Conversation with Aikido Masters (Radio program)
Divya: I welcome Cristo, and Jean-Pierre. We would like to talk about the Aikido workshop. And Cristo I think we should start with you. And I would like to kind of just ask you to help us learn more about Aikido – what is the origin of Aikido and how it was first started in Auroville.
Cristo: Okay, so, Aikido is a martial art. It was... I wouldn't say 'invented', because the base is very ancient, thousands of years – but the man who brought Aikido into existence left his body in the sixties; his name was Morihei Ueshiba, known as O Sensei, the teacher of teachers. And this is today a martial art that is practiced in most countries of the world. And in Auroville it has been present since the very beginning of Auroville. It was introduced by a French man whose name was André Piton, who left Auroville early. I met him, when I arrived in '74, and then he left for Tahiti and became one of the main teachers there.
And later on a group of students started in the early seventies again. After his departure another man came, Ananda, and Michiko, Ananda is another French man again, who studied Aikido in Japan in __ Dojo. Then Serge and Luisa and myself started to learn with him. I think we started in 1980. 1980 probably. And Ananda stopped. And after a long story, Serge managed to spend a few years in France – there he met Jean-Pierre – and then learned Aikido there, developed his skill, came back in 1991, and restarted the Aikido school. And he became my teacher. Because in the meantime I had a problem with my spine, I had to stop, so again I re-started again Aikido in 1991, '92.
Then unfortunately Serge left his body, a few years back. Luisa and I were his closest students. And I was already – I had been trained as a teacher before he left his body, so I de-facto became the main 'teacher', so to say, in Auroville.
Divya: Okay, wonderful. And I think that brings us to the workshop and you leading the whole thing, and conducting and organizing the workshop. So tell us, why did you feel the need to conduct this workshop – on the 21st to 29th of February, right?
Cristo: Yes, exactly. So, since a few years, thanks to the PCG – the Project Coordination Group – we receive some money that allows us to pay for the upkeep of the teachers here. We have contact with several teachers, mostly French – Jean-Pierre Pigeau is the main teacher outside of Auroville – and last year we received another teacher, a 5th Dan, André Palmeri. And the reason why we organize these workshops is every teacher – in fact there are other people teaching: Luisa is able to each Aikido, Surya works closely with me, also is able to teach – it's a bit limited. So we also need to be – our own practice needs to be evaluated, and renewed, and corrected. And for example during the classes Jean-Pierre tells me what I do wrong. Because I cannot see myself. And I have no one who is even more developed than me in this art, who can tell me what I do wrong or write.
Jean-Pierre: ...what we have to feel.
Cristo: Yes (laughs). He says “we never do anything, we have to discover” - that's very good, because that's about consciousness, Aikido is about consciousness. And also, of course, it's very good for students to be – to see much better work than what we can provide. And to be put in circumstances where there is a challenge also for them. Okay?
Divya: Jean-Pierre, I saw you conduct the workshop and lead it, and there was such grace in your movements and... I felt it was more like a dance, with lots of precision and balance. And I am really curious to know how long have you been doing Aikido?
Jean-Pierre: I began Aikido in 1975.
Divya: And you've been practicing it mostly in France?
Jean-Pierre: Yes, in France, yes.
Divya: And how long have you been teaching?
Jean-Pierre: Ahm... I began to teach in 1980. About 1980, yes.
Divya: Wow. So when you teach, what is it that you would like your students to gain out of this practice, this art?
Cristo: [translates into French]
Cristo: He says, for him Aikido is a very deep experience. It is only by this presence that it can manifest. And his role is to allow the student to open himself, just by – to open himself to what is shown, to what comes from inside. So Aikido is not something, if I may say, which is a lot of talking. A few explanations have to be made, but it's all inner movement. It's all that comes from inside. And this is the only way that he can communicate this.
Divya: And -
Cristo: Exactly, it's the same thing that I told you in the earlier interview. It's by teaching yourself, that you can learn. So the role of the teacher is mainly that he doesn't impose anything on you, but the discipline must come from you. Nothing can be imposed from outside.
Divya: You also mentioned that it's very spiritual – it's very close to spirituality. Jean-Pierre did you – when you interacted with people here in Auroville, did you see that our spiritual, kind of, level of consciousness also helps to connect with Aikido? Or practice it better? Or maybe understand it better?
Cristo: [Translates into French]
Cristo: No. There is no rules. It depends really on the person. It depends on your own level, so to say. In Auroville – I tell you, I am here since long – I would never ask a question of spirituality of anybody. You see what I mean? We don't know. It's for – we take the people as they are, basically. And they bring with them what they are. And we can a bit help, but basically you cannot force someone to transform himself. It has to come from him. The – all the work comes from you.
Cristo: Exactly – this I think answers your question. He says “Aikido can be an instrument, a tool, to help incarnate this spirit in you. If you take it this way, it can be – if you are, you know, a feral person for example, you can practice a very hard Aikido – you can easily break people, eh? It is not a dance, like you think having seen. It's a very very efficient, terribly efficient martial art. But, the purpose of an Aikidoka is not destruction. Never.
Cristo: You see – what he says – we don't work in opposition. We don't solve a problem with confrontation in Aikido. It's a matter of exactly what Auroville is about. Of transformation of the consciousness. So if you have an opponent, someone who comes with a bad intention, the matter is not to send back even a worse vibration to that person. It's to take the vibration of this person, transform it into something more, maybe, peaceful, and then to give it back to that person.
Cristo: It's very interesting because that's what we discovered here in Auroville, exactly what he expressed – there is a body, there is a consciousness, and in many people it's completely disconnected. Many people are either in their mind – they don't know nothing about their body – other people are fully in their body, have no mind. So this work of transformation has to be done into you. And as Jean-Pierre said we don't work in opposition. That's no confrontation.
But, unification is very important. As I said, you see Mother she said somewhere, “you have to become one body, one soul”. In Aikido this is really personally what I have discovered and what Jean-Pierre is trying to say if I get it right – and the body of the other is part of you basically.
So when somebody else attacks you, because we are dealing with this, there are different levels of answering. One can be... be sure, the more the energy is given, the more also what will be given back. You get in fact what you bring. Exactly, in Aikido. You give something – if you also are the defender, and you don't give nothing, you will get hurt. That's obvious. You see?
Cristo: See, what he means – even during this interview, we are three people, we could have a different attitude. You know, could be [ ], or not interested, but we are here, clearly together, sharing something, and we fully participate with our whole being, into what we are just doing now. And it's exactly what Aikido is.
Divya: Wow. Wonderful. I feel like joining your workshop now.
Cristo: You're welcome!
Cristo: Yes. He says what he feels, but I share one-hundred percent of what he says. It's very important. And it gives us great joy also. Great joy.
Divya: Well, I hope we see more and more of Aikido and more and more of Jean-Pierre here in Auroville. And thank you, thank you so much for coming to the studio.