FACE to FACE with Fujita Masatake (藤田 昌武)  Sensei

On November, 1998 Masatake Fujita Shihan (8th Dan, Hombu
Aikikai) stopped by in Kuala Lumpur on his way home from the
Asian Aikido Friendship Gathering in Bangkok (November 6th -
8th). With the help of Christine Lee, Raymond Kwok spoke to the

Excerpts from the interview which first appeared in the 1999 issue of the
Kuala Lumpur YMCA Aikido Club Magazine:

Raymond Kwok:        I understand that you started Aikido at 19 years of
                                      age in 1956. Were you an uchi-deshi of O’

Fujita:        I was not an uchi-deshi although I trained at the Hombu
                  Dojo. We don’t say soto-deshi either.

Raymond Kwok:        Who were your contemporaries at Hombu Dojo?

Fujita:        We were all training at Hombu Dojo at about the same
                   time. But we entered Hombu Dojo at different times. But
                   we did not have a clear-cut sempai-kohai relationship
                   there, although those who joined earlier could be
                   referred to as seniors.

Raymond Kwok:        Would Tohei Sensei be considered as your

Fujita:        We are not bound to respect those who have left the
                  Hombu Dojo - No matter where you are, if you leave the
                  Hombu Aikikai movement halfway, you no longer have
                  any connection with the Hombu Dojo. This is common
                  sense. You won’t find this written in the books. Aikido is
                  a way of life incorporating many things, not just power
                  of technique.

Raymond Kwok:        Did you serve as O’Sensei’s assistant in any

Fujita:        I did secretarial duties at the Hombu Dojo office for
                  about 2 years. But I have accompanied O’Sensei on his
                  trips in Japan and overseas too, but this was less often.
                 I only started working in the office for O’Sensei when he
                 was 84 years old. Since he was already old then, he
                 didn’t travel much.

Raymond Kwok:        Were you with O’Sensei during the final days
                                      before he died? Can you tell us about it?

Fujita:      I was with O’Sensei when he died. O’Sensei died of liver
                cancer. I visited him often while he was in the hospital.
                Although he was in his eighties, his body was that of a
                sixty-year old man.

                He didn’t say any particular thing - just made general
               statements. O’ Sensei had always wanted to write a book
               while he was alive. This he never got around to doing.

                But we had tape recordings of many of his sayings - ten
                years after his death a book containing these thoughts of
                O’Sensei was actually published. But the book was
               very difficult to understand - even for Aikidokas.

               Some professors or religious people are reading and
               trying to understand it now. I helped to compile and edit
               the book. Some of the material from this book were
               previously published in the Hombu Dojo Aikido
               Newsletters while O’Sensei was still alive.

               The book exists only in the Japanese version. It does not
               contain any remarks or explanatory notes because if this
               was done it would have meant that I was commenting on
               O’Sensei’s book. It is so difficult to understand that it has
               never been translated to English.

Raymond Kwok:        Is this book an Aikido manual or about O’Sensei’
                                      s Omoto-kyo religious thoughts?

Fujita:       The book contains a great deal of material about the
                 Omoto-kyo religion which Aikidokas unfamiliar with the
                 religion will not understand. On the other hand people
                 familiar with the religion will not understand the Aikido
                 aspects of the book if they are not Aikidokas.

Raymond Kwok:        So you have to know both to understand the

Fujita:        Yes. Sometimes the recordings were done while O’
                  Sensei was demonstrating Aikido techniques and
                  lecturing on Aikido at the same time. Not many people
                  understand this book. I do because I witnessed O’
                  Sensei doing both at the same time. In Japan now, the
                  number of people still living, who understand the
                  contents of this book number no more than 4. I will try
                  to simplify the book so that it can be passed on to future

Raymond Kwok:        Who are these 4 people?

Fujita:        Basically I know who the other people are but I don’t
                  know them personally.

Raymond Kwok:        Do you have any interesting stories about O’

Fujita:        O’Sensei was a very kind person. When I first saw him, I
                 decided I wanted to learn Aikido from him.

Raymond Kwok:        Have you ever tested O’Sensei’s readiness?

Fujita:        I have heard of stories of O’Sensei being “tested” by his
                 disciples but I personally have never done so. When I
                 entered Hombu Dojo at 19, it was through my father’s
                 introduction ... when I saw O’Sensei I decided to follow
                 him even though I didn’t know if his martial art skill was
                 good or not.

Raymond Kwok:        At the Hombu Dojo, apart from O’Sensei, who
                                      were your teachers?

Fujita:        I only had 1 teacher - that was O’Sensei. There were
                 others who were my seniors - they were not my
                 teachers. O’ Sensei’s technique was the best. No one
                 else could compare with him.

Raymond Kwok:        When you joined Hombu Dojo, apart from O’
                                      Sensei, who were the other teachers there?

Fujita:        Ueshiba Kisshomaru then Tohei Sensei, Osawa Sensei .

Raymond Kwok:        What is the secret of your powerful technique?

Fujita:        Of course there is a secret, but everyone is different.
                 Even if I tell you what it is you may not be like me. It’s
                 hard to talk about it. You have to experience it yourself.

                 To watch someone do it and to do it yourself are 2
                 separate things. For eg., what you see through the lens
                 of a camera may not be the same as what you see with
                 the naked eye. You can’t learn just by copying someone
                 else. You may be able to copy a technique but you may
                 not grasp the essence of the technique.

Raymond Kwok:        You have been practising Aikido for more than 40
                                      years. How has Aikido changed from the time you
                                      started learning it to the present day?

Fujita:        Basically, there have not been many changes. There are
                  certain changes - for eg. it is getting easy to learn Aikido
                  - that’s a good part - a lot of things are now simplified in
                 the Videos. But the drawback is that because it is
                 simplified, many people just copy the technique without
                 understanding the essence of Aikido.

Raymond Kwok:        They copy the appearance but not the kokoro?

Fujita:        There are more and more people learning Aikido, that’s
                  good but they are also learning less and less of the real

Raymond Kwok:        What then is the real Aikido?

Fujita:        Some people have been doing Aikido for 20-30 years.
                  They started on the wrong track - and because of this
                  have remained on the wrong track all these years. Then
                  they start teaching others and the ‘wrong way’
                  perpetuates itself - this is not good. It’s better to learn
                  the original way.

                 In the olden days,teaching was on a one to one basis.
                 So it was easy to learn original aspects of the Art. But
                 now it is one person teaching several hundreds ...

                                                 The End
              Fujita Sensei
Fujita Sensei at YMCA Dojo
      With Fujita Sensei