After failing my initial attempt at Shodan (first degree black belt) in the summer of 1980, I was allowed to try again in November of that year. The examiner was Fujita Masatake Shihan. He was one of the most senior officials at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. His classes were always stimulating. Sometimes he would say, “In the old days…”  We often dreaded those words, because we knew that extremely powerful and painful techniques were coming. But he would always add later that we no longer practice those techniques frequently: they do not fit in with Aikido today. Below are excerpts from a letter that Fujita Shihan wrote entitled Circular Movement and the Spirit of Harmony:

“The purpose of Aikido is to create harmony—harmony of your spirit and body, harmony between your partner and yourself, and harmony with the movements of the Universe. A martial path which has as a purpose to be healthy in body and peaceful in spirit, to avoid conflict with others, to avoid spoiling Nature, to refrain from the use of physical power to achieve one’s desires, to strive to become one with the Universe…this  is Aikido. The collision of power against power—this is what we call fighting or conflict. Aikido is not a collision of power against power. It is a joining of power with power to come to a resolution of conflict. The transformation of power allows Aikido technique to be born.

“Aikido always holds this ideal, no matter what situation arises…

“Aikido is composed of circular movement. This movement is the way of non-conflict. Aikido takes a strong force and makes it circular. In order to eliminate the necessity to injure or kill the other person this movement is necessary.

“Aikido is not just a simple martial art, it is a unique Way.”

Fujita Shihan passed me. We stayed in contact for many years until he had a stroke and later passed away. I will always remember his skill, insight, and unfailing cheerfulness.

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