“The Not Doing”, my English translation of “Le Non-Faire” (published by Le Courrier du Livre, 1973) by Itsuo Tsuda, a Japanese living in Paris, a former student of Aikido under founder Morihei Ueshiba, Seitai under founder Haruchika Noguchi, and Noh recitation under Master Kanze Kasetsu. Tsuda taught Aikido and Seitai at his school, L’ecole de la Respiration. Branches exist in various locations around Europe.
Below, I tell briefly how I came to be interested in Aikido and Seitai, the subjects of “The Not Doing”. In a later post, I’ll write about how I came to meet Tsuda himself.
Growing up in southern England in the 1960s and 70s, I came across the writings of Alan Watts (actually just one “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Really Are), “Zen and the Art of Archery“, “Small is Beautiful“. (Later at university, I read a book on Macrobiotics by Michio Kushi, something on Zen by D.T. Suzuki although I found that rather hard going, and “The Art of Loving” by Erich Fromm). While still at grammar school, I got a part-time job in a 2nd-hand bookshop, and often browsed the shelves for books on this subject. I found one on some kind of martial art, and decided that, when I went to university I would join a martial arts club.
At the university freshers’ fair, I came across a demonstration by the Aikido club, and fell in love at first sight. It was the grace, beauty and power and the combination of all three that impressed me. “I want to learn how to do that!” It was so cool. I joined on the spot.
My time at university was quickly coming to an end, but I still had no career lined up and no idea of what I wanted to do. A former fellow Aikido-club member wrote to me from Japan: why don’t you come to Japan, teach English and practice Aikido? The Japanese government was recruiting British graduates to assist in the teaching of English in schools and businesses across Japan and they paid for your air-fare! I applied, got the job and after a few short days of orientation and language-learning, arrived in Tokyo in September 1980, along with 40 or so other British graduates.
I was sent to a high school in Kakogawa City in Hyogo Prefecture. Soon after arriving, I met Peter Shapiro who had been introduced to me as someone who had practiced Aikido under founding master Morihei Ueshiba. Peter told me he had moved to Shingu and was continuing his Aikido studies under Hikitsuchi-sensei.
Unfortunately, stupidly, I only had the opportunity to practice Aikido with Peter once, but I never forgot the experience. It was quite unlike anything I’d experienced in Aikido until then, or since. This short video captures the feeling I had that day:
Here’s the remarkable Hikitsuchi-sensei:
As well as practising Aikido, Peter also practised Seitai, having been introduced to it by his Aikido friend and fellow student at Ueshiba’s Tokyo dojo, Itsuo Tsuda, after injuring his back during Aikido practice. Peter was so impressed with Noguchi (Peter had to be assisted into Noguchi’s dojo, but was able to walk out on his own) that he applied and was accepted as a student and earned a qualification. Peter held several introductory sessions for a small group of interested people in the Kobe area. At one of these sessions, he produced a book by Tsuda, “Le Non-Faire”, written in French for Tsuda’s students at his Paris dojo. At the time, it was the only non-Japanese book available on Seitai. I could read French and I soon began translating the book into English for the benefit of the others in our group who were interested in knowing more. (Since then, three of Noguchi’s books have been translated into English.)
About a year later, the translation was almost finished. But then tragedy struck: Tsuda suffered a stroke and was incapacitated. I still had questions to ask him about his text, and amazingly he answered my questions. Peter made a trip to Paris to see him. Unfortunately, Tsuda did not recover, and he passed away in 1984. His book was published but the publisher went bankrupt and into hiding. A few months later, I received a box full of copies of “The Not Doing” – my payment! I have just one left. I’m hanging on to it. I’m sure it’ll be worth millions one day…