Let’s return to the beginning of Fujimoto sensei’s adventure in Italy. We are going to quote from ‘Dalle Ciliegie al Palalido’ (From Cherries to the Palalido), an interview that Sensei gave to Gigi Borgomaneri in the early 1990s. It appeared in Aikido, a magazine published by the Italian Aikikai. When the interviewer asked Fujimoto sensei to recount some stories that defined the beginning of his experience in Europe this is the story he told
by SIMONE CHIERCHINI
Taken from “The Sensei – About Yoji Fujimoto“
“Ah… In terms of money it was really tough.
“To make myself clear, I taught 3-4 times per week in a training hall, I had about 60 students, and I earned 30000 Lire, which all went towards the rent of my house.
“At the time, I lived with a judōka and a karateka, and there was always a constant stream of other people who stayed there. Basically, there were often 7-8 people living there. Yes, everyone shared the expenses, so to speak, but I was the only one with a real job.
“Nevertheless, one way or another we put food on the table: when we had some money we would buy… I don’t know… 10 kg of rice.
“I remember that on one occasion for 5-6 days we lived only on cherries. Another time – it was in the summer – only on watermelon…
Yes, it was hard financially, but not that hard… we were young.”
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.
Contents: Introduction. Friendliness and Severity. From Cherries to the Palalido. Uke Is Almost More Important Than Tori. The Pedagogical Aspects of the Teacher-Student Relationship. The “Fujimoto Method”. Building a Physical, “Earthly” Aikidō. “Yukkuri! Yukkuri!”. ‘I’m Alive… It Means There’s Ki’. Thanks Sensei!
[Simone Chierchini] “Wonderful! A constant of the age of the Aikidō pioneers in Italy and the world, from the mid 60’s onwards (this period lasted for about 10-15 years) has always been the economic hardship experienced by the protagonists of this epic, starting with Hiroshi Tada sensei.
For years, Tada sensei used to live in what was pompously referred to as Rome’s Dojo Centrale guest quarters. In reality, it was a small room not more than 15 square metres, which the students described as ‘Tada sensei’s cave’.
“The above story illustrates, without a shadow of a doubt, Fujimoto sensei’s financial hardship during his first ten years of teaching in Milan, which he dismissed with his usual smile (‘We were young…’). He was guaranteed some stability when the dōjō moved to its Via Lulli premises, in 1984.
Hideki Hosokawa sensei, on his part, shared the same destiny as Tada sensei, in addition to sharing his lodgings: for at least a couple of years, he ended up living in the aforementioned ‘guest quarters’, a small room without a private bathroom (he used the communal bathroom facilities in the dōjō’s changing rooms), with barely an electric fire available… This went on until he moved to Sardinia.
“No one has ever heard them complain about their living conditions, or about their economic constraints. It was due to the fact that the Aikidō market was entirely new and to be developed, something that they did with tireless commitment and without breaking their word.
They dedicated themselves entirely to Aikidō at a time when the word professional had never been pronounced in association with the term Aikidō. With their work and integrity they have shown the way and made possible the development of that generation of Western teachers that in the last 15-20 years has walked with varying success the path of professionalism in Aikidō.
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Main picture by © Paolo Bottoni