Danger is always due to a lack of energy. A lack of energy implies a lack of consciousness, hence, in this case, a weak perception of the interaction and its unfolding in space-time. This is danger: danger is always present. Everything that is useful is dangerous. Taken from “The Philosopher – Interview with André Cognard”, this book-interview deals with some of the profound meanings of Aikido today
by ANDRÉ COGNARD
“Sensei, I would like to take advantage of your experience to ask you for an insight into our practice over the years, and specifically with regard to younger people. Since you are a bit of a pioneer, how do you judge the fact that many potentially dangerous techniques have been eliminated from the technical programmes of some schools? I am talking about koshinage, for example: some schools have dropped it because it is potentially dangerous. Well, do you find it right to adapt to our rather overprotective times? Or should Aikidō remain tied to this small amount of risk inherent in a martial art nevertheless?” (Carlo Caprino)
André Cognard is one of the most authoritative voices in contemporary international Budo.
Born in 1954 in France, he approached the world of martial arts at a very young age, dedicating himself to the intensive practice of various traditional Japanese disciplines.
In 1973 he met Hirokazu Kobayashi sensei, a direct disciple of O-sensei Morihei Ueshiba, a decisive event that led to his decision to devote himself exclusively to the practice and teaching of Aikido.
He received the rank of 8th Dan and on the death of his mentor inherited the leadership of the
international academy Kokusai Aikido Kenshukai Kobayashi Hirokazu Ryu – KAKKHR.
An “itinerant” teacher, a profound connoisseur of Japan and its traditions, André Cognard brings worldwide a technique – the Aikido of his Master; a human message – Aikido at the service of all; a spiritual message – Aikido which, like Man, reconnects with itself when it simply becomes Art.
This is the first publication In English language about André Cognard sensei and the perfect introduction to his Aikido concept.
“I don’t know why some schools stopped teaching koshinage, maybe they have a good reason to do so. It didn’t happen with us though: koshinage is always there; and also other difficult techniques, which could be considered dangerous, are still in their place. I think that danger doesn’t depend on the technique but on the energy level. In our school koshinage is central. We do koshinage with all techniques: ikkyo-koshinage, nikyo-koshinage, kotegaeshi-koshinage, etc. It is not dangerous at all, in fact the koshinage fall, when taught correctly, is without a shadow of a doubt much easier than the other falls we take in Aikidō. It is risk-free: you just grab the other person’s dogi with the appropriate hand and that’s it, it’s over, there is no danger whatsoever. Having said that, many people have told me: ‘You are all nuts, cutting with your sword a millimetre away from the eyes, entering at the throat…’ Yes, it’s true, we work at a distance at which we can touch each other; and when I do yoko hichi monji the sword, if I don’t bend my arm at the right time, will go through the other person’s head.
“Danger is always due to a lack of energy. A lack of energy implies a lack of consciousness, therefore, in this case, a weak perception of the interaction and its unfolding in space-time. This is danger: danger is always there. Everything that is useful is dangerous. If I have a gun at home to defend my parents and my young son takes it and kills his brother, we may well put a law to control this situation, but then another will use it in reverse… Everything we use is dangerous. It is the person who uses it that makes the difference. If the energy level is low, the risk is enormous with all techniques. You know that with udekimenage people break their shoulders…
“We can weaken the technique more and more, attack weakly, eliminate a technique if it’s a little dangerous, and so on. And then we ask ourselves: why are people not coming to practice Aikidō anymore? Why are they no longer interested? I read similar questions all over the place, on various blogs and websites. Why do we have a lack of students? Why are young people not coming anymore?
“Personally, I have to say that I’m very happy, first off because we have 50% women and that’s not trivial. How so? Because we don’t destroy them. Even if our Aikidō is physical, even if we are going hard… they remain women, from start to finish. They don’t need to fight with men, they don’t need to be physically stronger…
“Then we have young people, really a lot of them, who are really interested. In October 2019, I travelled to Japan with a group of sixteen kids between the ages of twelve and sixteen. On average they had more than ten years of Aikidō experience. I organised a demonstration for them at the Butokuden in Kyoto. I invited to the demonstration the mayor of Kyoto, the governor of the area, the heads of culture and sports and the French consul. The authorities sat behind a table and our young people ran a thirty minute demonstration for them. I must say they were really a force, they put incredible effort into it. They have enthusiasm.
“We created dedicated schools. We have a teacher-training school that has been running since 1981 – there are practitioners who have been members since then and have never stopped. We have an initial two-year level of preparation, followed by seven years of training and then an additional seven years of higher training. We have a group of young people from twelve to seventeen years of age and a group of children who are between seven and twelve years old who are already in training for teaching. All of these schools are functioning well.
“I think that as we move toward the end of our lives, we all have a certain propensity to not wanting to take the risks inherent to youth. Young people who come along are able to contribute and accomplish things that may be rather difficult for us, and then, when we see them like this, in the prime of their youth, we remember when we ourselves were like them, and perhaps that does not please us. So what happens is that many teachers are afraid of their students and try to keep them down, to block them. What can also happen is that some teachers, who have received high grades that they did not deserve, make sure that their students cannot progress. Perhaps we behave in the same way as we age: we get a little old, and then….
“There is a system to remedy this situation, a medicine to cure this ailment that I give myself on a daily basis. When I teach a class the first assignment I give to my students is to attack me hard and fast. If someone hits me I can only thank them. Even now I call out four people, stand in the middle of them and manage to touch them before they can touch me. As long as I can do this I will continue to teach. If one day I’m no longer able to, I’ll see.”
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