the videos but I think it does cover many of the basic
aspects of Hombu Aikido. In many of the explanations and presentations of the
techniques, I explain them just as they were explained to me by my own
teachers. The late Sadateru Arikawa Sensei of Hombu Dojo viewed my tapes when
they first came out and I was surprised that he was so complimentary to me. He
has always been an excellent, but stern critic and I have always looked up to
him with great respect and awe.
Over the years, much as I teach in my dojo is still the same as I teach in the
videos. As I say, much of the videos contain all of the Aikido fundamentals
and these do not change so much. Nowadays, if there is any change at all, I
like to emphasize more connecting the movements and techniques together. I
find that students today unconsciously view Aikido technique as a kind of
leisure exercise or solely from the standpoint of movement or exercise. I
often think that we do not emphasize Aikido as a viable, extremely effective
martial art. In other words, i see that we are gradually losing this awareness
of Aikido. In this sense, we lose our sense of ma-ai, spacing and timing. In
practice, we allow the opponent or partner to move in too close into our
space, essentially making us vulnerable and open to counter attacks. Because
many practice with a weak or uncommitted attack in normal practice, we lose
our sense of timing. Against a weak attack, for example, we may be free to
move as we like because there is no threat or anything really to collide with.
If the attack by the partner is strong and committed and focused on the target
of the attack, then we must move more critically with a high sense of timing
and spacing - or we collide or get jammed. This type of training really needs
to be under the supervision of a competent instructor so it is not emphasized
strongly in the videos. Ultimately, we can only develop good technique against
a strong, committed attack. Practice with weak attacks which do not have any
energy or not committed to the target, is often the root of many bad habits
and with losing our sense of critical timing and spacing, the essence of all
The publishers informed me that out of an inventory of over 350 videos series
which they have produced over the years, this Aikido series was their first
choice to convert into DVD. I was very happy to hear this. I was told that
video become "stale" after three to four years but this Art of Aikido still
seems to be doing very well. I would like to take this opportunity to thank
everyone for all of the wonderful letters and emails regarding the video
series and I am glad that it is helping many students around the world in
In the new DVD series, they are added an extensive index and many more new
chapter headings so it is easy to find a specific technique just by clicking
on the heading. I like this new innovation very much and I think it makes the
DVD series much more convenient to use than the original videos.
BV: What are you working on in terms of your personal
Personal training? The continual job of trying to make myself a better
person and teacher - an often hopeless, discouraging and sometimes despairing
At the moment and for some years now, I have working hard to develop my senior
students as instructors and gradually supervising their training as future
teachers. We now have about 18 branch dojos all over the world and this has
increased my workload and responsibilities tremendously. I still continue to
write a great deal, publishing a monthly newsletter and answering
correspondence each day from all over the world. I have several books in the
works which I would like to finally finish if I can squeeze in the time. One
is an Aikido technique book for which we have over 5,500 photos of Aikido
techniques which need to be arranged and captioned.
I have lost much of the ambitions I had when I was younger, I suppose, and
this has caused me to think more of the development and advancement of my
students than for myself. Personally, I am trying to understand Aikido as it
pervades one's whole life from one moment to the next in my daily life.
Although I left the temple when my teacher passed away, I still try to lead a
priestly life and prefer a quiet, solitary life. Recently, however, three of
my young students have just had three new daughters, two students have just
had two granddaughters - all within the last several months, so I have become
quite envious of them and rather long for the "family" life which I gave up in
my younger days in order to pursue Aikido as I wanted
As we get older, I think, we move a little slower and our bones creak a little
more, I try to see Aikido more from the standpoint of a sharper sense of
timing, than from the speed and strength of my youth - many years ago. Also,
as I mentioned elsewhere in this interview, I am interested to resolve and
understand the principles of Aikido in my life and how they work in how we
think and act.
At the same time, I think students today are busier with their lives and have
less time and energy to devote to their training. i am studying how to
transmit Aikido to today's students without sacrificing its vital essence as a
martial arts. i often get the impression that Aikido is moving away from its
original mandate as a martial art.
In addition, in today's rapidly changing world, I see a lot of Aikido's ideals
changing and, to some degree, getting lost in our highly complex, complicated
world of today and despite the fact the it is not the popular trend, and so in
many ways, I want to keep Aikido as much as it was in the early days of my
training for my students.
Nowadays, I find myself introducing elements from my personal style of Aikido,
rather than adhering strictly to very orthodox Aikido technique as I normally
do for my students. In Aikido sword training, I have gone back to very basic
sword fundamentals and have strongly emphasized more attention to proper grip
and footwork and a much stronger cut more like the cut of a live blade. With a
stronger cut more aimed at making contact, I have noticed that the timing and
spacing of the techniques are naturally changed to more effectively get out of
the way of an unstoppable cut.
Over the years, the general public is more educated in martial arts than
thirty years ago. In the early days, martial arts was an exotic, mysterious
thing from the inscrutable East - we knew a little of Judo and have seen
Karate but Kung Fu was still a kind of mystery but all of this has changed and
there are all commonplace terms which most people are quit familiar with. In
this respect, in my intermediate and advanced classes, we practice against a
wider range of tsuki, other than the normal "tsuki" we use in Aikido training.
It is a very interesting training to execute Aikido techniques against upper
cuts, hooks, jabs, double and triple punch combinations and counters against
multiple strike and punch combinations. This has opened up a wide area of study
for me in my own practice.
Sensei, thank you for sharing your time, experience, and thoughts with us
Kensho Furuya available at Budovideos.com: