Essays by Patrick Auge Sensei Shihan - Black Belt Essays - Other Essays

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December 9, 2012

Dear Students, Dear Parents, Dear Friends:

This year will mark the tenth anniversary of the passing of Mochizuki Kanchō Sensei. I have been reflecting a lot on the mission he left us, his students, and on what we have been doing with it. What would Kanchō Sensei see if he returned? That reminded me of a story from my school years. There are different versions of the story, but the message is the same:

“A master leaves for a long trip. Before his departure, he gathers three faithful servants and trusts each one of them with one third of his fortune. He returns after a long absence and here’s what has happened: One servant has squandered the whole fortune; another one has buried it and the third one has increased it several times.”

This story doesn’t specify the nature of the fortune and due to our materialistic conditioning, we will immediately think of it as “real estate, money, investments,” etc. However, it expresses clearly the three options that are available to us when we receive something. It could apply to the case of parents educating their children by providing them with what they need to develop themselves into happy, healthy, and responsible human beings; it could also apply to the case of teachers entrusting their students with the continuation of their teachings either by sending them somewhere else to teach or by simply passing away. There is also the case of those teachers relocating themselves in order to start teaching in another place.

With respect to the first option, we see students who study for years under a master or a true teacher and seem to be sincere and dedicated, but then something happens in their lives that they can not manage and suddenly they are gone. Budō history has provided us with many examples of such cases for our study: these most commonly occur when someone does not understand the value of what he has been getting and can not balance his study with a relationship (an existing one or a new one), family, job demands, his emotions, or just his own greed.

Evidence of this appeared when Kanchō Sensei was hospitalized and was not allowed to return to the dōjō. Some students stopped coming to the dōjō, as if the master’s teachings had value only when in his presence.

Also common is the case of an instructor who decides to become independent due to the fact that he cannot maintain the standards of quality established by his teacher. (I do not personally know of reverse cases where someone leaves a teacher in order to raise the standards, since an authentic teacher constantly improves himself and his standards and encourages his students to do the same. However, I do not deny that such cases may exist. This will be addressed in another essay.) Others will start teaching without being prepared to do so for the simple reason that they want the privileges, but refuse the obligations, that go with teaching.

Even if such instructors keep teaching, the line of teachings has been interrupted. Some may continue, maybe even for quite a while, but the complete isolation from, and lack of exposure to, those who have been working together to maintain and develop the core Budō teachings will result in the total extinction of those teachings.

We have multiple examples of students and instructors who leave at a certain time, often after a split, and then later express their desire to reintegrate into the main line. However, in order to ensure his followers’ loyalty, the new rōnin (master-less) instructor will immediately organize a pirate test and promote them one or several ranks above their level. Once the euphoria of wearing their new belts is over, the students will realize that their loyalty had been bought, that those ranks have no value, and that they will never be recognized by any legitimate teacher. Then they start to experience a deep sentiment of guilt and disgust towards themselves, their instructor, and other students who moved with them. Rare are those who admit their error, accept the conditions required to reintegrate into the main line and grow from there, thereby establishing examples for other rōnin who also wish to reintegrate but are too embarrassed, or don’t know how, to do so on their own. However, they are still more likely to quit or repeat the same pattern and end up down a blind alley.

If we decide to abandon a tradition* in order to accommodate our own needs, it will disappear for ever. For some time, I have been saying that Mochizuki Sensei’s Yoseikan is an endangered species. This year Misters Rhéaume Laliberté, Bernard Monast and I attended a teachers’ seminar with Sugiyama Sensei in Hamamatsu. Sugiyama Masashi Sensei, one of Mochizuki Sensei’s most senior students and a full time Budō teacher, started the seminar with these words: “You have to live a straight life in order to study Budō. If you get into Budō for the wrong reasons, you will not be happy and you will mislead others.” We had many discussions afterward. I will add to this that there is always time to study and practice. Daily life provides us with multiple opportunities to train and to grow. If we think that we are too busy to train, then it’s not Budō. Workaholism is a subtle form of laziness fueled by the fear of having to face life’s important questions.

(* Traditions were established by ancestors in order for the following generations to understand how those ancestors lived and then to evolve from there. Traditions must be distinguished from conventions, which mostly consist in repeating others’ behavior without understanding.)

I also believe that Budō and dishonest people are like water and oil. As teachers, we tend to attract students similar to us. Therefore, the majority will model their treatment of us on the way we treat our own teachers. Dishonest instructors usually hide the existence of their own teachers by claiming a direct relationship with a master to whom they had very little or no exposure. It’s only a matter of time before their students find out the truth and confront them with it.

Now let us look at the second option and how it applies to our study of Budō.

Many students repeat exactly (they believe) what they learned from their teacher. Of course, as a first step of learning, we must copy the teacher. However ten, twenty, thirty years later, those students are still repeating the same thing over and over again. They haven’t developed anything. This is mostly due to laziness, to the distractions brought by daily life, and/or to lack of confidence in their ability to evolve and handle criticism from other martial artists. With their physical ability decreasing with age and neglect, so does their technical proficiency. They skip taisabaki (body shifts), no longer take ukemi (break falls), and neglect other essential basics. The consequences are sloppy and/or useless techniques, most likely applied with excessive force in order to compensate for lack of precision, and/or bogus light- or no-touch techniques of the kind we commonly see in demonstrations. That was one of Kanchō Sensei’s pet peeves for which he did not hesitate to scold mainstream aikidō people, resulting, I believe, in the Yōseikan no longer being invited to perform at the All Japan Aikidō Demonstration after 1974.

Other instructors don’t change anything and struggle to maintain the spiritual (shin) and technical (gi) teachings exactly as they believe they received them. They make sure their students learn and maintain those standards, in the hope that someone will take over after them. If such an instructor stays in the line and exposes his students to other teachers, some may have a chance to continue and develop the teachings beyond what they received.

However let’s consider the following question: Can we retain 100% of what our teacher taught us? At the most we may retain, say, 60%. Our serious students may retain 60% of that 60%, which means 36% of what our teacher taught us. If that student teaches, his students will retain less than 22% of the original teachings. What will be left if we do not develop anything? That is why Mochizuki Sensei insisted so much on the importance of kenkyū (research and development) and shugyō (austere training, simple life style.)

We also see the case of students who practice strictly for themselves and do not contribute anything in return such as helping other students and taking part in dōjō activities unless they can see some immediate benefit for themselves.

Such students may concentrate only on one aspect of the training, most commonly the technical one, while avoiding the other one, the spiritual training. Here too appearances may be misleading, but spiritual bypassing, conscious or not, is a common condition in Budō just as in religion. Many delude themselves and others into believing that they have made their lives a shugyō. That is the result of failing to develop a true teacher-student relationship based on Jitakyōei (Mutual Welfare and Prosperity), a widespread case among instructors who leave their teachers too early in order to teach far away and do not return to update themselves. The most common excuse given is lack of money, yet a closer look at their lifestyles often reveals otherwise.

However, such people may be good mat partners at the student level, and we may learn some valuable things from them. They play an important role since their presence, though limited, provides support to the dōjō—as long as they are active. We should respect and encourage them, but never promote them beyond their level of competence lest they quit, start coasting or turn into monsters.

Now we will consider the third option.

Here, we see students whose loyalty goes beyond their attachment to the master’s persona to the values that he represents and that are dear to him. They are the ones who are most likely to argue with the master—not out of disrespect, nor in order to be “right” or impress the master, but because their priority is to continue their study. Mochizuki Sensei tended to treat such students directly and informally. Sensei also had the skill to see through us and could tell the sincere students from the brown nosers. What we see now wasn’t evident to all of us at that time.

Some may think of themselves as belonging to this category by claiming x number of students and followers. I will ask them: Do you know each one of your students? Do you take time for each one of them; do you know their individual needs? Can you tell the motivation behind their behavior? Can you distinguish those who are just saying what they think you want to hear (“Yes, Sensei” Syndrome) while doing something else, from those who are truly there to study? Do you take the time to continue your kenkyū and your shugyō? In your teaching and before making a decision, do you carefully think about the next generations of students? Are you aware of your own underlying motivation and do you frequently reflect on it? Or is your mind occupied with counting your income, upgrading your lifestyle, spoiling your family, and catering to your students’ desires in order to satisfy your greed?

If you provide quality, if you live in an area that is receptive to your teaching, and this allows you to afford some material comfort, enjoy it but maintain your awareness that it will change. That way you can concentrate on your shugyō, maintain your standards, and not be distracted when hard times hit.

Twenty years ago, Mochizuki Kanchō Sensei selected twenty senior students and delivered them a Menkyō Kaiden or certificate of secret teachings. Nowadays, five of them still continue together under the leadership of Mochizuki Tetsuma Sensei, Mochizuki Sensei’s second son. Tetsuma Sensei and his wife Setsuko San took care of Mochizuki Sensei and Mrs. Mochizuki until they left the dōjō.

Tetsuma Sensei resembles his father in many aspects. As he became aware of the abuse by those who tried to cash in on his father’s name and reputation, he took the initiative to select four people from among the Menkyō Kaiden recipients whom he recognized as successors of his father’s teachings for maintaining the true lineage. Those are: Yoshida Nobumasa, 9th dan Shihan; Sugiyama Masashi, 9th dan Shihan; Kenmotsu Hiroaki, 8 th dan Shihan; and Augé Patrick, 8th dan Shihan.

The fact is that many people split off, and some made their own styles that no longer have anything to do with the original teachings. Some went as far as converting into mixed martial arts, aiki taisō (aiki gym) and/or similar fads.

Another fact is that Yōseikan Aikidō cannot be maintained by one person only. This school is so rich in techniques and spiritual teachings that everyone can develop a specialty. The danger is that if we are alone, our students will be exposed only to that specialty. Therefore, they will assume that they know the whole Yōseikan curriculum and deny every thing else. That is the reason why I have been returning to Japan every year since 1977 in order to stay up-to-date and to expose as many of my senior students as possible to the original teachings. Many have been offered the opportunity to go, few made the effort to do so, and still fewer were able to appreciate the true value and evolve from there.

When I left Canada in 1994, I made the commitment to return several times a year in order to help the leading teachers I had appointed continue the development of Yōseikan there. However, some had other agenda and as it became obvious that they had been going in a different direction and had passed the point of no return, I had to part with them. I could have looked the other way and the number of members would certainly have increased significantly, but I was well aware of the long term consequences of such decisions and do not look back.

During clinics, I expose the participants to other black belts’ and teachers’ techniques and spiritual development so that they can see the wide variety of possibilities that are offered to them. It also exposes them to the fact that they all need each other to continue their study. The Canadian students, some of whom have been active for nearly 35 years, need the US students, some of whom have been studying for 18 years and have been participating in and exposed to more recent teachings. The US students need the Canadian students in order to study and understand the whole process of evolution they had been exposed to since they started.

In conclusion, we can see the three levels of study: beginners, intermediates and advanced. I often repeat to students: “Don’t wait until you reach the brown belt level to start developing the qualities of a black belt. Start from the white belt!”

I turned 65 this year. Thanks to a healthy lifestyle and family support, I may be able to function another fifteen years or so. However, I want students to understand that time is precious and should be used wisely. While I was studying at the Yōseikan, it was evident that few students realized that their time with Mochizuki Sensei was precious. Therefore, I will ask again the question: “Can we learn from history and do it differently?”

In order to continue and prepare the next generations, we constantly need new blood. Our best source of reliable students has been referrals. Many people would be interested in this martial art if they knew of its existence. The question is: “How do we reach them?” So far the best answer has been: “Word of mouth!” There is a way to talk about Aikidō and its benefits without sounding like we are bragging.

I would like to thank Mr. Alan Zeoli for his help in correcting and editing this English version and to Mrs. Simone Augé – my mother – with her help with the French version.

Kaoru Sensei and I wish all of you a happy and healthy New Year. Thank you for your trust and support which have made the continuation of our mission possible.

Kind regards,

Patrick and Kaoru Augé

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