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Chapter 2  Water and Stone

In the Fall of 1922, Ohtsuka Sensei found himself contemplating his future. In his family's eyes, particularly his mother's, that future centered on guaranteeing their son's security. His studies at Waseda University had earned him an associate degree in economics, and his position at the bank seemed secure, along with his financial future. Such good fortune would leave most young men at the age of 30 quite satisfied, indeed. But Ohtsuka Sensei was anything but satisfied. He longed to become a professional martial artist, devoting his life to the pursuit he loved. To his parent's dismay, that pursuit was heightened as Ohtsuka read a newspaper article one morning. 

The story centered on Crown Prince Hirohito's recent visit to Okinawa. The article said that while there, Hirohito was entertained by a dancing performance and a demonstration of tode or karate, which was at that time a little-known Okinawan martial art. The news article also mentioned that a certain Okinawan school teacher, Gichin Funakoshi had been invited by the Crown Prince to travel to Tokyo to perform this local martial art before the Emperor of Japan at a public hall in Tokyo. Ohtsuka Sensei immediately made plans to attend. Impressed by what he saw of  Funakoshi's karate, Ohtsuka Sensei sought the schoolteacher out following the performance, and introduced himself. Equally impressed by this young man's spirit and knowledge of classical Budo, Funakoshi invited Ohtsuka Sensei to train with him during his stay in Tokyo. 

As a result of the immense popularity generated by Funakoshi's demonstrations of karate, he elected to extend his stay in Japan indefinitely, holding nightly classes at Tokyo's Meishojuko Meeting Hall, which was quickly renamed the Meishojuko Dojo. Otsuka trained virtually every night at the Dojo -- absorbing every move, technique and nuance of this new art; and mastering it's simple, but effective methods with astonishing speed. In the space of a year, he had mastered all of the techniques and kata as taught by Funakoshi, and by 1924, had become his chief assistant instructor; an event that raised more than a few eyebrows, particularly among Funakoshi's Okinawan students. Nonetheless, his natural abilities could neither be ignored or denied, and on April 24 of that year, Funakoshi-san named Hironori Ohtsuka among seven men to receive the first Black Belts ever presented in modern karate; ceremonially presenting each with a strip of black cloth with their Certificate.

As the relationship and bond strengthened between the two, Funakoshi gradually began to rely more and more on Ohtsuka Sensei. Organization of classes, demonstrations, and guidelines fell to his business discretion, and  instruction of advanced students became his exclusive responsibility. By all appearances, his lifelong dream of becoming a full-time martial artist had been realized. Indeed, reality had eclipsed even his own early imagination. At the young age of 32, Hironori Ohtsuka was already being counted among the hierarchy of contemporary Budoka. 

The other side of the reality, however, was that Ohtsuka Sensei was far from satisfied with what he had attained. While Funakoshi's karate had undeniably opened new vistas, he felt -instinctively- that something was missing. Funakoshi's kata and the philosophies behind them had become second nature to him; his understanding of them was obvious, and his ability to convey those philosophies as an instructor, was evident. But in his heart, as he continued to teach, he sensed there was little or no common sense behind those philosophies -- no practical application for self-defense. The movements were too rigid, too tense, too...confined. And in point of fact, no avenue of testing those philosophies was open; Funakoshi eschewed sparring of any kind at any level of contact. Something was missing. And so, at the same time he was fulfilling his new responsibilities to Funakoshi, Ohtsuka Sensei continued to learn, absorb -- and expand his knowledge; privately seeking out and training with other  well-known sensei; including Kenwa Mabuni - the founder of Shito Ryu - Choki Motobu, and most notably, the great Morihei Ueshiba; founder and renowned spiritual Master of Aikido. It was he who would help Ohtsuka discover the missing link in his dream, and begin the quest to the awakening of Wado.

Like Shindo Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu, Aikido was a direct descendant of the purest forms of classical Aikijujutsu. With the exception of Shindo Yoshin Ryu's inclusion of atemi (hand strikes and kicking techniques) Aikido's power lay in its reliance on the body's natural movements; emphasizing breathing, relaxation, and the control of Ki -- the natural energy that Buddhism taught flowed through all living things. Where most forms of karate -specifically Okinawan karate- seemed to emphasize generating an internal and external tension in the execution of techniques, Ueshiba's philosophy of Aikido was completely the opposite. He believed that the secret lay in blending with and redirecting an opponent's Ki -- flowing naturally with it -- not meeting it's force with force.

For Ohtsuka Sensei, it was as if he had awakened from one dream, only to begin another; a dream that from the beginning, seemed crystalline in its clarity and simplicity. A dream in which he envisioned blending the basics of Funakoshi Sensei's karate with the natural movements, evasive techniques and practicality of Shindo Yoshin Ryu together with the spiritual principles of Aikido. It was a dream of a new Budo -- a new Way -- a Way of Harmony -- ...like water flowing across stones.


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