The interviewer is Arthur Lockyear. The respondent is Kazuo Chiba Sensei.
All rights remain with the author and the magazine.
The article has been reproduced in its entirety.
Sensei please tell me how you came to study Aikido?
Well, I was very keen on the martial arts from when I was little,
and I decided early on to train seriously in at least one of them. I
began with Judo and stayed for four years. I then moved to Karate.
You trained at the Shotokan headquarters I believe: what was the
training like there?
Oh, I really loved it, it was a very hard spirit in the training,
very satisfying, I liked it a lot. Nakayama Sensei was the Chief
Instructor but I did see the Master, Funakoshi Gichin on a number of
occasions. I joined the Japan Karate Association about a year before
Master Funakoshi died. I remember that there was a big ceremony to mark
Where any of the present-day Shotokan Masters there at that time?
Yes: Nishiyama Sensei, Okazaki Sensei and Kanazawa Sensei. Kanazawa
Sensei was 1st Kyu then, or maybe 1st Dan, I'm not sure. Asano Sensei
was 3rd Kyu level and Kase Sensei was there also.
Was there anything in particular that converted you to Aikido?
Well. when I was 1st Kyu (the level just below Black Belt) in Judo I
entered a competition and happened to be drawn to fight against my
senior from the dojo - a second Dan, I think. So I beat him and
afterwards he came over to me and said: "You have taken away my Judo, but
I still have Kendo." He issued me a challenge. So we went outside. He
gave me a bokken (wooden sword) and took a Kendo shinai (bamboo practice
sword)for himself. Once we started I was unable to touch him...not
even once! He beat me soundly and I was black and blue with bruises.
After this I thought deeply about the meaning of Budo.
I wanted a Martial Art that would be effective in any situation,
whether an opponent had a weapon or not. So I eventually decided that I
would become a student of Master Ueshiba - the Founder of Aikido. I went
straight to the Hombu (HQ) but I had no letter of introduction, which
was a necessary requirement then. I arrived at the Hombu and asked for
an audience with O'Sensei (Master Ueshiba). They told me that he was not
there, and that I should go away. I was so intent to be O'Sensei's
student that I determined to wait for his return. So I sat down in the
garden of the dojo and waited. At the end of the third day O'Sensei
returned, and was told that there was some crazy boy outside who wanted
to see him.
Well O'Sensei told them to bring me in. I was taken to just outside
his room. and told to wait. When the screen was opened, there was Master
Ueshiba. Our eyes met for the first time: it is a moment I shall never
forget! I didn't know what to do, so I just bowed as deeply as I could.
O'Sensei said to me: "Martial arts are very hard, can you take it?" I
just said: "Yes Sensei." So that is how I came to be accepted as an uchideshi
(inside student, or special apprentice) to Master Ueshiba.
Did you commence Aikido training at once?
No, I was not allowed to practice straight away. I had to clean the
dojo and all the other rooms at Hombu, plus wash, do cleaning, shopping,
administration and look after all the Master's family. Also I had to
work in the fields. Eventually I was allowed to first watch the classes
and then, after some time, to train. No one taught me at first. I had to
learn for myself. Fortunately I could already make ukemi (break falls) so
I was alright. I decided to make my best endeavors to be a good uchideshi
to O'Sensei, and learn all that I could from him. It was the
greatest time of my life! I remember that O'Sensei always had a strong
presence....there was a very special atmosphere when he was around. This
came from his physical posture - the way he sat, the way he walked, the
way he moved around was so beautiful. Never could I see any opening in
O'Sensei's posture...not ever. His eyes were almost golden, not
black as is usual with Japanese people.
Your time as an uchideshi must have been rigorous.
In one sense it was like a battle field. We rose every day very
early to both work and train, and many nights I had to stay up late to
wait for Waka Sensei (O'Sensei's son, Kisshomaru - the present Doshu, or
leader of Aikido) to return from his office work. It was so hard and
intensive that many times I came close to a nervous breakdown. I used to
see strange things: every night a ghost used to come to me. I don't know
whether it was supposed to be a man or a woman. At that time I did not
realise how close I was to a breakdown but now I realise of course. Just
before I fell asleep each night it would come to me it was really
frightening. I could sense its presence. Then all of a sudden it would
become like a ton weight on top of me and I would not be able to move.
Eventually I found a solution to this. I took my bokken to bed with me
and as soon as I felt its presence I held my bokken strongly...and
then it was OK. This was due to exhaustion I think.
Many years ago you told me about your first meeting with Tamura Sensei,
could you repeat it please for the readers of Fighting Arts.
Well, it was one day after class and some of the students were doing
Judo randori (practice fighting) on the mat. I was standing in the
corridor watching this and one of them invited me to join in, which I
did. I was surprised at how weak they were, and I repeatedly threw one
man who was Sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) in both Judo and Aikido. So
the master, Tamura Sensei called me over and invited me to practice with
him. Then "bang", Tamura Sensei struck me hard in the belly. I learned a
lot from that, it was a good lesson in awareness, distance and posture
for me. I believe that Tamura Sensei is one of O'Sensei's greatest
students. I learned a great deal from him in the past.
Anyone else that you would like to talk about...perhaps Saito
Yes, he is a great Master. Every time he visits the United States I
invite him to teach at my dojo. Saito Sensei was a special disciple of
O'Sensei. He stayed with him after the war to take care of him and
manage the farm at Iwama Dojo. I have seen the kind of responsibility
that he carried, and nobody could have done it as well as did Saito
Sensei. I really appreciate Saito Sensei's work.
What about Doshu...the successor to O'Sensei?
The teacher directly responsible for my training was Kisshomaru
Ueshiba Sensei. O'Sensei had already retired to the mountain-side of
Iwama, and only came to Hombu Dojo occasionally. The growth and
development of modern Aikido since the war has been due to Doshu's hard
work. His Aikido is very beautiful.
What about Master Koichi Tohei of the Ki Society?
Yes, Tohei Sensei is very good. He is small but very powerful. I saw
him take a challenge from a wrestler once.
Sumotori or Western style?
Western style. Two brothers - Germans I think from Argentina - and
they were enormous! They had to bend over to avoid hitting their heads
on the gate-post of the Hombu. This was the only time that O'Sensei
accepted a challenge for Hombu. These people were travelling the world
with a film crew and were challenging different Martial Arts masters.
They had been to the Kodokan (Judo HQ), but the Judo men had not been
able to handle them. So they challenged the Aikido Hombu. When they
arrived I met them and brought them in. Inside the dojo were O'Sensei
Kisshomaru Sensei, and Tohei Sensei who was then the Chief Instructor to
the Aikido Foundation. O'Sensei nominated Tohei to go first, as he was so
strong. So the wrestler crouched in a low posture with his hands out
stretched in front of him, and just moved in a circle around Tohei
Sensei for a long time. Tohei Sensei was very relaxed and just followed
his movement, and eventually cornered him. Just as the wrestler began to
move Tohei leapt upon him, threw him to the floor, and bounced his head
for him. Tohei Sensei then pinned him down with his hand blade
extension, which, as you may have heard, is very powerful. This guy
could not move, and his brother declined to try Tohei for himself, so
that was that. Apparently at the Kodokan the Judo men advised them not
to make a grab for an Aikido Master. That is why he circled Tohei Sensei
for so long.
With friends like that who needs enemies! As we are talking about
challenges would you mind telling me about your confrontation with Mr.
Wang, the Tai Chi Master from China?
Who told you about this...Mr. Cottier perhaps?
Perhaps I'd better not tell...
O.K. then. I was in a big demonstration of Martial Arts in Tokyo in
the early 1960's, and Tai Chi Chuan was being shown by Mr. Wang. He was
from Taiwan and he was very big indeed. He became quite famous later in
Japan. Well, at the end of his display he had a number of Karateka line
up in front of him, and each of them punched him in the belly. It had no
effect on him. I was not impressed. I would have done something else
(Sensei demonstrated a groin kick and face punch whilst saying this).
So, anyway two of my private students were also studying Tai Chi
under Mr. Wang, and they were very impressed with him. They invited me to
come along and see him. Eventually I accepted and went to watch his
class. At the dojo my students introduced us, and he politely asked me
to show some Aikido. Even though his words were warm it was still a
challenge! Well, we faced each other, and Master Wang made something
like Sumo posture with his hands outstretched. I stood and waited for an
opening. This went on for some minutes until he moved forward to push
me. So I met him, made Tai Sabaki (body evasion) and took his wrist
with Kote Gaeshi, (wrist crush/reversal)...his wrist made a loud
snapping noise as I applied it. Even though I applied Kote Gaeshi
strongly and injured him, he did not go down. Master Wang snatched his
wrist from me, and challenged me immediately. So this time he pushed me
with both hands in the belly, and threw me quite a distance across the
room. I landed, but I also did not go down. It was an amazing throw. My
students then came between us, and that was that.
How did you come to be sent to England?
Well in 1964 when the Olympic Games were held in Tokyo, the famous
Judo master, Kenshiro Abbe Sensei came to Hombu to pay respects to
O'Sensei. He asked O'Sensei to send a young and spirited instructor to
England to develop Aikido for the British Judo Council. I was supposed
to go to New York to assist Yamada Sensei, but O'Sensei agreed to send
me to England.
Why did you choose the North East area first?
My sponsor, Mr. Logan, was a business man in Newcastle, so I went to
that area. However, during my journey from Japan something happened with
the BJC and they were not able to work with me. So Mr. Logan had to pay
my salary - it was a difficult time. It was in the North East that I
promoted my first British dan Grades, Mr. Pat Butler, Mr. Fred Jenkins
and Mr. Ron Myers.
Yes Sensei, I trained under all three of these men for a number of
years, particularly Ron Myers. On your voyage from Japan I believe there
was an incident?
Ah yes, we had a party on the ship when we crossed the equator, and
I was asked to demonstrate. So I agreed, however there was no-one on
board with any Aikido experience to act as my partner.
Or if there was, they were keeping very quiet about it!
(Laughter) Yes maybe. So one of the Ship's crew was asked to assist
me, and he attacked me with a knife. At Hombu Dojo, in knife work, we
made a positive attack with Tanto (a dagger). But this guy was crouched
low, moving around me changing the knife from hand to hand. This was
difficult, as when he made his attack I would not know which hand had
held the weapon. So when he came at me I made Gedan Barai (the low
sweeping block) with both arms, and I was able to deflect his attack.
The point of his blade actually went through my Obi (belt) and just
touched my flesh. From Gedan Barai I moved to a counter technique and
broke his arm.
With which technique?
Katekatame, I think.
Blocking techniques such as Gedan Barai are not usual in Aikido. Mainly
the hand blade is used as a deflecting move...
Yes, but it is not always possible to move so I believe that you
need to be able to make a strong block when necessary.
Can you recall your last meeting with O'Sensei before you left for
My brother and I travelled by taxi to Hombu Dojo before going to my
ship. We were badly delayed because of the Tokyo traffic, and I was late
arriving at Hombu. This was very bad, as uchideshi students must always
be ready to receive and meet their teacher. Anyway when I arrived
O'Sensei was waiting for me, and said how happy he was that I had come
to say goodbye. My teacher gave me tea, and said that I had looked after
him well over the years, and wished me good luck. He also said that I
should not worry about him, and that he would live to be 126 years old.
Was O'Sensei joking with you?
No, he was very serious. He had given me a Koan (a Zen riddle) and
only now do I understand.
Sensei, in 1976 you returned to Japan. Actually I was the last Shodan
you promoted before you left...
Yes, that's why I went home! (Laughter)
How were things at Hombu on your return?
Well the standard of Aikido was fine of course, but too much in
Japan had changed and I didn't like what had happened. I was given the
job of International Secretary at Hombu Dojo and I was not happy with
it. Paper work all day, and no time to train, This was no good for me. I
am a Martial Artist, not a clerk. So I left Tokyo and went to live in
the country. I farmed and practiced Zazen (seated meditation) for a
time. Later I was invited to move to San Diego by the United States
May I ask about your Iaido training?
I like Iaido (the art of drawing the sword) very much. I really like
to handle the katana (the longest of the Samurai swords) and I feel an
affinity for the Japanese sword. I practice Muso Shinden Ryu, which was
founded by Nakayama Hakudo Sensei at the turn of the century. O'Sensei
always had a very good relationship with Hakudo. His students used to
practice at Kobukan.
That is what Hombu Dojo used to be called...
Yes, that's right. There was a good interchange of students.
Actually Hakudo Sensei's senior student was married to O'Sensei's
daughter. He was All Japan Kendo champion at one time.
I always find a good awareness in laido training, almost a moving zen.
Yes, indeed, a good point. It is good for developing Zanshin. I
always combine zazen with Iai at my Dojo. Maybe 20 minutes of sitting
meditation and then 10 minutes of sword-drawing, and then back to
I have been told that now you have background music played during
zazen at your Dojo...is this true?
Well, not always. My Zen Master used to do that with either Bach or
Beethoven, and we would sit. Very enjoyable. You can go really deep in
your meditation in such sessions, depending on the type of music of
course: I don't think that jazz would go with it, for example, my dojo
faces a main street in San Diego, so the background music helps to cut
out the sound from outside.
Over the last twenty years I have had the pleasure of training under a
number of O'Sensei's personal students - yourself of course - also
Sekiya, Tamura, Kanai...and you are all so different: Would you like
Well, I think that Aikido is very much wider than other Martial
Arts. Aikido allows everyone to train together. The communication that
takes place on the mat is only a part of it.
Do you think that each of you express a difference facet of O'Sensei's
Aikido in your individual practice?
Yes, I think that is so.
Some people say that O'Sensei was a very gentle and kind old man yet
others refer to his direct and severe attitude, What is the truth?
I think that it was quite natural for him to be very kind, gentle
and peaceful with ordinary students, but with uchideshi he was harsh
and severe at times.
Why do you emphasize weapons training in your Aikido?
Aikido is based on the traditional swordsmanship of Japan. So in
Aikido body art we move like a swordsman without having a sword. Weapons
are particularly important in place of offensive, or dualistic training
such as Randori in Judo, and Jiyu Kumite (free fighting) in Karate. It
helps us develop Martial spirit and other aspects like timing, distance,
centering etc. Also we can relate directly to basic technique from
bokken cuts, out-extension of breath power, use of hips, etc.
May I ask a little about Aikido history: O'Sensei was once invited to
teach at the Kodokan by the founder of Judo, Dr. Jigoro Kano: did he
At the time Kano Sensei was trying to consolidate the traditional
Martial Arts of Japan, to help preserve them. That is why he asked
O'Sensei to come to the Kodokan to teach. But O'Sensei refused: he felt
that Aikido and Judo were so different that they should not be classed
together. So instead Dr. Kano sent three of his senior students to study
under O'Sensei - Master Mochizuki and Master Murashige, and one other. I
can't recall his name. They studied with O'Sensei but returned every so
often to the Kodokan to meet with Dr. Kano.
Was Tomiki Sensei the other master?
No. Tomiki Sensei came later. He combined Aikido and Judo: he would
use Aikido for open distance in combat and judo for a closer Ma-ai
(critical distance). I don't altogether agree with this idea, but Tomiki
Sensei was a very good Martial Artist...and a real gentleman.
I read somewhere that there is a cousin of O'Sensei, a Martial
Artist himself, still alive in Japan!
Yes, that is Master Hogen Inoue. His resemblance to O'Sensei is
amazing. He is of course very old now, but his Aikido was second only to
O'Sensei's at one time. He calls his Budo form, "Taiwa Shindo" now.
The Shotokai Karate Master, Harada Sensei's teacher, Master Shigeru
Egami was a student under Inoue Sensei...I have heard that there was
an interesting encounter between these two great masters when they first
You must ask Harada Sensei about this incident. Harada Sensei and I
are good friends: he is an intellectual and a great Karate Master.
Other than your confrontations on the ship, and against Master Wang have
you ever had to use your ability outside of the dojo?
Well a gangster attacked me with a knife once in Japan. He lunged
for my belly, so I blocked him with Gedan Barai, and broke his arm with
On another occasion I was in Paris with Noro Sensei, and we visited
a night club together. I was having a drink in one room and Noro Sensei
was sitting in another room playing cards, or something. Suddenly there
was a terrible commotion from where Noro was, so I went in to see what
was happening. It was a fight. An old gentleman was Iying on the floor
and a young man was kicking him. It was terrible - there was a lot of
blood on the floor. I think he would have killed him, so Noro Sensei
said to me "Chiba, sort that out." He did not want to get involved.
I took hold of this man, and stopping his attack, I asked him what
he thought he was doing. He spoke to me in French, so neither of us
understood and so I pulled him outside...then something happened. My
body reacted and I threw him down with O Soto Gari (major outer reaping
throw) the judo technique. He hit the ground very hard and I heard a
clatter of metal. It was then I realized that he had pulled a knife. My
awareness had been such that I reacted to the situation from my
subconscious. This guy was a gangster from the Pigalle, and that was why
no one stopped him. He was well known apparently...but not to me! It
made no difference who he was.
Anything else Sensei?
When I returned to Japan from England, in 1978, a man issued a
challenge to us. But Hombu Dojo refused it, despite his persistence.
Was he a Karateka?
Nobody knew what he did. As I said he was persistent, and every few
weeks he would return to challenge us. Each time I had to explain that
we could not accept. I think that the man was not quite "right" in the
head. Anyway, eventually I personally had enough of him and accepted his
challenge. We arranged to meet and sort it out. I insisted that we agree
not to press charges in the event of serious injury and we exchanged
letters to that effect. I told him as a martial arts teacher I was
prepared to die if need be. Well, we met and I initiated with offence,
moving directly to him and I struck him first. This threw him back
against the wall and as I came towards him he jumped on me: he was like
a tiger. I then finished him with Nikyo (the second immobilization).
He had had enough by then. There was much blood and he was on the
floor screaming. That was the last challenge he offered us - it seems
that he did not expect an Aikidoist to initiate an attack.
To conclude our talk may I ask about two separate
things: atemi and competition in Aikido?
Well I believe atemi (the striking of anatomical weak points) is very
important to Aikido technique. It is not usually taught in class...
but I personally train in atemi, of course. There is no competition in
Aikido because it would eliminate a lot of people from the training. The
purpose of Aikido is to allow as many different people as possible - men
and women, young and old, weak and strong - to develop their potential
through practice together.
What would you consider to be the most important quality in a good
Chiba Sensei, may I thank you on behalf of the readers of
Fighting Arts for taking the time to speak with me.