Excerpt from “The Sensei – About Yoji Fujimoto”, the book interview realized by some of the senpai of Yoji Fujimoto sensei. In this section, Simone Chierchini presents his testimony on the unique qualities of Fujimoto sensei’s teaching, those that have formed the backbone of the unrivalled “Fujimoto Method”
by SIMONE CHIERCHINI
I think that Fujimoto sensei was, first and foremost, a natural born teacher. This is perhaps the best possible description one can give of him. The clarity of his teaching style meant that a job that is actually extremely difficult was made simple. Anyone who teaches knows that teaching is one of the most complicated jobs there is – teaching well, of course. He did it naturally, it came to him spontaneously. I don’t think he had a plan of action: when he was teaching with that level of effectiveness, he was just being himself.
I’ve been practising Budo for many years, almost 50 now, and I’ve met many different instructors. However, I’ve never met another teacher who was so naturally gifted at passing on information in a simple, readable and reproducible way. That is, in the end, the task of the true teacher, if we want to define it with three simple expressions.
As a teacher, he also had another exceptional talent: he knew how to capture the attention of his audience, so in this sense he was also a very good professional. He knew what gestures to use, what expressions to employ. Earlier, Roberto Travaglini mentioned how remarkable the tone of his voice was. He knew how to create sketches. I remember so many of them, with Sensei tying bands around his head, or knotting multiple belts together, or putting on and taking off a baseball cap… So many small scenes that basically helped him in creating an atmosphere of serious physical commitment in training, but also in keeping it within acceptable limits, that is, open, possible, pleasant. Fujimoto sensei knew how to make this system work like a perfect circle.
The Sensei – About Yoji Fujimoto
The Aiki Dialogues #10
by Simone Chierchini, Roberto Travaglini, Ugo Montevecchi, Roberto Foglietta
This publication endeavours to accomplish a very difficult task: that of bringing to life once again the voice and works of one of the most beloved figures of International Aikidō.
Yoji Fujimoto sensei has been gone for nearly 10 years and has left behind thousands of students who have never stopped mourning him.
Since 1971, the year of his arrival in Italy, Fujimoto sensei has dedicated his whole life and all his energy to the practice of Aikidō.
In this book, some of Fujimoto sensei’s senior students have tried, within the limits of their abilities and their memories, to evoke the figure and teaching of Fujimoto sensei.
He also knew when to speed up and when to slow down: that’s another essential skill of a great teacher. He was never monotone, his teaching was wave-like, practically, and he was able to respond very quickly to the mood, to the energy of the class – again in an instinctive, natural way; it’s difficult to learn these things if you don’t really possess them. Thus he’d masterly pick up the pace or relax the rhythm as needed. He could also teach extremely complicated exercises to those who had limited technical means to learn them. I have seen and remember very clearly that beginners and advanced students alike studied fairly complex subjects together, simply by direct observation, helped by Sensei’s unbeatable pointers, some very specific indications that he presented to set certain learning mechanisms in motion.
He had another great quality, which I tried to reproduce in my modest teaching career: he had an incredible visual memory and therefore was able to remember the students he had met in his seminars around the world. Maybe he’d meet them only once, but he remembered them. So his teaching remained ad personam, even though characterised by different levels of attention, as has been abundantly explained so far. It was not the supermarket-style of teaching that has become so common in the large seminars to which, unfortunately, we had to get used to with the popularisation of the Art. His still remained a personal teaching, because the people he had in front of him remained individuals even inside his mind, and he openly demonstrated it by creating this type of bond, a strong connection. It is also essential to point out that if there were different student levels, if he communicated his best to his direct students, moving from one level to another was an open possibility for anyone. He didn’t have any kind of closure, the only thing he required was commitment. You had to give him all your commitment.
Over the years, much of the above work has been poorly described as ‘power and elegance’. I find it to be quite an understatement, because yes, of course, it is true that Fujimoto sensei’s has become almost proverbial. It was combined with a subtle sensitivity, as Roberto Foglietta described so well previously: Sensei’s choice of timing, his touch were always of truly great quality. However, this elegance in him was in no way sought after. Those who knew him well, who were really close to him, know that he did not care at all about the opinion of others. Zero. Therefore he was never after aesthetic approval. Simply put, his action, his way of being was beautiful in itself.
“His teaching style has not always been the same, naturally, it wasn’t something of a monolithic thing. Having taught for so long, the way he did it changed significantly over the years. I’d like to ask Roberto Foglietta, who has been close to Fujimoto sensei for so long, to give us an idea of the evolution of Sensei’s teaching style over time.”
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