Like a Tree - Texts
A very strange meal
By Alain De Halleux
I was getting ready to leave for Fukushima to shoot a film and I took advantage of this pretext to meet the Sensei, supposedly to get some advice on Japanese culture. As my proposal didn’t seem to arouse much enthusiasm, I suggested inviting him to a Japanese restaurant near his home, which he obviously accepted. We all know his penchant for good food.
I rang his doorbell. Marie-Rose opened the door for me. I asked her if she wanted to come with us, but she declined.
Sensei comes into the corridor, puts on his shoes and we start walking very quickly towards the restaurant. I don’t really have the time or opportunity to talk to her as her mind is already at the table. When it comes to eating, Sensei is impatient. We arrive. We sit down. We order.
I say to myself that I should take advantage of this moment before we are served to talk to him, but I don’t really know what I want from him any more. My questions were confusing and all I could get out of him was “Mmm” or “Eh huh”.
But already the miso soup arrives, followed by the sushi and tamporas. Sensei pounces on it and gobbles up his meal at full speed. As I eat, I say to myself that we’ll talk after the meal, but it’s barely over when Sensei falls asleep, his head in his hand as I describe my plans. I order the bill. I pay. The Sensei wakes up and we are already walking towards his house in silence.
We say goodbye. He wishes me a good shoot. I thank him and go home, telling myself that I just wanted to be with him anyway.
The Art of Life
By Alain De Halleux
When I started aikido, more than 35 years ago, the Sensei passed on Tohei’s teaching based on principles such as: practise with confidence, hold one point, send Ki etc…
We used to do tests like I arm implacable, sitting up facing three people pushing you etc…
Then one day, Sensei put aside the principles and replaced them with concepts. I think that for him, the principles froze aikido in a kind of vice that prevented the creation and evolution of our art because they were presented as something universal and eternal that could not be questioned or challenged.
Concepts have the advantage that they can always be replaced by others. Thus, an aikido based on them is a living aikido, in perpetual evolution.
This change from principle to concept is for me the most important quantum leap made by Sensei.
From the day he set out to explore this new Universe, he has never ceased to challenge us with a new vision. We thought we’d mastered a technique? At the next seminar
we were back to being beginners trying to interpret a hold in a different way.
Perceive, conceive, to act. To move without moving. Open, close. Change form than move…
These concepts and the dozens of others that kept cropping up were like the bricks with which to build the house of his vision of life. I was amazed at the originality of each new
concept. I wondered how he managed to discover them and whether one day the source of his inspiration would run dry.
But no! Right to the end, he created and innovated. Recently I was attending a seminar in Denmark. I was delighted to realise that the instructors were surprising me by pursuing this path full of life and creativity.
The sensei must have been happy to see that we were still coming up with new concepts and evolve our art like branches on his trunk.